The Blessing of Unity

Max Lucado said, The church is asking God for revival, and God is asking the Church for unity.

What if the missing ingredient for changing the world is teamwork? What if Jesus was serious about what He prayed when He said,

Matthew 18:19-20 (ESV Strong’s)

if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

 

What if Jesus was so serious He spent His last few hours before His execution praying again and again,

 

John 17:23 (ESV Strong’s)

I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

 

A FAMILY AFFAIR

 

I love family… but most of our families have taught us the lesson that brothers rarely dwell together in unity. Two chickens tied at the legs and thrown over a clothesline may be joined, but they do not have unity. That’s the case in many families…

 

Cain killed Abel (Gen. 4), Lot quarrelled with Abraham (Gen. 13), Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him for a slave (Gen. 37), and the brothers did not even get along among themselves (Gen. 45:24)! Miriam and Aaron criticised their brother Moses (Num. 12), and some of David’s children turned against him (2 Sam. 13–18; and note 2 Sam. 12:10).

 

Our Lord’s own disciples frequently quarrelled over which one of them was the greatest (Matt. 18:1ff.; Mark 9:33ff.; Luke 22:23ff.), and Paul and Barnabas argued over John Mark and finally broke company and chose new ministry companions (Acts 15:36-41). The church began in visible unity (Acts 2:1, 44, 46), but when you read Paul’s epistles, you find a sad story of rivalry and division, and it is not much better today.

 

Today I want to examine one of my favourite Psalms…

 

Psalm 133 was likely written by David to be sung as people journeyed to Jerusalem. But it’s one thing to travel for a day or two together, or to spend Christmas lunch or Sunday afternoon visiting relatives, but it is another thing entirely to live with them!

 

Psalms 133 (ESV Strong’s)

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard,

on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!

It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

 

Lord give us unity and understanding of this Psalm.

 

In verse 1, the Hebrew word for dwell is yasab, which means to live or abode together. It also means to marry. It’s one thing to meet someone unpleasant, or have to spend a few hours or even days together, but imagine being married to them!

 

It’s where we live that dictates the blessings of God. Verse 1 might be  challenging to live, but easy to understand. Unity is pleasant, it’s fun, it’s peace and harmony. We should want to live there. Disunity is horrible, painful, tense. We know we should be shooting for unity, in our homes, families and church.

 

OILS AIN’T OILS

 

But what’s the deal with verse 2. Psalm 133:2 is often overlooked, because it is weird. It’s messy. If someone dumped oil on my head, I’m not sure I’d see it as a blessing.

 

Oil represents the grace, anointing, presence and power of the Holy Spirit. And in verse 2, it doesn’t  just stay on the head, it flows over the head, down the beard and all the way down until to edge of the garment. It is not just an anointing, it’s a drenching!

 

Today Jesus wants the whole of His body the church anointed… Every person, not just the pastor, not just the leaders, every man, woman and child.

 

Remember the woman  who said to herself…

 

Mark 5:28 (ESV Strong’s)

“If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”

 

The woman touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and was healed, because the anointing flowed right out to the edge of Jesus’ garments. In church, most people will not touch the head, the pastor, because he cannot clone himself dozens of times to get around everyone. But they will touch the edge of the church.

 

That’s why we need unity! The oil only flows where there is unity, and in church it flows down the head, across the breastplate, across leaders and departments and out to the very edge. I love hearing about people without position, without fanfare, just ministering to those outside the church in the Anointing of the Spirit.

 

Stay united, He’ll keep you anointed.

 

TURNING OFF THE TAP

 

Humans have a natural bent for independence. Division in the camp is destructive… When you divide you cut the flow of the anointing of God.. You turn off the tap! When you unite, you keep the oil flowing, which is why Paul said,

 

1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV Strong’s)

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

 

We can see the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through each of us, we can see healing, miracles, lives transformed, people won to Jesus, we can all of us share in these ministries, but only if we live in unity.

 

The other day I pick up up a glass, and the glass was oily. It slipped through my fingers and smashed. The enemy might try and grab us, but if we are anointed with the oil of unity in the Spirit, he cannot grasp us!

 

UNITY IS POWERFUL

 

I mentioned last week that unity is powerful, for either good or evil. God knew that when He saw the tower of Babel, when He said,

 

Genesis 11:6 (ESV Strong’s)

And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

 

When evil men unite around a common cause they become powerful, like communists, Nazis or Isis. But how much more power is it to unite around God and His goodness? Unity brings a supernatural power!

 

So let me share with you what we can and must unite around…

 

1.     UNITY AROUND DESTINY NOT DAYS GONE BY

 

So many Christians and churches unite around what’s happened in the past, but they don’t unite around what God is doing in the future.

 

Every move of God has 4 parts…

 

A Man, one person who starts with a vision, and people gather around him, such as John Wesley, Martin Luther, William Booth, Brian Houston

A Movement, more people join, a movement begins, great things happen, look at the Salvation Army, Methodism, Hillsong.

A Machine, the thing is moving, but people are no longer inspired the same way, but going through the motions… looks good, but underneath it isn’t.

A Monument, to things in the past. Many great moves of God, so powerful and innovative 100-200 years ago, are now monuments to past glories.

 

Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV Strong’s)

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

 

We have seen God do great things here at Ignite, but the best is yet to come. Whatever your pedigree, it’s hats off to the past, but it’s coats off to the future. So let’s celebrate the victories of the past, but let’s unite around destiny God has for us!

 

2.      UNITY AROUND COMMONALITY NOT CONTRASTS

 

Visiting London with Bill Newman one day, we were in a tube station near the Arsenal’s Stadium. I noticed a sea of red and white, and I asked one guy near me who had won the game. When he found out I was an Arsenal fan from Australia, a whole load of people gathered around shaking my hand and slapping me in the back. I didn’t know these people, never seen the, before, but we had the Arsenal in common, and the differences faded away instantly.

 

We all have differences, but we can choose to let them go, to put our differences aside and have unity in the things we share in common.

 

Paul picks up on this…

 

1 Corinthians 12:15-18 (ESV Strong’s)

If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.

 

We need to unite on what we have in common, and love the differences.

 

3.      UNITY AROUND PRINCIPLES, NOT PREFERENCES

 

We live in a world which calls preferences principles and principles preferences. Think about it!

 

I’d have thought gender and relationships were pretty self explanatory, but today someone’s preferences are elevated above scientific principles.

 

In the church, preferences strengthen segregation. Principles strengthen foundations. Beware of those elevating their preferences, their understanding, their version of things to a principle, and twisting Scripture to do it.

 

The style of music, type of preaching, these are preferences, not principles.

 

So what’s the big principle we can unite around? The Word of God!

 

Ignite is not built around my preferences, church traditions, laser lights or smoke, it’s built on the Word of God, and we believe that

 

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV Strong’s)

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

 

What unites us is far more significant than what divides us. In the end, Principles will outlast preferences, fashions, trends, programs or good ideas.

 

4.      UNITY AROUND RELATIONSHIPS, NOT ROLES

 

There are various roles in church, that’s normal. We have a team for worship, greeting people, car park, admin, etc. you can serve, you can be part of the team, and still not be in unity.

 

You are far better to build a team around relationships.

 

1 Peter 3:8 (ESV Strong’s)

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

 

In other words, make relationships and make them count. Performances, programs and players will pass, but people will last.

 

THE LORD BESTOWS A BLESSING

 

We’ve talked about the oil, the flow of the Holy Spirit, reaching right to the hem of Aaron’s garment, so let’s wrap things up. Unity is also described as,

 

Psalms 133:3 (ESV Strong’s)

It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

 

Mount Hermon is the largest mountain in Israel. It is almost constantly green, because of rain, snow and a heavy dew that happens almost all year round.

 

And unity is like that. It is refreshing like a heavy dew. It makes things clean and fresh. As the oil of the Holy Spirit flows, it refreshes, it blesses, it brings life. Unity brings life and blessing in a way far beyond the absence of conflict.

 

When David says the Lord bestows a blessing, he uses the word braka, which means blessing, prosperity and it’s even the same word for pool. The idea is not a little bit of sprinkling but a lavish, overflowing outpouring of blessing. The same word is used for blessing in this passage…

 

Malachi 3:10 (ESV Strong’s)

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing (braka) until there is no more need.

 

IT’S TIME FOR A DRENCHING, NOT A QUENCHING

 

We mostly have unity at Ignite, so I’m not aiming this message at anyone, I’m calling us all to a fresh commitment to unity and each other as a family. If we put our preferences and opinions aside and just live in unity and if we continue to zealously guard unity we will see an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will transform our community.

 

Not small drips, not a little puddle but an overwhelming flood of Holy Spirit power and anointing.  An anointing that leads to salvation, and the people of God living in victory and power.

 

And all this is the outflow, not of programs, or arguing doctrine, not of great preaching or cool worship or building extensions and more toilets.

 

It’s all down to unity. In 2020 it’s time to put our differences aside and really seek God in unity, because what unites us is greater than what divides us. We have a destiny here at Ignite, and God is calling us to unite and move into it in 2020.

 

In Jesus’ high priestly prayer of John 17 we see the call to unity. In Ephesians 4 Paul calls a divided, fighting church to unity. He knows we have differences of opinion and doctrine and beliefs, but when we let those things reign, when we let those preferences and opinions divide us, were not being scriptural or godly at all, no matter how many verses you use to support your position. We are favouring a preference over the God given principle of unity.

 

If we so doggedly hold to our preferences, if we love our opinions more than we love others, we’re not being godly or scriptural or righteous… we are being sinful, and quenching the Holy Spirit, the flow of which only truly happens when we stand together united as one. Listen to what Paul said,

 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 (ESV Strong’s)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

 

The Greek word for quench is sbennymi, which does not mean quench as in quench your thirst, but means to extinguish, to snuff out, to stifle and limit what God wants to do.

 

I don’t believe anyone here sets out to do that, but we must be careful not to let our preferences and opinions extinguish God’s will as collateral damage.

 

1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV Strong’s)

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

 

If we doggedly fight for our own particular pet verse, then frankly we are disobeying that verse, so how scriptural are we really?

 

So this morning as I wrap up this series on unity in 2020, I want to simply call you to stand with us, for each other, for your church family, for our community and for our nation. This means turning up for church, doing the Bible plan, putting up with each other and standing as one in the arms of the Lord because we are better together.

 

So whose in with me? I want more of God, I want to serve Him more and see His power in my life to greater and greater effect. Remember the sticks… we are better together!

 

Who is with me to obey Paul when he commands us to be

 

Ephesians 4:3 (ESV Strong’s)

eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

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!

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.

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.

 

 

The potter and the clay is the story of being shaped by the master potter for the future.  One of the things I notice when you’re as old as I am is that no one asks me what I want to be when I grow up. When you get on in years, people judge you on what you’ve actually achieved, not on what you want to do in the future.

 

Kids, on the other hand, are often asked what they want to be when they grow up. A fireman, a doctor, a pastor, the great thing about being young is that there are so many options, so much potential in your life.

If you have a dream of doing something great. Something really significant in your life, you will not achieve this just by thinking about it.

 

DESTINY

 

Destiny is often spoken about in hushed tones, and concepts like karma try to tell us that destiny is something that the universe inflicts upon you. But the Bible is quite different. It teaches us that destiny is not something external inflicted upon you, but rather it is the result of a series of choices…

 

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,

 

To every choice we make, there are consequences, either good or bad, and the tricky thing is that sometimes these consequences take a while to manifest themselves. Our nation is about to find this out. On the back of completely biased and one sided media campaigns they made a decision, and I reckon in about 10 years time you will see the fruit of that decision in our children. God says to choose life, and says that you and your seed, your descendants will reap the fruit.

 

But when you are young, you have an infinite range of choices before you. Many of you have a dream of what you would like to become in your life, and like everyone else, whether your  dream comes true is not about the family you’re from, the upbringing you have or the about of money mum and dad make, it’s about your choices.

 

When you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, I don’t know many kids who’s great desire in life is to become a drug addict, or a prostitute, or a homeless person. Yet some do become those things. Why? It’s all down to the choices we make.

 

THE MAKING OF A MASTERPIECE?

 

 

My granddaughter Kayleigh loves playing with Playdoh, and truth be known, so do I.  There is something really cool about taking that slimy, nondescript goo and making something that has purpose and meaning… like a dog, or a bird, or a car.

 

And in some ways, God looks at us like that, especially when we are young.  He can take us as an unformed, slightly gooey mess and make us into a masterpiece!  Back in Bible days, they didn’t have playdoh, but they did have something even more descriptive of what God wants from our lives…

 

Isaiah 64:8 (ESV Strong’s)

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;

we are the clay, and you are our potter;

we are all the work of your hand.

 

If we are like clay in the hands of an expert Potter, then He can make us into anything He wants us to be.

 

GOD SEES THE POTENTIAL

 

 

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV Strong’s)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

 

When God looks at you, He doesn’t see you the way you see you.

 

When we look at ourselves, or at others for that matter, we see the raw, flawed materials.  When we look at each other, or when we stand in front of the mirror, the person looking back seems far from perfect, far from worthy and nowhere near greatness. We are born as sinners, and some of us through our lives have sinned more than others, but all of us are sinners.

 

But God, when He looks at us, looks through the muck and mire and rubbish and He sees the great things we could become. He looks at a piece of dirt and sees a pot, or a vase or a plate. He has plans for each of our lives. Plans to prosper us, plans to give us a wonderful future, a hope and a destiny.

 

You are not a mistake, you are not a failure, and when you are a child it is easier to believe that God has a plan and hope for you than when you are an adult. The great advantage of being grown up is that you know how to mess your life up good and proper!

 

All of us start in the womb, with unlimited potential.  Look at what David wrote…

 

Psalms 139:14-16 (ESV Strong’s)

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

 

Today, even if you feel worthless, overlooked, feel like a mistake or you feel like a failure, God sees the potential in you, and He focuses on His desire to create something beautiful out of your life.

 

So how are we all like clay pots?

 

 

1.      GOD USES WHO YOU ARE

 

 

What raw materials does God find to create His masterpiece?  Well, clay is found in the earth, but it is full of rubbish and needs a lot of work before it can be moulded into something wonderful. Let me describe to you what clay is like when it is found…

Clay as it is found in the ground is not suitable for use to make a pot. It is dug out of the ground and brought to the outside of the pottery and allowed to weather for weeks. The dry material is then dumped into a cement-lined tank or wooden trough and covered with water. When the lumps have softened they are stirred in the water until all have disintegrated and a thin slimy mud or “slip” has been formed. Sea water is more effective for this process, so potteries are often close to the ocean.

The slip is drawn off into settling tanks. All stones and lumps are left behind. When the clay has settled, the water is drawn off and the plastic-like material is worked by treading with the feet. The prepared clay is finally packed away and allowed to stand another six months before being used.

The fact is that all of us have lumps and impurities, because all of us have sinned…

 

Romans 3:10-12 (ESV Strong’s)

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.

All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;

no one does good, not even one.”

 

Every single one of us have dirt and mud and stones and are less than perfect, but God is able to take imperfect people like you and me and do something wonderful in our lives. You might have sin, past failures, a bad upbringing, previous abuse or a physical challenge you face, but God sees through that stuff to what you could be. And like the clay, He may put you through a process that is sometimes difficult and painful, but in the end He transforms your life into the material He can use and make great!

 

 

2.      GOD USES THE RIGHT INSTRUMENTS

 

To complete this process, God is all kitted out with the right gear. He knows what He is doing, because reshaping and reforming your life needs a professional, not amateur hour. So what does He use?

 

A.     THE SHOVEL

 

To extract good clay from your life, God may have to do a bit of digging. He will dig out the rocks and pebbles that must be extracted in order to create material He can use.

 

When we sin, we usually feel so ashamed that we cover it over, just as Adam and Eve covered themselves in fig leaves when they recognised their sin. In our shame we cover our sin, hoping no one finds out, but the problem is that the sin then festers under the surface and productise toxins that poison our lives.

 

Psalms 38:18 (NIV-WS)

I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.

 

We would all recognise that the only way to remove sin and impurities from our lives is to fess up, face the sin and deal with it. Sin causes pain, and unless you deal with it, it will continue to cause pain in increasing amounts.

 

God loves you so much that His Son died for your sin. Jesus came a took the penalty for your sin, not because you deserve mercy, but because in His love and grace He gives you mercy. He loves you so much, He died for you. But He also loves you so much, He doesn’t leave you that way, He extracts the sin and pain and purifies your life.

 

We try and cover sin up, but God says to you today, “Don’t cover up your sin, confess it, and let Me cover it over with my grace and forgiveness.”

 

B.      THE MALLET

 

The next process in refining the clay needs a mallet. Once the clay is dug out, it needs to be pounded. How many of you adults know there are times when life seems to pound you. Things go wrong, your decisions have bad consequences, people let you down and you feel like you are just being pounded on all sides!

 

Listen to what the apostle Paul thought about the various poundings he got in his life (stonings, shipwrecks, being persecuted and left for dead, etc.)

 

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV-WS)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

 

I know poundings hurt, I know some of you are hurt and discouraged, but please do yourself a favour and take your eyes off the hurt and pain and set them on Jesus, who loves you and died for you, because then you will begin to see reasons for the pounding in the light of eternity.

 

C.      THE WHEEL

 

A potter uses a potter’s wheel, and the clay is placed on the wheel and spun. The instrument consists of 2 wheels made of stone, connected by a shaft. The potter spins the lower wheel with his feet, and the upper wheel spins with it, and then he is able to mould and shape the spinning clay.

 

Sometimes we feel like we are running on a wheel, like a little mouse. The problem with being in the rat race is that, even if you win, you’re still a rat! Sometimes we feel like we are spinning around and around, spinning our wheels, using lots of energy and getting nowhere in life.

 

Romans 8:28 (ESV Strong’s)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

 

As we spin around and around, God uses all things, even the sucky ones, to mould and shape our lives. And if we don’t learn the lesson, we get to go around and around forever. My advice is, learn what God wants you to learn early, nimble it and move on.

 

3.      GOD REMAKES WHAT IS MALFORMED

 

 

Kids , when you are young you have your whole life ahead of you, but once you are an adult, you can look back on your life and realise that you have made plenty of mistakes. Wrong decisions, wrong choices, wrong relationships. And how many of you know, the Biblical principles of reaping and sowing apply to bad choices as much as to good.

 

Adults have generally lived a bit, loved and lost a bit, sinned a lot and have frequently messed up their lives, sometimes royally!  Maybe you’ve had the wrong relationships, done the wrong things, upset people who love you or missed countless opportunities you should have taken.

 

Look, we’ve all blown it at some stage. But here’s the great news… look at what Jeremiah wrote about when he visited the potter’s house…

 

Jeremiah 18:3-4 (ESV Strong’s)

So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

 

God is the potter, and we are the clay. If we try and take over our own lives, if we try to live life our way, if we make mistakes, even huge mistakes that seem to completely ruin our future, God can rework us.

 

It depends not on the clay, bu on he intentions of the potter.  In the hands of the Master potter, even if the clay is marred, it is never wasted. No matter how many critical mistakes you have made, no matter how much sin you have indulged in, no matter how big a screw up you have made of your life, you are never beyond the care and reshaping power of the Master potter.

 

God is in the business of remoulding lives, taking that which has been overlooked and discarded and making something beautiful of it.

 

Isaiah 61:3 (NIV-WS)

to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,

the oil of joy instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

 

Some of you here are mourning. For some of you, your life is just a pile of ashes. Some of you are even in despair. But God see the beauty in you, even if the person you look at in the mirror is flawed. No matter how old you are, no matter how marred you are, God looks at the clay and mess of your life and can make something beautiful out of it.

 

YOU NEED TO TRUST THE MASTER POTTER

 

The final step in the creation of a pot is to place it in the fire. I don’t know about you, but the prospect of the fires of adversity making me complete does not fill me with joy. But God uses the tough times in life to bake our pots and make us harder, stronger, more beautiful.

 

But, in all of this process, you have to trust Him. You cannot dictate terms to God. Frankly, I am sick of people telling God what He needs to do for them, instead of trusting Him and letting the Master shape your life.

 

Romans 9:20-21 (ESV Strong’s)

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

 

God is not your performing dog. He is not here to make your life happy, pleasant and comfortable. What he wants is to make your life amazing, powerful and world changing, even if it takes some pain along the way. He longs to make your life valuable, make your life influential. He can mould and shape you into anything. Maybe humble and unseen, maybe into a person who will change nations.

 

The question is not can God make you into somebody special, it is, “Are you ready to trust Him?”

 

I mean, if you’ve been living your life your way, stop right now and have a look at how things are working out for you.  Are you happy with every aspect of your life? Do you think that, if you give your heart completely to God right now, that He could do a better job, that He could create more with your life than you’ve managed to?

 

Kids, are you ready to trust the Lord for your entire future. Are you ready to ask Him in and let Him lead and guide you into what He has for you?

 

PLACE YOURSELF IN THE MASTER’S HANDS

 

 

Let me finish with a beautiful illustration from missionary Amy Carmichael, who was serving in India for many years in the early part of last century. If you want your future to be everything it possibly can be, let me assure you kids, you cannot do it yourself. Plenty of us adults have tried, but it is the height of foolishness to take your pot from the Master thinking you can do better.  Listen to this…

 

This is the story of one who, watching a potter, thought that he could make a pot on the wheel, and tried, but failed:

 

Then the potter said, “sit down, you can make a pot.” “That I cannot do, as you see by what I have already done,” I replied.

 

“Sit down,” he insisted. I did so. Then, sitting behind me, he put his arms over my arms, his hands over mine, his fingers over my fingers.

 

The wheel began to spin. “Do not allow your fingers to resist mine,” he advised, and I obeyed. There under my fingers, to my astonishment, grew a beautiful vessel.

 

The wheel stopped and my friend said, “Behold your pot.” “Not mine,” I said.

 

But the potter said, “Look on your hands; there is clay on your fingers, so they touched the clay, and there is nothing on my hand. Whose hand touches the vessel, that hand makes the pot,” the potter said and smiled.

 

May the God of peace…

 

Hebrews 13:21 (ESV Strong’s)

equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

 

The first step towards letting God create an amazing life for you is asking Him into your life as Lord and Saviour. He knows you’ve sinned, and while we were still sinners, He died for us, so if you’ve never asked Jesus into your life, let’s do that right now.

 

The Bible says,

 

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV Strong’s)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

 

No matter what you’ve done in your life, today is the day of salvation. He will never throw you away, but when you ask Him into your life, the old life, with all its sin, guilt, disappointments and worries, passes away.

 

If you’ve never asked Jesus into your life, today is the day you can become a new creation. Let’s pray!

 

 

But the second step is this, place yourself in His hands. With no restrictions, no agendas and no resistance.  Just trust Him with every aspect of your life and future.

 

Many of you believers, you say you love God, and you do love Him, but you find it hard to trust Him with your future. I want you to pray this after me and place your hands under His, letting Him mould you and shape you, direct you and provide for you.

 

Don’t fight Him. He places His hands on yours, but you have to relax, stop trying to direct traffic and let Him direct you.

 

Amidst the joy of Christmas, the lights, the music, the presents, the family events, I want to pause and consider part of the dark side of Christmas…  which only the lonely understand (as Roy Orbison said).

Now Christmas is a time of hope and a time for families, but that in itself can drive people into loneliness. Factors like family breakdown can drive many into loneliness, and dealing with extended family members can also ramp up the pressure at this time of year, but Christmas itself is not the cause for loneliness.

 

You can become lonely for many reasons… the loss of a relationship through death or separation, loss of friends, sickness, hard times and many other reasons. Often when we face difficult times we pull away, we isolate ourselves and add loneliness to our list of burdens.

 

Whatever the cause, Christmas is just an amplifier that causes feelings of loneliness that are there all the time to seem greater and more powerful for only the lonely.

 

And strangely you can be lonely even in a crowd. One of the great paradoxes of modern life is that you can have 700 Facebook friends and be the loneliest guy in the world. You see social media, as social as it might be, is no substitute for social interaction and close friends.

 

And Christmas just makes feelings of loneliness stronger.

 

Psalms 102:3-7

For my days pass away like smoke,

and my bones burn like a furnace.

My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;

I forget to eat my bread.

Because of my loud groaning

my bones cling to my flesh.

I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,

like an owl of the waste places;

I lie awake;

I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.

 

The KJV translates desert owl in its literal sense, meaning a pelican. So what the Psalmist is saying here is that he feels like a pelican, a coastal bird, in the desert… we might say a fish out of water.

 

And loneliness is like that… you feel like you just don’t belong, and especially at Christmas, where everyone else seems to be having such a great time, right?

 

Les Carter said, “Loneliness is a feeling of separation, isolation or distance in human relations. It implies emotional pain, an empty feeling and a yearning to feel understood and accepted by someone.”

 

Tim Hansel observed, “Loneliness is not the same as being alone. It’s feeling alone, no matter how many people are around you. It’s feeling disconnected, unplugged, left out, isolated.”

 

Today I want to consider only the lonely, how you should respond to it and how you should respond to others who are struggling with loneliness.

 

MODERNISM MAGNIFIES THE MISERY

 

Loneliness has always been with us.

 

Genesis 2:18

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

 

However, our modern society escalates loneliness on a scale never seen before.

 

Albert Schweitzer said, “We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness.”

 

The fact of the matter is, and if you have experienced loneliness you will understand this well, lonely people often feel left out. They feel unwanted or rejected, even when they are surrounded by others – whether it be friends, family, or a congregation of a church. With loneliness, not only can there come this feeling of being left out, but a sense of worthlessness – in other words, people reason within themselves: ‘Well, since nobody wants to be with me, I guess I’m not worth being with’.

 

It is important that we realise that loneliness is one of the greatest problems that 21st century society faces. And Christmas is one of the most common times to feel lonely, even in a crowded service or a family gathering.

 

 

Contrast this with developing countries, where they may not have much in the way of money, possessions or even food… but they have each other! They have extended families, they have friends, they often leave doors open and share meals together, and loneliness, while still present, is not as extreme as here in our country. We’ve got big screen TVs, cars that work, the NBN, Centrelink and huge malls, but our society tends to isolate us.

 

So again, loneliness is not worse at Christmas, it’s there all the time, but only the lonely know it is simply amplified at this time of year, when others seem to have what we do not.

 

Doesn’t matter who you are, how successful you are, how famous you are, everybody experiences loneliness…

 

Jack Nicholson, after years of philandering and womanising, described himself recently as single, lonely and likely to die alone. After the death of her husband Albert, Queen Victoria said these words: ‘There was no one left to call me Victoria’.

 

There was once an advertisement in a Kansas newspaper that read like this: ‘I will listen to you talk for 30 minutes without comment for five dollars’. It sounds like a hoax, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t long before that individual who had placed the advertisement in the newspaper was bombarded by about 10 to 20 calls a day.

 

The pain of loneliness for some is so sharp that they were willing to try anything for half an hour of companionship. The scourge of loneliness is something that hits all of us at some time in our life. It can last from a moment to a lifetime.

 

Loneliness is the painful awareness that we lack meaningful contact with others. It involves within it a feeling of inner emptiness which can be accompanied by sadness, discouragement, a sense of isolation, restlessness and anxiety – and even an intense desire within to be wanted and needed by someone.

 

ONLY THE LONELY KNOW YOU’RE IN GOOD COMPANY!

 

Many people in the Bible faced loneliness.  Joseph alone in prison, Jacob miles from home.  King David often felt all alone…

 

Psalms 25:16-17

Turn to me and be gracious to me,

for I am lonely and afflicted.

The troubles of my heart are enlarged;

bring me out of my distresses.

 

The Apostle Paul was abandoned in prison, 2 Timothy 4:9-11,, and John was alone rotting on the Island of Patmos.

 

Jesus hung alone on a cruel cross for your sin and mine. Even His Father turned His back on Him. Jesus understands what it’s like to be lonely, to feel abandoned and isolated.

 

Loneliness is and always has been common in human experience, and in our 21st century lifestyle, it’s exacerbated. People turn to drugs, alcohol, free sex, workaholism and even suicide to cope with feelings of loneliness.

 

So as we face Christmas 2016, and the possibility that many of you will feel intense loneliness, even in a crowd of relatives, I want to have a look at the voices you will hear in your head when you’re intensely lonely, and contrast that with what God says about you.

 

LONELINESS… THE VOICES IN YOUR HEAD

 

When we feel lonely we become subject to those dreaded voices in our head. You know the ones that show up when you’re trying to sleep. The ones that, if you’re not busy doing something, pervade your consciousness and nag your mind into believing things.

 

These little voices, seemingly so innocent, can kill you… figuratively and literally. So it is in our interest to deal with them before they start affecting us. And remember… they strike and strike hard when we are lonely.

 

So what do these voices say, what are their lies and how does God’s truth counteract them?

 

1. I AM ALL ALONE

 

THE LIE: Loneliness means I am all alone

THE TRUTH: Loneliness can strip away my dependence on others and let me find true fulfilment in Jesus Christ alone.

 

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

 

Being alone should be looked at not as a negative, but as a positive that only the lonely know.

 

Sometimes God allows us to feel alone for a season, and if we choose to we can use this experience to drive us closer to the Lord. We can choose to get into the Word of God, to pray or to get involved in church activities.

 

Jesus  alone is the only true and lasting source of comfort. Seeing us chase after relationships with people rather than Him must break his heart, so sometimes He will lovingly remove these from our lives to drive us into His arms of comfort.

 

So if you are feeling lonely at Christmas time, rather than getting despondent about it, turn things around and say thank you Lord for realigning my priorities and driving me into your arms!

 

2. NO ONE UNDERSTANDS

 

THE LIE: I’m the only one who ever suffered like this, so no one will ever understand my pain and loneliness.

THE TRUTH: Many have gone through similar or harder roads, and Jesus Himself promises He understands because He’s been there and done that.

 

Hebrews 2:18

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

 

Very often within our circle of friends and acquaintances we are not aware of someone who has gone through what we are struggling with. Even if they have, they would have handled it differently and done things differently. So we often tell ourselves that no one really understands what we face.

 

The danger of this type of thinking is that the devil uses it against us. When he convinces us that no one understands, we tend to shut others out, even those who love us and who God has placed around us for support and encouragement.

 

So if we feel alone, we often isolate ourselves further, moving away from the very ones who could help us, and moving us towards bitterness, depression, hard-heartedness, regret and ultimately, paralysing our life. When we become so alone, so isolated, we are useless to the Kingdom of God, and ripe to be attacked and even used by the enemy!

 

So we must remind ourselves of this…

2 Corinthians 1:5-6

For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.

 

Jesus is the only one who fully understands our pain, our heartache and our loneliness. He gets our fears, insecurities, emotions, needs and desires. In short, He understands!

 

John 16:32-33

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 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.”

 

So when you feel alone, fight the temptation to withdraw further by recognising that Jesus understands and cares, and that He offers the only true comfort for the lonely. People, friends, relatives, loved ones, can never fully meet our expectations.

 

Here’s the thing… once we release people from our expectations, once we look to Jesus Christ alone for comfort, then we suddenly see others in a different light. We see them as God’s provision for our lives.

 

If you lower your expectations of others, everything positive they do and say is a bonus… it’s a blessing!

 

And remember that Jesus doesn’t try and comfort us from afar, He is with us closer than a brother. He fills us with the Holy Spirit, He gives us strength, courage and joy. He gives us each other to love and support, to reach out to us in our loneliness.

 

3. GOD JUST DOESN’T LOVE ME

 

THE LIE: A loving God would not let you be alone like this. If He really loves me He’d give me friends who understand me, who support, encourage and care for me.

THE TRUTH: this loving God sent His own Son on the loneliest road of all for you!

 

Hebrews 12:3

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

 

Loneliness is not fun, it’s miserable as only the lonely know.  Outside of the grace of God, any suffering here on earth is miserable and makes no sense! Outside of Christ, suffering has no purpose, no value and offers no hope for the believer. But when we consider Christ, when we think of the gospel, suffering suddenly has meaning!

 

One of the darkest periods of our lives was when we lost all our money in the Storm financial crisis. 20 years of work wiped out in one week, and we went from being millionaires to being debt millionaires! It was a horrible, painful, frustrating and very lonely experience. Many people we counted on just went on with their lives, and no one seemed to care. We felt isolated in our misery.

 

Now I look back on that troubled time and realise God had a plan, for our lives, our family, our ministries and our future Pastoring. Out of that pain, and loneliness, I can now care for others in a way I never could.

 

In the middle of it, I saw pain and devastation… looking back, I see the loving hand of the Father working all things for good!

 

I remember praying and saying to God, my life is a frustrated, angry, fear filled mess. But I choose to see this moment as my opportunity to shine for Jesus. Matthew 5:16.

 

So if you’re lonely this Christmas, rather than thinking it’s a curse, start to see it as a privilege, a calling, even a blessing to walk the same lonely road as your Saviour walked for you! The rewards are not for now but for eternity!

 

Feeling lonely? This could be your moment to shine!

 

4. I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH

 

THE LIE: If I feel alone, I mustn’t have enough faith

THE TRUTH: Your feelings should not and do not represent your faith.

 

This is a modern Pentecostal, hurtful lie that has been propagated far and wide… that if you feel discouraged, alone or sad, your faith is lacking and you need to muster some more faith.

 

As people, we tend to rely on our feelings. If we feel good, if we feel joy, if we feel connected at Christmas, then we must have faith. If we feel lonely, sad or miserable, we mustn’t have enough faith.

 

2 Corinthians 4:7-9

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

 

How do you reach this point, when everything seems against you and yet you stay so positive and full of faith? Paul did not get this from watching preachers on the God channel, or by calling a 1800 number with a donation!

 

We’ve talked about this in recent weeks, how even a mustard seed of faith in an infinitely huge and powerful God trumps all the faith you can muster in an idol.

 

I’m sick of hearing people kicking those who are down and saying they lack faith. If you base your faith on how you feel, you’ll have a roller coaster ride of emotions, and always doubt that you have any faith at all. But if you base your faith on the Word of God, on His promises, on His Spirit and His power, then regardless of how you feel, you will discover faith you never knew you had! Faith in an infinite God, faith in the One who loves you and gave Himself for you.

 

The better you get to know God, the more faith you will have!

 

So if you are feeling alone and sad this Christmas, then turn things around and see your loneliness not as a curse sent from God, but as an opportunity to grow in maturity. This growth doesn’t happen by accident, but by a deliberate decision to see joy in your pain, and Gods loving hand upon you rather than His affliction, judgement or curse.

 

5. I’M JUST NOT IMPORTANT TO ANYONE

 

THE LIE:If you were important enough, famous, successful, attractive, rich enough you wouldn’t be lonely like this.

THE TRUTH: Everybody experiences loneliness, important or not.

 

This is a ridiculous lie from the devil, and I only have to mention names like Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Whitney Houston, Heath Ledger, Phillip Seymour-Hoffman and Marilyn Monroe to shoot it down.

 

Being famous or important does not make you not lonely, it actually often makes you more lonely and isolated. Don’t believe the lie that successful people have lots of friends and aren’t lonely. Behind the money, the fame, the big cars and houses in Beverley Hills, they’re often the most lonely of all!

 

Things, fame or money doesn’t buy happiness. I’ve seen beggars in the gutters of Kolkata laugh, eat together and have fellowship. Some of them are rich in ways we don’t understand.

 

Listen, I know many poor, mistreated and less than attractive people here who have friends and are not lonely.

 

Doesn’t matter who you are, there are people who love you, if you let them near! This church has people who will love you if you let them, so stop trying to be someone you’re not and just let genuine people start to love and accept you.

 

Amos 3:3

“Do two walk together,

unless they have agreed to meet?

 

If you are lonely, at least make yourself agreeable! If you’re nice to others, someone will be nice to you. If they reach out to you and you behave like a pig in return, don’t be surprised if you’re lonely! Be agreeable, be open, and no matter who you are, what your situation is, God will bring someone into your life to care.

 

So if you are feeling lonely this Christmas, open yourself to someone. Yes there’s a risk, they might reject you, but nothing ventured is nothing gained. They might accept you, you never know. You don’t need to be successful, rich or famous, you just need to be agreeable!

 

CLOSER THAN A BROTHER

 

Loneliness hurts, and especially at Christmas when everybody is talking about their families and friends. If you have poor relationships in your family, or no friends, it hurts even more.

 

Proverbs 18:24

A man of many companions may come to ruin,

but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

 

Loneliness is painful, but today I challenge you to turn your perception around. Loneliness is not hopelessness if you don’t let it become that, instead it can empower you to know Christ more, and to make Him known. He is the friend who sticks!

 

The choice it yours… all of these voices in your head require you to choose between the lie and the truth. You can choose to believe the lies, or you can choose the truth. At this time of year the devil uses loneliness to entrap you, to ruin you, to get into your head and depress you. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

 

Take your eyes off your circumstances, off the family mishaps, off the lack of friends, and open your eyes to see things Gods way.

 

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Habakkuk Rejoices in the Lord

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.

God, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer’s;

he makes me tread on my high places.

 

Today in the loneliness that many of us face at Christmas time, Jesus is calling you to tread in high places. You can feel lonely, all of us do at times, but there is a friend who calls to you right now in your loneliness. His arms are open to you, His heart is reaching out to you. This Christmas you may be alone, alone by yourself, or alone maybe in a crowd of relatives, but none of us is exempt from loneliness.

 

In our church I am thrilled to say I’m seeing people reaching out to each other in genuine love. You might be alone, but don’t be lonely. There are people here who would love to reach out to you. There are people who care, and there a Saviour who wants to wrap His arms around you right now.

 

Psalms 139:5

I look behind me and you’re there,

then up ahead and you’re there, too—

your reassuring presence, coming and going.

 

Hebrews 13:5

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

To understand what the famous passage on the Armour of God is speaking about, we really need a little bit of context…

 

EPHESIANS SO FAR

The book of Ephesians was written around 60AD and is a letter of love and encouragement to a church in one of the 5 major cities of the Roman world. Paul, the writer, was most likely in prison when he wrote it, surrounded by Roman guards.

The first half of the letter clarifies who we are in Christ, and how we fulfill God’s purposes in His church.  We come by grace through faith, and are united together, Jews and Gentiles, under the headship of Jesus.

The second half explains what living for Christ should look like, in our relationships, our behaviour and towards one another, including work relationships and marriage.

Then Paul chooses to finish up with the passage we will be studying for the next several weeks. We must see this discussion about warfare in the light of what Paul is talking about throughout the entire book.

And so he starts talking about battle, and about armour. Armour is made to be worn, not sat in a corner.  Christ calls us to live a certain way, and God provides spiritual equipment, weaponry and even relationships to help.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

 1. KNOW YOUR ENEMY

Our enemy is the devil and his minions. It’s not really bad people, it’s way bigger than that!

But remember our enemy is defeated! Consequently, there’s no need for believers to fear their spiritual enemy. Those horror movies are not for us!

Colossians 2:15

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

While Satan still has the freedom to tempt and harass Christians, he has no direct authority over them. If you have Jesus in your life, Satan can’t possess you, he can only harass you, which at times can seems bad enough!

But Mark this… We fight as part of a great army, His army!

Victory is sure for us, but that doesn’t stop the enemy fighting. Japan’s military leaders wanted to fight a losing battle to death and destruction, and so does our enemy, even though our victory is already assured in Christ.

Satan is defeated, but still kicking, and he still rules this world. We must fight as an army, not alone. Lone soldiers get picked off. That’s why Coast Church is here, to let us unite with others in the army so that we might stand together in victory.

THIS IS SATAN’S LAST STAND

We live in a world that is Satan’s last stand. He cannot win, but he can employ a scorched earth policy, which is inflicting maximum damage as he is defeated (such as we saw in the Gulf War’s burning of oil refineries).

Ephesians 6:12

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

The Devil has his battle array, his minions arranged by ranks. It says that we wrestle against them. We are not firing ballistic missiles or drones from a safe distance, we are in hand-to-hand combat with the spiritual forces of wickedness.

There are spiritual forces working in the world, evil forces working against the church, against God, against Christ… And against you!

Don’t downplay or rubbish these things, it’s happening right now and you and I alone are no match for it.

What Biblical proof do we have they such a conflict actually exists?

If you look at Daniel 10 you have a glimpse into this spirit world, where Daniel is praying and the angel is struggling against the Prince of Persia, a demon.

We have said that these powers are organized. Principalities are the demons who have the oversight of nations. They would correspond to the rank of generals.

Powers are the privates, the everyday demons wanting to possess and harass human beings.

The rulers of the darkness of this world are those demons who have charge of Satan’s worldly business.

Spiritual wickedness in high places are the demons in the heavenlies who have charge of religion.

Satan has a well-organized group, and his organization is manipulating in this world right now. The heartbreak, the heartache, the suffering, the tragedies of life are the work of Satan in the background. He is the cause of the great problems that are in the world today.

You see, Satan still rules the unbelieving world and we will, on occasion, have to confront Satan’s work in people’s lives (for example when Paul confronted Elymas the Sorcerer Acts 13:9–12). To dislodge Satan’s influence in someone’s life, a supernatural encounter of God’s power and truth may be required.

John 12:31

Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.

Ephesians 3:10

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,

Spiritual warfare is not finding demons under every stone! Demons certainly exist, they are the servants of satan, and were one third of the angels expelled from heaven.

But most often you won’t be having exorcisms, right?

Spiritual warfare for most believers, is actually fought in the mind, emotions and the will.

Scriptural truth is our primary line of defence. That’s why Paul frequently urges us to be renewed in our minds (Romans 12:1–2; Col. 3:1–3). The more our minds are filled with the truth of God’s Word, the less susceptible we are to Satan’s deceptions and temptations.

That’s why I asked you last week to commit to filling your minds with Scripture every single day.  I challenged you to faithfully fill your mind with Scripture and see if you can’t resist the devil more effectively.

It worked for Jesus, who in Luke 4 resisted the schemes of the devil using Scripture…

Luke 4:4

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

The battle is not against people and how they treat you, it’s really against demonic forces, against battalions of fallen angels, against evil spirits who wield tremendous power. Though we cannot see them, we are constantly surrounded by wicked spirit-beings, and they love to attack our minds!

The devil has various  strategies—discouragement, frustration, confusion, moral failure, and doctrinal error. He’ll tempt you, frustrate you, confuse you, attack you, and he will often use people, even other Christians to do this.

He knows our weakest point and aims for it. If he cannot disable us by one method, he will try for another. He’s a rotten, evil, despicable enemy, and he will show you no mercy, and neither should you show him any!

This is war after all!

He will often bring up your past, which if you are in Christ and a new creation is forgiven (Colossians 5:17). If the devil wants to talk about your past, remind him of his future!

BE ENCOURAGED IF YOU ARE ATTACKED…

The more effective a believer is for the Lord, the more he will experience the savage attacks of the enemy: the devil does not waste his ammunition on nominal Christians.

IF YOU ARE NOT A BELIEVER AND ARE BEING ATTACKED… GET SAVED QUICK!

Now remember, you can’t beat him… But Jesus can!

In our own strength we are no match for the devil. So the first preparatory command is that we should be continually strengthened in the Lord and in the boundless resources of His might.

Ephesians 6:10

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

God’s best soldiers are those who are conscious of their own weakness and ineffectiveness, and who rely solely on Him.

1 Corinthians 1:27b

God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

2. KNOW WHERE YOU FIGHT

Know your terrain… We have the enemy located and identified. That enemy is spiritual. It is Satan who heads up his demonic forces. Now we need to recognize where the battle is…

 1. SOCIETY

Let’s be clear… We live in a fallen world, and we are called not to just exist, not to just float through and have a good time, but to stand and fight!

When I was young, the Cold War was the big fear. Atomic bombs, terrorism, communism and the Berlin Wall. Vietnam was our fight. On the streets LSD and heroin were the temptation, divorce was rising, free sex was everywhere and abortion was the big debate.

Today, it is the same and more! Communism and the Eastern Block have fallen, but militant Islam has taken its place. Terrorism is even more ever present, heroin has been replaced by ice, divorce is normal, sex is still everywhere and now gay marriage is the hot topic.

Ecclesiastes 1:9

What has been will be again,

what has been done will be done again;

there is nothing new under the sun.

The terrain is still the same… Issues change, politics change, but each of us face attack from every side in our society

2. THE CHURCH

I think the church has largely lost sight of the spiritual battle closer to home, in the church.

We feel that if we have a lovely church building and are attracting crowds and if the finances are coming in, everything is going nicely. The financial condition of a church, however, is not where the battle is. I will grant that, if a church which has been supporting itself begins to get into debt, it is an indication that something is wrong: actually, it means the battle is being lost in the spiritual realm.

There should be questions such as: Are the members of the church being built up in Christ? Is the Word of God being taught? Is there a spirit of love and cooperation among the members? Is gossip reduced to a minimum? There must not be an exercise in legalism but an exercise in right relationships among those who are the brethren in Christ. Where there is a spirit of criticism and of bitterness and of hatred, the Spirit of God cannot or rather will not work.

Churches like to talk about the numbers who come to Christ. They like to talk about how many decisions they have had. Yet when the facts are really boiled down and examined and you look for the so-called converts two years later, you often find that they have disappeared, because we didn’t love and disciple them!

We don’t seem to realize that there is a spiritual warfare being carried on today and that people need to be grounded in the Word of God. It is a manifestation of demonic power that people are being blinded and carried away into all kinds of cults and religions and “isms” with false beliefs.

2 Corinthians 4:4-5

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

The Greek word for blinded actually means calloused, and callousness is often harder than the original bone. It loses feeling, it’s hard as rock, it numbs us!

As a result of all this blinding by satan, the Word of God sinks into insignificance in many churches and organizations. This is the work of the enemy, Satan and his demonic hosts.

3. THE MIND

This is the area where the armour of God is specifically recommended… The battlefield of our own mind!

Ephesians 6:10-11

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

Satan loves to attack the mind, and if you have no defence, you will be tormented and in real trouble.

Those thoughts that pop in your head, that’s often the attacks of the devil. Let me use a modern illustration…

On the internet these days is something called re targeting, and this nicely portrays one of the devils forms of attack.

When you visit a website, a cookie is placed on your computer. A cookie is a little piece of information, but this identifies your computer and where you visited.

Then advertisers can hit you with a series of ads based on where you have visited. So if you looked at a shoe website, all of a sudden you will find ads for shoes popping up all over the place.

And Satan does this too! If you have previously struggles with a sin, the temptations for this very sin will appear all over the place. If you have struggles with illicit sex, then R rated websites, movies and TV shows will show up, and gorgeous, scantily dressed, flirty girls will strike up conversations with you. If you have struggled with gossip, all of a sudden lots of juicy information will come your way. If you struggled with honesty, opportunities to lie for personal gain will appear everywhere.

The devil attacks where you are weakest, and without protection you are in grave danger of being dragged back into sin.

This is especially true of addicts. He might change the addiction, but he can still use this to control you. You need to put in the armour of God, and you need to do it now!

3. KNOW YOUR STRATEGY

It has been said, “The best form of defence is a good offence,” and I love that because I am always hung hoe to take on everything.

But our battle needs the right strategy, and we need it from the top, from our Commander-in-Chief.

In the American Civil War the battle of Gettysburg was key. The Union Army had a number of experienced generals who all thought they knew what they were doing. But President Lincoln had the telegraph and could make strategic decisions the generals on the ground could not make, because he saw the big picture. Many generals were unhappy and thought Lincoln interfering in their battle, and he even stood some of them down, but in the end Gettysburg was won by using the correct strategy.

God has the right strategy, and we need to listen to Him. And what does His Word tell us? Does it say, Tora, Tora, Tora, attack, attack, attack?

Not, it says to stand!

Ephesians 6:10-11

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

Ephesians 6:13

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

When the devil attacks, we need to take the high ground and stand. Our conflict is like the Great War, World War 1, where taking a stand in a trench will serve us better than out and out attack, especially when we are under severe attack!

Will we ever attack? Of course, but some of you here are under attack, and it will take all your strength of will to just stand! Thank God we don’t do this on our own, but we have His strength and His armour to help us stand for what is right!

4. KNOW YOUR ARMOUR

Next week we will continue and we go on to look at exactly what your armour is, and how to put it on. It will be a life changing message!

YOU CAN AND WILL STAND AGAINST SATANIC ATTACKS, BUT NOT BY YOURSELF!  You need others to stand with you, and next wee we will start equipping you, fitting you out with the armour of God.

But for now, some of you here have felt under attack, and we want to help you to stand, and stand boldly for Christ.

If you’ve been under attack, any sort of attack, we want to stand with you and pray with you.