Walking with Jesus – Week 2 / January 7th

2014Devotional

“He who says he abides in Him ought himself to
Walk just as He walked.”
1John 2:6

For the real Christian life is about walking with Jesus; this means being in step with Jesus or walking like Jesus! The true Christian is then in pursuit of Jesus and he or she does this by availing themselves of the means by which His life is truly brought to us by the power of His Spirit. In the book of Acts these ‘means of grace’ are referred to as Bible study, prayer, fellowship and the breaking of bread or Communion. (Acts 2:42) We should all embrace these as a regular part of our daily lives and doing this requires commitment or discipline. Paul, knowing this wrote, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” (1Timothy 4:7) The grace of God is definitely appropriated by our commitment to all that it promises us in Christ. We all have one shot at life and this chiefly means allowing Jesus to create us in His image. (Ephesians 2:10)Those who miss this calling miss the very purpose of their existence. Their lives will end up being squandered or wasted. How sad it is that many choose this pathway. Jesus called it the “Broad Road” that leads to destruction” and then He went on to say “many are they that travel by it.” (Matthew 7:13) This is truly sad; but sadder still is the fact that many who know the way of life do not walk with Jesus. They hear the word, accept the word initially but bear no fruit. Jesus also spoke about these people. (Matthew 13:18-23)

Walking with Jesus however means also recognizing that by the Holy Spirit you are already with Him in heaven. You have been raised up with Him and now sit with Him in heavenly places. (Ephesians 2:4-6) You have power over in-dwelling sin (Romans 6:11-12) and you are vitally linked with Him by His Spirit in heaven now. (John 16:13-15) It is the closeness then of your relationship with Him that frees you from all fear and particularly from the fear of what to expect at His judgment seat when you finally appear before Him in a resurrected body to give an account of yourself. (Romans 14:10) (1John 4:17-19) The truth is when Jesus steps out of heaven to come again you will step out of heaven with Him and suddenly be found with Him in a perfect body. This is what it really means to walk with Jesus and this is why Paul wrote:

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which
are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When
Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with
Him in glory.”
Colossians 3:1-4

Walking with Jesus is then more than just a quiet time or church attendance no matter how good and essential these things are. It is ensuring that these good spiritual habits bring us into a real and vital relationship with Jesus. It means being warmed by His sweet presence and having a conscience so sensitized to God that we do not grieve His Spirit or quench His Spirit. (Ephesians 4:30; 1Thessalonians 5:19) It means that we have such a real relationship with Jesus on a daily basis that when He comes what was real by His Spirit is now real by bodily fellowship. Happy are the people who walk with Jesus in this way. I suspect that there are all too few!

Malcolm Hedding

©Malcolm Hedding Ministries

The Law of Liberty – Week 4 / January 21st

2014Devotional


“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty
And continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer
But a doer of the word, this one will be blessed
In what he does…”

James 1:25

The Bible is clear about the fact that the Word of God is crucial to our spiritual growth and well-being. Here in the first chapter of James we are exhorted to “receive the implanted word, which is able to save our souls.” (James 1:21) This means that one who neglects the Word of God is really neglecting one’s salvation! The Bible constitutes a written description of the character of Jesus and thus when we feed upon it we do in fact feed upon Him. He is the Word of God (John 1:1) and it is God’s absolute truth. (John 17:17) James calls it a “Law of Liberty” meaning that it frees us from our carnal cravings and enables us to do the will of God. Jesus said that if we abide in His word we would be liberated into all that He has for us. (John 8:31-32) More important still is the fact that that He said that if we continue in His word then we prove ourselves to be His disciples.

So, someone who claims to be a Christ follower but neglects a serious commitment to the word of God is probably not one. Jesus also said that we have to live by the word of God as if it were the bread of our physical existence (Matthew 4:4). In short we are to know it, love it, rightfully divide it, live by it and use it as our only and effective weapon against the powers of darkness. If we fail in this area we do indeed fail in everything!

Paul tells us that we are to let the word of God “wash us” meaning that it must change us and keep us clean. (Ephesians 5:26) Here he is referring to the great washing laver that stood in the temple courtyard. It had a reflective bottom so that when the Priests washed before temple service they could see the dirt on their faces and remove it. It is this thought that James picks up on here in verse twenty-five of chapter one only this time he says that we are to look into the mirror of God’s word and change. Change, godly change is indeed the name of the game! Given the dignity then that the Word of God has we would do well to approach it reverently and regularly and in a way that we recognize that it is “living” and can change us. It is not a history book or a mere academic one. It is God’s character in written form and when we seek its “whole counsel” we truly seek Him.

James, as we have already noted says that we are to receive the Word “implanted.” That is, the Word of God must become part of what we are so that we walk it out and live it out spontaneously. Paul, once again, picks up on this theme in his letter to the Corinthians when he says that we are all living letters that can be read by the world.(2Corinthians 3:1-3) Our dedication to the Word of God should make us the Word of God. Nothing less and nothing more!

It is then obvious from all these passages of scripture that Christians ought to have a radical commitment to their Bibles. They must and should read many chapters a day and they should memorize it and hold it in their hearts in a way that it dictates their actions and choices in life. The Christian who fails always begins his or her journey of failure at the point of neglecting the Bible. I guarantee this.

In closing it is worth remembering that the longest chapter of the Bible is indeed Psalm 119. It is worth a quiet and sobering reading because it will tell you exactly how important God’s law or word is to our walk with Him. Above all we should not read the Word of God in a way that we see our failures and then never deal with them. It is this problem that James addresses in his epistle. Faith without works is dead!

Malcolm Hedding

©Malcolm Hedding Ministries

Prayer – Week 5 / January 27th

2014Devotional


“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying,
Pray. Let petitions and praises shape your
worries into prayers, letting God know
your concerns. Before you know it, a sense
of God’s wholeness, everything coming
together for good, will come and settle you
down.”

Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message)

In our last discussion together we talked about living in God’s Word and how important it is to have the Word of God built into our lives. According to James, when it is implanted in us it will “save our souls.” We neglect it then to our peril! Of equal importance is prayer as it brings us into real fellowship with God by Jesus Christ. Prayer is quite simply conversing with God and its regular practice enables us to stay close to Him and, when we are close to Him, our relationship with Him is placed on a good footing. It is for this reason that John tells us in His first Epistle that we have no fear of the Day of the judgment of believers because, being close to Jesus, we will simply appear before Him physically in the same intimacy with Him that prayer brought us into day by day.  He therefore writes, “And now, children, stay with Christ. Live deeply in Christ. Then we’ll be ready for Him when He appears, ready to receive Him with open arms, with no cause for red-faced guilt or lame excuses when He arrives.” (1John 2:28)

You cannot talk intimately with someone if there is something displeasing and hurtful between you and so, in like manner, you cannot talk with Jesus freely if you have sin issues in your life. Real prayer keeps your life clean and pleasing to God. Christianity is about fellowship with God and this fellowship is based on righteousness imputed (given as a gift) and imparted (entrenched in our lives). Again John writes, ‘We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may also have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.” (1John 1:3) For this fellowship to be retained and enjoyed, only by prayer, we must live clean lives.

Our opening quote taken for Philippians teaches us that we are to handle all of life with prayer. The New King James Bible puts it this way, “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.” We are God’s children and He wants to walk with us, each one, through all of life. There is no issue too big or too small for Him in your life and in fact He delights in your intimacy by prayer with Him. John is right; Christianity is about fellowship with God.

Given the above, our prayer lives should be extremely important to us and we should all give close attention to this. We must make time for God and thus deliberately give structure to our prayer routines. Short little prayer sessions are quite frankly the evidence of immaturity and spiritual weakness. We have been called into prayer fellowship with God and we must therefore embrace this privilege and practice with Joy. After all we are talking to the great King of the universe!! Paul therefore states that we should be unceasing in prayer (1Thesalonians 5:17) and he frequently writes that he has been in prayer “day and night” for the believers in various locations.

Giving structure to our prayer lives means that we grow our times of prayer by constantly adding prayer items to them. This is a lifelong journey and we should embark upon it as quickly as possible. I have done this for decades so that today with much joy I pray for family, people, churches, mission organizations and nations every day. The Lord has added to my list because He has counted me faithful. I share this with you not to brag but to invite you to follow me as I follow Christ. Our prayers then should have what I call “pillars of importance.”

That is, we must build God’s priorities into them. These are:
1.    Praying for your government (1Timothy 2:1-4)
2.    Praying for Israel (Romans 10:1)
3.    Praying for your church (1Thessalonians 1:1-3)
4.    Praying for the proclamation of the Gospel (Ephesians 6:18-20)
5.    Praying for family…..and,
6.    Praying for the will of God to be done on the earth (Matthew 6:9-13)

Once you have put these pillars in place you can build other important issues around them and so embark on your personal prayer adventure. Naturally, correction and thanksgiving must be the “book-ends” of your personal prayer library. The first keeps you in good standing and fellowship with Jesus (1John 1:8-9) and the second honors God for who He is and teaches you to expect prayer answers. He is a “rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:60)

Jesus Himself, the perfect Son of God, spent much time in prayer. (Mark 1:35) It was the power and strength of His ministry. We must do the same and so urgently move away from weak and beggarly concepts of prayer that amount to nothing but nice sweet platitudes. We must come boldly to the throne of grace as people determined to get hold of God. (Hebrews 4:14-16) God is waiting to welcome you into a life of real fellowship with him.

Malcolm Hedding

©Malcolm Hedding Ministries

The Second Coming of Jesus – Week 6 / February 2nd

2014Devotional


“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven
With a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and
with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ
will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain
shall be caught up together with them in the
clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we
shall always be with the Lord.”

1Thessalonians 4:16-17

The coming of the Lord is a repeated refrain in Paul’s Epistle to the Church at Thessaloniki. This constitutes a testimony to two things:

1.    The second coming of Jesus held an important place in the apostolic message of the first century…and,
2.    Believers in Jesus were exhorted to live their lives out in the expectation of it.

1Thessalonians is Paul’s first letter of many to the fledgling Church of the first century. Written about 51 AD it gives us an idea then of the zeal and passion of the people of God who lived at a time close to the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. All in all Paul makes five references to Jesus’ second coming; all of which shed light on how we are to live in the light of it.

1.    The power of the coming of Jesus 1:10
The truth of the second coming of Jesus is a catalyst for holy and dedicated living. It kept their lives right with God and clean and so Paul commends them for their:
Total dedication to Christ; they turned away from idols to serve the living God.
Work of faith; their lives were productive.
Labor of love; they cared sacrificially for others.
Their patient endurance.

The knowledge that they had been delivered from the wrath of God, which would fall upon an unsuspecting world in full measure at Jesus’ coming, inspired them to live for Christ and, in expectation of His  soon coming, prepare themselves to meet Him. They saw themselves as the Bride of Christ adorning themselves with the inner garments of glory, holiness and beauty! This is the power of the coming of Jesus.

2.    The glory of the coming of Jesus 2:19-24
The glory of the coming of Jesus will be to witness how all the people that we have encouraged, ministered to and even cried with have made it safely home! Imagine seeing our family, friends and fellow congregants rejoicing in the presence of Jesus at His coming. This was Paul’s hope and longing and so the reality of Jesus’ second coming spurred him on to exhort and care for the people of God. The sheer wonder and glory of seeing all his friends with Jesus forever was worth it all.

We must make no mistake; for Paul the Christian journey is an uphill one, fraught with danger and trial that can so easily discourage us and tempt us to give up. The lesson is; we must bring each other to the day of Jesus’ coming!

3.    The prayer concerning the coming of Jesus 3:9-13
Paul was a man of prayer; real earnest prayer and so were all the great men of God. He prayed day and night for the believers as he knew the power and importance of prayer. The fact that Jesus is coming soon should awaken our prayer lives. Moreover, the prayers of Paul were not consumed with his own issues. He had learned to seek the good of the Church and of the world in his prayers and so he saw intimacy with God as the mechanism whereby Jesus invites us into His purpose. Prayer is very powerful and can change our lives to be all that God wants them to be. We must give ourselves to much prayer!!

4.    The joy of the coming of Jesus 4:11-18
The coming of Jesus will prove that death has been utterly defeated and so the funeral service is definitely not the end for the person who has embraced Christ as Lord and Savior; it is in fact just the beginning. Those safe in Jesus will rise to meet Him in the air as He comes and so they will forever be with the Lord. What a day that will be and it is coming soon! Jesus will, by a great shout and trumpet blast, call us out of our graves, just as He did to Lazarus, and then our weak and beggarly bodies will be transformed and changed in the twinkling of an eye and we will be clothed with immortality. This will be a day of great joy; blessed are they who attain to it.

5.    The truth about the coming of Jesus 5:23-24
Our salvation will be complete in that our bodies, souls and spirits will be perfect. Jesus never came to save souls but people and thus at His coming our whole tri-part person will be perfect. The true child of God, knowing these things, presses forward now toward the perfection that Christ has won for us on the cross. Paul desired with all his heart to be as close to perfection as he could get before Jesus’ coming. We should have the same desire.

Even so Lord Jesus; come!

Malcolm Hedding

©Malcolm Hedding Ministries

The Local Church – Week 7 / February 11th

2014Devotional


“And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles
doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread,
and in prayers.”

Acts 2:42

There is no doubt that the center of God’s work in the world is the local church. The first century believers knew this and made it their business to gather believers together in designated local areas. These gatherings took place in homes initially and they were not informal unorganized meetings. No, they had a definite structure and they were put in order by ordained leaders who assumed the responsibility before God to care for the people, known as the “flock of God.” (Acts 20:28) These were God’s people and godly shepherds were put in place to care for them. (Acts 14:23)

Paul’s various missionary journeys give expression to this holy work of planting local churches. Paul did not just hold evangelistic meetings or public gatherings. Once he had gained disciples he organized them into local fellowships where they could be cared for, discipled and in turn sent out to share Christ with the world.  (Titus 1:5)The divine calling over a local church is thus special requiring careful attention to it and obedience. The truth of scripture is therefore clear; every believer in Jesus is required to attach himself/herself to a local church. Failure in this regard is truly disobedience to the revealed will of God. Indeed the writer of the book of Hebrews exhorts believers to “not forsake their assembling together as is the habit of some.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) So, already in the first century there were followers of Jesus who were living out their faith independently from the local church.

At one level we can understand this as gathering together with people that you do not necessarily know or want to be with is a challenge but it is one that we must embrace since by this mechanism our social failings and faults are highlighted meaning that we have to change and learn to love people and get on with them. (1Corinthians 3:3) The hallmark of God’s kingdom is unity (Ephesians 4:1-3; 32) since it is the antithesis of the kingdom of darkness from which we have all come. In this dark kingdom division, disunity and schism are the order of the day. If following Jesus means anything it means living reconciled lives. That is, being reconciled to God and to our fellow men. If we cannot get on together in the local church the real issue that has to be examined is; how saved are we? In fighting and schism is always evidence that the powers of darkness are at work! We must not forget this. The devil loves to ignite our carnal natures and thereby get a foothold in our churches. (Acts 4:26-27)

We should therefore note the following about the local church:
1.    It is the Temple of God Ephesians 2:19-22
This gives it a dignity that is awesome to say the least. Jesus lives in all of us but He makes His presence known in a special way amongst the assembled people of God. (1Corinthians 12:13)  This means that supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are distributed to the members of the local congregation. (1Corinthians 12:1-11) We must accordingly treat the household of God with reverence and awe. This does not mean that it should not be a joyful and happy place. No, it means that we must hold in our hearts the fear of God as we come regularly to worship. Scripture teaches that there is a deposit of the Holy Spirit upon the assembled people of God that you cannot experience on one’s own.

2.    It is cared for by God-Ordained leadership Hebrews 13:17
A casual read of the New Testament will reveal that local churches were considered to be God’s Temple when they had been set in order by the ordination of leadership. (Titus 1:5) In the Bible this leadership is called Elders and Deacons. (Philippians 1:1) Their qualifications are in all respects the same meaning that they are chosen because they are mature godly people. (1Timothy 3:1-13) Elders rule, Deacons help them rule. Deacons are not simply glorified administrators! Their main function is to care for the flock of God and protect it. (1Peter 5:1-2) By all means they must seek to protect the flock from self serving people who are in it for themselves. This too was a problem encountered by the early church. (3John 9-12)

3.    It has structure Acts 2:42
Acts two verses forty to forty-seven reveals that the local church expressed itself on a regular basis by holding prayer meetings, Bible study, fellowship gatherings and communion or breaking of bread. It states in this passage that they did these things steadfastly! Filled with the unifying life of Christ they then, because of this structure, began to care for one another by spontaneous acts of generosity. (Acts 4:32-35)

4.    It is a sanctified place 2Corinthians 6:16-18
This means, since it is set order properly by the ordination of God-given leadership that it is set apart for God. In turn this means that we have to treat the local church with great care. It is not just a gathering place for Christians but a place where God dwells with his people. For this reason scripture warns that those who assault it in any way will be destroyed! (1Corinthians 3:17)

5.    It is outward looking Matthew 28:18-20
The local church exists for those who do not belong to it! It is a catalyst and springboard for evangelism. Its members are to see themselves as vital to the spreading of the Gospel and must be mobilized in this regard. This was the way in which the church at Thessaloniki saw itself. (1Thessalonians 1:8) Scripture affirms that the word of God went out from them into the entire surrounding region. A local church will become inwardly looking and corrupt if it does not see itself as part of the great commission.

6.    It is connected Philippians 2:25-30
The local church does not live in isolation. It is connected to the wider Body of Christ by trans-local ministry gifts.  (Ephesians 4:11)The Bible calls these the messengers of the churches. (2Corinthians 8:23) These gifted people may be Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists and pastoring teachers. They serve the people of God in a way that the local church is enabled to be functional. Everyone has something to give to the life of the local church. (1Peter 4:10)

This then is the biblical teaching concerning the nature and dignity of the local church. Please be sure to take your place in a local church because you are only a part of the universal church to the extent that you are a part of the local church. When Jesus comes back He will present to Himself the glorious universal church, of all ages, but a universal church that owes its existence entirely to the local church. (Ephesians 5:27) Every local church will experience challenges and trials because we have an enemy who is “hell bent” on infiltrating it and destroying it. Jesus is looking for faithful people; are you one of them? Thankfully, in the end the local church cannot be destroyed because Jesus said, “I will build My Church.” (Matthew 16:18)

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly
above all that we ask or think, according to the power
that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ
Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen”
Ephesians 3:20-21

Malcolm Hedding

©Malcolm Hedding Ministries

The Sacraments – Week 8 / February 17th

2014Devotional

In our last devotional we looked at some depth into the nature and dignity of the local church. I deliberately left out two rituals or sacraments that play a huge part in local church life. These are Baptism and Communion. So often these celebrations, expressly commanded by Jesus, are given scant attention by the local church thus giving the impression that they are unimportant. But they are important as the one Baptism; guards the door to the church and the other, communion; guards the life of the church. When we know this they take on a whole new significance and importance for us.

Baptism

“And He said to them, “Go into all the world and
preach the Gospel to every creature. He who
believes and is baptized will be saved…”

Mark 16:15-16

Jesus commanded that all those who repent of their sins and exercise faith in His saving and finished work on the cross should be baptized in water. That is, they must pass through a ritual cleansing bath and thereby confess certain truths. This act gives them visible entrance to the local church. The early church practiced this sacrament all the time. (Acts 2:38-41)(Acts 8:26-38)(Acts 10:44-48)(Acts 16:11-15)(Acts 16:25-33) So, what then does it signify or mean?  Well first of all we must stress that baptism doesn’t save anyone. Only our faith in Christ and His finished work on the cross saves us. (Ephesians 2:8) The repentant thief on the cross was saved because he called on the Lord with his dying breath even though he was not baptized. Paul himself recognized this truth when he wrote that Jesus never sent him to preach a saving message based on water baptism.  (1Corinthians 1:14-17) All the New Testament writers affirm that salvation is by faith alone in what Jesus has done for us. (1Peter 1:3-5)(1Peter 1:18-21)

Baptism then is:
1.    An act of obedience to the command of Christ. Baptism declares that you will live a life in obedience to Christ. Baptism is the first step on this journey. Jesus said, “If you love Me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

2.    A public statement of repentance. ( Acts 2:38) Baptismal candidates renounce all sin and wickedness and indeed all occult practices. The writings of the early church reveal that those baptized did more than just make an affirmation of belief. No, they confirmed their personal repentance publicly. By this confession the door to the church was guarded and only opened to genuine believers.

3.    A public appeal to God for a clean conscience. Baptism calls upon heaven and earth to bear witness that you have truly repented. Thus baptism implicates God and invites Him to bless you because you have truly repented. (1Peter 3:21) Again this serves as a “safe guard” for the church.

4.    A public statement of what you believe to be yours by virtue of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. (Romans 6:3-4) Baptism is thus a visual confession of Jesus’ passion on the cross. The water is a symbol of the grave and so one is buried with Christ in the grave and then raised to life out of the water by Christ’s resurrection. Baptism declares that being united with Christ you are now dead to sin and alive to Him. You are born again and are thus a new creature! (Ephesians 2:4-6) (2Corinthians 5:17) Given this symbolism, affirmed by Paul in Romans six, baptism should be by emersion and only believers capable of making such a confession should submit themselves to it. We believe in believer’s baptism.  Any other form of baptism allows people to come through the door of the church who are not true disciples of Christ!

Communion

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you:
that the Lord Jesus on the same night that He was betrayed
took bread; and when He had given thanks He broke it and said,
“Take eat; this is my body which is broken for you; do this in
remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He took the cup after
supper, saying, “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood. This do
as often as you drink it in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you
eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death
till He comes.”
1Corinthians 11:23-26

The New Testament refers to what we call communion as the breaking of bread. (Acts 2:42) They celebrated this sacrament from house to house and at one point did so on a daily basis. (Acts 2:46) Eventually they broke bread or celebrated communion on the first day of each week. (Acts 20:7) It was therefore a regular practice of the early church partly because it guarded the spiritual life of the church. According to scripture there is something very powerful about the communion service in that God is present in a way that He is not present in other local church events. This is so because, as we gather around the communion table and receive its emblems we are thereby affirming that we are indeed living our lives according to what the emblems signify! That is, that we are right with God, right with all men, in as much as it is possible for us to be, and that we are living holy lives. This and nothing less than this, is what we do and mean when eat the bread and drink the cup of communion. However, in taking communion we should do so with joy since we are invited to give thanks to God for all that He, in Christ, has done for us.

So then we must take careful note of the following:
1.    Communion is indeed a sacrament of remembrance by which we recall all that Jesus has done for us and dedicate our lives to live accordingly. (Luke 22:14-23)

2.    Communion is more than just a sacrament of remembrance as; if we approach the Lord’s Table as we should we can expect to be healed and touched by His love in a new and powerful way. Conversely, if we do not approach the Table of the Lord with due consideration of what it signifies it has the power to make us weak, sickly and bring us to a premature death. (1Corinthians 11:27-30) There are no doubt thousands of believers, world-wide, who are weak and sick and possibly even dead and all because they did not live out the things they claimed to be true as they celebrated communion! We need to have a greater understanding of this very blessed sacrament.

3.    The bread and wine at the communion table remain just that; bread and wine. These elements symbolize the once for all finished work of Jesus on the cross. (Hebrews 7:27) There is nothing mystical or magical about them. It is as we partake of them by faith that we feed on the life of the resurrected Christ and draw near to Him.  The early disciples, we are told, recognized Jesus “in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:28-32)Those then who come to this communion table discerning the Lord’s body properly will be greatly and mightily blessed.

4.    We celebrate communion as a way to keep our lives right with God and so the life of the local church is guarded from imposters. Scripture affirms that we shall do this “until He comes again.” (1Corinthians 11:26) Our remembering of Jesus is thus not the mere recalling of historical facts that took place 2000 years ago but the recalling of what these facts mean for my life today!

This then constitutes the biblical teaching on Baptism and Communion. We would do well to note it. The local church needs to be protected from unrighteous and wicked people and Jesus gave us the tools by which to do just this. We too often have had a very low view of what these two sacraments truly mean and we need to claim back that which we have lost and by so doing we will enjoy more of the blessing of God.

Malcolm Hedding

©Malcolm Hedding Ministries

The Local Church and Spiritual Gifts – Week 9 / February 23rd

2014Devotional


“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to
each one for the profit of all.”

1Corinthians 12:7

We have noted in these studies together that the local church is more than just a gathering of likeminded people. No, indeed it is the temple of God meaning that it is compatible with His life and character. The astonishing truth, as Paul reminds us, is that God walks amongst His gathered people and dwells with them. (2Corinthians 6:16-18) This real presence of God is made dramatically real by what scripture calls the “manifestation of the Spirit.” As the assembled people of God gather and wait before Him, He begins to speak ecstatically to them. That is, in the moment and by unique gifts of the Holy Spirit. All of this to bring awe and wonder into the meeting and to edify those so gathered and to convince the unbeliever that God is indeed in the meeting and speaking! (1Corinthians 14:25) This should be the norm for those attending church!

Special equipping
The believer in Jesus is one who has repented of his or her sins and who has accepted Jesus as Lord into his/her life. Such a person is renewed from within by the regenerating power of the life of Christ and is “born again.” (John 3:3; Titus 3:4-7) This redeemed individual, like the Disciples of old, is then empowered by the Spirit for a life of service by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24:49) It is this baptism of the Spirit of God that gives to each blood washed believer the potential to manifest the life of the Spirit when the church gathers for worship. Each one, filled with the Spirit has this capacity; it is God’s special equipping! This special equipping also involves receiving a private devotional prayer language by which the believer edifies and builds himself up. (1Corinthians 14:4; 14; 18) How good Jesus is to us!

Special categories
The “manifestation of the Spirit” is the operation of what the Bible calls the gifts of the Spirit (1Corinthians 12:4-11). These fall in to three groups or categories:

1.    Evangelistic gifts
The Bible lists these as gifts of healing, faith and working of miracles. One often sees these working in the ministry of well known evangelists like that of Reinhard Bonnke and Angus Buchan and of course Jesus ministry is an amazing example of the powerful demonstration of these gifts.

2.    Counseling gifts
The counseling gifts enable us to really understand what is happening in people’s lives. They are listed as; the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge and the discerning of spirits. The Spirit of God, using our understanding of scripture, will give us supernatural insight about crucial, challenging or difficult circumstances that we are confronted with. We see these gifts operating powerfully through Jesus as He confronted His antagonists with their “trick” questions and discerned what type of spirit was motivating them.

3.    Congregational gifts 
These are what we call the verbal gifts of tongues, interpretation and prophecy and they are usually manifested when the church gathers for worship once a week. They are regulated by an accepted order which one can read about in 1Corinthians fourteen but the norm is that two or three people speak in tongues, as prompted by the Spirit, and others interpret (1Corinthians 14:26-28). Those who prophesy are encouraged to do so but prophetic statements, as with the interpretation of tongues, have to be judged (vetted) (1Corinthians 14:29) by mature and recognized leaders. The congregational gifts are for edification and comfort and should not be abused by attempting to preach short sermons or by correcting the church in any way (1Corinthians 14:3). These are done only by ordained leadership. The manifestation of the verbal gifts through a person is not in any way uncontrollable. This is always a sign of the presence of the occult! The Bible therefore teaches that God works with us in the manifestation of the verbal gifts and so we have complete control over their usage (1Corinthians 14:32)

Since these gifts are ecstatic by nature it is important that their operation be in circumstances of good order. (1Corinthians 14:39-40) When manifested according to scripture the congregational gifts bring the voice of God, in the present and immediate, into the midst of the gathered believers and surely there can be no greater blessing than this.

Special people
There is no doubt that God’s people are special and (1Peter 2:4-5) the spiritual gifts that He imparts to us brings His remarkable life and word into our midst in a way that makes our gatherings truly supernatural. It is this that sets our faith apart as a relationship with the Father and the Son (1John 1:3). Happy are the people of God who dwell in these special pastures!

Malcolm Hedding

©Malcolm Hedding Ministries

The Book of Colossians part 1 – Week 10 / March 3rd

2014Devotional


“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord,
so walk in Him.”

Colossians 2:6

Colossians, written about 66 AD, and one of Paul’s prison epistles, sets forth the all sufficiency of Jesus. He is the head of the Church, the Firstborn of all creation and the One in whom the fullness of God dwells. He reminds the Church at Colossae of these things because Gnosticism and other philosophical heresies, including legalism were threatening the spiritual well being of the believers. Paul writes about people claiming to have visions of angels (2:18) with suspect messages and of others that are taken up with “philosophy and empty deceit” (2:8) and yet others seeking to impose all sorts of behavior codes on the people of God (2:20-23). These errors will “cheat” them and lead them away from Jesus who has dwelling in Him “the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Paul wants the believers at Colossae to know that they are complete in Christ (2:10) and therefore need to walk in Him as they began. If we truly walk with Him, His life in us will govern our behavior and lead us into the full blessings of God.

This is a timely message because even today these problems continue to afflict the church. We will write more about this later but suffice to say that devotion to Jesus alone is just too simple for some folk and so the urge to be religious “kicks-in” and induces them to demand behavior that really takes us away from devoting ourselves completely to Christ. It happens all the time so, beware!

Greeting    1:1-2
Paul’s greeting is the same always but it does imply that he has a unique relationship with God by Jesus Christ since he extends the greeting of the Father and the Son to the church. In short he is saying, “I bring you greetings from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s as if he just came out of a meeting with Them! All this means that Paul had a real strong devotional life that brought him into a place of true union with God and so he could speak as His messenger. We should strive for the same relationship with God, our Father, and with Jesus His Son.

The marks of authenticity   1:3-8
Paul rejoices in the faith of the believers at Colossae because:

1.    They gave themselves to Christ.  V3-4a
Being saved is nothing less; we have to give ourselves to Christ. That is; the complete turning over of all that we are and have to Him. Jesus must become Lord of our lives (Luke 6:46) and the sooner we surrender all to Him the better. By giving ourselves away completely to Jesus we find ourselves and experience great joy. Those who hold onto their lives will lose them; it’s as simple as that. (Matthew 16:24-27)

2.    They were infused with love  V4b
The immediate and discernible change that overtook them was that they began to love those in fellowship with them. This is supernatural because our carnal unsaved hearts are selfish and I centered. Before we came to Christ, life was all about ourselves and our desires and lusts. So, when Jesus takes up residence in us all this changes and we become “others centric.” This is really a miracle and is an evidence of being truly born again. Jesus in us makes the difference and nothing else. Paul begins by asserting this because he knows of the spiritual challenges that were facing them which essentially taught that “other” pursuits should be embraced to acquire this love.

3.    They were filled with hope  V5-8
The hope, we as believers embrace, is not that of a repaired world but of a glorious existence with God in heaven.  Our present world is irreparable and is passing away (1John 2:17). This hope will come to us by the second coming of Jesus (Titus 2:13) and then we shall enter into real life and an existence that is beyond anything that we can imagine. God, by Jesus Christ, has wonderful things in store for us. Until that day dawns we shall call people out of this world for this Gospel will be preached as a witness in all nations and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14) Like Epaphras, we must be faithful ministers of this gospel.

This then constituted the hallmarks of their faith in Christ and by exercising their trust in Jesus they were transformed, filled with joy and hope, focused on heaven and messengers of the good news of Jesus. We must be the same!

Malcolm Hedding

©Malcolm Hedding Ministries

The Book of Colossians part 2 – Week 11 / March 10th

2014Devotional


Paul writes his epistle to address some serious spiritual problems that were threatening the well being of the Church at Colossae. These were legalism, empty humanistic philosophy and traditions of a worldly type. He wants the believers at Colossae to know that in Christ they are, as he puts it, “complete” but for them to grasp this they need to understand:

The Preeminence of Christ  V9-18
The Christians at Colossae, like Christians everywhere, need to know and appreciate the glory of Christ’s being. Failure to understand this induces them to place their spiritual attention elsewhere. The same maladies afflict the modern church since a low view of who Jesus is drives Christians to seek “more” elsewhere. This “more”, as happened at Colossae, was indeed a spiritual ditch! So, then Paul begins his journey with them by affirming that he has been fervently praying for them.

These prayers have centered around three subjects:
1.    That they should be filled with the knowledge and wisdom of God  V9
To know and do the will of God is arguably the most vital and important aspect of our lives on earth. However, to know how to implement the will of God is of greater importance. This knowledge is called wisdom. Wisdom applies knowledge correctly and if we lack it our heavenly Father is more willing to give it to us than we are to ask for it. (James 1:5) Wisdom is an attribute that is highly prized in the Bible (Proverbs 1:20-23) and the fullness of God’s wisdom is embedded in Jesus.

2.    That they should live out their lives in a way that pleases God  V10
When we were unsaved we were in fact enemies of God. (Romans 5:10) The incredible grace of God, working in our lives, changed all of that and now we live to please Him. (1John 3:22) We should make it our aim, as Paul did, to make every day a day that pleases God. (1Thessalonians 4:1) One can only do this if one focuses one’s life entirely upon Jesus. The evidence of a saved life that pleases God is the works of righteousness that flow from us. God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in these. (Ephesians 2:10)

3.    That they should live empowered lives  V11-12
This God-given empowerment enables them to have patience and endurance. Most Christians see God’s power as a means to acquire wealth and prestige but indeed it is imparted to us that we should appropriate our destiny or inheritance of “the saints in the light.” That is, that we should have our characters transformed! Our destiny begins with this and only Jesus alone can accomplish this work in our lives.

When we gave our lives to Jesus we did in fact declare “war” on our carnal natures, the world and the devil. Ours is an upward calling, in more ways than one, as John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress reminds us, and we need God’s power in Christ to fully embrace it.

The Bridge  V13-14
At this point Paul transitions to the burden of his letter and he does this by stating that God our Father has done great things for us in His Son Jesus in that by Him He has delivered us from the power and kingdom of darkness, expiated our sin, by His spilt blood and has transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. Jesus is the all reigning and all sufficient King of this kingdom wherein we find ourselves.

We need nothing more than Him because:

1.    He is God  V15a
Jesus is the visible image of all that God is. (Hebrews 1:1-3) Whatever God is Jesus is and thus He Himself stated that He was one essence with God (John 10:30) and to see Him was in fact to see the Father. (John 14:8-9) The point is clear; if Jesus is in your life you have all that God is living in you! What more do you need?

2.    He is perfect man  V15b
Jesus is the firstborn over all creation meaning that He is the “prototype” of what we all shall become. Our destiny is that of having dominion over creation but we shall not enter this role until we too, like Jesus, are perfect in every way. This will be in the world to come only! (Hebrews 2:5-9) So, Jesus is also a perfect man; what more do we need?

3.    He is the Creator  V16a
This absolutely amazing! Jesus not only made everything by the word of His power but He also upholds and sustains the whole created universe. Again, if He is in our lives; what more do we need?

4.    He is the absolute Potentate  V16b
Jesus is the highest and greatest authority of all. He reigns over all things seen and unseen. There is nothing on earth, in the heavens or in the universe and unseen world that is greater and more powerful than Jesus. He is also our King and lives in our hearts. Jesus is really precious because, given Who He really is, He nevertheless walks with us and talks with us and relates to us with kindness, gentleness and concern. Wow, what a God we serve!

5.    He is eternal  V17
Jesus pre-existed with the Father and the Spirit before time, space and matter ever came into existence. He affirmed His pre-existence in His great priestly prayer recorded in John 17. (John 17:5) There is absolutely nothing in the created order that can add to our salvation. We are truly complete in Christ and we must get this.

6.    He is the Head of the Church  V18
Jesus has first place in the Church because of Who He is and because of what He has done. Given His impressive credentials why would we want to embrace attachments to our faith? That is, why would we resort to rules and regulations and religious laws to attain God’s approval? God has only approved of Christ for He is well pleased with Him and said so. (Mark 1:11) Paul’s point is clear; we only need that which God is pleased with and that means doing all to appropriate Jesus by faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2) Jesus is the genesis of our faith and He will be the end of it; there is nothing in between. He must be given the preeminence.

This then is how Paul sets up his epistle to the Church at Colossae. He will now address, in the next section of the book, the problems afflicting this church. We should all meditate on these things and make Jesus the very heart and center of all that we are and do. Learn the lesson well.

Malcolm Hedding.

©Malcolm Hedding Ministries

The Book of Colossians part 3 – Week 13 / March 25th

2014Devotional


“As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the
Lord, so walk in Him….”

Colossians 2:6

Having set forth the preeminence of Christ by looking at His credentials Paul now focuses on what I call, “The Excellence of His Ministry.” Here he wants the Colossian believers to understand the all sufficiency of Christ’s redeeming work on the cross. Jesus writes Paul, is all glorious because, “It pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell.” (1:19) That is, they should by now have come to the conclusion that Jesus is God, one with the Father from all eternity and yet at the same time fully man. He is a perfect Godman! Jesus work on the cross was a reconciling one and so in this regard:

1.    He has reconciled all things in heaven and on earth to God. (1:20)
The temptations of Christ reveal that the Devil offered Him the kingdoms of the world if only He would bow down, like all humanity has, and worship him (Matthew 4:8-10). Jesus resisted this temptation because He knew that He would win these back by suffering and the power of a perfect indestructible life. The heavens and the world were made by God for humankind but these were forfeited when we all sinned by rebelling against God. Since, by our sin, the devil took dominion over humankind, now cut free from the life and presence of God, the world also and the very earth were subjugated to slavery. So scripture correctly calls the devil “the god of this world” (2Corinthians 4:4) and confirms that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1John 5:19)

On the cross Jesus fully appeased the wrath of God on our behalf and thus opened the way for all people to return through Him to God their Father! This amazing work of grace and love accomplished by the incarnate God was the last thing the devil expected. He was defeated and now redeemed men, women and children could return to their place initially envisioned by God and in due course, when their numbers are complete, they will inherit the earth and the heavens when Christ comes again! All because the spilt blood of Jesus removed God’s anger from our lives and bestowed upon us the peace of God and the gift of His righteousness.

2.    He has reconciled each one of us. (1:21-22)
Paul wishes to drive home this glorious work of reconciliation done only and completely by Christ’s death on the cross by reminding his readers of their sinful state. Thus he writes that they were alienated from God. This is death! Death is not annihilation as some presume or think; no we shall live forever with God, which is life, or without God, which is death! Death then is being separated from the presence and life of God (2Thessalonians 1:9). This is a terrible thing as it plunges one into eternal darkness and anguish. Our rebellion against God’s character not only separated us from Him but it left our minds in a state of hatred against Him and consequently our actions were quick to follow through in that they became wicked and thus the visible evidence of the true state of our minds. We were truly, “children of wrath” as Paul writes elsewhere (Ephesians 2;3). But now, because of what Christ has done, we are freed from God’s anger, declared righteous and above reproach. Jesus’ blood has covered all our sins so that one day we will be presented perfectly holy (like God) in His presence. Oh what a wonderful day that will be!

3.    He is reconciling each one of us. (1:23)
Christians are declared holy as an imputed gift and then by the power of Jesus in them they are made holy progressively; that is holiness is imparted to them (Philippians 3:12). This means that we have been reconciled by Christ’s death and are being reconciled as we continue to follow Christ. This is where Paul is urging them to stand firm and not be moved away from the all sufficiency of Christ’s death. They must “continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast” and must not in any way be moved away from the glorious hope of the Gospel. We cannot add to or subtract from what Christ has done for us and so we must focus on Him at the beginning, in all of life and at the end.
We too need to hear this message because it is so easy to trust other things for our spiritual well being and many do and have. We must resist all of these “temptations” and follow Jesus only.

Malcolm Hedding

©Malcolm Hedding Ministries