The Word of God

The Word of God

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional Weekly Devotional

 

                        “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord God,

                         that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine

                         of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the

                         words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to

                         sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and

                         fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not

                         find it.”

                                                            Amos 8:11-12

We live in a time when our world, that is the western world in particular, is literally awash with numerous and various translations of the Word of God and then to add to this we have all sorts of study aids to the Bible and commentaries that seek to address every book contained in this scared volume. And yet, for all of this, we still have congregations that are in the most part biblically illiterate and cannot in truth tell one much about the books of the Bible that they read. There is indeed a famine “of hearing the words of the Lord.”

At one level we must ask, “Why is this so?” And the answer would probably be: Because the people of God are not really encouraged to “receive the word implanted” (James 1:21) or thoroughly ingested by those who occupy our pulpits. Rather the people of God are encouraged to read snippets of the Bible every day that essentially disinvests them from acquiring an understanding of it contents. By contrast the Bible itself encourages us to dwell in its pages “day and night” and Jesus likened our intake of it to that of our daily consumption of food (Matthew 4:4).  Actually, to be honest, we all eat too much and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had too much to eat of the Word of God. Sadly this is not true and in the main, despite all our translations and various “helps” the average Christian knows very little about the Bible.  Paul well knew the power of the Word of God and so when he finally took leave of the Ephesian Church leaders he said, “So, now brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:32). There is indeed a famine of the words of the Lord!

The context of Amos’s statement above is that of a people who, having the Word of God, have nevertheless not taken its pages seriously and have consequently lived in wicked ways and have even sought for ways to undermine its pages in a manner that it appears to condone this wickedness. Jesus understood this twisted practice of the human heart and said in response, “ But why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46)” Today the biggest threat to the true Church is the wider church itself in that many denominations and movements that once, by their founding fathers, supported a Bible believing faith have actively sought to dismantle this by condoning behavior and practices that are in reality clearly condemned by scripture. This has impacted their understanding of marriage, family, sexual purity and mission in the world. Peter, in his day, encountered these same people and warned his readers, in his second epistle bearing his name, about them (2 Peter 3:14-18). Churches that remain true to the Word of God are therefore despised and ridiculed by so called fellow expressions of the Christian faith and this encourages the ungodly to join this throng of abusers. The God of the Bible warns through Amos His prophet that these evils will bring upon those who practice them a famine of the words of the Lord. They may seek the words of God and in so doing “run to and fro” but it will not help until they repent and amend their ways.

So then, apart from there being human reasons for which the Bible is a closed book to many in the Church today, there is in fact a heavenly reaction to neglect, wickedness and distortion that locks the truth of the pages of scripture from them. In short the famine “of the words of the Lord” is sent from heaven as judgment or as an instrument of correction with the hope of bringing them to repentance. We should note this carefully.

In the end we must humble our hearts before this amazing book and approach it with great reverence because it is fully inspired (2 Timothy 3:16) or “God breathed” (2 Peter 1:19-21) and we should cultivate reading habits of it that enable us to absorb, understand and know it contextually. When we do this, as the Psalmist declares, it will become “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).” Indeed we should read all of Psalm 119 in order to appreciate the extreme importance of living in the Word of God.

When I first came to Christ He showed me that I needed to live in the Bible and read at least ten chapters of it a day. I did this by the grace of God and consequently my life has been transformed and my understanding of its pages has been enlarged. I then agree with David when he wrote the following:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel

                         of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners,

                         nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight

                         is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law he medi-

                         tates day and night.”

                                                            Psalm 1:1-2

 Malcolm Hedding

 

Divorce and Remarriage

Divorce and Remarriage

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional Weekly Devotional

 

There is no doubt that divorce for any and every reason is a plague in the Church and more important still it robs the Church of God’s presence and blessing. To be honest, I fear that, apart from the intervention of God, the “horse has bolted” and not much will be done to rectify the matter since many preachers and respected leaders are themselves guilty of license in this area. This matter must be urgently addressed by the Church, for no other reason than to attract the blessing of God to our communities. Nothing is more destructive to society than the break- up of Christian homes. This must be stopped, families must be secured with biblical values but where there is divorce this should be governed by scripture; all the time avoiding very hard-line or ‘anything goes positions’. Above all we must call for restoration and clothe ourselves with compassion. It is with this in mind that I write this paper.

 

For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce

                                                 for it covers one’s garment with violence,” says the

                                                 Lord of hosts….”

                                                                                                Malachi 2:16

                                                “Furthermore it has been said, “Whoever divorces his

                                                 wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say

                                                 to you whoever divorces his wife for any reason except

                                                 sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and

                                                 whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits

                                                 adultery.”

                                                                                                Matthew 5:31-32

                                                “But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or

                                                 sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has

                                                 called us to peace.”

                                                                                                1Corinthians 7:15

The Historical View

While early Church leaders had differing views on the matter they generally moved between two positions on divorce and remarriage. That is, divorce and no remarriage as in Tertullian…or…divorce in the case of “uncleanness” or adultery and remarriage as in Origen’s view. He stated that God’s divorce of Israel for spiritual adultery and remarriage to the Church is proof of this (Jeremiah 3:8)! Thomas Aquinas (1226-1274) put in place the Catholic Church’s position on divorce. That of no divorce at all but divorce could be had if the aggrieved party requested an act of nullification from the Pope called, “Divorce a Vinculum Matrimonii.” As you know, Henry the eighth requested this, didn’t get it and consequently broke with the Catholic Church. Strangely, God was in this so what does this say to us?

This view is called the “kinship View” as it views marriage as a sacrament by which the parties are made one and thus in dissolvable (Genesis 2:24). They are one both spiritually and physically. The other Orthodox Churches generally followed this view and within their fraternity it is still embraced today though many of their adherents have abandoned it because of the infiltration of secularism.

The Protestant View

This is where it really becomes intriguing because the Protestant Leaders departed significantly from Rome on this matter as they accused Rome of propagating their view to lure people into celibacy in order to fill the dwindling ranks of their monastic orders. So, the Protestant View, held by great leaders like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Erasmus and Martin Bucer, was that divorce could take place for fornication (which in the original language (pornea) means adultery, homosexuality, bestiality and sexual perversion of any type) and that the offended or innocent party could remarry but only in the Lord. They also viewed what is called “Paul’s Exception” (1Corinthians 7: 14-15) as referring only to abandonment because of one’s faith in Christ and thus they also permitted remarriage. The word used by Paul, in terms of not being in bondage, has roots indicating that one is not in “legal enslavement” and implies remarriage, but only again in the Lord.

As a matter of interest Luther and Calvin spoke of marriage as a civil institution thus over-reacting to the Catholic position of a sacramental institution. This Protestant view is also called the “Majority View” but there are evangelicals, who subscribe to what they call the “Minority View.” That is, the minority view in the evangelical world which holds that divorce for adultery is permissible but not remarriage. The same rule applies to “Paul’s exception”, if applied.

Modern Day Evangelicals

In this world scholars like William Heth, Professor of New Testament and Greek at Taylor University, are the most influential. Heth held the minority view for years but now holds the majority view and writes:

“The majority of evangelicals believe that Jesus permits remarriage after divorce for marital unfaithfulness (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9) and that Paul sanctions remarriage when Christian spouses are abandoned by unbelieving mates. (1Corinthians 7:14-15)”

People like Heth believe that “sexual union is the indispensable means” for the consummation of marriage both in the Old Testament and the New. This union when violated by adultery is destroyed and this is why Jesus permitted divorce, and in his view, remarriage. As to the latter he writes, “Jesus cannot be construed as teaching an “exceptionless absolute” based on Mark alone because both Matthew and Paul qualify Jesus’ prohibition of marriage after divorce.” Moreover, in terms of the full biblical record valid divorces always included the right to remarry but only in the Lord. So then it can be deducted that valid divorces are God’s permissive will for some innocent victims of divorce. It must be stressed, in my view, that Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:9 clearly justify divorce for immorality and permit remarriage, only in the Lord. Having said this it seems to me that it is inconsistent with the heart of God, as revealed in scripture, that the innocent partner in a broken marriage not only be subjected to the trauma and distress of such a break up but also be barred from the joy and comfort that comes to one in a “new” marriage.

Adultery actually must be persistent and everything must be done to seek restoration rather than divorce. It is precisely here that the modern day Church has lost its way. Divorce is permitted for every reason under the sun and the consequence is that many lives, mostly children, are brought to ruin. God hates it! In Jesus’ day, as the records prove, a man could divorce his wife for burning the food; and they did! Many then believe that Jesus spoke strongly about this to rectify the chaos and place the emphasis in the right place just as He did when He said that one has to hate one’s family if you wanted to follow Him (Luke 14:26). We must then embrace a very high view of marriage since it is not simply the union between a man and a woman but also a reflection of the unity and love that exists between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Our emphasis should not be on forgiveness but faithfulness and the boundaries of marriage, divorce and remarriage have to be significantly narrowed.

For me then both sexual immorality and abandonment violate the fundamental biblical components of marriage and, if persisted in, leave the innocent party without any options at reconciliation. They are consequently not in legal bondage and can remarry but only in the Lord. These “two violations” have to be carefully and thoroughly proved and serious efforts at restoration should be our first and paramount concern. The evangelical theologian Hays writes:

“The Church must recognize and teach that marriage is grounded not in feelings of love but in the practice of love. Nor is the marriage bond contingent upon self-gratification or personal fulfillment. The church has swallowed a great quantity of pop psychology that has no foundation in the biblical depiction of marriage…….When marital union is rightly understood as a covenant, the question of divorce assumes a very different aspect. Those who have made promises to God should trust God for grace sufficient to keep those promises, and they should expect the community of faith to help them to keep faith, by supporting them and holding them accountable.” Blomberg adds:

“Married people should always be seeking ways to improve and enhance relations with spouses rather than wondering how they can get out of commitments they have made.” This is so very true!

Conclusions

I have now, chiefly because of my research on this matter, come to the “Majority View.” I have to recognize that this view was held by great spiritual leaders that we admire and quote in our sermons all the time and yet I admit that there are still issues to be resolved. However, I believe that people holding my view have to be stricter and stronger in asserting the biblical position on this matter and I believe that people holding to the “Minority View” need to be a little more caring for the injured and innocent party since great preachers have also held this position. Both positions have been long accepted views within the evangelical Church. This is like grappling with God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Once we hold a strong position either way we tend to be unbalanced. I am guilty of this as we all are from time to time!

Malcolm Hedding.

Passover 2018

Passover 2018

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional

 

                        “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared

                         to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and

                         worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and

                         godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and

                         glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

                         who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from

                         every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special

                         people, zealous for good works.”

 

                                                                                    Titus 2:11-14

 

In these coming days we will celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The cross of Jesus is the shining light of God’s love for a sinful world and what happened upon it was given power and meaning by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Jesus removed God’s anger and wrath from over our lives and consequently brought us forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God our Father. By the cross and resurrection of Jesus, God our Father in Heaven, has then imputed Christ’s righteousness to our lives meaning that being in Christ He sees us as perfect; just as if we had never sinned. We are the recipients of eternal life and therefore we are saved from an eternity separated from God. This is what it means to be saved!

Death has been conquered and its dark and foreboding sting has been removed from us. It is now a mere doorway to the glorious and real eternal presence of God. We are truly saved from our sins and rejoice in the sure hope of living out an eternal purpose with God our Savior. This is good news indeed and constitutes a glorious message of hope for those who would embrace it. Sadly, according to Jesus, few will!

It is then no coincidence that the history of the human race is divided by the coming of Jesus and His saving work on the cross. The cross towers over history and calls us home to God our Father. Truly every person is living before Christ or after Christ. That is, we either have Him in our lives and are consequently saved from our sins or we do not have Him in our lives and remain in our sins and under the wrath of God. Which is it? I sincerely hope that it is the former since Christ in us is the only way to the eternal glory of God.

May the great God of Israel “who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever, Amen.”

Malcolm Hedding

Broken Foundations-Part Two

Broken Foundations-Part Two

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional Weekly Devotional

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will

come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of

money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to

parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving,

slanders, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,

traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather

 than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but

denying its power. And from such turn away!”

 2 Timothy 3:1-5

 

Paul warned that a day would come when people would embrace a form of godliness but would deny the power thereof. That day is upon us! It is a fact that many Christians today live their lives in a way that totally denies the biblical picture of what it means to be saved and much of this is imparted to them by weak preaching that routinely emphasizes how much God loves them and will thus constantly put up with and forgive their frequent failures. They live in habitual sin, frequently come to Church and even tithe and volunteer when required. They will go to hell!

 

The truth is; that receiving Jesus into one’s life by true repentance and faith in His finished work on the cross means that one is literally filled with the amazing power and life of God. This in turn means that one’s life is totally regenerated by the Holy Spirit, one’s desires radically and continually change and one’s behavior routinely reflects righteousness. This is what it means to be saved.

 

John the Apostle wrote his first epistle in order to clearly outline what it means to be born again. We should and must pay careful attention to his words and so let’s take a look at what he says a true Christian looks like.

 

  1. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” 1 John 2:4-6

 

Yes indeed Jesus gave us many commandments to keep and these are not the grounds of our salvation but the evidence of it as we keep them joyously and spontaneously as an outflow of His life in us. We must take this seriously as His life abiding in us enables as to “walk as He walked!”

 

  1. “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” 1 John 3: 6-9

 

This passage is worthy of careful study and meditation as it essentially states that knowing Christ means that we do not sin and that sin, rebellion against God, is actually a character trait of the devil. Jesus came to break this demonic character trait in our lives and set us free of it. He does this by placing His seed in us and this seed definitely destroys the power of sin in us! Is this your testimony?

 

  1. “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

 

In addition to the above, we are also enabled, by the power of Jesus in us, to overcome anything in the world. The true Christian is not ensnared by the world system because this system is essentially demonic and Jesus in us overcomes anything dark and devilish. Sadly so many who claim Christ as Savior reflect the world and not the nature of His character. For them grace means that they can dabble here and there with sin because God will always forgive them! No He will not! Actually, because of all that God in Christ has done for us and, because of the incredible power (seed) that lives in us, God will not forgive intentional sin. In this regard note Hebrews 10:26-27;

 

“For if we sin willfully after we have received the

                         knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a

                         sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation

                         of fiery indignation, which will devour the adversaries.”

 

This warning, dear friends, was written to Christians who were thinking of retreating from their faith in Christ. Yes, it is a stern warning and we had better take note of it. To be saved by the grace of God means to be totally transformed, to walk in transformation and to desire complete transformation. Anything short of this is actually counterfeit Christianity and we should be careful not to fall into it. Sadly many have!

 

The writer of the book of Hebrews lamented the carnal nature of the Christians that he was writing to, as did Paul to the Christians at Corinth. The former then stated that they were weak and sub-normal in their idea of what Christianity is because they had “broken foundations.” The same could be said of many Christians today. So he writes:

 

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary

                         principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not

                         laying again the foundation of repentance from dead

                         works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of

                         baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the

                         dead, and of eternal judgment.” Hebrews 6:1-2

 

Paul is so outraged at the sub-normal expression of Christianity at Corinth that he questions the authenticity of their salvation experience.

 

“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.

                         Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus

                         Christ is in you?-unless indeed you are disqualified.”

                                                                        2 Corinthians 13:5

Essentially Paul is saying, “Do you really know Who is living inside of you? Have you felt His power, love and transforming presence because your behavior contradicts your claim and appears to question this reality. The same is true today so test your self to find out if Jesus is really living in you!

 

  1. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9

John by all that he has written is not advocating for sinless perfection. No he is simply saying that for the true Christian committing sins is the abnormal and not the normal expression of being a believer. Christians generally do not sin habitually or willfully but if they do God by Jesus Christ will forgive them upon real confession and repentance. This is my experience and it should be yours as well because, “Whoever is born of God does not sin.”

 

Finally, Jesus talked about building our lives on good foundations and He also warned that at the end of the age many sloppy Christians, who even did wonderful things in His glorious name, will actually go to hell! This what He said:

 

“Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not

                         prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name

                         and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will

                         declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me you who

                         practice lawlessness.”  Matthew 7:22-23

 

Dear friends, the biblical teaching on being a Christian is certainly demanding but the grace that God has given us in Christ Jesus has give us a power that is well able to make us the people that God wants us to be. We are not orphans as God has sent His Holy Spirit into our lives to transform them and reflect His glory. Let it be so!

 

Malcolm Hedding.

Broken Foundations – Part 1

Broken Foundations – Part 1

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional

 

                        “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and

                         foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and

                         members of the household of God, having been

                         built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,

                         Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.”

                                                                        Ephesians 2:19

 

The casual observer will note that instability is everywhere evident in our world. The recent conference on Global Security held in Munich Germany ended with a real note of despair in that it concluded with the thought that serious conflict appears to be on the horizon of world affairs. It’s almost as if the human condition has reached “critical mass” and is no longer able to stop the outcome. It’s like clicking on the send button of an email and then desiring to stop it. It’s just to late! Jesus certainly warned that unless the days before His coming are shortened no flesh would survive (Matthew 24:22). There is something desperately wrong with humanity since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and so, sadly, it is seeking solutions that will not stop the rot.

The Gospel of Jesus is of course the only answer as it powerfully and effectively addresses our sin problem (Romans 1:16) but it too is rejected by a world that essentially wants nothing to do with the God of the Bible (John 15:23). In fact as we have recently witnessed in America, Christians are now mocked openly in the various media outlets, even those like Mike Pence who hold high office. Jesus said that we would be hated by all nations (John 15:18-19)! Still the answer to the world’s woes is the Gospel and the remarkable life of Billy Graham certainly proved this. Where the Gospel is preached simply and powerfully lives are indeed eternally changed. We have a remarkable message and the antagonism to it only proves the real existence of evil and should embolden us to preach it more (Acts 5:27-29).

Sadly however, even vast segments of the Church today have moved away from powerful Gospel preaching because people could be offended. Subjects like sin, the wrath of God and the need for repentance are routinely ignored and thus even the foundations of the Church are crumbling. This is not speculation but the honest truth. The Bible is clear about the fact that we cannot lay any foundation in people’s lives other than Jesus Christ and His saving Gospel (1 Corinthians 3:11). This is urgent business and those of us who love God and honor His word must attend to these issues. Like Nehemiah of old we must repair the broken walls and foundations of the Church of Jesus lest we become a Church that He will “vomit out of His mouth” (Revelation 3:16).

The gospel is an offence to many people because it calls upon them to repent and turn away from their sins (Galatians 5:11). We cannot and we will not avoid this offence and Paul’s life certainly demonstrates this. We have to build on a good foundation now more than ever because the night is coming when no one will be able to work. God is looking for those who will rise up and be repairers of the breach. Will He find you and me?

 

“Those from among you shall build the old waste places;

                         you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;

                         and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, the

                         Restorer of Streets to dwell in.”

                                                                        Isaiah 58:12

 

Malcolm Hedding