A People Apart

A People Apart

2019 Devotional 2019Devotional Weekly Devotional

 

“How shall I curse whom God has not cursed?
And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has
not denounced? For from the top of the rocks
I see him, and from the hills I behold him; There!
A people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself
among the nations.”
Numbers 23:8-9

“For I will restore health to you and heal you of
your wounds, says the Lord, ‘Because they called
you at outcast saying; “This is Zion; no one seeks
her.”
Jeremiah 30:17

The scriptures declare that Israel is a nation set apart and living alone. This has indeed been the story of Israel but this “apartness” has also not been understood by the wider world or, for that matter, by the Church. The consequences have been all too evident! Israel is a lonely nation and even this week we learned this afresh as anti-Semitic Congresswomen in America repeatedly attacked Israel and the Jews. As I watched Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians and leaders responding to this evil I caught a sense of the anguish and loneliness that grips this people. What really caught my attention was a headline on a local news channel that stated; “Israel, the lonely people.” The Jews face hatred and even annihilation again and very few nations stand with them which is highly troubling because all of this is taking place just seventy-five years after the “Final Solution” was agreed upon and implemented by the Nazis at the Wannsee Conference near Berlin in 1942.

Israel’s lonely station in history has been for the blessing of the world. This was indeed the calling that God Himself placed over her national destiny when he encountered Abraham some 4000 years ago and said, “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). He brought her to Himself so that He could reveal Himself to humankind through her. It was not because she was or is better than any other people or even superior to them (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). No, it was so that He could bless the nations through her and thereby save them. How amazing is this? In this endeavor God’s purpose has succeeded, but at great cost to the Jewish people and yet a day is coming when all nations will acknowledge the unique role she has played out in history for their joy, blessing and benefit (Isaiah 66:5-21).

Heavenly things are not well understood by the carnal heart (Romans 8:7) and therefore Israel has been misunderstood, mishandled and abused through the centuries. This continues today! It is true that Israel has failed God and has paid the price for it but this in no way absolves us from our responsibility to stand with her and bless her and it will not stop God from fulfilling His purpose through her. The God of the Bible always fulfills His purpose through the broken and weak people of this world for thereby He gets all the glory (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). Israel’s modern day restoration then is not a political accident or coincidence because, as Romans eleven and verse twenty-nine teaches us, the Lord God of Heaven has never changed His mind about Israel’s calling, possession of the land of Canaan and destiny. Those who oppose these things are in fact in conflict with God. It is this God that warns that a judgment is coming to the nations because they have repeatedly, with evil intent, attempted to disinvest the people of Israel of their inheritance by dividing their land (Joel 3:1-2). God alone is the judge and we should fear Him because He will apply the same standard of judgment to the nations and the Church as He has applied to Israel in her two historical exiles. Our biblical responsibility is to pray for her, bless her, comfort her and declare His word to her.

I sometimes get the feeling that the Church takes very lightly the warnings of Romans eleven. Here in this passage Paul states that arrogance toward the “fallen Jewish branches” coupled with boasting about their failure to accept Jesus’ Messianic credentials will have dire consequences. That is, God is not pleased with Gentile believers who do this and threatens to cut them out of the redemptive Olive Tree if they persist in this arrogance.

“And if some branches were broken off, and you, being a wild
Olive Tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became
a partaker of the root and fatness of the Olive Tree, do not boast
against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do
not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then,
“Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said.
Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith.
Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural
branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider
the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity;
but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness.
otherwise you also will be cut off.”
Romans 11:17-22

Note the words of verse twenty-two, “….you also will be cut off.” Is this just theoretical or does God mean it? I think that the answer is the latter! No wonder Paul said, “Do not be haughty but fear.”

So, as Israel faces a renewed wave of anti-Semitism worldwide coupled with continuous threats of genocide from Iran and other terrorist organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine we sadly recognize that she is isolated and alone but, thank God, does have the unswerving support of the United States of America. Most nations would far rather do nothing and, as we have seen in Europe, would prefer to continue to do business with the radical Islamic Mullahs of Iran. The same spirit of appeasement that took hold of the western world seventy-five years ago has returned. Netanyahu said that Israel will nevertheless defend herself and not let Iran acquire nuclear weapons. She will also reserve the right not to tell anyone when and how she proposes to strike Iran; should there be no options left and the need to do so.

In the end Israel is really not alone because she only exists because of a God who guarantees her perpetual nationhood (Jeremiah 31:35-36) and Who has faithfully brought her home to Zion never to be plucked up again (Amos 9:14-15). In her modern day restoration the God of the Bible has displayed His mighty hand of power and the veracity of His word. Actually Israel is in the majority because God is with her and will not abandon her. Do you doubt it? Just wait and see! This God has already stated that He neither slumbers nor sleeps as He watches over Israel (Psalm 121:4). He will of course correct and discipline her but He will also arise and defend her just as He did in 1948, 1967, and 1973 and thereafter.

His eye is also upon His Church as she is challenged to respond to all of these things. The truth is; evangelical Christianity that is true to God’s word, is also being isolated and denounced as radical everywhere. We too are becoming a lonely people and even more so if we defend Zion! Jesus said, “If they hated Me they will also hate you” (John 15:18). He also said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Malcolm Hedding

Jerusalem

Jerusalem

2019 Devotional

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who
Love you.”
Palm 122:6

“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord
surrounds His people from this time forth and
forever.”
Psalm 125:2

Jerusalem is the most contested city on earth even though it has no natural resources, partially straddles a desert and, when the Jews are not in control of it, has descended into a forgotten broken down village. So, the question is; why is it so important to the world and the Jewish people or; wherein lies its significance? Consider the following:

1. Jerusalem the sacred city
God Himself is zealous for it and this means that He is supportive of its Jewish identity and character.
“I am zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great zeal. I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease; for I was a little angry, and they helped-but with evil intent”. (Zechariah 1:14-15)

The city is sacred to God because it is the platform chiefly from which His redemptive purpose for the world has been accomplished. This purpose is intertwined with the historical calling and journey of the Jewish people. God is not a respecter of persons and yet He, when a Jewish Jerusalem is under threat, will be aroused in His anger as a man awakened by bad news from a sleep!

“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst, “says the Lord. Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord has sent me to you. And the Lord will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem. Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for He is aroused from His holy habitation.” (Zechariah 2:10-13)

2. Jerusalem a glorious city
Just as God in Christ imputes perfection/righteousness to us so He sees Jerusalem as something glorious and perfect that, if we have the spiritual eyes to see, will speak to us of God Himself!

“Walk about Zion, and go all around her. Count all he towers; mark well her bulwarks; consider her palaces; that you may tell it to the generation following. For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.” (Psalm 48:12-14)
And,
“For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place: This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” (Psalm 132:13-14)
And,

“The Mighty One, God the Lord, has spoken and called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth.” (Psalm 50:1-2)

Yes indeed, Jerusalem speaks of things glorious and yet to come as it will one day give its name to an eternal city, “The New Jerusalem”, that will descend from heaven and be the home of God’s redeemed people.
“Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2)

3. Jerusalem a contested city
The hatred of the nations against a Jewish Jerusalem, as we see now embodied in the UNESCO decision to disinvest the Jewish people of it, is an attempt to vanquish God from their consciences and a strategy by the Devil, and those who work with him to resist and frustrate God’s plan of global redemption.

The Bible warns that in the latter time, when the Jews have been restored to the city (Luke 21:24) an international attempt will be made to disinvest the Jews of the city. We are living in this time and our understanding of the significance of the city to God and to the Jewish people constitutes a test as to where our hearts are on this issue. Are we with God or with the nations and the powers of darkness on this issue? The Prophet Zechariah foresaw this battle over the city and wrote of it in these terms:

“Behold I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth will be gathered against it.” (Zechariah 12:2-3)

This quite honestly constitutes a very serious warning to the nations and no doubt even to parts of the global Church that are joining with the nations to wrest Jerusalem from Israeli sovereignty. They will all rupture themselves and be broken beyond repair. Indeed, we have all been warned!

4. Jerusalem a triumphant city
The battle for Jerusalem and thus for the consummation of God’s redemptive plan for all peoples has begun. Jesus is returning triumphantly to a Jewish Jerusalem because it is this city out which God’s salvation plan for the world has arisen (Acts 1:11)(Zechariah 14:3-4). God’s plan will succeed because He will find us faithful and therefore we are called to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) and give Him no rest “until He established Jerusalem as a praise in the earth” (Isaiah 62:7). This peace and blessing over Jerusalem is nothing short of salvation peace that God has promised to the city. Our commitment to Jerusalem is ultimately proof of our commitment to God. This is not about the Jewish people ultimately; no it’s about our understanding of God’s purpose for the world through them.

The second Psalm reflects the battle before us but also the triumph of God by it:

“Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take
Counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed
Saying, “Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast Their cords
from us.”

“He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them
in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and
distress them in His deep displeasure: Yet I have set My King on
My holy hill of Zion.”

“I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, You are My
Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for
Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You
shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

It is then with joy that we celebrated in 2017, not only the centenary of the Balfour Declaration that paved the way for the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, but also the partial deliverance of the city in 1917 by General Allenby and then its full deliverance in 1967 by virtue of the Six Days War. When we add to this that the American people, representing the most powerful nation on the earth, voted to relocate their Embassy to Jerusalem and actually did so in 2018 under the Trump Administration then we recognize that these are all important biblical milestones and they remind us that the God we serve is engaged with His world, is true to His Word and faithful to His promises made to Israel in Abraham 4000 years ago!

Malcolm Hedding

David’s Triumphs and Failures

David’s Triumphs and Failures

2019 Devotional Weekly Devotional

“And when He had removed him. He raised up

for them David as King, to whom also He gave

testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son

of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do

all My will.”

Acts 13:22

Spiritual growth

There is no doubt that David was a great leader with a heart after God. In his younger years He was “dashing and daring” and thus had a capacity to trust God but before he became famous as a great warrior he was considered insignificant and forgettable by his father Jesse.  When Samuel was instructed by God to go to the house of Jesse, in order to anoint a new king, Jesse paraded all his sons before Samuel but he left David out in the fields watching over his sheep (1 Samuel 16:1-13). For Jesse David was definitely not in the running as there was nothing in him, as far as Jesse was concerned, that gave him the qualities to become King of Israel. Jesse was wrong because God saw David’s heart and knew that out in the fields he not only watched over the sheep but he also thirsted for God and got to know Him personally. He grew in faith and his contest with the giant Goliath certainly proved this but he was trained for it and we should never forget it. Faith is like a muscle that we have to exercise and build (Romans 12:3) and so David took down a lion and a bear before he took down Goliath (1 Samuel 16:31-36). We too may think that we are insignificant and forgettable, and even others may think so too, but if we submit to God, expose our hearts to Him and long for Him we too, like David, can make a huge difference in the Kingdom of God.

Spiritual discernment

David was also a faithful and compassionate man and this is reflected in his dealings with Saul and his son Jonathan. When David found Saul sleeping in a cave down at the Dead Sea he could have killed him and taken the crown since Samuel had already crowned him King of Israel, but he didn’t. In short David feared God and knew His boundaries. David stayed away from anger, vengeance and hatred. Rather he made place for God to deal with his enemies (1 Samuel 24:10-11) (Romans 12:17-21). We too must embrace the counter culture of the Kingdom of God and thus love our enemies, go the second mile and go out of the way to bless those hurt us. This appears to be weakness but it makes place for God to come to our side and defend us and He will in time. This is exactly what Jesus did since with quietness and meekness He went to His death, as a sheep goes to the slaughter, but what appeared to be weak was in fact strength as by His death He saved the world and God his Father exalted Him to His right hand in glory.

Spiritual neglect

David became negligent, idle and unfocused spiritually and consequently, and sadly, he fell into immorality (2 Samuel 11:1-5). His wicked behavior in terms of his affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband are evidence of this and a warning to all of us. We need to keep our relationship with Jesus “hot” and real as this alone will help us to get our bodily drives for sex, food, pleasure and status under control (Revelation 3:15). If we do not attend to our spiritual lives properly and consistently then our “old man” will re-assert itself and even overtake us as it did David (2 Samuel 11). Many Christians have been ensnared in this way and have paid an awful price for it (Philippians 3:17-20). Our spiritual lives are fragile and we must take heed all the time lest thinking we stand we also fall (1 Corinthians 10:12). It is true that we have put to death many carnal aspects of our lives by walking daily in the Spirit but there are some carnal habits that are not dead by any means. In fact they are just sleeping and when the right opportunity comes they awaken as they did with David and overcome us. Paul warns about this in his epistles and encourages us to draw near to Jesus every day (Galatians 6:1-6).

David then reaped the consequences of this wickedness in that his household was thereafter greatly troubled. God forgave him but did not exonerate him or free him from the consequences of his failure-he paid an awful price that brought much heartache to his life. Think very carefully before you betray your covenant relationships with Jesus, your spouse and with the Body of Christ (2 Samuel 12:14; 2 Samuel 12:10-12)(Psalm 103:15-18).

Spiritual deception

David’s failure to honor his people in the light of his son’s betrayal and treason was another problem in his life from which he suffered greatly (2 Samuel 18:33-9:1-8).  David’s faithful and loyal soldiers paid a huge price to save David’s life and get him installed as King again but David snubbed them and treated them with disrespect. Our blood ties should never compromise our commitment to the word of God and to the people of God. We will not fair well if we stray into this deception and you can be sure of this; God will test you in this regard. The best way to bless your family, especially those who do not follow Christ, is to be fully committed to Christ and His kingdom. Even Jesus’ family, including Mary, felt that He was going overboard “on this religious thing” and came to get Him. When He was told, while preaching to the crowds, that His mother and brothers had arrived to see Him and persuade Him to return home Jesus looked at the multitudes and declared that they who did the will of God were in fact His mother and brothers (Mark 3:31-35).

Spiritual blessing

David’s heart after God unleashed a life of devotion reflected in his Psalms that have blessed the people of God down through the centuries. A life though weak, but surrendered to God can have great significance and can change the world. At no time are you worthless and of no use to God! If we turn from our failures and genuinely seek God with all our hearts God will raise us up and make us a blessing to our world. Remember, Jesus came to heal and make whole the broken-hearted (Luke 4:18). David by virtue of all his triumphs and great trials nevertheless loved God and thirsted after Him. His Psalms are a testimony to the amazing depth of His spiritual life and they have continued to bless millions of people down through the centuries. David was often broken-hearted but God made him stand and through him left a legacy for all generations. What legacy will we leave our children and grandchildren?

Spiritual reward

In the end David endured and finished well and his reign will forever be known as “The Golden Era” in Israel’s long history. Indeed by his love of God, deep devotional life and his inspiring leadership he became a type or picture of the Messiah Himself. It is not a coincidence that Jesus took as one of His names the title, “Son of David” (Matthew 21:9) and when He comes again He will reign over the world as the, “Root and Offspring of David” (Revelation 22:16).

David’s life was in the end crowned with glory but all of this because of his repentant heart (Psalm 51) and the grace of God that forgave and covered his sins. Herein lies our encouragement as we too can end well and receive a Crown of Glory (2 Timothy 4:8). May it be so, Amen.

Malcolm Hedding

Prayer Horizons

Prayer Horizons

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional

            Now in the morning, having risen a long while before day-

            light, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and

            there He prayed.”

                                                    Mark 1:35

 

            “And take up the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the

            Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all

            prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this

            end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”

                                                Ephesians 6:17-18

Prayer can be defined as talking to God. This, of course is a very simple definition of the practice and yet it is true. More definitely, prayer is working with God to bring forth His purpose in the world (2 Corinthians 6:1). This is a privilege that every Christian should shoulder. The Bible clearly teaches us that all of life is to be handled with prayer but indeed there comes a time when prayer must move away from concentrating on ourselves but rather on the will of God for the world around us. The great intercessor Rees Howells bore the prayer burden of saving Britain from a Nazi invasion during the Second World War. God heard him and did just that!

Jesus invites us into a meaningful prayer life and in this study I want us to lift our horizons to see what types of prayer we can move into if we are prepared to enter this adventure with God. Prayer is hard work, it demands discipline but God does nothing without it! It is also rewarding because we observe the hand of God moving in response to it. Prayer is thus the ultimate demonstration of a life that is fully submitted to god!

  1. The Call to Prayer

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers,

 intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,

 for Kings and all those who are in authority, that we may

 lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”

                                                1 Timothy 2:1-2

       It will be noted from this passage that there are different types of prayer. Namely; those that plead with God (supplications), those that please God (prayers), those that do for others what they cannot do for themselves (intercessions) and those that give thanks. It will also be noted that our state of national security and peace is dependent upon the people of God praying in these ways! No wonder Jesus said that His house should chiefly be a “house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17).

  1. The Nature of Prayer

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according

to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal

but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the

knowledge of God……”

                                                2 Corinthians 10:3-5

There are five types of prayer in the scriptures and these, as far as Paul was concerned, constituted our mighty weapons for the ”left and right-hand.” At some point we need to learn how to pick them up, as our effectiveness is dependent upon it!

  1. Responsive Prayer

This is caring and instant prayer that introduces the recipient to the love and grace of God. Jesus employed it when upon the cross He prayed, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” We call it the “Let’s pray model.”

  1. Conditional Prayer

Prayer is made powerful and effective by lives that reflect the character of God. Clean lives attract the power of God. James wrote, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”(James 5:16). Peter warns that if husbands do not treat their wives in a godly way God will not hear their prayers! (1 Peter 3:7) God honors the prayers of godly men and women.

  1. Importunate Prayer

This is the type of prayer that never gives up. It is sincere and earnest and those who utter it cast themselves on the grace and mercy of God like Cornelius did (Acts 10:1-4).  The early church also employed it on Peter’s behalf (Acts 12:5). Jesus said, “Keep knocking and the door will be opened up to you” (Matthew 7:7).

  1. Battle Prayer

This type of prayer takes hold of the Word of God and its promises and holds them up before God until He does what His word proclaims (Isaiah 62:6-7). Daniel prayed in this way and consequently great spiritual strongholds, that held the people of God captive, were brought down (Daniel 9:1-3). A great spiritual stronghold in our nation is that of abortion. The Word of God is against it and believing Christians can bring it down. However, this will demand dedication and commitment. Paul acknowledged this realm of prayer when he wrote that out conflict is “not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).  Meanwhile other spiritual strongholds are growing and threaten to engulf us with evil. We must lift our prayer horizons urgently and deal with these dark powers.

  1. Regular Prayer

The early Church believers were together all the time in regular prayer meetings. (Acts 2:42). Prayer was undoubtedly  “the lungs of the Church.” They could not survive without it and so the book of Acts states, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication…” (Acts 1:14). It is from regular prayer that the local Church derives its power and we would see more evidence of the power and presence of God amongst us if more people would gather in this manner. The fact that too often the prayer meeting is the smallest weekly meeting of the local church is evidence of our spiritual weakness. We will not change our world until this changes. Indeed we will sing and shout the victory but it will remain just words! (Exodus 32:18)

  1. The Content of Prayer

As far as Paul is concerned prayer should cover all things in life. He again wrote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known unto God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).Prayer has more to do with our mental well being than we imagine or care to admit.. Anxiety leads to fear and fear to depression and prayer is the way out of these crippling mental disorders.

I firmly believe that we should employ the “Lego Principle” in living this out. That is, enlarge your prayer life by adding new issues and topics to it all the time; just as one adds one Lego piece to another. If you are faithful and regular in this you will not believe how God can use this and thereby entrust to you a “memorial” that will be raised up in heaven before Him. God answers prayer like this.

Malcolm Hedding

 

 

The Testings of God

The Testings of God

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional

 

            “Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing

             toward the sons of men. He turned the sea into a dry land; they

             went through the river on foot. There we will rejoice in Him.

             He rules by His power forever; His eyes observe the nations;

             do not let the rebellious exalt themselves.”

                                                                                                Selah

            “Oh, bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise

             to be heard, Who keeps our soul among the living, and does not allow

             our feet to be moved. For You, O God, have tested us; You have

             refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid

             affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads;

             we went through fire and through water; but you brought us out to

             rich fulfillment.”

                                                                        Psalm 66:8-12

 

Definition of terms:

Trials and tribulations constitute that process whereby God deals with our characters. The “Testings of God” is that process whereby God deals with our love for, and friendship with, Him.

God is actually looking for friends but a friend of God is a person that actually does what He commands. Consequently such a person will be entrusted with the secrets of heaven!

“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No

             longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know

             what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for

             all things that I heard from My Father I have made known

             to you.”

                                                John 15:14-15

 

An invitation to understand the sovereignty of God (V5-7)

If we do not have a good understanding of the sovereignty of God we shall not be able to trust Him; we will establish our own ways and thus become rebellious. Consequently Jesus will not have His way with us and we run the risk of disqualifying ourselves from participating in His purpose. Trusting God based on our understanding of who He is is at the root of building a friendship with Him.

An invitation to worship God (V8-9)

Worship is that activity whereby we chiefly describe the worth of God. By it we give God what He is due in righteousness and we behold His power and glory. This calms us down and makes us candidates for a miracle. (Acts 16:25-28)

An invitation to embrace the testing of God (V8-12)

 Testing imparts the ways of God into our lives and usually it is:

  1. Mysterious

There is not always a discernable reason as to why one is put to the test other than that God believes the time has come to accomplish additional things in one’s life (1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 Peter 4:12). By the testing process of God we discover things about ourselves that we didn’t know existed and we change!

  1. Refining

The process by which silver is refined is different to that of gold! That is, the refiner takes particular care over each piece of raw silver to ensure that it is not over heated and spoiled. When he gets it right the silver is pure and easy to work with. If he gets it wrong the silver may still be pure but it becomes hard to work with and is consequently used for less important projects. Paul alluded to this in 2 Timothy 2:20-21.

  1. Difficult

God traps you, like a bird, in His net and leads you through paths that are difficult just like He led His people into a desert and there He tested them and they, we are told, “murmured in their tents” (Psalm 106:25).

  1. Humiliating

Sometimes God will even allow others to gloat over you even though you know that you are in the right and have done nothing wrong. This teaches us to let Him vindicate us in due time. It is a hard lesson to learn but learn it we must (Romans 12:17-21).

  1. Blessed

Those who endure the testings of God will emerge into “rich (or abundant) fulfillment”. This implies that Jesus has a wonderful purpose for your life that He can only bring you into by the process of testing. Do not forget this.

Three examples

Peter

 Peter was put to the test at the trial of Jesus and was humiliated by a little girl. He found out a lot of things about Himself, learned the lessons and changed. It was He who once had no boldness, who was able to stand up on the Day of Pentecost and with boldness preach the gospel (Acts 2:14). Peter’s denial of Christ was in fact a breach of friendship and consequently Jesus was more heart broken than Peter (Luke 22:61). For this reason when Jesus met up with Peter at the Sea of Galilee, after His resurrection, He asked Peter three times whether he was indeed His friend (John 21:15-17). The word that Jesus uses here for love is not agape’ but phileo which designates the love of friendship!

Abraham

He was called by God to sacrifice Isaac upon whom all the promises of God in terms of world redemption rested. Abraham was tested as to whether He really believed God and trusted Him no matter what; even when no way forward is evident. Abraham was brought to a dead end and only the word of God sustained him and because of this God called him His friend (Isaiah 41:8). It is important to recognize that God called Abraham to do something that God never really intended him to do. It was in effect a test that had to do with the matters of trust, friendship and obedience. Consequently God shared the complete DNA (secrets) of world redemption with Abraham! The Lord placed a similar test before us at the beginning of this year and so told us to apply for a ministry position on the Isle of Wight. As it turned out He had no intention of sending us there but He did put us to the test to see if we would still obey His command and give up everything again to follow Him. This is what His friends do!

Joseph

God spoke to him about his destiny and then put him through circumstances that would appear to contradict everything that God had said (Genesis 37:7-11). He was sold into slavery by his brothers, taken to a foreign land, falsely accused, thrown in jail and then raised to the right hand of power and his brothers did indeed come before him and bow down! (Psalm 105:16-22) If God has really spoken to you about a particular destiny that He has for you then you are probably a good candidate to have it all taken from you! The question is, will you give up or better still are we the friends of Jesus? This means; are we involved with the kingdom of God in order to fulfill our purpose and destiny or to be the friends of Jesus?

False Teachings of the End Time

False Teachings of the End Time

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional

 

                        “For false christs and false prophets will rise

                         and show great signs and wonders to deceive,

                         if possible, even the elect.”

                                                            Matthew 24:24

 

  1. Truth

There is no doubt that one of the great signs of the end time is the re-emergence of the state of Israel on the stage of world history. This is a sign without precedent, as it constitutes the first time in over two thousand years that the Jews have sovereignty over Jerusalem again. Jesus placed this reality in the basket of His signs pointing to His second coming (Luke 21:24). He also stated that in the days in which this miracle occurs there would be world-wide upheaval, wars and rumors of wars and the arrival of a perilous time, such as the world has never seen before, called the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21). Israel on the very brink of annihilation at the hands of a global attack will be saved out of this tribulation physically and spiritually (Zechariah 12:1-10). This spiritual salvation will be the “trigger mechanism” for the return of Christ to the Mt of Olives. That is, Israel’s recognition of Jesus’ messianic credentials will bring about what Paul called “resurrection from the dead”. This means that the Church of all ages will come out of their graves and, together with living believers, will rise to meet Christ as He comes again in great power and glory to place His feet on the Mt. of Olives (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

This picture that I have painted above is the one that scripture gives us and it is the one that was embraced by the early Church. The blessed hope of the Church is not a renovated world system because of some great end time revival but it is indeed, and only, the second coming of Jesus (Titus 2:11-13). The present world is actually passing away (1 John 2:17) because it is an “evil age” (Galatians 1:3-4) and God is determined to bring it down and He will. Every city and nation will be brought down as God visits the planet with what scripture calls the Day of the Lord (Revelation 16:19)(Joel 3:9-17). Our hope is not in the man made systems of this world but in the living God who by His glorious Gospel has saved us and given us a longing for a new heavens and a new earth wherein righteousness will dwell (2 Peter 3:13). You need to be assured of this: That we are approaching a global upheaval the likes of which the world has never seen before and, as the prophet Daniel stated, wars and desolations are determined until the end! This is not an eschatology of pessimism but one of hope because it is anchored in the truth of God’s word and in the promised coming of Christ.

The documents of the Early Church, that is the very Church founded by the Apostles themselves, testify to this understanding of scripture. Here below is a sample of these writings all of which were written before the fourth century.

The Epistle of Barnabas

“The final stumbling-block approaches. We take earnest heed in these last days; for the whole time of your faith will profit you nothing, unless now in this wicked time we also withstand coming sources of danger; as becometh sons of God. That the Black One (Antichrist) may find no means of entrance, let us flee from every vanity, let us utterly hate the works of the way of wickedness.”

Justin Martyr

The man of apostasy shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us Christians….”

The Shepherd of Hermes

“Happy ye who endure the great tribulation that is coming on.”

The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

“For the whole time of your faith will not profit you if you are not made perfect in the last time. Then shall appear the world-deceiver as Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders. Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and perish; but they that endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself.”

Irenaeus

“….and they shall give their kingdom to the Beast and put the Church to flight.”

“But he (John) indicates the number of the name now, that when the man comes we may avoid him, being aware who he is.”

Hippolytus

“Now concerning the tribulation of the persecution which is to fall upon the Church from the adversary (The Antichrist). That refers to the one thousand and three score days during which the tyrant is to reign and persecute the Church.”

Tertullian

“Now the privilege of the favor awaits those who shall at the coming of the Lord be found in the flesh, and who shall, owing to the oppressions of the time of Antichrist, deserve an instantaneous death which is accomplished by a sudden change to become qualified to join the raisings saints..”

The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles

 “…for through the abounding of iniquity the love of many shall wax cold. For men shall hate, and persecute, and betray one another. And then shall appear the Deceiver of the world, the enemy of the truth, the prince of lies, whom the Lord Jesus shall destroy with the spirit of His mouth, who takes away the wicked with His lips; and many shall be offended at Him. But they that endure to the end, the same shall be saved..”

  1. False truth

 In recent years a new message is being preached by Evangelicals, Pentecostals and neo-Pentecostals and this message is false but it is being accepted and embraced everywhere and essentially it states that much of Matthew 24 and the other great eschatological passages of the Bible have been fulfilled and now we await a great end time revival that will actually transform nations, rehabilitate all spheres of human endeavor and usher in peace and then, and only then, Jesus will come again.  This is actually Kingdom Now or Dominion Theology or Postmillennialism built on the foundation of Preterism (The belief that all of Matthew 24 etc. has been fulfilled by past historical events)(1). Indeed many of the propagators of this error are telling us that a soon coming spiritual revival in Israel will bring resurrection blessing and power to the nations thus sweeping multiple millions into the Kingdom of God. All of this sounds very triumphant and wonderful but in reality it is a false teaching and in fact a very dangerous one at that because it is based on a totally false exegesis of Romans 11:15 and thus does not prepare Christians for the great trials that are about to come:

“For if their being cast away is the reconciling of

                         the world, what will their acceptance be but life

                         from the dead?”

 This “life from the dead”; otherwise translated as “resurrection from the dead”, means exactly what it says in that, according to Paul, Israel’s spiritual recovery will trigger the literal and real resurrection of the dead and usher in the visible second coming of Jesus. “Life from the dead” means then that all the saints of all of history will come forth from their graves to meet Christ in the air as He descends to the Mt. of Olives. It is to be noted that Paul’s teaching in this regard is further clarified in verses 25 and 26 of the same chapter. That is, it is only after the fullness of the Gentiles has been gathered in that Israel gets saved; not before, and consequently the Deliverer (Savior) will “come out of Zion.” Meaning that Zion or a Jewish Jerusalem brings Christ back to the earth. Jesus in fact said that this would be the case (Matthew 23:37-39)(Luke 13:34-35).

The fullness of the Gentiles is completed before Israel’s acceptance of Jesus’ messianic credentials and not afterwards as these false teachers assert. So then there are not two “fullnesses of the Gentiles” in scripture; only one. To teach otherwise is a contradiction of the context and is just nonsense and yet this is exactly what is being taught with the expectation that the nations will get saved in a manner never seen before after Israel comes to faith. This is not true. Israel is not a catalyst for a world-wide revival. If anything she is a catalyst to save the world from utter destruction as her spiritual restoration brings the King of Kings back to the earth at a time when things are so bleak and dark that God has to shorten the time in order to save humanity from total annihilation (Matthew 24:21-22).

Furthermore, those propagating this error frequently support their error by quoting passages from the Bible that refer to the coming Messianic Reign of Christ or what is known as the Millennium. That is, these passages describe global conditions after Jesus has come a second time and not before. Sadly the unsuspecting unable to “rightly divide” scripture buy into this error and so one such passage is Isaiah 2:2-4:

“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the

                         mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on

                         the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above

                         the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people

                         shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the

                         mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob;

                         He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His

                         paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the

                         word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge

                         between the nations, and rebuke many people; they

                         shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their

                         spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up

                         sword against nation, neither shall they learn war

                         anymore.”

 Again, this picture of peace and absence of conflict only applies to the age to come or to what the Bible calls the “regeneration” when Christ sits on His glorious throne ruling and judging the nations with a “rod of iron” (Matthew 19:28) (Revelation 12:5). The consummation of our age will be characterized by global conflict, on a scale never seen before, the falling away or apostasy of millions of Christians (2 Thessalonians 2:3), great natural disasters and upheavals, the persecution of the Church, the rise of a new Hitler or Beast, who will be destroyed by the second coming of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:8), (2) and the Great Day of the Lord. In fact Jesus warned that the situation will deteriorate rapidly, just as an expectant mother experiences a growing intensity in her birth pangs, and that consequently those days will have to be shortened lest no flesh survive on the earth (Matthew 24:21). This is not a picture of some great global revival but in fact just the opposite and, if we do not prepare ourselves for it, we may well fall away or, worse still, give our allegiance to a new global order actually driven by Satan himself and characterized by great signs and wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Jesus, concerned about the state of the Church in the world in the end time, wondered whether He would find the faith on the earth when He comes again (Luke 18:8).

The picture I have described above is not pessimistic but biblically realistic and anyway our hope is not in a rehabilitated world that is passing away but in the coming of Christ and His visible and regenerated kingdom on earth (Hebrews 9:28). Beyond the “birth pangs” then is a new age of peace and joy in a world finally free from war. We are also not going to lock ourselves away with our “end time prepper provisions” and hope for the end to come. This too is certainly not biblical. No, we are going to do everything possible to call people out of the world to the cross of Jesus since this glorious Gospel will be preached in all the world as a witness and then the end shall come (Matthew 24:14). We have good news to preach and we had better do so now, more than ever, for indeed the “night cometh when no man will work.” (John 9:4).

Even so Lord Jesus come!

Malcolm Hedding

 

(1) Preterism is an eschatological teaching that was compiled in 1614 by a Jesuit Priest called Luis de Alcazar. He did this specifically in order to counter or resist the Reformation in that Luther, and the other reformers, accused the Pope of being the Antichrist. The strategy was simple: If all the Antichrist passages of scripture were fulfilled in AD 70 then it is not possible to accuse the Pope of being an Antichrist!

(2) The fact that the Antichrist is destroyed by the coming of Jesus a second time is consistent with Daniel’s prophetic oracle and constitutes proof that the events of the end time, as described by Matthew in his 24th chapter, were not entirely fulfilled in AD 70 and beyond. They have more than one fulfillment and are therefore what we call “progressive prophetic fulfillment”.

 

Faith to live by

Faith to live by

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional Weekly Devotional

 

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who

             comes to God must believe that He is a rewarder of those

             who diligently seek Him”

                                                            Hebrews 11:6

Definition

Faith is the unshakable belief in the reality and existence of God and that He is able to do anything and everything when diligently petitioned.”

 

  1. The nature of our commitment to Christ

The Bible tells us that when we surrendered our lives to Christ we handed our lives fully and completely over to Him. We surrendered possession of ourselves to the God of heaven!

“… and He died for all, that those who live should

             live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died

             for them and rose again.”

                                                    2 Corinthians 5:15

 

            “Or do you not know that your body is the temple

             of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have

             from God, and that you are not your own?”

                                                       1 Corinthians 6:19

  1. The nature of faith

The messianic believers referred to in the book of Hebrews did not expect to be persecuted and abused when they embraced Christ as their Lord and Savior. They expected a different outcome and so when these difficulties arose they were disappointed and considered abandoning their faith and returning to Judaism. Consequently the writer of the book exhorts them to continue and to have faith in the reality and goodness of God.

That is, he desires that they should entrust themselves to Him and in so doing he reminds them of the Prophet Habakkuk who, having encountered the same dilemma, was told by God that he would have to trust Him by walking in faith. Hence we have the famous statement, “The just shall live by faith.” True faith does not determine the outcome but believes that whatever the outcome it will be for our good and that God has indeed answered (Hebrews 10:32-39). Actually, this is precisely Paul’s point in Romans 8 where he declares that in fact we do not really know the outcome of our prayers but we confidently entrust ourselves to a loving God who will cause “all things to work together for good” for those who love Him (Romans 8:26-28).

Hebrews 11:1-6 is a response to Hebrews 10:32-39 and a preamble to the great passage that follows, which many call the “role call of faithful people.” In other words the context of the chapter will reveal what his definition of faith in verse one of chapter means i.e.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the

             evidence of things not seen.”

It is very important to note that in every case here mentioned faith is a positive response to the self-revelation of God. That is, people accomplished great things not because they knew the outcome of their journey but because they knew the God of the journey! This is precisely why the more one knows the Bible so the more one comes to know who God is. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

Consider this: Abraham did not know where he was going when he left Ur of the Chaldeans and he did not know that Isaac would be spared when God called upon him to sacrifice him. Enoch so trusted in God that, though he was well pleasing to God, he did not know that God would one day take him. Moses’ mother trusted in God but did not know that when she put Moses in the river that Pharaoh’s daughter would find him and adopt him. Neither did she know that she would end up nursing her own son. She had faith in God but did not know the outcome. Some of these great saints trusted God but never expected to be sawn in two and then all of them died having never experienced the full outcome of their faith (Hebrews 11:13). They had faith in that they fully entrusted themselves to God, as they were not their own, and they left the outcome to Him.

In fact it must be noted that Abraham’s biggest mistake was to seek to determine the outcome of his walk of faith by manipulating the production of a son through one of his servants called Hagar. He could not trust God and consequently his attempt to “determine the end” gave birth to Ishmael and with him came a huge conflict that still rages to this day. Despite all of this Abraham remains a great man of faith who was able to trust God fully with his life.

Seeking to determine the outcome is actually like playing “Russian Roulette.” It’s a dangerous game and while sometimes it works in most cases it doesn’t and the consequence are not good to say the least. For instance, in the case of healing, not even ten percent of people prayed for are healed in the way that we hoped for and firmly affirmed. A lot actually die even though time and time again we pronounced them healed and urged them to hold to this positive confession. The burden placed upon these people is immense and truly quite cruel but we persist in this call to faith because we have falsely believed that this is what faith is. It is not! Please remember that even Jesus struggled with the outcome of His faith journey and had to learn to entrust Himself fully to God His Father:

 

“…who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up

             prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears

             to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was

 heard because of His godly fear, though He was a

             Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which

             He suffered.”

                                                Hebrews 5:7-8

Faith is the unshakable and unswerving belief in a righteous and good God who will always answer our prayers but in His way. To determine the outcome is to play god. Another way of putting this is to say that, faith is believing in God in such a way that you can feel, see and touch Him. (1 John 1:1) When you have this “substance” in your hand you know that God will do everything you ask of Him, but again, in His way. Oral Roberts, the great healing evangelist of the last century, recognized that the majority of the people he had prayed for in his great healing crusades were in fact not healed. Of course a small percentage were but he was honest and concerned enough that he embarked upon the building of a hospital.

  1. The challenge of faith

Do you have faith? That is, are you able to entrust your self to Him so that He can do anything He likes with your life; even heal you by taking you home? This is precisely where we come apart because we strongly desire to determine the outcome because we are, rightly so, consumed with compassion, sorrow and yes self-interest. We want our friends and loved ones to continue with us and so we construct prayers that are more a commentary on these desires than real faith. I have seen so many people, even dear friends of mine, go through this “spiritual obstacle course” and then when they died and were not healed, as was so fervently affirmed, discouragement, confusion and even anger at God set in. On the other hand, as a Pentecostal preacher, I have indeed seen many people instantly healed and set free from their terminal illness. In this I have greatly rejoiced but it was faith in God and not in the outcome that did this and also Jesus gives us the gift of faith by the Holy Spirit whereby we just know for certain that if someone is prayed for they will be instantly healed (1 Corinthians 12:8, Acts 14:8-9). This is all true and we must affirm it within the boundaries that our faith is in God and He has the right to do with His children as He pleases.

  1. The foundations of faith

We need to live our lives in such a way that God can help us in our time of need. We must be true to our verbal commitments to Christ and we must live holy lives. We have handed our lives fully over to Him as Lord and Savior and so we must live in harmony with this act of dedication. Failure in this regard means that God Himself may well strike us down with physical weakness, sickness and even death. No amount of so-called believing faith will reverse this except real and sincere repentance. Paul warns of this when giving instructions about taking the communion elements. We must take these “judging ourselves” meaning that we must consider our commitments to Christ based on what He did for us on the cross. To “eat of the bread and drink of the cup in an unworthy manner” will invite God’s correction and judgment (1 Corinthians 11:29-30).

Conclusion

There is a real need for biblical counseling and care when dealing with people who are facing real and serious life threatening medical challenges. We must tell them the truth and thereby affirm that God will answer their prayers and those of the ones who stand with them. Indeed He will heal them but in three possible ways: by reversing the condition instantly, by the use of medical attention and treatment and by taking them home. In every case they will be healed because they entrust themselves to Him. And, in every case, He will deposit His supernatural power, strength, blessing and peace upon them.

Sometimes the end of this struggle can appear to be so definite and hopeless especially if the person we were believing God to heal died. However an understanding of the word “end” in the Bible fills us with real comfort and hope. In the Greek this word “TELOS” does not mean the end of the matter as of something definite and conclusive but rather it means the conclusion of a set of circumstances that actually pave the way for the “new” to come. An example of this is that the end of the age is not simply to bring the present age to a close, but to allow a new age to emerge wherein peace and righteousness will prevail and dwell. Those who come to an end in this world are passing into something glorious! We do indeed mourn the loss of their presence but we also rejoice in their triumph in Christ.

May we forever hold this in our hearts!

Malcolm Hedding

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