God’s Glorious Gospel.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21: 1-7)

The matter of the new heavens and new earth can be quite overwhelming.
It is God’s ultimate intention.
It is the very last revelation God has given to us.
He has not revealed anything beyond the establishment of that new creation.
We can get very caught up with THIS world and OUR lives that we forget that God is moving towards something beyond the here and now. Even the (wrong) perception of “heaven” being our eternal destiny tends to keep our minds fixed on this world, giving the impression that everything will continue on as always: the only difference being a change of residence from earth to heaven as we each reach the end of our earthly life.

The fact is that this world is coming to an end. This world was NEVER intended to be permanent. It was GOOD when God created it but it was never intended to be His BEST.
From the beginning this world had a limited use. It could never go on forever. This can be seen in God’s command to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it…”
Has anyone ever considered what the outcome would be if man had never sinned (and therefore death had not been introduced) and had continued to be fruitful, increasing in number… how long would it have taken for the world to become impossibly crowded?
That makes it clear that the maintenance of this world was never God’s intention.

Scripture shows us that God’s ultimate goal has always been a new heavens and new earth which will be the home of righteousness. That is the climax of God’s revealed plan for His creation.

The current creation ALWAYS had a potential for sin. The new creation will have NO potential for sin. The potential for sin was necessary to ensure that God could obtain a willingly obedient people to adopt into His family. Willingness requires the provision of a genuine choice. Such a choice also presents the possibility of wilful disobedience. That of course was the outcome when Adam and Eve willingly disobeyed God’s sole prohibition in eating the forbidden fruit an act that led to condemnation for all men.

Of course God was not taken by surprise. He had foreknown Adam’s sin and a plan for man’s redemption had been ordained even before the world had been created. This plan is glorious beyond our comprehension. It enabled the salvation of mankind without being dependent upon anything within mankind. Sinful man could do NOTHING to bring himself again into right relationship with a Holy, just and righteous God. But God didn’t leave man in that helpless and hopeless situation. While man had no power to save Himself, God was more than able and willing.

It is impossible to adequately describe God’s means of saving mankind. Words like glorious, amazing, brilliant and extraordinary are all inadequate. It has incredible breadth and countless facets, all of which turn the focus back on the redeeming creator instead of the redeemed creature.
He has provided a way through which all of mankind has the opportunity to be freed from the sin that has separated us from Him. That way is an expression of God’s mercy, His love and His justice. It is not arbitrary and favours no individual above another. Mankind is given both freedom and responsibility, making us accountable for our sin but giving us the opportunity to be freed from it. God’s justice demands that sin be punished, and in His mercy He Himself took the punishment for our sin.

All of this is part of God’s grand plan. It all fits together. From the initial creation followed by Adam’s sin right through to the destruction of this world and the creation of a replacement. Every part of the process has a reason. Everything is leading up to God making His home with a family chosen from among mankind; from all ages and from all nations, tribes and tongues.

And who is chosen to become part of this “grand plan”? Those who have trusted in His Son and His righteousness instead of trusting in themselves and their own self-righteousness; those who through the working of the Holy Spirit have recognised how unworthy they are and have sought and submitted to His mercy; those who rely on Him to forgive their sins and to cleanse them from unrighteousness; those who will receive the gracious gift He has freely given.

No matter how much I have tried I continually fail to glimpse the glory of God’s gospel. At times it seems like I’ve almost grasped part of it – but when I try to put it into words no language seems sufficient to translate that partial glimpse into something tangible. I think all of our attempts to put the indescribable into words will continually fail until we meet Him face to face..

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.(Rom 11:33-36)

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An article I originally posted 5 years ago.

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And the Gospel _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Will Be Preached…

Christians are very familiar with the term “the gospel”, and are aware of the need to share “the gospel”.

But what is our understanding of the term?

 

We think of it as “the good news” – but what is the news that is good?

 

I’ve been trying to think of some of the ideas I’ve come across during the decades since I first came into contact with “gospel” preaching Christians.
At various times I’ve accepted several of these ideas – or at least parts of them. Other’s I’ve heard but have never accepted.

 

To what extent have we REALLY tried to grasp what the Bible says about “the gospel”?
How was it preached by Jesus and the early church?
What was preached by Jesus and the early church that could be described as “the gospel”?

 

1) Receive Jesus and escape hell
2) Come to God, He has a wonderful plan for your life.
3) God’s eternal, righteous Kingdom is accessible
4) You are going to hell if you don’t accept Jesus
5) God wants to prosper you – turn to Him.
6) Join God’s mission to turn this world around.
7) God loves everyone so much He wants to be their friend.
8) Come to God as you are, God loves you anyway.
9) If God has chosen you as part of His elect – you’ll be saved.
10) Repeat this sinner’s prayer and you’ll be saved.

 

There are probably many other examples, but those given above probably give a reasonable taste of the various messages that have been presented as “the gospel”. Some of those statements contain part of the truth, others are far from the truth, but I believe only one gets close to the real heart of the gospel. I’ll address that later.

 

From a personal level, I suppose my initial interest in the gospel message came about through a desire to avoid hell. At the time I thought I had nothing to worry about because I’d grown up with a belief in God and I thought that was enough to make me safe. Then somehow a school friend who’d recently become involved with a Pentecostal church managed to convince me of the need to ask Jesus into my life through the reciting of “the sinner’s prayer” – so a few of the phrases listed above played a part in my introduction to Christianity.

 

However, while those messages served a purpose, they didn’t exactly set me on a path to a strong Christian faith. They put ME at the centre, and I don’t recall myself ever considering that maybe God should be at the centre of the gospel. That the gospel was more about HIS intentions for the whole of His creation, than about keeping me as an individual out of hell.

 

If I now had to choose which one of the above statements best expresses’ the heart of the gospel, it would be the third: “God’s eternal, righteous Kingdom is accessible”. That’s the message John the Baptist preached in preparation for the introduction of Jesus, and that is the message Jesus preached from the beginning of His ministry: “the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

 
Jesus later spoke of the “gospel of the Kingdom” being preached in the whole world as a precursor of the end.

But the end of what?

The end of this world’s disconnection from, and its rejection of, the Kingdom of God; when “The kingdoms of the world […] become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah”.

The purpose of the gospel is to proclaim the good news of God’s coming Kingdom, and the fact that we (mankind) can be part of it. That the corruption, the hypocrisy and the injustices that pervade every aspect of the world’s Kingdoms will be brought to an end.

The gospel is the good news of the Kingdom; GOD’s Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

Mankind’s Response to God’s Son: Consequences

“You are my son;
today I have become your Father.

Kiss His son, or He will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction

Psalm 2

Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the LORD and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.”
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.”
I will proclaim the LORD’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.
Ask me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God (John 3

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1)

A Flawed Historical Viewpoint.

The state of the western political world today:

 

  1. USA and Donald Trump (does any more need to be said?)
  2. Britain: Brexit, Theresa May and a hung Parliament.
  3. In Australia, partisan politics continues to cripple a government that often seems to have more policy disagreements within its own ranks than it has with the official opposition party.
  4. France: power to be in the hands of a new, untested, quickly cobbled together party based on the charisma of a young leader. Can such a party provide longstanding stable government?
  5. German elections in September… what surprises could that bring?

 

Some religious commentators are attributing the increasing instabilities in the “Western World” to a departure from our historical Judeo-Christian foundations; but I find their view of history is seriously flawed.

What kind of “Judeo-Christian” foundation was “Western democracy” ever built upon? Has there ever (REALLY) been an all-encompassing embracing of Jesus or His gospel?

 

Over over centuries there was a lot of religious superstition, theological rhetoric, and political USE of the Church as a tool of government.

And while there may have been individual pockets of society that at times have shown authentic devotion to God, has there ever been a GENUINE widespread, long-lasting commitment to Jesus and His Kingdom that could result in a claimed blessing of “the West” over past centuries – blessings that are now allegedly being forfeited?

 

If anything, it seems to me that during the period AFTER the claimed abandonment of Judeo-Christian ideals, the west experienced its most peaceful and prosperous period: that is post WWII.

Of course there were ongoing problems, but arguably, things had never previously been better for the average person in the west as the world got back to its feet after the death and destruction of the Second World War.

It’s mostly in the last decade or two (significantly post 9/11) that perceived threats have led to growing fear that blessings (our comforts, safety and wealth) will be forfeited due to a casting aside of Judeo-Christian” ideals. (Proffered evidence of this casting aside can date back a century or two. One case I’ve seen points way back to the French Revolution* as an example!).

Those fears of loss at the heart of the argument seem mostly founded on a fear of others – those “not of the west” . A fear that others coming into our nations will disrupt and compromise our “western values” – values that to a great part are not necessarily Kingdom values anyway.

 

Apart from the current issue of promoting a fear-based ideology, the fictionalising of history projects the cause of perceived problems onto society at large, putting the blame on “THEM” and THEIR (society’s) relationship to God; shifting the focus away from the personal and our own relationships with God and the unbelieving society we live among.

 

 

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example here

 

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A Hate-Speech Whirlwind

Australian tennis great, Margaret Court, has become the centre of a hate-speech whirlwind.
She apparently wrote an open letter to a newspaper, announcing she was boycotting the airline Qantas because it’s CEO has been using his position to promote a pro-same sex marriage message. In addition to announcing her boycott, Court allegedly criticised a young Australian tennis player who is in a Lesbian relationship and raising children within that relationship.

In response some have called for a boycott of the tennis arena named in honour of Margaret Court.

 

A few thoughts and observations:

If Court chooses to boycott Qantas for the reasons she stated, she has every right to do so.
If Court chooses to be public about her choice, spelling out the reasons for it, she has every right to do so.

If she did publicly speak out and criticise the Lesbian tennis player personally– I think that wasn’t only very unwise, it was irresponsible and not her place to do so. (“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside”. 1 Cor 5))

As for those calling for the boycott of the tennis arena – again that is their choice to do so, but would their reaction be hurting Court in any way – or just be hurting others (competition organisers, spectators, other players with less profile than themselves) who have no connection at all to Court’s comments?

 

I’ve followed some of the commentary arising out of this situation and have seen the same kind of responses that always seem to dominate any discussion associated with homosexuality and homosexual marriage. Responses regularly bring up claims of young homosexuals suffering and being driven to suicide because of hate speech directed against them.

 

And yet in ironic hypocrisy, ALL of the hate speech I’ve seen in those “discussions” has been directed against Christians and others who don’t support a homosexual agenda. Extremely aggressive, abusive hate speech, sneering and railing against “Right Wing Religious Nut Jobs” and applying similar pejorative descriptions to those holding different views for religious (or other) reasons.

 

Personally I don’t take a hostile position against homosexuality and homosexual marriage within a secular democratic society. (Homosexuality within the church is a different issue. Refer again to the quote I gave earlier from 1 Cor 5: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.”)

It’s not our place as Christians to try and enforce Godliness upon the nations where we live. Followers of Jesus are strangers here, living in foreign (often hostile) territory representing God’s kingdom as His ambassadors. It’s not our role to change the nature of the Kingdoms of men. We are placed in those Kingdoms to encourage others to flee those Kingdoms to find refuge in the Kingdom of God.

 

Those who choose to remain outside of God’s Kingdom will answer to God Himself later.

 

 

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See comments section of these articles for countless examples of hate speech, and see who it is directed at.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/31/andy-murray-ramps-up-pressure-with-call-for-swift-resolution-to-margaret-court-furore

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/may/18/penny-wong-says-marriage-equality-fight-proves-need-for-separation-of-church-and-state

 

Shavuot (Pentecost) and Transition to the New Covenant

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2)

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Fifty days after the first Passover (on the first Pentecost) God first gave His commandments to His people Israel through His prophet Moses.

Fifty days after the Passover when Jesus was crucified, God first poured out His Spirit upon His people, those trusting in Jesus.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,
declares the Lord.

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people. (Jer 31)

 

 

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor: 3)