About tomdrion

Slave of Christ, husband, father, and pastor at GraceLife London

What You Need to Know About the Future #2 & #3

It’s really good to know the future is planned. Especially when you realise that the future is also looking quite painful, and that it might be painful for some time!

In our church we’re working through Daniel, and in the last post I tried to show how in Daniel chapter 8, God prepared his people for their future, so that they could live faithfully in their present and be prepared for the future they had to live through! It was, no doubt, super helpful for them to realise that God had their future all mapped-out, and it’s really good for us to have the same hope!

Today I want to show you how God forewarned his people that their future was going to be both painful and that the painful period would be prolonged.

Now that might not seem to be so helpful, but it’s much better to know the painful truth about what’s ahead than to live in a dreamworld, only to be woken up with a bump when reality strikes! As I mentioned last time, these same truths about the future that God revealed to his people in Daniel’s time, also apply to us as we look to our own future.

So here we go: Two more things God wants you to know about the future:

#2 The future is going to be painful (in a couple of ways)

1. The pain of war and turmoil.

What God predicted for Daniel (with the vision of the Ram and the Goat in Daniel 8:1-14) was effectively a future dominated by the wars of the world-powers in the Greater Middle East. For the Jews in his day, it was the equivalent of our being told that in the next three hundred years there will be another two world-wars!

Israel is the only real highway between Africa and the rest of the world, and since everyone seemed to want to conquer Egypt (or vice versa), Israel was forever being overrun by world-powers passing through, devastating the land of Israel as they did so. Israel would be caught up in the turmoil and devastation of a world in turmoil. They would not be exempt.

In the same way when Christ prophesied the characteristic features the future for New Testament believers, he warned that “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven,” (Luke 21:10-11). It’s critical for us as believers to realise that we are NOT exempt from this kind of pain. For most of us in the West, we’ve lived through a remarkably unusual period of peace in the last 70 years, but according to Jesus, the pain of war and geopolitical upheaval is still written in our future, and while we should pray (1 Timothy 2:1-2) we mustn’t assume we’ll have it otherwise.

2. The pain of domination and defeat.

To understand quite how painful it would be for the Jews to contemplate the future that Daniel’s visions predicted, you really need to get into the mindset of a faithful Jewish believer in that day. In Deuteronomy 28 God had given Israel promises of blessings for obedience (to his covenant with them) and the threat of curses for their disobedience, and they had stubbornly disobeyed and actually experienced all of the curses listed there.

A number of the blessings for obedience, however, were specifically related to their relationship with the surrounding nations. They would be set “high above all the nations of the earth” (Deuteronomy 28:1). Deuteronomy 28:13 epitomises these promises of national prominence and dominance, when Israel were told that they will be “the head and not the tail“.

In the same way, many of the curses also focused on them being defeated by and dominated by their enemies (see for example Deuteronomy 28:25, 26, 29, 33, 36). Later however, they are promised not only restoration, but more blessing than they experienced previously, if only they repent with all their heart (Deuteronomy 30:1-6). (That never has happened yet, which is one thing that makes me look for a future ingathering and national repentance and restoration of Israel on an unprecedented scale, see Zechariah 12:10-14; 14:1-21; Micah 7:18-20; Acts 3:19-21 etc.).

We don’t have to imagine the effect of this kind of vision of future gentile domination on a faithful Jew, because Daniel exemplified it for us when he was overcome and lay sick for several days (Daniel 8:27).

Knowing the truth about what to expect, however, is better than living in continual disappointment, and it’s helpful to realise that God was no doubt preparing faithful Jews to be able to focus on what he wanted them to during the coming years of Gentile domination, rather than forever being frustrated thinking that it wasn’t going to plan! God’s plan for them was domination and defeat, for a long time to come, even if they were going to be returned to their own land and rebuild the temple. These are the “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24).

For Christians, likewise, we are promised that our future will be characterised by defeat and domination by the world! This ought not to shock us, but in these days of prosperity preachers promising victory at every turn, many true believers are tragically confused when political and social issues don’t go our way. The New Apostolic Reformation and other manifestations of Dominion Theology have made for an unhelpful expectation among some for Christians that we’re going to gain influence in high places and achieve some kind of political utopia.

The history of Daniel, with all his influence, followed as it was by such a profoundly painful few hundred years in Israel, ought to temper such hopes! Our hopes, like those of Israel, are bound up in the return of the Messiah! We’re longing and praying for His kingdom to come, and for his will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven, but that’s NOT what we see now! Instead, fiery trials are considered “normal” for us, not “something strange” (1 Peter 4:12).

It’s crucial we, as Christians get it straight in our head that it’s NORMAL for our future to look painful! This is what Jesus warned us, that in this world (we) will have tribulation (John 16:33), and it’s how Paul “encouraged” and “strengthened” the earliest disciples, “saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God,” (Acts 14:22). If we get our thinking about this straight, we can be much better placed to live like the New Testament believers who “endured a hard struggle with sufferings,” and even “joyfully accepted the confiscation of (their) property” (Hebrews 10:33-34).

Discussion Questions for #2

  1. Why did God give the Jews in Daniel’s time warning that the next few hundred years would be so painful?
  2. What was so very painful about the Jews being dominated by pagan kingdoms? (See especially Deuteronomy 28:13 and discuss)
  3. How is it helpful for us also to know that in this life (in the immediate future before the Lord comes) it’s going to be painful and feel like defeat?
  4. Where do prosperity preachers go wrong in terms of their eschatology?
  5. What kind of impact does it have on people’s lives/faith when they are expecting to have victory in earthly terms?
  6. Which NT scriptures would you take someone to in order to help them understand that we are destined for difficulty and even apparent defeat in this age?

#3 The (painful) future is prolonged

Daniel and his fellow faithful believers were given the revelation that this period of turmoil and gentile domination was going to last a long time. They didn’t get the specifics about timing in chapter 8, but they did get enough information to give Daniel the picture that any change of the status quo was a LONG way off.

Gabriel told Daniel about the Little Horn, and a particularly painful period of persecution… but that wasn’t going to be until “the latter end of their kingdom” (Daniel 8:23) which was speaking about 4 horned Greek empire that followed the single prominent horned version (i.e. Greece under Alexander the Great). The very fact that there would be a “latter end” to their kingdom, meant that the period of gentile domination was going to be a very long one.

There is something particularly hard about a trial (like oppression by pagan powers) that is prolonged! When the problem persists, it presents some unique tests for our faith and also some peculiar temptations.

The question that needs to be answered is why would God warn his people that the trial would be prolonged? What is the benefit to knowing in advance that it will not end anytime soon?

Kingdom now?

It may well be because the faithful among the people of Israel needed to know that they were not to expect the kingdom of God to come any time soon. That may seem strange to us, but strong Messianic expectation and a willingness to follow false-messiahs go hand in hand, and so knowledge of what they were to expect must have been helpful for the faithful Jews during the next 386 years covered by this vision.

Jesus also prepared his disciples (and us) for the reality that he was going away and that the Kingdom of God would not appear immediately. In Luke 19:11 he began to tell them the parable of the ten minas, “because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately,” and the parable opens with the “nobleman (who) went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return,” (Luke 19:12).

A couple of months later when Jesus had risen from the dead and spent 40 days teaching his disciples about the kingdom, just before he actually did go away, like the nobleman in the parable, his disciples were still asking him, “Lord will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Jesus reply was that it was not for them to know the times or season which the Father has fixed by his own authority.

The reality for us as believers is that we are not to expect the blessings associated with the return of Christ (to rule and reign) ahead of that time! There is a time, and there is a season, that God has fixed by his own authority, but we are not privy to those details. In the meantime, we need to know what we are to expect, so that we don’t get discouraged.

That seems to be one of the main dangers for us as believers when trials continue, and we have to live through prolonged difficulties. It’s so easy for us to begin to think, “It just shouldn’t be like this!” The reality however is that (just as God prepared the Jews in Daniel’s day) this is exactly what God planned, and yes, it’s painful, and yes it’s prolonged, but it’s OK if that’s what God has chosen for us, right?

Jesus gave teaching about a prolonged painful future in Luke 21, and described the times of the gentiles during which Jerusalem would be trampled under foot, and great suffering would prevail. Immediately he applied all this teaching by saying, “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life,” (Luke 21:34).

That seems to be a huge danger for us, that in the light of prolonged suffering and difficulty, we can become discouraged, and turn back to comforting ourselves in worldly ways. The alternative is to walk by faith! In Hebrews 11, the heroes of the faith endured terrible suffering, and the writer applies it all in chapter 12 by saying, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1). The danger for us in expecting the blessings of the kingdom now, seems to be that we will lose patience, and “grow weary or fainthearted.” The answer of course, is to consider Jesus, and how he endured (Hebrews 12:3) but also—it helps to know it’s not all going wrong—but that this is exactly what we’re to expect.

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 21:34.

Discussion Questions for #3

  1. What is particularly hard about prolonged trials? (Why are they more difficult to deal with?)
  2. What particular temptations do we face when we face prolonged difficulties?
  3. What is helpful about knowing that the future for believers is supposed to be painful, and that it’s normal for our difficult circumstances to last a long time?
  4. How would you counsel someone who is sinking under the pressure of a prolonged painful situation?
  5. What scriptural encouragements are there that we can apply to encourage ourselves in these circumstances?

What you need to know about the future #1

Reading Daniel, the fundamental lesson seems to flip back and forth between an encouragement to be faithful, and prophecy to prepare God’s people for the future. Daniel 8 is firmly focused on the future, at least the next few hundred years of future from Daniel’s day.

In chapter 8, the language shifts from Aramaic (the language of the Babylonians) back to Hebrew (the language of the Jews) and the focus from this point on, is all-future. This seems to be because God is now focused on preparing his own people to be able to live through the troubled years ahead. In fact, if God didn’t warn them, the next few hundred years would seriously confuse and dismay His children, but God did prepare them. Daniel 8 is a precious gift to the believers today, since we can look back (knowing the subsequent history) and learn from how God prepared his people to live through it.

Another remarkable thing about Daniel chapter 8, is that the key features of the future God was preparing the Jews to live through, is strikingly similar to the future promised to Christian believers in the New Testament. Given the parallels, I’ll unpack things here to try to show four things God wants believers today to know about the future, and in this post, we’ll just look at the first of these:

#1 The Future is Planned

Daniel had his vision “In the first year of the reign of King Belshazzar” (Daniel 8:1) which was about 551BC, but what he saw covered future history from that time right up to December 25 165BC, giving them a prophecy that covered the next 386 years!

The Immediate Future: The Ram (Daniel 8:3-4)

Credit: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/403564816615786476/

Thankfully we know exactly what the ram refers to, since the angel Gabriel interpreted it as “the kings of Media and Persia” (Daniel 8:20). In Daniel’s vision, he found himself in the city of Susa, in the Babylonian province of Elam (Daniel 8:2), and the Ram appears standing on the bank of the Ulai canal (Daniel 8:3). It would be about another 10 years before this prophecy would be fulfilled and Susa would fall to Cyrus the Great, the Persian king and overall head of the now-combined Medo-Persian empire.

The details here in Daniel 8:3 are striking: one (horn) was higher than the other (Persia dominated the partnership of these two kingdoms) and the higher one came up last (Persia rose to prominence later than Media).

The conquests predicted here are in themselves remarkable, even if it’s not that far distant from Daniel’s prophecy. At it’s greatest extent, the Persian (Achaemenid) empire stretched from what it now the NE of Greece, through Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, down into Egypt, not to mention Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. The ram really did do “as he pleased and became great,” (Daniel 8:4).

The Later Future: The Goat (Daniel 8:5-8)

As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. (Daniel 8:5) (Pic:https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/31806741088145326/)

the Goat

Again we know exactly what’s referred to here, since Gabriel interprets this as the king of Greece (Daniel 8:21) which can be none other than Alexander the Great. The thing is that Alexander wasn’t born until 356BC, and began his conquests in 334BC, a full 217 years after the vision.

If you’re sceptical, it’s conceivable that Daniel could have taken a look at the world scene, and made a stab at which nation was going to rise to prominence next, and guessed at Medo-Persia. To suggest that Daniel got lucky guessing Greece 217 years ahead, however, is just crazy (which is why sceptics have to deny Daniel is authentic and suggest it was written after the event. In the 550s BC Greece was just a collection of warring city states discovering democracy, but busily embroiled in their own squabbles for the next 200 years, and certainly no threat to the world stage. It would be akin to me predicting that Belgium will rule the world by 2220!

What’s even more amazing is to accurately predict the manner of Alexander’s conquest: “from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground,” (Daniel 8:5). Within just 10 years, Alexander had conquered the world. He figuratively flew at Darius III of Persia, and decimated him repeatedly on the battlefield (Daniel 8:6-7). Some of the historical details here are remarkable considering the language used in this prophecy. When it says he “came close to the ram” — you can literally read accounts of Alexander getting into close combat with Darius’ bodyguard at the Battle of Issus, and then capturing Darius’ wife and daughter, and Alexander with only 35-40,000 men managed to inflict devastating defeat to the whole of the Persian empire, despite repeatedly being opposed by armies with vastly superior numbers.

Note on the interpretation of prophecy:

According to the prophecy, if you were a believing Jew watching the world news, you’d be expecting Alexander to be cut down in his prime, and he was (Daniel 8:8). At just 33 years old, Alexander was dead, and every prophecy watching Jew would have been expecting the kingdom to divide immediately into four powers, to the N, S, E, and W.

Instead of immediate fulfilment, there was about 20 years of struggle in which it might have appeared that the prophecy wasn’t going to be fulfilled, since multiple power centres existed with a great deal of infighting, until finally (exactly according to God’s plan for the future) the goat kingdom was divided into four: Lysimachus in the North, Ptolemy in the South, Seleucus to the East, and Cassandra in the West. All that was needed to see God’s plan for the future fulfilled, was to wait.

Here’s a good deal more detail in a sermon preached at GraceLife London

Discussion Questions:

How could you use Daniel 8 to encourage another believer who was struggling with trust in the accuracy of the word of God?

How does it help us practically as believers to know that the future is planned? (What difference SHOULD it make to the way we handle daily situations, and also the way we respond to world events, etc.)

From Daniel 8 (and other vision prophecies in Daniel) we can see that God gave the Jews certain prominent features of the political “beasts” they would face in the future, presumably in order to enable them to identify them when they emerged on the world stage. What difference does this make to the way we should interpret prophesies that seem remarkably similar in Revelation 13 and 17 (for example)?

In the fulfilment of Daniel 8:8 there was a delay of about 20 years in history after Alexander’s death, before a great deal of infighting finally resulted in four distinct powers to match the prophecy. What significance does this have for the way in which we handle prophecies concerning our future that don’t seem to have accurate fulfilment yet?

Courage Facing Death

Reading the Acts of the Apostles, you can get the feeling that Peter and Paul and the others were almost superheroes. They just didn’t seem to be daunted by death! How did they do it? How can we face the reality of death with truly Christian courage?

Thankfully Paul explains the source of his courage in 2 Corinthians. Twice in chapter 4 he says “we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1,16), and then twice in chapter 5 “we are… of good courage” (2 Corinthians 5:6,8), and sandwiched between these is his explanation of the source of such courage facing death: and the source is what “we know” (2 Corinthians 5:1-5).

So often in the Christian life, the route out of our anxiety is to move from focusing on what we’re feeling, and thinking, to what we know.

In 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 Paul gives us 10 things we know about death (as genuine Christians) that we need to focus on so that we can have courage facing death.

The first three are all about your body:

I. Your body is just your earthly home

Paul calls it “our earthly home” in 2 Corinthians 5:1, and this epitomises the Bible’s anthropology outlined in Genesis 2:7;3:19 and Ecclesiastes 12:7. We are not simply atoms, and molecules, and the combination of chemicals that Scientific Materialism would want us to think we are. You are more than your body. Even using the phrase “my body” shows that you understand a certain separation between “you” and your body!

II. Your body is just a tent

When Paul speaks of “the tent that is our earthly home” in 2 Corinthians 5:1, he’s giving us a metaphor that shows our body as something temporary, fragile and relatively cheap. The contrast in this passage is with a more solid building that would be understood to be comparatively permanent, durable, and costly. The body we have is here today and gone tomorrow, it is so easily destroyed. We shouldn’t put too much store in it, if indeed we’re going to inherit something much better.

III. If your body is destroyed, you have another home ahead (as a true Christian)

In 2 Corinthians 5:1 Paul’s is absolutely certain that “we have a building… a house” ahead as believers even though we die. A modern illustration could be to say that here, we are just renting our bodies, but we must surrender them to our Landlord, who’s given us notice to quit. (This Landlord however does actually promise Christians that upon eviction from our bodies, He will give us a permanent home of our own, which will never be taken from us!

These next three are all about your NEXT body:

IV. Your next body is God’s gift to you

Obviously, this body was also given to you by God, but this body is corrupted by the fall, and is like a house in which many things are broken, and gradually (or rapidly) it’s all breaking down! The next body however is “a building from God” (2 Corinthians 5:1) and is effectively God’s final response to the awful impact of the fall upon us. He’s not going to leave his original design for physical bodies defeated by the fall. More than that, he won’t simply restore the human body to its former (pre-fall) glory, which is the next point:

V. Your next body doesn’t belong to this creation

Paul said it’s going to be “not made with human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1) which the Bible most helpfully explains as meaning “not of this creation” (Hebrews 9:11). There is another world coming! Jesus referred to it as “the regeneration” (sometimes translated as “the new world” (Matthew 19:28) and he was talking about a physical world in the age to come.

VI. Your next body is eternal and heavenly

Maybe you think you have a heavenly body now, but you don’t —at least not in the Biblical sense—and for most of us, not in any sense! The reality for true Christians however is that the next body will be truly heavenly and eternal. Paul says here it will be “eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1) but in 1 Corinthians 15 he draws a series of contrasts between the body as it is now (what is sown) and the resurrection body (what is raised). These contrasts show us exactly how different the body to come will be. The body we have now is “perishable” —decomposing nicely—but it will be raised “imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:42). It is “natural” now, but will be a “spiritual” body then (1 Corinthians 15:44).

What this all means would be a complete mystery, if it wasn’t for the fact that we’ve been given an example in the resurrection body of Jesus, and we’re told in several places that we are going to be made “like him” (1 Corinthians 15:47,49; Romans 8:29; Philippians 3:20).

So for now, we’re struggling with “weakness” and experiencing the reality of life that’s considered “dishonour” (1 Corinthians 15:43), but the body to come, by contrast will be characterised by “power” and “glory”.

Meanwhile however, we groan, and the next three here all have to do with groaning:

VII. While you are in this body you groan

This is godly groaning, since Paul includes himself when he says “For in this tent we groan” (2 Corinthians 5:2), and although Christians are instructed to rejoice “always” — there really is no need for us to walk around with a fake grin. We follow one who was the “man of sorrows”, and Paul himself experienced and expressed the pain of grief and confusion and being hard-pressed (see 2 Corinthians 4). Peter spoke of the reality Although James told believers to “Count it all joy… when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2), Peter did speak about believers rejoicing, despite having been “grieved” by such trials (1 Peter 1:6-7). So let’s just lay that one to rest! Groaning can be godly, and in this tent, “we groan”. (See also Romans 8:18-25)

VIII. Godly groaning is longing to put on the next body.

Godly groaning is not moaning about how bad things are (that would be sinful and get us into trouble spiritually). Godly groaning is “longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” (2 Corinthians 5:2) —understanding that what is to come is going to be so much better. It’s something like longing for the new car you’ve ordered, which won’t have all the problems that your current car. You can do that without grumbling and complaining about your current ride!

IX. Godly groaning is not longing to be free from physicality, but free from sin-cursed mortality.

The description given us is not that we want simply to be rid of our body and float free, as disembodied spirits. That was a terrible mistake in Greek philosophy that worked its way into the early church and caused chaos, with a denigration of everything material as if physicality was inherently evil. Paul wasn’t expecting to be found “naked” — i.e. without a body (2 Corinthians 5:3), and he wasn’t longing to be “unclothed” but “further clothed” (2 Corinthians 5:4). Things are improving in recent years, but historically this kind of error that views the physical as inherently evil, has caused many problems in the church. It helps to realise that God doesn’t view things that way. What’s ahead is so glorious that it’s pictured as the moment when “what is mortal” is “swallowed up by life”.

X. God is the one doing all this.

Paul viewed the Corinthians as already “prepared” for their next body (2 Corinthians 5:5). Note the tense! This is accomplished already! Nothing stands between them and their next body, except death. There’s no more preparation to be done. So many people would expect to have to perform some great task, or do some good works, or even pay some great price (e.g. purgatory) in order to be “prepared” to inherit this glorious resurrection body, but salvation is by GRACE (Ephesians 2:8-9). The truth is, you are never more prepared for your resurrection body than the moment you are saved, and the guarantee of this future inheritance has already been given to every believer (2 Corinthians 5:5)

Some questions for discussion:

  1. When a genuine Christian is suffering from anxiety or distress connected with death, what does it look like, in practice, to work backwards from how we feel (through what we think) to what we KNOW?
  2. How is helping someone back to what they know different from how Job’s friends wen’t wrong in trying to comfort him? (What did they do wrong and how can we help people who are truly suffering, without being like Job’s friends?)
  3. How would you help someone who’s not a Christian but they’re suffering with anxiety / distress connected with death?
  4. What would you say to help someone who says, “I know all this, but it doesn’t make me feel any better!” (Clue: study Philippians 4:6-8, and don’t miss v.8).
  5. When a trial is very severe, and someone is going through wave after wave of grief or pain in their experience day by day, how can directing them to think about what they know (as above) still be helpful? (It can seem like it’s dismissive of the reality of their pain/grief, but if done rightly it can still be helpful. Discuss how to do this rightly, so that it’s not dismissive of their struggle!)
Check out the sermon from GraceLife London preached on 31st January 2021

Three keys to joy in trials

photo credit below

Some Bible verses can feel like they stick in your throat and bring truth that’s hard to swallow. Here’s one of them from James:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,”

James 1:2

This is strong meat, but verses like this can bring us blessings we can’t find elsewhere, if only we take a little time to chew on them! A little bible-munching on James 1:2-4 gives us three wonderful keys to having joy in trials:

KEY #1: Consider the Value of Trials (James 1:2)

The command: “Count it all joy”
James commands Christians to “count” it all joy, and the word used speaks of the result when you have passed a matter through the court of your mind. It’s talking about the conclusion that you reach when you have spent time deliberating everything. The conclusion we must reach is that it is “all joy“. (All-joy, means that it is un-alloyed. Silver may exist alongside pure gold, and the gold is still pure, but if silver is mixed with gold, it’s now no longer pure. In this sense, the evaluation we are to make, when everything is considered, is that it’s “all-joy”. There may be grief from trials, alongside our joy (see 1 Peter 1:-6-7), but once we evaluate things properly, we must conclude that it is “all joy”.

The encouragement: “my brothers”
James is no stranger to trials. This is the brother of Jesus speaking, who witnessed his elder brother’s crucifixion, and knew the pain of persecution as well as any, but he reaches from the page and encourages us with “my brothers”. We are never in better company than when we are in trials.

The occasion: “when you meet trials of various kinds”
The Greek word translated “meet” crops up in Luke 10:30 when speaks of the man who “fell among” thieves. This picture here is that whenever we are suddenly surrounded by trials of various kinds, then, on that occasion, we should make our mental evaluation that this is “all joy”.

Like runners who consider the painful process of training a joy, while others would only be focused on the pain, we are called upon to make an evaluation of the situation we face, and come to the conclusion that it’s “all-joy”. To do that, however, we must move from what we feel, and what we think, to what we know, and James helps us now to do this.

Key #2 Consider the Effect of Trials (James 1:3)

“For you know that” – just like a runner who focuses on the reality that his painful training will produce fitness and help him win the race, we “know” certain things about the effect of trials. If only we focus upon the effect of trials, we can move from being ruled by how we feel, to being governed by what we know. You may object that, like Job, you don’t know why God is allowing these trials to happen to you, but you have more information than Job did. One thing we know that God is doing is that trials are “the testing of your faith”.

“the testing of your faith” – “testing” (Greek: dokimion) refers to the happy result of testing metals to see that they are pure. It’s translated in 1 Peter 1:7 as “tested genuineness”. Just like God tested Abraham (Genesis 22:1), God tests believers’ faith to prove its genuineness. When you are providentially thrown into the crucible of trials and yet you still trust God (i.e. you don’t curse him – see Job 1:22), and you obey God (see Genesis 22:12; James 2:21-23) you pass the test, and your faith is shown to be genuine. It’s this happy result, the tested-genuineness of your faith that has an effect.

“produces steadfastness” – literally, works steadfastness. Steadfastness is an effect, a result brought about by our faith being tested and proved genuine when we are in trials. Steadfastness itself is the ability to remain steady under a load. The Iron Duke (Wellington) was given his name because of his ability to remain steadfast and keep going under immense criticism as Prime Minister.

Key #3 Cooperate with the Purpose of Trials (James 1:4)

At last we can begin to see how this works: When you are suddenly surrounded by trials, you may be grieved by them (1 Peter 1:6-7), but if you will stop and consider the value of what is happening, and think about the reality that this testing process is exposing the genuineness of your faith and actually producing steadfastness in you —then you can really begin to see it with a measure of joy, knowing what God is doing. God is producing steadfastness in you, but it doesn’t stop there. Steadfastness itself does something to you. It produces maturity:

“and let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

A golden chain of cause and effect: trials test our faith => our faith is proved genuine => this produces steadfastness => this produces maturity “perfect and complete, lacking nothing”.

Don’t break the chain: Sadly there’s a huge temptation when we are suddenly thrown into the crucible of trials, to buck and complain and resist. Grumbling and complaining are the bitter fruits of a heart that rejects God’s wisdom in allowing us to be tested, but another sad result of resisting this whole process is immaturity. We are commanded to “let” steadfastness have its full effect – and the sense of this (Greek 3rd person imperative) is that we are to “ensure this happens” — i.e. “it must happen”. Put simply, don’t get in the way. It’s our job to make sure nothing stops this process, and that means we have to humble ourselves like Job, and refuse to grumble and complain, lest we end up with even more trouble —and discipline instead of maturity.

Check out the sermon on this text preached at GraceLife London on 17th January 2021

photo credit: Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Coronavirus, Conspiracy, and Christianity

What should Christians make of the conspiracy theories surrounding Coronavirus?

I wish I could just say, not much, and leave it at that. After all, God warned Isaiah “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread,” (Isaiah 8:12). Paul told Timothy to “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies;” reminding him that, “you know that they breed quarrels,” (2 Timothy 2:23).

The sad reality is, however, that despite these warnings, many believers fall victim to conspiracy theories, and some of them—at this point in history—even have the potential to kill.

Is the Coronavirus illness caused by the introduction of 5G?

This ought to be easy enough to de-bunk, but sadly, when a few undeniable facts are put together, and an unhealthy dose of fear is thrown in (along with the theory being proposed) unquestioning people are easy prey. The tragedy is that many otherwise capable people seem to switch off their critical thinking, and fail to ask basic questions which would expose the shaky foundations of the conspiracy theory.

For instance, if Covid-19 symptoms were really caused by 5G, then they might be expected to occur in large numbers of people at the same time, since, once 5G is switched on, we would pretty-much all be exposed to the same radiation at the same time. The reality is that the symptoms don’t appear simultaneously in large numbers. They begin in very small numbers and then gradually increase, until more and more people get sick. Why is that?

Also, why do symptoms start with one member of a family, who progresses through the course of the disease, and then another, and then another, almost as if it were a virus being passed from one person to another? Could it be that it is actually a virus, and not radiation?

How should Christians evaluate conspiracy theories?

First of all, Christians should be concerned for accuracy and truthfulness, and be well aware that people will often willingly distort the truth and lie for any number of reasons. We should not naively believe what we’re told, whether that comes from the government, or a friend, or a conspiracy theory website.

Of course it is true that a government can have an agenda in the message it conveys, but so can conspiracy theorists. History teaches us that yes, governments have deceived their people, and sought to manipulate the media, but it also teaches us that there have been large groups of people taken in by conspiracy theories, and driven to the most disastrous actions by their beliefs.

How do we navigate the mess?

  1. Learn to ask questions that evaluate the truthfulness of the claims being made.

    For example: The claim that 5G radiation is the cause of the coronavirus symptoms, is supported by an appeal to the history of pandemics. The Spanish Flu of 1918-19 is linked by the conspiracy theorists to the electrification of the world that took place at that time, and the epidemic following World War II is linked to the introduction of radar.

    Questions to ask: What about the bubonic plague of the 16th and 17th centuries? What about the smallpox epidemic that wiped out so many Native Americans? Both were before electrification.

    For another example: The claim is made that 5G is being used as a weapon, and compulsory vaccination is part of a plot to implant either aluminium into our bodies, in order to make us more vulnerable to the 5G radiation, or to make us accept the mark of the beast, in the form of a microchip or microdot tattoo, that identifies us as vaccinated.

    Questions to ask: How could people cover up such a conspiracy, given that the children of so many thousands of conspirators would themselves be vaccinated, and intentionally harmed? Surely there would be numerous whistleblowers, wouldn’t there? With respect to the claims about the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:17), what about the other predictions about the beast in Revelation 13, that occur prior to the mark of the beast being enforced? Why do people focus exclusively on the mark?
  2. Remember we are commanded to pray for and submit to the governing authorities

    Romans 13:1-7, and 1 Peter 2:13-17 teach God’s people to voluntarily submit ourselves to those who are in authority over us, recognising that they are placed in that position by God. We are even to “Honour the emperor” (2 Peter 3:17), when the emperor is someone as corrupt as Nero, in Peter’s day.

    That does not mean we blindly believe that our leaders have our best interests at heart, or refuse to question any policies or practices that appear to us to be misguided, but it does mean that our fundamental stance as Christians ought not to be one of resistance, but one of submission to authority.

    Christians are to spend their energies praying “for kings and all who are in high positions,” (1 Timothy 2:1-2), and not joining in with those who are rebellious (Proverbs 24:21).
  3. Don’t despise science! Remember “fools despise wisdom and instruction,” (Proverbs 1:7).

    If you read the book of proverbs, you learn that the path to knowledge and success involves hard work (Proverbs 14:23; 12:24). Christians, of all people, ought to be people who reject lazy thinking. Why do fools despise wisdom and instruction? Often because they want to simply trust in the conclusions of their own minds, without taking the time and effort to check their thinking. The verdict of the Bible on this kind of approach to learning is stark: “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool,” (Proverbs 28:26).

    It is worth remembering that it was this kind of thinking in the Christian world that gave birth to the scientific method, with its emphasis on not simply trusting your own hunches or conclusions, but seeking to test and prove whether something is true, based on evidence. It is a tragedy of lazy thinking, when poorly informed Christians embrace half-baked ideas with little or no respect for the rigorous thinking that goes into true scientific research and conclusions. Of course it is sadly true, that not all scientific research is to be trusted, and there are awful examples which can make people naturally slow to trust “the scientists”—but Christians, of all people, ought not to despise the fruits of hard work and careful study. We need to be those who learn to spot lazy thinking and reject that.
  4. Don’t judge people in authority, in a way you wouldn’t want to be judged! Conspiracy theories, by definition, require the assumption of guilt without proof. “They” are out to get you, or rule the world, or reduce the population, etc. It’s worth stopping and asking who “they” are!

    When you ask that, you have to also put yourself in the shoes of the people you’re assuming are part of the conspiracy, and ask the question, “How do I know this to be true?” “Am I judging this person as guilty, without even questioning my own assumptions?”
  5. Don’t be too easily impressed by authenticity

    Just because someone really seems to believe what they are saying, doesn’t make it true. Enough said.
  6. Study eschatology carefully, and learn from people who carefully explain the text in context.

    So much worry and needless trouble could be saved if the church actually didn’t shy away from studying eschatology carefully and thoroughly. Sadly, many Christian leaders have consigned eschatology to the unknowable, and the only teaching most Christians have on the subject comes from people who handle the scripture incredibly badly!

    Actually taking the time to study what the Bible says about the future, puts to rest so many of the crazy ideas that otherwise gather momentum among biblically illiterate Christians.

Marriage Myth-Busting #1

If only Christians would get their ideas about marriage and relationships from the Bible!

Myths mess with your mind. Some myths about marriage keep people from ever experiencing the blessings that God would give them. They can make people hold back, like a child afraid of entering the water, or like a church-shopper unable to commit to membership in one body. They can create unmeetable-expectations, giving rise to continual disappointment or frustration, and destroying the blessings within a marriage that God would otherwise bestow.

Tragically, so many of the unmet-expectations for Christians turn out to be based on Bible verses that have been abducted from their context and enslaved to serve some clever-sounding idea. They can be utterly unbiblical, to the point of being diabolical, but if they’re as catchy as “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” you can count on them being lapped-up by a generation desperate for something about marriage.

Unfortunately, if an idea sounds good, it’s incredibly hard to get most people to stop and examine it carefully, but that’s what makes this series so important. Until we step back as Christians and look carefully at the scriptures in context, there’s little hope of busting the common myths about marriage that can otherwise wreck our lives.

This series won’t be quick to finish. In our church, we’re working through Genesis 2 at the moment, and I’ll be focusing the myths busted in the passages I’m working through. There are three common myths that are busted just in Genesis 2:18, and more to follow still in the rest of the chapter. I’ll keep the series open ended however, and hope to update it with more posts the opportunities arise.

Myth 1: It’s paradise on your own!

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

Genesis 2:18

God said it’s not good to be alone—even in paradise. God’s solution—even in paradise—was marriage.

Single—for sin’s sake?

Lots of young Christians have grown up in the hook-up culture that’s genuinely bought-into the idea that you’re better off flying solo! Some worldly-minded people work hard to believe that having friends-with-benefits to invite over for a Netflix-and-chill, is paradise compared to the complications that come with an old-fashioned relationship, let alone marriage.

This is the mindset of the me-first generation, and is basically unbridled selfishness on display. The kind of weak arguments people use to defend singleness for sin’s sake, shows they really are clutching at straws.

the difficulties in our relationships that come as a result of the fall, are not solved by being alone

The kind of arguments they use, boil down to a desire to avoid the difficulty, inconvenience, and compromise that comes with a relationship, but since when did selfishness become something to be proud of? Tragically Christians are often influenced by this kind of thinking, and fall into defending singleness with the selfish “benefits” of being alone, rather than accepting God’s verdict on singleness. (Do keep reading, single Christian, as I do actually believe in the gift of singleness! We just can’t ignore God’s intended normal which is what we get here in Genesis 2.)

It’s worth saying that the difficulties in our relationships that come as a result of the fall, are not solved by being alone. You can’t solve your problems at work by staying home, unless you want to be unemployed! When we avoid the problems that come with relationships, we’re just postponing the process of overcoming them, unless that is, you want to stay away from everyone, for ever! This side of the fall, there are no perfect relationships, and contrary to the mindset of the hook-up culture, God says it’s not good to be alone.

Single—for who’s sake?

It’s interesting to think that while God says that even in paradise, it’s not good to be single, so many Christians teach their children to think that in university, or the early-years of their career, it’s better to be single for the sake of undivided devotion to your goals in life.

When the disciples said “it’s better not to marry” in their shock at Jesus’ teaching that you can only get divorced for sexual immorality, Jesus responded by saying not everyone can accept the idea of not marrying, only those who were gifted (Matthew 19:10-11). Jesus then spoke about eunuchs who made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:12), people who had voluntarily committed themselves to singleness for the God’s sake.

Paul encouraged the Corinthians that “in view of the present distress” (1 Corinthians 7:26) it was “good” for a person to remain as he was (single). What’s key to understand, is that throughout the passage in which he’s recommending singleness Paul makes it clear that this is for people who are gifted to be able to live that way (1 Corinthians 7:7-9, 28, 38-39), but if they are struggling with the temptation to sexual immorality, the solution is marriage and satisfying the intimate needs of each other within that sacred bond (1 Corinthians 7:2, 5, 9).

Single—for God’s sake?

When he recommends singleness for people who are gifted to be single, Paul makes his main purposes very clear. He says that he’s NOT recommending singleness to lay any restriction on them, but to promote good order, and to secure their undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:35). Paul’s concern, was that because of their distressing circumstances (1 Corinthians 7:26), they would be impacted in their ability to serve the Lord by their need to care for their spouse (1 Corinthians 7:28-34). Given the extreme circumstances they were in, he wanted them to remain single to be able to be single minded in their devotion to God, not distracted by other legitimate concerns.

Are you remaining single for God’s sake, or for some other reason?

With all that said, it’s worth giving the challenge to single Christians who’ve grown up in a world saturated with unbiblical thinking about singleness. Are you remaining single for God’s sake, or for some other reason? To stay single for selfish reasons would be a tragically misguided move—especially for Christians! We mustn’t buy into the mindset of the world which says it can be paradise if only you’re on your own!

Maybe a generation of young Christians need to hear the word of God again, spoken IN PARADISE, when he said, “it is not good that the man should be alone.”

Here’s the sermon preached at GraceLife London on 22nd Sept 2019

The life we lost (& the way back!)

What would life have been like if Adam and Eve had not sinned? In a recent sermon series in our church we’ve been looking into the lost world of Genesis 2 and in verses 16-17 we get some amazing insight into the life that we lost when humanity fell.

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 2:16-17 (ESV)

God promised Adam that he would die “in the day” he ate the fruit of that fateful tree, and although people go to all sorts of lengths to try to explain why he didn’t die immediately, it’s consistent with the teaching of the whole of Scripture to say that he did die, spiritually, the same day.

Physical death means separation of the soul from the body (Genesis 35:18; James 2:26; Ecclesiastes 12:7), but to die spiritually was the painful reality that their souls were separated from the spiritual communion and the intimate connection we were designed to have with God. That spiritual death happened on the day Adam and Eve sinned, and it’s worth pausing for a moment to think about what things with that kind of spiritual life must have been like for them, before the fall. What was their life like, this life that we lost? Thinking about this will help us understand why we feel that things are so wrong today, and recognise what has to happen in order for it all to be put right.

The perfect life we lost, before the fall, was a life lived in communion with:

1. A Sovereign God

God didn’t apologise for commanding Adam: “And the Lord God commanded the man,” (Genesis 2:16) . God had made him and God now told him exactly what to do, and what not to do. Some people couldn’t think of anything worse than being told what to do, but the reality is that we either accept authority or we go mad. Tragically, the trend in our society is towards madness, with Oppositional Defiant Disorder being claimed as the most common psychiatric illness in children. I guess the changes to parenting approaches in recent years have been having an impact!

For us, the alternative to having God tell us what to do, is either to make it up ourselves, or submit ourselves to the wisdom of other people who are making it up. Adam however, was created and immediately commanded by the God who knew him better than he could ever know himself! God knew exactly what was best for Adam. He knew everything! Talk about expert instruction!

That’s what we lost.

We’re in the air, flying the plane, and there are all sorts of people trying to give us advice on how to fly, and how to land… but the only problem is that none of them has ever successfully landed a plane. They all crash! No one knows how to do this right! All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Wouldn’t you want to have that connection with God restored? Wouldn’t it be an amazing relief to have the God who made you tell you what to do, and to just be around God to be able to ask him whatever you wanted? To have nothing between you and God? No separation! The tragedy is that when Adam sinned, he was separated from God, and we’re born with that same gap—a gulf—between us and our Creator, but that’s not our only problem.

There is another authority that claims our obedience, and another father who has plans and desires he would want us to fulfil. Jesus warned the Pharisees whom he had described as being “of this world” (John 8:23) that “you do what you have heard from your father,” (John 8:38)—and again even more explicitly—”You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires,” (John 8:44).

When Adam fell, we lost the life that was lived with this intimate connection—a close communion—with the Lord God. Humanity was cast out of Eden, away from God’s presence, into a world dominated by the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4; also called the ruler of this world, see John 12:31).

You do realise that when you’re born into this world, you’re born in Satan’s kingdom! When we’re saved, it’s the reality that we’re delivered from what the Bible calls “the kingdom of darkness” and “transferred… to the kingdom of (God’s) beloved Son,” (Colossians 1:13-14). The life we lost was a life of uninterrupted communion with the Father who had the ability and the willingness to tell us exactly what to do, and what not to do! We were separated from a sovereign God! But that’s not all, we also lost our connection with a generous God!

2. A Generous God

You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, (Genesis 2:16)

There are some very stingy, cruel, controlling people in this world, who have little or no love for the people under their authority. It’s no surprise people rebel against authority like that, but if that’s the picture we attribute to God, we couldn’t be getting it more wrong!

Adam was created and placed in the garden of Eden, surrounded by what—to us—are unimaginable sensory delights. Even in our fallen world, the breathtaking beauty and wonder of creation can bring people to a near-ecstasy of delight. People will stop everything and hmmmmmm uncontrollably, entranced with a new taste, or they’ll just sit for hours, mesmerised by music. Go to a gallery, and watch people gaze at still photographs of the strange creatures of this world. Now set those images in motion, Blue-Planet-style, if you can, and try to imagine for a minute what it would be like to be immersed in Eden, with every sense in seventh heaven at the sheer pleasure induced by what God had made.

It’s as if God took pleasure in stroking our senses just to make us purr. This is not a stingy God! He planted EVERY tree that is pleasant to the eyes, and good for food, (Genesis 2:9) but then there’s the bird song, the sound of running water and the wind in the tops of the trees, the fragrance flowers and blossoms… it’s almost too much to take in!

I wish I could take you for a moment with me to the seat I once had, high up on the banks of a tributary to the great river Fly in Papua New Guinea… and just give you a minute to soak in the view. Everything about that spot spoke peace! It was like medicine for the mind, and it filled my mind with wonder at God.

Our Creator wanted his creatures to be happy, and have pleasure, and he loaded the board with delights.

What’s wrong with us? Who doesn’t like a generous boss? Which child didn’t love a father who showered him with love and kindness? Never did anyone have a more generous Father than Adam! Even now, every good gift we enjoy “comes down from the Father of lights,” as James puts it, but what Adam knew before the fall was unspoiled closeness to this generous God, with all of those benefits!

That’s what we lost. If you’re asking what’s wrong with the world: how children in Africa can be going painfully hungry, how your average person can be struggling through life trying to make ends meet, why life is full of pain, not just pleasure, it helps to think about this!

We’ve lost the connection with the a generous God who delighted to bless us with bounty. And talking about how we lost that connection, it’s worth thinking about the fact that the God Adam was in fellowship was also a judicial God.

3. A Judicial God

but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. (Genesis 2:17)

Some people just don’t like laws, or lawmakers. If you’d have been on the green near my church in 1381, you might have bumped into the young king Richard II, as he responded to the Peasants’ Revolt. Watt Tyler had led a group of armed men into London and everywhere they went they broke into public buildings and burned the law-books. The laws of the day were pretty oppressive, and when the peasants revolted, they made it pretty clear how they felt about the king’s laws!

God’s laws, by contrast, are never oppressive. Actually, the very first law God ever made was a declaration of freedom to enjoy the fruits of his generosity! We read that the Lord God commanded the man saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,” (Genesis 2:16).

Bounty without the freedom to enjoy it, is a kind of torture, but this generous God wasn’t only generous in what he provided. He was equally as generous in what he allowed. Adam was given amazing freedom, and unlike so many thoughtless parents, the first command God ever gave his child was like the manager of an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant emphatically reassuring his guests that they can eat everything!

Well, almost everything. In the context of such generosity, one single tree was forbidden. He was left in no doubt about what he could NOT eat! Genesis 2:17 reads:

but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

For the anarchists among us that would think it would be paradise if only there were no rules, it’s worth pointing out that even in Paradise, there was one rule. Actually, there’s nothing wrong with law, and although anarchy has as much to do with idealism as it does with rebellion, it’s worth noting that even in paradise, God made the rules. Why should anybody have a problem with a generous God placing a restriction on what his own creation can do?

So is God like Judge Dredd?

The facts are God is a God who makes the law, and he also specifies the penalty: “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die,” (Genesis 2:17). Since God also carries out the sentence, that does make him the judge, jury and executioner in Eden, but remember, this is Eden, not Mega City One. Remember also that God is at the same time the generous Father who starts by providing and permitting before he prohibits anything!

God is at the same time the generous Father who starts by providing and permitting before he prohibits anything!

Every good parent is judicial. You have to make rules. You have to be the law. A lot of the problems with parenting—in my opinion—come from thinking that’s idealistic and naive when it comes to the need for law. Even in Eden, God set boundaries and specified punishment, but just because you make a law, and prescribe a punishment, it doesn’t mean you can’t at the same time be loving and generous and kind! If you are all of those things, you can have an amazing relationship with your children at the same time as being judicial.

It’s hard to imagine what it was like to be close to the Judge, but that’s the fellowship Adam knew before the fall. Imagine hearing those words from God, “on the day that you eat of it you shall surely die,” and then walking with God and talking with God in the garden. Adam wasn’t thinking about God as a distant scary Judge, he was living in perfect fellowship with the Judge!

To understand this—imagine being married to a lawmaker and judge, or having an earthly judge as your earthly father. I think most people would want their spouse or their parent to be perfectly fair. Imagine being married to someone who never breaks a promise, or being raised by a father who never fails to be right, and true, and just. The laws your husband or your father makes don’t make your relationship with him any less—until you break the law. The fact that your father is a judge doesn’t change anything until the policeman brings you home locked in the back of his police car! Then you have a problem. Then there’s separation!

How does this help? Well, this is the life we lost! We’re like the judge’s rebellious child in prison! We’re like the earthly wife of an earthly judge who’s separated from her husband because she threw it all away and broke the law! Instead of the intimate love and fellowship with the judge, she’s locked in jail, sentenced by her own husband!

What a life we lost! We’re separated from a sovereign God, we’re cut off from our closeness to a generous God, and we’ve lost our intimacy with a judicious God.

The way back to Eden

It wasn’t just Adam and Eve who were cut off from God when they sinned and broke the law in Eden. None of their children were born with unhindered access to God, and they were all shut outside of Eden, away from the tree of life. What God promised came true, they died, spiritually, immediately separated from God when they sinned, and they died physically, eventually, when their bodies gradually failed without the efficacy of the fruit of the tree of life. No one was ever allowed back into Eden, and since that time, the only way back into God’s presence has been through sacrifice.

If our problem is spiritual death, we need more than a spiritual lift, we need spiritual life.

The message of the whole Bible is that until we are rescued by God, we are all spiritually dead. Paul reminded the Ephesian Christians that before their conversion, they were dead in the trespasses and sins in which they once walked (Ephesians 2:1), and he went on to say that it was God who had made them alive in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-5). If our problem is spiritual death, we need more than a spiritual lift, we need spiritual life. Our problem is that none of us are born spiritually alive.

Our problems—according to the Bible—are so severe, that what we need is not more religion, not some kind of self-improvement, but a re-birth, and with it spiritual re-connection to God!

When Jesus wanted to explain how people can enter the Kingdom of God, he said we must be born of the Spirit—to be born again, which means literally, born from above, i.e. spiritually born (see John 3:1-8). Our problems—according to the Bible—are so severe, that what we need is not more religion, not some kind of self-improvement, but a re-birth, and with it spiritual re-connection to God! The problem we face, is for that to happen, we need to get out of jail!

If I can develop the illustration I used earlier, the picture is actually worse than the one I painted. It’s not simply that we have broken the law and are in prison having been sentenced by our father who’s a judge. A more accurate illustration would be the idea that we’re in prison after being convicted by our father’s law, and sentenced by him for our crimes. The problem is that we are on death-row, awaiting the the final consequence of our crime.

Get-out-of-jail-free cards only work with crooked judges or when you’re playing Monopoly!

The picture the Bible paints is that the life we now live is described as being spiritually dead. The physical death we all one-day experience, when our soul is separated from our body is what the Bible considers the first death, and this too is a consequence of our sin. The ultimate sentence for sin however is what the Bible calls the second death, the ultimate separation from God being thrown into hell—the lake of fire. Our problem is not just that we’ve lost our connection with God, but the problem we have is that we’ve been sentenced by him as our judge, and as a just judge, He cannot simply overlook our crime. Get-out-of-jail-free cards only work with crooked judges or when you’re playing Monopoly!

the Judge has punished his own Son, as a substitute for rebels like you and me

To pick up my illustration once more however, the good news of the Bible is that the Judge has punished his own Son, as a substitute for rebels like you and me. My hope is simply that when Jesus died upon the cross, he was experiencing hell for me—that He died in my place! His death was the sacrifice that allows me access into the presence of a holy God. That death allows me to draw near to God now (see Hebrews 10:19-22), and gives me the certain hope that the moment I die, I’ll be just like the dying thief (Luke 23:43), with Jesus in paradise.

Jesus preached the good news about sins forgiven and a relationship with God restored, and he was the one who promised paradise to a dying thief! The way back to paradise has been opened by Jesus dying on the cross for sinners, but Jesus himself told people that to enter the kingdom they must be born again. He also told people to repent, and believe this good news.

If what we need is more than a lift, or another religious fix-up, but to be re-born spiritually… we shouldn’t shy away from calling people, as Jesus did, to simply repent and believe the good news.

Check out the sermon below preached on this theme at GraceLife London:

The Death of Democracy?

What attitudes should Christians hold onto when the political world is falling apart?

Politics is not my favourite subject. Actually I typically avoid it like the plague, but today I will make an exception.

What’s going on? Is democracy in meltdown?

I think we’re all wondering what the future might hold. This last week it feels like the control rods are being removed from the nuclear reactor that is the British political system, and we’re heading for a meltdown! At times like these, it’s good to be reminded of the kind of attitudes we should have towards the political systems in which we live.

Paul warned Timothy that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ, will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). What should Christians expect from unbelievers in such a world? The answer comes in the next verse: “while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived,” (2 Timothy 3:13). Christians ought not be surprised when we watch our politicians behave in ways we can only categorise as evil. It’s bad in the world, but it’s going to get worse!

If you’re wondering just how bad it can get, the answer from the Bible is, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

In the face of political meltdown what should our attitudes be towards democracy and politics in general?

Here are two thoughts to prepare our minds for whatever lies ahead:

1. Democracy is Doomed!

Remember, it was Satan who offered Jesus the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worship, claiming that the authority and glory had been delivered to him—and that he could give it to whomever he willed (Luke 4:5-6). It is also Satan who is called the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31). What’s more, if you’ve read the book of Revelation you’ll know we are anticipating a future in which the “dragon” gives his “power and his throne and great authority” to the “beast” (Revelation 13:2). Just in case you’d missed it, that means that the dragon had power, and a throne, and great authority to give! If you’re wondering just how bad it can get, the answer from the Bible is, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

Satan isn’t planning to play by the rules. If you’ve read Daniel and studied a little history, you’ll know that ultimately there’s coming a time when a ruler will arise who resembles the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes. It was Antiochus Epiphanes who initially fulfilled Daniel’s prophesy, and it’s worth noting that he gained power by deception and cunning, suddenly destroying many (Daniel 8:25). The implication is that—most likely—deception and cunning are the paths to power for the ultimate Antichrist, who is also described as “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Given that description, Christians will not be surprised if the Antichrist doesn’t play by the rules! Paul however, takes pains to warn his readers, that the spiritual power that will be behind the Antichrist—”the mystery of lawlessness”— is “already at work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Are you surprised when ungodly politicians don’t play by the rules?

Democracy is no real protection against demonic power!

John likewise warns us that many antichrists have already come, and that the spirit of antichrist is already in the world (1 John 2:18; 4:3). Do you really think that democracy as an institution is adequate protection against such demonic powers? We may have elected the people who represent us in parliament, but so long as they are still dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1) they are in fact “following the course of this world” and “following the prince of the power of the air,” who’s also described as “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience,” (Ephesians 1:2).

Why do Christians place so much faith in politicians? The best of them, if they are not born-again, are still sons of disobedience, and “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air.”

In theory, democracy would be great, if only we had godly leaders to choose from! The problem is, that any potential leader who takes a clear stance on moral issues seems to be ruled out of the running by a groundswell of public opinion that has chosen moral freedom over moral integrity. The sad truth, is that the moment a truly Christian candidate let his views be known, there would be such a frenzied reaction in the media that his hope of being elected would be somewhere between nought and zero. The reality is, that we exist in a democracy dominated by men and women who are “following the prince of the power of the air.” So if you don’t want to be constantly disappointed, get to grips with the reality that democracy is doomed!

So… Down with Democracy? No! Long live democracy!

2. Long live democracy!

We exist under the rule of law, and democracy is enshrined in the law. Romans 13:1 says “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” In our case the authorities that exist have even subjected themselves to the rule of law, which means that if our prime minister breaks the law he too can go to jail. For us as Christians it ought to be unthinkable to break the law, unless it was a straightforward issue in which the law required us to sin.

We are even commanded to pay taxes (Romans 13:6-7) to ungodly governments who will use them to carry out their ungodly policies. Christians have sometimes got themselves tangled-up with a line of reasoning that says, “I’m not paying taxes to support a government that is using my money to abort babies,” or some other grossly immoral activity. However, when Paul wrote to the Romans, Nero was the emperor, and the taxes went to the Roman authorities to be used in all sorts of immoral ways. Peter wrote in the same way, urging Christians to “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,” (1 Peter 2:13) by which he meant every layer of human authority people have created, from the top right down to the bottom, including the tax man.

Don’t get caught up with any attempt to resist or rebel against proper legal process.

Christian, note this well: We may see problems with democracy, but we do not have the right to bypass the political process enshrined in law, no matter how noble our ambitions. Don’t get caught up with any attempt to resist or rebel against proper legal process, since that is our authority, “instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). Paul’s immediate application from this thought, in Romans 13:2 ought to be fresh in our minds: “Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement.” In verse 4 and 5 Paul explains that when people rebel against authority, and incur judgement, the person in authority using a sword to carry out the judgement, is “the servant of God, and avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer,” (Romans 13:4). “Therefore one must be in subjection,” says Paul, “not only to avoid God’s wrath, but also for the sake of conscience.”

Democracy is broken… but it’s the best we’ve got… there’s no way out of a corrupt world with corrupt politicians pursuing policies influenced by corrupt ideology

So even if Democracy has major problems, we don’t have the right to bypass democratic process. In case you hadn’t got what I was saying above, I do believe democracy is broken. Politics is broken. Even the legal system is broken, because we are fallen. We don’t get anywhere chasing Utopia, which is often what people advocating rebellion have in mind. In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s no way out of a corrupt world with corrupt politicians pursuing policies influenced by corrupt ideology.

Democracy may have major problems, but so long as there’s the rule of law, it’s also about the best political system invented by men to restrain the evil of ambitious men. As Winston Churchill famously noted:

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…

Barak Obama, citing Winston Churchill’s comments above, said democracy “is better than the alternatives, because it allows us to peacefully work through our differences.” For once, I agree with Barak Obama. I agree that democracy is better than the alternatives because it allows politicians to peacefully work through their differences. They fight each-other tooth and nail, but it’s a political fight. The battle to beat your opponents at the ballot box is better than a battle to put your opponents in a box. Political war is preferable to the other kind of war!

Maybe you look at the way our own democracy is going, and wonder—like me—if the days when people peacefully work through their differences are coming to an end! Think of the many young men who would die if the power struggles that take place were not restrained by democracy and the rule of law, and you’ll have many reasons to be thankful for democracy!

So don’t give up on it! Actually, as Christians we don’t even have the right to give up on democracy. It’s the law. It is therefore part of our governing authority—the rule of law—and we are commanded by God to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1).

We ought even to do what we can to participate in democracy. God told the people of Israel through Jeremiah to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf,” encouraging them by adding, “for in its welfare you will find your welfare,” (Jeremiah 29:7). I think that implies we ought to play our part as citizens, voting and participating as we are able in the political process to seek the best for our city/country. I’m personally so thankful for democracy—compared to the alternatives. For those of us not actively involved in politics, the best thing we can do as Christians, beyond prayer—I believe—is to use our vote strategically to secure the lesser of two evils when that is the choice before us.

A side-note on the lesser of two evils argument:

Yes, I know many Christians refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils, and instead insist on voting in line with their conscience. They too are faithfully playing their part as citizens, even if I think they are mistaken in the choice of the most effective use of their vote. I believe, democracy is a gift of God in terms of common-grace, invented by men—as so many good legal structures in history—as mechanism for restraining the evil of our rulers. With that as its purpose, I’d argue that voting in an idealistic way when there is little or no chance of that vote being effective, makes the “conscience” vote something of an idealistic protest/wish for a better world.

Voting for the lesser of two evils can feel wrong in the same way that paying our taxes to people who use it to fund abortion or an immoral war feels wrong. It’s the sense that we are somehow lending our support to something that is evil—and we are obviously right to feel badly about what they do!

If democracy had been the political system in the days of the Judges, would you have voted for Samson, or Barak, or Jephthah? Godless days produce ungodly leaders who do what is right in their own eyes, but as Keith Essex has said, “If I’d had a vote, I would have voted for Samson over the alternatives.” The reality is that God chose his Judges to deliver his people and bring about his purposes in the midst of a terrible mess. In those terrible times, you could say that Samson was the best that God had available. And other than Christ, God has always used flawed leaders.

No matter what you decide about voting for the lesser of two evils, don’t join in any effort to overthrow democracy! No Christian should join in a rebellion against lawfully established authority, even when they are doing things we deeply disagree with.

My son, fear the LORD and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise,

Proverbs 24:21

It’s no excuse to say that those in authority over us are evil. Godly Haman reported on the plot to overthrow the evil king Ahasuerus. Godly Daniel faithfully served one ungodly king after another, and godly Christians didn’t plot to overthrow the Roman empire, but practiced godly submission. Authority has always been understood by God’s people to be at God’s disposal, and never something to be usurped. Laws, therefore, that govern us in a democracy, must never be circumvented in the name of Christ.

But all it takes for evil to prosper, is for good men to do nothing!

The most powerful objection to this attitude of submission and humble, prayerful engagement in seeking the welfare of the society in which we live, is the concern that all it takes for evil to prosper, is for good people to keep silent. Hopefully you’ve gathered from what I’ve said above, that I’m not advocating silence. We are to be submissive, but active citizens, and above all intercessors! Paul urged Timothy to ensure that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way,” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Prayer is not inactivity, and intercession is not silence. To pray is to recognise that God is above the highest authority, and holds the power in his hands to remove them or redirect them wherever he wants (Proverbs 21:1).


Well there are two attitudes towards politics that Christians ought to be holding onto, when the political world we live in moves towards meltdown. The first, is to remember the reality that democracy is doomed, and not to put too much store in it. Certainly we mustn’t be surprised or get panicked if politicians tear the house down! That’s about what we’d expect. The second point however, is to remember that we must pray! Pray, pray, and pray for those in authority over us! Participate as we’re able in the political process, and don’t get caught up in any effort to overthrow or circumvent democracy! Christians—of all people—are duty bound to be exemplary citizens, seeking the welfare of our city!

Next time: Democracy dethroned? A look at the day that’s coming when democracy will be replaced at the coming of the one who’s called the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Click on the image or link below to watch a video of the sermon “The Death of Democracy?” preached at GraceLife London on Sunday 8th September 2019.

Should Christians keep the Sabbath? (#1)

“You’ll have a hard job persuading me that one of the ten commandments no longer applies!” It was a cordial argument between two preachers, but that was my response about 15 years ago when my friend told me he no longer believed Sunday was the Sabbath.

Let me put my cards on the table: I now don’t believe Christians should keep the Sabbath. Either on Saturday, or Sunday… and this is part one in a short series to explain why. I do, however, believe that Sunday is the Lord’s Day, and that it has real significance for Christians. That, however will have to wait till later in the series. For now, let’s look at a few reasons why Christians do not have to keep the Sabbath:

The Sabbath was NOT a Creation Command

This is the argument I used to make: “God instituted the idea of a sabbath rest at creation. It was a creation ordinance. That means it has timeless significance, right?” Well, actually, no:

  1. To be a creation command, it would actually have to be a command. But it’s not. Search and see, but you won’t find one word of command in Genesis 2:1-3. It’s just a description of what God said and did.
  2. There is no mention of the word Sabbath until after the Exodus.
  3. There is no evidence of anyone keeping the seventh day as holy or anything like it, until after it was introduced in Exodus 16.
  4. The sabbath restrictions were all meaningless to Adam & Eve, who received the creation ordinances. Think about it: no toilsome work to rest from, no need to bear burdens, as food was abundant and accessible. No fires to light, no cooking to be done, and no need to stop one day out of seven and delight in God, since that was something you did every day!
  5. Nehemiah 9:14 places the moment that God “made known” His holy Sabbath to Israel in the same time period as their sojourn at Sinai. The implication is that they didn’t know about it before that period, which means it was not a creation ordinance.
  6. The language used in Exodus 16, where Moses first talks about the seventh day being “a sabbath” seems to be introducing something new to them. He uses the indefinite form that we translate with the word “a” several times (Exodus 16:23, 25, 26) before announcing to the people that the LORD had given them “the Sabbath” (Exodus 16:29). If they already knew about the Sabbath command, it seems strange to start by talking about the seventh day as being “a” sabbath. All this seems to confirm the reality that it was not until after the Exodus that God introduced the Sabbath to the people of Israel, and thus it was not a creation ordinance.

Helpful? Well there’s a take-home point from all this:

  • Not every law is eternal. We cannot take laws that God introduced later, and read them back into an earlier period.

For example, even with laws like the prohibition of murder, which were written into human conscience long before they were ever written on stone by the finger of God, there is a development of that law over time. God declared to Noah and his family that if someone takes another man’s life, his own life must be taken. However, much earlier when Cain murdered Abel, God prevented anyone from taking Cain’s life. Much later, when God expounded His law to Israel, the prohibition was expanded to include inflicting injury that did not result in death, and relevant penalties were prescribed. This is just one example of how God’s law was developed over time, and it would be wrong to read those laws back into the early chapters of Genesis and claim that God, or Adam and Eve should have executed Cain.

Perhaps a more striking example is with respect to marriage. In Leviticus 18:9 sibling marriage is prohibited. Clearly this was a new law that was prohibiting an act that was not previously sinful, in and of itself. Certainly not for Cain! God introduced further law at the time he chose, and we cannot read that law back into the early chapters of Genesis.

With all that said, it’s not so hard to accept that God didn’t establish the Sabbath as a law in Genesis 2. Until He made the laws in Exodus, there was no law prohibiting any activity on the seventh day, or prescribing a day of rest. The only hint people had was that God blessed the day and made the day “holy”—but we have no record of how much that was communicated to them, or how much of it was passed on. It’s obvious that we can only speculate about how the people of God in the thousands of years covered by Genesis responded to what they knew about God’s blessing on that day. They may have chosen to keep the seventh day special, but they may not have done so. The point I am making here is that whether they rested or not, it would not have been transgression for them to work on the seventh day. That is clear from Romans 4:15 “where there is no law there is no transgression,” and Romans 5:13 “sin is not counted where there is no law.”

Where the idea of a “sabbath” came from is lost in the mists of time and debated by scholars unable to prove their case. Unless we want to add our own speculation to Scripture, we should be careful not say that the Sabbath was a creation ordinance! It might be possible to talk about example. It could even be possible to talk about principle, but the Sabbath was not a creation command.

The Sabbath was a Covenant Command

Why did God give the Sabbath commandment to Israel? Well, for a start, it was to make sure they rested one day in seven to allow them to be refreshed and worship Him: Obviously, God’s plan for a seven-day week was his original design in Genesis 1-2, and it works. All other attempts to change this design have failed, just ask a historian. If people before the giving of the Ten Commandments had known Genesis 2 and taken a principle of rest from God’s example in creation, that would have been good for them. By giving the law to Israel in Exodus, God ensured his chosen people would get the rest they needed and an opportunity to focus on Him and take time for worship. Exodus 23:12 makes it clear that God was concerned that his people rested and were “refreshed” —and that included their servants, and even their animals and the “alien” or sojourner who were also not allowed to work. God legislated to ensure his original design for rest and worship was not an optional extra for his chosen people.

If you were to stop there however, with the principle of rest for worship, you would miss the explicit purpose that God gave when He made the Sabbath part of the Ten Commandments. The Sabbath command, was a covenant command: it was part of the covenant, but it was also the sign of the covenant.

The Sabbath as the sign of the Mosaic Covenant

The command not to work on the seventh day was a very visible outward indicator of whether an Israelite wanted to participate in God’s covenant with His people. It was something that would serve to remind them of the covenant they had made with God, and to remind them of the rest from which they had been excluded, because of sin. It also served as an obvious indicator of their participation in God’s covenant with his people Israel.

Let’s break this down:

What is a sign in respect to a covenant? When God made a covenant with humanity after the flood, He set the sign of his covenant in the clouds, so that we could know that when He saw the bow (Genesis 9:8-17), He would in effect be reminded of the covenant He had made never to destroy the whole world again in a flood. When we see the rainbow, we can know that God won’t forget to keep His promise! The sign works in both directions but it’s interesting that God specifically talks about its affect on Him, so that when we see it, we are reminded that He is also reminded!

When God made a covenant with Abraham, the sign of the covenant was circumcision (Genesis 17:11). God would give Abraham offspring, a land and blessing (Genesis 12:1-3, 7), and He only gave Abraham one command: “Every male throughout all your generations… shall surely be circumcised,” (Genesis 17:12-13). In this way, the sign of the covenant was a very physical reminder to them that God had made a covenant with them. It was also a very obvious sign to God that Abraham’s descendants were party to his covenant. It’s no wonder then that if anyone refused circumcision, that person was to be cut off from the people of God (Genesis 17:14). By refusing to be circumcised, they were in effect rejecting God’s covenant in its entirety, and so circumcision was the sign of their participation in the covenant God had made. Circumcision served as a very real reminder of the covenant God had made, and their inclusion in it.

The same can be said for the Sabbath with the Mosaic covenant given at Sinai. Exodus 31:12-18 is pivotal. Notice three things:

First, Sabbath keeping would be a very real reminder of the covenant God had made with Israel. In Exodus 31:13 God says that it is their keeping of the Sabbaths that is a sign between Him and them, and it was to remind them that He sanctifies them. Thus, as they kept the Sabbath, they would see the sign, and they would be reminded that God chose them and made a covenant with them, setting them apart for Himself from all the nations around them. God also would see the sign, and in the same sense as with the rainbow and the Noahic covenant, God would see it and “remember” the covenant.

Next, just as with circumcision, if anyone broke the Sabbath, they were to be cut off from the people of God (Exodus 31:14).

Lastly, the Sabbath itself would be a sign to them: “It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel…” (Exodus 31:17). The Sabbath was a law. It stood in the middle of the Ten Commandments that form the heart of the Mosaic covenant. The reality of that law — its very existence would perpetually be a sign to both God and to the Israelites of the covenant that He’d made with them. If they didn’t keep it wholly holy, their failure to keep the Sabbath would remind them of God’s covenant with them which included blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience.

Technical moment: It’s highly unfortunate that the ESV chooses to translate the Hebrew word kî as “that” rather than “for” (as per almost all other translations). This gives the impression, especially in the absence of a comma, that the sabbath is simply a reminder that God created in six days and rested on the seventh. It is true that rarely kî can be used “to introduce a clause which explains and fulfils the idea of the principal sentence” (HALOT), but this totally fails to explain the language of the sign being “forever” and “between me and you” just as with the Noahic covenant (see Genesis 9:8-17). It also fails to recognise that this is a direct repetition of the language of Exodus 20:11 “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth.” It seems both bizarre and to me, incomprehensible that the ESV chose to translate kî in Exodus 31:17 as “that,” when every Hebrew speaker would be hearing a repetition of the exact language of the Ten Commandments at this point, and not interpreting the kî as introducing a clause to explain what the sign was.
For Hebrew readers who want to compare the two:
כִּי־שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִ֗ים עָשָׂ֤ה יְהוָה֙ אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם וְאֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ Exodus 31:17
כִּ֣י שֵֽׁשֶׁת־יָמִים֩ עָשָׂ֨ה יְהוָ֜ה אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם וְאֶת־הָאָ֗רֶץ Exodus 20:11

My point, overall, is simple: the Sabbath command was given as part of the Mosaic Covenant, but it was also given as the sign of the covenant. Since the Mosaic Covenant, was an agreement made by God with the people of Israel, and the Sabbath command was inextricably bound up with that covenant, the Sabbath command was a covenant command, and thus its purpose and significance stand, or fall, with the Mosaic Covenant.

Helpful? Well, here’s another take home point to ponder:

  • Not every law is universal. The Mosaic Covenant was made specifically with the people of Israel to set them apart from the other nations.

I’m not inventing that. God said so. Let’s think about that:

First, when He was about to give Israel the covenant He spoke to the elders of the people in advance: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” (Exodus 19:5-6).

Next, when God gave the Ten Commandments, He prefaced them with the words, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out fo the Land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,” (Exodus 20:2)—effectively addressing the Ten Commandments specifically to the people of Israel.

Then, when the people had all heard the Ten Commandments from the mountain, from the voice of God himself (Deuteronomy 4:12-13), and the covenant had been formally made by God with the people (Exodus 24) and sealed with blood sacrifice (Exodus 24:8), Moses went back up the mountain to receive more detailed exposition on the covenant from God, and for God to give him the Ten Commandments written in stone with his own finger. Before he came down from the mountain, God had some last words of instruction for Moses, and exhorted him to make sure the Israelites kept the sign of the covenant (Exodus 31:12-18). It seems strange to us that God would close his time with Moses by telling him to “speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths,'” etc. However, as we’ve seen, Sabbath observance was to be the sign of the covenant, lying at the heart of the Ten Commandments, so it does make sense.

However, this is a remarkable passage because in a few short verses, God makes it clear He is speaking specifically to Israel: “You are to speak to the people of Israel” (31:13); “this is a sign between me and you” (31:13); “it is holy for you” (31:14); “therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath observing the Sabbath throughout their generations as a covenant forever,” (31:16); “It is a sign between me and the people of Israel” (31:17).

Much later, God inspired a Psalmist to teach the people of Israel to sing that, “(God) declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his rules,” (Psalm 147:19-20). You could say that God effectively said the same thing to his people in Deuteronomy 4:5-8, and Deuteronomy 4:32-40.

My point? God made the Mosaic Covenant specifically and exclusively with the people of Israel. His law was not universal. The Mosaic Covenant was not made with every nation. The Sabbath therefore, as the sign of the Mosaic Covenant, was not a law for every nation. Instead, it had a purpose within the covenant, as the sign of the covenant God made with Israel, and Israel alone. The Sabbath, was not a creation command, but it was a covenant command, and as such, it is not for Christians to keep, since we are not under the Mosaic Covenant.

Now, someone will object that Christ did not come to abolish the law. Surely, they’ll say, the Ten Commandments make up the moral law, and that continues unchanged in the New Testament era, right? Surely, it’s only the civil and ceremonial aspects of the law which have been set aside for as Christians, right?

In part 2, we’ll look at the question of whether or not it’s possible to divide up the Mosaic Covenant, and the relationship all this has to the New Covenant and to Christians.

Proverbs 41 – The Model Man

What does a Proverbs 41 guy look like?
Just what does a Proverbs 41 guy look like?

You’ve heard of the Proverbs 31 Woman… well, what about the blokes?

You may not have thought about it, but pretty much the whole of Proverbs is addressed to Solomon’s son, teaching him how to become the man who fears the Lord.

That said, it’s possible to sift through the book of Proverbs, and pick out those which particularly deal with the qualities of a good man, so with due care to mention that my tongue is at least partly in my cheek, and I am NOT adding to Holy Writ, here is proverbs 41:

41 Qualities of a Good Man in the Book of Proverbs

An excellent husband who can find?

He is more precious than jewels.

The heart of his wife trusts in him,

and she will have no lack of gain.

He does her good, and not harm,

all the days of his life:


  1. Speaks straight – Prov. 2:12 (not perverse speech, 6:12 not crooked speech)
  2. Takes pleasure in wisdom, not doing wrong – Prov. 10:23
  3. Doesn’t talk people down, or join in when others do – Prov 11:12
  4. Is kind – Prov. 11:17
  5. Is good and favoured by God – Prov. 12:2
  6. Has good sense, and not a twisted mind – Prov. 12:8
  7. Is not weighed down by Anxiety, seeks “a good word” – Prov. 12:25
  8. Is not a backslider – Prov. 14:14
  9. Doesn’t have a quick temper or evil devices – Prov. 14:17
  10. Doesn’t have a hot temper – is slow to anger – Prov. 15:18
  11. Takes no joy in folly – but is a man on a mission – Prov. 15:21
  12. Plots no evil & measures his speech – Prov. 16:27
  13. Is honest, and doesn’t gossip – Prov. 16:28
  14. Is not violent – Prov. 16:29
  15. Has a cool spirit – Prov. 17:27
  16. Has a humble heart – Prov. 18:12
  17. Is a good friend – not just one of the guys – Prov. 18:24
  18. Has steadfast love & truthfulness – Prov. 19:22
  19. Keeps aloof from strife / quarreling – Prov. 20:3
  20. Is faithful – Prov. 20:6
  21. Is not in love with pleasure – Prov. 21:17
  22. Considers his own ways, doesn’t fake boldness – Prov. 21:29
  23. Doesn’t live off credit – Prov. 22:7
  24. Isn’t given to anger or wrathful – Prov. 22:24, 29:22
  25. Sees value in developing skill – Prov. 22:29
  26. Is wise / knowledgeable – Prov. 24:5
  27. Is not a sluggard – but demonstrates diligence & industry Prov. 24:30-34
  28. Doesn’t over promise & under-deliver – Prov. 25:14
  29. Has self-control – Prov. 25:28
  30. Isn’t wise in his own eyes – Prov. 26:12
  31. Doesn’t cover his deceit by saying “I was joking” – Prov. 26:18-19
  32. Is not quarrelsome – Prov. 26:21
  33. Is faithful – Prov. 27:8
  34. Survives the test of praise – Prov. 27:21
  35. Understands justice – Prov. 28:5
  36. Isn’t hasty to get rich – but faithful (in his work) – Prov. 28:20
  37. Isn’t stingy – Prov. 28:22
  38. Doesn’t rob his parents and say “that is no transgression” – Prov. 28:24
  39. Is not hasty in his words – Prov. 29:20
  40. Finds unjust men abominable – Prov. 29:27
  41. Doesn’t think he’s arrived – Prov. 30:2-3