Do not judge and you will not be judged.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and it will be given to you.
Luke 6: 37-38

22 April 2017

Who was William Wilberforce?

William Wilberforce was born in Hull, England into a well-to-do family on August 24, 1759. He grew up with at least a veneer of Christianity. But Wilberforce was not a Christian. Early in life, while staying with his godly Uncle William and Aunt Hannah, he grew attracted to Methodism and its evangelical piety. But by the time he entered college, that attraction had faded and Wilberforce was, as he said later, “as thoughtless as the rest of them.” He was proud, pompous, sarcastic, and cynical like most young men from the upper class.

By 1785, Wilberforce, now having been in Parliament for several years, had a spiritual crisis. He felt immensely convicted of sin and ingratitude and mourned for his misspent life. He had wasted his privileges, his time, his talent, and his opportunities. He prayed to “that Saviour who died upon the Cross” to atone for his sins and to warm his dull heart. Wilberforce had been converted.

Almost the first person he confided in as a born again Christian was the slave trader captain turned Christian turned hymn writer, John Newton. Wilberforce had heard Newton preach years ago when he lived with his aunt and uncle. From 1785 on, Newton would be his spiritual mentor. On Good Friday, April 14, 1786, Wilberforce received communion for the first time. He was a changed man.

In 1787, Wilberforce, now an evangelical Christian, made his first public declaration of his willingness to take up the cause of abolishing the slave trade. Over the next decade, Wilberforce made countless speeches, served on committees, and introduced legislation tirelessly. For years his minor successes were met with greater setbacks. The cause of abolition was not going to succeed. In 1796, he wrote a letter to Newton explaining that he wanted to retire from public life. Newton, always the wise mentor, told Wilberforce to stay in Parliament.

So Wilberforce continued to labor in Parliament. Every year, from 1797-1803, he suffered setbacks. From 1797-99 his annual motion for abolition was defeated. Then his motions were postponed by the conflict with France. But all the while, even as Wilberforce suffered defeat after defeat, the tide was turning in Britain. By his relentless pursuit of Christian principles and his living out of Christian virtue, Wilberforce had made, as it was said later, goodness fashionable. Which was making the slave trade, and later slavery itself, unfashionable.

In 1807, Wilberforce once again made a motion to abolish the slave trade. Nearly everyone who spoke was in support of the motion and personally applauded Wilberforce. At four in the morning on February 24, the Commons voted to abolish the slave trade 283 to 16. They all stood and gave three hurrahs to Wilberforce while he sat in his seat with his head bowed and wept. It took twenty years and Wilberforce’s leading and Newton’s mentoring to abolish the slave trade in the British empire, and it would take more years to work for the emancipation of the slaves. John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States remarked “Wilberforce is one of the party called in derision the Saints…who under sanctified visors pursue worldly objects with the ardor and perseverance of saints.”

In Revelation 13 John warns of a terrible beast who is allowed to make war on God’s people. Saints will be taken captive and destroyed. That’s the reality John outlines in verse 10. But the response to such antagonism is not to retreat but to entrench. “Here is a call for the endurance and the faith of the saints.” Some of us may be called to accomplish great things in the cause of Christ like Wilberforce. Others will be called to endure great trials and suffering and even persecution on account of Christ. All of us, in a world often unfriendly and unsympathetic to genuine Christian faith, are called to perseverance and faithfulness. There is no hope, no holiness, and no influence without it.

The Kingdom of God

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We Must Be Born Again

The Gospel of John tells of the kingdom of God in terms of a spiritual birth. Just as we were born and grow in the flesh, we must be "born" and grow in the Spirit. Speaking to the Pharisee Nicodemus, Jesus said we must be born again spiritually to enter the kingdom:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' (NAS, John 3:3-7)

Saul's Conversion

Saul was a well-educated young man, a Jew and a Roman citizen. His Jewish heritage meant everything to Saul, and he saw the rise of Christianity as a threat to all that he held dear. He was present at the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and he became a fierce persecutor of the early Christians. He was determined to destroy the young church, and went from house to house arresting Christians and sending them to prison. (Lockyer, pp. 805-6)

Sometime around the year 34 A.D., while on the road to Damascus, Saul was blinded by a bright light:
He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. (NIV, Acts 9:4-7)

Saul was born again that day and became known as the Apostle Paul. He became the first and most influential interpreter of Jesus' message and teachings, a passionate missionary, founder of many Christian communities, and author of several New Testament letters.

18 April 2017

Put on the full armor of God

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord(A) and in his mighty power.(B) 11 Put on the full armor of God,(C) so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,(D) but against the rulers, against the authorities,(E) against the powers(F) of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.(G) 
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God,(H) so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,(I) with the breastplate of righteousness in place,(J) 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.(K) 
16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith,(L) with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.(M)
 17 Take the helmet of salvation(N) and the sword of the Spirit,(O)which is the word of God.(P)
18 And pray in the Spirit(Q) on all occasions(R) with all kinds of prayers and requests.(S) 
With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying(T) for all the Lord’s people.

15 April 2017

We must persevere!

John Mark’s desertion

John Mark’s family was an important group of people in the early church. When Peter was miraculously released from prison, he knows that the believers will be gathered at the home of John Mark’s family. (Acts 12:11–13) Due to his family’s significance in the movement and relationship to Barnabas, Paul and Barnabas pick John Mark up on the way back from a mission trip to Jerusalem to take him with them to Antioch. (Acts 12:25)

From there, Paul and Barnabas are sent to Cyrus, bringing John Mark along with them as an assistant. (Acts 13:1–5) But somewhere along the way, John Mark decides that he’s had enough. After sailing to Perga, Acts tells us matter-of-factly that John left them there and returned to Jerusalem. (v. 13). Essentially, he quit when the going got rough.

We don’t know why John abandoned them, but we know that it wasn’t honourable. When Barnabas later suggests to Paul that they go get John Mark, Paul refuses. Such a strong disagreement arises between the two that Barnabas and Paul separate. These two men who had been on multiple mission trips together are so divided over young John Mark that they will no longer work together. (Acts 15:36–41)

Many years later, when Paul is sitting in prison awaiting trial, he writes a letter to the church at Colossae. 
He not only tells them that John Mark is with him and has been a great comfort, but he also tells them that they’re to welcome John Mark if he shows up. This kid that had sorely disappointed Paul had now become a man who brought him comfort. At one time John Mark was a personality that caused division in the body, but now Paul is proudly calling him a “fellow worker.” (Col. 4:10–11)

Principle: We all develop gradually. Failure isn’t always a sign that we can’t cut it. Sometimes we’re trying to operate at a level that we’re not mature enough to handle. We can always outgrow those kinds of failings, provided we don’t give up.

4 April 2017

You shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit!

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The Holy Spirit baptizes all believers into the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:4-6), indwelling them at the point of salvation (Acts 2:38). Christians who yield their lives to the Holy Spirit are empowered to boldly witness (Acts 4:31) and faithfully serve (Romans 12:6-8). The Holy Spirit works in a Christian's life by convicting them of sin (John 16:8-11), molding them into Christ likeness (2 Corinthians 3:16-18), revealing Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:9-16), teaching all things, reminding what Jesus said (John 14:26), and sealing them until the return of Jesus (Ephesians 1:13-14).

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