Sanctified and Being Sanctified

In the book of Hebrews we find an apparent contradiction within four verses:

…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Heb.10:10)

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Heb.10:14)

Sanctified and Being Sanctified

So we are sanctified and we are being sanctified. How can we be both? It’s not as hard to understand as it looks. It is done and we are growing in it. 

Being united with the perfect Christ makes us perfect in God’s sight. Now God is making us into what he has already declared us to be. For example: a man becomes a father because his child is born, but he is growing every day to be a better father. 

Each of us is dependent for our growth on other Christians. A single brick is of no use until it’s part of a building. Coming to church is not just about my needs but I must go to help and encourage others. I shouldn’t think only about what I can get out of church, but what I can give. We need to stir each other up to spirituality and good deeds. 

God has designed our sanctification as a community project. 

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Heb.3:12,13)

Discipleship Explored 2013

We need to watch out for each other and sympathise and encourage one another to better living. We can drift downstream towards the ocean of indifference, and it can be so slow we don’t notice. Others need to recognise the drift and rescue us.

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

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Palm Sunday–Which Crowd?

In John 12:12-19 you will find the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem at Pentecost. His fame had spread and there was a huge crowd to meet him.

Large Crowd

Jesus_entering_jerusalem_on_a_donkey

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (v.12)

This was a large crowd. Josephus (historian at the time) estimated 2.7 million people were in Jerusalem. Most people would have known little about Jesus, but were drawn to the noise and joined in.

Most people’s experience is similar to that crowd – they may have heard about Jesus but are not sure where he fits in. 

Smaller Crowd

Entry_into_Jerusalem2

The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. (v.17-18)

Within that huge crowd there was a smaller crowd who had seen Jesus raise Lazarus and had spread the word. Having heard, they wanted to know more, so they went to meet him.

Maybe our experience is that we have begun to see more of Jesus and maybe he has a place in our lives. The best time to find out about Jesus is Easter. Christianity Explored is an ideal course for people who want to know more about Jesus. 

Small Group

Pharisees

So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” (v19)

There was a small group of Pharisees as part of the crowd, who opposed him. The Pharisees realised they had failed to discredit Jesus. They spoke the truth when they said the whole world had gone after him – there were people in the crowd from every part of the known world. 

The Pharisees were too busy protecting their position to pay serious attention to the message Jesus brought. They wouldn’t even consider changing. Maybe, if you’re honest, you’ve never considered Jesus before, and don’t want to change, even before you find out what following Jesus even involves. 

Which crowd are you part of? 

The trouble with crowds is you can get easily influenced. Acclaim and dissent can both spread in a crowd. Think of football crowds or the audience at a big concert or festival. There can be trouble. There are many different ideas in a crowd. 

Spiritually there are only two crowds: for or against Jesus. 

A young man and his father went in the wrong gate at a football match and ended up with the other team’s supporters. Everything was all right until their side scored and they automatically cheered. Luckily the stewards spotted them and hauled them out before they were slaughtered! We need Jesus to rescue us – from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. From a crowd with lots of views and none, to knowing Jesus and being part of his ‘crowd’.

[adapted from a sermon by Pete Orphan at Pantygwydr Baptist Church]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

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Passover and Easter

Passover

The Israelites were in slavery in Egypt and cried out to God for rescue. God called Moses to speak to Pharaoh, but despite demonstrations of God’s power in miracles and plagues, Pharaoh would not let them go. So God chose a night when the angel would pass over Egypt and kill every first born son of man and beast.

lamb

The Israelites were only spared if they slaughtered a male lamb or kid without defect and spread the blood on the doorposts and lintel of their houses. When the angel saw the blood of the lamb he would pass over the house without killing the first born son.

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. (Exodus 12:1-2)

This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. (Exodus 12:14)

The next day Pharoah let the Israelites go and God led them through the Red Sea to the foot of the mountain, where he made them a nation devoted to God. It was a new beginning, a new life, and they were to remember this every year.

Tuesday of this week was Passover, where Jews all over the world still remember their deliverance and new beginning, thousands of years later.

Easter

Last Supper

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matt.26:26-28)

At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted a new covenant, a new beginning for those who followed him.

People today are in slavery to their wants and desires and to their sin. If they cry out to God for rescue, God will save them, but it requires the death of a perfect Lamb. A sacrifice who had no sin of his own, but would shed his blood for the sins of others. Blood which is only effective for those who apply it.

Crucifixion

and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Cor.5:15)

Easter is our Passover.

Tomorrow is Good Friday, when Jesus’ life on Earth ended with a cruel execution on a Roman cross. It seemed a Black Friday at the time, but on Easter Sunday all that changed. When Jesus rose from the dead he proved he had conquered sin and death and made a way for anyone who trusted him to be set free.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor.5:20-21)

[adapted from teaching by Michael Thomas]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

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Heroes of the Faith: Rahab–Your Past Needn’t Determine Your Future

Rahab’s story is found in Joshua 2:1-24, 6:20-25, but she is also mentioned in Heb.11:31 as one of the heroes of the faith, and in James 2 and Matthew 1. She is usually referred to as Rahab the prostitute, which is a strange title. If her main identifying characteristic was her sex trade, how did she end up on the Hebrews list of faith? 

Rahab_Helping_the_Two_Israelite_Spies

Rahab lived in Jericho, a fortified city at the entrance to the land that God had promised to the Isrealites. Joshua sent spies to check out the city and the people. Rahab’s house was built in the city walls. It would probably have been an inn, also offering Rahab’s other services. Because it was on the edge of the city, people would ask less questions, so it seemed a good place to stay.

Lord of the Rings Prancng Pony

In The Lord of the Rings books, Frodo and his companions set off for Rivendell and stay at the Inn of the Prancing Pony in Bree. They are supposed to be inconspicuous, but fail miserably. It is only through the intervention of Strider that they are not murdered in their beds. Joshua’s spies weren’t any better. The authorities soon knew there were spies in the city and came looking for them. 

Rahab hid the spies under the rushes on her roof, let them down the city wall from her window, and told them where to hide and for how long. The report the spies brought back to Joshua was based entirely on what Rahab had told them. 

This is a strange story: Rahab lied and betrayed her own people in a time of war. But it’s the story of God making a place for his people. Unlike the city, she recognises the God of Israel and takes the opportunity to work for him. God doesn’t let her job stand in the way of her willingness. James uses her as an example of the faith demonstrated by works (James 2:25)

Rahab and Joshua

In helping the spies Rahab wasn’t going to an easy life: she and her family had to stay outside the camp because they were pagans. But Matthew’s genealogy shows she did come into the people of God and was an ancestor of David and Jesus (Matt.1:5). 

She was sure of what she could not see (Hebrews 1:1). 

Her past didn’t determine her future. 

[adapted from a sermon by John Rogers at Pantygwydr Baptist Church. Pictures from Wikimedia]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

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Heroes of the Faith: Noah – How Did It Come To This?

Have you ever looked at the world and wondered, ‘How did it come to this?’

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Noah strikes me as the kind of man who might be troubled by such questions. Genesis 6:9-10 describes him as, ‘a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.’

Perhaps I should be asking myself, how does my life compare with the people of my time?

Our World Today

Look around you and you will find nothing has changed. Man decided in the beginning to wrest judgement from the hands of God (God said ‘live like this,’ man said, ‘I’ll be the judge of that’); man determined to build a city and a tower to make a name for himself (Do I need to mention recent political events?); Cain and his murderous act; Lamech and his polygamous lifestyle; ungodly and defiant relationships that overstep the bounds set by God; all these are reflected in today’s society.

The first six chapters of Genesis describe our world today. Genesis 3 gives an account of the Fall of man while Genesis 11 gives an account of the Fall of society. The signs were there. The problem is, people don’t see themselves in this story. Wickedness is always about other people, not me and mine.

The 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon asked, ‘Have you got enough light to see the darkness? Have you got enough life to smell the decay?’

The Heart of God

The saddest words in this story, ‘The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.’ (Gen.6:6)

We often worry about the suffering of man. We ask, ‘why would God allow this or that?’ But consider here the heart of God, breaking because of the sinfulness of man. Why would man do this to his God? We think of God as impregnable in his Deity, but God’s vulnerability is on display here. He has invested himself in us so fully that our rebellion breaks his heart.

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In the middle of the deluge there is mercy. Outside the ark judgement is poured out on a wicked world. Outside the ark all hope is gone. But in the midst of the storm God shuts up a faithful man and his family in the ark and, though tossed and afraid in that storm, yet they are safe because of God’s grace and mercy.

Grace and Mercy

When things are going well for us, our lives are secure, when we have money in the bank, food on the table, our children are healthy and strong and our futures look promising, we must beware we don’t forget, all we have we have by his grace. When things are hard for us, when the storms break out, our lives are deluged, our hopes dashed, our world threatened, where do we look for our help?

The Psalmist wrote, ‘I lift my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from you, maker of heaven, creator of the earth.’

There are people in church today who have known such storms, some who are going through such storms even now, and who look to the one who alone can keep them through the troubled waters of their world. I am reminded we rub shoulders every week with people like Noah.

How is it still like this?

And yet, while the land is cleansed, the earth renewed, the people’s nature has not been transformed. God’s verdict is, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.’ (8:21)

The flood happened because of man’s wickedness. Here is justice. Noah was saved because, even though imperfect, he was faithful. Here is mercy.

In the story of Noah God speaks to us about his heart commitment to his creation, his determination to both bring justice and show incredible mercy. But, as has so often been observed, the heart of the problem is the problem of the human heart.

  • A time would come when God would not simply show grace to a man like Noah, but would demonstrate perfect grace in a man.

  • A time when he would not simply shut up a righteous man in an ark and effect a fresh start, but would walk the earth himself as a fully righteous man and effect a new birth.

  • A time when he would serve the purpose of justice completely on a Roman Cross, wiping out our sins and giving to all who would trust him, not simply a fresh start, new hearts.

  • A time when God himself would set in motion a process that would create of true believers like Noah a new human race, raised from the death of sin to a life of righteousness.

That process goes on today, and continues while it is called today.

What will we do about that?

Today’s Ark

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It’s easy to join in the clamour of sinfulness. It’s all around us, unavoidable, irresistible, and after all it’s so personal as to be a matter of the heart. And without new hearts it defines us.

It’s hard to do what Noah did, build an ark, not because it’s carpentry, but because it’s counter-intuitive to this world with which we are so familiar, with which we are often too comfortable, with which we have made a myriad compromises.

Yet it is expected of us that we should live our lives against the flow of this world. In Noah’s time God cleansed the earth, in Jesus God cleanses us from sin, equips us to live for him, and makes a promise that has eternal consequences, ‘If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old had gone, the new has come.’

In this wicked world our ark is Christ. Will we be found in Christ when finally the door of the ark is shut forever? I pray that today, while it is called today, we will be found answering God’s urgent invitation to trust in Christ, and him alone.

[adapted from a sermon by Michael Thomas at Pantygwydr Baptist Church]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

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Heroes of the Faith: Abel – Now Faith Is …

If you were asked to define faith, what would you say? Faith is something we exercise? Something we jump into? Many people would say things like that, but they would be wrong. Faith is not something we do, it is reliance on something Jesus did for us.  

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews defined faith as ‘the assurance of things hoped for’. (Heb.11:1a).

HopeSinking

The word hope has changed greatly since Bible times. The modern use of the word is wishing for something uncertain: ‘I hope it doesn’t rain.’

The Bible meaning of hope is sure, trusting in something reliable, anticipating good things to come.

My hope is found in nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
(hymn by Edward Mote 1797-1874)

Hebrews also says faith is ‘the conviction of things not seen.’ (Heb.11:1b). Jesus came into this world so we can be sure of things beyond what we can see. There will be a time when we do see, but until then we trust him. 

The people commended in Hebrews chapter 11 didn’t know about Jesus, they lived before he came. But they trusted in the promise of God.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. (Heb.11:13)

Barry_Black Senate Chaplain

At the White House National Prayer Breakfast, Barry Black, the first African-American Senate chaplain, preached

Black’s mother, a sharecropper’s daughter who had a limited education but unlimited vision, had challenged him and his siblings with a promise of 5-cents for every verse they memorized.

“One day I memorized 1 Peter 1:18-19,” Black recalled. “I was only ten years of age. [The verses read,] ‘We are redeemed not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ,’ And even at ten I had sufficient analytical skills to know that the value of an object is based upon the price someone is willing to pay.”
Black continued, “And when it dawned on me, a little guy in the inner-city, that God sent what John 3 calls the only one of its kind, ‘His only begotten son,’ to die for me, no one was able to make me feel inferior again.”

AbelCain and Abel

The story of Cain and Abel confuses some people. They don’t understand why Cain’s offering was rejected and Abel was commended because of his offering.
In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. (Gen.4:3-5)

Read the story carefully: Cain brought only some, Abel brought the best and the first. Cain thought anything would do, Abel was more faithful. Jesus is the firstborn, Jesus is the sacrifice, Jesus is the Lamb.

… Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead … (Rev.1:5)
… without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (Heb.9:22)
John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) 

If we put our trust in anyone else we cannot be safe. 

Abel left a legacy right down to today.
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. (Heb.11:4)

Does your testimony speak of Jesus? Faith in anything else is sinking sand. We need to tell others.

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

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Lessons from Esther: Cleaning Up

Esther_Chapter_9-3_(Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media)

The last two chapters of Esther tell of the time when the king’s edicts are carried out, and the festival of Purim is inaugurated. The Jews killed thousands of their enemies, including all ten of Haman’s sons. In Susa they didn’t manage to kill everyone on the day, so Esther asked the king for permission to continue for another day!

All this killing is a problem for some people. It’s hard to reconcile with the God of love found in the New Testament. But beware – you can’t pick and choose which bits of the Bible you like and which you will ignore. It comes as a complete package and we shouldn’t shirk our duty to wrestle with these things.

There are also differing opinions about whether Esther is a true story or a parable written to teach a particular lesson. But whichever side you come down on, you still have to deal with all the killing.

Esther_Chapter_9-2_(Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media)

Why were the Jews authorised to kill so many people throughout the empire? As I covered earlier in this series, Haman was plotting to have them wiped out. You might call it self preservation. And why kill everyone who was against them? Because anyone left could start gathering opposition again, and the Jews might face the same situation in years to come.

There are times in the Old Testament there are tribes who opposed the Jews. God always gave them a chance to change, but eventually the Jews were told to wipe them out. (See the fall of Jericho, Joshua 6:1-21; and Saul and the Amalekites, 1 Samuel 15)

What do you need to wipe out of your life? Is there a temptation you can’t resist? Are there things from your old lifestyle which draw you into sin now you belong to Jesus?

One man confessed that he couldn’t have just a couple of drinks with his old friends when they went out together. He realised that when he got drunk it was a bad witness of the change in his life he spoke about since he became a Christian. He had to give up alcohol all together.

We should be getting rid of those who threaten us, not by killing them but by stopping associating with them. We should be getting rid of things which hinder our Christian walk. Things which may not be a problem for someone else, but for you they are. What do you need to kill completely?

Do you have some serious thinking to do?

[Based on a sermon by John Rogers at Pantygwydr Baptist Church. Illustrations by Sweet Media]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

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