Posts Tagged ‘Conversion’

Wing and a wave-01

© Wings – Image created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:10 – CALLING ALL ANGELS

He contends with constant pressure from the local neighbours to renounce his Christian faith. Yesterday he was threatened by a group of young Muslims who told him he will “regret it” if he does not forsake his belief in Christ.

“I might be expelled from my village. I could be beaten, but Jesus went through it all. If my Lord faced persecution, who am I not to expect the same treatment?” Muhammed is willing to die for his newfound beliefs. (Name changed)

To be a follower of Christ in North Korea, Iraq, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Libya and Yemen and many other countries in the world today is dangerous. Christians are abducted, arrested, enslaved, isolated, beaten, tortured, raped and murdered (Open doors).

Jesus is direct to all of us concerning new followers of Christ. “Beware that you don’t look down on (or despise) any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my Heavenly Father” (Matthew 18:10 NLT).  

Jesus: “Take care of my child.”

Angel: “But he is not a child, Lord. He has wrinkles around his eyes and he walks slowly. He has a body that is dying, like all humankind. And his human spirit … Oh, I see what you mean! He IS a child.”

Many people look at Matthew 18:10 and think it is talking about looking down on or despising little children. It is not. I have no doubt that children who have not reached an age of accountability also have angels watching over them, but in the context of Matthew 18, it is clear that this verse is about those who become like little children and who have believed and trusted in Christ.

Jesus: “Yes, he is My child. His spirit has awakened and he has received new birth, and we have all welcomed him into My family. I am assigning you to watch over him and care for his spiritual growth. His neighbours will not be as welcoming.”

“We understand Lord. He has responded to You with a childlike faith as a new follower. Don’t his neighbours realise that if they welcome him, they are welcoming You?”

“No, not yet. They don’t realise that demeaning him and looking down on him is like demeaning and looking down on God Himself. Their consciences have been seared and scar tissue has formed over their hearts” (1 Timothy 4:2). The angels looked horrified. It was incredulous to them that anyone would choose to do this.

Hebrews 1:14 (NLT) makes an amazing statement. “Therefore, angels are only servants—spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.”

Angel: “If someone looks down on and despises this new follower of Yours who has become humbly obedient to Your message, Lord, we will destroy them with the sword of justice!” The angels looked serious but a little unsure.

Jesus: “No. He will be despised and demeaned during his time on earth but he will have an opportunity to be my witness to his persecutors and others will respond to My message. He has My favour and love. You are to guard what is happening to his human spirit. Leave his human will intact and provide opportunities for him to grow as my follower. Use everything he goes through to make him stronger in his faith.”

Angel: “We will care for him, Lord, throughout his life, and witness what it is that You want to do through him.”

In Matthew 18:10, Jesus is saying in effect that God doesn’t look down on or despise new followers of Christ. He invites us strongly to respond to what He is saying. This has implications for those who would persecute, despise or demean those who respond to others who respond to the message of Christ.

Jesus makes it clear that to cause a new follower of Christ to stumble in their faith and lead them to sin by tempting them or despising them is to go against God Himself. Yet He leaves a way open for even the vilest of persecutors to repent and to follow Him.

The Bible indicates that if you have responded to Christ’s invitation and have been humbly obedient in trusting Him, you will be in the presence of God also one day, “… Absent from the body and present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8 KJV). You are valued by God. You will one day have free access into His presence and who knows, perhaps meet personally the angelic beings who have guarded your journey.

Pastor Ross

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Matthew 18:1-4 – A FALSE SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT

“Then His disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest.” (Luke 9:46, see also Matthew 18:1 and Mark 9:34)

Perhaps they never grew up. Perhaps as children, they demanded their way and threw tantrums if they didn’t get what they wanted when they wanted it. Now they are still in constant competition and expect “special treatment” because they think they deserve it.

They have tasted that sense of being unique and have been involved in the amazing miracles of Jesus, after all. But their narcissistic sense of entitlement begins to shorten their focus to a few centimetres as they stumble over one another with arrogant disregard. It’s all about me! I am the greatest!

Lord, You decide. They don’t realise that their question to Jesus is selfish and demanding. Somehow the world revolves around them and others must meet their needs.

They try to impose their unrealistic expectations upon Jesus with overdramatic flair, willing to bully their way into the kingdom with their manipulative and egotistical mindset. “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” they ask Him, vying for His attention and approval at the expense of each other (Matthew 18:1 NLT).

Their voices are raised, and their question is aggressive and demands self-serving endorsement. They will go to any lengths to prove which one is better than the rest. Surely Jesus will pick me and take away the threat of competition.

Each of them expects it will be them, especially Judas, James and John and none of them really expects to have to negotiate or compromise. They each have priority and will be very upset if Jesus doesn’t recognise their greatness. They crave his admiration and want to assert their dominance over the others.

Jesus helps them become less self-absorbed and more self-aware. He challenges their false beliefs in themselves and their false sense of entitlement. He gets them to take their eyes off themselves and include others in their world. He gives them a whole new paradigm by getting them to be open to new ways of thinking.

They have been excessively preoccupied with personal power and prestige and their pride is in danger of destructive mindsets and behaviour. They have a grandiose fantasy of their own success, brilliance and ability. Jesus gives them back their true identity.

Perhaps the disciples and I need to repent of a false sense of entitlement in our thinking. There are lots of nuances to repentance, but this kind of Kingdom demands that we turn around and trust in Christ (Matthew 4:17) because a spiritual kingdom involves coming under the authority of Christ. Our greatness is derived from our response to Him, and not based on our misguided sense of being deserving.

“Jesus called a little child to Him and put the child among them. Then He said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4 NLT).

Judas obviously didn’t take Christ’s teaching on board (John 12:4-6). He did not repent and become a child of God but became one whose thinking aligned more with the devil (John 6:70-71).

I am not entitled to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t deserve it. The invitation Jesus gives me is not about entitlement but about being converted from distorted ways of thinking about greatness, and also to be converted to a new way of life in Christ. The principles for entering the Christian life are the same as those for living it. Repent from your sins and become like little children.

Pastor Ross

Part 4 – Genesis 21:22-34 – WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE IF…

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

I was talking with a Jewish friend at work the other day. She said “I don’t like evangelicals!” I said that it was unfortunate because I was one, and that she was working for an evangelical organisation. She said “I don’t like people trying to convert me!” I said that as I share with people about Christ in my life and live out my genuine faith in Christ that I hoped that those around me will see in me something they will also want to have in their lives. She accepted that explanation of being an evangelical. She just didn’t want to be FORCED. I can understand that. I hope she understands that I want my influence to have eternal value.

What would it look like if I were to LIVE MY LIFE in such a way that people could see the PRESENCE OF GOD IN ME? Abraham lived his life like this. At one point a king called Abimelech comes to him and says, “God is obviously with you, helping you in everything you do.” (Genesis 21:22 NLT)

2 Corinthians 8:21 (NLT) says “We are careful to be honourable before the Lord, but we also want everyone else to SEE that we are honourable.” What is it that people see in me that indicates the PRESENCE OF GOD?

If you had asked Abimelech about his INITIAL IMPRESSIONS of Abraham were when he first met him, he would say that he was a LIAR and lacked integrity, untrustworthy and a believer who didn’t seem to have much trust in God, someone willing to put everyone in danger to save his own neck. Proverbs 12:19-20 (NLT) says “TRUTHFUL WORDS stand the test of time, but LIES are soon exposed. DECEIT fills hearts that are plotting evil; JOY fills hearts that are planning peace!” Proverbs 11:11 (NLT) says “Upright citizens are good for a city and make it prosper, ..”

1. I want people to SEE GOD IN ME as they see how committed I am to living a life of INTEGRITY.

I really like the way there’s an HONEST EXCHANGE here. Abimelech is so HONEST with Abraham. He comes right out and says, “Swear to me in God’s name that you will NEVER DECEIVE ME, my children, or any of my descendants. I have been loyal to you, so now swear that you will be loyal to me and to this country where you are living as a foreigner.” (Genesis 21:23 NLT) Abimelech has already been on the other end of Abraham’s deception. He wants some ASSURANCE OF ENDURANCE. He doesn’t want to be under God’s death sentence again. He also sees the benefit of connection with Abraham, a rich and powerful man. Abraham replies, “Yes, I swear to it!” (Genesis 21:24 NLT) What else could you say? This is a great way to MAKE AMENDS for being such a jerk.

2. I also hope that people see that I serve and honour God by the way I am willing to DEAL WITH CONFLICT head on. Let’s get things OUT IN THE OPEN before they cause a rift in my relationships. Abraham does this. He complains “to Abimelech about a well that Abimelech’s servants had taken by force from Abraham’s servants.” (Genesis 21:25 NLT) Abimelech can then do something about it.

3. I also want people to see God in me through my GENEROSITY. They make a covenant, a peace treaty, a business deal, but Abraham’s generosity goes beyond just making a legal agreement (Genesis 21:27). He gives a special gift to establish their relationship even more firmly. Proverbs 11:25 (NLT) says, “The GENEROUS will prosper; those who REFRESH OTHERS will themselves be refreshed.” 1 Timothy 6:17-18 (NLT) says “Teach those who are rich in this world … to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.” 

4. Abraham plants a tamarisk tree “and there he worshiped the Lord, the Eternal God.” (Genesis 21:33 NLT). God is eternal and connecting with Him has eternal consequences. John 3:36 (NLT) says “…anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life.”  

I want people to see God in me by the way I WORSHIP HIM. I don’t need to go around planting tamarisk trees but I do need to leave a LEGACY OF WORSHIP and look back on the times and places where God has met with me. Jesus used wine and bread once with His discipes to say, “Remember me”.

God bless you Church as people see your integrity, your willingness to deal with conflict, your generosity and mostly how you acknowledge and worship our eternal God. May people know through your words and actions that God offers eternal life through Christ. Make a difference that counts for eternity today.  

Pastor Ross