Come aside seeks to turn our thoughts to God, our heavenly Father and to the comfort of his word.
Psalm 91:1 (Free trans.) “He who goes aside to sit quietly in the secret place with the Most High, will find him coming over so close that the man shall be lodging under the very shadow of the Almighty.” This can be your experience.
9. To glorify Him
The months of 2020 stretch out before us. What is our goal? Of his people of old and his people now he desires one thing of us. As revealed in Isa. 43:7 he had created us ‘for my glory’. So, we ought to live in 2020 with the purpose of glorifying him.
Jesus did this, Jn. 17:4 ‘I have glorified you on the earth, I have finished the work you gave me to do.’ So we also should GLORFY GOD in 2020. How can we glorify him?
With our praises Ps. 50:23 ‘whoever offers praise glorifies me’ NKJV. Surely you have much to thank him for?
In our consecration 1 Cor. 6:20 ‘Glorify God in your body.’ Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and we must keep it holy, , free from all forms of immorality, in deed or thought. You are bought with a price, and what a price!
Through our works Matt. 5:16 ‘Let your light shine before men.’ How? By our words or our spoken witness? No. ‘that they may see your good works…’ It is your Christian lifestyle, lived before men that makes the difference in glorifying God. .
With our fruitfulness Jn. 15:8. ‘By this my Father is glorified that you bear much fruit.’ As you abide in Christ it will bring the enabling to be fruitful for him.
In our receiving of one another Rom. 15:7. ‘Receive one another to the glory of God.’ Acceptance of one another, showing grace, understanding, glorifies him.
With our faith in the promises of God Rom. 4:19-21. Abraham’s body was ‘as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old)’ but ‘No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith, as he give glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised…’
As we step out into the coming months of 2020, in his will, God has given us – it has been estimated – over 30,000 promises in his word. Claiming, trusting in the promises glorifies him! Do not frame them – as a picture on your wall – claim them.
Live to glorify him…
8. Stepping Forward into 2020 – with God.
At Sinai, after the sin of Israel when they worshipped the golden calf, God speaks in Exod. 33 to Moses, ‘Go up from here…’ He was to depart and take the road to Canaan.
But this was A DEPARTURE WITHOUT THE LORD v1-3
God had promised the land of Canaan to the Patriarchs unconditionally. The people had broken the covenant made only a few weeks before (19v5, 8) – see v1 the people ‘which you have brought up.’ Not God, but Moses! He now sends an angel before them, not himself. We read: ‘I will not go up among you.’
What was the reason? They were a stiff-necked people, disobedient. He cannot walk with such a people without consuming them. So, he sent his angel to remain faithful to his promise. But again, not himself…
The church today – has God withdrawn his presence from us? Cf. Rev. 3v20 – Jesus is outside the door!
We need to ask ourselves: ‘Are we stiff-necked in any way? How obedient are we? How surrendered? Can God walk with us? Can God be in the midst of us? Do we have his presence? Are we knowing God’s best? Are we also worshipping idols?
Now there was DISTRESS BEFORE THE LORD v4-6
When they heard this ‘disastrous word’ the people ‘mourned’. The Hebrew word means to sorrow or lament. Their drinking and playing (32v6) was turned to sorrow. They were a people who gave evidence of repentance from their wandering in ch. 32. They stripped off their ornaments at Horeb.
There was a recognition of their DISTANCE FROM THE LORD v7-11
Moses took the tabernacle and pitched it without the camp. Here we have a solemn act symbolising the removal of the presence of God and the excommunication of the people. A holy God could not dwell among them. Here was Moses’ acceptance of God’s verdict on the people. What is God’s verdict upon us? Do we need a fresh vision of the holiness of God?
The people gave evidence of genuine repentance, for when they saw the pillar of cloud over the tent they worshipped every man at his door. They were no longer worshipping the golden calf but the living and true God. He was given his true place again. I ask: Have we? Are we ready to do this? Do we worship him alone?
Lastly, we have the precious DECLARATION BY THE LORD v12-15
Moses prays. He refers to the experience at the burning bush when God called to him ‘Moses, Moses’ and to his grace. Now that the people had repented and given evidence of this what would God do? Who would he send with the people? They were still God’s people. Moses would lead them but not alone…
See v14 ‘My presence shall go with you…’ They had been restored to full covenant favour and his presence – not just that of an angel would go with them. If we get right with him, we too can experience the fulfilment of his promise in 2020. We too can know the reality of his presence and his power. Do we have full covenant favour?
Moses responds, ‘If your presence will not go with me…’ The most important thing for 2020 is to have God. No matter the roughness of the path, trials, disappointments, if God himself is with us what have we to fear? Matt. 28v20; Isa. 43v1-3; Heb. 13v5-6. It is time to make a fresh commitment to him, to worship him alone, to know his presence for each day…
7. Saved to serve
Recommitment for 2020.
It seems no time since we entered the second millennium. Now it is 2020! Can we find a word from the Lord, a word from the Scriptures, which can present to us in a nutshell how we ought to live in the new year? We can find it here in Galatians 5:5-6. We must ask four questions.
- WHO IS PAUL WRITING ABOUT IN THESE VERSES?
Note “we” THE PEOPLE. The pronoun is placed first for emphasis. He is writing about those highlighted in ch.2-5 – for them and them only. They are justified by faith, without works, without circumcision and the obligation to keep the law, part of the “Jerusalem above,” all who have become sons of God. He has sent his Spirit into their hearts and they are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ i.e., CHRISTIANS. Are you among them? You can be, by grace and the mercy of God.
- WHAT IS THE POWER OR ENABLING THAT THESE CHRISTIANS HAVE TO BE ABLE TO LIVE EFFECTIVELY IN 2020?
Paul writes: “Through the Spirit”
These Christians had been regenerated by the Spirit who had brought them to faith; they did not need to add circumcision or the obligation to keep the law. They were “a new creation,” 6:15. Being born again of the Spirit, now they can go on in 2020 to live a life in the power of the Holy Spirit! Paul affirms in 5:16-26 that we must say “no” to the flesh, the fallen nature with which we were born which still wants to dominate and “walk in” or yield to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is how we can produce the fruit of the Spirit set out in 5:22-23. They were being troubled by Jewish teachers who told them that although they had trusted Christ for salvation they now needed to be circumcised and take on the obligation to keep the law. Paul urges them not to listen to them. Faith alone in Christ and his cross brought them full acceptance. They already had the Holy Spirit and he was all that they needed, 3:1-5. You have the power!
- WHY IN 2020 SHOULD CHRISTIANS NOT BE AFRAID ABOUT ETERNITY?
The text says: “we wait by faith…”
Their present justification means that they wait with expectation of their acceptance being affirmed again in the final day. The mention of “by faith” recalls the other major emphasis of the letter we noted above. Justified by faith, not works, 2:16 following the example of Abraham’s faith in 3:6. All “sons of God through faith,” 3:26. Now we wait by faith, “we ourselves eagerly wait for the HOPE of righteousness.”
Remember 1:4 that though we still live in this present evil age, through the cross Christ has already brought to his people the blessings of the new age – as we highlighted; justification, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the blessing of being part of the “Jerusalem above” and in 6:16, already part of “the new creation.” Here the word“hope” as elsewhere in the New Testament has no uncertainty about it – the meaning is anticipation, expectation.. Stott (The One Way: The Message of Galatians, 134) explains, “…the expectation for the future which our justification brings, namely spending eternity with Christ in heaven…We do not work for it; we wait for it. We do not strive anxiously to secure it, or imagine that we have earned it by good works. Final glorification in heaven is as free a gift as our initial justification. So, by faith, trusting in Christ crucified, we wait for it.” We are not afraid of the future. So what about the present?
- HOW SHOULD CHRISTIANS LIVE THEIR LIVES IN 2020?
The text says “faith working through love”
The Christian life is not about being circumcised and law keeping. As we wait for His coming in 2010 in the power of the Spirit we are to “work/serve in love.”
It is not that works of love are added to faith as a subsidiary and secondary ground of our acceptance with God. Paul never has implied that we are justified by love, either our love for God or others. We are justified by grace through faith in Christ crucified – his death for us. But we can add that the faith which saves is a faith which will manifest itself in works, or a faith which issues in love, in acts of service. As Fung (The Epistle to the Galatians, 230) asserts, “He (Paul) is saying simply that the faith which justifies is of such a nature that it will express itself through love.”
Are we serving in love? In the church? Among those whose lives we touch? Or as the year begins, do you need to make a fresh commitment?
6. God “rests” in Him – Do you?
Hebrews 4:12 “Whoever has entered God’s rest has rested from his works, as God did from his.”
Sometimes life is so busy, or we have been working so hard that you feel the need to “rest up.” Often those who have our best interests at heart will warn that if we continue to work at such an intensive pace without a break we are heading for trouble. We must rest. Hebrews here speaks of God resting.
In our text we discover first of all that God has been working. He worked in Creation and in six days all was prepared. Genesis reveals that tragically Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s command by eating the forbidden fruit and transgressed. The whole of humankind was brought down under condemnation, (Romans 5:12).
Immediately God, in love, began to work again – this time in Redemption. Right from the start in Genesis 3:15 he promised to send a Saviour who would bruise the serpent’s head, as his own heel was being bruised. He purposed this down the centuries and brought it to pass in that Christ came to take the wrath for sinners upon himself. The moment came when Jesus cried out on the cross “It is finished” (John 19:31). Now the God who worked in Creation and then Redemption “rests” in him. The price for sinners has been paid through God’s own initiative in love. Hebrews calls upon us to now enter into God’s rest in Jesus Christ his Son.
How will we know that we have entered into God’s rest? The text says “Whoever has entered into God’s rest has “rested from his own works…” No works of ours will ever bring us acceptance with God or atone for our sin. The crux of the matter is: If God is prepared to rest in the work of his Son for sinners on the cross, can we not also rest in him?
The young man could say to his friend, “there is only two letters of difference between what you are depending upon for eternity and what I am depending upon. But those two letters make all the difference in the world. You are depending upon DO; I am depending upon DONE.”
Are you resting where God has rested?
5. What about Angels?
The Bible is full of angelic beings – in the Old Testament the first mention is in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24, Cherubim and a flaming sword, guarding the way to the tree of life). The first in the New is “the angel of the Lord” directing Joseph to take Mary to be his wife (Matthew 1:20).
Angels figure much in modern society, whether in stories of guardian angels, Christmas angels or songs – do you remember Robbie Williams’ song and the line “I’m loving angels instead”? It is a fact that in this post-modern age people have a spiritual emptiness and there is such an interest in the occult, the stars and in anything ghostly or unseen. It is clear we need a clear doctrine of angels. At the beginning of the letter to the Hebrews the author makes the point that Christ is greater than angels; he has a more superior name than they, (1:4-2:9).
They are messengers
Their actual name means messenger and there is no doubt that they have been mightily used, e.g., Luke 1:11, 19, 26-38; 2:13-14; 22:43. They were also sent by God to release prisoners, Acts 5:19; 12:7; to direct messengers, 8:26; 27:23. But for all that, they were still only messengers. Christ has a name which is far more superior; he is the Son of God. Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14 are said to be fulfilled in David’s greater Son. True, in Job 38:7 they are called the sons of god, but only in the sense that they were created by God.
They are worshippers.
Hebrews 1:6 affirms that when God brings his firstborn into the world he says, “Let all the angels of God worship him.” Luke 2:14 records the moment this happened at Bethlehem.
In Col. 2:18 we are warned about angel worship. Some teachers were bringing in a host of intermediaries and felt that God was so great that one could not approach him directly. This is an occasion of false humility. Remember Rev. 19;10; 22:8-9, when John falls down to worship an angel, the answer comes, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.”
Angels are servants.
In Hebrews 1:7-12 Christ has a far superior nature to angels. His deity is here and his eternal existence. “Your throne O God” and “You are the same” is how God addresses the Son; but the angels are called “servants” (v.7). In 1:13 the author makes clear that God never invited any angel to sit at his right hand. They gladly hurry to do God’s commands, (Is. 6:2). In 1:14 they even serve us!
We need to be on our guard about the present trend with regard to angels. A Times article wrote, “For those who choke too easily on God and his rules… angels are a handy compromise, all fluff and meringue, kind, non-judgmental.” But we must hold to a proper angelology – and also recognise our accountability to God as our creator.
Angels are not to be worshipped. We worship the One they worship – God.
Angels are not to be praised. We praise whom they praise – Jesus the exalted lamb, Rev. 5:11-12. Do we also praise? Remember Heb. 10:25, “not neglecting to meet together…” Luke 24:53 “they (the disciples) were continually in the temple blessing God.”
Angels are not to be served. We must serve the one whom they serve. Psalm 103:21-22. Angels do his bidding, obey his word, do his will – do we?
Angels are not to be sought. There is no salvation in angels. In Rev.19:10 we noted that they testify to Jesus. He alone is the saviour. No angel was the substitute for sinners, Heb. 2:9. He became man to die for sinners and to save us from wrath. He is the one to seek.
We must reject the present trend, remembering that such interest is sinister (2 Cor. 11:14). Repent of this interest before it becomes bondage and get a right understanding of angels and above all follow their example – believe there is a saviour who stooped below the angels, becoming man (Heb. 2:9) so that as man he might die for men. Call out to him for the mercy and forgiveness he has made possible by his death on the cross.
4. An Unshakeable Kingdom
We live in a troubled world, in uncertain times. The news confronts us daily with the fact that economically, ecologically and politically everything is being shaken. People feel afraid, unsure of life, their whole peace shattered by change.
There is no doubt that the Bible prophesies that many things in our world are now and will be in the future, shaken. But we need not fear for here in Hebrews 12 we are assured that “the things that cannot be shaken” will remain. The writer assures us that, knowing the Lord, we are part of an unshakeable kingdom!
(1) God calls on his people to pay heed and listen to his voice, v.25. They must be faithful. There is a note of warning for those who have begun because of persecution to leave the Christian community and look back to their former Jewish roots and the temple. They are reminded the solemn consequences in turning away from the gospel would be even more dreadful than were the consequences of despising the law. “If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth” – a reference to Moses – “much less will we escape if they reject him who warns from heaven.” But there is also assurance and comfort here…
(2) They must also be trustful. The description of the events at Sinai (Heb. 12:18-21) is linked to a prophetic account in Haggai 2:6 of the last days. In Moses’ day, the mountain shook, but in that coming great day the entire earth and also heaven will be shaken and removed. But here the author assures us that the people of God actually belong to an order of things which cannot be shaken! Christ is the one who controls the things that remain (Heb. 1:3;11-12). He upholds all things by “the word of his power.” So, to this unshakable order belongs the kingdom which believers in Christ share. As Christians, we see the things which are happening in the world, but the news does not fill us with fear. We are part of a kingdom, the kingdom of God, needing no temple sacrifice, but grounded on that once for all sacrifice offered at the cross, (Heb. 10:11-13). THIS KINGDOM, WILL NEVER BE SHAKEN. The present form of God’s kingdom is entered by faith in Christ and we look forward to the final kingdom when Christ returns! He can be trusted in uncertain times. In fact:
- They must be worshipful, living in a spirit of adoring gratitude that we are part of this unshakable kingdom. Gratitude of heart, marked with worship that is offered because of our faith in the greatness, majesty and also the holiness of God. He is “a consuming fire”; the God who descended upon Mount Sinai in fire still consumes all that is unworthy of himself, Deut. 4:24. Let God consume it in us! Here the assurance is that neither the throne of God nor the word of God with its promises can be shaken! We do not need to be uncertain or afraid.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. Isaiah 46:11
Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass…you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed. Joshua 21:45; 23:14
Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant. 1 Kings 8:56
3. LORD TEACH US TO PRAY
In Matthew 6 Jesus teaches the disciples about prayer. It is clear that Christians should pray. Jesus says, “When you pray”…. Not “if”. The first thing we read about Saul of Tarsus after his conversion on the Damascus Road was in Acts 9:11 “behold, he is praying.”
R.A. Torry writes on the importance of prayer:
– Because there is a devil, Eph.6:12-13.
– Because it is God’s appointed way for obtaining things, Matt.7:7.
– Because the Apostles regarded it as having priority over service, Acts 6:4.
– Because it was so important in the Lord’s life, Mark 1:35.
– Because in brings to us grace, help and peace, Hebrews 4:16, Phil. 4:6-7.
WHERE Should Christians Pray
There is a contrast between hypocrisy and reality. We see this in vv. 2-4 about praying in the synagogue or in the street in contrast to a secret place. In Jewish life there were certain statutory prayers to be said at fixed times and so a strict Jew could deliberately time his movements so that he would be in a public place at that time. They wanted people to see how “spiritual” they were. “They have their reward” Jesus says in fact they have it “in full.” Not an answer from God but what they were really seeking – impressing men.
Jesus asks us to seek him in a private place – not with others around. “Go into your room…pray to your Father who is in secret…” France points out that Jesus is not forbidding public or communal prayer as such, but the opportunity to impress to which it is too easily prone. The essence of prayer is the communion of the disciple with his Father.
WHAT Christians should pray
Not with “empty phrases”, vv. 7-8. Not “babbling” (NIV translation), a nonsense word we would call gibberish. So, there is a warning against mechanical praying “as the Gentiles do”. Prayer in the non-Jewish world was often characterized particularly by formal invocations and magical incantations in which the correct repetition counted rather than the worshipping attitude or intentions. This is not a prohibition against repetition in prayer (see Matt.26:44 – Jesus prays three times in Gethsemene) but rather, thoughtless, mechanical prayer. It is not “many words” God responds to, but an attitude of prayerful dependence. God does not need to be bullied into taking notice. It’s not the length of our prayers that matter but our motives. Let us be real, sincere, before God.
WHY Christians should pray
In v.8 Jesus gives us the assurance that God is listening and is interested in everything about us; we have the assurance of his being our Father who knows our need before we ask him, the assurance of his love as Father and his nearness. You can talk to him at any time.
We focus upon prayer again in this meditation. We have considered:
WHERE Christians should Pray;
WHAT Christians should Pray
WHY Christians should Pray;
Now HOW Christians should Pray
The Lord’s Prayer is so called because Jesus gave it to the disciples as a pattern for prayer, “Pray then like this.”
We have an OPENING ADDRESS to God, “our Father in heaven.”
THREE PETITIONS beginning with “your”; THREE PETITIONS about “us”. So God comes first. Martyn Lloyd Jones explained that when we come to God we are not to rush in to his presence with our petitions; we are to place our hand over our mouth i.e., we are to stop and contemplate the One to whom we come, his wonderful love for us and his power and greatness.
He is “OUR FATHER” by creation, Acts 17:29; by second birth, John 3:3;1:12-13; by adoption, we are placed as sons, Rom. 8:15. We can come with confidence, a confidence of acceptance that he knows and cares. He sees the sparrow fall, Matt. 10:29-30.
He is THE ALMIGHTY “in heaven”. The fact is he can do what we seek! He is sovereign and has all power! We can have faith in God.
There are THREE petitions beginning with “your”
His NAME “hallowed be your name”
We should hallow him in our worship. He is worthy of all our worship. There is worship before petition – remembering all that God is in himself and adoring him. We pray that others will also come to worship him and glorify him in their lives.
We should hallow him in our walk. We can’t pray for his name to be honoured, while we dishonour it ourselves. To David, because of his sin, Nathan the prophet could say, “You have given great occasion for the enemies of God to blaspheme,” 2 Samuel 12:14.
His KINGDOM “your kingdom come”. This is a prayer for his present kingdom to spread in the world and to come finally at the end. Has the kingdom “come” in your life? Is he king?
His WILL “your will be done”. Pray that his will may be done more and more upon earth. Are we allowing his will personally to be done in our lives? Do we submit to his plans for us?
There are THREE petitions beginning with “us”
“Give us this day our daily bread”. God’s PROVISION. Jesus is encouraging us to pray for all the things that concern our lives day by day. There is nothing too small to pray about – even an axe-head fallen in the water, 2 Kings 6:5.
“forgive us our debts…as we forgive…” God’s PARDON. Sin is seen as a debt to God; but he can forgive us. In 1 John 1:7 we read “If we confess…he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Note it is not “he is merciful and gracious to forgive…” but “faithful and just.” God CAN forgive us righteously because of the cross. We had a debt but Christ took our indebtedness upon himself – praise his name!
“lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” God’s POWER. Understand what this cry to God means. God will not “lead” anyone into sin – he does not tempt anyone, for this would be contrary to his holy nature, James 1:13. It is a cry to God to protect us from circumstances where we would face temptation and to “deliver” us, to give us the help, the power to stand against temptation.
What a great God we have! Are we in touch with him?
2. Perfect Acceptance.
The account of the healing of the lame man is uniquely placed in Acts reflecting the blessing that has come through Christ. The helpless man by the Beautiful Gate is a picture of humanity to whom the church is sent with a message which cancels disability, communicates strength, affirms acceptance and creates worship. The miracle can be a fulfilment of the prophecy of Isa. 35:6, as had already happened in Jesus’ ministry, “So shall the lame man leap like a deer.” These are indications of the arrival of the eschatological age, the age of the coming of Christ and the Good News. But what does the text say about the helpless man?
He was Deformed. He was “lame from birth,” not through an accident or through disease but because of a congenital deformity. He was Helpless. He was carried i.e., he was without strength. He was Bankrupt. “To ask alms…” Lastly, he was Distant. Lying at the Beautiful Gate but not able to enter. He was not permitted to participate in temple worship (Lev. 21:17-20), forbidden to enter. Is this not a picture of the world for whom Jesus came and the world into which the disciples were to go?
Faith in Christ brought the blessing highlighted here, v.16. It has “given the man this perfect health…” This is such a precious picture. The word holoklērian (only here in the NT) is used in the Greek Old Testament for an unblemished animal, fit to be offered in sacrifice (Isa. 1:6; Zech. 11:16). So, the man who was before his healing “blemished” and barred from entering the temple is now accepted! He can now draw near to worship without hindrance! This is true for humanity, helpless at the Beautiful Gate. True for all who have come to faith in Christ. Ephesians 2:12-13 reminds us that you were once separated from Christ, alienated, strangers but now “brought near by the blood of Christ.” The lame man could come to worship and enter in! Once stained, defiled by sin, unclean; BUT NOW you have perfect acceptance! Come into his presence just now and worship…
1. God is able!
In 2 Chron. 20:12 Jehoshaphat found himself and his people in a situation of crisis and real danger. The Moabites and Ammonites were on the way with their powerful armies to attack him. Here he cried to God for help. “O our God…we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” The Spirit of God came upon Jahaziel the Levite and he announced, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, king Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of all this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s…’”
Their enemies actually fought against and destroyed one another! It took Jehoshaphat and the people three days to gather the spoil. The God of Judah was ABLE! Their God is also our God and he is able to deliver us.
(1) In the PATH you TAKE – Jude v.24 assures us “He is able to keep you from stumbling.” He can enable you to STAND.
(2) In the PRESSURES you bear. In trials and temptation Hebrews 2:18 reminds us “He is able to SUCCOUR (come to aid) those who are tempted.”
(3) In the PROBLEMS you have to face – “My God shall SUPPLY all your need,” Phil. 4:19.
(4) In the PROSPECT before you – he is able “to SAVE to the uttermost,” Heb. 7:25.
(5) In the PRAYERS you offer – he is able to SEND THE ANSWER. Eph. 3:20 “Able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.”
Let us say like king Jehoshapat “Our eyes are upon you…”
Matt 9v28 ‘Believe ye that I am able to do this?’