Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Finding life in His righteousness - Psalm 119.40

How I long for precepts! Give me life through Your righteousness. 119.40

Righteous—something we all seek to be but cannot make ourselves become.  Sin is always there, infecting everything.  Many people think that if they just don’t do this or that then they are holy—or at least holier than the person sat next to them.  If they give to charity and offer time to the church then surely that makes them OK with God.  Spending time in a soup kitchen and driving a friend to the hospital must equate to being righteous!  

That is the way it works right?



God has nothing but contempt for such ideas.  In Isaiah 64.6 the prophet explains the issue at the heart of our so-called ‘righteousness’:

All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment; all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind.”

That phrase ‘polluted garment’ refers to a used menstrual ragjust about the most disgusting thing imaginable.  Because of our sin we have become unclean; even our seemingly righteous acts are filthy and polluted by sinful motives and desires.  

There is nothing but death and misery in seeking to make your own righteousness.  There is nothing but hopelessness and darkness in trying to find life to the full through your own effort and rule keeping.  I know this all too well.  I tried for so many, many, years to make myself righteous: all it led to was pain, self-harm, and spiritual desolation.

Going to Uganda in 2011 and coming across the teaching—glorious biblical teaching—of the East African Revival changed everything for me.  Now I know what life to the full tastes like. Now I am free from self-harm and that dark polluted road of pride which leads only to decay and rot.  

Life comes from being given Jesus’ righteousness.  He lived  the perfect and spotless life so we don’t have to.  As Paul would say in 2 Corinthians “He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God.”  WOW!   We can have perfect and pure righteousness here and now because Jesus freely offers it to us.

When we know this righteousness for ourselves, when we put on the white robe of righteousness He offers us then we not only know life but we are filled with a love and holy desire to reflect what we have been given to the world.  We long to know and follow God’s precepts and commands—but out of a place of love and security not one of fear and failing.  

When you are given life through Christ’s righteousness nothing in your life will ever, ever, be the same again.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Gordon Ramsay and the disgusting Kitchen

One of the best parts of watching Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares is when he finally inspects the kitchen and storage of the restaurants.  Often doing it during a dinner service what he finds is shocking and disgusting beyond words.  On numerous occasions he has to shut down the restaurants there and then before someone gets seriously sick.

Rotting food in room temperature walk in freezers.  Piles upon piles of frozen fake mush instead of fresh produce—often prepared a week before and then frozen.  Grime and dirt and mould growing and festering on the shelves and in the kitchen units.  Cockroaches and rat droppings.  Dirty floors, sticky walls, encrusted slime.  Then there are the basic errors beyond general cleanliness like keeping cooked  chicken and raw chicken not just on the same shelf—which would be bad enough—but even in the same container.  Watching the programme almost makes you develop a fear of eating out anywhere that you cannot see the kitchen before you eat!

All of this filth impacts the business.  It is no wonder the food tastes bland or sour when the materials in the kitchen are rotten and  the basic cleanliness is so poor.  Of course the bad food springing from these kitchen problems puts off the customers and kills the business.

Believe it or not this is a very good metaphor for the Christian life. Your life has two parts just like a restaurant. It has the front of house—that which everyone sees and knows and where they experience you.  It also the back of house—that is the kitchen from which all the things in the front are made and developed in.  As Christians it is not enough to appear holy, to appear to know the Lord because when people taste the fruit coming out of our lives they know when it is rotten and bad.  As Jesus said "a good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit."

The 'kitchen' of our lives as saints of God is our prayer life and devotional life.   The time we spend away from others with the Lord and His word.  Jesus calls on us to pray and to do so daily alone and out of sight.  Sin is the filthy mould that builds up inside us when we neglect the basic chores and hygiene of our spiritual lives—personal repentance, prayer, reading and reflecting on Scripture etc.  As Gordon Ramsay often says "COME ON GUYS JUST 30 MINUTES A DAY AND YOU CAN KEEP THIS PLACE CLEAN!!"

When we let filth and sin build up and corrupt our spiritual kitchen it slowly begins to appear normal, we just don't see it and eventually we become deluded into accepting it.  But it is not acceptable.  If we are to produce good fruit which gives glory to King Jesus and draws in the crowds that they might hear of Him then we cannot neglect the back of house. 

As Christians we must be dedicated to spiritual hygiene and good practice.  Importantly, we need friends, family, and experts (men like Gordon Ramsay who know what a clean back of house is and how to get things in order) to step in and help us clean things uphelp us see the errors and faults, to understand how things got how they are.  That means a humble willingness to invite people in and also a preparedness to get our hands dirty in the spiritual warfare we all must wage.

Unless we are willing to sort out our spiritual kitchens and be passionate about keeping it clean we might as well just close up shop now and stop pretending to be Christians before someone else steps in and shuts us down.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

(SERMON) Luke 10.1-9 Making Jesus Known

Making Jesus known is not just the duty of ministers but of all of Jesus' followers. In Luke 10 Jesus sends out the 72 disciples in pairs and teaches them some important truths we must still listen to today.
[This is a re-recording of a sermon I prepared for an interview]

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