I can of myself do nothing

The Netflix series “The Crown” is in season 2 now.  I have got as far as the end of episode 6 of season 1.  I like it since in general it seems to be historically true though with the usual dramatic license taken here and there to emphasize or dramatize an aspect of the truth.

One of the things that is striking about it so far is the self-denial that the Queen has to go through.  She really cannot do what she wants to do.  What is peculiar about that is that she is Queen and so, in theory, can do pretty much anything she wants to do.  In practice she is bound by tradition and duty to a higher standard.   The Queen answers to God ultimately according to that tradition which in itself is based on the bible.  So the constraints on her are those imposed by God (Romans 13).

Jesus expressed the ultimate submission, from which monarchs and disciples derive there submission to God,  in John 5:30:

“I can of Myself do nothing.  As I hear I judge and My judgement is righteous because I do not seek My own will but the will of the One who sent Me.”

To have communion with God and to do His will is to be in self denial.  Jesus says elsewhere that unless we deny ourselves and take up the Cross daily we cannot be His disciples.

Do you want to be a disciple?

If so, will you submit to Him in love and happily give up the freedom to do what you want?

If you have been born again, this is, in fact, the only way forward.


Communion with God

Communion with God is intimacy with your creator.

The wonderful privilege of everyone who has been born again is the possibility of ongoing communion with the Creator of the universe.

As creatures we were made to be vessels carrying a treasure (2 Cor. 4:7).  That treasure is the Holy Spirit.  Intimacy with God is being what we were meant to be, filled with the Holy Spirit.

There is no more intimate picture than a vessel filled with a liquid.  The vessel itself knows nothing but containment of something greater than itself, something which it feels touching every inside surface.  Every so often the Owner comes and tips out the precious substance for someone else’s benefit and then tops it up again to overflowing.  Overflowing is the better state for a vessel.  Then it is not just containment and the inside surfaces that know the joy of intimacy but every part of the vessel, even those parts that are outward facing, feel the joy.

Jesus said that the first and greatest commandment was to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  You cannot love God in this way if you don’t have intimacy with Him.  You cannot love God in this way unless you are filled with the Holy Spirit.  You must be born again, yes, but you must also yield and let Him fill you on an ongoing basis.

Dedicate some time every day to intimacy with God your creator.  Hear what He is saying to you.  Do what He says. Repeat daily.

Pathetic Fallacy

Back when I was doing my Leaving Cert English course Shakespeare’s King Lear was on the curriculum.  I’m not sure was it my teacher at the time or a textbook but one of the phrases used was “pathetic fallacy”.  It referred to Shakespeare’s use of the weather in the play to reflect the action on the ground.  At the height of the worst tragedies that fell on King Lear the storms raged the worst:

“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!

You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our teeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulphurour and thought-executing fires,

Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s molds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!”

King Lear, Act 3, Scene 2 by William Shakespeare

So the now forgotten commentator called this kind of matching of the elements to the moral events on the ground “pathetic fallacy”.

The attitude that such connections are pathetic lies is now so ingrained into our thinking that anyone who even remotely suggests in our “enlightened” western humanist society that God might have something to do with the weather is likely to face the worst of scorn.   And, indeed, caution is always advised when attributing any specific elemental actions (e.g. fires, earthquakes, floods, droughts, etc.) directly to God’s judgments especially at macro levels like nations (notwithstanding the fact that these acts are all called “Acts of God” for insurance and other purposes).

However, the bible is quite clear that God is in control of the weather whatever we might be told by English teachers or otherwise.   Here is one example taken from Zechariah chapter 10 in the Old Testament:

“Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime;
    it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms.
He gives showers of rain to all people,
    and plants of the field to everyone.”

Zechariah 10:1

I have a number of reasons for drawing attention to this current drought and asking the question:  “Is God judging Ireland?”

One of the reasons is that I woke up with a vivid dream this morning.  In it, I was in a train travelling through the hills along the coast.  It could have been from Greystones to Bray or somewhere similar.  On hills away from the coast fires were breaking out all over.  There was a solitary fire man fighting one of them.  I didn’t see any houses go up in flames just gorse and hedges.  But there were a lot of fires and not enough firemen.

To be fair, you wouldn’t have to be much of a prophet to predict that in this weather in this country.

We are all enjoying the fine weather.  Ireland is known for its rain during the summer or indeed at any time of the year and so any respite from rain is usually welcomed by the majority of the people.  However when it comes to judging nations the bible does have quite a lot to say.  Usually judgement comes in the form of an invading force but in Zechariah chapter 14 there is this verse:

 If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain.

Zechariah 14:17

The context in this case is (probably) the millennium rule of Christ on the earth which (probably) has yet to happen.  However the principle is the same:  When God holds back rain it is not a good thing.

Disciples, Saints and Overcomers

In an earlier post, I wrote that God’s eternal destiny for you is communion with Him and fellowship with the church.  Communion and fellowship starts from when you are born from above (John 3:8) and continues for eternity.  Evangelism, by contrast, just lasts for this life.  After God ushers in the new heaven and earth (Rev. 21) there is no more opportunity for people to transition from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of life.  This makes evangelism critically important and, as I said, if you did nothing else but tell people the gospel, you will not have wasted your time on this earth.

However, the bible includes a lot about communion with God and fellowship with His people.  As examples, Jesus tells people about the narrow way in Matthew 7, Paul quotes a number of old testament scriptures on the subject of being God’s sons and daughters at the end of 2 Corinthians chapter 6 and John records Jesus’ words on abiding in John 15.  But there are many more examples, in fact, depending on how you read it, you could say the whole New Testament is mainly about these two things:  communion with God and fellowship with His church.

In fact I believe that when God inspired the Scriptures (particularly the New Testament) he inspired them with mainly one class of people in mind.  Jesus called these people “disciples”, Paul went on to describe them as “saints” and John wraps up the New Testament by calling them “overcomers”.   The three words are not synonyms but they are closely related and they also have a sense of progression in them.  Being a disciple/ saint/ overcomer is God’s ordained way of having communion with him and fellowship with the church.

According to the New Testament, if you want communion with God and fellowship with the church then you must be born again, be a follower of Jesus (a disciple), be made holy (a saint) and persevere to the end (an overcomer).

Evangelism, Communion and Fellowship

The church I go to and love, Open Arms, has a motto based on Jesus’ summary of the Law & Prophets: “Connecting people to people and connecting people to God.”

Jesus spelt out the way of connecting people to God when He told Nicodemus that “You must be born again”.  You can find an account of His conversation with Nicodemus if you read John’s gospel, chapter 3.

Open Arms seeks to connect people to people (people who are already connected to God) by being as culturally relevant, welcoming and interesting as possible.  Ultimately the aim is to connect as many people to God as possible since He is the only way to eternal life or heaven (see John 14).  Unless you are born again you cannot even see the kingdom of God, never mind enter it and live for ever.

So you must be born again.

There is a very good case for leaving it at that.  If we all just spent our time bringing everyone we knew to the place where they were born again – or at least presented with that possibility – we would have spent our lives very profitably.  This approach to life is called evangelistic and some people who meet God are called to it almost exclusively and everyone is called to it to at least some extent.

However the bible has a lot more to say about what it means to be a follower of Jesus after that initial, critical, connection has been made.  If you have been born again God wants you to have two things that he talks a lot about in the bible: Communion with Him and fellowship with others who have been born again (i.e. with His Church).  The Scriptures spend a lot of time dealing with this.

Communion and fellowship are eternal.  Once you are born again and transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of life, communion and fellowship is your eternal destiny.  It is where God wants you to be now and forever.