Thursday, 22 October 2015

Back to Basics

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 3:11)

The Starlings are back. With their glossy wings, unchecked curiosity and sweet melancholy calls, these birds have woven their way into my heart. The Cape Glossy Starling or Inyakrini, often sings a lengthy warbling song which may include a clever imitation of sounds they hear in their environment. They seem to seek out our company when we are out on the deck, or when I'm picking herbs outside the kitchen door. To have a "conversation" with a starling is a pleasing pastime indeed...They are "cooperative breeders", meaning that the breeding pair may be assisted by up to six helpers, who often remain with them through many breeding seasons. Wouldn't that be a most agreeable practise if it could be adopted by humans!

Scent and sound has such an important place on our mountain abode - frog songs in the mist, the smell of a damp forest, the call of a jackal buzzard, the welcoming fragrance of wattle fires, the scent of indigenous herbs in the hot sun. Our dogs return from a run along forest paths with my husband, their coats carrying the rich smell of woodland undergrowth. It is a delight to bury your nose in a warm furry neck and sense the places they've been.

These mountains have taught us an appreciation of what is right before us. To turn toward a simpler life and cast off so much of what we used to consider necessities for happiness. Even just the pursuit of happiness has become redundant. Instead, we have found deep fulfilment and peace from a commitment to, and living out of our faith.

That in itself is a very "loose" description of the purpose of my "belief". At a time when the strings of moral laws and Biblical truths are being "let out" to allow for more and more tolerance, masked in a sweet coated religious cocktail - in which all is acceptable and permissible through love - Truth is lost.

False teachings are often blatant, but increasingly often, it is so cunningly subtle that it is hard to tell "the wood for the trees".

Here is an example, which I found on a website that "answers" tough questions that young people ask about faith and religion. Read it and see how soon you are able to discern it to be a true or false teaching.

"Unlike anything else you have encountered, a relationship with God does not begin with you filling in the blank, "Accept me because..."

It starts with God saying, "I accept you." "I welcome you."

Whether you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or have questions, God is not our enemy. If you have not already begun one, God wants a relationship with you. He offers this to anyone and everyone.

In Scripture, you'll see only one group that consistently angered Jesus...the religious self-righteous.

Jesus seemed okay with everyone else, including prostitutes and criminals. However, the religious elite irritated and saddened Jesus. He saw them as judgemental, arrogant, unloving, and hypocritical.

You might see those words and immediately think of religious people who have been hurtful, rude or judgemental toward you. Does that represent Jesus' heart? No. Jesus said to love your neighbour as yourself. How would hurtful comments fit into that? Not very well.

This is Jesus' heart revealed. He said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

The above is just one example of truth interwoven with human doctrine, and a twisted adaptation and quoted out of context of Scripture. Cunningly paraphrased and altered into something which is soothing to anyone lost on the wide road to ruin, but which promises to lead to an all-accepting, loving God.

Rather than to unpack all the lies, I thought it to be a good time to go back to confirm what it is I actually believe. And to pray without ceasing and trust the Holy Spirit to bestow on me both a spirit of love and a spirit of discernment.

The notes on the following five "Solas" (only, alone) are not my own words, but a mostly verbatim copy of our most recent bible study notes. With scripture references to substantiate them.


Faith alone is the instrument of our salvation. Salvation is not by works, it is by faith, that is, trusting the Lord Jesus Christ. Even saving faith is a gift of God's grace.

Romans 5: 1-2 "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God."


This truth declares that the Bible alone is our authority for faith (what we believe) and conduct (how we live). The Bible alone is God's Word written. It is without error, it is authoritative, it is sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness. It must be preached and lived out.

2 Timothy 3:14-17 "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."


It is in Christ alone that we have salvation. In His perfect life and substitutionary death alone we have salvation. Through Him and Him alone, we have the forgiveness of our sins and are declared righteous before God.

Acts 4:11-12 "Jesus is 'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”


It answers the question of who does what in salvation. Many think that salvation is a "grace and..." project. If this is true then "grace is no longer grace" (Romans 11:6). The Bible is clear, salvation is all of grace and grace alone because "salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9).

2 Timothy 1:9 "He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time."


It is the great goal of all God's purposes in Jesus Christ. All that God does, He does for His own glory. He created all things for His glory. He sustains and rules over the world and our lives for His glory. Our salvation is all of grace through Christ for all His glory. God and God alone is worthy of all glory and praise!

Romans 11: 33-36 "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen."

and therefore: 1 Cor 10:31 "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, 

do it all for the glory of God."


Having confirmed what I believe, "I should "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you (me) to give the reason for the hope that you (I) have. But do this with gentleness and respect." (1 Peter 3:15).

Truth sets us free. If Jesus has set you free you are free indeed. Not to do as you and I wish, but free from lies, from spiritual confusion, free to choose to live in His will, free from fear, free from doubt, free from a lust for power, wealth or status, free from guilt, free from burdens of the past, free from the curse of sin, freed from the jaws of death itself.

A caged bird sees freedom through bars and longs for it without knowing what it is longing for. It has food, shelter, a simulated environment to suit its needs and perceived instincts. So it is content. A bird that has been set free from captivity, sees the cage and stays clear of it. Having tasted true freedom, it can never return to that false environment. It soars ever higher and the cage serves only as a reminder of the sad limitations of captivity.

Be anchored in the One and True Gospel of Christ Jesus. It is not a chain or a cage, it is knowing that we in ourselves are fledgelings, with Jesus beneath our wings. He longs to gather to Himself His elect, the often scorned but steadfast. I truly long to be counted as one of the few of true faith that Christ may find when He returns. And in this time where we see the predicted spiral of sorrows leading to an unprecedented time of trouble, to be able to say with confidence: Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

To be Liked or to be Like-minded

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." - Phil 2:5

Summer... Dog days. Luminous afternoons and balmy nights. Times of abundance, of harvests and al fresco feasting. Of picnics and frolics and freedom. Of little boys playing naked and carefree in a babbling brook. Limbs and joints feel soft. Cats uncurl and lay limp and lazy in the sun.

Strange how expressions like "dog days" linger, even when the origin or meaning has long been lost. I thought it referred to those devastatingly hot days of summer when dogs lie around, panting. But it was the ancient Romans who actually "coined" that particular phrase. It refers to the dog star, Sirius, and its position in the heavens at a certain time of year. To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” occurred around the day when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun, in late July. They referred to these days as the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring fever, or even catastrophe. As a result they performed various rites and rituals, burned bones etc. to keep themselves protected and in favour with their gods.

This in itself is a just a piece of trivia and I don't mean to attach deep spiritual value to it. Neither am I saying that one should refrain from using particular phrases because of their origin.

But lately I have found myself prompted to question the origin of "things" more and more. Not to the extent that it causes me sleepless nights (fortunately). On the contrary, it has often led to "freedom" from habits, beliefs, traditions and a way of talking, behaving and living that does not belong in the life of someone who belongs to Christ. When Jesus said "My yoke is easy", it was not meant as a riddle. It is true.

It is the self-imposed yoke of the world which is weighty. Self is weighty. And serving the demands of "self" in the world is most often a burden which causes damage to self and alienation from our Godly design.

In Paul's letter to the Philippians (second chapter),  there is a precious part of scripture, which has been living in me for the last few weeks. He writes:

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ,

if any comfort from His love,

if any fellowship with the Spirit,

if any tenderness and compassion,

then make my joy complete by being like-minded,

having the same love,

being one in spirit and purpose.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking on the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance
as a man,
He humbled Himself
and became obedient to death - 
even death on a cross!

Therefore... God exalted Him
to the highest place
and gave Him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus,
every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth
and under the earth
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."

and then this sentence in verse 13:

"For it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good purpose."

The message is essentially about imitating Christ's humility and servant-hood. It is incredibly rich and one can spend years pouring over each phrase and word. This morning, these were the words that stood out for me: united, like-minded, same, likeness.

Just recently, I stepped away from Facebook. Deleted it from my life completely. This was a part of the yoke that I needed to get rid of and I must admit that I feel much lighter as a result. It was what I needed to do, for it was weighing me down. 

One of the things (among many others) which started bothering me, was my need to be "liked". The anticipation each time I  "posted" or "updated my status" on my "timeline". Waiting for the "likes" to appear and then feeling connected and appreciated when one or two people "liked" what I wrote or posted. And feeling let down when they didn't. This is not meant to be a criticism of FB as such. I'm using it as an example of one of the things that I have been led to question in my walk. It can be used positively and with discernment. It is simply what I felt convicted to do.

"Like" is a diluted and rather weak word, which we use for just about every thing that we feel positive about. When it becomes so important to let people know "what I like" and to "be liked", I tend to forget who I am in Christ, and what I reflect into the world.

(It is also strangely used as a "filler". A teenage boy recently responded to my asking him why he felt it necessary to be rude to one of our small boys by saying: "When a kid shoves something in my face, I get like really annoyed, you get it?").

But getting back to Phillipians 2...

What does it mean to me to be "like-minded" with other believers? (v2)

It starts with believing the same one and only true gospel of Christ, and having "the same love."

But how is it then that even among people who "have the same love", who accept Jesus as their Saviour and First Love, there are still such differences in opinion, disagreements, arguments etc?

As Jesus in very nature took on the "likeness of man", we take on the exalted likeness of the risen Christ. When I take my eyes off Him and opt to take on the likeness of the world, this is when the yoke gets heavy and my needs and likes and opinions are placed before those of others and ultimately before His will.

But can I truly become "like" Him? Have the same attitude as Him - the Son of God?

I cannot. Not even after a lifetime of meditation and self-searching and discipline. Not even if It is the sole purpose of my every day, spent in fervent effort to do what Jesus would do.

Through His death on the cross he has "united" us with Him. When I receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I become "one" with Christ, and His likeness becomes imprinted over mine. In surrender to His will and purpose, it takes the place of my good intentions and ambitions.

"For it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good purpose."

It is God who works in me to surrender my wants for His will. God who works in me to love the people who "dislike" Jesus in me. God who works in me to forgive them for mocking Him whom I hold most dear. God who works in me to be "like-minded" and one in spirit and purpose with those who do share the same love of Christ. God who works in me to forgive myself when I fail. For He doesn't.

Jesus Himself, in very nature God, did not grasp (seize) the "status" of being equal with God. He became nothing, a servant, obedient to death on the cursed cross. So that I may come before God, forgiven and blameless. His is the likeness I have imprinted on my heart.

By getting to know Him through His Word, spending time at His feet and surrendering to his will, we will be conformed to His likeness.  For "he who began a good work in you (me) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil 1:6)

"God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us" - Martin Luther