Thursday, 20 October 2016

Matthew 5v43-48 Loving Your Enemies based on Martin Luther Kings Sermon

Matthew 5 v43-45 reads;   “You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your  enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for them that you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven.”
The first thing Martin Luther King says we have to do is examine ourselves. People dislike us for all sorts of illogical reasons, but have we actually done something in the past to encourage their dislike of us? That is why we have to begin with ourselves. Examine ourselves.
Our actions individually and collectively, as a nation can stir up hatred.
Jesus said: “How is it that you see the splinter in your brother’s eye and fail to see the plank in your own eye?” So we begin to love our enemies and love those persons that hate us by looking at ourselves.
The second thing that King advises us to do we is to discover the good in our enemy, and everytime we begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points.
There is a civil war going on within us. Within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we recognise this, we take a different attitude toward others. The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates us most has some good in it; even the race that hates us most has some good in it. And when we can look into the face of anyone and see deep down within them  “the image of God,” we begin to love them in spite of their hate. 
Another way King encourages us to love our enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for us to pay them back, that is the time which we must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates us, the person who has gossiped about us, the person who has spread false rumors about us, there will come a time when we will 
have an opportunity to get back at them But we musnt pay them back because if we do we just perpetuate the wrong in the world.  We rise above them because we are better than this. 
This is what Jesus means when he says, “Love your enemy.” This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can pay back don’t do it.
Hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil and inject within the universe the power of love. (Mozzam Begg)
There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts us. You cant see straight when you hate. Hate is a cancer that gnaws away at us. So Jesus says love, because hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.
Now there is a final reason that King says we should do what Jesus says, and that is because love is a redemptive power. Its is a power that transforms people. Keep loving your enemies even though theyre mistreating you. Just keep loving them, and they cant stand it for too long. They react. They react with bitterness because theyre angry because you love them and sometimes theyll hate you more, but just keep loving them. Thats love is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. (Policeman in Bristol)
Long ago Jesus started an empire that depended on love, and even to this day millions will die for him.”
When we love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, and do good to those that hate us, and prayed for those who use us, we have graduated into heavenly realms!
Oh God, help us in our lives and our attitudes, to work out that we can solve every problem that we confront in our lives. Let us join together in listening to these words of Jesus. In the name and spirit of Christ, we pray. Amen.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Ephesians 6v10-18 The armour of God

Ephesus was a town in what we now know as Turkey on the Eastern edge of the seaboard over looking the Aegean sea towards Greece. A long way from Jerusalem 1000 km! It had 200, 000 inhabitants and a Temple to the Greek God Artemis. A silversmith Acts 18-20, in Ephesus made models of Artemis to seel to worshippers. He stirred up a storm for Paul because he was loosing money when people converted to Christianity. The church at Ephesus had a lot of problems with leadership, rivalry, immorality and false teaching. 

Paul writes to the Ephesians, telling them to "be strong in the Lord". A Christians we face constant trouble, not just from people, but spiritually.

We are told to "be strong" – to be continually empowered. The present tense means ongoing strengthening. It is a call to all of us as a community. Find your strength in the Lord", "Let the mighty strength of the Lord make you strong".
Put on, ie be clothed, in the full armour of God. The full weaponry of a soldier about to go into battle, God's mighty power.
So that you can resist the strategies of the devil. Take your stand, stand your ground, hold the enemy at bay, against the devil's schemes, the wiles, trickery, deceit of the devil. 
Because our struggle, the enemy we wrestle with, is not people, or the government, but is a spiritual enemy. And these spiritual powers exercise authority in the world, 
Paul says that these, spiritual forces are satan's evil heavenly army; "the spiritual army of evil in the heavens, the headquarters of evil. It sounds a bit like something from Star Trek doesnt it! 
Paul explains that we must take up all God's armor, so that when things are at their worst, we are ready and prepared to meet such days. But Paul is also here talking about the persecution of the Christians in the Roman Empire and the destruction of Jerusalem, and the trouble in Ephesus with temple worshippers and magic. 
He encourages us that even when we have fought to a standstill, we are frozen, to stand our ground.
The background to the imagery of armour is also in Isaiah 59:17.

Put on the whole armor of God in order to resist the onslaught of the evil one, 
with the belt of truth buckled around your waist literally by truthfulness, by speaking the truth. The belt was a solid leather strap protecting the loins as well as supporting a sword. So truthfulness means sincerity, integrity, telling the truth, being honest. Put on truthfulness as a soldier puts on his belt ready for battle.

The breastplate of righteousness of justice, a breastplate which consists of doing what is right. Righteousness in the sense of doing what is right. Put on right, just behavior, as a soldier puts on his breastplate ready for battle.
Having put on, fitted shoes. (The "fitting" of military footwear - the studded sandals of a Roman soldier), with the readiness firm footing, sure footing, firmness, a solid foundation, the word is only used here in the NT. The sense of the word is unclear, either "steadfastness", or "readiness",  "put preparedness to preach the gospel on your feet", so "be fitted with the shoes of the gospel of peace".
As a Christian soldier, ready to resist the enemy, we must put on protective footwear which is the gospel, God's important message to humanity; this we must put on and stand ready to proclaim. Put on peacefulness as a soldier puts on his footwear ready for battle.
in addition to all this take up the shield of faith. It can extinguish every burning missile the enemy hurls at you. The arrows belong to the evil one.
Take the helmet, the Roman bronze helmet of salvation. It is the joy of having been put right with God, and the inward sense of wholeness, peace and vitality which this brings.
The Spirit supplies the sword which is the word of God, 
Take up praying as a soldier takes up his helmet and sword ready for battle.
Keep on praying fervently in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests
With this in mind be alert, don't lose interest in prayer, always keep on praying
for all the saints, for all the believers. Pray for one another. Its our protection from ourselves and others. 
The source of our courage is found "in the Lord." He is the one who will strengthen us in the trials of life. This is God's "mighty power", the power that raised Christ to life, Eph.1:19-20. It is the power that comes from the operation of the Holy Spirit in our inner psyche, Eph.3:16.

We are strengthened by putting on armour that is good for attack and defence. This armour comes from God and enables the wearer to stand against the deceitful attack of the devil. Paul has already described the devil's schemes earlier in this letter, 4:26-27. As far as Paul is concerned, the attack of the powers of darkness serves to undermine fellowship in the church by working on anger and hurts.

Paul now goes on to describe more fully these evil powers which seek to attack us. He reminds his readers that our real battle is not against the circumstances of life, or even against evil people. The real battle is spiritual, and to stand in this battle it is necessary to possess spiritual armor - "the full armor of God." Paul gives a number of titles to these evil powers and sums them up in the phrase, "spiritual forces of evil." It is fascinating to realize that not only do they inhabit the earth, but they also reside in the "heavenly realms." That is, their headquarters are in the spiritual domain. 

These powers of darkness will confront us in the "day of evil" and it is then we must be found wearing God's armor. The evil day is the time of the great tribulation at the return of Christ, but it is also represented in the daily troubles that inflict the human race. The armour will enable us to stand as a good soldier, fully doing our duty - to stand and not retreat.
As a prisoner in Rome Paul is tempted to play the gospel down and so he wants to be brave enough to proclaim it.
John Bunyan used Paul's imagery in "The Holy War", and in particular, in "The Pilgrim's Progress". In Pilgrim's Progress, Christian receives the armour in the armory of the House Beautiful. He was to use it against Apollyon in the next stage of his journey. Bunyan made a point of noting that there was no armor for the back!

The attacker is the "evil one", the devil, whispering his lies and playing to our self interest.

Victory against the tempter is ours if we wear the armour of God. These then are the six pieces of a Christian's armor against the Tempters power. 

i] The belt. As Christian soldiers, prepared for battle, we put on truthfulness, wisdom like a belt. In simple terms, tell the truth.
ii] The breastplate. We are to put on right behavior like a breastplate. Be Christ-like.
iii] Shoes. We are to put on peacefulness like shoes. Speak peace - be peaceful rather than argumentative;
iv] The shield. We are to take up trustworthiness like a shield, faith in Christ - saving faith, faithfulness.
v] The helmet. We are to put on salvation like a helmet. Be sure of your salvation. Isaiah 59:17 describes God as wearing victory like a helmet;
vi] The sword. We are to take up prayer like a sword. 

 If you want to know more read Walter Winks “Engaging the Powers”.


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