Have you ever found it hard to want to do something that you know is right, or to want to not do something you know is wrong? The human heart is a difficult thing to tame! This is because our hearts have been poisoned by sin so that they no longer function as originally designed, so we naturally love ourselves more than God or other people. The wants and desires of our hearts have been turned inwards. And the result is the mess that human beings have made of the world.
As reformation scholar Ashley Null says, ‘Humanity has to discover a new, stronger ruling love – a love for God instead of a love for self’. But where does this new love for God come from? Can it come from our trying harder to love better, motivated either by guilt or fear or shame or duty or pride? Anybody who has tried this kind of self-improvement knows it is about as effective as holding back the tide at the beach with a sandcastle wall or trying to pull yourself up by the bootstraps.
However, the good news of Jesus Christ is that our hearts can be restored! ‘Only the unconditional love of God made known in free salvation can birth a selfless love for God and others in the human heart’. And this happens day by day when the Holy Spirit assures Christians of their salvation by working supernaturally through the promises of God in the bible. Your prayerful reading the scriptures will build your confidence in God’s goodwill towards you through Jesus Christ, and inflame your heart with a grateful love in return. And this love is a selfless love that will train you to want to love God and love others above yourself.
Rev. Ben Soderlund
The Bible is both a head book and a heart book. Sometimes people wrongly think the Bible is merely history or principles. However part of the evidence for the Bible as the Word of God is the way that it powerfully speaks to the heart.
God knows our predicament. He knows our pains.
When the angel speaks to Mary and says, ‘Do not be afraid’, it is because God knows she is terrified.
When Jesus tells his disciples, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’, it is because Jesus knows they are stressed and burdened.
When the apostle Paul commands the Philippians to, “Rejoice in the Lord always”, it is because he knows we need to pursue joy in God.
As we read the Bible, we may at first find it dry, a bit hard to understand. But with humble study there are great rewards for our hearts as God reveals himself in his living word.
Sometimes a Christian community can become a place where people wear ‘masks’. They hide aspects of their lives because they fear rejection from others in the BAC family. They wear a mask of pretending everything is ok on the surface, hoping they can deal with the issue in their own strength.
Some of the dangers of wearing masks:
- We walk by fear and not confidently in God’s transforming love.
- Many problems thrive in secrecy and darkness, bringing them into the light is half the battle.
- We cut ourselves off from the loving and prayerful support of others.
- We are robbed of the wisdom of others who can bring God’s Word to help.
- We become so used to wearing the mask it becomes ‘glued on’.
- Our growth only happens through repentance and faith and ‘walking in the light’.
- Our church relationships remain superficial and shallow.
I pray you are finding trustworthy spiritual friend at BAC. It can take time but it is worth it! We are all forgiven sinners, rescued by the blood of Jesus.
Sometimes our world can look dark, whether from the many wars and terrible things that happen across the earth, or from the problems and trials we ourselves face. And it was the same in Jesus’ day. At the start of Luke chapter 3, which sets the scene for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Luke lets us know a little bit of what the world was like in Jesus’ day by telling us who was in power at the time:
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar – when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas…
This collection of seven rulers makes for a pretty dark list! Tiberius Caesar, an emperor whose armies were occupying Jesus’ homeland , Pontius Pilate the local leader of the occupying forces who was complicit in the murder of Jesus, the Tetrarchs Herod and Philip, sons of the murderous tyrant Herod the Great, who lived decadent lives and had John the Baptist summarily executed, and Annas and Caiaphas, the religious leaders who tried to stop what God was doing through Jesus. A world that was ruled by such men would have often been a dark place to live in.
However, God chose these dark times to do the most amazing thing – to come down from heaven and come to humanity in the form of his son Jesus Christ! This should be an encouragement to us when we feel that the world around us is dark. Instead of despairing we should instead wait in hope for God to act, and trust that he ultimately will act to end all evil and suffering in the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Ben Soderlund
There are three amazing moments currently happening in world history:
Firstly, according to the United Nations, there will likely be a world population of 8 billion people by 2023. According to one BBC report, there have been 100 billion people who have lived throughout history. There have never been so many people alive as today!
Secondly, related to world population, infant mortality rates and other key indicators are improving. Bill Gates has recently stated: “The world is healthier and safer than ever. The number of children who die every year has been cut in half since 1990 and keeps going down. The number of mothers who die has also dropped dramatically. So has extreme poverty—declining by nearly half in just 20 years”. There are still many serious consequences of poverty and war, but Bill Gates’ observations should encourage us.
Thirdly, we live in a time of incredible communion technology. Wikipedia suggests that about 51% of the world’s population have internet access. This may be too conservative, as some estimates are that mobile phone usage will reach 5 billion people next year.
If we put all these facts together, we can try to discern what God is doing. Could it be that we are entering a new global age of evangelisation? It has never been easier to travel, print, or communicate the good news of Jesus Christ. There have never been so many people alive as today. What a great moment to be involved in mission!