General

NOT USING THE NAME OF THE LORD IN VAIN

Very early in God’s dealing with man, He warns man against using His Name in vain.  Much of the use of the Name of the Lord by man occurs in human speech.  

When the Lord taught His disciples to pray, in what is a model prayer (after this manner pray ye), He began by addressing the Father and then worshipping Him through His Name – Hallowed be Thy Name. (Matthew 6:9)

The Lord began by reverencing the Name of our Father in Heaven. He taught his disciples to speak words to the Father, letting Him know that His Name is Hallowed to them. Hallowed means holy, sanctified, set apart.

Such reverencing of the Name of God is the very opposite of the vain use of His Name, in which the Name of the Lord is treated as a common word or a mere human name.  In fact, many persons when vainly using the Name of the Lord are unaware at those moments that they are misusing His Name.  There is often no thought of Him, when His Name is vainly used as though it was a slang.

God created man for fellowship with man. That was evident in the Garden of Eden, as the presence of the Lord God, would visit man. (Genesis 3:8) It was also evident that once man sinned, the fellowship was broken and man was hiding from the presence and fellowship of his Creator. It was not God who pushed man away, it was man who was no longer comfortable in God’s presence. (Genesis 3:10.) Sin broke both the relationship and the fellowship that God and man had been mutually enjoying.

God immediately began a process that pointed to the sending of His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, with restoration of fellowship as the objective.

The scripture tells that that to as many as receive the Lord Jesus, He gives power to become sons of God. (John 1:12) Giving those who receive Him the status or relationship of sons, define the kind of fellowship that God desires with mankind – the fellowship of a Father with His sons. Because sin had separated man from God, a restoration of fellowship with God, meant dealing with the sin problem. That is what the Lord Jesus did in His death, the shedding of His blood and in His resurrection from the dead. However, because even after restoration, the possibility exists that man may still sin, God had to put in place the means of dealing with any further sin.

The children of God is therefore taught by the Word of God that, “if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous:” (1 John 2:1) The word, “advocate” which suggest a role of a legal representative means that there exists a legal system before God for dealing with sin. We are told that our response to sin in our lives should be “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

The lesson to be learnt from all this is: 1. God desires the fellowship of man 2. Sin can interrupt and hinder that fellowship and 3. Once sin occurs, the immediate priority should be restoration of that fellowship, broken by sin.

When Jude wrote to the saints, he made mention that his intent was to write to them concerning “the common salvation.” (Jude 3)  He found however, that there was a matter more urgent with which he had to deal.  He instead wrote, urging the brethren to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3)

Clearly Jude considered the “faith which  was once delivered unto the saints” to be under threat.  The words “earnestly contend”, according to the well-used, Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, come from a Greek word which “signifies to contend about a thing as a combatant”.  In other words, Jude is telling his audience to combat, fight for the faith, as originally delivered and received.  The word “earnestly” adds emphasis to the fight effort.  The Amplified version says, “fight strenuously”. Jude was putting the saint in combat mode.  There was nothing casual about his call.  The implication is that except you fight for it, you may lose it.

But just how could this threat have come about?  “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4)

HOW TO LEAD AND WHEN TO FOLLOW

Leadership is about vision.  Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

Vision is about direction and destiny.  Leaders sell their visions to those who wish to follow them.  Followers are those who have bought into the vision as espoused by the leader.  The exception are those persons who live under dictatorships and are without a choice.

The Lord Jesus was a leader.  He boldly told men, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19) He told them what the outcome would be if they would follow His Vision – “I will make you fishers of men”.  Inherent in that promise, is that they too would be leading others.  He would make them leaders.

The Lord taught and prepared His disciples over 3 and a half years for the leadership roles they were to fill after His departure.  He taught by words and by His example.  He also drew reference to the leadership of men to which they were exposed, even in showing what they should avoid.  In one such example, the Lord referred to the leadership of the Pharisees. “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” (Matthew 15:14)

BETRAYAL

While there is truth to what is often said that “all sin is sin”, there are those that seem to be more grievous and devastating in their effects than others.  Betrayal must be ranked high among the most grievous of evils, if only for the pain that it leaves in its wake.  That, doubtless makes it one of the chief weapons of Satan as he sets up humans to hurt each other.  More so, as we would note as we examine the matter of betrayal, by its very nature it has to be carried out by someone close and trusted which is exactly why it causes such pain.  It is often accompanied by shock and surprise.

Rather than look for a dictionary and an intellectual definition of betrayal, we would examine its characteristics and nature which, hopefully, would allow self-examination and introspection, in the process so as to ensure it is recognised and rejected by those who would wish not to fall into the category of traitors.

Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ, has for over 2000 years stood as the symbol of betrayal.  An examination of the traits, thinking and behaviour of Judas would serve as enlightening in forming a concept of this sin.

UNDERSTANDING THE NEW CREATION

The Lord Jesus in John 13:34, gave to His disciples “a new commandment”.  “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”  The new commandment was that His followers love one another in the manner that He loved them.  It meant that the Lord used His manner of loving His disciples as an example that they should follow, in loving one another.  In other words, we are to love as the Lord loves.

When the Lord Jesus walked on the earth, He was approached by a lawyer, who asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”  (Mathew 23:36)

The Lord answered him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.   And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.   On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (vs 37-40)

So that even under the Law, God commanded that men love God as well as one another.  In the case of loving their fellow men, the measure was according to how they loved themselves.   In this new commandment, the measure is as Christ loved.

THE NEW COMMANDMENT

The Bible is made up of the Old and New Testaments, which are two Covenants that explain God’s dealing with mankind.

In Deuteronomy 6: 5, it is written, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”  The following verse, says, “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart” (vs 6)

Leviticus 19: 18 says, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.”

When the Lord Jesus walked on the earth, He was approached by a lawyer, and asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”  (Mathew 23:36)

The Lord answered him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.   And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.   On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (vs 37-40)

When the disciples of Jesus asked him to teach them how to pray, he gave them a prayer now commonly called "The Lord's Prayer".  Given that it came from the Lord, each word in this prayer must be regarded as having special significance.

Also, because this prayer was for all of his disciples, it must be regarded as a prayer that applies to everyone and therefore, touches the basic human needs as God sees it.
As we examine this prayer, we would see that God identifies human needs and yet asks us to pray that those needs be met.  It shows that God meets human needs not based on his knowledge of them but because we ask.

Romans 13 gives an interesting insight into God's thoughts as it relates to certain aspects of the Justice system as instituted among men.  This should not surprise those familiar with the scripture for, as early as Genesis 9, following the flood, God, in instructions to Noah instituted the death penalty and by implication government (organised rule) and, his purpose in so doing was to exact justice when a man's blood was shed.

In Isaiah 1:23, God, through the prophet, laments the state of corrupt rulers who, among their several faults failed to deliver justice to the weaker persons in society. As a result, he promised in the following two verses (24, 25) to execute his judgment and restore judges who would do right. (vs 26).  The idea being, that God expects a functional and just legal and criminal justice system in a nation.  The idea is that men should judge among themselves and do so justly.  When that is absent, God intervenes and bring his own judgement which is usually extremely painful.

In what is almost universally known as the Lord’s Prayer, The Lord Jesus taught his disciples to say these words in prayer to God, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”.  

Those words teach us several things:

1.    That there are temptations that comes to us
2.    That it is temptation to do evil
3.    That God wants to deliver us from evil (for if he did not want to deliver us from evil, the Lord would not have taught us to ask Him to)
4.    That God would not deliver us from evil automatically even though He wishes to. We need to ask Him. (If He automatically delivered us from evil then the Lord would have no need to teach us to ask God to deliver us).
5.    That except God delivers us, then we would fall victim to evil. (Surely, if we could have delivered ourselves from evil, then the Lord would have seen no need to teach us to approach God in prayer, to deliver us)

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