Tuesday 26th May 2020

Welcome to Digital Church

Welcome to Digital Church, I hope you find the teaching useful. My prayer is that you will be encouraged in your walk with the Lord and that you will bring glory to his name.

Letter 9: Faith in a foreign god

Luke 18v1-8

Over the last few weeks we have been looking through Ezekiel Chapter 16 and the warnings and lessons that need to be heeded from this passage in our lives today.

As we read through the chapter we see a constant prostitution to other gods, the gods of this world, the peoples that surrounded Israel, and a desire to have the perceived blessing that those people had as a way of fulfilling the needs of the flesh within.

This week we will take a look at who we see as our provider; for again it is so easy to say that we trust in the Lord yet by our actions we show that it is the world that we are looking to. The parable of the persistent widow is a reminder as we continue in Ezekiel that when it comes to seeking justice, deliverance or any other needs, our trust must be in the Lord, for when Jesus makes the statement:

"When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
Luke 18v8

He's not just talking about a belief in God, but an active living faith. One of the lessons we need to learn from this parable is that the widow persisted in going to the judge over and over again. She didn't look elsewhere, didn't start getting a petition together or start arranging street protests. She knew very clearly who was responsible for sorting her case out and that was the one that she went to. She was single minded in her actions and by those actions she displayed clearly who she had put her faith in. Even when things did not seem to be proceeding at the speed she wanted, she did not change her focus, but continued to seek the judge alone. It is the true example of Psalm 40v1-2. The psalmist waited patiently on the Lord, where did he wait? He waited in the slimy pit; he waited for the Lord alone to lift him out. He didn't start to look at the time that was going by and decide to try a few other methods of getting out; he waited patiently for the Lord and for the Lord alone.

This is important for us, because at times we need to take a step back and see who or what we have put our faith in, for it is far easier to put our trust in the gods of this world than we may realise.

In Ezekiel 16v23-34, we see in verses 24 & 31 that adulterous Israel had made mounds for themselves and the shrines of their false gods. Now a mound may at first seem insignificant, but the purpose of the mound was to lift something up so that it could be seen from a distance and by more people. To build a mound was no easy task; in ancient times the only way to build a mound was by hand, it would take months, maybe years to complete. For those of us in Worcester, if we think of the earthworks required to build Whittington Tump or British Camp on the Malvern's, we realise the huge amount of effort that would be required; so when we read that a mound was built it means that serious effort was put into the endeavour at hand.

Now the first thing we see in Ezekiel 16v24 was that it says: "You built a mound for yourselves". Whatever was being put on the mound, whatever the purpose of that mound, we need to understand that self interest was the goal. Mounds, towers such as the tower of Babel (Genesis 11v1-9), have been built over the years to get peoples attention and to draw people in to look closer; it's done to lift us up and make us look important. If we look at the mainline railway stations in London we see how the different companies built huge ornate structures as a way of advertising their railway as being the best company to travel with. It was an expensive advertising board that boasted of what that company had to offer if people would use their services. We see it today with tempting introductory offers for phones, broadband and other utilities, each company lifting it's achievements up to draw us into a relationship with them. At the moment they are using the Coronavirus as a great advertisement by making themselves look generous towards key workers. They are not doing it out of the generosity of their hearts, they are doing it because we have something they want... our money and their money. Their goal is to gain what we have, to draw the unsuspecting individual into a relationship; that is the world of business, to sell yourself to your customers.

So when we read of these mounds we see Israel were exalting themselves and making their offerings clear to all those around to bring them into a relationship. Put simply, they were selling (prostituting) themselves to draw people into a relationship that would allow them to gain and get what they wanted. They made special offers (sacrifices) to gain what they wanted; we have seen them over the last couple of weeks in liberalism and materialism, sacrificing the ways of God to get the attention and wealth of the world. It all sounds a bit weird and theoretical so let us try and bring it down to the practical; we will start with ourselves as individuals first, and then look at the church.

"But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself."
John 12v32

How often do we try to draw attention to ourselves? Wanting people to notice our abilities, needs, sacrifices, good works, even our spirituality! We do this because we want to be noticed, to be someone, to fulfil the flesh need within so we build the mound (make the effort) to lift ourselves and be noticed. We sacrifice, saying and doing what they want to hear and see so that we are recognised and in response we draw people in to fulfil our flesh desires; to "Want to be", to "Want to have", to have the attention of others, to be noticed, listened to and respected, even loved. Looking for a fulfilment through the things of this world and before we know it, we are sacrificing, selling ourselves, prostituting, to gain the approval of men; at this point we may not realise it, but we are sacrificing to foreign gods.

We also need to realise that this doesn't just happen in our worldly relationships. It also appears in our church relationships too with our desires to be seen or feel needed by the church. That is a very different thing to serving the Lord, even though they may look the same. Serving the Lord makes the sacrifice to lift Him up, it is not about us gaining respect or standing in the eyes of men or even other brothers and sisters in the Lord. It's not about us being seen to be in successful ministry, it's about us being successful before the Lord, walking in simple obedience as a servant before Him even if no one else notices. As soon as we desire others to notice we start to lift ourselves up rather than the Lord, for when we want to be lifted up and noticed we need to be aware that it is pride that is at work, the great spiritual killer, for as we are warned in Exodus 20v26, when we lift ourselves up on steps the flesh is easily revealed, even when it looks like we are ministering for the Lord.

As an example, a few years ago a minister said to me that it must be nice to pastor a small church because you do not have to put so much effort into the messages because it's only a small congregation. I must admit I was left in shock at the statement for behind it lay another message; why waste time preparing if only a few are listening? In other words, I can only be bothered to put the effort in if I am going to receive the praises of men. We need to understand that our ministry is before the Lord and as we lift Him up men will be drawn in. When the desire is for us to be lifted up we may draw a crowd eager to hear what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4v3-4), yet not fulfil the Lords will, becoming loved and famous, even wealthy before men, yet bankrupt in the Lord.

Another example we see quite often is when someone starts to talk about their ministry, often desperate to hang on to a position. Their feeling of self worth, of the need to be someone is no longer bound up in the Lord but needs the approval of other believers. As servants of the Lord we have no ministry, just a calling, a position that the Lord has put us in to fulfil a work that He has for us, and when that time is over, as humble servants we just need to move on. That letting go is not always easy. After working in a small village in Poland for many years, visiting every few months and taking endless meetings to plant a church, there came a time when a fellowship suddenly came together. Just as the church grew the Lord spoke to me very clearly that it was time for me to stop visiting that place, they needed to grow without me, but the Lord was also protecting me, making sure that my ministry wasn't about me being someone of importance somewhere, rather it was about serving Him in any place or work He saw fit for there is no ego in servanthood.

As we seek these things of the world we also fail to see that we are falling into a trap. We think we are drawing people in to support our world, what we fail to realise is that as we trust the world to supply our needs, we become a prisoner to the world as it is now our supplier, our provider; for as we trust in the world our trust in the Lord is reduced until we don't know how to trust Him any more. At that point the world has trapped us, we don't realise that we have succumbed to its advertising and now our dependency is linked with the world for our needs and provisions and that means that when the world gets rocked, our world is rocked with it.

As believers we need to take a look at ourselves and who we are trusting in for our daily provision, whatever that need may be, physical, emotional, material. Who do we trust in to provide these things? Who do we have faith in to deliver? Do we trust in the Lord alone or do we feel the need to sell ourselves before the world?

When we are looking for income, do we "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" (Matthew 6v33), that the Lord may bless us or do we sacrifice these things to foreign gods who we believe can provide for our needs. Do we seek the Lord as to what He wants us to do trusting that if we follow His directions He is able to provide or do we tell the Lord the direction we are going in and tell him that we'll give him a percentage of the profits? Are we doing what we are doing because this is the direction the Lord has led us in or is this just a way of making money? These are interesting questions to ask as it shows who or what we have put our faith in for our daily provision. For if we have learnt to seek the Lord and follow His direction we learn by experience that He is able to provide food, water, clothing and accommodation in any wilderness, it is one of the early lessons Jesus taught his disciples (Luke 10v4). For if the Lord is our provider no matter what happens in this world we can remain calm and stable, however if our trust is in the world we will have to keep manipulating, advertising and compromising ourselves to continue to gain their provision for our future, we sacrifice and see our provision in a foreign god.

Let us take a step back for a moment and look again at the foundations of walking by faith at its most basic level, for to walk by faith means we follow the Lord wherever He leads us. For Him to do that we first have to learn to listen; in the beginning that tends to be seen in the conviction of sin and the step of faith in turning from sin to obedience (Hebrews 6v1). Once we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit as we are convicted of sin we also learn to listen and be led in the ways of righteousness (John 16v8). This is much more than to just stopping sinning; to stop sinning is only a half repentance. True repentance is when we stop doing what we should not be doing and instead do the things we should be doing, the things the Lord is leading us in. Too often we will stop doing something only to replace it with something else.

So let us look at a lesson from the Apostle Paul as a guide to who we are serving and trusting in.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.
Romans 1v1

Jesus took on the nature of a servant (Philippians 2v6-8) and gave his life in daily obedience to the Fathers will. We are told in Philippians 2v5 that this should be our attitude and so when we read the beginning of Romans we see that Paul is following the example of Christ and that begins with the servant heart, a willingness to lay our lives down in the service of the Lord; not just in our spare time but all the time. This is shown by Paul's next statement, the "called to be". Notice it does not say that Paul chose to be an apostle; it says that he was called to be an apostle. So as a servant of the Lord Paul has laid down his life in service and has been called to the work of an apostle. So who is he working for? Who is his boss? It's the one he is serving, the Lord. If he is serving the Lord, then who is responsible for his food, clothing, accommodation and income?

Some would say that is the churches responsibility and so Paul would look to the church for his provision. The danger here is that fear can creep in when difficult issues need to be dealt with; should he compromise (sell himself) to keep the churches support?

However, if he sees the Lord as his provider, he can speak boldly, for he knows that the Lord is able to provide for his needs from His eternal resource, all Paul needs to do is walk in the ways of the Lord and seek first the Kingdom (Matthews 6v28-33). Now it is easy to look at Paul as someone in ministry and so someone who should be trusting in the Lord for his provision, but when we take the servant heart attitude we see that this applies to all of us. Applying for a job is no longer about looking for the best pay or conditions, but a seeking after the Lord as to the place that he wants us to serve and minster in. Our concern should not be on the wages, for our provision is from the Lord. When a servant went out to work in the field, if the crop was good or bad, if his master made a fortune or not, was none of his concern; for the fruits of his labour belonged to his master who he in turn trusted to provide for his needs. He didn't go out with the attitude that he would give his master the last ten percent of his labours after making sure he had the cupboards stocked with the fruits of his labour; instead all his work belonged to the master.

It is so easy to build that mound, to make ourselves attractive to the highest bidder, only to find ourselves bound to the ways and provisions of this world. As servants of Christ it is not for us to choose our duties, or even how much we earn; the true servant just asks the master what is his bidding. He does not need to lift himself up on a mound to get himself noticed, for God will lift up his humble servant in due time just as Christ was lifted up (Philippians 2v9).

When we learn to trust in the Lord for our provision we are no longer at the mercy of the world, we no longer have to fear losing our income for the Lord is our income. We no longer need to worry about our reputation before men, for our reputation before the Lord is all that matters and we do not need to worry about losing our ministry, for we minister to the Lord and if we are walking in obedience He will supply all our needs (Philippians 4v19).

As a final thought, we also need to be careful as the body of Christ that we do not sink into the same trap as the individual and compromise to gain the support of the world rather than the support of God. Who is the provider for our churches, our ministries, our missions?

I have always been a great believer that if the Lord has called me to do something, that He is more than able to supply the provisions needed. Sometimes that has led to huge steps of faith, leaving for missions without the means to get back, yet seeing God work miracles of provision in remote places, far from my ability to influence situations. We need to make sure we are doing the same as the body of Christ.

If the Lord is calling us as a church or ministry to do something, to build something, to start a ministry or mission; should we be lifting ourselves up, trying to win the affections of others to gain their material wealth to fund the Lord's work? Or should we be looking to the Lord to provide? Yes the project may be expensive, but if it is what the Lord has called us to, He is more than able to supply the need. Like the persistent widow we need to make sure that it is the Lord we are petitioning, not the world. For as we start to petition the world we declare that our God is not big enough or wealthy enough to provide for His own ministries and needs the worlds support. Over the last ten years the advertising, the constant requests for money from different ministries has become endless; where is the faith in the Lord's provision? It is so easy to look to the ways of this world, to look to Councils, lotteries, sponsorships and general collection plate bashing to fund the ministries, to join with other organisations only to find that we have become dependant on them and so we compromise to keep them happy.

In Ezekiel 16v27 we see that as Israel sold itself to the nations around them, the Lord reduced their territory. In other words, instead of them being rulers, they became ruled over. No longer did they live according to their laws, but instead became subject, slaves to the laws of those around them. Sadly we see the same with the church today, our authority, our word is no longer respected and other organisations and groups have taken over our role.

The way to freedom is not found in keeping the world happy, but in keeping the Lord happy. The Lord wants us to be free, to throw off the slavery to this world and find a freedom that is available in Christ alone. Just like the Israelites leaving Egypt it is easy to look back at what we will lose, but instead we need to look forward to the Promised Land that the Lord has set before us if only we are willing to make the journey of obedience that comes from faith (Romans 1v5). Let us never forget that the Lord is leading us on a journey to freedom and blessing (John 8v34-36).

The Spiritual Man

The Spiritual Man "The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed."
Romans 8v19

So often we talk about walking according to the Spirit or being led by the Spirit when we really have little idea what these terms mean.

This short book looks at some of our attitudes and behaviours and challenges what is being led of the Holy Spirit and what is being led of the flesh and how can we change how we are led.

ISBN: 9780957698819

Author: Simon Coward

Number of Pages: 42

Click to Download or Order

A Walk in the Park

A Walk in the Park An easy to read book covering the basics of Christianity in short chapters. ideal for new believers or those wondering what Christianity is all about.

ISBN: 9780957698802

Author: Simon Coward

Number of Pages: 44

Click to Download or Order

Letter 9: Faith in a foreign god

Luke 18v1-8

Over the last few weeks we have been looking through Ezekiel Chapter 16 and the warnings and lessons that need to be heeded from this passage in our lives today.

As we read through the chapter we see a constant prostitution ... (read more)

Adding and taking away

Last week we started to look at Ezekiel Chapter 16 and some of the charges God made against His people. Let us just be reminded again, "His people". We are not looking to judge the world for we cannot change the lives of others. The only life... (read more)

Letter 7: Do I have your attention now?

Colossians 1v15-20

Last week we looked at the "Blame Game", the tendency we have to blame others for our own failings. However at the same time we do the same thing when it comes to the misfortune of the world or those around us. Again it c... (read more)

Letter 6: The Blame Game

Genesis 3v1-24

Over the last couple of weeks we have looked at the idea of the church being in penitentiary. A place of restriction and limitations put on us to bring us to our senses and get us moving back in the right direction; let us re... (read more)