“Oh taste and see that the Lord is Good; Blessed is the man that trusts in Him” Psalm 34:8
God’s invitation is open to all to come and taste and see that He is good. He invites us to come to His banqueting table just as we are and to feast. The Lord says that it is free to come and to partake of all His goodness. Jesus has paid the price for us. Other things in this life will not satisfy us but His love, grace, mercy and goodness are more than enough to satisfy our very souls. His banner over us is love.
The truth is that God is good. Jesus is good. The Holy Spirit is good. All good things come from God above and He is good. We declare that truth today. Anything which teaches or tells us otherwise is a lie. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are good. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is good. Anything which is not good is not of God. The fruit which is not good is not of Him.
I believe that the Lord is saying in this season, Come and see that I am good. I am a good, good, God. I give good gifts to my children. Come and ask of me so that I might pour My gifts into you for the benefit of others. My Spirit living and breathing through you by the power of My resurrected son, Jesus – the very breath of God. I bring life and truth. I am speaking in the season to bring the dry bones to life. As the prophet spoke to the dry bones so I am sending out My Word amongst My children to proclaim that this is the day of the Lord. Rejoice and be glad in it. Speak to the dry places and tell them to become fruitful in the name of the Lord – that there may be rivers of living water that will flow in the deserts. Speak to the barren places and command them to bring forth fruit. Whatever fruit has already withered on the vine then let it die, but I am bringing a refreshing wind says the Lord which will revive those of My children who need refreshing. Come and taste and see that the Lord is good. If you will seek Him with all your heart then He will not disappoint you. Come says the Lord. Come. The invitation is there. If you choose to ignore it then you will not reap the benefits of My presence or My goodness says the Lord. Oh taste and see that the Lord is Good. Trust in Him and be blessed as you come in and as you go out.
Isaiah 55New King James Version (NKJV)
An Invitation to Abundant Life
55 “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price. 2 Why do you [a]spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance. 3 Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you— The sure mercies of David. 4 Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, A leader and commander for the people. 5 Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, And nations who do not know you shall run to you, Because of the Lord your God, And the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you.”
6 Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the [b]wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, 11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me [c]void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
12 “For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; And it shall be to the Lord for a name, For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Holiness – it’s a word we don’t generally feel comfortable using these days. The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:15 “But as He called you is Holy, you also be Holy in all your conduct”. Our Pastor says when you think of being Holy just think it’s being different to the world because of Jesus.
It seems to me that when we try to be Holy ourselves (apart from Jesus) then it just becomes a religious list of dos/don’ts which can then lead to frustration and guilt when we fail. We can end up doing lots of works with little fruit.
A wise person said. “Holiness will take care of itself when we see ourselves as the Holy people of God with a Holy destiny”. The way of holiness is living through Jesus.
In Revelation 2 Jesus says to the Church at Ephesus:
“I know your works, your labour, your patience and that you cannot bear those who are evil, and you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not and have found them liars, and you have persevered and have patience and have laboured for My name’s sake and have not become weary, Nevertheless I have this against you; that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen and repent and do the first works”
Jesus said they were patient, hardworking, persistent, hated evil – but they no longer had a fervent love for Christ and God out of which their works should have flowed. They had lost their first love.
The greatest commandment is “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind” and then “to love your neighbour as yourself”: In effect Holiness in action.
In my life, it seems to me that Love has been key to living out a practical holy life.
Love acts as a true motivation for holiness. Love is, in its true actions, a true outworking of holiness.
Love for God –
The Bible says Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul & mind. – Do not worship any other idols.
When we are mature in faith, it is good to stop and consider, whether our hearts still burn with a fervent love for God and for Jesus, our saviour? What is it that motivates us daily in the things we do and say? Remember that first time you became a Christian and how you were so hungry for the things of God?
If that fervent love is not still there, then what has taken the place which God had in our lives?
Idolatry is putting something before God – we can make idols of money, careers, other people -worshipping anything other than God. Idolatry is one of the areas I believe Holy Spirit is bringing conviction to us as the Body of Christ.
The Holy Spirit can reveal the true nature of our hearts and what it is that is actually taking the first place in our lives, our thoughts, prompting our actions. Sometimes, we are just blind to what or who is really sitting on the throne in our hearts.
We love God because He first loved us and gave His son to die for us while we were still sinners.
Love for God will manifest itself in spending time in His word and in fellowship with Him through prayer and praise. Times of fellowship with God; being obedient to His Will; allowing His Holy Spirit to fill us and mould us.
Love for each other
Thessalonians Ch 3 v 12-13 says “and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all; just as we do to you so that He (God) may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints:
Love for one another – loving other Christians.
Love for all – everybody.
We all see this love expressed in Peter’s first letter to the church. Peter was concerned with how Christians should live their daily lives – with each other and also in front of non-Christians.
Peter confirms that we express holiness to one another through love. First Peter encourages us in Ch 1 v 15-16 “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written “Be holy, for I am holy”
V22 – Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” or other translations “so that you have a genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart”
Pure Heart – Ch 2 “laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and all evil speaking”
No hypocrisy, no jealousy, no gossip – all this rubbish has no place in us and needs to come out of the body of Christ.
Someone said “where love abounds in a fellowship of Christians, many small offences, and even some large ones are readily overlooked and forgotten. But where love is lacking every word is viewed with suspicion, every action is liable to misunderstanding and conflicts abound to satan’s perverse delight”
Humility will help in our relationships with one another. Peter goes on to say that there should be “unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart and a humble mind”
Is loving each other as Christians optional? According to the Word the answer must be NO.
As Christians we can’t really opt out of loving one another if we are followers of Jesus – it was Christ’s commandment to us – to love each other as He loved us. It’s a commandment – if we love Christ then we ought to love one another.
We recall Jesus’ teaching at the last supper. This was his last opportunity to talk to his disciples before He went to the Cross. Jesus reiterates 4 times his new commandment to love one another. He didn’t remind the disciples of all the great miracles they had witnessed – it was love which was important.
JN 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
JN15:12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
Jesus said “if you love me then you will obey my commandments.”
JN 2:3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
1JN 3:11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
As Jesus said to the church – Have we lost our first love? Have you lost your first love?
It takes us back full circle – if we love Christ and he is our first love then out of this love will flow love for one another. Let us start with love for God first and the rest will follow.
John Wesley said that “Holiness misses the mark if the essence of godliness found in purity of heart expressed in love is missing” His favourite saying was “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love”
I don’t believe we can manufacture this love successfully. We could perhaps do it for a while but it will stagnate and eventually die – it must develop naturally out of relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Romans 5: the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us and love is created in us by the Holy Spirit Galatians 5: 22 says it is a “fruit of the Spirit”
So instead of striving to do it in our own strength and with our own love – let the love of Christ come through us – let the fruit be produced – How – by abiding in Him & receiving God’s love.
Jesus tells us:
JN 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
JN 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
JN 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
So How is love evidenced practically in holy living?
1JN 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
Love will manifest itself in generosity, meeting others’ needs, unselfish giving. This can be truly testing when we are going through our own times of difficulty.
Our reward is not earthly but heavenly:
M.T 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
MT 25:37 “Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
MT 25:40 “The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
I believe that Love for God is holiness which is then expressed in love for those in the body of Christ and others. Love in its actions is the true outworking of holiness.
The Apostle Paul said:
1 Corinthians 13
1CO 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1CO 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1CO 13:8 Love never fails.
If we as the body of Christ are serious about living holy lives then let’s ensure that we have not lost our first love and that we truly love one another. Then the light will shine from us and men will see our good deeds and praise our father in heaven. If we want to see people come to Christ then one of the keys is to obey His commandment to love.
In Isaiah Ch 5 – we read about :God’s disappointing vineyard” – ‘My well beloved has a vineyard, on a very fruitful hill, He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it; so he expected it to bring forth good grapes but it brought forth wild grapes”
God’s expectation is that you will produce good grapes – good fruit for Him. He has a plan for you individually and for your fellowship. You are important to Him. God never gives up – He never slumbers or sleeps – He is always working with you to produce god fruit. Let the fruit of His Love grow and develop in us.
God reminded me today that even though at times my life seems chaotic and overwhelming to me when I am trying to balance work, family, home and many other things which distract me, the truth is that He is always right there with me and I am made right with Him through Jesus. I am living out His perfect plan for my life because He is in it. I don’t have to earn it or work at it – I just have to accept the greatest gift which Jesus has given to me – the gift of relationship with God.
I wrote down the following words which came to me as I spent some time with God today:
“My children, From the very foundation of the world I had a plan and My plan has not altered. It is a plan set in the heavenly realm and My son Jesus achieved and accomplished in perfect obedience and perfect sacrifice and in perfect timing that plan. Every person on earth who has ever lived and was created with life has a place in My perfect plan. There is no-one who has ever lived who is not able to partake. None has been left out. I long that all would come into My perfect plan for their lives. My plan is simple. It consists of relationship between Father, Son, Holy Spirit and you in perfect harmony of relationship. There is nothing which can stop you being part of My plan. All that is necessary is humble acceptance of My son’s sacrifice and offering of Himself for you. He has obtained by His death and resurrection the keys of death and hell so that the door is open to walk into the perfect plan for your life. No other plan will bring you the desires of your heart for no other plan can bring you into perfect harmony with Me. It is simple and it is true. There is only one plan which is perfect and so why accept anything less for yourselves.”
The Fountain Gate – Nehemiah repaired the Fountain Gate. This gate reminds me of Jesus – who is the fountain of living water- and also the daily power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. There is a living well of spiritual water for us to draw from daily. It is an inexhaustible supply that will never run dry. Jesus said we never need to thirst again when we come to Him because He is the living water. He can satisfy our thirst in all areas and bring refreshing to us. When we are tired, weary or discouraged then we can come to the Fountain Gate and be refreshed. We can drink deeply of Jesus and be restored. If we forsake the living water then we will be dry and empty with nothing to give. Our source of spiritual life is Jesus.
The Water Gate – This gate speaks to me of the power of the word of God which is at work in our lives. The bible teaches us that we are washed by the word of God. The word of God is powerful and true – a test of our thoughts and intentions. When we read, meditate and act on the Word of God then we see the fruit if its out-working in our lives and it keeps us on the right path.
The Water Gate was the only gate which didn’t need repair. The word of God endures for ever. God’s word doesn’t need to be improved, added to or altered – it is complete just as it is. It is the best manual for a successful and fulfilling life.
Here are some questions for us? How and What are we building in our lives? First the How? I am encouraged by the example of how to build from Nehemiah Ch 3 in the Old Testament. The order in which Nehemiah describes how the gates and walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt is an example of how the Holy Spirit inspires us to build in our lives. Jesus said that he would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it.
The Sheep Gate was the first gate to be rebuilt. This is the most important in our lives. We have to come to God through the Sheep gate. The bible teaches us that it is only those who enter in by Christ (the Shepherd and the Sheep gate) who can come into relationship with God. Have we come through the Cross – and really understood the power of the Cross in our lives? That the power of sin and death is broken. If we try and build on anything apart from the true revelation of Christ and the Cross we will be in difficulty. Christ is the cornerstone of our faith. We need to come in through the Sheep gate.
Christ warns us about those who don’t come in by the Sheep gate – not sheep but wolves in Sheep’s clothing – and false shepherds. John 10 -7 – Jesus says “Most assuredly I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” “But he who enters by the door is the Shepherd of the sheep – To him the doorkeeper opens and the sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep he goes before them and the sheep follow him for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus went on to explain: “Most assuredly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before me are thieves and robbers but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door, If anyone enters by Me he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” Please beware of any teaching about Jesus which is contrary to what the Bible reveals to us about Jesus and weigh and test it against scripture. We need to come to Christ through a true revelation of the Cross and build on Him as the cornerstone of our faith.
I understand that the Sheep gate was the only gate that didn’t have locks and bars. To me this symbolises that the way to God is open through Jesus and it is open to everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done. Nothing can disqualify you from receiving grace and forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ and the redemptive power of the Cross. If you have never come through the Sheep Gate then I encourage you to confess your sins and take that step by faith today. Receive forgiveness and start a new life in Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The message bible translation of Zechariah 3 v 10 is “At that time, everyone will get along with one another, with friendly visits across the fence; friendly visits on one another’s porches.” What a lovely picture of peacefulness.
We all long, I am sure, for a day when peace reigns in our neighbourhoods and cities. When people can rub along together despite “fences ” -the differences that separate them. The Bible talks here of just such a day when this can happen. I want that in my neighbourhood and I am sure you do too.
A day when knife crime and violence is not the words we see and read about in our newspapers and TV but instead there is genuine friendship and love for one another. Love your neighbour as yourself is one of the commandments in the bible and Jesus emphasised it in His teaching. As we come into this season of Lent what is it that we can do for our neighbours as a friendly gesture that will show God’s love for them through us.
What could it be? A friendly greeting, a smile, a bunch of flowers, a catch up with a cup of tea, an invitation for a meal? Showing friendship to those who are alone and lonely. I am sure that God will show us and open up the door of opportunity to us in this season of Lent.
Psalm 46 verse 1 says that “God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in times of trouble”. If you are in the middle of difficult times and struggling to hang on and feel that everything is conspiring against you then I encourage you to take hold of these verses. God is with you and will not let you sink. His everlasting arms are around you to support you.
In verse 10 it says “Be still and know that I am God”. I always thought that this meant that I was to be still and know Him in such times but the footnotes in my Bible say that this is God telling the wicked- “Be Still and know that I am God”. In other words God is telling the enemy who is rising against us and conspiring against us “Back off -enough is enough- you don’t have a chance of winning in this situation because I am God”.
I love that. Thank you Father that you are on our side. God puts the enemy well and truly in his place. He reminds the enemy that God alone will be exalted among the nations. God may allow us to go through certain trials and struggles to strengthen our faith and so that we can grow in spiritual maturity – things that sometimes we do not understand- but ultimately God always has the last say over the enemy and his strategies because God is God. God is sovereign and everything in heaven and earth is subject to Him.
This was evident when Jesus spoke to the storm that was raging all around the boat carrying the disciples and Jesus over the sea of Galilee and He commanded the winds and the waves to “Be still” and they were. Does God need to speak into a few storms in your life or do you need to remind the storms that God is saying to them “Be Still”.