The Right Time

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.”
Romans 5:6 NLT

When was it that we were “utterly helpless”? Surely that isn’t true. But when we look at our humanity in the context of eternity, then we might, indeed should, come to a different conclusion. Being “utterly helpless” is a state of realisation that no matter what we did, we could never achieve God’s gold standard of righteousness through our own efforts. The Israelites, the Jewish nation, had tried for many generations to achieve that state, and had failed. And failed miserably. We see the bright spots in Israel’s history of times when their relationship with God was going well. But then there were the long dark ages of oppression and exile, after and during a time when they abandoned God. We must all realise that without God, we are “utterly helpless”.

We read further in today’s verse and find that “Christ came at just the right time”. But what about all those people who preceded Him? And all those who have never known anything about Jesus? As Old Testament readers find, there is a theme of salvation running throughout the Bible. In Romans 4 we read about how Abraham achieved righteousness in God’s sight by believing the promise that God gave Him. Genesis 15:6, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.” The Israelite king, David, was a man after God’s heart, in spite of all his very public sinful behaviour. We read in Acts 13:22, “But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’” There were many prophetic messages about salvation in the Old Testament. A common misconception, held by not only the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, was, and is, that in pre-Christ days salvation came through keeping the Law. But Paul clarified this viewpoint in Galatians 3:11, “So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”” We’re back to the example of Abraham in Genesis 15:6, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.” 

Without faith in God we are indeed “utterly helpless”. We will end up in a lost eternity, continually regretting our inability to realise our true status and where, as Jesus put it, “… there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12b). But here’s the Good News. Paul informed his readers that Jesus Himself came at a certain point in history, a time we call the “right time”, to die for all mankind, so that all sin, past, present and future, will be forgiven to those who believe in Him. We read in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2,  “As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvellous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation“. 

We pilgrims have embraced this truth and we are no longer “utterly helpless” because God has forgiven us and we, like Abraham, are counted as righteous because of our faith. But there are many around us who do not realise how desperate their situations are. We must tell them. Try and persuade them even. Before it is too late. “Today is the day of [their] salvation”. 

Dear Father God. Please help us and guide us as we tell those around us of Your wonderful free gift of salvation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Righteousness Through Belief

“And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.”
Romans 4:22-25 NLT

The story of Abraham in the Bible is remarkable. In a place called Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham (then called Abram) married a lass called Sarai (later Sarah). But Abram’s Dad, Terah, wanted to go to the land of Canaan, and he took Abram and Lot, his grandson, with him. He got half way to a place called Haran and settled there, eventually dying at the age of 205. We can read the story in Genesis 11. But in Genesis 12:1, Abram heard the call of God. We read, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you””. The next few chapters in Genesis relate the story of Abram and how he became Abraham, the father of many nations. The Apostle Paul pointed out to his readers the reason this story was included in the Scriptures of the time was because it was put there for their benefit. And, of course as it turns out, for ours as well.

God made a promise to Abraham of descendants as numerous as the stars, when he was of an age that was too old for child bearing. Sarah was well into her 90’s, an age considered impossible when it came to having children. But through faith he believed God’s promise. And Paul points out to his readers that they too will be considered righteous if they believed ”in Him the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead”. Paul’s explanation as to why was quite simple. Jesus was killed because of our sins, but through believing in Him, His resurrection made us righteous in God’s sight.

This word “belief” is critical. The dictionary definition I found today is spot on, in my opinion. “An acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof.” So although there is historical proof that Jesus was arrested and crucified, we have no proof that He allowed this to happen so that our sins are forgiven. We have no proof that because of His resurrection, we are now counted as righteous. So we have a “belief”.

But the “belief” Paul was referring to goes much deeper than the superficial meaning. Even the devil believes that Jesus existed. No, our belief in Jesus is life changing. We live in an age where people in society have largely rejected God and His ways. They may believe that a “god” of some sort exists, but that knowledge makes no difference to either the way they live in the now, or will live in the future, even beyond the grave. They may attend funerals and feel a twinge of regret or concern, but that soon wears off at the “wake”, the event scheduled to take place after a funeral service, and in an alcohol-fuelled family get together. 

We pilgrims believe with an intensity that is transforming in its impact. When we truly believe in all that God has done for us through Jesus, then we find ourselves transported to a new kingdom, the Kingdom of God. There, God rules and reigns, and we worship and praise Him, with thankful hearts. About our old lives living in the world, we read in 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light”. God’s Kingdom is like that – full of light. 

So, because of our belief, we pilgrims are righteous in God’s sight. That’s what happened to Abraham, and it has happened to us as well. “Amazing love, how can it be, that thou, my God, should die for me“.

Dear Father God. We sing that old hymn today, assured of our righteousness through faith in Your Son Jesus. Such love! Amen.

True Righteousness

“Now, is this blessing only for the Jews, or is it also for uncircumcised Gentiles? Well, we have been saying that Abraham was counted as righteous by God because of his faith. But how did this happen? Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised! Circumcision was a sign that Abraham already had faith and that God had already accepted him and declared him to be righteous—even before he was circumcised. So Abraham is the spiritual father of those who have faith but have not been circumcised. They are counted as righteous because of their faith. And Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised.”
Romans 4:9-12 NLT

Paul continues his logical analysis, designed to expose and debunk the feelings of superiority that the Jews in Rome were obviously suffering from. He challenged them with the thought that God considered that Abraham was righteous, not because he had been circumcised, but because of his faith. We read in Genesis 15:6, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.” But then some time later, we read in Genesis 17, that Abraham and his household were circumcised under the terms of the covenant God made with him. 

Paul set out a powerful argument that opened the door for all uncircumcised people to be capable of righteousness before God. We considered earlier the verse at the end of Romans 2, “No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people” (Romans 2:29). Righteousness before God is a matter of our hearts. In Deuteronomy 30:6, we read, “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live”. 

The Jews of Paul’s days were fixated on the thought that they were in a right place before God because they had been circumcised. Once again Paul reminded them that this was not necessarily the case. We pilgrims might claim that such a belief in an outward act would never apply to us. But it is possible for Christians to delude themselves, to end up in wrong thinking, replacing a heart relationship with God with something else outward and remote. I’m thinking about the liturgies and rituals we go through in practising our religion. One of them that comes to mind is the Anglican communion service, where the especially manufactured wafers and the communion wine are blessed and sanctified by the priest, and people then solemnly and individually take the sacraments. There’s nothing wrong in any of that but what about our hearts? I remember a time in such a service where two young men in the seats behind me were discussing the local football match as the priest was going through his ritual. They then proceeded to take the sacraments when they were available. What about their hearts? One of the most precious times I remember was at the end of a fellowship meal when there was some grape juice and bread left over. We spontaneously shared communion together. Jesus never said it was only the Anglican priest who could make the sacraments available. He said instead that we should remember Him through the sharing of the bread and the wine. About the bread, Jesus said, “… Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me”” (1 Corinthians 11:24). In the following verse, Jesus said, through Paul, “In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.””

Once again, we remind ourselves that righteousness starts with the states of our hearts. Do we believe in Jesus, in all that He has done for us, and the only way to God is through Him? Do we believe through faith that He died for us so that our sins were forgiven? Of course we do, but perhaps the Jews that Paul wrote to in Rome were a bit arrogant and confused. After they had read Paul’s letter they would have had no doubts about the source of true righteousness.

Dear Lord Jesus. We really do remember You, our wonderful Saviour. We worship You today with grateful hearts. Amen.


“When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.”
Romans 4:4-5 NLT

As long as society has been around there has been a system of work and reward. Man’s principle need is for warmth, shelter and food to eat. For Adam, as he tended the Garden of Eden, God’s provision was there to keep him alive and well. There was fruit for food, streams to drink from, and two trees, the fruit of the one to keep him permanently alive, “the tree of life”, and the fruit of another tree that provided the knowledge of “good and evil”. We know the story and what happened. But ever since, and as a consequence of, what we call the “Fall”, men and women have had to work hard to provide for their own basic needs. We can read the story in Genesis 3.

In our relationship with God there is a work link between His Kingdom and the earthly kingdom of which we are a part. Colossians 3:23, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people”. Bringing God into our work environment is important, because it provides an added impetus to do well. In our jobs, we get paid for the service we supply. A wage agreed when we start, and is paid regularly during the period of employment. But a problem can occur if we try and take the same principle into God’s Kingdom. Heaven’s economy is not like the economy in the world around us. In our earthly work, we earn not just our wages, but also the praise and encouragement of those we work for. And through that we can earn promotion or other favours. But the important thing about God is that there is nothing we can do to earn His favour, no matter how hard we think we are working for Him. Nothing can make Him love us more.

According to Paul, the currency in God’s Kingdom involves righteousness, and that is acquired by our faith in God, a faith that believes that are sins are forgiven. Through Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary, we are now able to stand righteously before God. There is no other way. Through Jesus, and our faith in Him, we receive forgiveness of sins. We can’t earn it by working harder. It doesn’t depend on the number of sermons a minister or pastor preaches. Or the number of times we attend a prayer meeting. Or how many hymn books we hand out on a Sunday. Or how often, even, we clean the church toilets. These things are important, but they won’t gain us forgiveness for our sins. As Paul wrote, “But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.” 

Dear Father God. We are so grateful for Jesus. We thank You for Your forgiveness of our sins. We believe You – we really do! Amen.

All Have Sinned

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”
Romans 3:23-26 NLT

A bigger than usual number of verses today. But what Paul wrote is a concise yet profound exposition of God’s love and grace, and this Biblical paragraph cannot really be subdivided. These verses start with the reality that no human being is capable of achieving God’s righteous standard. Why is that? God requires all those in His presence to be sinless, but through Adam, sin polluted everyone ever born. Once a sinful act has been committed, then exclusion from God’s presence is mandated. Paul said “we all fall short of God’s glorious standard”. I always think of it as an examiner setting a pass mark for an exam, for example 70%. Those sitting the exam may find that they have all failed, with a range of marks varying between 20% and 50%. But it is no good for the one with 50% saying he is better than the one with 20% – they have both failed the test by failing to achieve the pass mark. “God’s glorious standard” is unachievable by sinful human beings.

Thankfully God has supplied a remedy so that we can achieve His standard. And it is all through His grace. Jesus was and is the only sinless human being. He is divine because He is the Son of God, part of the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. But He was born to a human being, a young peasant girl called Mary, as part of God’s gracious rescue plan for mankind. Jesus became human so that He could sit the exam instead of us, and, being sinless, He achieved “God’s glorious standard” with 100%. 

For us pilgrims, we managed to stumble across this amazing truth. It may have been that someone had shared with us what Jesus did, and something within us responded to God’s grace. We may have picked up a Bible one day and discovered the truth for ourselves. We may have, in a moment of crisis, happened to walk past a church and entered there, finding the grace we needed at just the right time. But however it happened, there was a day when we believed in Jesus. 

Around us are many people who have not yet made that step of faith. They are still quite ignorantly making their way through life, blissfully unaware of what is coming towards them. They fail to realise that, by default, they have chosen a life separated from God because of their sin. So we pilgrims must take every opportunity to share the truth about Jesus with our friends and families. It may not make us very popular. In some countries it can lead to imprisonment and death. But share Jesus we must. We can’t keep this amazing truth to ourselves. It’s very simple – everyone, without exception, has sinned, and through His love for mankind, God has provided a remedy. That’s it!

Dear Father God. Thank You for Your grace and mercy. Every time You look at us You see Jesus and His righteousness. We don’t deserve Your mercy, but we’re grateful. Amen.

The Law

“Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.”
Romans 3:19-20 NLT

Paul’s references to the Law in these two verses seems to be in error, if taken on their own. The Law included far more than Paul would seem to indicate. But in the context of this chapter in Romans, a different picture emerges. The Law was given by God to the Israelite nation, and it had several purposes, ranging from how they should worship God through to rules for daily living. And in the process, it provided the Israelites with a “yardstick”. Something which they could use to determine their spiritual states, and, worse, show them how far short they were of keeping the Law in the way God intended. 

Jesus pointed out the problems associated with trying to obey the Law. In His “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus said He didn’t come to abolish the Law. Matthew 5:17, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose“. And then in Matthew 5:19-20, He said, “So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven“. And that’s the issue. To achieve the standard of righteousness required of God can never be attained. Regarding following the letter of the Law, the Pharisees – don’t forget Paul himself was one of them – were faultless. But they failed to follow the Law in the way that God intended. Jesus provided some illustrations in the remaining verses in Matthew 5. For example, His teaching about adultery, “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Jesus pointed out that behind the letter of the Law was a whole raft of heart attitudes, together forming the spirit of the Law.

Paul suggested to his readers that just going through a box-ticking exercise will not make them right with God. Christians can also fall into the same trap, even though they don’t follow the Jewish Law. Imagine trying to list all the things that we think we must do, to conform to a modern equivalent of the Law. Things such as following the laws of the land in which we live. Going to church on a Sunday, and the prayer meeting on a Wednesday. Having a daily “Quiet Time” with prayer and Bible reading. Taking our turns on the toilet-cleaning rota. Paying our tithe each month. And so on. Before we know it, we have developed our own version of a Law, which we think will stand us in good stead before God. None of these things are wrong in themselves. But they become pointless if they replace the relationship and respect we should have with, and for, our Heavenly Father.

So, pilgrims, what is your approach to the Christian life? In asking myself that question, I am conscious of a need to reach out to my Heavenly Father, because only He is my Source. Only He has the love and grace I need to live this life in the way He requires. and I will never achieve that my ticking a few boxes.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your presence in my life, and the lives of my brothers and sisters who are journeying their way through the Scriptures with me. I pray a blessing on them all, Lord, and a transforming touch of Your presence, to make a difference in their daily lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.””
Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭16‬-‭17‬ ‭NLT

Paul wrote in our verses today that “This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith”. It’s all about faith. We know that we cannot put the Gospel under the spotlight of a human machine, to inspect its constituent parts. To disinter how it is made. We cannot undertake a human experiment to prove that there is a life after death. We pilgrims believe the Good News. Unreservedly. We know intuitively that it is true. And although we sometimes may have doubts and wonder in amazement how something so good could be true, we always fall back on our faith in the One who said it will happen.

Even when we receive a negative response to our attempts in sharing the Gospel, there is no shame in trying. When we tell someone about the Good News of Jesus, we are venturing into another dimension, where values are different. A spiritual message to a natural person will fail to connect, most of the time. To someone struggling to survive in their natural life, particularly in today’s climate of increasing interest rates, food cost inflation, inability to see a GP, and so on, the thought about where we end up after death to them perhaps seems somehow irrelevant. So we need to remember that the Good News is more than a few words. The Apostle James wrote, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” (James 2:14-16).

Our faith in God transforms the way we disseminate the Good News. We do not communicate a few dusty and lifeless sentences in the hope that, somehow, they will acquire life in the telling. We have the Holy Spirit within us, cheering us on, bringing our faith and enthusiasm into the light of day, transforming the devil’s gloom with the glorious light of the Gospel. Bringing hope into the lives of the hopeless. Our words will be dripping with the very Words of God Himself, as we, in faith, simply share our own stories of how we met our wonderful Saviour, Jesus. We need to remember the work of the Holy Spirit in the sharing of the Good News. We read in John 16:8, “And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment“. We do the sharing. The Holy Spirit brings conviction to the hearer. Also, we must not be afraid of bringing relevant Scriptures into stories. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires“. And if the person with whom we are sharing has practical needs, part of our sharing is to help them in any way we can.

Paul finishes these verses in Romans 1 with a reference to Habakkuk 2:4. The prophet Habakkuk was disturbed by his observation that God was going to use the cruel Babylonians to judge the Israelites. He cries out, “O Lord my God, my Holy One, you who are eternal— surely you do not plan to wipe us out? O Lord, our Rock, you have sent these Babylonians to correct us, to punish us for our many sins“. (Habakkuk 1:12). And God replied to him, “Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked. But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God“. (Habakkuk 2:4). In the end, we pilgrims live in the light of God’s righteousness, as we continue close to the One who gave us the Good News. We live a life that will never end.

Dear Father God. On our knees we worship You today. Deeply grateful for all You have done for us. Amen.

Don’t Close the Book

“Then he instructed me, “Do not seal up the prophetic words in this book, for the time is near. Let the one who is doing harm continue to do harm; let the one who is vile continue to be vile; let the one who is righteous continue to live righteously; let the one who is holy continue to be holy.””
Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭10‬-‭11‬ ‭NLT

In the days before paper and books, writings would be recorded on scrolls, and they would be rolled up and sealed to preserve the contents. We saw this back in Revelation when we read, “And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?”” (Revelation 5:2). Jesus eventually stepped forward to open the scroll. He was the only one found worthy enough to break the seals and unleash the consequences on the earth. Well, now we’re at Revelation 22 and John was instructed not to seal the scroll. Today, we would say keep the book open and make it available for all to read. So this was to be no library book, removed from the shelf and relegated to a storeroom somewhere. This was no book to be placed in a box at the back of the attic. The angel was saying that events were about to come to fruition, just as described in the book. So keep it handy for reference. It was almost as though the prophecies were to form a checklist, with boxes to be ticked as the events happened, implying that the prophetic words contained within Revelation were going to happen just as described. And “soon”.

The angel continued with a strange statement. What did he mean by saying that existing behaviour must continue, whether good or bad? John’s prophetic vision about what was to happen had finished. The angel was now gently bringing him back to the present. A world populated by good and bad people. Perhaps the End Times were about to be completed so quickly that there wasn’t any time left for personal revisions of human behaviour. People were to continue carrying on as they always had done until the final day arrived. Jesus warned us that this would be the case, as we read in Matthew 24:37-39, “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realise what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.” It is sad to think that mankind has become so arrogant that warnings about the future are disregarded, people preferring to live their lives in a sinful way. Of course it was not necessarily wrong to indulge some of the social practices that were happening. It was all about where God was in them – elevated or ignored? In it all, were the people’s lives harmful and vile, or righteous and holy?

Is there any significance in the descriptive words the angel used – harm, vile, righteousness and holiness? Possibly not, because there were many other character descriptions possible to describe how mankind behaves. The message for us pilgrims is to “keep on keeping on”. As we wait for the final days to come, we must continue to do the things God has asked us to do. Sharing our messages of hope. Living our lives as we should. Following Christ at every opportunity. Aspiring to true righteousness and holiness.

Dear Father God. Thank You for Your faithful servant John, who so diligently wrote down everything presented to him. Please help us too to be diligent in the tasks You have set us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Shouting in Heaven

After this, I heard what sounded like a vast crowd in heaven shouting, “Praise the Lord! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God. His judgments are true and just. He has punished the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality. He has avenged the murder of his servants.” And again their voices rang out: “Praise the Lord! The smoke from that city ascends forever and ever!””Revelation‬ ‭19:1-3‬ ‭NLT

The Apostle John’s vision moves onto happier times. “Babylon” is no more and the celebrations in Heaven, focussed on God, declare His righteous judgements. The wrongs committed against God’s servants, during their times on earth, are finally righted. The balance between good and evil is redressed. Only what has survived the fire of God’s judgements has prevailed. We don’t know how long the party lasts, but they note that the smoke of the smouldering remains of “Babylon” ascends forever.

Heaven will be so different to what we pilgrims experience in our lives here on Planet Earth. Gold on earth, so beloved by the world’s inhabitants, is used for paving roads in the New Jerusalem. The world’s value system has either been turned upside down or doesn’t exist anymore because it is considered irrelevant. But how did it come to this? God wanted His people to be rich on earth. Take Job for example. We read in Job 42:12, “So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys.” Job was a wealthy, but righteous man, and he knew the blessings of God because he had a right relationship with Him. 

But sadly, what God wanted as a blessing for His people became corrupted by the devil’s schemes. People abandoned God and instead put their faith in the worldly kingdom, in riches and wealth, without acknowledging God as their Source and Heavenly Father. Hence the birth of “Babylon”.

Our loving Heavenly Father was never going to let this state of affairs last forever, and our verses today describe the party going on in Heaven. Let’s make sure we are there to enjoy it as well.

Father God. Can we hear in our spirits the shouting and singing reverberating around the Heavens? In faith we reach out to You, confident, through Your Son, Jesus, of our place there with all Your people. We are so grateful. Amen.

Belt and Braces

“Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armour of God’s righteousness.”
Ephesians‬ ‭6:14‬ ‭NLT

Now we’re getting into the nitty gritty of how Paul advised devil resistance. For the third time in this short section, he exhorted his readers to “stand“. “Stand your ground“, “stand firm“, “standing firm” all appear between verses 11 and 14. In the face of an onslaught, when the fight or flight emotions flood in, just to stand seems a bit counter-intuitive. But Paul, writing under the Holy Spirit’s direction and influence, knew what he was talking about. There he was in his prison cell, probably chained between two Roman soldiers, suddenly struck by how he could use the armour they were wearing as an illustration of the spiritual armour his friends in Ephesus would need. 

The first item that caught his eye was the soldiers’ belts, which he straight away associated with the “belt of truth“. He could see immediately that truth was an important defensive weapon to be used against the devil’s attacks. The devil is very good at telling lies. In fact, Jesus warned us of his propensity for lying, as we read in John 8:44, “For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies“. But we have access to the absolute truth, because it is contained within God’s Word. Perhaps the devil is whispering things in your ear this morning, like “you’re rubbish”, or “you really messed up yesterday”, or he prevails on someone else to malign you on social media. All such comments can be distilled as lies, because the absolute truth is that you are a child of God. And so am I. I’m conscious as I write this blog today, that the devil is not happy with the words I’m using. He’s telling me I’m running out of time and need to be doing something else. But I’m determined to write down the truth about God’s love for His children. About how He created us, planned for us before the world was even created, put us together in our mother’s wombs. About how we are so wonderful to Him that we are the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8) and have our names written on the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:16). These things are the truth about us. Not the lies the devil is using. So we stand firm in the truth about who God is and His relationship with each one of us. 

The second item Paul noticed that his soldier-jailors were wearing, was their body armour. Their breastplates, protecting their hearts and vital organs from attack. And he associated this with righteousness. You see, it is our hearts that are the place where our relationship with God resides. Not our physical hearts, but that part of our spirit that softens when we think of God and His people, where the love for Him flows, where we feel the whisper of His love-breath, sweet and always there if we listen for it. Unfortunately, the sin and hassles of life will harden the walls of our hearts. But we have the truth before us that He will always forgive, always be loving, always be there for us. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary, when He died for us and exchanged His righteousness for our sins, we always can claim, and have access to, God’s righteousness. We confess and repent, He forgives. So the next time the devil accuses us of sin and tries to drive us down the tubes, we can stand because before God we are righteous. And there is nothing the devil can do about that. He was defeated by Jesus at the Cross. Keep Romans 8:1-2 in mind, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death“. The devil will try to condemn us because of our sins. Jesus says otherwise – I know who I want to listen to!

So we have an effigy of a Roman Soldier. And the belt and breastplate are glowing there like burnished gold, inducing a wobble into the devil’s tactics. Amazingly, there’s more – next thrilling instalment tomorrow.