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Exile (1)

September 21st, 2018
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To introduce the concept of Exile please watch the Bible Project on Exile by clicking  here.

This raises important discussions about the relationship of the Christian as he waits for the coming of Jesus Christ.

“How are we to be in the world but not of the world?” In other words, how much are we to be in or engaged in the culture and in our community and in what goes on in our world, and how much are we to withdraw and separate ourselves from the world and regard ourselves as outsiders? on earth?

And what is the most important work of the church?

Is the idea of a Christian being in exile helpful?

Some interpret it to mean that the hostility we are increasingly facing from our culture is only what we should expect if this world is not our home— we don’t belong here, we’re in exile here. And the best we can therefore do is to hunker down or circle the wagons or whatever metaphor you wish to employ.

Now, there’s another view that takes a completely opposite view—that rather than withdrawing or in any way of being afraid of our culture or our society as exiles living within it, we should instead be like the exiles of Jeremiah 29’s day

Jeremiah 29:4-7

4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’

We should—“Seek the welfare of the city, where I have sent you into exile.”

So should we define ourselves like the exiles in Babylon or is that misreading the context of the instruction?

From the video we see that exile had certain characteristics in the OT.

The Bible contains the stories of the people of God when they lost all. People torn away from their land, torn up as a people, and torn down by humiliating loss. This is the meaning of the exile in the last sections of the Old Testament in which Israel in the north is destroyed by the Assyrian empire, and Judah in the south is taken into exile by the Babylonians.

Exile is an Old Testament concept is centred on the removal of God’s people Israel from their land because they sinned and under God’s judgement. That’s the basic idea of exile. Exile has to do with God’s judgement on his people. It has to do with being away from their land as well—away from their place.

So part of his judgement is removing them from Israel to the surrounding nations so that they’re no longer under his kingship directly—they’re not longer under his rule—they’re not God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule. They’re more like God’s people outside of God’s place and under God’s rule over all, but actually under someone else’s rule and, not directly God’s rule.

There’s other ways that the Bible talks about that actually using exile kind of language. So, for example, way back in Genesis chapter 3, where the man and the woman sin against God, they’re in the Garden of Eden, and God drives them out from the Garden of Eden as a judgement for their sin, so they no longer have access to the Tree of Life. That is actually exile kind of language as well.

So exile is one way of talking about the human problem of the fact that we’re all under judgement, that we all now live outside the garden, all no longer under God’s rule in God’s place as God’s people.

The exile is tragedy, but it is matched by the hopeful story of the return of God’s people to the land described in Ezra and Nehemiah, and in the last three books of the Old Testament, the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Even before the destruction of Israel and the exile of Judah happened, the prophets spoke of eventual restoration.

Indeed, some 70 years after Jerusalem was emptied and the temple was destroyed, the leader of a new dominant empire, Cyrus of Persia, decreed that Jews be allowed to return to their land and begin a process of reconstruction. The book of

Nehemiah documents reconstruction of the city; the book of Ezra, the reconstruction of the spiritual life of the people.

In the story of the return of the Jews, we see the central importance of worship as the people begin sacrificing again on the site of the old temple, the importance of the Word of God as Ezra reads the book of the Law in the hearing of all the people, the importance of moral leadership.

We also see in the return the unchanging covenant of God, the central theme of the Old Testament. Through Ezra and others, the people rediscover the Book of God, and through it they remember the God of creation, of the covenant with Abram, of the deliverance in the exodus, of the land.

And all of this in spite of the disobedience and unfaithfulness of the people. This is God then, and God now.

They are looking to their home life which is with God – pictured by the restored temple.

How does this idea of exile, yearning for our home life work in the Christian story?

Message for the Day

John8(4c) – Our Freedom In Christ

September 20th, 2018
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For us to enter this true freedom, we need two things: We need God’s liberating truth and we need God’s liberating grace.

The crown of creation is the human creature. God from the beginning gave us freedom and therefore we are responsible beings. That freedom is such that it allows us to one day become increasingly conformed to the divine will and nature, and thus to enjoy an ever growing fellowship with our Creator.

Lets quickly rehearse some fundamentals:

1. God created all people to participate through the humanity of Jesus Christ in the love relationship enjoyed by the Father, Son and Spirit.

2. The Son became human, the man Jesus Christ, to reconcile all humanity to God through his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension.

3. The crucified, resurrected and glorified Jesus is the representative and the substitute for humanity at the right hand of God, and he draws all people to himself by the power of the Holy Spirit.

4. In Christ, humanity is loved and accepted by the Father.

5. Jesus Christ paid for all our sins – past, present and future – and there is no longer any debt to pay.

6. The Father has in Christ forgiven all our sins, and he eagerly desires that we turn to him.

7. We can enjoy his love only when we believe that he loves us. We can enjoy his forgiveness only when we believe he has forgiven us.

8. When we respond to the Spirit by turning to God, believing the good news and and following Jesus, the Spirit leads us into the new life of the kingdom of God.

The God of the Bible, who, in his own divine freedom, has created a truly free universe with truly free people.

But he exercises his awesome creativity and wisdom continually, because, in spite of sinning and rebellious humans, he does bring about his purpose for them. Paul used himself as proff of this.

In his covenant faithfulness, he is constantly bringing good out of evil and light out of darkness ..

The God of the Bible does not force anyone to trust him. He doesn’t remove anyone’s freedom to refuse him. Yet, he is infinitely creative in his means of knocking on the doors of our human castles, inviting, even urging, us to invite him in.

This is the God who became one of us in Jesus Christ.

Notice again how Jesus defines our slavery.

John 8:34

Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.

Read more…

Message for the Day

John8(4b) -God’s Freedom

September 19th, 2018
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A lot of people believed in Jesus.

As we saw last time Jesus explains what it means to be a true disciple.

John8:31-36

31 To the Jews who had believed him,
Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.

But then he makes this dramatic statement

32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’

Jesus reveals that he is the one in whom people find true freedom. When he made
this statement, it was of great offense to the Jewish leaders.

33 They answered him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?’

This revealed how the Jews had become so deceived, so proud of their heritage as descendents of Abraham, that they denied the fact that they had been enslaved to the Egyptians, the Babylonians, Perians , the Greeks, and that at that time they were under Roman occupation.

But Jesus had a deeper slavery in mind.

34 Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it for ever.
36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

As we showed last time knowing Christ is about holding onto his teaching. It receiving who he claims to be. Jesus, the crucified and risen, living Lord of the universe, is the source and content of real freedom in our life.

Jesus is offering us true freedom. How can he do this? You can only give what you have.

We could say that freedom is the opposite of deception, bondage to death and slavery to sin. But that’s what it isn’t. But what is it?

Jesus wants us to be really free. Freedom in its deepest and fullest meaning. Somehow we sense it has to be associated with being in God’s family forever.

Now God is absolutely and perfectly free. What this means is that there is a total absence of any outside constraints or force or limitations on God whenever God acts — for God, freedom is absolute.

But as we will see he is motivated by who he is: a being in loving relationships. He cannot be untrue to who he is.

So lets look briefly at God’s freedom.

God is free to be who he is.

Exodus 3:14

God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I am has sent me to you.”’

 Or I will be what I will be
Or I will do what I will do in the history of Israel and the world.  With the implication that you can know who I am by what I do in your story. There is no slippage in God: His doing is the same as his being.

God is the source and cause of all being and existence. He brings everything into being without anything bringing him into being. He is pure Being, that “Is-ness” from which all other being flows. All things depend upon him for their existence, and he depends upon nothing for his existence.

He can and does change as he, in his uncreated freedom, chooses to change. He cannot be forced to change by anything outside himself, as though he were a created being.

But in his divine freedom, God can, of himself, change and feel.

When God created the whole of existence, God was not limited by any environmental constraints or material constraints in how God created things.

God’s absolute freedom also exists on an even more fundamental level. He could have created everything different from how it currently is. God also had the freedom not to create anything at all. God was not required in any fashion to create existence.Time and space did not have to exist.

Instead, creation was a free choice made by God because it fulfilled some desire or purpose of God.

He is free to create the universe and humanity and interact with them in whatever way pleases him.

And what pleases him is to be faithful to and with his creation.

Our freedom to be who we are in Christ is not a freedom that we have simply by virtue of existing. It is a freedom given to us by God, entrusted to us, and dependent upon God’s own freedom to give it to us.

Lets see this freedom of God revealed to us in Christ.

In his eternal peace, God is not depressed, confused, worried, or bowled over by human sin, tragedy and disaster. After all, he knows his power and purpose and what he is bringing out of it all.

In other words, the universe is not “on its own.” While there is indeed “cause and effect,” “cause and effect” is not all there is. While the universe functions according to general rules laid out by its Creator, it is not detached from its Creator’s free and gracious will and creatively sustaining presence.

In other word there is more happening than just the laws off physics.

God delighted to make things in such a way that they bump and collide their way through what we might call a sort of “randomly ordered” existence. Even our lives are subject to what we call “time and chance,”

Yet we believe, as Christians, that these very real, and often painful upsets of “time and chance” are the mysterious and gracious means through which our loving Father brings us out of darkness into his marvelous light.

The God of the Bible has no problem with changing whenever he decides to, and he remains perfect and perfectly God all the while. He haggled with Abraham over the fate of Sodom, agreeing to change his plan under certain conditions .

God changed his mind about saving the Israelites when they started worshiping the calf at Mount Sinai, then allowed Moses to talk him out of killing them all and starting the whole plan over with Moses’ children.

He accommodated himself to Israel’s desire for a king (1 Samuel 8). He changed his plan regarding wicked King Ahab’s punishment.

“Wait a minute. What about the verse that says, `For I the Lord do not change’? (Malachi 3:6)

Read more…

Message for the Day