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Archive for May, 2017

Worship 3

May 23rd, 2017
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John 20: 19-22

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders,

We read of a confused, fearful group of individuals, locked away in a room. They are fearful of the Jewish leaders.

Jesus came and stood among them

Jesus comes to them.

and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

With the risen Christ in their midst, they receive the gift of his faith and peace. They are changed into a joyful worshipping community. But there is a purpose for such a community.

21 Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.

They receive their mission and the Spirit to help them do it. Notice that being an assembly is for the purpose being sent out. We can talk about that at another time.

Acts tells us of Pentecost. They receive the gift of the Spirit. The Jerusalem congregation starts and expands rapidly. After this Luke gives us a description of the worshipping community. In

Acts 2:42-47

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

We read of about 3000 people who have received a new identity in Christ! Together, they are the church. The word pictures describe their fellowship.

They generously share life together. Who they are is the church.

Something to think about.

Hastings:

As communities of the risen Christ… Christians will rediscover church as an identity. (Who they are) It is not just a responsibility to fit in among other commitments. The identity of the disciples around Jesus in that community in John 20 was forever to be the church. The church’s mission starts with people living their whole life as the people of God in a community. They are loved and they love. The life and love of that community are known (John 13:34-35).

Now we all know we serve in different ways based on our life circumstances and the different stages of our lives.

But within our limitations we do seek to be a people who are learning the way of God’s world in the midst of this present evil world.

The new Christians we read about in Acts have become “the church” – the “ekklesia” – the “assembly”. They are to be like God who is one in love, fellowship and purpose.

Christians too often hear or read scriptures only as private instructions for them. Yet scripture uses collective nouns to describe the church:, “temple”, “household”, “God’s building”, “the Israel of God”, “body”, “bride”. The scriptures were given primarily to congregations hearing together.

The King James Version of the Bible shows the singular and plural forms of “you” in these scriptures. This can be both helpful and make clearer the meaning. In the KJV – “thee” and “thou” refer to the singular; “ye” and “you” to the plural.

In Ephesians 4, Paul describes us growing up together into the maturity of the one true human, Jesus Christ. Paul places this growing towards maturity within our local congregations. The Body of Christ is local and real in these congregations. In the remainder of the letter Paul offers some insights that help us grasp what the life of the body together looks like.

Church for many Christians becomes another one of many things to do that fill busy schedules. We are to understand and accept the first importance of us growing up together, needing one another. Too many miss out on what God has in mind by reducing their relationship to ‘you and me God’.

What is needed today is a better understanding of the person. A person not just an individual. A person is someone in communion with God and with others. We are defined by our relationships.

Now before we think that gregarious or extraverted people are more like God than those who prefer to be alone or who struggle with other people, we need to realize Paul’s fundamental instruction was

Ephesians 4:3

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

In other words we have received something which we hold onto to.

It is not something we create through our personality. We receive it and want to hold onto it. The bond of peace is also what God has achieved for all of us with himself and it is meant to be extended to one another.

Read more…

Message for the Day

Worship2(B)

May 18th, 2017
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Christ our Worship leader

Can we have have a true understanding of worship, prayer, baptism and the Lord’s Supper without a New Testament understanding of the priesthood of Christ?

Reflect on the following words:

Such is the wonderful love of God, that he has come to us in Jesus Christ. Jesus takes on our life (the life of all men). He accepts all our responsibilities.

He offered for us a life of worship and obedience and prayer to the Father. He has taken to Himself our body of death. On our behalf he has submitted to the verdict of ‘guilty’, died our death and risen again in our humanity.

So that by the grace of God, his life is our life, his death is our death, his victory our victory, his resurrection, our resurrection, his righteousness our righteousness. His eternal prayers and self-offerings to the Father are our prayers and offering in the presence of the Father. So we are accepted in the Beloved, and accepted as sons.

…by grace, God gives us what he demands. Jesus draws near to us to give himself to us in wonderful love and fellowship. This is an act, where God draws us near to himself in Christ. We are accepted by God, not because we have offered worthy worship, but in spite of our unworthiness. How? Because he has provided for us a Worship, a Way, a Sacrifice, a Forerunner in Christ our Leader and Representative.

Our worship is our joyful Amen to that Worship. It is our response of faith to God’s grace. So we worship God “through Jesus Christ our Lord”, and pray “in the name of Jesus Christ”.

Thus we are not trying to be zealous Jews under the Old Covenant.

Paul basically said he was the best at that and it was nothing compared to gaining Christ.

Philippians 3:3-11

3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh – 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ (or through the faithfulness of) – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

So it is very clear where worship or serving in the Spirit is focused.

And there is a reason for this focus.

Jesus Christ is the one human being who truly bears the image of God.. He is the only human whose self-offering of worship is completely acceptable to God. Because of our union with him through the Spirit we are able to share his life of worship and communion.

Such a view rejects any idea that our response to God depends upon only ourselves. Our praise, our worship, our music, our righteousness is not enough. Instead, our proper response to God only occurs as the Spirit makes it possible for us to take part in Jesus’ life, fellowship and worship with the Father.

There is something very humbling about that, but also very liberating and assuring.

There is only one true Priest through whom and with whom we draw near to God our Father. There is only one Mediator between God and humanity. There is only one offering which is truly acceptable to God, and it is not ours. It is the offering by which he has made holy for all time those who come to God by him.

Hebrews 2:11

Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sister

Hebrews 10:10.14

10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy.

There is only one who can lead us into the presence of the Father by his sacrifice on the cross. He makes us acceptable without blame in the Father’s presence.

As I said before our praise, our worship, our music, our righteousness is not enough.

As we look more and more to Jesus, as the author and finisher of our faith, we begin to realise that the scriptures reveal that our worship doesn’t start with us. It involves us in sharing Jesus’ worship.

Hebrews 2:12

He says,
‘I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the assembly I will sing your praises.’

This provides us with a beautiful, very encouraging picture of Jesus standing in the midst of the congregation.

He speaks God’s word to us. He reveals the Father to us.

He also leads our responsive praise to God. We are part of something much greater than our small and feeble efforts.

Read more…

Message for the Day

Worship 2(A)

May 16th, 2017
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We are looking at the subject of worship, following on from last week.

Worship is usually seen in the context of a religious system. We have various practices in that system associated with worship.
Religious people are those who involve themselves in these practices as they show their respect to their God.

For the early church, it was important to understand the difference between worshipping as a Christian or worshipping under the Old Covenant.

In the next reading we will see Paul contrasting the Old with the New.

As you read, reflect on the fact that Paul was the most zealous young man of his generation for the Jewish religion-a religion which came from God’s revelation recorded in the Old Testament.

Yet as you listen you hear that he is overwhelmed at Jesus Christ – his glory to the Old Covenant is like comparing the sun to the moon.

 2 Corinthians 3

1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
4 Such confidence we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Did we see that Israel’s worship under the Old Covenant was glorious.? It was a revealed religion given directly by God to Moses.

That makes it unique in world history.

As we read in Deuteronomy 4:32-39

32 Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? 33 Has any other people heard the voice of God[a] speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? 34 Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
35 You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. 36 From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. 37 Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, 38 to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today.

39 Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.

Paul never rejected this glorious story. He loved what his people had.

But something is more glorious.

2 Corinthians 3:10 -11

10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

Tom Wright:

What Jesus the Messiah has done, once and for all, comes both as the crown and completion of God’s previous purposes. It is the new reality which takes their place.

…. Now the proper replacement has come. Nobody in their right mind would stay with the temporary one, let alone go back to it having once experienced the new, and permanent, way which has come to birth.

We need to understand we are not replacing the revealed glorious religious system with a new religious system. We are now focused on a person who is always with us.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Paul describes this as the ministry of the Spirit

2 Corinthians 3:8

 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious

Jesus is present and working in the Spirit.

Thus it isn’t our ministry or even our worship we are looking at. We are joined by the Spirit to Jesus’ ministry and he is the one who leads us in true worship.

In the Christian faith there is a lot less about us and what we do and a lot more about who Jesus is and what he is doing for us.

Our worship could be described as a boasting about the Lord. Let him who boasts boast about the Lord.

He is our everything before God. So whatever we do in worship Jesus must be in the centre of it. We are always remembering him.

And he leads us and presents us in himself to the Father and is present working in us in the Spirit.

Message for the Day ,