Archive

Archive for September, 2017

Waiting for the Coming of Jesus

September 27th, 2017
Comments Off

How could the Ephesian church live up to this teaching?

With great difficulty. In fact on their own it was impossible.

The powers against them were too great.

That’s why Paul writes

Ephesians 6:10-12

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

There is only one location to be strong. Jesus must be at the centre of our desires and affections.

11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

This is overwhelming. You can see the satanic power of evil when you look at governments around this world. The fact that human beings can even think of threatening nuclear destruction on one another is a blasphemy against God who has made us in his image. It is too awful to even contemplate.

Then Paul turns upside the weapons of the Roman legion.

This is a different type of warfare. It starts within. It is surrendering to the rule of God in our lives.

And there is only one way to wage this struggle.

Ephesians 6:18

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Thy kingdom come. It starts within our heart. It is only by prayer can we see the kingdom of God in our lives.

Did the early church become discouraged after so many years of this spiritual battle and with no return of Jesus?

NT Wright said:

In the scholarship of the last two generations people have said the early Christians were so worried because Jesus had not come back after generations. I regard that as mostly a projection of the failure of European hopes in the middle of the 20th century… that works its way through into New Testament scholarship and they think it was like that in the early church as well: they’re their hopes were dashed and they didn’t know what to do next.

I’m looking at the text and apart from one little flicker in second Peter, actually they’re not saying oh dear what’s gone wrong. They say yeah he’ll come back he will make absolutely everything new.

But in the meantime we have the Spirit we have God’s presence with us we are celebrating God’s kingdom as a now as well as a not yet and so let’s get on and do it and and see where we’re going next. But they are celebrating the presence of God’s kingdom as they’re waiting…

The Church quickly learned to see that the suffering was a sign that they were actually at the leading edge of the kingdom and that they interpreted the suffering not just as miscellaneous oh dear it’s all gone wrong but rather we are now the representatives of Jesus who is the Lord against the principalities and powers. So it’s no surprise that the principalities and powers recognize that and they’re coming to get us.

It means we really are the servants of the king. The suffering is a badge of the fact that we are sharing the Messianic sufferings of Jesus

How do Christians live in this world waiting for the coming of Jesus? Are we are a pessimistic, always negative and critical group?

Too often Bible believers take on a mantle of authority that don’t have about topics they know nothing about.

They can become really quite unpleasant to be around.

Or are we to be a humble people who are filled with the joy of looking forward to the time Jesus will put right this world? He is the answer, not us.

I want to study Peter’s instruction in 1 Peter 1:3-10 to see what are the characteristics of Christians who believe in the coming of Jesus. Who are waiting for the revelation of Jesus at the last Trumpet blast.

1 Peter 1:3

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

This is a Christian statement!

We are given the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Jesus as a human son, shows us how we are to worship his Father. We see that early in his ministryin his Father’s house – the Temple. “My Father’s house” means:  “This house is about knowing and loving and treasuring a person, my Father. In this temple, my Father has supreme place. He is the supreme treasure here. “A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” . “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you”.

Everything he did was in obedience to his Father’s will. So much so – if you seen the Son you have seen the Father.

That’s why we have so great confidence in God’s motive towards us.

In his great mercy

How often this is said in scripture. This is not because of anything we are or have achieved.

he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Our new birth described by Jesus to Nicodemus has within it the living hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. There are so much resting on that to the point that without the belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, there is no Christian faith.

And there would be no future either. Christianity would only be a religion of this world, according to human reason. Its hope would be in us getting our act together. Not much hope in that.

But Jesus is alive! That changes everything.

It is a living hope because we hope in Christ and he is alive for evermore, able to save us completely. The same power that raised Jesus to the right hand of God, is now working in us.

We are looking forward, not wishfully, but with certainty to enjoy the same glorious body Jesus was raised with.

And it is only because of the Father’s great mercy: pity, compassion.

The Father knows who we are by our fleshly birth.

Psalm103:14-16

14 for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.

That’s the hopelessness of our first birth in the old creation. But we have a living hope in the new creation.

1 Peter 1:4

 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,

Everything about us, in fact this whole creation is running down, getting old, perishing and wearing out like a garment. But not the inheritance that Jesus brings for us.

1 Peter1:5 -6

 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

The shield of faith extinguishes all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Satan wants us to doubt. He wants us to question the reality of the promises of God. He wants us to wonder if it is worth the troubles we go through for Jesus’ name as we live differently to the values around us.

Those doubts could be very subtle. I think when people go to a funeral and people say “Old Harry is looking down upon and enjoying our drinks in his name.” .

This all trivializes the need and wonder of the resurrection at Jesus’ coming, the firstfruits of the new creation.

Our faith is from God’s power working in us. It is not a theoretical working. We have already seen the result in Jesus’ resurrection, and glorification.

He will not stop working in us until the reality of who we really are is revealed. Revealed means this salvation already exists. It is now hidden in Christ with God.

The end of this present evil world which is under the rule of death is coming to an end.

“Last times” is not a term for us to speculate about. The Father knows when. We don’t. Sufficient is to trust him that there is a last time.

6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

Here is the great paradox of the Christian faith. Rejoicing in grief.

How difficult this is to understand.

Read more…

Message for the Day

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin August and September

September 27th, 2017
Comments Off

To be updated for August and September please click here.

Prayers

The Challenge of the Kingdom of God Today

September 25th, 2017
Comments Off

I want to introduce a few observations about the kingdom of God. We are part of the first participants in this kingdom.

As you listen think about the obligations of citizenship of this kingdom today. It has very different values to this world.

Please watch Bible Project The Kingdom of God by clicking here.

We are living in the truth of that kingdom. We are praying “Thy Kingdom Come”. And it is coming into our lives first.

We are meant to live very differently to the world around us.

It is a life centred on what we know about Jesus – how he is our hope. A new world is coming. We endeavour to live his future today.

In this message I want to focus on how kingdom living today affects relationships. We want to be a people made ready for the great change that will occur when Jesus returns.

When the NT was written the Roman culture encouraged the striving for personal status and seeking to get oneself out of any position where one would have to serve others. It was very male dominated with anything goes in morality. The only thing that bothered them was public honour. Yet following Christ then and today could bring dishonour, I meant becoming a servant to others and having a very different morality to the Roman world.

In many ways the church was odd. It was seen as weird and unnatural when contrasted with a Roman Empire built on might is right.

Today, I would like to look at some of Paul’s instruction to the church at Ephesus. It was a free city but very important to Rome and reflected Roman values.

Paul is inspired to encourage the church to sustain the new life of a Christian in the face of cynicism and the relentless pagan world around them.

Christ’s values were to flow into all relationships including marriage, parenting, slaves and masters. Effectively this new teaching would turn upside down all the male authoritarian attitudes of the day by making the one who had authority a servant.

Rather than the Emperor being the model of leadership Jesus became the new standard.

The beginning teaching is

Ephesians 5:21

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

They were to live with mutual respect. Why? Because of what they admired in Christ.

Let us look now at three major power relationships which overflowed into the church:

1. Marriage

Marriage was more contractual in Roman days, rather than romantic. The man was usually twice as old and thus more of an authority father figure.

Ephesians 5:22-24

 22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

There is nothing on the surface radically new in this teaching. That was the way things were. But it actually is radical.

Paul is not encouraging a breakdown of order. But he wants the wives to see their position in relationship to their Lord. They have a spiritual life because Christ is the head of the church, and also because he sacrificed himself for them.

Every wife, who by the very standards of that society was in a lower role, would now have a powerful new perspective in her motivation to live an orderly and respectful life. Not from being owned or the inferior sex or a second class citizen, but because of who she was in Christ. She was now filled by the same Spirit, with the same life of God as her husband working powerfully in her inner being.

She was a temple of God, with the invisible presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling in her, causing a spring of living waters to flow from within. By faith she had been fully liberated from the attitudes of the sinful world into the glorious liberty of a child of God. She shared with her husband the unity of the Spirit and everything that meant.

The Spirit was just as powerfully working in her as her husband. Can you imagine the joy of this knowledge and can you imagine the challenge to men to appreciate this and its implications in its fullness.

And in that pagan Roman world, it would have seen as offensive as Jesus was to his Jewish audience when he gave his parable of the good Samaritan. In fact when Paul lived, his teaching was on a collision course with every husband, father and master. He would not have been on a collision course with women, children or slaves – because they would have find an incredible respect for their position in Christ, compared to the pagan world.

A potential for trouble could come from those who took his teaching as a license to flaunt their freedom and create confusion and a disorder in a very male hierarchical society.

There is wisdom and timing in all growth. But in reality Paul does sow the seed that if understood spiritually would make Christian communities and their relationships in marriage very different to the Roman world.

Before Paul gives his radical teaching to the husband, the one who had enormous authority in the ancient world, he instructs the wive to see her submission as a spiritual submission to Christ and not from a second class citizen position or belonging to the inferior sex or because her husband owned her.

You can see the importance of giving this instruction first when you are about to threaten the male world view. Think about certain countries today if this was not taught carefully.

But here comes the new radical teaching

Ephesians 5:25-33

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 
26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,
27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 
28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—
30 for we are members of his body.
31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

This would have caused almost uncomprehending silence when first heard. Paul is saying the husbands whole purpose was to be like Christ. It had nothing to do with self and how he felt about things or how his dad behaved or the values of the society around him. His life was from above. He was not to trust the old sinful nature and the use of anger and other works of the flesh.

Imagine men who have grown with the idea that the wife exists for the man’s needs, to be obedient to his requests and who can be physically beaten if he found her displeasing – to suddenly confront the new man, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Those still of the the flesh would have got angry and accused the apostle Paul of subverting the natural order. But those who were in step with the Spirit would have seen their spiritual emptiness. They would have not listened to their thoughts and emotions, realizing the life of God in their inner being was much deeper, received by faith.

And always as we learn together to seek God’s will and do those things that are pleasing to God we don’t want the wife to lose her respect with this new community that God is building – particularly as the husband really needs as much support as possible to understand what Paul is saying here.

“But I am talking about Christ and the church.” I think this tells us that Paul realizes that we will fall short of this ideal, but Christ does not in his relationship to us as the true bridegroom. Husbands and wives are always looking to him in hope.

The next two relationships are in light of the above.

Read more…

Message for the Day