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Waiting for the Coming of Jesus

September 27th, 2017
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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

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

Christianity is a religion of joy (2)

April 18th, 2017
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We asked last time:

How can Christianity be a religion of joy in the midst of the groaning and travail of this world?

Why is it individual Christians in the presence of tragic loss lose their faith and other communities like the Congolese are strengthened in the midst of events too hard to describe.

I would like to share an excerpt from Charles Sturgeon’s biography and how he was converted at age 16.

Look up, looking to Jesus

I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now, had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist Church. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of the Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly that they made people’s heads ache; but that did not matter to me. I wanted to know how I might be saved….

The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. Now it is well that preachers be instructed, but this man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was—”LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH” (Isa. 45:22)

He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimmer of hope for me in that text.

The preacher began thus: “This is a very simple text indeed. It says ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pain. It aint liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look.

“But then the text says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Ay!” he said in broad Essex, “many on ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves. Some say look to God the Father. No, look to Him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Some on ye say ‘We must wait for the Spirit’s workin.’ You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. The text says, ‘Look unto Me.’ ”

Then the good man followed up his text in this way: “Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me, I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to Heaven. Look unto Me; I am sitting at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! look unto Me!”

When he had . . . . managed to spin out about ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger.

Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, “Young man, you look very miserable.” Well, I did, but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, “And you will always be miserable—miserable in life and miserable in death—if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.” Then lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but look and live!”

I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said—I did not take much notice of it—I was so possessed with that one thought . . . . I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, “Look!” what a charming word it seemed to me. Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away.

There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me this before, “Trust Christ, and you shall be saved.” Yet it was, no doubt, all wisely ordered, and now I can say—

“E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die. . .”

That happy day when I found the Saviour, and learned to cling to His dear feet, was a day never to be forgotten by me . . . . I listened to the Word of God and that precious text led me to the cross of Christ. I can testify that the joy of that day was utterly indescribable. I could have leaped, I could have danced; there was no expression, however fanatical, which would have been out of keeping with the joy of that hour. Many days of Christian experience have passed since then, but there has never been one which has had the full exhilaration, the sparkling delight which that first day had.

I thought I could have sprung from the seat in which I sat, and have called out with the wildest of those Methodist brethren . . . “I am forgiven! I am forgiven! A monument of grace! A sinner saved by blood!”

My spirit saw its chains broken to pieces, I felt that I was an emancipated soul, an heir of heaven, a forgiven one, accepted in Jesus Christ, plucked out of the miry clay and out of the horrible pit, with my feet set upon a rock and my goings established . . . .

Between half-past ten o’clock, when I entered that chapel, and half-past twelve o’clock, when I was back again at home, what a change had taken place in me! Simply by looking to Jesus I had been delivered from despair, and I was brought into such a joyous state of mind that, when they saw me at home, they said to me, “Something wonderful has happened to you,” and I was eager to tell them all about it. Oh! there was joy in the household that day, when all heard that the eldest son had found the Saviour and knew himself to be forgiven.

That joy would be tested in many ways. On one occasion his cathedral burnt down with loss of life. On another, he found himself at odds doctrinally with his denomination and eventually went alone.

This joy does not remove the unpredictabilities of life. It doesn’t guarantee a happy ending with all the loose ends tied together or a restful death in this life.

One of the most difficult things to believe is in

2 Corinthians 4:16 -17

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Light and momentary trouble? That’s only a statement of contrast. It does not diminish them.

This joy does not prevent the “what I feared has come upon me” as uttered by Job.

One can sense why Paul had to emphasise the resurrection in 1Corinthians 15:30-32

30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day – yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,
‘Let us eat and drink,
    for tomorrow we die.’

This reflects the perplexity of those who persecute Christians – why not just walk away and join the rest of us.
As I said last week there is a powerful factor in who survives this life in faith and those who don’t.

This is our last in the series on joy.

I want to focus again on the communal aspect of joy.

Volf:

Joy is best experienced in community. Joy seeks company (“come and rejoice with me”) and the company of those who rejoice feeds the joy of each. Feasts and celebrations both express and nourish joy.

As feasts and celebrations illustrate, though joy is irreducibly personal—nobody can rejoice in my place!—joyfulness can also be an aura of a social space, whether a household or a larger community, so that when we enter such a space, we enter into joy, and, often, joy enters into us.

Psalm 126

A song of ascents.Many scholars believe the title indicates that these psalms were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim festivals (Deuteronomy 16:16). Others think they were sung by the Levite singers as they ascended the fifteen steps to minister at the Temple in Jerusalem.

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
    ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
    like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

There is a sense of “us” in these Psalms.

The Lord has done great things for us.There is a restoration from exile involved. The lost have been found. The captives have been sent free.

It has the good news we hear at the start of Jesus’ ministry

Luke 4:18-19

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

The ‘joy’ we see in the gospels is: the joy of discovering that Israel’s God was at last doing the thing he had promised, rescuing the people from their ‘exile’ and providing forgiveness, restoration and new life.

The four gospels thus link their narrative, and with it their theme of joy, to the ancient hope of Israel, to the biblical promises and prospects which are now finding a new and different kind of fulfilment.

Hebrews 12:1-3

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

The church is a community that is inspired by those who have gone before. A Christian is not an individual who relies on the his own insights or even his own generation. He is part of a community which has Jesus as the Centre of the centre.

2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

The church are those called to gather around Jesus, to worship in as he leads us to the Father and sends the Holy Spirit.

Every aspect of the life of the church has this orientation. In short, we can say that the ministry of the church is to know Christ and make him known.

After discussing how God disciplines his children we as a community come to the mountain of fear and the mountain of joy

Hebrews 12:18 -29

18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them,
20 because they could not bear what was commanded: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.’ 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’

To be in the presence of a Holy God exposes us. We are very vulnerable in our sinful humanity.

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

There is great joy in that. Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant. He is standing before us and God. He brings God to us and us to God in himself. It is not blood that cries out for vengeance but brings forgiveness.

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ 27 The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’

Did you hear the communal reality described. Those who live in community can live with a healthy awe and be filled with joy.

When Jesus was on the cross he was in the community of the Father and the Spirit.

It was such a joyous reality that it sustained Jesus on the cross. But one that is humanly impossible. It required all of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit to be present. Jesus was not able to do so just in his humanity.

Thats why we pray for one another. We are reminding one another we are not alone. We belong to God’s community.

The church is all those who gather together and look unto Jesus the author and finisher of their faith.

We want our knowledge of Jesus and what we witness about him to be true and faithful.

Whatever words, concepts, ideas and illustrations we use to give faithful witness to who Christ is, must be under the authority of the apostolic witness of Scripture. Yes we use additional words to explain and help listeners understand the witness of Scripture. But our words must be carefully chosen so they reflect the truth of the identity of God in Christ to which the Bible is the only witness.

And of course, we do not do this on our own, We do this in ongoing fellowship with those who have gone before us over the centuries. We also do this with those we share a continual worshiping community.

And we want our deeds or actions that are consistent with who Christ is. We don’t want great slippages between our words and lives.

Such actions are a true witness to Christ when they reflect grace and thus showing forth the life of grace.

Such deeds point to the same character seen in Jesus, and so direct people to him.

Again we want to know Christ and to make him known.

When that is our life and what really matters, we are set free to have Christ’s joy.

Message for the Day ,