Posts Tagged ‘People of God’

Romans 14(8)

October 12th, 2011
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Scripture of the Day: Romans 14:17-18

17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. (NIV)

It is the Holy Spirit that makes one a Christian. And that gift is promised to all who believe that Jesus is the crucified and resurrected Lord.

Our theology teaches that God the Father has included all people in his love and life, through the person and work of his incarnate Son Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet even with this understanding it is very easy to become exclusivist.

An important lesson comes from the life of John and Charles Wesley. They were highly educated (both were Oxford grads). However, part of the genius of their Methodist movement was the ability to recognize that the Holy Spirit is able to further the cause of Christ through common, often uneducated (and sometimes even ill-informed) people serving as teachers and preachers. Though the Wesley’s valued and advocated higher education and sound theology, they realized that perfection in these matters is not the end-all and be-all of Christian ministry (only the God holds that lofty position!).

This is illustrated by a story that tells of a time when John Wesley attended a Methodist meeting where one of his lay leaders, who had very little education, was preaching from Luke 19:21, “Lord, I feared thee, because thou art an austere man.” Not knowing the meaning of the word “austere,” this preacher thought that the text spoke of “an oyster man.”

And so in his sermon, he spoke about the work of those who retrieve oysters from the sea-bed. The diver plunges down from the surface, cut off from his natural environment, into bone-chilling water. He gropes in the dark, cutting his hands on the sharp edges of the shells. Now he has the oyster, and kicks back up to the surface, up to the warmth and light and air, clutching in his torn and bleeding hands the object of his search. So Christ descended from the glory of heaven into the squalor of earth, into sinful human society, in order to retrieve humans and bring them back up with him to the glory of heaven, his torn and bleeding hands a sign of the value he has placed on the object of his quest.

During that sermon, twelve men were converted to Christ. Afterwards, someone complained to Wesley about the inappropriateness of allowing preachers who were too ignorant to know the meaning of the texts they were preaching on. Wesley’s response was direct and simple, “Never mind, the Lord got a dozen oysters tonight.”

We need to focus on proclaiming the perfections of our Saviour and the glory of his gospel as best we know how. And then let us show respect for others by extending to them the same privilege. Above all, let’s allow the Holy Spirit to do his amazing, often mysterious work through us and others (and sometimes despite us and others). He is able!

Message for the Day

Romans 14(7)

October 11th, 2011
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Scripture of the Day: Romans 14:14-16

14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. (NIV)

Paul wants to lift their minds off the fleshly do’s and don’ts and to focus on the new creation. It’s about God making us new creations with new capacities to love even our enemies. That’s why Paul doesn’t leave them with mere resolutions.

This is why we need a Biblical hope. Because, peace like this is not in our ability to achieve. It takes more than new resolutions. Those are good and necessary things, but a deeper work is needed.

Why do we need hope in the presence of conflict?

We need it because we need a resource that is bigger, abler, wiser, and more righteous than we are to bring about what we can’t. Cut off from Christ, we can do nothing.

We need this hope because there are times when progress toward unity and peace is so slow that it tempts us to throw in the towel and quit. Why would Paul pray to God that they would be filled with hope if they were already so thrilled and encouraged?

They were just like us, and they got discouraged when they saw relationships deteriorate and fracture. Like us, they knew when marriages don’t work, parents and children can’t find peace, when co-workers can’t reconcile, when in-laws and outlaws can’t get along, when there is a failure of love between church members, Paul knows that these things can just suck the hope and joy right out of you.

That’s why he prays and turns them to God. Without God, peace and reconciliation is impossible. Without God, it’s discouraging and debilitating. Without hope from God, we can easily become jaded and cynical. But with him – all things are possible. And that’s why we need hope.

What is this hope and where does it come from?

First, we use the word hope differently than the Scriptures. When we use the word hope, we normally use it as a wish for something that we’re uncertain about. In our language, the word hope communicates uncertainty. Those who have money tied up in the stock market hope that it will be a good investment but they are not at all certain it will.

When we use the word hope, we are talking about a wish for something that is uncertain. However, in the Scriptures the word hope means just the opposite. In the Scriptures hope refers to something that is absolutely and irrevocably certain. Hope, in the Scriptures, is something rock solid, something immovable, imperishable, unalterable, and immutable. Hope, in the Bible, is about certainty.

What we need in the face of conflict, when things are not the way they are supposed to be, and when Christian people are squabbling and withdrawing from each other, is to know and hold on to that which is certain.

And what is certain and unshakable? Paul says that God and his faithfulness to his word are certain, his mercy to sinners is certain, his sovereignty over all things is certain. His power to reconcile the irreconcilable is certain. So, Paul prays, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.”

The Lord is the source of certainty and hope. His gospel is certain. In it God the Father promised God the Son that he would give the nations to him for an inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as his possession. This is certain. He promised Jesus that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed and together, with one voice, Jew and Gentile would praise him. This is certain. He promised that through this gospel the walls of ethnic, racial, and religious hostilities would someday be broken down and peace will roll down like a river. Jesus is heir to these certain promises and he will not be denied. God the Father has made them and his will not be frustrated.

The Holy Spirit is committed to bringing these promises to pass and he will not fail.

Message for the Day

Romans 14(6)

October 10th, 2011
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Scripture of the Day: Romans 14:13

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. (NIV)

Exhortations are not enough.

Now, as clear as all this is, Paul knew that was not enough. Moral resolution is a good thing. The moral resolve to live better and be more loving is good and necessary. However, it’s never sufficient. To dig down deep and say we will try harder to get along better is a good thing and a noble thing, however it won’t be sufficient and Paul knows it. The fleshly differences are too wide.

A story from a Special Summer Camp for Students:

A summer camp in upstate New York was dedicated to bringing about the reconciliation between young high school seniors. But, these are not ordinary high school seniors. They’re young Palestinians and Jews. Each summer when they arrive, the suspicion and even hostility is palpable. However, by the end of the summer through a curriculum of listening to each other, working together, and playing together, amazing things happen. By summer’s end they are laughing together, talking to each other, and even showing signs of sincere affection, making promises to go home and become agents of peace.

At first, the organizers of the camp were certain they were witnessing a breakthrough in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. However, when they did a follow up study of what happens to these students five years beyond the camp experience they were surprised. The study showed that when they returned home, for a while they were able to keep up their resolutions to become agents of peace, however, to the last one, they defaulted to their fundamental differences. Feelings of distrust, national and ethnic superiority, and even hatred returned.

Something deeper is necessary. And it’s necessary for all of us. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is the same conflict (on steroids) we all have in getting along. Moral resolutions are good but will never be enough.

What’s needed is something God alone can make happen.

Romans 15:13

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

First, we need hope.

What does hope have to do with getting along with each other in the face of seemingly irreconcilable differences? Why do we need hope? Where does it come from? How do you get it?

Message for the Day