Monday, 28 December 2009

Is it well with your soul

Here's a simple but effective sermon from my Senior Pastor for the end of the year..

Especially if you want to find out how a mango, a tic tac and your soul are related =)
(it was an all age service)

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Church Dynamics

After reading Glen's post here:
(of which I've had a similar experience)

and listening to his sermon here:

Thinking again on how the church should be in the world...

I've come to the current conclusion of the dynamic relationship:

That is... the church or Christian home needs to be a place of pure godliness, without compromise - i.e. full of love, and no selfishness
i.e. a place of Sabbath rest

The world will always be the world - and we are not asked to change the world, but instead, bring people into the church

Thus the dynamics of the people is a constant back and forth from the "Sabbath-rest of the church" i.e. sinless Christian fellowship - to the "toilsome work of the world"
- constant progression back and forth between these 2 - especially on daily basis
is the best way of witness
- it is the dynamics of the Father and the Son
- it is also our own dynamics of our relationship with Him

Therefore - do not compromise the church, and do not make it a place of 'toilsome work'
Therefore also do not try to change the world - but go there as someone part of the church to bring people back with you

we are to 'Catch up' people into the fellowship of the church, which itself is 'caught up' into the fellowship of the Living God

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

So then what about Romans 7

Romans 7 has always been a problem...
each time i read it i have to rethink the whole thing again

on one hand there is the so-called 'Christian cop-out'
in the sense that chapter 7 describes the 'normal christian life'
i really want to live a great life for God - but I can't - oh well...

then there are the others who say this is Paul recounting his preconversion experience
that's all well and good up till verse 13
but then everything switches to present tense
and if that were the case
Romans 7:25 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
the bold part of the last verse would not be included

Now if I look through this again I think maybe it begins to make a bit of sense

So in Chapter 6 - Paul has said you must no longer serve sin, and if you do, you are a slave to sin - bringing about death

Similarly in Chapter 8 - if you walk according to the flesh = death

So then the Christian life cannot be a constant failing - and this would be inconsistent with anything Jesus has to say - i.e. 'you must be perfect' etc..

Chapter 6 shows us how the gospel deals with the flesh
Chapter 7 into 8 shows us how the gospel deals with the law

The Law can only convict of sin
So Paul once acknowledging the law - died
but then he had a connundrum - inside he was sorrowful and agreed with God, but in the flesh he could not do what God wanted
- this does not necessarily imply him being a Christian
- for example Judas would agree that what he did was wrong, and thus would agree with God of his sin - and even agree what a wretched man he is
- but conviction of sin is not = repentance - but merely worldy sorrow

then comes the goal of the law - it points to Christ
it then says - thanks be to God for Jesus, and Jesus fulfilled what the law demanded of me - but my flesh could not do

so what Chapter 7 is saying is - if i walk according to the flesh, the law will condemn me and show me that it is impossible - present tense
so what is the solution? I need to turn to Christ (present continuous) and walk according to the Spirit - the flesh needs to be constantly not trusted in and handed over to death
So then if I walk according to grace, or the Spirit, He working in and through me will overcome the flesh and allow my dead-flesh to accomplish great things for God - similarly to what Christ did on the cross

So the present life of a Christian is to never trust in the flesh and do things according to the flesh - otherwise the law will point out that I am failing God, and not pleasing Him

So what do I do? I walk according to the Spirit - which then will allow God to use my weak flesh for great purposes - in its weakness

Thus the most important thing is 'setting my mind' on the Spirit - and 'consider' my flesh dead and gone - not merely on despairing about sin - and then I will be born again - Rom 8 - the testimony of the Spirit - not merely sorrowful

The Message

I'm really starting to enjoy Eugene Peterson's Message translation these days

check out his understanding of Romans 7-8
Romans 7
Torn Between One Way and Another
1-3 You shouldn't have any trouble understanding this, friends, for you know all the ins and outs of the law—how it works and how its power touches only the living. For instance, a wife is legally tied to her husband while he lives, but if he dies, she's free. If she lives with another man while her husband is living, she's obviously an adulteress. But if he dies, she is quite free to marry another man in good conscience, with no one's disapproval.

4-6So, my friends, this is something like what has taken place with you. When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to "marry" a resurrection life and bear "offspring" of faith for God. For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious. In the end, all we had to show for it was miscarriages and stillbirths. But now that we're no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we're free to live a new life in the freedom of God.

7But I can hear you say, "If the law code was as bad as all that, it's no better than sin itself." That's certainly not true. The law code had a perfectly legitimate function. Without its clear guidelines for right and wrong, moral behavior would be mostly guesswork. Apart from the succinct, surgical command, "You shall not covet," I could have dressed covetousness up to look like a virtue and ruined my life with it.

8-12Don't you remember how it was? I do, perfectly well. The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of "forbidden fruit" out of it. The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. Without all the paraphernalia of the law code, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, and I went along without paying much attention to it. But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled, and fell for it. The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead. But the law code itself is God's good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel.

13I can already hear your next question: "Does that mean I can't even trust what is good [that is, the law]? Is good just as dangerous as evil?" No again! Sin simply did what sin is so famous for doing: using the good as a cover to tempt me to do what would finally destroy me. By hiding within God's good commandment, sin did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own.

14-16I can anticipate the response that is coming: "I know that all God's commands are spiritual, but I'm not. Isn't this also your experience?" Yes. I'm full of myself—after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.

17-20But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?

25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
Romans 8
The Solution Is Life on God's Terms
1-2With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ's being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

3-4God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn't deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

5-8Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn't pleased at being ignored.

9-11But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God's terms. It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's!

12-14So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

15-17This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Biblical Work

Prof Paul Stevens - Dean of Regents College Vancouver

defines 'kingdom work' as something like this:

Activity that creates new wealth, alleviates poverty, embellishes and improves human life, creates well being in nature, seek's to bring in God's shalom, welcomes Go's life-giving rule in the world and in people

what is wrong with this ?

and how would you define it?

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A Global View of the Earth is Karma-tic?

According to karma, what goes round comes round and you can never escape from what you have done. Isn't that awful? Because it means that we can never escape from our sin nor the consequences of our sins. It comes back to bite us! But thanks be to God for the gospel of Jesus Christ. It good news that in Christ, our sin and the consequences of our sin is taken away - never again shall the two (the Christian and sin) meet. Especially as we celebrate the incarnation (strictly speaking, the birth rather than the incarnation which happened 40 weeks earlier) with Christmas approaching it is a reminder of how Jesus takes on flesh to destroy it completely, to leave the deathclothes of humanity behind forever, before rebuilding a new humanity in His resurrection. Yes, the glorious and comforting gospel of Jesus declares that "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us" (Ps. 103:12).
Yet, as glorious as this is, perhaps our view of the world is not conducive to such assurance of sin removed forever. A global view of the earth is one where east meets west, where what goes round comes around. It's a view of creation in which sin can never ever be gotten rid off. It's a view in which what goes round comes round - sin that is removed faraway to the east finally arrives back at where it came from. In such a global earth, can sin actually be removed from us? Perhaps we need to think and picture a creation where east and west cannot ever meet, and when we do then we can rejoice not just metaphorically but really in how the Lord has created a place where what goes east can never ever appear in the west so that he can really remove our sins infinitely away from us; indeed, so that we will trust in and depend on Jesus alone to bring us West.

The Strength of Sin

My wife pointed this out to me recently:

James 4:4-5 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"?

James is pretty strong when he calls some of his church members - enemies of God - i.e. those who wish to murder God

it is no wonder that some of the church fathers called sin - Deicidium - or God-murder
sin seeks to ungod-God

yet - the sin is not defined so much by our rebellion/transgression or disobedience - but much more - "by His jealous Spirit"

It is the strength of the love of God that makes sin so serious
if you had a lousy relationship with your wife, then she couldn't care less if you flirted around with another
but if your wife loved you with a jealous and passionate love, then every little tiny glance of another is tantamount to the adultery - every thought (as Jesus says) - is equivalent to sleeping with another

therefore He yearns jealously over us, and yet is constantly able to wipe the slate clean, time after time though we constantly stab Him in His heart..

It is no wonder then the Spirit so constantly grieves ..
and when we flee the youthful passions (think Ruth & Boaz) - He is prepared to use us so mightily