Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Recently I've mostly been reading: The Message of 2 Timothy to prepare for Reading CU Cells - a timely read. Simon Austen's A Better Way which sheds light on Jesus! And John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life (til I lent it to my Dad and forgot to get it back before we left...).
Friday, December 19, 2003
These are notes from a talk at Surrey CU....
John Piper, C.S. Lewis and Jonathan Edwards stand behind this talk. Not to credit this would probably make this plagiarism... I'm thankful to them but more so to Jesus and his word which is the real inspiration. I've lived at breathed Philippians this term as I've studied it with guys at Reading...
Jesus is the better than everything else - Phil 3v1-11
Let us approach God's word and hear him speak to us…
1. Phil 3v1-6 Humanity has many boasts
Paul can make more boasts anyone if you want to play that game… in Paul's culture that means religious boasts about ritual and heritage. The same occurs today but differently, I've been to church, I helped people across the road, I've done this, I've not done that, I never killed anyone… me, me, me, me...
And the horror is that this kind of life is what most people think being a Christian is all about.
2. Phil 3v7-11 BUT all these things are worthless compared to knowing Christ!
And yet strangely, one of the great Christians, Paul calls all these human boasts loss & excrement by comparison. Clearly, these things are not the essence of Christian Life. They are loss, loss compared to what…?
Everything is loss compared to knowing Christ our righteousness (3v9).
100% guaranteed not guilty - that is what we as Christians know. Ian Huntley now has a guilty verdict from the British legal system. We are not much better than he - though in different ways, but God will give anyone who repents a certain not guilty verdict. Everything is loss compared to knowing Christ as our righteousness.
Everything is loss compared to knowing Christ the name above all names (2v9).
He is better than everything and yet so scorned by the world. For Paul that causes distress (acts 17v16), for me? For you? And what will we do with that distress. Paul speaks out in the hostile Athens marketplace. What will we do in Roots, in Chancellors, in the lecture theatre… Everything is loss compared to knowing Christ the name above all names.
Everything is loss compared to knowing Christ in whom we have resurrection. (3v11)
The goal, the hope ahead of us - eternal joy in the presence of God. Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. You bet. All the halfbaked joy in the world is nothing compared to even one day in the presence of Jesus - and we have all eternity ahead of us. Awesome! Everything is loss compared to knowing Christ in whom we have resurrection.
So, three challenges
1. Open your eyes to tragedy in your own life
don't waste it by boasting in anything other than Christ, don't be content in the ambitions of the world, don't be content with food or with Christmas, or with a first class degree, or with the hope of retirement…
John Piper writes in Don't Waste Your Life
p125 - "Don't just ask "what's wrong with it?", ask "Will this help me magnify Christ? Will this point people to him as the manifest treasure of my life? Will they highlight me created in the image of God or my sexuality… or my laziness…",
Op119 - "Oh, how many lives are wasted by people who believe that the Christian life means simply avoiding badness and providing for the family. So there is no adultery, no stealing, no killing, no embezzlement, no fraud - just lots of hard work during the day and lots of TV and PG videos in the evening, and lots of fun stuff on the weekened - woven around church. This is life for millions of people. Wasted life. We were created for more, far more."
Instead… (and this is my second challenge)
2. Be totally satisfied in God
find all your joy in him alone. Invest your life in enjoying him - consider what you have been given by God in resources and gifts, what will you do with them… this is the life that will shine in the darkness, and we don't even come close
Instead of living negatively let us live creatively and outrageously to magnify the glory of God - the whole Bible is about this one theme - the glory of the King of all - the complete wonderfulness of the one whose name is above every name - Jesus. Jesus!
Let us learn and so worship. John Piper again, calls study of scripture "education for exaltation". This first struck me about five years ago and it was a joy to encounter John Piper's writings a couple of years later and discover someone who lives it out and communicates it more eloquently than I. The heart of it is that we need to know the truth. We need to get our hearts and minds into the Bible at every opportunity - that's why the church teaches scripture, it's not for fun, it's not out of habit - it's because we need it. We live and die by every word that comes from God. We live by what he has spoken in scripture.
So, open your eyes to your own life. Don't waste it on the worthless, but instead invest it in what is truly valuable - be totally satisfied in Christ. Find all your joy in him. And finally… because it is all too easy to say this at the last CU meeting of term, here in treetops where there may not be any one who doesn't know Christ - oh, but if there is please hear what I'm saying. Please look at this wonderful Christ. Thirdly and Finally, let us…
3. Open our eyes to the evil and tragedy of wasted lives
- lives who don't know Christ, half-hearted hedonists who know nothing better than they have, surely let us hold out the word of life to them - let us tell them about Christ who is worth more than anything else, let us dispel the lies about good people going to heaven, let us deny the lies about satisfaction being found in money, power and sex. These things are sending people to hell under the fully justified judgement of God. But people do not need to stay being satisfied with less than Jesus.
We have two voices - one is our lifestyle which must speak much more radically than it does. To magnify Christ in life is not to do someone's washing up - with all due respect if the best thing that knowing Christ makes you want to do is that I beg you wake up and look at Christ….
He's better than that. I doubt we have much of an idea what a Christ magnifying life really looks like. Let us examine our lives this Christmas and not let ourselves be content with the treasures of this wonderful world. Let us not be afraid to make big changes regarding our personal comfort, our money/resources and our time.
But second and here is where it hurts most. We must open our mouths and speak - it is unavoidable. Spread a passion for the glory of God - live, study, serve and speak so that Jesus Christ becomes the only thing in which anyone at this University wishes to boast in.
They will not know unless we speak. They do not know. They will not guess.
They think we believe in being good getting you to heaven. They are wrong but they wont realise that unless we correct them.
It costs us more than we dare admit to speak about Christ in the early 21st Century and we create any excuse to avoid it. We'll be scorned, ignored and mocked but we must. For the sake of Christ we can suffer. We say we do friendship evangelism, but are we prepared to lay the friendship on the line to share the very best thing in the world with people. True love gives others the best thing for them.
The best thing is the knowledge of Christ. The inexpressible joy of knowing him forever, and ever, and ever! Better is one day with Christ than a million, million, million anywhere else.
Please don't let us live to be liked, to achieve much, to have a nice Surrey home… let us risk suffering and not always seek our own comfort. Let us live to know only one thing - Christ and him crucified, and to make Christ known. Get stuck into his word this Christmas and find satisfaction there. Don't let Christmas dinner and presents under the tree satisfy you. Let us not waste our lives. Let us return in 2004 and live, and speak, and suffer to make Christ known.
We thank you and delight in you that you give us access to your presence. We thank you that in you is found joy everlasting in your presence. We praise your name for the cross where that is made possible. Lord may you be our only boast!
May we only seek joy in you. Forgive us for our self-indulgence and searching for satisfaction elsewhere and help us to change. Would you give us the power to seek only to magnify you. Only to boast in you. Help us make the hard choices so that we would not waste our lives but rather declare all things loss compared ti knowing you.
And Lord help us also to make you known to others that they too would turn from their sin and glorify your name forever, for your fame, for your renown, for your glory Most wonderful Lord and Saviour we delight in you. Amen.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
"You don't have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, perhaps just one, and then be willing to live for them and die for them.
The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by one great thing. If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on into eternity, you don't have to have a high IQ.
You don't have to have good looks or riches, or come from a fine family or a fine school. Instead you have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things-or one great all-embracing thing-and be set on fire by them." (p. 44)
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
There is a rising tide in the west in support of the cause of "justice". But what is justice? Why does it matter? What will we do about it? What are the larger implications of us pursuing the cause of justice.
And injustice is right on our doorstep. While today's Students campaign against fees imposed on them by MP's who got their education for free there are much bigger issues at stake. The gulf between rich and poor continues to increase even in the fully developed world that is the West. Injustice occurs when I walk down the street and all eyes are averted to the ground to avoid contact with any other person. Injustice occurs when I look straight through the bank clerk and act like they're not even there. But bigger than this our very quality of life depends upon injustice. Not against us, but the kind of injustice that entirely favours us.
This is the world justice problem that sees most of the world's resources in the hands of just a few. And if you're reading this then you're probably one of those few, we who have education, internet and home comforts. We who spend more on ice-cream per year than it would cost to give Africa clean water. Our very lifestyles are an abuse of our fellow human beings, who being out of sight are easily out of mind. And we prefer it that way. Injustice is good for me.
And this is where we see that ultimately getting rid of justice would cost us too dearly - it's not that everyone needs money, or education… but the ability to survive, particularly when there are enough resources in the world.
This form of injustice is visible, at least potentially. We block in out of our minds - or at least we only filter in a small amount. An amount we can deal with by pangs of conscience and direct debits. Twenty four hour news puts the worlds problems in our face but we harden ourselves to it. We let the starving child die. And another. And another. Because to morally engage would be too painful since there's so little we can do. If we only throw one starfish back into the sea it matters to that one doesn't it? So we adopt a child! Drink fair trade coffee.
Yet none of this does more than scratch the surface of the issue of justice. And it's further reaching than any of these examples will admit. These are merely the visible injustices of the world. You can tangibly encounter these if you so desire (which most of us don't).
Greater still is the invisible injustice. This is one with much greater implications than these tangible injustices. They are vile and we see them if we allow ourselves too. They are also temporary and will end on death - which is no excuse for not doing anything about them. But there is a bigger injustice.
This is the injustice of the clay saying to the potter I don't need you. Injustice, like a child who disowns her mother. Injustice where man says to his maker you don't even exist. And even if you do I don't need you. And even if I need you I don't want you. If we are going to cry for justice - and we should then this is the greatest cause of all. When the beauty and love of the God of all creation is scorned there is great injustice.
And what is to be done because this injustice on our part will truly be the undoing of us all. This injustice on our part spells our eternal separation from our maker. So what can be done? Should we seek to reform our lives and atone for our wrongs? No this is truly futile. What then? Can God sweep our indiscretions under the carpet? No this would be injustice on his part. Justice requires our punishment for our injustice. God must be just. A God without justice does not bear thinking about. And so this would be our end. God would indeed be just but we would be finished.
God provides another way. One in which be can be just, and also the one who justifies us. Who in all justice makes us right in his eyes. How? We have earned his wrath but he takes it upon himself. He has a problem with us because of our injustice but he will take the punishment upon himself. Where? In the death of Jesus Christ - that death of God 2000 years ago bears God's wrath upon himself and puts us right with him. This is the ultimate issue of justice.
What then? Let us fight for justice in our world. For God's sake let there be justice. But if we will do this then we must look to the God of all justice who determines what is just. And we must face up to the fact that we are the unjust and our primary offence is against him, even more than our fellow human beings - though that offence is truly terrible too.
What does he ask of us? That we accept what he says is true, That we receive his gift of justice to us. His act of justification of us. His not-guilty verdict on our lives because of the death of Jesus. And if we will do this then surely our hearts will rejoice and we'll dedicate our lives to the advancement of justice in the world - for others to share in God's just solution to his problem with us, and for justice to be upheld in our broken unjust world.
Sunday, December 07, 2003
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
We rejoice when we obtain this most precious treasure that God gives to us when we believe in the precious blood of Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen!
From C.S. Lewis in his sermon, The Weight of Glory:
"If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud-pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
Can you hear what Lewis is saying? We’re too easily pleased. We suppress the truth and we love it. We exchange it for lies and thing they are better than the truth. We are too easily pleased. Our lies are halfhearted imitations of the truth. Our lies are futile, senseless and weak. Our lies and passions serve only to bring us God’s wrath. And yet we need not go this way. We need to accept the truth about God. We need to come to the cross where Jesus died to turn aside God’s wrath. We need to come to the place where true life is available.