Thursday, April 22, 2004

I exist to make Jesus famous

Vaughan Roberts tells the story of a 14 year old girl asked to write a vision statement for her life, she wrote - "I exist to make Jesus famous". Her heart is the same as that of John Piper who says "Mission exists because worship doesn't".

Christians are utterly committed to telling the world about Jesus because the world treads the glory of Jesus name under their feet and this is not acceptable. The Name of Jesus is greater than any other. His beauty and love are beyond all others. It is better to spend just one day knowing Him than a thousand years elsewhere. The chief end of man is to glorify God and that means enjoying him above else. Turning down potential joy in other things and investing everything in Jesus Christ. Boasting in nothing but the Cross of Jesus Christ. Considering all else loss compared to knowing Jesus. Living all out to make Jesus famous.

He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose - Jim Elliot

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Fame academy

Finished a cell resource today 'fame academy' to equip cell groups for mission. And I wrote this stuff...




No Christian is perfect. No Christian has all their theology perfectly correct. We all carry error in different areas. None of us is particularly keen on Christians having error in their thinking and practice. Truth is important. Truth is constantly under fire. The natural tendency of man is towards error.

So what do we do about it? Often the first step has been to call down fire on those in error. Let me suggest that this is not the best first step. It seems to me that we must do several things before we can possibly get to that point. First, watch our own life and doctrine. Just as Jesus said, get the plank out of your own eye. Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.... if we claim to be without sin we decieve ourselves... I have responsibility for myself before I have responsibility for my brother.

Second, I do have responsibility for my brother. I do not want people to fall into sin and error always leads to sin. I want to save others from that. My first concern with any person is to see them repent and come to know the truth. That is as true for Christians as it is for non-Christian. Both can have errors, albeit to different degrees and in different ways. Both need to repent of error and believe what is true, and then live it out.

DEALING WITH ERRORSo,

1. Don't expect people to get it all right first time. We all learn gradually. Some things in faith are more important than others. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 singles out some things as being of first importance, matters regarding the death and resurrection of Christ and the witness of scripture. Naturally this means other things are of secondary importance. We need room to grow and learn and get things wrong without being written off. We must have permission to fail. This means not assuming that "no-one could believe that", or "only fools believe that". That does not give people room to change their minds and is very confrontational.

2. 2 Timothy 2 speaks of those in error. It speaks of people whose error will spread like gangrene and destroy the faith of others. And yet these people are to be taught the truth in gentleness and kindness. Why? So that God might grant them repentance. We teach kindly. God brings knowledge of the truth leading to repentance.

3. James 5:19-20 makes the same point. Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins. The point is clear - we want people to turn from error to truth. Some people respond well to confrontation and will turn from their error. However in most cases direct confrontation or worse still being denounced behind your back simply hardens us in our ways. If you want to correct someone you probably need to have a relationship with them and talk face to face over time. Correction is always in the context of the fellowship of believers.

4. One cannot avoid 2 Timothy 3 and Galatians 1. There are those who want to carry the banner of Christ but who preach an altogether different gospel and who love themselves and money. People who are unholy, ungrateful, treacherous, abusive and the like. Undoubtedly there probably are people like this around. They are dangerous people and Paul says that without exception people like this who preach a different gospel deserve condemning. Even if Paul did this he should be condemned. Note here that this is about the content of the gospel. Poor methodology in handling the Bible may lead to error in teaching but this is not the same as error in motive. Those who teach must stand accountable to God for what they teach and it's affects but poor teaching often stems from lack of training rather than false motives.

In this day and age it seems that we start with this approach to error very often. If this is to be our course of action then we must be very clear with what we're doing. This approach says "we don't want you to repent we want you to go to hell". It is a very strange believer who will readily say this. Those deserving this are those in whom Paul says in 2 Timothy 3 there is no good and no godliness. Some appearance but no reality.

We may feel that other apparent believers are in this group but how well do we really know them? We must not think that different methodology and even secondary emphases are this kind of error. They may well be mistaken. They may have a different personality or way of expressing their faith, more reverance, more joy, more cautious, more excitement. There may be rash youthfulness. There may be reactionary against other believers. There may be fear of change. There may be unrecognised damage to other believers. There may be well be an unknowingly undermining of the work of others. And I stress, often unknowingly. Throwing mud and condemnation at such people will not bring repentance. It will only bring further reaction. It will also not commend the gospel to others. Very often we sing the same songs and read the same books as these people (which doesn't mean we believe the same thing but does suggest we're not that far apart). Again let me say that relationships where truth can be taught lead to the possibility repentance. And Truth must be taught - let us hear, affirm and act upon what is true.

UNITED IN THE THINGS OF FIRST IMPORTANCE FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPELThe body of Christ in our nation is small. We need each other. We have things to learn from each other. Yes there is error. There is error amongst the charismatics. There is error against those who wouldn't want the label charismatic. There is error amongst the conservatives. There is error amongst those who don't like the label conservative.

It seems that the only solution is to cling hard to those things that are of first importance. We each carry convictions which we consider to be important. And they often are. But there are matters that are important above all of them. As Paul reminds his readers in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: That Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared. This is the heart of the gospel - and it is in the gospel and only in the gospel that we can find our common ground, our unity. Together we must stand, with the scriptures in hand and the message of the completed achievement of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, taking the punishement for our sin and bringing us to eternal life by faith in his blood. Holding fast to these things inevitably means holding a little looser to other matters of belief or methodology. There is room for difference on things that are not of first importance.

To build relationships and speak the truth in love. And that means truth and it means love. To teach the truth with kindness. And that means truth and it means kindness. To seek always to teach ourselves and to be repenting. To pray desperately that others repent and to teach kindly so that they might be granted repentance. And to be generous and gracious, leaving room for others to grow.

If we must compare, let us compare the worst of self with the best of the other. Let us attend each others conferences and look for the best in them. Let us build bridges between churches to that we may learn from each other. If you are charismatic and looking for a year of training then do the Cornhill Training Course. If you are conservative and looking for a mission opportunity then be part of Soul in the City. Offer to help. Offer to serve. Offer to learn. Let us show mercy as we ourselves were shown mercy by God. Let us show mercy as Christ did for us when he died for us.

There is a dying world that treads the glory of God under its feet every day. This world needs the gospel. This world is in serious error about God. This world knows nothing of the glory and goodness and grace of our God (indeed perhaps all it knows is of the division of the supposed people of God). This world will not worship him. It needs to repent. And so we must go together and speak of sin and judgement, but also speak of grace and forgiveness as together we give them the only thing we have. Christ crucified.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Eternal Sunshine

Saw the new Charlie Kaufman film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind at an Empire preview last night. Fantastic film. Just go and see it...

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Spring Harvest 2004

Just back home from two weeks at Spring Harvest's two student weeks in Skegness (Student Evolution and Word Alive). Glad to be home but how refreshing.

Student Evolution saw about 600 students gather for a week of teaching and worship. I found Nicky Gumbel's expoistion of Ephesians and a series on church by Ness Wilson and Rev. Chris Russell particularly helpful. Evening celebrations were also good. Mike Pilavachi opened speaking on how the Spirit has been given for mission. Esther Stansfield reminded us that all of life matters. Pete Greig prophesied on the need to see things as God sees them. Simon Ponsonby of St.Aldates Oxford was excellent in speaking on the need to expect more - that we don't have all of the kingdom now but we do have some of it! Challenging us that we should want more of God to bless the world not just for ourselves. This was a theme in the week - that we are blessed by God to be a blessing. Simon challenged us to get into Romans 5-8 and understand what we have in Christ. Ness Wilson spoke on Holiness from 2 Corinthians 5-6 - urging us to deal with sin at the cross, taking hold of the calling we have from God. Roger Ellis gave the parting talk from 1 Thessalonians 1:4-9. As the students left site I reflected on the week, inspired afresh for evangelism amongst students, reminded that I've been chosen by God for a purpose and am empowered by the Holy Spirit for that work of evangelism. I was also challenged to get deeper into the Bible.

Within half an hour people were arriving for the second student week, Word Alive. This time 2000 students gathered for a programme that carried roughly the same shape. The venues were naturally somewhat fuller and the range of seminars was broader. Bruce Milne unpacked Ephesians for us. The highlight of the daytime programme was a series by Vaughan Roberts on Understanding and Teaching the Bible using Ezekiel as an example text. The evening celebrations began with Vaughan Roberts speaking clearly on the Spirit being given to empower us for mission in this age of proclaiming the gospel, starting us off in a series in Acts. At the subsequent celebrations Nigel Beynon, Richard Cunningham, Ian Marlow, John Risbridger and finally Roger Carswell challenged and inspired us from Acts to get stuck into evangelism. We considered the opposition we'll face but the exclusive claim of Christ as the only name by which anyone can be saved. Richard reminded us that opportunties to talk about Jesus are all around us if we will take. Ian showed us that the gospel is for all people, reminding us that we must speak of the cross and of judgement and that we must unite around the gospel. John showed us how Paul spoke of Jesus in Athens and shared his dream for studentdom as he leaves UCCF for local church work in Southampon....
I have a dream of a movement of students who have taken hold of Jesus as their Lord. Who take seriouesly the Lordship of Christ in all of life, as God's truth for all humanity. Challenging false assumptions. Putting the case for Christ. Supporting each other. We can see it happen.

On the final morning Roger Carswell spoke faithfully from Acts 28 about the need to continue in evangelism. To continue expounding the Bible, testifying of God's work in our lives and trying to convince and persuade people to accept Jesus as Lord. To be creative and above all to be Biblical. To be book-people, convincing the uncoverted about Jesus from Moses and the Prophets. Sticking with the same old gospel message. And in the ways that only Roger Carswell can he told some recent stories of opportunities he has had to speak of Jesus.