Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Wierdness

Tomorrow: December 1st - I speak at, Bath University Christian Union - which was the CU I was part of as a student. The last time I was there was for a misison 2.5 years ago (which was where i met Becci). I've never spoken there. I shouldn't make too much of it, but I just feel a bit wierd. Last time I was in the lecture theatre they're meeting in was for a Chaos Theory lecture in May 2000 and that is a lot of life ago. Looking forward to seeing Matt, Damo, Pet, Adam, Paul and others who are still studying there! And that's wierd. As is Paul being back on the CU committee in 2005, since he and I were on committee together in 1998.... Strange world.

This Friday: My Young Person's Railcard expires. The first ever journey was to Loughborough Uni for an interview in December 1996. A week earlier I had my interview at Bath... and a month after I went to Warwick (which I then returned to last month for the first time since that, to speak at the CU). I suppose that makes me officially quite old, and means I have to pay full fare for the next 40 or so years... If my scanner or digicamera worked I'd scare you by posting my first YP photocard or my first NUS card... I think I've aged quite a bit in the last decade! Anyhows tt is kinda nice that my last use of a YP Railcard it is to go to Bath... but maybe I'm just over sentimental.

church in Christ

Spent this morning with most of our church preaching team working through Ephesians, led by Graham Beynon. It was great to dig into the text together. I have so much to learn from the other guys on the team. Great also to see the very high value of the church in God's purposes. A people for the praise of His glory! God's purpose to set Christ over all with the church in Christ. Done and to be done! A corporate and cosmic plan that spans eternity... no room for an individualistic plan-B type of salvation. This is big. Really looking forward to the impact this could have in the Spring term. Really challenging to see whether we bear any resemblance to this - and what might we need to change...
"the idea of Christian Community is great, the experience is hard." - Bonhoeffer
Graham has a book published by IVP called God's New Community - Today was the first time I'd met Graham... which was a bit wierd cos I know his identical twin brother already.
Trivia - "in Christ" occurs 34 times in six chapters of Ephesians... quite important then!!
...had to leave early to catch a train to our regional UCCF South East team prayer afternoon which was really great. So encouraging to hear what God is doing round the region, even through weak people like us and the students we work with. Today also hopefully marked the birth of Thames Valley University, Reading, Christian Union. I couldn't make the meeting but here's trusting God that it went well.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Martyn Joseph. High Wycombe

The last time we saw Martyn Joseph was at the South Street Arts Centre in Reading about 2.5 years ago. Tonight it was a real pleasure to fly with Joseph Airlines, discovering his new album - Deep Blue - and becoming acquainted with Paul Robeson. Add to that a whole host of old classics and the company of a good friend, top notch evening - even in damp, cold, christmasy High Wick-Om-Bee. Martyn is quality on CD, and unbeatable performing live.

Grace on the road



This term I've been teaching Luke's gospel to Cell Leaders at the Christian Union at Reading University. Week by week it's been a delight to walk down the grace road with them, following Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem, between Luke 9v51-19v28. Here's a collation of the blogposts, cell notes and the like....

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

CELL NOTES - PDF
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
More Cell Notes at The Blue Fish

Blogged, by a cell leader
Ceryn stepped back into cell leading at the start of this term - what do you expect if you move into a hall that doesn't have any existing witness!! She's blogged some of her responses to walking the grace road...

Beautiful Simplicity
Beautiful Simplicity (2)
Proper Study
Prideless Love
Listen, be convinced and repent

Reformed Charismatics

Adrian provides some definition of Reformed Charismatics. I broadly agree to that. Likeminded blogs listed at Pneumablogs - where I've become an Anglican Charismatic... broadly accurate I suppose. Though I'd minor on the Anglican probably not because I'm not committed to my church, I am! But because its the reformed/evangelical that really defines my faith - and the Anglican church at its best comfortably sits in that category, and thus we're well at home in our Anglican church...
Thoughts from another Anglican: take a look at Jon Hobbs, on "How God Speaks Today". Well thought through methinks.

Singing of Sovereign Grace



Listening to Worship God from Covenant Life Church. Great new songs. Thanks to the guys from Grace Church.

Such a blessing to have some top music with great lyrics to fuel my desire to behold the glory of God in Jesus Christ. Free from condemnation! Alive in Christ! Sing it!! Still working on what to teach at Not to Us next Saturday. Prayer appreciated.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Grace on the road: Part 7 of 7



This passage divides into seven parts. Two triplets followed by a parable to end it. At the end of the passage, in 19v28 Jesus has completed the journey to Jerusalem that he began in 9v51. Our journey with Jesus in the road to Jerusalem comes to its close. Luke has carefully arranged his material here. Common themes run through the section, and a number of earlier themes are picked up again....


18v9-30. Seek the Saviour.
V9-14. Jesus tells a parable and we are told why. Look at v9. See, those around Jesus are confident of their own righteousness and look down on others. So Jesus tells a parable against them. The story of two men going to pray at the Temple. The first is a Pharisee. He is the picture of self-confidence and self-righteousness. He proclaims his righteousness to God. He is not like sinners. He is deeply pious. Meanwhile, in v13, we're told of a Tax Collector who stands at a distance. Tax Collectors were one of the groups singled out by this pharisee as unrighteous. This man will not even look up to heave, rather he beats his breast and seeks mercy from God. Jesus then teaches us about righteousness. About becoming justified before God. The tax collector goes home justified, not the Pharisee. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and, and he who humbles himself will be exalted, Jesus teaches, in a repetition of his saying in 14v11. The way to get eternal life is to seek it from the one who can save you.

Luke then tells us that people were bringing babies to Jesus so he could touch them. The disciples rebuke these people but Jesus disagrees. He welcomes the children saying that the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. He uses the image of a child to talk about entering the kingdom. Not everything about what it means to be a child, but one specific aspect. The way that children receive. And he says, v17, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. The only way to get eternal life is to receive it. Not to make a case for it. Not to earn it. But receive it. Seek it. Receive it.

Finally in this first section we come to the story of a Rich Ruler in v18-30, asking Jesus a question. His question has been asked and answered previously. Back at the start of the journey to Jerusalem a Lawyer asked the same question, attempting to test Jesus. Now the question comes again - “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. These questions top and tail the journey to the cross. They set the agenda. The ruler asks the question, calling Jesus “good teacher”. Jesus responds with some teaching saying “No-one is good – except God alone” before continuing to answer the request. Why would Jesus say this. It would appear he is implicitly showing this ruler that he is God. The title good teacher is not refused or corrected. It is appropriate. Jesus is the good teacher for he is God. Jesus then reminds him of the Old Testament commands. The man confidently interjects that he has kept these since he was a boy, v21.

When Jesus hears this he responds, v22... “one thing”, he says “you lack.... sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me”. Is Jesus saying that you can buy a ticket to heaven. Seems unlikely! See how the ruler responds. His confidence is gone. V23, he becomes very sad because he has great wealth. Jesus looks at him and says it is so hard for the rich to enter heaven. In fact its easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle. Many interpret this as some reference to an alledged needle gate in Jerusalem that required people to unload their camels before entering. This is very appealing but horrifically wrong for several reasons. Firstly, as we've just said the point wasn't really that the man could get to heaven if he could sell his stuff. The needle gate says – you can do it if you try. Secondly, the audience at the time don't think “ah, tricky but possible”. They exclaim - “who then can be saved?”. To which Jesus responds, what is impossible with men is possible with God. They think its impossible. And it is – you cannot pass a camel through the eye of a needle. Similarly the rich ruler cannot save himself. Only God can save him.

Where might he find God – standing in front of him, the good teacher – Jesus. He need not seek to know what he must do to get eternal life, only to seek mercy. As this section closes Peter steps in saying that they have left much, and Jesus says that they will be rewarded. This echoes 9v57-62, where we saw both the cost of following Jesus but also that it was worth it. The ruler cannot see past his riches. The pharisee cannot see past his self-righteousness. Seek the Saviour – let Jesus give you eternal life.

18v31-19v10 See the Saviour.
Next we find Jesus speaking to his disciples. He tells them that he is about to go up to Jerusalem (see 19v28). When he does the prophets will be fulfilled for Jesus will be killed and will rise from the dead. Why does Jesus tell them this now? At first glance because they need to know what is going on. But then we see v34. The disciples don't understand what Jesus says (though it looks plain to us). And they don't understand because Jesus hides the meaning from them. Why? Read on!! Look at the three carefully arranged incidents together. What do the disciples, the beggar and Zacchaeus have in common. The beggar is blind. Zacchaeus is a short man who cannot see. The beggar's blindness is changed to sight when he asks Jesus for mercy – the healing of his sight. And by faith he gets it. Zacchaeus seeks the saviour and Jesus welcomes this sinner. This wealthy traitor is a son of Abraham – a man with faith in God. The people view him as a sinner but Jesus says that this is the kind of person he has come for. Jesus has come, 19v10, to seek and save what was lost – this is why he has come, and this is why he will die (18v31-32). Notice that at the start and end of this section Jesus calls himself the Son of Man – recalling the Kingly title he used in 17v22,24,30, 18v8. Zacchaeus is lost. Notably, wealthy Zacchaeus, is happy to give up his riches. Jesus keeps the disciples from seeing – they too need Jesus to give them sight. See the Saviour – let Jesus give you eternal life.

19v11-28. Submit to the Saviour.
Jesus was near Jerusalem, v11, and people presume that the Son of Man is about to institute his kingdom on earth. To correct this Jesus teaches one more parable. A noble is about to be made king, he must go away to receive his title. While he is gone he entrusts his servants with money. Those who would be he subjects send a message saying they don't want him as their king. Nonetheless he is appointed. He calls his servants back to him to see what the did with his money. We're told of three of the ten. One sees a tenfold increase, another five. And another nothing – because he was afraid of the king. The first two are rewarded handsomely. The latter loses what he had. And we're told that those who rejected his rule will be slaughtered by the king. This is a parable not an allegory so we must not read to much into it. It's challenge appears to be two-fold. There are those entrusted with something by the King – what will they do with that. This is similar to 16v10-12. Use it well and you gain more. This surely refers to his teaching – what will we do with seven weeks of teaching from Jesus about eternal life? The other group face judgement, the one who fails to use Jesus' teaching and those who rejected his rule outright – they end up with no life. Submit to the Saviour – let Jesus give you eternal life.

STUDY QUESTIONS
Pray. Read the passage in three sections.

18v9-30. Seek the saviour
9-14. The Pharisee & The Tax Collector
Why does Jesus tell this parable? (9)
What is the point of the parable? (14)
15-17. Children
What is required to enter the kingdom of God?
18-30. The Rich Ruler.
What is the significance of Jesus being called “good” here?
What is the point of Jesus' reply? (24-27)
How can the ruler get eternal life?


18v31-19v10. See the saviour
What is going to happen to Jesus?
Why does Jesus tell them this now?
What do the disciples, the blind man and Zacchaeus have in common?
How does the blind man's situation change?
What is notable about Zacchaeus?
How do these three incidents explain why Jesus has come?

19v11-27. Submit to the saviour
Why does Jesus tell this final parable? (11)
What is the conclusion of the parable? (25-27)
What will happen to those who refuse Jesus' rule?
What will we do with what we've received from Jesus, as we've studied Luke 9v51-19v27?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Yum Yum

Tonight Marcus Honeysett spoke at Surrey CU on Romans 8v1-11. Superb. Hoping Huxley will get an mp3 of that available soon. Great to have some fellowship with him and the CU leaders before the meeting - so encouraging to hear what God is doing in their lives and through them in the CU.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ooo pick me!!

I recently read an editoral that cited Isaiah 42v1 as a common baptismal verse and applied it to all Christians:
Behold my servant whom I uphold,
My chosen, in whom my soul delights,
I have put my Spirit upon hum
He will bring forth justice to the nations
I can see the appeal! And yet I feel uneasy. These words from the introduction to GOD IS THE GOSPEL explain why:
"Most modern people can scarcely imagine an alternative understanding of feeling love other than feeling made much of. If you don't make much of me you are not loving me" - p12
And its exactly what was done of Isaiah 42v1. Taking God's word and making it all about me. We woudln't do it to Isaiah 53, and yet the same servant is in view. This is not about me. This is about Jesus. And how great a hope to behold when Isaiah 42v1 is applied to him!

Jesus whom the LORD upholds.
Jesus in whom God delights.
Jesus the Spirit-annointed king.
Jesus the bringer of God's justice.

In him what hope for a wretch like me. That in him I too know the Father's delight. In him the Father's justice is not the threat of death, but the boundless joy of justification. This is the LORD's servant, punished in my place by the LORD's will. It's not about me, its about Jesus. Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

(In Christ we are upheld, delighted in, Spirit-annointed, and are heralds of God's justice - but this isn't what Isaiah 42v1 says.)

The Necessity of Atheism Q7

Contining the series of responses to Percy Bysshe Shelley's The Necessity of Atheism

Q7 - If he is all-powerful, how offend him, how resist him?

With this Shelley poses a question that we can find on the pages of the Bible. This is reassuring because it means I can simply explain what the Bible says, and because God anticipated this question.
"You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-- " - Romans 9v19-23
Argument 1 - The Potter and The Clay.
Some object immediately to this because they see humanity likened to an impersonal lump of clay. This is not the point. Rather, God is our Creator. He can do whatever he likes with his creation. That is his priviledge.

Argument 2 - The Display of God's Glory
This is compelling if we will listen. But it will be hard to listen to.
God desires to show his wrath against sin.
God desires to show his power.
And so, he endures "vessels of wrath".
We take great offense that God does not save all, but we miss the reality of sin. We miss the reality of the daily offense against God by his creation. A Universe made to glorify him that daily refuses him. Not just a scorned lover, but a good King whose rule is rebelled against.

Why does God endure?
In order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy.

As John Piper puts it:
How God M
">"In other words, the final and deepest argument Paul gives for why God acts in sovereign freedom is that this way of acting displays most fully the glory of God, including his wrath against sin and his power in judgment, so that the vessels of mercy can know him most completely and worship him with the greatest intensity for all eternity."
And whether or not we are prepared to accept that depends on whether we count the glory of God as ultimate or not. And if we persist against that then we prove ourselves vessels of wrath, according to Romans 9v19-23.

How offend him, how resist him? We offend him because we reject the pursuit of him being glorified. We resist him because he is sovereign. And yet - nowhere is that permitted as an excuse to refuse him. Rather, in the very next chapter of Romans, Paul will write, that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. You have heard, will you believe? Will we obey his command to believe? Will we obey his good news. Good news that comes with beautiful feet saying - Behold Your God.

Next, Q8, If he is reasonable, how can he be angry at the blind, to whom he has given the liberty of being unreasonable?. Although I think this might just be the same question again.

Are Christians Fools?

The existentialist says its foolish to believe in God because he's a figment of your weak imagination. Its tragic you need him. The Jew says Jesus was not the Messiah we expected. And the Muslim adds that prophets don't die on Roman crosses. The Buddist pipes in that its all an illusion. And Dan Brown says faith in Christ is for the weak who got conned by a church powerplay.

Are Christians fools? The Bible says yes, on one condition.
"If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." 1 Corinthians 15v19
Christians are fools if they hope in Christ if Christ was not resurrected. Everything in Christianity rests upon whether or not the historic physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead happened. The Hindu says, yes that's foolish - why does it matter if it happened. Surely the point is the story not whether it happened? Surely the Bible is just fiction that some people oddly believe? The postmodernist says, how could you know....
"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve."
Everything in Christianity rests on the death of Christ for our sins, and his resurrection. Not just the death of Christ - but his death for our sins. Followed by his witnesses resurrection - in both cases in accordance with the Scripture.

Why is this so important? If Jesus didn't rise from the dead then his prior claims to be able to die for our sins and rise from the dead are void. If he did rise then it is reasonable to say that those claims hold true. If there is no resurrection of Jesus, then could any of us be resurrected? Our hope would only be for this life. And if only for this life then the hedonist could call us pitiful for scorning apparent pleasures.

If Christ did rise from the dead then the message of the Bible is reliable. If Christ did rise from the dead then this life is not all there is and one person can speak authoritatively about that. Are Christians fools? Everything rests on one thing: did Jesus rise from the dead?

The Philosophy of Happiness

This caught my eye in the paper yesterday. What makes pursuit of pleasure right:
Julian Baggini, Monday November 21, 2005
The Guardian

Is pleasure wrong? When Bill Clinton claimed he smoked but did not inhale, he was making the wrong excuse. For it seems the moral crime in cannabis is neither smoking nor inhaling, but enjoying it. It is OK for people with MS to use the cannabis-based drug Sativex for medicinal purposes, but verboten to use dope for recreation.

This may seem odd, since happiness is a higher good than health. We want to be healthy only so that we can do all the other things that make life worthwhile, whereas, as Aristotle observed, happiness is always chosen "for itself and never for any other reason".

True, pleasure and happiness are not the same thing, but they are close relations. Indeed, if Epicurus is to be believed, "Pleasure is the beginning and the end of living happily." And John Stuart Mill believed that "Pleasure and freedom from pain are the only things desirable as ends."

But before we raise a glass and a spliff to philosophy's endorsement of indulgence, we need to remember the sobering qualifications that come attached. First, both Aristotle and Epicurus argued that for pleasure to be good we must not be its slave. The trouble with drugs is that when we take them, we give up sovereignty over our experiences and let the chemicals rule us. You might think that is the point, but don't expect the wisdom of the ancients to back you up.

Second, philosophers such as Mill distinguish between pleasures of the mind and pleasures of the flesh. We need both, but the former are superior and a life with too many of the latter is not commensurate with human dignity. If we give in wholly to bodily pleasures, we live the lives not of humans but of feral animals (which, again, you might think is the point).

Third, there is the difference between authentic and inauthentic living. There is something to be said for facing reality, even if that makes us less happy. Thinkers such as Sartre have argued that if the price of happiness is self-deception and delusion, it is not worth paying. But yet again, you might think the so-called great minds of history have again missed the bleeding obvious: no one ever got drunk in order to remember the pain of everyday life.

So there are reasons for not smoking dope, but they are nothing to do with it simply being pleasurable. Its main drawbacks seem to be that it shortens your life and turns you into a bore. But then so does spending all your life sitting on your *rse reading philosophy.
True pleasure is found only in Jesus Christ. The purpose of life? Give glory to God by enjoying him. In him is pleasure forevermore (Psalm 16v11).

Monday, November 21, 2005

Behold The Glory of God

All of my good deeds
Are but filthy rags
In which I stand,
Completely condemned
Til my Saviour calls,
Come and believe

He opened my eyes,
Where I was blind
Awakened my heart,
To turn to the Lord
I was running away,
Grace called me home

He walked on the earth,
The sinless man
Spoke the world to life,
Died for our sin
The King of the world,
The Lord Jesus Christ

Endlessly men speculate,
About the meaning of life
But God has revealed,
His written word
Enough revelation,
To repent and believe

See His matchless majesty,
For which we're made
Heaven without him,
Would be worthless as sin
Sing the song of salvation,
Behold, the Glory of God!

© 2005, Dave Bish
Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Christo, Sola Scriptura, Sola Deo Gloria
More new songs/poems at Aircon For My Soul

Annual Review



UCCF: The Christian Unions - Annual Review 2005

Grace on the road: Part 6 of 7



Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Summary --- 16v16-18v8 --- A former revelation of God in the Old (16v16a) and New Testaments (16v16b) has been preached. We need to respond to that now by listening, being convinced and repenting (16v29-31). Real faith isn't about quantity (17v5-6) but the object of that faith (17v18). It needs to be in Jesus, expressed in praise to God. This is important because there will be a future revelation of Jesus. He will be revealed to everyone has God's King, the Son of Man (17v24). He will come in judgement (17v33-35) and he will be looking for those who have faith in him (18v8). In view of this we should urgently ensure we have repented and believed in the crucified King (17v25) who saves us from judgement. We should take sin seriously (17v1-4) and we should pray for Jesus to come and judge the world (18v8).

16v16-31. The Former Revelation...listen, be convinced and repent.
Jesus begins by teaching about the Old Testament. In v16, he says that the law and the prophets were proclaimed until John. Since then the Kingdom of God is being preached and everyone is forcing his way into it. There has been a revelation of God previously, and that revelation is superseeded by the revelation of the Kingdom of God. We might think that this means the Old Testament can be got rid of. But Jesus says it still stands. And he states an example of scripture still standing. God has revealed himself.

We're then told a parable with vivid images, two men – one in hell, one in heaven. A great divide between them. They can't cross it. The man in hell pleads that the man in heaven, Lazarus, be allowed to return from the dead to tell his family about the reality of life after death. We should note that this isn't actually teaching us about the reality of heaven and hell. Rather, the parable is teaching us through the words of Abraham in v29-31. Abraham says that his family have Moses and the Prophets. They need to listen to them. If they wont then a resurrected man will not convince them. The message – God has revealed himself already enough. The right way to respond to that is to Listen, be Convinced and Repent. It doesn't work to say that we need a bit more revelation – what God has revealed is enough.

17v1-19. The Faith Required...not quantity, but an appropriate, thankful response to Jesus.
Jesus then turns to some hard teaching about sin, causing others to sin and forgiving those who sin against you. There is a challenge to us to view sin seriously from this. When did we last rebuke someone who sinned against us... .when did we last receive a rebuke and then repent, rather than defend ourselves. The cross allows us to receive all critique – God has more on us than anyone else.

Whilst we shouldn't ride over this teaching its point comes in the question of v5. The apostles ask Jesus “increase our faith!”. They think they don't have the faith to do this. Jesus' response, in v6, is quantity of faith is not the point. Faith is not some abstract thing that you need a certain amount of. A mustard seed of faith can do what we'd consider impossible. Be encouraged, you have enough faith already!

He then teaches with a story of a servant, in v7-11. Here faith is illustrated as the appropriate response to Jesus. The image is the duty of a servant. We should not read to much into the details of this, but rather consider it an illustration (v7, suppose) where the servant acts appropriately in his situation.

Finally in this section we're told of the story of 10 lepers healed by Jesus. They're all cleansed. Only one returns to praise God. Jesus says his faith healed him. Its notable that his faith is directed towards Jesus and that he gives thanks to God. We might also note that he is a foreigner. This story teaches us that faith is focussed on Jesus – and gives praise to God. Again, faith is not a abstract thing – it is inextricably connected to Jesus.

17v-20-18v8. The Future Revelation...King Jesus will come, will he find faith..
A pharisee asks Jesus when the kingdom will come. He says its not with careful observation. Not something you can use to say “here it is” or “there it is”. You can't do this because the kingdom is within you. Or more accurately, the kingdom is among you. Note that this is the second kingdom reference of the section – 16v16. The Kingdom of God is Jesus' message.

As Jesus goes on to teach his disciples about life before his Kingdom fully comes he teaches them that they will long for his coming. When Jesus calls himself Son of Man he using a kingly title. Then he says, in the meantime there will be rumours of his coming. People will say “here he is” or “there he is”. The language of v21 is repeated in v23 but changed. The kingdom replaced with Jesus. The two are not completely interchangeable but they are very strongly connected. We cannot speak of the Kingdom of God without connection to Jesus. It's coming always means the coming of the rule of King Jesus in peoples lives. This is a sharp corrective to some views that the kingdom comes through social transformation. The kingdom is about people coming under the personal rule of King Jesus.

It wont be a rumoured coming because when Jesus comes he will be revealed like sheet lightning. Everyone will see him. Without doubt. Before that Jesus must suffer and be rejected. In the mean time life will go on as it did in the days of Noah and before the judgement of Sodom. When Jesus is revealed there will be no turning back. Judgement will come and take people away if they turn back.

This section continues with the parable of a persistent widow in 18v1-8. She is persistent with an unjust judge who gives into her eventually. Jesus then argues lesser to greater in relation to God. God is a just judge, will he not give his chosen ones justice. God's people will be delivered into the kingdom. However, v8, the question is – when Jesus, the Son of Man, the King comes will he find faith? Faith not marked by quantity but by a repentant response to the revelation of Jesus today.

STUDY QUESTIONS

16v16-31 THE FORMER REVELATION
What do we learn about the OT from v16-18?
What does the parable (19-31) teach us about the OT?
What response is required? (3 things in 29-31)
Summary - How must we respond to what God has already revealed?

17v1-19 THE FAITH REQUIRED
What does Jesus teach in v1-4?
How might this raise the question in v5?
When it comes to faith what matters? (5-6)
Does that encourage us?
How does v7-11 describe faith in action?
What is notable about the response of the cleansed leper who returns (v15-18)?
Summary - What does real faith look like?

17v20-18v8 THE FUTURE REVELATION
What have we previously seen about the kingdom of God?

How does Jesus respond to the pharisees question about it?
What connection does Jesus make between himself and the Kingdom of God in v21, 23?
What will disciples experience as they wait for Jesus' coming? (22-29)
What will happen on the day the Son of Man is revealed?
What is the main point of the parable in 18v1-8?
What will happen when the final revelation of King Jesus happens? (8a)
What will Jesus be looking for when he comes?
Summary - Who will get eternal life when King Jesus returns?
How can we cultivate the kind of faith the King seeks?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Monday, November 14, 2005

Not to us.... Psalm 115

Preparing a study on Psalm 115, I found this hymn based on it. It's in 8787 meter which fits nicely to the tune of Love Divine All Loves Excelling...
Not to us be glory given,
but to him who reigns above;
Glory to the God of heaven,
for his faithfulness and love!
What tho’ unbelieving voices
hear no word and see no sign,
Still in God my heart rejoices,
working out his will divine.

Not what human fingers fashion,
gold and silver, deaf and blind,
Dead to knowledge and compassion,
having neither heart nor mind –
Lifeless gods some yet adore them ,
nerveless hands and feet of clay,
All become, who bow before them ,
lost indeed, and dead as they.

Not in them the hope of blessing;
hope is in the living Lord!
High and low, his name confessing,
find in him their shield and sword.
Hope of all whose hearts revere him,
God of Israel, still the same!
God of Aaron! Those who fear him
he remembers all by name.

Not the dead, but we the living
praise the Lord with all our power;
Of his goodness freely giving,
his is heaven, earth is ours.
Not to us be glory given,
but to him who reigns above:
Glory to the God of heaven
for his faithfulness and love!
(Timothy Dudley-Smith 1974)

Exegetical Fallacies

Challies highlights a couple of Exegetical FallaciesThese are along the lines of the study skills I was writing on earlier this autumn...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Necessity of Atheism Q6

If grace does everything for them, what reason would he have for recompensing them?

The only other attempt online to answer these questions, that I've found, doesn't answer this one. It simply confesses to not understand the question. I agree! But, I can see a possible line of thought.

Shelley is right to say that God's grace does everything for believers - grace is all we need. So the question rises why would God recompense us. Recompense meaning returning in kind, payment for service. I can only conclude that Shelley observed a kind of "christianity" where it seemed that God was subservient to humanity, rewarding our good deeds, such as they might be.

Such "christianity" is a dire perversion of the truth. God is not our debtor and God does not reward good works. Many think that this is exactly what Christianity is - that the good people do good stuff and God rewards them with blessings and heaven. This is not true. Humanity is not good. We deserve no good thing from God.

Narnia author C.S. Lewis noted in the 20th Century that grace was the distinctive that marked out Christianity from all other "religious" systems. Bono noted that everything else is Karma but Jesus is about grace. Everything else is deeds and rewards, but Christ gives freely. To attempt to gain favour with God by good deeds would be to opt out of his grace - to refuse it. God is not interested in recompensing us for devotion. Living that way exalts us and our deeds, rather than God and his grace.

And how does this grace come to us? It comes through the death of Jesus Christ in our place, enabling God to show pour out abundant grace upon us. And it comes in the form of God himself. The gift of the greatest treasure of all. God gives us himself. Not by our efforts, but of himself - for his own sake, not because we deserved him.

Abraham Piper expresses this well in his song:
The Gift you Give (music P. Carlson)

From you our life arrives
And into you departs.
Then we begin to live.
You are the life of lives.
You are the heart of hearts.
You are the gift you give.

You are the soul of every soul
That comes to you to be made whole.
You are the one for everyone
Who longs for life—life in your love—
To finally see the beauty of
The gift you give of Christ the Son.


To suggest that God recompenses believers would be to misunderstand the very nature of grace - the gift of God to undeserving people who believe. And not because they summoned up enough belief in themselves, for even belief is a gift.

If Shelley was put off Christ by a works based twisting of the truth then the tragedy is that he rejected a shadow of the real thing. Next - If he is all-powerful, how offend him, how resist him? A question straight out of scripture itself...

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Studying, Social Action and Scripture-on-my-mind...

The ever thoughtful Rachel posts some seminar notes on Studying. Meanwhile today we went to a Bible College open day. First time I've ever set foot in such a place. Inspiring. Opening talk on the end of Ecclesiastes was amazing and a sample lecture on Luther & Salvation was also really good. I don't know whether that place is where I will end up spending three years of my life. God knows. I guess I'll find out in due course...

Ecclesiastes - the careful teacher compared life under the sun with life with God's judgement... whatever you have without God's judgement is vanity (whether time or wisdom or even God)... the alternative: life resurrected under Christ, is glory!
  • Ceryn reviews Humility and posts some poetry inspired by Luke's gospel.
  • Ed is amazed by the cross.
  • Paul is engaged in the charismatic pillowfight.
Wednesday-Friday were spent in Exeter with the UCCF Christian Union South Team, studying Social Action & Evangelism, with Andy Bathgate (CEO Scripture Union, Scotland). We have the luxury of debating it, in much of the world, they live in it. Challenging, very challenging. Our main resource was Tim Chester's Good News to the Poor. I may post more on this later, but I suppose the basic conclusion was - Christian Union's exist to do evangelism among students, but Christians are saved for good works - which has got to include meeting social needs.
As I continue my adventues into Church History, I've followed up Phil Johnson's History of Calvinism, by starting to listen to his survey of heresies beginning with vs. Pelagius. Phil is helpfully progressing with his wise insights into the cessationism / continuationism in the charismatic discussion.
On my mind are:
  • "not to us" : worship leader & musician's training for south east UCCF Christian Unions next month... who's it for, the words we sing, and how to use your gifts and stay humble...
  • Galatians 6 - to speak at Reading CU
  • Matthew 18 - to speak at Bath CU
  • Habakkuk and Titus, for other study
  • 2 Chronicles 1-9 - my overdue staff study project!!
  • How to answer Q6 in the series on The Necessity of Atheism: "If grace does everything for them, what reason would he have for recompensing them?" (noticed by Ant Adams)
But you know what, I can't think of much else I'd rather have to muse on than large sections of God's word.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Remember the Spirit-Breathed Word...

As I've said already we could argue for eternity about the charismatic debate - the best place to speak from is what the Bible actually says. If we argue from experience we almost inevitably start to compare the best of ourselves with the worst of other people. And that is never good for the body. (See also, some helpful comment from Rob Wilkerson - The Effect of the Gospel on How We Perceive Others - Rob's Blog is so helpful, consistently gospel-centred.)

With a mind to personal study of scripture on this, here are some sermons from John Piper on relevant passages. I've not read all of these yet, so this post is partly a reference tool for me... I don't know if I agree with them or not... be Berean and search the scriptures! The Spirit-breathed Word of God.
For what its worth, my second talk for University of Surrey Christian Union weekend away deals with some related issues - The Ministry of the Spirit - 2 Corinthians 3v7-4v7.

Charismatic Convergence...

So an evangelical blogosphere frenzy kicked off because Tim Challies reviewed Sam Storms book - (a book that I highlighted a month ago...)...
seems according to Challies that the book might not be as good as it could have been. That's a shame. Unfortunately I can't get it over here in the UK til the Spring of 2006 to find out for myself. The online work of Sam Storms is very worth reading.

Rob Wilkerson collated the progress of the debate, and invited me to join it... I haven't got time for more than a few thoughts shared testimonially.

1. 1997. Within a few months of becoming a Christian I was part of a Toronto-Blessing charismatic church. Tongues and prophecy were a normal part of church life there... sadly gospel-centred preaching probably wasn't. I encountered debates on the issue through the Bath Christian Union - for a time half the CU went to my church and half to the local FIEC church. Pyromania...

2. 2000. I graduated with a fairly subjective arminian charismatic theology. Defaulting from my environment to most of those positions. Two years of training with UCCF helped me to set those charismatic assumptions in scripture. Reading Grudem's Systematic Theology as part of my study programme was helpful in this. I became someone convinced that 1 Corinthians 12-14 had to be part of the life of the church today. Exegetically I can't see how else to read those chapters.

3. 2001. Encountered the writing of John Piper and gradually became a Calvinist as I studied scripture. Romans 9 nailed it for me. Around the same time a weekend with the contraversial Richard Coekin convinced me I need to read scripture carefully and in context. This was a watershed for me.

4. 2002. Newly wed I'm trying to get a job. I read Peter Jensen's The Revelation of God. This has a really anti-charismatic final chapter, but the rest is very helpful in setting the gospel at the heart of all revelation from God. This book is vitally important, and continues to reflect my views on the supreme value of scripture in revelation from God, and of the gospel being central. Unavoidably.

5. Its seems that for the church to grow that we need to be exercising the gifts God gives. Including prophecy - how can we just delete a command to eagerly desire it... In the new year I hope to write a series of studies in 1 Corithians 12-14. No time at the moment though.
I suppose I hold a fairly carefully caveated charismatic position. I want to be part of church being built up by the work of the Holy Spirit, through the preaching of scripture (a spiritual ministry) and that of other gifts too.

  • I want to say that gifts are for today on the basis of 1 Corinthians.
  • I want to say that much of Acts isn't necessarily normative.
  • I want to be really clear that I don't want glory as in that ancient day at the temple in Jerusalem - I want better, the Holy Spirit in me!
  • I want to say that gifts we don't need signs and wonders for evangelism.
  • I want to say that the Bible the authoritative revelation of God.
  • I want to say that the Bible is objectively about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • I want to say that people get transformed by the Holy Spirit as they behold Christ in scripture.
  • And I wanted to stay out of this debate and not nail my colours to the mast... thanks for tempting me Rob...


Meanwhile... Paul Huxley joins in too...

Worship Matters

Sovereign Grace Ministries' Bob Kauflin is now blogging at www.worshipmatters.com. (HT Justin Taylor). Bob Kauflin's songs are a real asset that the UK church ought to discover. Download samples and sheet music at Sovereign Grace Music

Choosing new leaders

Over the coming months the current leaders of Christian Unions I work with will begin to search for new leaders. Its an exciting time, releasing new students into ministry within the context of the Christian Union. Five factors worth considering. My underlying presumption is of course that a Christian leader is a Christian... once that's in place...

1. CHARACTER:
Titus 1, when Titus is told to find leaders he's instructed to look for people of impeccable character. The search there is for church elders, for a new young church. No reason to aim lower just because Christian Union leaders don't have all the same responsibility of church elders. The search is for leaders of a student-led gospel centred mission team. People with good character, humble servants, self-controlled and applying the gospel to all of life.

2. CONVICTIONS:
Titus 1, the final consideration is those who are committed to sound doctrine. The healthy teaching of the gospel. Why? Because sound teaching is what is used to encourage believers and to refute those in error. Sound teaching equips God's people for action, false teaching corrupts. Even if a CU leader doesn't actually teach in the CU (though they could), they are responsible for arranging teaching and training programmes. They need to know the importance of sound teaching, and in a CU context the central truths concerning the gospel, the cross, scripture, the holy spirit - as set out in the CU doctrinal basis (the central truths that form the basis of fellowship for a CU). This isn't exhaustive of Christian belief but they are the essentials.

3. CU VISION:
To be a leader in a Christian Union will require commitment to its vision. Its true in all walks of life. The Christian Union vision is: "Live for Jesus, Speak for Jesus as a Student-led Gospel-centred Mission Team on Campus". This can be worked out in various ways and the application of the vision may need some correction, but the vision remains. Get the inside story.

4. CHURCH:
A Christian Union leader needs to be rooted in a local church. Good pastoral oversight and support is essential. Christian Unions gather students from a wide range of local churches to do evangelism together. The second consideration then is to try and get some kind of church mix on a leadership team - its not essential, but just helpful.

5. COMMON SENSE:
(GUYS, GIRLS & PERSONALITIES & PERSPECTIVES ETC)
This is really not essential but is helpful - its just good sense to have a mix of guys and girls on the team, and to have a range of people, people with different personalities, perspectives etc. People are different and that's ok! In fact our differences display God's glory in being able to unite people by the gospel.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Necssity of Atheism Q5

If he is just, why fear that he will punish the creatures that he has filled with weaknesses?

A common question. The Bible teaches that God is just - perfectly so. We need to understand the foundations of his justice to consider this question. We are also told that God will punish people, not for weaknesses - but for sin.

GOD'S JUSTICE
God always acts justly. Sometimes it is very hard for us to see how certain actions are just. We must consider the basis on which he acts. His prime motive is to bring glory to his own name among his people and the nations.

This is seen with Israel after they turn from God to worship a golden calf. God would destroy them, but he doesn't because (a) The nations would mock him for rescuing his people after saving them out of egypt, (b) Israel were promised, through Abraham, to be a great nations. The same logic follows again and again throughout the Bible. God acts justly for the sake of his own name - not for our sake, primarily.

WHAT OFFENDS GOD
That which God punishes in us is not weakness. Weakness says of sin, I couldn't help myself from doing it. God says - we are not weak, but responsible for our sin. And sin is not just self-indulgence it is rebellion against God's word. He set life for us and by our sin we reject that. In doing so we declare God's name worthless - this is the offense he is punishing.

ACCOUNTABILITY
Many speak on this issue saying that God gave us free-will, to create relationship. And thus we sin... and its our fault. I don't find this argued in the Bible. We are given commands and held accountable for our lives. God reveals himself and declares what is required of us - what a right response to him is. Free-will defence suggests that God ought also surrender his right to punish... God holds us accountable for our rebellion against him. It would be shocking if he didn't. If he cared so little for his great name as to tolerate our rebellion then he would not be glorious at all.

SALVATION
That said, that doesn't inevitably mean we face judgement. Judgement from God is not something we can survive, it is not just some chastisement... judgement from God would be the end of us, forever. But God, in his concern for his own reputation and glory also saves us from the judgement we deserve from him. He seeks to have a people for himself and so he acts in the death of Jesus to save us. Jesus taking the punishment for our sin, if we trust in God.

NEXT - If grace does everything for them, what reason would he have for recompensing them?

Surrey CU Houseparty - Talk 3

This is the third talk... this also is slightly different from what I actually said but the basic content is the same.

LOVE 2 Corinthians 5v11-21
LOVE – THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS



This weekend we've considered...

TRUTH – THE WORD OF GOD
We need to sit under God's word, not stand over it.
As we do so we're under Jesus' Lordship and he grows his kingdom.

POWER – THE MINISTRY OF THE GOSPEL
We share the gospel with people, the Holy Spirit changes lives, God gets glory! And so we seek to open the Bible with people.

NOW, WE CONSIDER....
LOVE – THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS
Not just a sentimental declaration – but an effective work for people that justifies us. And justified, commissions us to be Christ's ambassadors to the world.

I received this in an e-mailout from a University Chaplain recently....
Remember, the message God wants you to hear is "I love you", not because he's kidding you and the real agenda is "fierce anger", but because that truly is God's nature....
If you think God's fierce anger is getting at you, or even the idea of God's fierce anger, then remember the true heart of the Bible's message is "I love you".

And doesn't the Bible say - God IS love.... Well yes, that's in 1 John 4. And love's great isn't it. Love is all around. If God is love, perhaps love is god? Love is everywhere. We're against religious hatred, and for religious love. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is all about tolerance. C.S. Lewis wrote about the Four Loves.... D.A. Carson has written of the Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. Love God? Love each other? Love the lost? Love your neighbour? Love. Love. Love. All you need is love, actually...

Er. Well maybe....

Message – 2 Corinthians 5v10-21
In this our final session we turn to think about what happened at the cross. Its the best place to round off our time. Its the best place to be. And we come to it, as always when we come to the Bible, and to the cross – on our knees – humbled and wariting to hear from God. God brings us a fresh vista on what happens at the cross.... the way his love is touches, transforms and transports us. This shines in technicolor compared to the erroneous monochrome of the chaplain.... we'll touchdown with those who try to reject what the Bible teaches about the cross, and explore God's pleas for us in terms of how we live in the shadow of the cross.

The Motivation – Terror and Love v10-18a
The Ministry – Ambassadors v18b-20
The Message – “be reconciled) v21

1. The Motivation – Terror and Love v10-18a
What motivates us to do evangelism? We're here today as a Christian Union gathered for a weekend. A Christian Union whose ministry is to Live for Jesus and Speak for Jesus. To do evangelism among students. And to make disciples of Jesus. But why....

Firstly, v10-13.... FEAR OF THE LORD
Old translations have this as Terror of the Lord. Why terror... the clue is there in v10. We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ. God is the just judge who will judge people. Judgement is coming. This has always been the way....

Remember 2 Corinthians 4v6 – Light shone out of darkness.... quoting from Genesis 1....

Where light shone into darkness.... evening and morning, each day...
Genesis 19.... At night the Lord comes to evil Sodom to judge.... in the darkness of night Sodom indulges its sin. And in the morning Lot and family are persuaded to leave, to flee to safety at Zoar. For Lot the morning is the day of salvation.... and later that day, judgement reigns down on Sodom with utter devastation. A picture of final judgement. A picture of what will one day happen for the whole earth.

[Thanks to Mike Reeves who spoke on this stuff at All Souls, helpful resource for my prep at this point]

God is greatly to be feared. Judgement is greatly deserved. And so, just as the Lord persuaded Lot to flee to safety so Paul persuades people to flee God's judgement.

If that was all then it would look like God was the bad guy and Paul was the good guy trying to save us from a nasty god. Its not though. In fear of the Lord Paul persuades people to flee.

Many today want to not speak of God's judgement, his personal wrath at sin. Most famously perhaps Steve Chalke in his book The Lost Message of Jesus. He dismisses the idea that God is angry at us. He attempts to pit the Father against the Son. But we must see that there is no conflict in heaven. God is angry at our sin. And those outside of Christ should be scared.

Famous poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley is a relative of mine. He was expelled from University in Oxford 190 years ago for distributing an essay called The Necessity of Atheism. One of the questions he raised was why if God was infinitely good, why should we fear him.... Its a good question. But it fails to discern the state of humanity. Fallen. Judgementworthy. Fear of God is a big issue if you're not a Christian. For Christians we're told there is no condemnation, no need to fear God. We are to awe him, for he is most awesome – and revere him, and honour him... but that is not the same as abject fear.

Paul however is motivated by fear of the Lord, motivated by the terrible reality of God's coming judgement – not on himself, but on this world. It is not what people want to here, which is why Steve Chalke, and many other liberal teachers before him have tried to dismisss the idea. But people rarely like the truth. People are in danger and need to be warned.

Not simply warned, but persuaded. Sometimes we think we have to wait for people to ask, or just to tell them and then they'll magically believe. But the reality is that Paul regularly preached, proved and persuaded people about Jesus. He used compelling and often complex argument to convince people. Not to distort the message, but so that the plain message could be seen.

The fear of the Lord motivates Paul to persuade people about Jesus.

Secondly, v14v18a... THE LOVE OF CHRIST

This seems immediately more palatable to us. God is love isn't he... but its not that simple. This is the same God who is to be feared. In v10 it was the judgement seat of CHRIST that was to be feared. And yet now Paul speaks of the love of Christ.

This is the year of Making Poverty History. The publicity seems to have drained out of that effort a bit lately... but it still remains. Of those leading the campaign Bono is perhaps the most high profile. Here's one of his speeches on the matter, reported by the BBC in September 2004...

"Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment. "Because there's no way we can look at Africa - a continent bursting into flames - and if we're honest conclude that it would ever be allowed to happen anywhere else. "Anywhere else. Certainly not here. In Europe. Or America. Or Australia, or Canada. "There's just no chance." He continued: "You see, deep down, if we really accepted that Africans were equal to us, we would all do more to put the fire out. "We've got watering cans; when what we really need are the fire brigades.” Bono observes that Africa is burning away, and he is compelled to act. It is inevitable. It is essential. His understanding of the situation becomes a controlling factor in his life.

As we come to Paul's letter to Corinth the same passions and language are in view. Paul says that he is controlled by the love of Christ, compelled by it. As he is engaged by God's love he cannot do anything else. As the love of Christ captures his heart then what he does is the unavoidable action. The Love of Christ not only motivates Paul but also compels or controls him.

Why? Let us remember that now we have Christ the judge and Christ the loving saviour in view... what is the love of Christ?

One has died for all (14)
That One has died for All. Because of Christ's judgement we were all due to die.
And yet we're told that One, Christ, has died for all. The keyword is FOR.
Meaning in the place of. Jesus himself uses this image as he speaks with his disciples in John 10.... he speaks of himself as a shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. One who has such commitment to his task that he will give his life to save his sheep.

This is the image of someone dying in the place of another. Oddly enough I'm here in the place of Krish Kandiah this weekend. He was due to speak this weekend. He's an evangelism tutor at Oxford University and is speaking at the end of term evangelistic carol service, a massive opportunity to invite people to, and he'll also speak at a week of evangelistic events in February. He couldn't make it so I am here in his place.

We understand substitution. We see it in sport, and yet this is more serious. This isn't sports, this is about Jesus dying in the place where all deserve to die. Dying under the wrath of God. There is a great exchange on death-row. Christ, the judge, takes our place. And he dies in our place.
That is a compelling reason to speak of Jesus isn't it....
Humanity on death-row, and yet there is one who will take the place of anyone.

New Creations (17) (see also 4v6)
And the result of this having happened.... new creation.
V17, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.
We saw this already back in 4v6, the work of bringing us to see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, was a new creation. A re-creation of dead sinful blind veiled human beings.
In Christ we are not just people with new priorities, or a new hobby, or new ways of thinking or feeling, or event just new activities to do. We are new creations.
The gospel has an ontological root. It is about being.
I wonder if thats how we talk about being Christians.... very often we talk about what we do, think or feel...
And those things are part of us. But ultimately being a Christian isn't about new thinking, it isn't just about new feelings and emotions. And it isn't about stopping sinning in some area, social transformation, new habits in religion. No, its ultimately new creation. New existence.

As new creations we no longer live for ourselves, v15, but we live for Jesus.
Its the vision of the Christian Union – live for Jesus, speak for Jesus.

Reconciled (18a)
This is what Paul has come to know for himself. Once an enemy of God deserving judgement he is reconiled to God. And its important to see what that means. We were at odds with God. Not a petty squabble but at war. And the war was about God's hatred for us, his rightful anger and our foolish rebellion. We scorn his great glory, and so he is rightly angry. Justice must be done. We all feel that when we are wronged. Its true for God to.

In this day and age people are very keen to play down the judgement of God. We must not. If we play down judgement we have no good news. For our good news is of reconciliation with God. Men presume they are already at peace with God for God will overlook their indescretions. God is opposed to us.

And the only way that changes is through God's love through Christ's death. Christ's death in our place.

A brief tangent to 1 John 4 might help us here....
The same thing goes on in 1 John 4v8 – that's where it says “God is love”
There we are told “THIS IS LOVE”.... not our love for Christ, but rather. That God loved us and sent Jesus as a propitiation for our sins.

Jesus who dies a propitiatory death – which means Jesus dying under God's wrath, in our place. Yes God is love, but God is also angry at us for our sin.

Not irrationally angry. And this doesn't pit Father and Son against each other... No this is God acting fully in character. God is not just love – he is also:

Holy – Isaiah 6v3
Consuming Fire – Hebrews 12v29
Jealous & Avenging – Nahum 1v2a
Wrathful - Nahum 1v2b

This is God's great loving purpose – Jesus sent to die under the wrath we deserve from God. This is God acting for his sake and our benefit. God acting to stop his name being profaned by us – as he saves us in an act of terrifying love and wrath.... where wrath and mercy meet.... this is love divine all loves excelling.... here is love vast as the ocean...how deep the fathers love...

The fear of the Lord motivates us, because Jesus is the judge who all will face. The love of Christ motivates us, for he died for all so we would become new creations. This is our motivation. We have been reconciled to God in Christ, new creations.

2. The Ministry – Ambassadors v18b-20
Christ's Ambassadors (20)
The Ministry of Reconciliation
God Making his appeal through us, to us...

I've dropped hints already about what it is we do.... but Paul spells it out so clearly.
Look at the second half of v18. Having been reconciled we are given the ministry of reconiliation.

That is, v19, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself
How? V19b By not counting mens trespasses against them...
How? Because Christ dies in our place, punished for our sin, so they're not held against us.

And so, he entrust to us, the message of reconciliation... incarnate in us as new-creations.
Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ.
God making his appeal through us....
God is appealing to sinful humanity to be reconciled. He has to take the initiative because humanity cannot and will not take the initiative. We cannot save ourselves, and the sinful human nature has no desire for peace with God. And certainly not on God's terms. Some seek to reconcile themselves by good works. But this is futile.

Men remain blind, veiled and old creations. Only God can change the picture. Only God can re-create.

And he will, through Christ.... And so we, Paul says, implore you – on behalf of Christ – be reconciled to God.

God pleads with us – flee judgement, embrace life. He speaks through us. We speak on his behalf.

Ambassadors speak on behalf of their country or cause.... the represent. They carry out the intention of the one they represent.

So, we are motivated – by the fear and love of Christ – namely in his death. Reconciled to God, we are appointed as ambassadors of Christ...

3.The Message – “be reconciled) v21

As we carry out this ministry of reconciliation, as ambassadors of Christ, Paul is careful to spell out the content of our message one more time.

On Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God.... “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (21)

For our sake – to save us
He made him – God made Jesus
To be sin who knew no sin – Sinless Jesus counted as sin in our place
So that in him we might become the righteousness of God – recreated righteous people....

And this was the ministry Paul spoke of in chapters 3-4. The ministry of the Spirit, of life not condemnation that brings righteousness. A ministry exercised through the words of ambassadors – speaking on God's behalf, from the scriptures about Jesus.

And it brings righteousness. It brings us to right standing before God. The teaching we have here that through Christ we can be justified is so important.

Martin Luther said: “This doctrine is the head and cornerstone. It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God; and without it the church of God cannot exist for one hour”

John Calvin “Wherever the knowledge of it is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion abolished the church destroyed, and the hope of salvation utterly overthrown”

John Piper: “Preaching and living justification by faith alone glorifies Christ, rescues hopeless sinners, emboldens imperfect saints, and strengthens fragile churches. It is a stunning truth – that God justifies the ungodly by faith.”

450 years ago, in this country church leaders burned at the stake to defend this doctrine. In their era it was under threat from the catholic doctrine of transubstantiation – that is that Jesus body and blood are physically present at communion. That teaching undermined the sufficiency of Jesus death – to have already fully reconciled us... along with several other teachings. Above all it undermined justification by faith – us counted righteous by Christ's one death... because it required participants to re-sacrifice Christ time and again.

We do not need to. Christ has done it all. In him we become the righteousness of God. Bishop Latimer, as his body burned in the flames said - “we shall this day light such a candle by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out”. And it still burns – as we as Christian Unions, and our churches, stand in this teaching – living for Jesus, speaking for Jesus.

We are motivated by the fear and love of Christ. We are reconciled to God in Christ, becoming the righteousness of God. And we are appointed as his ambassadors, so that through our words about Jesus he might make his appeal through us. The day is dark... now the light shines out of darkness. This is, 6v2, the day of salvation. Now is the time to flee judgement. Now is the time to escape to safety. Now is the time to find new creation in Christ. Now is the day of salvation....

This weekend we've considered

TRUTH – THE WORD OF GOD
We need to sit under God's word, not stand over it. As we do so we're under Jesus' Lordship and he grows his kingdom.

POWER – THE MINISTRY OF THE GOSPEL
We share the gospel with people, the Holy Spirit changes lives, God gets glory! And so we seek to open the Bible with people.

LOVE – THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS
Not just a sentimental declaration – but an effective work for people that justifies us. And justified, commissions us to be Christ's ambassadors to the world.

This afternoon we will spend two hours in workshops to engage with the practicalities of speaking for Jesus. Exploring what it means for us to be ambassadors. Those will be at 1pm and 4pm. And then from 5-6pm we'll take an hour to pray. Praying for mission on campus. Praying for new creation to happen as we speak of Jesus.

Surrey CU Houseparty - Talk 2

The first talk I did at Surrey Houseparty is basically the talk I did at Warwick CU 10 days ago, with some minor edits (done by pen not on the digital version of the script). Jesus rules by his word. My main edits clarified that the word brings "forgiveness and judgement" where the previous script says "life and death". And clarified what it means that Jesus judges people by his word.

Session 2: POWER
2 Corinthians 3v6-4v7
The Ministry of the Spirit:


Eyecatching. Impressive. What does it for you? When you think about a Christian Union weekend away – what will make it a worth while experience for you? What would make this a good year of evangelism on campus?

The vision of the Christian Union is to Live for Jesus and Speak for Jesus – to make disciples of Jesus Christ on campus. And that's done through the vehicle of a student led mission team – united by a common commitment to the Bible and the truth of the gospel. These aren't theoretical commitments but practical life-changing transformational convictions.

So what ministry should we, as a mission team, be engaged in?
In the history of the church there has always been a tendency to miss what real missionary ministry should be like. Let me offer you a choice of two ministries... a tale of two ministries, if you like...

Ministry Number 1 – Impressive Supernatural Acts, miracles, signs and wonders – Tangible Glory. It's song could be “Lord let your glory fall, as on that ancient day”

Ministry Number 2 – Plain and Ordinary by appearance – Bible Teaching. It's song could be “Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above, of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love”

Which, in honesty would you want to be a part of?

Paul, as he writes his second letter to the church at Corinth is confronting a back to Moses campaign in the church. And so he draws comparisons between the two ministries.

A Tale of Two Ministries

Ministry Number 1.
3v7 Engraved in letters on stone – the tablets carved on Sinai
3v7 Came with glory
3v7 so the Israelites couldn't even look at Moses' face.... glory that faded.

“Lord let your glory fall, as on that ancient day...”

Ministry Number 2
4v2 Plain, simple Bible Teaching
4v5 Preaching Jesus Christ as Lord

“Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above, Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.”

Even still we're probably enticed by ministry number 1?? And yet Paul has sharp words for us. These two ministries have long lasting effects...
The Ministry of Condemnation or the Ministry of Righteousness

Ministry Number 1:
3v7 brought death
3v8 condemns

Ministry Number 2:
3v9 More glorious
3v9 Brings righteousness
3v10 Surpassing glory
3v11 Glory which lasts

So, you see – actually ministry number 2 is what we should be seeking. This is, 3v8 – THE MINISTRY OF THE SPIRIT. I'm aware that that phrase for many of us probably means signs and wonders ministry. And hear that I'm not saying that those things can't or don't happen, or even shouldn't happen. Simply, that they're not our chief concern here this morning – because they're not God's concern, here in this passage. And we seek to let God's word master us, rather than us dictating to God what he should be saying.

In the late 1980's Vineyard leader John Wimber famously wrote about Power Evangelism, by which he meant that evangelism has to be accompanied by a display of power – namely signs and wonders. Now, I agree with Wimber that God works signs and miracles today. I agree with him that prophecy and tongues are to be part of the life of the church. However, as we'll see here in God's word – I don't think that is the distinctive thing that characterises “Power Evangelism”, according to God's revelation – God's word, the Bible.

“The Ministry of the Spirit is Ministry of the Gospel Word leading to the re-Creation of sinners by God, revealing God's power”


THE MINISTRY OF THE SPIRIT IS THE MINISTRY OF THE GOSPEL WORD (14-5)

A. transforming Christians (14-18)
We're told that even to this day when Israel reads the old covenant – when they read the scriptures – a veil remains. Their minds are hardened, unable to receive the truth of God's word. And the veil remains, because only through Christ is it removed. V15, Paul repeats the same.

V16 – BUT, when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed – in Christ. V17 – The Lord, who is the Spirit brings freedom – freedom from veiledness, freedom from hardness of mind....
And, v18 – we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Which is to say – when someone turns to the Lord, when they submit to Jesus Christ as Lord, then the veil is removed and they can see....

See what? Where are they looking? Remember v14-15, looking at the old covenant, Moses... at the scriptures. So when someone comes under the Lordship of Christ and looks at scripture they're not veiled but free – able to see!
And what do they see? They behold the glory of the Lord, gazing upon the glory of the Lord in scripture. What is the glory of the Lord?

We need to look ahead to 4v4 and 4v6
4v4 Unbelievers we're told are blinded from seeing “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God”
4v6 Believers are given “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”
The glory of the Lord – Jesus Christ and the gospel!!!!

Matt Redman's song Facedown prays “Lord let your glory shine around”.... what is the glory? A friend of mine has edited Redman's words “It's in Christ your glory's found”

Because that is the point. The glory is found in Jesus. And becoming a Christian means being able to see the glory of the Lord in scripture.....

To what end, well, 3v18 – transformation into the same image – transformation into the image of God, to be like Jesus. This is the Spirit's work through the scriptures. This is the Spirit's ministry – transforming people into the image of God, renewing the divine image within us. That is power ministry! That is impressive! That is a sign and a wonder! And its done through a vision of Jesus.

John Piper has recently written a book “God is the gospel” - stating that it is God that we gain in becoming Christians – he is the great treasure. And that's what we're seeing here – Open the eyes of my heart Lord, its a prayer of conversion and of transformation – Open the eyes of my heart Lord I want to see Jesus, Thank You God, I see Jesus... I see him in the word. The Spirit breathed word, let us remember.

1A. The Ministry of the Spirit is the Ministry of the Gospel Word.... which transforms Christians....

And, 1B, The Ministry of the Spirit is the Ministry of the Gospel Word... exercised by Christians....

B. Exercised by Christians (1-5)

So we've see that the glory of the Lord is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Having spoken of the greatness and superiority of his ministry over that of Moses, the superiority of the Spirit's ministry of righteousness, over the condemnation ministry that Moses had he speaks of the exercising of that ministry...

It might be tempting to lose heart, but Paul does not – the ministry comes via the mercy of God (1). Instead of losing heart he renounces disgraceful and underhanded ways.... refusing the practice cunning or to tamper with God's word.... but rather by open statement of the truth he commends himself to everyone's conscience in the sight of God...

He could try to spice things up and con people with the truth, but he does not. He will not. Instead he simply plainly openly states the truth about Jesus.

Why might he con people... because he wants them to believe... and they don't. Why don't they believe? V3-4, the gospel is veiled to some – as it was from Israel. But it is the perishing who are veiled (v3), it is those blinded by the god of this age (satan), v4, who are blinded. Blinded why? Blinded so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.... what Paul proclaims, v5, Jesus Christ as Lord.

Paul speaks to blind people about Jesus... and they don't see because they are blind. This is true spiritual blindness. This is a major problem. But the solution isn't to con people, rather Paul simply keeps on preaching Christ, carefully showing them the gospel from the Bible.

This is our ministry – preaching Jesus.
What does that mean? It means verbally speaking to people about Jesus. People who are actually unable to hear it – they may look more or less interested but Paul is clear that all non-Christians are blind. However spiritually interested they are or are not, they're blind. Nonetheless we speak to them about Jesus.

St Francis of Assisi is rumoured to have said, preach the gospel always and if necessary use words. Its probably a misquote and either way its always misapplied. Francis was a preacher – he used words to tell people the gospel. So must we. Always.

The Christian Union exists to Live for Jesus and Speak for Jesus. We must do so. Are we? Can we speak clearly and truthfully about the gospel – about the glory of Jesus – a glory most profoundly revealed in his death.... our message, Christ and Him Crucified, about the Lordship of Jesus... the living resurrected Lord.

...LEADING TO RE-CREATION OF SINNERS (6)

RE-CREATION

The reality that we saw in v5 is that people are blind and need to be unblinded. They don't need to be edged along to a point where they can hear about Jesus, they need to hear about Jesus and then have the veil removed from their eyes. And we saw back in 3v18, that it is when Jesus is before us that the Spirit transforms, it follows then that the miracle will happen as we hear the word of God.

And in fact thats what we see in v6. Paul draws our attention to the speaking God. The God, who in Genesis 1, spoke and creation happened. When God speaks Universes get created. Similarly, Paul writes, God has re-created in our hearts – shining light into blind-darkness... so that we can see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.



There's this thing called the Engel scale. It is used to label non-Christians from -10 to -1 in terms of how close they are to being able to hear about Jesus. Observationally people have varying degrees of interest in Jesus. And people have intellectual, emotional and moral issues that stand between them and accepting the gospel. We need to deal with these issues with due care and attention. Apologetics – explaining things is important, very important. We saw that as we considered questions of whether religious passion causes terrorism, just a few weeks ago.....

But as we said already, Paul isn't affected by this. Paul is not detered by whether or not people seem interested. He simply speaks about Jesus, calling people to consider Jesus.... we'll be looking at how to do that more in our workshop later this morning.
Its false-theology to think we have to drag people to a point where they are ready to hear about Jesus. Its a denial of God's sovereign power. The Engel scale is drivel. Its a denial of the power of God.

On the one hand.... no non-Christian is “ready” to hear, until they're unblinded... they're not able to hear. And on the other hand... and every non-Christian is “ready” to hear, because its by hearing that people get unblinded. Blindness is removed by God speaking life into people – by re-creation happening.... and God's word, which is about Jesus, about the gospel is the way that happens.

This is the grace of God in action – grace that saves people. Its not our decision, its not our working it out. If you're here as a Christian today its because God worked a miracle in your heart so you could believe the gospel. Its not cos you're more clever, or more spiritual than anyone else. No-one has a good excuse in themselves as to why they shouldn't believe... we just have to show them Jesus from the Bible.

If we lose our focus on this being God's work then we'll lose heart – because we'll have failed if people don't believe. Our work is not to convert people. Trust me that I want to see many many people become Christians this year. But know that we can be successful in the ministry God has given us and not see that happen. We will fail only if we fail to present Jesus to those around us.

If we lose our focus on this being God's work we'll start to think we have to con people into becoming Christians... we'll use trite deception to try and win people over... dodgy salesmen for Jesus. I was sat in a coffee bar at Reading recently and a guy nearby was complaining that someone had asked him for directions recently, in the street... fair enough that... and then as he was walking away they'd said “do you know the way to heaven... cos i do”... he was incensed. If the Christian had wanted to talk to him about that couldn't they have done so plainly and without the deception? Opportunity lost.

At the other extreme we might think – since this is God's work its magic... so all we do is go and scream Jesus in peoples faces. But this is not what Paul did is it? Paul proved the gospel. Paul argued the gospel. Paul spoke it compellingly. Convincingly. Carefully. And you see when we do this God speaks – when we present God's word truthfully and faithfully it is God speaking... and when God speaks, Universes are created.

The other classic mistake is to try and divide what God has joined. There is a tendancy to divide the Holy Spirit from the Bible. People say that a church is into the Spirit but not the Word, or into the Word but not the Spirit. Both would be wrong. To be into the Spirit means we must be into the Word, and vice versa.

The Ministry of the Spirit is the Ministry of the Gospel-Word... which leads to the re-creation of sinners by God....

....REVEALING GOD'S POWER (7)

That's the grand plan guys. Exercising the ministry of the Spirit by preaching the word about Jesus to people, trusting that God will open blind eyes.

Looks a bit weak probably. Paul agrees. V7. We have this treasure – the gospel – in jars of clay... why? To show that the surpassing power belongs to God.

This summer in Bulgaria the president of the Borgas University Students Union was on the camp. Not a Christian. He was coming up with loads of new strategies for evangelical Christians, thats us, to make more of an impact on his culture and country. Not a Christian...

He thought that our gospel ministry was weak. And he didn't believe. But that was his problem. He was blind to the glory of God. Blind to the glory of Jesus. Blind to the message of the cross.

Pastor and writer Phil Johnson writes:

“Nowadays we see book after book being published on ministry philosophy, church-growth strategy, and Christian leadership—virtually all urging church leaders to compromise, conform, accommodate, adapt, and adopt the language and thinking of the world....

Do you recognise this pursuit of fads and keys to ministry?

We've tried all those strategies for at least three or four generations now, and we're still losing ground. In our mad pursuit of "relevance," has anyone noticed that the church is becoming more and more irrelevant? All this accommodation to the culture is the very thing that makes the church culturally irrelevant.
We are supposed to be in this world but not of it, remember?

So what do we do instead, he continues:

Now, before any one accuses me of advocating cultural defeatism, retreatism, asceticism, monasticism, or pessimism, let me say that the truth lies in the opposite direction.... I'm not saying we should give up on reaching the world or be passive and silent. On the contrary, I think we should turn up the volume. But I'm also saying this: Don't distrust the weapons Christ has entrusted to His church. Don't underestimate the power of the plain word of God or the influence of clear and dynamic preaching. Don't set aside the weapons God has chosen and trade them for Saul's armor..... Only the word of God is "quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." And if you're going to wage war in the spiritual realm, against evil imaginations and false ideologies, you are going to need a weapon like that—"a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" that cuts with precision and pierces to the depths of the heart—not a toy weapon from the fleshly arsenal favored by contemporary worldly evangelicalism.

Word ministry might look less relevant, but its the only powerful weapon we have... and in a fight against spiritual blindness its the right tool for the job... If anyone becomes a Christian through us exercising Spirit-Ministry by Word-preaching who will get the credit? Who will look seriously impressive? Us? No. God? Yes.
Which ministry do you want to be part of. As for me and my house.... I want to be engaged in the ministry of the Spirit....

“The Ministry of the Spirit is Ministry of the Gospel Word leading to the re-Creation of sinners by God, revealing God's power”

Grace on the road: Part 5 of 7



Part 5: Eternal life is for repentant sinners

This is a complex passage with some very familiar teaching. The danger is that we simply presume we know what it says. Odds on we'll miss the point if we approach it that way. There are also many potential red-herrings for us to avoid.

Things open with three very similar parables from Jesus in v3-24. The story of a lost sheep, a lost coin and a son who loses himself, in each case what is lost is found. The first two parables end with the conclusion “in the same way” there is rejoicing in heaven when sinners repent. The repetition emphasises the point.

You'd expect v25 to repeat the same conclusion but it doesn't. Instead we get a new development. This should draw our attention to who is listening. In v1-2 we're told that there are sinners who want to hear Jesus, and Pharisees who are muttering against him.

Its easy to see how the first two parables address the listening sinners. They are great encouragement – life is for such people as them! They should repent and receive eternal life. But the third parable appears to speak more to the Pharisees. They would consider themselves to be at home, not lost. And yet they are exposed as lost also. They are in need of repentance, if they repent they too could be received into eternal life with great celebration – they too are sinners. We're not told how the older son responds, there is no v33. The Pharisees can either get more angry and so be judged by the parable, or they can admit they are sinners and repent...

In chapter 16 we get a slightly confusing parable. A manager is exposed as having misused his position, but he's called to draw together his accounts. Fearing for his future he arranges for debts to be cut, so that he will have somewhere to go when he loses his job. Unexpectedly he is commended for his shrewdness. And Jesus seems to teach his disciples that shrewdness is a wise thing to do, to secure eternal life.

Likewise in v10-12 trustworthiness is commended. Trustworthiness with little leads to being given more. True riches are are on offer. In v13 we're told that when it comes to God and money you have to serve only one of them, not both. To love one is to hate the other. These teachings about shrewdness, trustworthiness and service seem obscure at first. Jesus is teaching his disciples, v1, but what is he teaching them?

Then we notice in v14 that the Pharisees are listening in. Jesus is teaching against them, they are described as lovers of money. Therefore from v13 they are God-haters. And the same is detailed in v15, as they are shown to love the things that God despises. They are not shrewd with what they have. They have been entrusted with much, but have failed to steward it well. They have appeared to serve God, but preferred money. Again they are shown bankrupt. They are sinners. They are not shrewd, instead they hate God.

And what would it mean to be shrewed and trustworthy? To take what knowledge of Jesus we have, even from these pages, and to repent. Sinners who repent get eternal life. Sinners who repent are rejoiced over in heaven. What do we with Jesus' diagnosis of us as sinners? What do we do with the offer of eternal life?

STUDY QUESTIONS
Word
Pray. Read the passage in two sections.

Chapter 15v1-32
What are the pictures in the parables in v3-24?
What are they a picture of? (v7,10)
Why the repetition?
What would you expect v25 to say?
(in view of v7,10)
Why would it not say that?
Who is being addressed and what is their attitude to Jesus? (v1,2)
What do the parables say to the group in v1?
How would the group in v2 respond to the parables in v3-24?
How does v25-32 address the Pharisees and Teachers?
How could they respond to the parable?
Summarise the message to sinners, and to pharisees?

Chapter 16v1-15
What is the story of the parable v1-9?
What is the point Jesus makes with the parable?
What is the point in v10-12?
What is the point in v13?
Who is being addressed in v1-13? (v1)
Who else is listening? How are they described?
What is being said to the Pharisees here?

What has Jesus said about the state of the pharisees in 15v1-16v15?
What would be shrewd behaviour for someone who knows they're a sinner?