Archive for May, 2010

On Mission With Jesus – 1 Corinthians 9:15-23

May 17th, 2010

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1. Culture

  • Each culture has its own language, customs, habits, etc, and we have to learn these if we are cross into other cultures. Culture isn’t confined to being international – there are many sub-cultures within any culture. There are even different cultures just as we step outside our front door!
  • Paul dealt with the challenge of culture crossing – he especially needed to as an apostle.
  • Paul was firm and unmoving in his beliefs and convictions, but he was also pliable and able to accommodate different types of people.
  • The problem is that we often assume that our culture superior and is the “right” way of doing things, and we can equate certain customs and cultural values with the gospel – bringing the gospel plus our customs to other cultures. But what we need to do is bring the gospel in its absolute purest form.
  • It is difficult and it isn’t comfortable to cross cultures effectively.
  • Paul is FREE – he is free from trying to impress people and God. He is not taking on other people’s cultures to impress those people, nor is he trying to earn favour with God. He is free from condemnation and free to live for God alone.
  • Paul’s home is not in any culture because it is in heaven, so he can put aside his cultural comforts and enter any other culture.
  • Paul makes himself a servant to all – for the sake of those who don’t know Christ.

2. Jesus

  • Paul was free because of Jesus. Jesus bought our freedom and peace with God with His blood. Jesus was made a servant so that we could be free.
  • The way Paul enters other cultures like this points to something deeper and more powerful – he is acting like Jesus.
  • God Himself came down and entered our world, taking on our likeness, and made all the effort and took all the steps to reach out to us. He gets on our level and communicates to us in a way we can understand.
  • Like Jesus, we are to take the glory of God to other people.
  • Jesus will take us over borders in order to reach those who don’t know Him.
  • We have to learn the cultures and world in which we live – we need to go as far as we can to reach people, without sinning.
  • Don’t put barriers in the way of the gospel!
  • The onus is on us to take the steps and go to people with the gospel.
  • We need to be flexible and get our priorities right.

3. Challenges

  • Listening challenge: we need to learn to listen to others first, as our propensity is usually to preach at people instead. People will listen more when they’ve been heard.
  • Persuasive challenge: we need to know what and why we believe, and we need to give reason for those beliefs. Sometimes we can be superspiritual and just “leave it to the power of God”, but we need to challenge other people’s worldviews because we love them and want them to know Jesus.
  • Sunday challenge: the church has the challenge of drawing people into the community of God. We need to present ourselves and our meetings in an intelligible way, being accessible to all, and not being lazy about explaining what goes on during meetings.
  • Community challenge: drawing people into zones and small groups, particularly those who are on the fringes, and not sticking to Christian cliques. Jesus left the 99 sheep to go and find the one – we’ll grow to be more like Jesus when we reach out to and hang out with those on the edges.
  • Public challenge: this is how we present ourselves as a church in terms of communications, aesthetics, online presence, etc – presented in a clear and relevant way.
  • Misunderstanding challenge: by trying to reach out into our culture(s), people may accuse us of “selling out” and just trying to be “hip”. Other Christians and other churches may cut us off – but true maturity is putting aside the barriers and our personal preferences in order to advance the gospel whatever it takes.

Jesus & “Your Money” Q&A Part 1

May 11th, 2010

Often on Sunday nights at CCK we take some time at the end of the meeting to answer questions sent in via text message. We did this a few weeks back after my preach ‘Jesus and Your Money’ but due to time we weren’t able to answer all the questions on the night, we said we’d put some answers online so here they are.

Q. Should we give out of guilt?

A. No! The Christian gives out of an assurance that 1) Everything belongs to God anyway and 2) That God has shown the great extent of His love for them in giving His son. As Paul says in Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” – if we understand this and hold it to be true, it must surely follow that we can no longer give out of a sense of guilt.

Q. Is it spiritually worthwhile to pursue a career in which you can progress thru a hierarchy to gain increased wealth and influence to re-inject your earnings back into church and its projects while encouraging your colleagues if you are in a position to do so? Or would it be better to take a job that allows more opportunity to become more involved with the projects personally? Or are both stances equally spiritually rewarding and good uses of our giftings?

A. It is possible to pursue either of these courses with integrity, equally it is possible to pursue either and be entirely fruitless. What is in question is the state of your heart: If a thing is done to the glory of God, it is worship and therefore acceptable. If it is done with purely self in view, in an attempt to justify oneself by gaining merit / appeasing guilt etc. it is a dead work. A Christian can bring great glory to God in either of the ways mentioned in the question but only if His glory and fame are the desire of their heart.

Q. Is there merit in the saying that being on the edge financially keeps you more reliant and trusting on God?

A. As with the question above, it is quite possible for this situation to go either way: If the individual in question has a right assessment of who God is, and so fears and honours Him, they will find that they approach impending poverty with faith and hope. For those without this perspective, they might well panic and fear the situation. 1 John 4:18 tells us “Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” Therefore, the true deciding factor in reliance on God is whether or not one truly knows God as a loving Father. Whether or not this person is ‘on the edge financially’ is incidental.

Q. Is not the current system of money itself evil, as well as the love of money, in that it requires perpetual debt? Should we be partaking in a resource based economy instead, is this not what both Jesus and Paul advocated anyway?

A. Earthly governments are always a mixture, therefore we have a tension: On the one hand, we read in Romans 13:1 “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God”. On the other hand, several verses later in Romans 13:8, we read “Owe no one anything”. This leaves those in our situation with a problem: How do we submit to the authorities in a ‘debt’ culture? It would certainly involve not participating in the aspects of the culture that were counter to the Faith – in this case living on credit. The underlying principle to be observed is: Live in a godly way within the time and place and under the authorities that God has placed you. This does not mean that where things are unjust and ungodly we do not pray consistently and seek peaceful reform. On the second question: One could probably cite Scripture in various creative ways (and many have,) to suggest that Jesus and Paul advocated one particular mode of government or economy but this would involve reading into the text.

Q. If we invest in God’s church here in CCK, do you think this city will change?

A. In a word: YES! Our vision is to be ‘in Brighton, for Brighton’. In writing to the exiles, Jeremiah advised them “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7) We feel a similar mandate on us for Brighton. By giving to CCK, we are giving to an initiative that will effect permanent positive change, as the peace and prosperity of Brighton and Hove are placed high on the agenda.

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Jesus & “Your” Money – 1 Corinthians 9:1-14

May 11th, 2010

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Paul has been explaining what true freedom is and what it is to be used for. When talking about money, we have to set the foundation right first, which is that grace is a free gift – it cannot be bought or earned with good works (e.g. giving lots of money to church). We can’t cover our sin with money – the price was God’s own Son. Another thing that needs to be clarified is that Paul is speaking to Christians, to members of the church.

Paul explains that he has every right to be paid by the church – and yet he chose not to in the case of the Corinthian church, as he didn’t want people to think they could bribe him, and the church had only recently been started up. However, Paul does explain four reasons why he has this right, as do the leaders of any church:

1. Common sense

  • v.7 – if you work, you should get fairly paid.
  • Often, Christians are the slowest to get this – some of us have a superspiritual view of money, thinking it is “unspiritual” or the root of all evil, or thinking that it will make the pastors/elders more spiritual and humble by keeping them poor! But money can and should be used for God’s glory, for blessing others – the church needs it. It is the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil – when you treat money as god.
  • Jesus had to be supported financially when he was in full-time ministry.

2. God wants fairness

  • v.8 – it is in the law of God.
  • God has said many times in Scripture that He cares about fairness. He wants there to be justice for those who work – to be given dignity and rights and treated well.
  • Paul uses the metaphor of an ox – good representation of what ministry work looks like: genuinely hard work, carrying a heavy load, extends beyond ordinary working hours, a continuous labour.

3. God’s presence costs cash

  • v.13
  • The Church is the presence of God – extending the Church, doing the work of God’s kingdom requires resources, and that requires money.
  • The Church is God’s plan and only plan for the world – Jesus gave His life for it, and He will build it.
  • We can be tempted to give our money to other ministries that seem more exciting than giving to our church – but the church is God’s mission and the mission we should be on. God has placed us here, to serve THIS city.
  • We are not forbidden from giving to other ministries – it’s just that our priority in giving should be our church. We can give on top of what we give to church.

4. Jesus said it

  • v.14 – ‘the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel’
  • 1 Timothy 5:17-18
  • It is a clear, biblical principle, taught by Jesus Himself.

There are four common myths that stop people from giving:

1. “More people = more money”

  • i.e. thinking that it will just be covered by others. However, every member is needed. The church cannot afford to have people not giving.

2. “It’s ‘my’ money”

  • No it’s not, it’s God’s money. We are stewards – we merely look after God’s money. He can do with it what He likes. Our calling in life is not to accumulate wealth and material possessions, but to steward well.

3. “I can’t afford to give”

  • If we have this attitude, will we ever be in a place where we’re able to give?
  • It sets a principle of “God gets the leftovers” or “God gets whatever I have spare”.
  • The reality is, we can’t afford not to give! We need to learn that God covers us – that He is our security, not money.
  • We can’t outgive God!
  • We rob God when we don’t give to Him the first and best.
  • We need to realign our priorities – where your treasure is, there your heart is also.
  • If we learn to steward with little, God can trust us to steward with large amounts.
  • Learn to give freely, wholeheartedly and crazily!

4. “CCK just needs to survive”

  • i.e. we just need to stop being so ambitious.
  • In truth, we need to be way more ambitious – God has much GREATER ambitions for our city, our nation and our world!
  • This is a serious matter – we need to reach people with Jesus, we need to be building and growing more and more. And in order to do that, each member needs to play their part.

Protect your conscience, protect your brother – 1 Corinthians 8

May 4th, 2010

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The church in Corinth were facing the moral dilemma of whether it was right to eat food that had been sacrificed to idols. We may not have the same problem in our time and culture, but we will struggle with many issues of conscience, many grey areas as Christians. This passage gives us good principles to help guide us through the issues we face.

There tends to be two different types of attitudes:
1. Relativistic – where there is no real right or wrong or absolute truth – very prevalent view in our culture
2. Making universal rules on every single issue – forcing your own convictions onto everyone else

Paul says that the second view is weak. Christianity and the Bible is not about following rules. Jesus in fact had the most trouble on earth with the religious leaders, the legalists.

1. Gnosis and love

  • Paul draws a distinction between knowledge that “puffs up” – the Greek word ‘gnosis’ – and love.
  • He addresses the attitude of the heart – wanting to be right and win all the arguments – the attitude of lifting up knowledge rather than love
  • Don’t be more passionate about debating doctrines rather than the doctrines themselves
  • We often build our life on what group we are “in” with – our hope is in what we know, which is pride
  • If anyone loves God it proves that they are known by God. This is humbling because we only love God because He foreknew us and loved us first
  • We should pursue knowledge for the purpose of worshipping better

2. Knowledge and freedom

  • Paul does address the issue directly that the Corinthians were disputing – that there is only one God, and the idols aren’t real – AND that there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. Paul inserts Jesus’ name here into what the Jews would usually recite (Deut. 6) because Jesus is the revelation of God, the only way to know God
  • You look at Jesus and you see how God deals with people and how He uses His freedom

3. Freedom to love

  • What is our freedom for? The answer is found in Jesus – it is for the sake of love
  • All of us as Christians are at different stages – some do not possess the same knowledge as others and struggle with things that others don’t. We need to be patient and loving towards those with weak consciences
  • Don’t ignore your conscience! Even if other people are doing what your conscience tells you is wrong. Don’t live with a bad conscience – protect it and educate it
  • Loving others sacrificially is far greater than personal freedom – and do it with gladness and joy, so that your joy is made complete in serving others and putting their needs first
  • Don’t flaunt your freedom but serve others
  • Jesus is neither indifferent nor rigid – He is patient with the weak, even though He is always in the right
  • What do you base your hope and identity on? Whose opinion do you care about the most? God should be the answer to these questions
  • Jesus not only gives us an example – He gives us the power and strength to be able to love others in this way. Otherwise it is impossible for us!
  • Jesus also gives us a new, clean conscience