Archive for August, 2010

Hebrews 10:19-25 – The Call to Worship

August 29th, 2010

Worship is not just a part of our church meeting, but the whole of our life. Sometimes the word used for “worship” in the Bible (e.g. Philippians 2) refers to “lifestyle” – how we live our life. It is the life of obedience to God, of bowing down to Him.

However, in looking at corporate worship – what happens when we meet together as the church to worship God? Often we get so locked into our own musical style, but we need to not be so narrow-focused – we need to look at what the Word of God defines corporate worship as and how we can express it. We should have an expectation to meet with God.

There is a concern that there is a greater focus on worshipping God with our minds, and less on heart (will & affections), strength (physical actions), and soul (emotions & desires). The word Jesus uses to describe worshipping the Father in Spirit and in truth is to “kiss” – we come to an intimacy with God, to embrace Him with passion. God made us for relationship – to dwell with us. Sin separated us but the cross reconciles us.

We are now the temple, the dwelling place of God – the holy place that is flooded with God’s presence.

Five reasons/exhortations to worship:

1. The worshipper’s invitation
i. With confidence: Jesus is our High Priest who identified with us and opened the way to heaven, which gives us confidence to approach God. God wants us to cry out to Him.
ii. To enter the holy place: God wants to take us beyond intellectual truth and to experience the presence of God. He wants to lift our expectations. We don’t stop short at the outer court; we come right in with joy, enthusiasm and exaltation.
iii. By the blood of Jesus: we cannot come into God’s presence without the shedding of blood to atone for our sin. We testify together what the Word says the blood of Jesus does for us; we live in victory.
iv. By the new and living way: worship needs to be fresh and not always predictable, while at the same time preserving structure. We need to have bigger expectations of what will happen within that structure.
v. Through Christ our High Priest: our worship needs to be Trinitarian – to the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. Jesus makes our worship acceptable to God. We worship in the Spirit. God is a worshipping God – each member living to worship each other. God sings and spins around with delirious delight over us! We get to join in with His celebration.
vi. With a true, sincere heart.
vii. By faith: in full assurance of faith. Faith grows when we declare truth together.

2. The worshipper’s hope
• We sing songs about our prophetic direction – where we are going as the church and what our mission is.

3. The worshipper’s motivation
• We stir each other up to love and to do good works.

4. The worshipper’s commitment
• We should not and cannot neglect meeting together – it is vital.

5. Worshippers fellowship in the gospel
• Worship goes hand-in-hand with evangelism and spreading the gospel.
• We will naturally witness  to others if worship is our lifestyle.
• Our times of corporate worship can be the times where unbelievers meet God and find saving faith.

Hebrews 3:5 – 4:13

August 25th, 2010

In Hebrews 3:5-4:13, the writer cites an incident describe hundreds of years earlier in Psalm 95 by King David. The subject of this psalm itself happened hundreds of years before that, showing the incident to be one of importance to God’s people for all time. What happened was this: God had brought his people out of captivity in Egypt, promising them a land to dwell in. The people experienced God’s deliverance from slavery but they faltered in their confidence in him and increasingly became hardened against him. Their rebellion and faithlessness continued to the point where God swore to them in His anger “They shall not enter my rest” (See Numbers 14:26-30 and Deuteronomy 1:34-36) He did not send them back into Egypt (which is analogous to sin and death which the Christian lives in prior to coming to Christ – see Ephesians 2:1) But they still did not manage to enter into the ‘Rest’ intended for them.

What is the ‘Rest’ referred to?
It is not a physical rest that is exhausted by the people of God entering into the land. We know this because Hebrews 4:8 says “If Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.” Rather, what is in view is the very rest that God himself enjoys and invites his children to share in. In the creation account of Genesis, God is depicted as working for six days and resting on the seventh. The first six days have a beginning and an end, the seventh has a beginning but no end – God is still enjoying that rest! So then, is God somehow ambivalent and apathetic towards his creation? This is the God of Deism but surely not the God of the Bible. A.R. Fausset helpfully points out “God’s rest is not a rest necessitated by fatigue, nor consisting in idleness but that upholding and governing of which creation was the beginning”
 So then this ‘rest’ has connotations of sharing in the effortless rulership, authority and glory with which God handles creation. It is what mankind was originally made for – not merely to fall but to rule. Jesus is depicted in Hebrews as the one who has walked the path prescribed for mankind perfectly and we are now able to do likewise as we follow in His footsteps, all the while fully aware that He has paid the price for us and thus we can walk the walk guilt-free. God himself wants us to attain this rest which He offers – what good news!

What is it that kept the children of God in the Desert from entering into that rest, the land, which was promised to them? It is the same thing that stops people entering into God’s purpose for their lives now – Unbelief.
Unbelief is a gateway sin which debars entry into God’s rest. Augustine said “While [unbelief] continues, all other sins are retained and when it departs all other sins are remitted.”
How does one fall into unbelief? There are different ways – here are a few:
For the Non-Christian
• Not hearing the message in the first place – Christian’s have a responsibility to any people they know who have not heard the Good News about Jesus. They need to ensure that those around them hear the message proclaimed (Romans 10:14)
• Mishearing the message – it is very common in the post-Christian UK at present, for people to think they understand Christ and Christianity. As soon as, for example, the guidance of Bible comes into conflict with our lives the tendency is to reject it as ‘outmoded’ or ‘impractical’ for our times. Whilst not an out and out declaration of the falsehood of God’s word, it is only a short step to it: This process is the one that the Bible describes as ‘hardening’
For the Christian
• Taking on another authority – Christians can sometimes find themselves in either internal or external rebellion. This takes place when one starts subjecting God’s revelation, which is of, highest authority, to other authorities. Paul, in Galatians 1:6-8 warns believers not to accept ‘another Gospel’ because it will be a false one. He offers the antidote to and protection against this slippage in Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”
• Listening and not hearing – It is possible as a believer to constantly shrug off God’s speaking to us and to thereby miss out on entering into His rest. Hebrews 4:2 tells us “Good News came to us (meaning now) just as to them (the children of God in the desert) but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.”  In the desert they believed less and less of God, in spite of how faithful and powerful He had shown Himself to be. The Christian’s life should be characterised by believing more and more of God in light of who He has shown Himself to be!

If it is unbelief that prevents someone laying hold of the inheritance which God has for them, it is surely by faith in God as he has revealed himself through his words and deeds that causes them to inherit.
Keeping this faith vital is described as a communal activity. As Hebrews 3:12 tells us “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day as long as it is called ‘today’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
• Sin is deceitful – It presents itself well but ends in misery and disappointment
• Christians are God’s provision for each other – we are delivered from the deceitfulness of sin by the fellowship of other believers. Sin cannot perform its trick of deceit so easily when your isolation is broken by being a part of the community where God dwells by His Spirit.
• Christians need to
o Encourage each other’s faith by being an example that faith is fruitful
o Be encouraged in their faith by observing the fruitful lives of other Christians

In the passage that we have been considering the writer repeatedly quotes the scripture “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts”.  G. Wilson tells us “God’s word is always ‘to-day’ but it is never safe to presume that He will say it again ‘Tomorrow’!”
In 2 Corinthians 6:2, Paul writes ‘God says “In a favourable time I listened to you and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation”

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1 Corinthians 12 – One Body, Many Parts

August 10th, 2010

Paul is dealing with another issue in the Corinthian church – how they have misunderstood and mishandled the things of the Holy Spirit. They have become sensationalists, becoming obsessed with spiritual and mystical ideas, with having simply an “experience” void of any meaning or purpose. They have also become competitive, having rivalry with spiritual gifts, being proud in how “gifted” they were.

But spiritual gifts are for a purpose and a goal. This is why the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts:

1. To honour Jesus

  • You can only say that Jesus is Lord from the heart by the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Likewise you can’t curse Jesus from the heart if you have the Spirit.
  • The Spirit wants to bring about the Lordship and worship of Christ in people’s hearts.
  • The Spirit brings about revelation of Jesus – who He is and the fact that He’s alive
  • Jesus gets a lot of attention when the Holy Spirit turns up. Jesus sent us the Helper who would bring an awareness of Jesus wherever the Spirit goes.
  • The Holy Spirit is God and should be worshipped as such, and yet He brings attention to the Father and the Son.
  • We don’t worship spirituality, or even just focus only on the Spirit, but God Himself in all He is.
  • The Spirit works powerfully when Jesus is honoured and worshipped and enjoyed and exalted.

2. For the common good

  • Same Lord, same Spirit, same Body.
  • All of us are who are in Christ are given the same manifestation of the Spirit.
  • Spiritual gifts and abilities are for the good of others and the building of the Body. It’s bigger than just you – it’s for the Church.
  • The gifts are to server – otherwise they’re not a gift!
  • Paul uses the analogy of a body – you become part of it automatically when you come to Christ
  • You only hurt yourself if you damage the Body, the same if you hurt one part of your body, there is a knock-on effect on the rest of yourself.
  • We need to live for the overall purpose of the Church.
  • Don’t be a cancer! This is someone who only lives for their own purpose, draining the Body of time and energy. Don’t just be a consumer – be a part of the answer and the solution.
  • The part you play is vital for the Body. A healthy body is where every part plays its correct role. How are you functioning?

This deals with two problems:

1. Self pity (v.15-17)

  • We need to resist feeling like we are not a part of the Body just because we don’t have a particular gift or are not a particular part of the Body.
  • We are not called to be the same as each other – not called to do what others are called to do.
  • We fall into self pity when we can’t do the same thing or be like someone we admire and measure as the idea of a successful Christian. Don’t give into gift envy!
  • Be the most useful version of yourself by the grace of God, to the blessing of the Body. Don’t waste your time trying to be something you’re not!
  • God custom-designed us each for a specific purpose. Eph 2 – we are His workmanship, created for good works which He prepared in advance.
  • You learn what your purpose and role is by trial and error.
  • Help others find out what they’re meant to do – tell them what they’re good at (and be brave enough to tell them what they might not be so gifted in).
  • You won’t find out what you were meant to do if you’re not in the Church!

2. Superiority (v.21-23)

  • We are totally wrong when we identify importance with profile.
  • The last shall be first, the first shall be last.
  • Your gift is not there to make you more public. That may happen anyway, but don’t idolise fame and profile.
  • Give honour to the “lesser parts”. Outdo one another in showing honour to others – be competitive about that!

Self pity and superiority are both issues of the same root problem – a security that is not found in Christ. Find your security in Him – not in how good you are at doing particular things. God could take away your gift at any time, or bring someone along who is more gifted in the same thing as you. Ensure your identity is firmly built on Christ!

Hebrews 2:1-11

August 2nd, 2010

Hebrews deals with the glorious theme of the Supremacy of Jesus Christ.

Here in this passage there are 3 main ideas.

Don’t Drift Away

Sadly some do drift away out of church fellowship. But here are compelling reasons not to do so.
• Because of the supremacy of Christ. This is particularly described in Hebs 1:1-3
• Because of the anger of God. The writer asks here; how can we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? (vs.3)
• Because this message of salvation is the Truth. It was spoken first by the Lord himself who is the Truth. It was attested to by first hand witnesses. It was confirmed by signs and miracles.

The Plan of God

The writer quotes from Psalm 8 which exalts the greatness of man as God’s plan was to bring everything under his feet. Men and women are meant to rule on the earth but because of sin we’ve mucked it up. However through the death of Christ not only have our sins been forgiven but we have been restored to the position that God intended – but we don’t yet see it! (See vs. 8).
However right now we recognise that Christ created the earth, so we should be living responsibly with regard to the environment and also anticipating the new earth which is part of the fruit of Christ’s redeeming work at Calvary.
Also, God’s plan will be fully worked out in us when finally we rule with Christ over a new creation. Rev 11:15 says that when the final trumpet blows then the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. Yes, and we shall reign with him.

Jesus is the Perfect Saviour

Vs. 10 says that Jesus is made perfect through suffering. This is not a reference to his character, but simply to the fact that he became our perfect Saviour when he died for our sins, as nothing else needs to be done to achieve our redemption.
He is our perfect Saviour because:
• He sorts out creation. He will rule over it forever with joy.
• He sorts out our destiny. He is leading many sons to glory (vs.10) and glory includes the fact that we will reign with him.
• He sorts out relationship. Through his redeeming work Jesus makes us his brothers and sisters. (vs.11).

Jesus is the ‘founder’, or better the ‘Champion’ (vs.10) of our salvation.
We cannot drift away from such a great salvation.

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