Terry Virgo

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Jesus’ Invitation

August 8th, 2011

On one as Jesus was teaching in the towns of Galilee he said,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)

These are words of invitation, mercy and love. They speak of ‘having a rest’ yet this invitation of Jesus is much more profound. It is
tender and reveals the character of Jesus’ heart as it is about relationship rather than a course of action.

The Invitation

It is for the weary and the burdened rather than for those who impressively perform. In context it was probably spoken to religious people who constrained and burdened by rules and regulations in attempting to gain favour with God through performance. On other occasions Jesus spoke critically about the Pharisees and teachers of the law (Matt 23:1-39; Luke 11:37-52) and it seems that these hindrances to having a relationship with God were behind Jesus’ invitation.

In contrast Jesus offers a relationship without a heavy load. It strips away any sense of a performance orientated culture so that
there is no need to self-assess against how well ‘we do the stuff’ (e.g. prayer, read the bible, etc.). Asking what we have to do to keep it up only leads pressure and guilt where we feel better by accomplishment but are disappointed when we fail to make the standard. This results in being like Martha (Luke 10:38-42) who was anxious about many things. Jesus’ invitation to come and find rest is an offer of freedom from being driven.

Additionally it is an offer to non-religious people looking for inner peace. This is illustrated by Zacchaeus (Luke 19) and the woman at the well (John 4) who were seeking fulfilment in money and relationships respectively. This inevitably leads to disappointment. Thus the invitation of Jesus is ‘come to me all you who are weary.’

A Crisis

The crisis comes with an awareness of what God has done through Jesus Christ. Jesus’ promise to provide rest arise from his actions to remove our guilt. He came to serve and to be a ransom for many. Through his sacrifice on the cross his righteousness is credited to us and our consciences are cleansed. There is no longer any condemnation, i.e. we get peace and rest for our souls. Tragically we often behave like some of the Christians at Galatia (Gal 3) and try and add practice to our salvation. There is no need for Jesus sets us free.

A Process

The process is described by Jesus as ‘taking his yoke.’ What this means is to take what he is giving. Taking his yoke means learning of and from him. This may mean unlearning things as illustrated in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says ‘you have heard’ (stuff to unlearn) ‘but I say to you’ (stuff to learn from Jesus). By being yoked, in close relationship, with Jesus we hear his voice and learn to be content in all situations and contexts.

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Romans 14:1-17

September 7th, 2010

Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Paul was concerned about the church in Rome and that there was a split over certain issues. The church in Rome was a very key and important one in that day, and it was crucial that they got it right. In working out their Christianity, there became a divide between Jews and Gentiles on matters of  food, drink, holy days, etc.  However, there should be harmony in the church – God wants unity and oneness in Christ.

They were trying to reduce Christianity to rules and regulations. Colossians 2, however, says self-made religion and rules is of no value in becoming Christlike. We need to seek the things of Christ and set our minds on things above. For the Kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking and rules, but of love and peace and God’s power.

Paul defines the Kingdom of God:

1. Righteousness
• All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s righteousness, but in the gospel He gives us the gift of His righteousness.
• It is completely free – not our own but a gift from God.
• On the cross there was the great substitution – our sin was exchanged for Christ’s righteousness.
• Romans 4:5 – ‘the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness’. A righteousness not from the law.
• Religion and our own “righteousness” is like dung to God.
• We fall from grace when when we follow laws to try and be righteous, or try to add to Jesus’ righteousness. We have been perfected for all time!

2. Peace
• We have an untroubled conscience as we now have peace with God through Jesus. We are accepted forever.
• No condemnation! Satan cannot accuse us of anything because we have been cleansed of all our sin.
• We also have peace to deal with the troubles and issues of life.
• Peace to live well and to die well – there is no longer fear of death.
• It surpasses all understanding.

3. Joy in the Holy Spirit
• The church is often seen as a killjoy, but the New Testament church began with an explosion of joy!
• As Christians, we have more than enough reason to rejoice! We have conquered death through Jesus and will live forever!
• It is of the Spirit – not a joy associated with our circumstances but from God – otherworldly.
• Be happy in Jesus! It prevents against misery, complaining, grumbling, etc.
• It is better than being drunk, enabling you to a carefree life.
• We should have to use the gospel to explain why we are so happy!
• God is exceedingly happy beyond imagination – He laughs and sings and dances with joy!

All the 3 aspects are in/of the Holy Spirit – the New Covenant is under the Spirit. We live a life full of God, not by rules. Christians are those who live a supernatural life from meeting with a supernatural God.

A promise from the Bible – you will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh if you walk by the Spirit, filled with God. It is a command to the whole church to be filled with the Spirit – not just a personal thing.

Don’t reduce the gospel to a list of silly rules! Live in the power of God.

Finding Rest in the Shade of God – Song of Solomon 2:3

April 12th, 2010

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‘As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.’

This verse uses the symbolic language of finding rest and relief from the heat in the shade of a tree. Although the book of the Song of Solomon is about romantic love between a man and a woman, it can also be interpreted as symbolic of Jesus and His Bride, the Church.

People often view Christianity as hard work and loading on extra burdens of guilt and shame – but in fact, Jesus does the very opposite. He does precisely what this verse describes – He is like a tree that provides shade from the “heat” of life. Jesus came to give inner rest, as He says very clearly in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The qualification for receiving rest for our souls from Jesus isn’t “you who are spiritual/perfect/righteous” or “you who have it all together” – the qualification is “all who are weary”.

Sitting down

  • you actually have to sit under tree and take advantage of the shade
  • this means letting go, taking the weight off your feet, relaxing

Be still and know

  • we need to stop, to cease striving, to let go of our anxieties and fears
  • it is like God says “Enough!” – that He is in control and cares for us
  • it is when we know that God is God, that we find that shade and inner rest in Him
  • Romans 8:28: ‘And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.’ – the point is that we have to know this, otherwise we won’t benefit from the shade God has for us

Being saved

  • we don’t just need a one-time salvation from Jesus – we need saving from Him daily, to save us from the “heat” of life, from the fears and anxieties and pressures we face all the time

Example of Joseph

  • Joseph faced so much hardship and suffering and injustice, constantly being sinned against – but the fact is that everything that happened to him was a step leading closer to his destiny – to rule over Egypt
  • we are not simply at the mercy of other people and their sin – God is in control and He works all things together for our good and to get us to the place He wants us to be in

The shield of faith

  • Ephesians 6 – the armour of God – says ‘In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one’
  • we need to keep holding our faith up, trusting God and standing our ground, so as to extinguish the fiery darts that the devil sends our way

Breaks & holidays

  • we have missed the point when we view rest as simply having a break or a holiday, where we abandon everything, including spending time with Jesus
  • true rest is found in the presence of God!

The “giants” of life

  • when we merely focus on and are intimated by the giants, we do not trust God and therefore are effectively rejecting Him and treating Him with contempt
  • you’ll never arrive at your destination unless you understand that God provides rest, and that you learn to rest in His shade

The “heat” of a guilty conscience

  • the blood of Jesus cleanses all of our sin and guilt and shame
  • God is just – He will not punish us as well if He has already punished His Son in our place

The presence of Jesus & the fruit He provides

  • ‘in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore’ (Psalm 16:11)
  • Jesus also provides us with “fruit” in His presence – the closeness His affection and love and tender mercy

The example of Paul

  • Paul lived with a tremendous amount of hardship and suffering and pressure – but it was all so that he could learn that God’s grace is sufficient
  • it is not about the power of “positive thinking”
  • Paul ends up boasting in his weakness because it shows that Jesus is enough for him
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From Famine to Feasting (2 Kings 7)

January 5th, 2010

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In 2 Kings 7, Elisha promised that circumstances in the besieged city would be transformed by the next day. What seemed impossible became possible when four lepers who were already exiled outside the city realised that they had nothing to lose. They were already as good as dead. Why not throw yourself on the enemy’s mercy? Why not risk everything?

Having reached the enemy camp they were amazed to discover that the enemy had gone. Defeat was turned to victory. Not only was the enemy rendered ineffective, spoil was there for the taking. Silver, gold, food, clothing – they marvelled at it, ate it, drank it, tried on the clothes, gathered it, hid it and entered another tent to do it all over again! They had a total blast and it was all free and theirs for the taking.

Spoil is a strange word to the 21st century urbanite. Isaiah 9 promises that the coming kingdom of the new born baby will be like light breaking into the darkness. It will make men rejoice as they do when gathering a harvest or when they divide the spoil (Isaiah 9:2-3).

What on earth is ‘spoil’?
Modern city-dwellers don’t know much about ‘harvest’ and are not very familiar with ‘spoil’. ‘Spoil’ was what you gathered when you defeated an enemy army. Jehoshaphat’s army took three days to gather theirs (2 Chronicles 20:25). In Isaiah 53:12 we are told that God’s triumphant Servant will share the spoils of his victory with his people. Ephesians 4 tells us that he led captivity captive and gave gifts to men.

He’s a powerful conqueror and he freely shares the spoils of his victory so that Peter, who so recently swore and cursed and said that he never knew Jesus, was invited to take the spoils of Christ victory. This hopeless failure got to preach on the Day of Pentecost! A few days later he announced to the cripple at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, ‘Such as I have, I give to you. Get up and walk!’

‘Such as I have.’ Where did you get that Peter? ‘Oh, that was one of the spoils of Jesus’ victory that I took.’ Jesus won a great victory. The spoils are breathtaking and you don’t have to be very special to pick them up. Anyone can come, like the lepers did, and put on fresh clothing, pick up phenomenal spoils and go in the strength of that victory.

We enjoyed looking at this story on Sunday at CCK. Maybe you would like to download and listen to it and enter into something of the freedom of God’s grace and the wonders of His free gifts to His people celebrating the defeat of your enemy.

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Elijah’s Preparation and Release of Elisha

December 15th, 2009

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Transition is a popular theme at the moment as certain people reach a certain stage of maturity! So it was fascinating on Sunday to speak on the theme of Elijah’s preparation and release of Elisha as the one who would take on his mantle.

I have been occasionally speaking at CCK on the life of Elijah over a two-year period, and began on Sunday by pointing out that, though individual life stories can be fascinating, in reality they are not the whole story. Though one life or ministry comes to its conclusion, God’s story, the one that really matters, continues.

As a nation, Israel gave high priority to passing on its heritage to the next generation. Honouring your parents and being wise sons who obey parental counsel was hugely significant. Their world view was shaped by the rehearsing of their history and anticipating their future inheritance.

So Elijah’s disciple needed to be equipped for a ministry that would be wholly consistent with what went before while also developing new dimensions.

Elijah responded to God’s command and initiated what proved to be a loving, open-handed and respectful relationship. Elisha was wholehearted in his response, ‘burning his bridges’, saying goodbye to his past and throwing himself unreservedly into his God-appointed training programme, which proved magnificently fruitful as he ultimately entered into his own particular God-given role, similar yet different, discipled but not cloned.

Jesus told his disciples, ‘go and make disciples’. The apostles obeyed by starting churches, not for mere ‘church-goers’ but where individuals could be ‘apprenticed’ by others who lovingly accept them because Christ has, yet also take responsibility in ‘one-anothering’, mutual discipling, encouraging, admonishing, restoring and equipping.

Maturity and fruitfulness are the goals of a discipling relationship. We need to emulate Elijah’s and Elisha’s great example by embracing life-imparting friendships in local church life that develop us into our full potential in God.

Elisha’s final request, namely a passionate appeal for a double portion of the Spirit that was resting on Elijah, is a great reminder to us that we will never fulfil our Master’s ambitions for us without the same promised outpouring of the Spirit on our lives.

How can we continue the work that our Master started without the power that He enjoyed? Praise God that the promise of the Holy Spirit is for us and for as many as the Lord calls to be his disciples (Acts 2:39).

Elijah: The Ravages of stress and the restoration of grace – 1 Kings 19:1-16

November 3rd, 2009

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We tend to think of stress as a modern problem but Elijah, a man just like us, certainly knew what it was to run out of gas.

Suddenly a fiery dart from the enemy penetrated all his defences, and yesterday’s zeal was not enough to take him through today. He collapsed in the pressure and ran away. This rock-like figure who was able to withstand a whole nation suddenly had nothing more to give.

After encountering God’s incredible mercy, his running away becomes more purposefully focused on running to the rock Horeb where God had previously revealed His faithfulness to the nation. Believers need to be reminded not simply to seek ‘escape’ from their difficulties but to run with purpose to the covenant God who loves them and will reveal His faithfulness to them.

Elijah’s fresh meeting with God, like Simon Peter’s on Lake Galilee with the resurrected Christ, leads to total reinstatement, refreshment and fresh commissioning.

God’s covenant love never fails. The redeemed know who to run to. But what of those who don’t know Him? They can only try to escape the pressure. How they need also to find the rock of safety.

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Elijah Prayed for Rain – 1 Kings 18:41-46

June 15th, 2009

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Elijah withdrew from the crowd, as did Jesus. Do you get closed in with God?

Our prayers, based on God’s promises, give us great grounds for asking! Are you laying hold of His promises? He has appointed us to be askers! Be specific.

Elijah prayed fervently. Do you? Don’t lose the reality that prayer is the active exercise of a personal relationship.

Elijah prayed with importunity. Although our requests may not receive instant answers, He knows what we need and what we can handle. Stay tenacious!

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Farewell to John & Sue Hosier

May 22nd, 2009

This was a talk given by Terry Virgo at John & Sue Hosier’s farewell service. To read John’s reflections on 40 years in christian leadership, visit our CCK Life blog and to watch his last preach as an elder at CCK visit our Media section.

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  • H – humble
  • O – observant overseer
  • S – safe / Sue
  • I – intelligent idealist
  • E – exquisite entertainer
  • R – radical restorationist
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Mount Carmel – Gunfight at OK Corral

April 19th, 2009

Elijah arrived at Mount Carmel for the showdown with the prophets of Baal. This represents the climax of Elijah’s ministry.

God often allowed Israel to be up against overwhelming odds where his hero stands virtually alone so that God can break in and demonstrate that salvation comes ultimately from God.

Moses stood against mighty Pharaoh and his army. David stood against Goliath and the Philistine army. Each of them stood virtually alone. Gideon had to cut his army down to only 300 to stand against the tens of thousands of Midianites. Each time God wanted to demonstrate His own power to intervene with salvation.

God always needed a mediator who would represent Him through obedience and faith so that He could work through His agent to bring deliverance.

Elijah represented God on this occasion. He showed complete contempt for the false religion represented by Baal. The Bible never suggests that all religions ultimately lead to God. False religion is despised (Romans 1:21-23).

The exposure of false religion
The prophets of Baal begin their ritual leaping around the altar.

They move on to ‘cutting themselves’ and displaying the kind of self-harm sometimes associated with religions that try to rid themselves of guilt through asceticism, special washings, pilgrimage etc.

Thirdly, they raved, moving into a frenzy totally unrelated to life.

Some reject Christianity because of its outrageous claim to be uniquely right. Many would argue, ‘How can only one religion be the right one?’ but this is not a scientific reason to question but rather an emotional response of rejection. It is not logical.

Not all religions lead to the same conclusion.

Restoring the covenant relationship
Elijah invited the people to draw near and rebuild the altar with its reminder of the twelve tribes and God’s covenant relationship to them, as reflected in Exodus 28:17-21 by the twelve beautiful gems on the High Priest’s chest, each expressing God’s tender love towards His people.

Elijah, the obedient servant, prays according to the will of God and fire falls.

Jesus said, ‘If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it will be done for you’ (John 15:7).

Another greater showdown

Before we close, let’s remember another hill where another encounter took place, another crowd stood against a single mediator.

On this occasion, instead of the mediator taunting like Elijah did the prophets of Baal, he himself is being taunted.

‘He trusts in God let Him rescue him if he delights in Him.’

‘If you’re the Son of God, come down from the cross.’

‘He is the King of Israel, let him come down now from the cross and we will believe in him.’

No fire falls from heaven. No answer comes from the sky. They cry, ‘He saved others, he cannot save himself.’

If Jesus the great mediator of God is going to save us, he cannot save himself. There can be no answer from heaven. There can be no miraculous escape. He must endure the suffering that others might be saved.

Later, Paul explains, in Colossians 2:14, ‘He cancelled the writing that stood against us with its legal demands. He set it aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to an open shame by triumphing over them.’

He could not save himself because he was saving us.

This is the greatest showdown of all time. Salvation is from the Lord. He must save. He must deliver.

This is Jesus in his glory
King of heaven dying for me.
It is finished, he has done it.
Death is beaten
Heaven beckons me.

You can watch or listen to this sermon here

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If the Lord is God follow Him

February 16th, 2009

After 3 years’ drought God is ready to speak to Israel again. Elijah who is qualified to represent God because he has continued to stand before God throughout the testing time is called to a fresh encounter with Ahab. On encountering him Ahab calls him Israel’s Troubler. He offers hope but is regarded as trouble. Similar for Jeremiah.
 
Paul & friends are also seen as people causing trouble in Acts 17:6 (NIV) though in reality they were recorded in Acts 17:2-3 as reasoning, explaining, proving, explaining. We must not be surprised if misrepresented.

Elijah challenges their divided hearts. He draws near to them. Like Jesus he says you cannot serve two masters. We can easily drift into serving two masters. Paul says 1 Corinthians 7:12  All things are lawful but I won’t be mastered by anything. God blesses us with many things but we must beware that none of them begin to master us. We may suddenly discover that we have allowed an idol to grow that now dictates our decisions so we are no longer free to serve Jesus.

Jesus is our model. He always kept the Father central in his thoughts. He always pleased him. His devotion to the Father’s will meant that he embraced the cross. He deserves our unmixed devotion.

You can watch or listen to this sermon here

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