Tim Jones

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Welcome home: Commission, Community and Compassion

September 5th, 2011

Romans 15: 2-3, 5-7

The Biblical Principles.

  • God is community – in the community of the Trinity, God is never lonely. God did not create us so as to fulfill any need in himself. We were created in his likeness to reflect his glory, which includes reflecting his community.
  • It is not good for us to be alone (Genesis 2:18), we are created to be in community. Although this has been disrupted by the Fall, the gospel comes to us as a message of reconciliation.
  • Our main problem is our disconnection from God which leads to a disconnection with others. Jean Paul Sartre illustrated this with his comments “God is solitude, God is absence” and “hell is other people” – in our fallen world, this would be true had not Christ come to reconcile us to God and to each other.

 Hospitality – an attitude of heart

  • Although hospitality can be shown by anyone, even those who know nothing of Christ, we, of all people, should excel at welcoming others home.
  • John Calvin argued that the existence of restaurants and hotels is proof of the depravity of man. People earn money by providing that which human beings should freely give to each other.
  • Attitudes to hospitality vary across cultures. There is something very defensive about British culture, but, in Christ, we don’t need to be afraid but, instead, should reach out to the unloveable (Matthew 5:43-47)
  • 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 – We are called to be ministers of reconciliation, called to the mission of God and the commission of Christ to make disciples. We should affirm other people as important.
  • There is a danger of thinking that the current move to multi-site is, in itself, the answer. The answer is a church which genuinely loves people on mission and actively cares about the people in our communities.
  • The church family which God is building is one for all kinds of people. Martin Luther argued that the kingdom of God must be among enemies or else we are simply blaspheming and betraying Christ, who lived among his enemies!
  • We are not just to be receivers of hospitality or just givers of hospitality (spending all out time in the kitchen but barely talking to anyone).
  • But what about people living in tiny bedsits or flats, how can they invite people into their homes? We can be grateful to God that Brighton is full of other places (cafes, pubs, parks etc) where we can invite people.
  • When you do invite people in, care about them. Watch your language and the subjects that you talk about so as to include people.
  • A word on boundaries – The question “Who is my neighbour?” is answered by the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) where a man risks danger to help an enemy. However, note that the Samaritan is in danger from bandits not from the person he is helping. It is right to seek to protect our households when we invite people in. We should be both extravagent and wise in our hospitality. Christian leaders, in particular, are called to model hospitality (literally: “being fond of guests”)
  • 1 Peter 4:9 – Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:22 – to the weak we make ourselves weak to lead them to Christ.
  • Ephesians 4:28 – The point of not stealing but engaging in honest labour is to share with others.

Breathing life into small groups

  • We should not merely have two or three front doors (with the new sites) but hundreds of front doors across the city to welcome people in.

Seven points for small groups:
(1) Ensure that you are on God’s mission (i.e. that mission is not a “bolt-on” activity but the spine of the small group).
(2) See yourselves as God’s immediate provision for one another (gathering around the gospel and showing Christ to each other).
(3) Build one another up for mission. (We also need to open and honest when inviting others).
(4) Transcend “small group night” (the small group is the people not the meeting).
(5) Pray for individuals and localities (we want the city to be blessed by our being here).
(6) Pray and strategise for the area (be proactive and seize opportunities).
(7) Preceive and receive (asking God to show you what he is doing and whom he is sending to you).
Is there a family who will welcome people in?

 

Wisdom that wins

April 13th, 2011

James 3:13-17

Life is a race to be won, a battle to be fought and a legacy to be built. This can only be achieved through wisdom.

 

(1) Wisdom is supreme

Look at some of the ways that scripture describes wisdom.

Proverbs 8:11 – all that you desire cannot compare with wisdom!

Proverbs 4:7 – the beginning of wisdom is – get wisdom!

We tend to think of wisdom in terms of the intellect, however, in scripture, wisdom is of the heart, and the heart is the seat of desire and reason. Joy is bound up with wisdom, it is something for which we were made.

Biblical wisdom is best defined as insight into true reality, thinking God’s thoughts after him.

It is God-centred. In scripture, only those in relationship with God are described as being wise.

Wisdom is not the same as knowledge. Disciples (or students) of Jesus are meant both to study him and to know the times in which they are living.

We show our wisdom by good conduct (the Greek could be translated as “beautiful life”). Jesus is the perfect example of living in wisdom, always watching to see what the Father is doing.

 

(2) That which is not wisdom

Anything good will be counterfeited.

v. 14 speaks of the heart being orientated to self. Folly starts with a rejection of God and plays out in bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. There is something corrupt in the human heart which desires to see the downfall of others. Haman, in the book of Esther, is a good example of this. Jesus was put to death due to the bitter envy of the religious leaders.

James describes this kind of wisdom as demonic. We should remember that there are two falls, the fall of man, and the fall of Satan, which led to the fall of man. Satan is the world’s greatest example of sin corrupting thought.

Earthly wisdom is a form of religion, trying to provide for God with outward obedience, yet empty in the heart.

The result of these two false wisdoms (the earthly and the demonic) is disorder in life and every vile (that is “worthless” or “trivial”) practice.

True wisdom is found in humbling ourselves before God and receiving wisdom from him.

All of us are building for eternity. This life is not to be toyed with, it matters.

 

(3) Wisdom from above

Wisdom from above is undefiled.

Proverbs 1:7 and Psalm 111:10 both assert that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

To fear God is to recognise that God is God. Yet, for those who believe in Jesus we can approach the Father as beloved sons, because we are in Christ, and the fear which has to do with punishment (1 John 4:17-19) has been taken away. God’s way of bringing his wisdom to us is through the sacrifice of his Son.

Wisdom is a gift. We can receive wisdom by humbling ourselves and committing our lives to God. It is not worth holding on to anything in our lives which will stop us from receiving his wisdom.

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The Test of Faith

March 14th, 2011

Background

James 1:2-4

  • James is the brother of Jesus but doesn’t mention this – only referring to himself as the servant of God; the bond-slave of Jesus Christ.
  • Although James cared about God’s teaching, he was an unbeliever of Christ for a large part of his life (John 7:5, Mark 3:21).
  • James believes in Jesus when the risen Christ appears to him (1 Corinthians 15:7). James was profoundly affected and later became leader of the Church in Jerusalem.
  • The book of James assumes that all readers are followers of Jesus Christ. Of 108 verses, 60 are commands. It is important to remember that Christianity is not moralism – James tells Christians how to live in a godly way in light of what we have become in Christ. First we must accept the Saviour, then we can receive advice.
  • We must look at our brothers and sisters and be able to see qualities of Christ, the refining of godly character. Non-Christians looking in must be able to see this life lived out – to see the action that comes from being loved by God.

The doctrine of joy in trials

  • Count it only joy when you meet trials and times of testing, rather than looking at it as punishment or the absence of God.
  • The word ‘meet’ is not sufficient, we will be set upon by trials and they will be sudden and savage. Everybody who wants to live a life in Jesus will be persecuted (2Timothy 12). But we must find God’s purpose within the trial, rather than just praying that he remove it.
  • Trials might come in God calling us to hard things which might require the laying down of cherished things. Whether these sacrifices of our own desires are sinful or not, God is calling us to sonship and His intent is for us to receive the riches of Christ.
  • We must count it (the testing of faith) all joy because trials produce endurance/steadfastness. We gain stability in the place of anxiety and confusion. God wants to show us what we’re made of and to trust him in our time of testing. All things work together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

James 1:12

Difference between temptation and trial

  • Temptation and trial are similar in that they both mean ‘testing’.
  • Temptation is often associated with overstepping and being indulgent. God sees it as selling ourselves short and settling by not attaining to that which he has purchased for us. We must trust his ways, otherwise we will be left disappointed and bitter.
  • We are also tempted to doubt, fear and avenge. But His perfect love drives out fear.
  • There are two shades of testing. Trials test us to prove character and to show us what we’re made of. Temptation aims to disprove and tests us for destruction.
  • The Devil is the one who tempts us, but he can only do it with our own desires and with a door that we have left open. Do not give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:22).
  • Temptation can lead to sin and in doing so, will affect our view of God. We must repent and break the barrier that we have created with it.
  • 1 Corinthians 10 – God will not tempt us beyond what we can handle. He is sovereign and has control over everything, even the Devil. He does not commit evil but permits it to happen for His purposes.
  • Evil comes from ourselves and what man has done with his relationship with God. We ushered death into the heart of creation.
  • We have a will and our will may suggest ideas to us, but if we are in Christ, then our will is under the control of the Holy Spirit.

Tempted in every way but without sin

  • It was God’s will to lead Jesus into temptation and to test his resolve, but Jesus’ weapon was scripture. The words of God in the hands of his children are powerful.
  • Jesus experienced temptation to a far greater extent, we give in before it can fully take hold.
  • Because Jesus was tempted, we have a high priest who can identify with our struggles and walk us through them.
  • God wants to establish us; He is looking for progress and wants to restore and build us up. We must take action (Job 5:17-18).

Meeting With God

January 12th, 2011

Isaiah 6:1-8

With the beginning of a new year, we all tend to make new year’s resolutions. However, our number one priority should be this: to meet with God.

1. The glory

i. The encounter – v.1-4

  • God revealed Himself to Isaiah ‘in the year that King Uzziah died’ – a time when Isaiah reaches a pit of despair.
  • God is revealed as HOLY – pure, perfect, other. No one else is holy.

ii. The conviction – v.5

  • Isaiah proclaims doom and death upon himself from seeing the utter holiness of God and that the whole earth is full of God’s glory. It is a cry of desperation – he is silenced in the presence of God.
  • Isaiah talks about having ‘unclean lips’ – just as Jesus said, it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles a person as it shows what it is in their heart.
  • But God rebuilds the broken and the disintegrated.

2. The grace

i. Forgiven – v.6-7

  • The seraph does not bring atonement to Isaiah of its own accord, but does the will of God, declaring forgiveness over Isaiah.
  • God responded immediately to Isaiah’s cry – He is not unwilling or far off. Any unwillingness is always on our part.
  • The hot coal would have hurt – there was a real sense of pain.
  • God’s grace meets us where we are and restores us.

ii. Restored – v.8

  • Isaiah’s guilt is taken away and atoned for and he is restored.
  • The coal is taken from the altar of sacrifice – points to the ultimate sacrifice to come of Jesus.
  • While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • Romans 5:17 – we receive the gift of righteousness.
  • The abundance of grace – includes the provision of all our needs but also protection from the things we don’t need.
  • Joy flows from being forgiven – Isaiah has his voice back and goes and preaches the word of the Lord. He gives himself over to God, dedicates himself to His work.
  • He who recognises that he has been forgiven much, will love much.
  • God opposes the proud but He gives grace to the humble.
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Hebrews 3:5 – 4:13

August 25th, 2010

Context
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!

Unbelief
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!

Inheriting
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

Today
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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Joshua – Going Back In & Slogs and Miracles

August 26th, 2009

Going Back In (Joshua 8 )

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Slogs and Miracles (Joshua 10)

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Joshua – In Achan’s Shoes & Cutting a Raw Deal

August 18th, 2009

In Achan’s Shoes (Joshua 7)

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Cutting a Raw Deal (Joshua 9)

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