Archive for the ‘Alternative City’ Category

1 Corinthians 16 – Life on God’s Mission

September 27th, 2010

Some passages of Scripture are ordinary, administrative and practical – but they are still God’s word and they will do us good if we really receive what they have to give to us. The theme of this passage is mission – God’s mission. When we meet Jesus and become a Christian, we join in on God’s mission. Every day of Paul’s was spent on mission and ensuring that the churches were sharing in the global mission, playing their part. We too want Jesus to be famous everywhere and for all nations to be excited about Him. God wants to bless our church so that we can bless the city around us and other nations.

Often our life takes a sudden turn when we meet God – although this doesn’t necessarily mean we will move; we may just be caught up in God’s mission in the place we’re already in. Is your life just about you or is it about Jesus’ mission for your life? His mission will change every aspect of your life. Yield your life to His mission without qualification.

Paul demonstrates the wisdom that godly leaders use to make decisions: although there is uncertainty about what to do, he just makes a decision and goes will it, and leaves the details to God. Maturity in godliness means more freedom to make choices and decisions through what we feel is wise and the best. We mature through childlike obedience to God and then He is able to trust us to make up our own minds – but only when our hearts are surrendered to God. God also wants us to seek wise counsel and use our brains, and we know that He can interrupt our course at any time and change our direction. Be attentive to where He wants you to go.

Often we get so anxious and caught up trying to discern the great specific “will of God” for our life, that we become paralysed and won’t do anything until we hear direct instruction from God – but God’s call on our life is already quite clear in the Bible: love God, love people and spread the gospel, to begin with. God gives you a compass rather than a detailed map. As you follow this call that has already been made clear in His word, God will give you more specifics. So do something! Start obeying and going where you believe you need to go – God can steer a moving ship but he can’t steer one that’s on the land.

Verse 2 – Paul talks about there being ‘a wide door’, a massive kingdom opportunity where God was clearly moving, and so he decides to stay. And then he says ‘and there are many adversaries’ – not ‘but’ but ‘and’. Paul knew pain, hardship, difficulty, disappointment and persecution is all part of the mission and the growth of the church – and it is part of our life and our ministry; it’s how we grow up. Just because things turn difficult, doesn’t mean that God is no longer in it or with us – sometimes it is a sign that God is in it. We are guaranteed trouble in this life because we have an enemy who hates God ans hates us. Be prepared for challenges.

Finally, verse 23 – Paul finishes the letter with grace and love. We need the grace of God to do all these things – to strengthen us for the fight and to live on His mission, finishing well at the end.

1 Corinthians 13 – Love

September 20th, 2010

This is a popular and beautiful chapter, but we mustn’t forget that it is also a useful and practical chapter – meant to change and prepare us and help us understand the character of Jesus.

1. Love rescues us from futility

  • Love gives us meaning
  • We fill our life with things – career, relationships, entertainment – to cover the emptiness we feel deep inside and give us some kind of meaning. We construct our own meaning.
  • In this passage, Paul is deconstructing some things that the Corinthians have built to give their lives meaning and importance – e.g. spiritual gifts, impressive talents, etc. They were impressed with the wrong things.
  • Without love, all of these “impressive” things are nothing. Even generous giving and devout religion is nothing without love.
  • Paul is talking about motives – why we do what we do, rather than just what we do. This is exactly what Jesus was concerned with.
  • There is even the danger of raising our kids to do the “right” things regardless of the motives, teaching them effectively to do things to impress people rather from a genuine heart.

2. Real love is a miracle

  • The definition of love is shockingly unlike what we are naturally like.
  • The parable of the Pharisee and the sinner praying – the sinner was the one counted as righteous because he acknowledged how far short he fell, and there was hope for him because of that. This is how we are to be – aware of our desperate need of mercy and help, not making excuses for how we are already “nice” and “good”.
  • This passage is a description of Jesus who never failed at love.
  • Jesus scored 100% on every point of love, and that was transferred to us in exchange for our sin! All of Jesus’ goodness is given to us a free gift – this is the wonder of the gospel! It changes everything, changes how we live – we are transformed by His love.
  • Luke 7:47 – the woman knew she was forgiven much, and so she loved much.
  • We love God and love others because we understand how loved we are.

3. God has made it possible

  • God makes love possible.
  • Paul reminds the Corinthians that spiritual gifts are temporal. He wants to get to the motives of why they want spiritual gifts, and wants them to gain perspective of what’s really important. The gifts are there to serve something greater.
  • Faith, hope and love are the most important things – and love is the greatest. We see Jesus dimly now but one day we will see Him face-to-face – so we rely on faith and hope now in order to love on earth, but in heaven we won’t need faith or hope. Love, however, is everlasting and will be in heaven for all eternity.
  • When we don’t love others it is because we don’t trust in it – we don’t have faith that someone has our back when we put others first, and we don’t trust in the promise of the outcome or that Christ is all-sufficient for us.
  • In order to love we need to first be filled with God, satisfied in Him.
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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!

God’s Meal With Sinners – 1 Corinthians 10:15-22; 11:17-34

July 26th, 2010

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In the Corinthian culture, people enjoyed eating and drinking together, and so the Lord’s Supper appealed to the church in Corinth as a time of getting together for a feast with wine – but it lost its true meaning, and Paul wants to remind them about it. In this we learn what the meaning and principles of Communion are:

1. Brings His presence

  • It has always been God’s plan to dwell amongst people and have communion together.
  • There is a history of meals being involved as part of God visiting His people in a powerful way.
  • God wants to eat with us – like the way we do with other people when we want to spend quality time together.
  • As we hunger physically, God wants to remind us that He is our true satisfaction. We all crave peace and joy and comfort and look for it everywhere except God, but He is the only one who can fill us and meet those longings.
  • God gives us these opportunities to draw near to Him and feast on Him. We feed on Christ when we feed on Communion.
  • The bread and wine don’t literally become the body and blood of Jesus – He very often described Himself in metaphorical terms, and this was one of them. But neither is Communion meant to be merely a “memorial” service, with no sense of wonder or expectation to meet with God.
  • Our minds are involved in the process – Communion isn’t magic.
  • The bread and wine tell our story – like how the Israelites celebrated Passover – of how God has redeemed us and rescued us from our slavery to sin and death. We reflect on the rescue mission He has accomplished for each of us, and we celebrate who we now are – the chosen, redeemed children of God.

2. Demands our purity

  • We examine and purify our hearts in preparation, coming to God humbly on His terms.
  • We do it with the right motives and a soft heart, not hard-hearted or stubborn towards God but open for Him to search us.
  • ‘some have died’ – God often does things drastic to wake us up from our wanderings, to get our attention because He loves us and cares about us too much to let us go on in our own foolish ways.
  • We need to be open to what God is doing in our lives.
  • If you are in sin, do business with God in your heart – repent and receive His forgiveness and grace.
  • Paul is addressing corporate sin – i.e. divisions within the church. There is to be unity – there should be no social divisions; we are all one in Christ.
  • Communion brings us together – we should celebrate and enjoy it, and just be together, and pray for one another.

3. Proclaims the future

  1. We proclaim the the Lord Jesus’ coming as we take Communion – we take it until He comes back.
  2. The bread and wine are tangible things to help us remember the past and the future of what Christ has done and what He will do.
  3. Communion is a shadow of the great feast to come in heaven.

Men and Women in Church – 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

July 19th, 2010

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This is a difficult passage and is controversial in our day and age, but we need to humbly submit ourselves to it and listen to what it is saying to us, rather than force our own interpretation on it.

1. What is instructed here?

  • v.4
  • Because of the freedom that has been bought for us through Christ, we can sometimes “over do” it and take our liberties too far, throwing off every rule and principle. One of the things we can do is blur gender
  • Jesus promoted a new freedom, a new way of equality between the sexes – and this is what Paul is also promoting
  • When this letter was written, it seemed as though women in the Corinthian church were not following the normal protocol/dress code of the day – it could be that they were not wearing their headcoverings, which distinguished them from the men, or that they were wearing their hair like immoral women would
  • The principle here is that men should be men and women should be women – and it should be visibly seen that way

2. Why is it instructed?

  • v.3
  • Paul wants there to be an understanding of the beautiful and honourable principles of authority and submission, and distinction within gender
  • The key phrase here is ‘the head of Christ is God’ – it all comes back to and originates within the Trinity – 1 God, 3 persons, where there is order, headship and submission
  • Equality of essence does not diminish distinction of roles
  • Authority does not mean a higher importance, higher value or more envied position
  • Jesus is glad to submit to the Father
  • The woman is the glory of man – woman was made from and for man. She was made in the image of God as man’s equal, but with a different role
  • Paul wants the church to shine with complementarianism and equality
  • The word “helper” used to describe the role of the woman is not a derogatory word; the exact same word is used to describe God the Holy Spirit. God does not mind being called a helper! It is an honourable thing

3. How is this fair?

  • Paul stresses that both sexes are equal before God
  • The key phrase is in v.11 – ‘in the Lord’ – this all works in the Lord
  • In God all of this works in joy and harmony – and it was the same with Adam and Eve in the garden
  • What ruined everything was sin – it brought on gender wars, oppression of women, etc. Women desire to control men and men oppress and rule over women
  • It’s not that there is a problem with headship and submission are wrong – is that there is a problem with us
  • Men are supposed to lead and use their power with humility – like Christ, who did not boss people around or lord his authority over people; He serves and He loves
  • Jesus used his power and authority wisely – husbands are to do the same
  • Jesus is also the model for wives in that He submits to the Father with gladness, honour and joy, trusting the Father

4. What now?

  • ‘Judge for yourselves’ – it is obvious to us what makes our gender distinctives in our culture
  • We need to know that God cares about gender, even if our culture doesn’t
  • Women are only called to submit to their husbands, and men only have authority over their wives – but we can have echoes within the church of men taking responsibility and serving as a way of leading, and women can come alongside and be of great help
  • Look to Jesus – as the role model and as the strength to be able to carry out our roles

Temptation – 1: Corinthians 10:1-14

June 1st, 2010

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Paul is challenging the Corinthians on wanting to have it both ways – of wanting to have both God and their idols. This is typical of human nature – wanting to have multiple gods – but you can’t just switch gods when it’s convenient; God has a right to us and a right to be our God because He made us and He is the only true God. We are made to worship Him alone – that’s where we find true life, that’s where life makes sense. Our relationship with God must be exclusive like a marriage – God won’t accept other idols, otherwise it means we don’t really love God.

We also can’t use the line of “being all things to all men” or trying to be culturally relevant as excuses for idolatry. We may think it’s harmless but we allow idols to have power over us when we worship them.

Paul goes back to the Exodus of God’s people to make his point. He says that they did the right “Christian” rituals – once saved by God out of Egypt, they had their own equivalents of baptism and communion – and yet God still overthrew them in the wilderness and all but 2 out of 2 million failed to fulfil their destiny, even though they still remained God’s people and didn’t go back to Egypt. We are foolish if we take that lightly.

Paul says that eternal life is something we need to “lay hold” of. We are saved – by grace – for a reason; we have a God-given purpose to fulfil. And the hurdle we fall at is tempation.

1. Be ready

  • Prepare to be tested. Be careful, don’t be cocky, because testing will come. Wake up!
  • Do not misunderstand or underestimate our enemy. 1 Peter 5:8 – our enemy, the devil, wants to destroy us. He is real and he will use anything at all – any desire or longing or thing we want – as bait to lure us away from God’s purposes for us.

2. “Special case” syndrome

  • We so often make exceptions for ourselves, saying that we can handle certain temptations that others can’t, or that our circumstances excuse us from not giving into temptation because it is just to hard for us.
  • But obedience to God is always hard and any temptation we face is one common to man.

3. Hold fast to Scripture

  • This is the antidote to the devil’s lies, because when we give into temptation it means that we are believing the false promises of Satan and the false picture of the future that he presents.
  • The devil casts doubt on God in our minds and makes us distrust Him – so we need to beat the devil’s promises with God’s promises.
  • Whenever we sin, we are effectively saying that we don’t trust God, but we need to know that God is faithful and that the one who is trustworthy is the one who hung on a cross for our sake.

4. God is in control

  • You are not “giving God a break” when you give into temptation – that is nonsense!
  • God allows the temptation to happen – He knows how much we can handle and He always provides the grace we need to endure it.
  • God does not tempt us, He tests us – to strengthen us. The devil tempts us to destroy us.
  • God cares so much about us – He is our good Father.

5. It will end

  • The testing won’t go on forever – God always has an escape (literally “outcome”) ready for us at the right time.
  • The way to endure is to remember that God has an outcome prepared, that there is an end in sight.
  • Sometimes we think we can’t go on any more, but God gives us the grace to just get through one day at a time.
  • Jesus endured every temptation and endured the cross, and yet He really was abandoned – for our sake, and so that we can endure and reign in life with Him, never being forsaken.

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