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God of love, God of judgement?

March 5th, 2012

This question goes to the very nature and character of God. Why, if God is loving and merciful, is he not be more tolerant and accepting?

The Home Office has a motto, used on its stationery, “creating a free, just and tolerant society” but is it not entirely possible that tolerance can become the enemy of freedom and justice?

Tolerance is regarded as a positive virtue in Western society, yet the word is often still used in a negative sense (e.g. telling someone that their cooking, or company, was “tolerable” is not likely to be seen as a compliment!). Tolerating someone implies that you hold yourself superior to them. You cannot tolerate someone and disagree with them but you can respect someone and disagree with them. The old mediaeval idea of defending someone’s right to disagree with you is much closer to “respect” than “tolerance.”

Justice involves defending what is right and thereby refusing to tolerate what is wrong.

How then can a God of love and compassion also be a God of justice?

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy tells Elizabeth Bennet that he loves her against his judgement and better character, and is shocked when she is insulted by this. We live in a world where people often project a better image of themselves than they really are and so end up not knowing true love because other people fall in love with the image and not the real them. True love can only exist in the presence of true judgement.

This is also seen in a quotation from a Black Eyed Peas song, “If you’ve never known truth, you’ve never known love.” God’s love is meaningful because God has a true judgement of us – he knows what we’re really like.

To act with compassion is to make a moral judgement about something and be moved in the depths of our being to do something about it. If we are not moved in this way, or don’t act, then we do not have true compassion, only moralism, yet we can’t have true compassion in this sense without the moral judgement. God, who passes judgement on our hearts, also has true compassion for us.

How then is it fair that God must sacrifice his Son in order to have mercy on us?

Mercy always comes at the expense of justice. How then can God be both merciful and just? The answer is that God exercises his mercy through his justice, by fulfilling the law on our behalf and suffering the punishment of his justice on our behalf so that justice can be upheld and mercy extended to us.

But isn’t God’s judgement a massive overreaction to our sin?

There is evidence to indicate that more people are sold into slavery via sex trafficking in modern Britain than were enslaved when the slave trade was “abolished” in the 19th century. Whereas earlier movements fought against treating people as objects, we now live in a society where people are encouraged to treat themselves as objects (e.g. we “market” ourselves). The reason why God is so angry at sin is that sin dehumanises us, destroying our capacity to relate to him and to each other.

What is the appropriate emotional response to sex trafficking? God’s wrath at our sin is the appropriate emotional response to our sin.

Isaiah 42: 1-4. God’s justice is described in terms of repairing bruised reeds and not quenching dimly burning wicks. This passage was written in southern Iraq where the marshes produce strong reeds (strong enough to build houses with, unless bruised) to a Jewish community who were not permitted even to snuff out wicks on the Sabbath (dangerous if you live in a reed house!). God is telling us through this passage that his justice will not discard those who are broken from the outside or exhausted from the inside.

Martin Luther King Jr. challenged the church to return to true radical justice and love from his cell in Birmingham, Alabama. The modern church too needs to regain its compassion.

Michael Ramsden

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God of love, world of suffering

March 5th, 2012

Suffering is a vast subject, which cannot be addressed fully in a short talk like this.

There is a difference between the questions “Why?” (the intellectual question) and “Why me?” (the existential question).

There is a further distinction to be made between moral evil, and physical pain.

 

Some popular answers to the question of suffering:

1, The naturalistic answer – there is no purpose, that’s just the way it is.

This answers the intellectual question but we are still left with the pain and we have no hope (“We must live with a philosophy of unyielding despair” Bertrand Russell)

2. Karma – suffering as divine payback for things that you have done wrong (either in this life or in a former life) – this philosophy can be used to argue that it is unjust to alleviate suffering.

There is a Christian version of this second teaching (e.g. that the earthquake in Haiti was divine judgement for things that had happened in the past), however, Jesus opposes this view in Luke 13:1-5. He raises both the issue of moral evil and the issue of physical pain but, while not denying that the people who suffered were sinners, refuses to see them as worse sinners than his hearers. While some suffering can be related to our own actions, other suffering isn’t (cf. John 9:2). Jesus’ point is this, unless we repent, we too will perish. We have a finite period of time in which to respond to God in faith and repentance, and we will be held accountable to God as to whether we do this.

The Biblical narrative is that a loving God created a world which was able to choose to love him (for lifeless love and loveless life are terrible things), and gave the world a moral framework in which to love. Doing whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want is not freedom, it is anarchy. When we violate the moral framework, we have less love and less opportunity. When the moral framework is violated, love is violated (e.g. betrayal). By seeking to break God’s laws, we end up breaking ourselves. We live in a broken world.

Do we doubt God when we witness a disaster on the scale of the Asian tsunami? God promised that such things would happen (cf. Luke 21:25), so they should not cause us to doubt him, but we can be left wondering what it means.

Is it possible that we live in a world where an enemy is at work? An alien intelligence, evil spiritual beings. Not all suffering in the world is our fault. The ancient world saw spiritual activity everywhere. Christ did not come to show spiritual beings to be non-existent but to put them in their place.

The brokenness of the world has broken God’s heart. “Jesus wept” is a polite translation. The original is a word of great outrage and deep emotional pain. But, if this is true, why did God bother to create in the first place?

(1) It is difficult to compare existence and non-existence (what standard are we using?)

(2) We mustn’t think that God created the world (a) out of need (God is not lonely, loving relationships require two or more personal beings, and God has lived in the loving relationship of the Trinity from all eternity) or (b) out of recklessness (God knew that we would rebel and what that would cost him even before he created the world (cf. 1 Peter 1:18-20))

The price that God pays to reconcile us to himself is the highest price that he could have paid.

The message of the cross means that all evil is dealt with and justice will be upheld.

The message of the resurrection means that God is big enough to be able to compensate us for our suffering in a new heaven and a new earth.

Michael Ramsden

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The bread of life

March 5th, 2012

John 6:25-35, 51 

  • Jesus is trying to teach about Himself with miracles – like the bread that came from heaven. Jesus is referring to Himself as the Bread that came from heaven.
  • 4 main points:
  1. The Bread from heaven
  • He came down – different to other religions, where the god doesn’t come down but is too high to come down into the thick of our lives. But God did come, becoming flesh.
  • If He didn’t come down then we would be left in confusion about who God is.
  • You can know God personally through Jesus Christ. Do you know Him?
  • God became vulnerable in this world, knowing it would cost Him His life. You can go to God knowing He has been there, known every form of vulnerability.
  1. He satisfies the deep hunger we have
  • Jesus is the only one who can satisfy the spiritual hunger we have for life.
  • We try to find fulfilment in various places – family, friends, career, etc. But at the end of it all we are empty still.
  • We have different ways of handling the emptiness we face – so many substitutes for the Bread.
  • The first step alcoholics take towards recovery is admit they have a problem and are powerless. We need to do the same.
  • Jesus is like the stimulant for life that we crave deep down. We receive true freedom and satisfaction from Him.
  • God the Father had His seal of approval over Jesus, God the Son, and was pleased with Him – before Jesus did any miracles. God’s approval is not dependent on performance.
  • Are you driven by fear of approval? If you accept Jesus, the Father accepts you and puts His seal of approval on you.
  1. He gives life
  • Jesus came down to give His life for us.
  • This is brought to a climatic point at the cross – Jesus gave His life for us; He gave up His life to save us.
  • God comes down and fulfils His perfect justice to pay for our sin, so we could come into relationship with Him.
  • We can’t achieve salvation through merely trying to follow Jesus’ example.
  1. He is to be received
  • V.29 – in order to achieve salvation there is no work to be done but to believe and receive Jesus. It is finished!
  • Jesus is a gift to be received.
  • You don’t “sort yourself out” or “clean yourself up” in order to come to God – you simply come as you are and give all your baggage to Jesus!
  • Seize the day!

 

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Where is your treasure?

January 24th, 2012

Matthew 6: 19-24

  • It’s easy to slip into the mind-set of thinking God needs our money. But you can’t pay God for favours and He doesn’t need our money!
  •  We tend to think that good works and kindness to people will get us on his good side but if this was the case, we’d never be able to pay back the debt we owe God because it is so vast.
  • We have given ourselves so much to those things that displease him – even from birth we are living for ourselves and not him and this is what sin is.
  • We’re laying up this debt all our lives and one day we will stand before him and face up to this debt and give account for every moment of our lives.
  • Thinking that we can settle our debt by putting a few quid in the offering shows how blind we can be spiritually. We owe him every breath – it’s all a gift from Him.
  • When we understand how needy we are, it’s a shock to think that he’s continued to let us live and chosen to forgive us and pay our debt for us.
  • He’s forgiven us so much but the only way he could do this was for someone else to pay the price of our sin.  Jesus suffered and was crucified so that we would be utterly forgiven and given a fresh life and fresh hope. All that was against us is placed on him and all of his perfection is placed on us.
  • Romans 8:32 God has given us his son, the thing he most cherished on an eternal level.  He gave him up for us so that He could treat us as His sons and daughters.
  • When we understand what God has done for us and how generous He has been,  it changes everything
  • One of the ways you can tell someone’s a Christian is that they give away their money – you cannot be a worshipper of both God and money.
  • Christians know that our money is not really ours. When we know that we are safe and eternally secure in God, we see money differently.
  • We are stewards of money. We look after it and hold it lightly and are entrusted with responsibility to use it wisely.
  • If God blesses you with wealth, don’t just divide your money up (a portion for God and the rest is yours). What would Jesus do with it? All of it is His.
  • How are you stewarding your wealth and what does this mean? It doesn’t mean living in total prosperity, nor does it mean living in total poverty.
  • What are God’s priorities? He’s passionate about Jesus becoming famous and having a global church that populates the world.
  • What does your bank balance say?  Are you passionate about Jesus being glorified?  People who have met Him will give freely to Jesus’ mission.
  • In the Old Testament, there’s a lot about tithing which is giving 10% of your income to the Church. The first tenth is devoted to God, making Him the first priority.
  • It’s not that different in the NT, although Jesus mocks those who tithe when their hearts are far away from God. It is made legalistic.
  • Tithing is taught at CCK but it’s a starter’s amount.  We’re on an adventure – the more we talk and pray to God, the more excited we get about investing our finances into something that’s going to last forever! The church is God’s eternal plan.
  • Were planting sites and will plant sites and churches in the future. God’s vision is big. We’re going to bring God to a continent that has decided that He doesn’t exist. God wants us to be a David that takes down Goliath.
  • Some of us are good at Gift day giving, which Jesus loves, but weekly giving is just as important. We need to be both hearers and doers of the Word and step out in faith.
  • Know that God’s got your back. Giving 10% is a good place to start and being faithful with little will make you faithful with much.
  • If money is a subject that causes anxiety and guilt, God is a father who carries the heavy load and fills us with hope and peace.
  • For those in debt, Jesus was crucified for our shame to take it away from us.  Say sorry for foolish decisions and God will remove that shame.
  • God puts you with people you can talk to, wise people who will not accuse or judge and will pray through it with you. This is what  Small Groups are for.
  • Be ambitious each year and you’ll never regret it. You can never out give him and he can be trusted to look after you.

 

 

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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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The Lamb of God

August 8th, 2011

Leviticus 1-17

  • Lev 1: 1 God is a speaking God, but we are not always a listening people. In the Old Testament He speaks through Prophets but in the New Testament he speaks to us through the words and teaching of Jesus.
  • The offerings that they bring in this passage are something given to God. The word for offering is ‘corban’ which also means
    ‘to come near’. We can understand offering as an invitation from God to draw near to him. He is inclusive and anyone can come.
  • The offerings given were animals and the type was determined by money and position. The rich would bring a bull, the not so rich a lamb and the poor a pair of birds.
  • The offerings were burnt and the passage instructs how to bring the offering but what can we learn from this (imagining that the worshipper brings a lamb)?

Burn the Lamb

  • God loves passion in our worship. The worshipper brings an offering to get near to God – is it in our heads every Sunday to draw near to God?
  • God is with us all the time, but it says in James 4:8 ‘Come near to God and he will come near to you’.
  • Offering was expensive, to burn a whole lamb would have been costly the lamb was without blemish or defect; the worshipper chose the best one – what will our worship cost us? Today, the most costly thing tends to be time.
  • There are so many possible distractions on Sundays nowadays that we must make sure that we don’t make church on a Sunday just one of a list of options.
  • Passion for God is not just experienced on Sundays but we experience God’s presence most strongly when we meet with God’s community of people. We should be expectant to meet with God on Sundays in a fresh and exciting way.
  • It will cost us time to be passionate to worship God and to spend time in prayer.
  • The worshipper cuts the lamb and washes it and gets blood on his hands. He is very involved and hands-on, he isn’t just
    expecting the priest to do it for him. Are we demonstrating that kind of worship?
  • You can be worshipping with your body and your voice but not your heart. Get involved and get engaged.
  • God loves the smell of the burnt offering – the passion of the worshipper is like wonderful perfume to him.

Look to the Lamb

  • Personal offering – the individual wanted to get near to God to get atonement for sin.
  • Genesis 3:21, when Adam and Eve were fallen andashamed of being naked, God clothed them in animal skins to hide their shame and sin.
  • John the Baptist points to Jesus Christ as the lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world. Jesus is the lamb who was slaughtered.
  • The OT animal sacrifices foreshadow Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice in the NT. The old system of sacrifice could never wipe out
    sin for all time. Jesus was given a body of flesh which he laid down for us to wipe out sin in the one perfect sacrifice.
  • The priests in the tabernacle/temple (where offerings were brought) worked for two weeks non-stop to deal with the sacrifices of worshippers.
  • Hebrews 10:11 – after Jesus’ single sacrifice, he is now sat down at the right hand of God. His sacrifice never has to be repeated. It is finished.
  • Stop fretting and being anxious and look to the lamb – we are clean and righteous before God.

Lean on the lamb

  • When worshippers brought lambs to be sacrificed, they would place their hands on the lamb’s head to make atonement.
  • They would lean on the lamb in prayer and confession of sin, and to identify themselves with the animal.
  • It was symbolic of transferring the sin – a slaughter and death took place. Leviticus 17:11,  the life is in the blood of the lamb. The sinner’s blood is not shed, despite sin but it is the lamb’s blood that is shed.
  • For us, the cost has been paid by Jesus Christ which perfectly fulfils the OT sacrifices. His life was taken, he carried the punishment and has paid the full cost.
  • There is an open invitation to draw near to God but there is only one way – lean on the lamb.
  • We must be careful not to lean on other things; fear, materialism, the world, ideas, ourselves.
  • Be full-on in passionate worship to God.
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The Lamb of God

August 2nd, 2011
  • Lev 1: 1 God is a speaking God, but we are not always a listening people. In the Old Testament He speaks through Prophets but in the New Testament he speaks to us through the words and teaching of Jesus.
  • The offerings that they bring in this passage are something given to God. The word for offering is ‘corban’ which also means ‘to come near’. We can understand offering as an invitation from God to draw near to him. He is inclusive and anyone can come.
  • The offerings given were animals and the type was determined by money and position. The rich would bring a bull, the not so rich a lamb and the poor a pair of birds.
  • The offerings were burnt and the passage instructs how to bring the offering but what can we learn from this (imagining that the worshipper brings a lamb)?

Burn the Lamb

  • God loves passion in our worship. The worshipper brings an offering to get near to God – is it in our heads every Sunday to draw near to God?
  • God is with us all the time, but it says in James 4:8 ‘Come near to God and he will come near to you’.
  • Offering was expensive, to burn a whole lamb would have been costly the lamb was without blemish or defect; the worshipper chose the best one – what will our worship cost us? Today, the most costly thing tends to be time.
  • There are so many possible distractions on Sundays nowadays that we must make sure that we don’t make church on a Sunday just one of a list of options.
  • Passion for God is not just experienced on Sundays but we experience God’s presence most strongly when we meet with God’s community of people. We should be expectant to meet with God on Sundays in a fresh and exciting way.
  • It will cost us time to be passionate to worship God and to spend time in prayer.
  • The worshipper cuts the lamb and washes it and gets blood on his hands. He is very involved and hands-on, he isn’t just expecting the priest to do it for him. Are we demonstrating that kind of worship?
  • You can be worshipping with your body and your voice but not your heart. Get involved and get engaged.
  • God loves the smell of the burnt offering – the passion of the worshipper is like wonderful perfume to him.

Look to the Lamb

  • Personal offering – the individual wanted to get near to God to get atonement for sin.
  • Genesis 3:21, when Adam and Eve were fallen and ashamed of being naked, God clothed them in animal skins to hide their shame and sin.
  • John the Baptist points to Jesus Christ as the lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world. Jesus is the lamb who was slaughtered.
  • The OT animal sacrifices foreshadow Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice in the NT. The old system of sacrifice could never wipe out sin for all time. Jesus was given a body of flesh which he laid down for us to wipe out sin in the one perfect sacrifice.
  • The priests in the tabernacle/temple (where offerings were brought) worked for two weeks non-stop to deal with the sacrifices of worshippers.
  • Hebrews 10:11 – after Jesus’ single sacrifice, he is now sat down at the right hand of God. His sacrifice never has to be repeated. It is finished.
  • Stop fretting and being anxious and look to the lamb – we are clean and righteous before God.

Lean on the lamb

  • When worshippers brought lambs to be sacrificed, they would place their hands on the lamb’s head to make atonement.
  • They would lean on the lamb in prayer and confession of sin, and to identify themselves with the animal.
  • It was symbolic of transferring the sin – a slaughter and death took place. Lev 17:11,  the life is in the blood of the lamb. The sinner’s blood is not shed, despite sin but it is the lamb’s blood that is shed.
  • For us, the cost has been paid by Jesus Christ which perfectly fulfils the OT sacrifices. His life was taken, he carried the punishment and has paid the full cost.
  • There is an open invitation to draw near to God but there is only one way – lean on the lamb.
  • We must be careful not to lean on other things; fear, materialism, the world, ideas, ourselves.
  • Be full-on in passionate worship to God. 
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The Challenges & Remedies for a Season of Radical Advance

July 25th, 2011
  • What is a biblical church? It is community on mission. God, the Trinity, is a community on mission.
  • Isaiah 54 – lengthen and strengthen, increase quantity and quality.
  • The Spirit makes us into a community, a family and into a missional people.
  • Jesus was forsaken and overlooked at His most crucial moment of mission. It is hard to get the balance right between community and mission. Emphasis on community leads to frustration; emphasis on mission can lead to people feeling overlooked.
  • Acts 6:1-7.
  • We as CCK are at the stage of advancing in ministry.
  • The people who feel most overlooked are usually those who have been there from the start. Feeling neglected, left out and undervalued.
  • But there is a remedy for the problem – many solutions:

1. Not to abandon mission.

  • We are not a hospital but an ambulance or a hospital ship. We keep moving.

2. Increase honesty.

  • If you really don’t agree with something or if you have a complaint, speak up. Even if you can’t raise the issue in a godly way, raise it anyway.

3. Increase organisation.

  • When a church is large, too little organisation can damage relationships.

4. Increase number of leaders.

  • The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
  • Raising up leaders is the most missional thing we can do.
  • God will only give you the harvest when you have enough leaders to care for those He brings – you won’t catch any more fish if you don’t increase the fishermen.
  • 2 Kings 4 – increase of pots.
  • How? Strategy of trebling everything.
  • We’re not just trying to pastor those we have but the city we’re in.
  • Mission must shape the way we do church, not the other way around.
  • Mission creates more community and community fuels mission.
  • In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. We often discount people because we think they don’t know enough to lead – but they are more useful than we think.

1. Increase responsibility.

  • Are you merely involved or are you committed?
  • The church is a local missionary organisation.
  • The key? Keep saying yes, and when you say no say it with a clear conscience. God will promote you.

2. Increase faith.

  • Have faith for one another because of what God can do.
  • Romans 15:16.
  • Have faith for CCK – faith moves the arm of God to break open Brighton. Have individual faith for it.
  • Have faith for giving.

3. Increase Spirit.

  • Be led by the Spirit for leading and pastoring people – ask Him to prompt you when someone needs special care or encouragement. All it takes is a call/text/email.

4. Increase hospitality.

  • Hospitality is huge in the Bible – it is seen as almost a requirement of Christians, certainly of elders.
  • Be hospitable in your home and in your spirit – being welcoming and friendly with your whole self. Give yourself completely. Be accepting and vulnerable.
  • Where we meet for church is like our lounge – you can relax, be at home, say hi to those who also “live” there. And people who are new you welcome in, love them, make an effort.
  • Arrive to church early to be there to welcome people.
  • God has been hospitable to us, now we show it to others.

5. Increase playing to gift.

  • Use people’s gifting – maximise on what people are gifted to do.

 

Some final points:

  • Give your elders freedom to make radical decisions.
  • Some of us will go by staying.
  • The real work of church is not merely launching new sites but loving those who don’t know Jesus in that area.
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Meet the Brightonians

July 25th, 2011

Acts 19: 1-41

  • Ephesus is very similar to Brighton

Group 1: God aware but no real connection

  • They had an awareness of God the Father but no the rest of the Trinity
  • Galatians 4:4-6
  • We need to know all the members of the Trinity
  • If we don’t know Jesus we are like Christian-robots
  • We need to know God as our Father through Jesus making us co-heirs
  • Without the holy Spirit following God can feel really heavy

Group 2: Intrigued but resistant

  • God makes sure we have ample time to give our lives to him
  • When God shows up he shines into our hearts – if it is ice it melts toward him, but if it is clay it hardens

Group 3: Church as it should be

In it for the long haul…:

In a stategic hub

  • Brighton is very subversive – so is following Jesus
  • CCK: church is a blend of a mature Proverbs 31 wife and the beloved in Song of Soloman > keep buring on this city, keep focussed

Accessible vibe

  • We need to engage the Holy Spirit and show God’s power
  • Need good worship at an accessible length
  • Argue persuasively
  • 33% of world church attendance is male – need to be accessible to men

Group 4: The Ghostbusters

  • Don’t go near the spiritual realm – it will harm you
  • The only spiritual realm we should venture in to is in the Holy Spirit

Group 5: Thoroughly Converted

  • Physically and whole-heartedly following Jesus

Group 6: The Money Lovers

  • Money is a big counter-god
  • Paul says we must excel at giving
  • Luke 16 – if we can’t be trusted with giving away unrighteous money, God won’t trust us with greater spiritual gifts and responsibilities
  • There will be a devaluation – when we die we leave money here. Store up riches in heaven
  • God discipline: giving at least 10% of our earnings first – live off 90%
  • Money – kill or be killed – keep giving!
  • Newfrontiers – it is fruitful ground
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The New Birth

July 4th, 2011

John 3: 1-8

Jesus is trying to teach three things about new birth here.

  1. Who is the new birth for?
  • New birth is for everyone. John 3:8 – Jesus says ‘you must be born again’. To non-Christians ‘being born again’ can often mean having a new lease of life -  only for those people that are broken or lost and need an emotional experience.
  • There is equality to Jesus’ gospel – he came to bring both humility to the proud as well as strength to the lost.
  • Nicodemus was highly successful, intelligent and moral and was kind and respectful to Jesus. But his career and moral standing counted for nothing – Jesus told him he needed to be baptised and born again. The gospel is not just for the marginalised.
  • 2. Why do we need new birth?

  • No-one can see the kingdom of God, unless they are born again.
  • We try to save ourselves through our moral achievements but our self sufficiency can hinder us from seeing the kingdom of God.
  • Trying to redeem ourselves through our own efforts only leads to fear or pride.
  • It’s not about following rules; reading the bible more or going to church more will not save us – we need a supernatural collision from heaven to bring about new birth.
  • Treating Jesus Christ as a teacher and example of how to live our lives is fruitless as we will never reach His perfect standard.
  • Buddha’s last words were ‘strive without ceasing’, and in direct contrast, Jesus’ last words were ‘It is finished’. Salvation is complete through Jesus’ finished work on the cross. There is no more need for striving or searching or trying to fill our own emptiness.
  • The secular world relies upon its own trinity; family, friends and career. But when one of those starts to go wrong, life becomes derailed.
  • Idols are those things that we give our lives over to and hope that they answer our problems.
  • Jesus Christ is not interested in our performance in life. He accepts us for who we are and we no longer need to build our significance from morality.
  • We need a radical change of heart and a new identity.
  • 3. How do we receive new birth?

  • Through Jesus’ pain, suffering and death on the cross, there is new life for us.
  • He came to live the life that we should have lived but never could and died the death that we should have died. He paid the just penalty for our sins so that we could be forgiven and have a relationship with God.
  • This prompts a radical transformation of wanting to live a new and transformed life, because of what Jesus has done.
  • Don’t delay giving your life to Jesus, there’s no need to get life sorted first. It’s the other way round – bring your baggage to God and he will sort it out. He loves you as you are.
  • There is a barrier between us and God and Jesus died to break that barrier. Those that trust is His death and resurrection can step through the barrier and have a relationship with God – completely forgiven and totally free.

 

 

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