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Fathering

June 22nd, 2011

Ephesians 6:1-4

  • Some people don’t have good fathers – we must look to God and see that He isn’t just better than most, He is the perfect Father

Fathering is a leadership role

  • 1 Corinthians 11:3 – God has given men authority over the home – they must not abuse this position
  • Fathers must place themselves completely under Jesus

A Father’s Vulnerable Area

  • vs 4: it would have been very counter-cultural when it was written
  • Father’s must take their children’s feelings into consideration
  • Some things that provoke children are: sarcasm, perfectionism and harsh discipline

Four Keys to Being a More Effective Father:

1) Looking forward and keeping the bigger picture in mind

  • Psalm 127:4 – children are like arrows in a warrior’s hand
  • The ultimate goal is changing a rough stick into a sharp arrow – raising Jesus-like figures ready to be sent out

2) Looking backward and remembering what you were like

  • Remembering how you were will give you grace towards your children
  • Remember the authority styles you had – you might not have liked them but may be coping them

3) Looking inward and looking at yourself

  • This is relevant to everyone – not just fathers
  • Be a credible leader – check how you are doing in:

- your understanding of grace
- your walk with God
- dealing with authority
- resolving conflict
- controlling your tongue
- attitude towards money and possessions
- fighting temptation
- commitment to the local church

4) Looking upward to God and living by faith and not by sight

  • 2 Corinthians 5:7
  • Areas where we can walk by faith include investing time when other influences seem strong in your child’s life and remembering past victories
  • Have faith when things are tough at home – we have the gift of prayer and the power to say “no” to Satan. Talk in tongues and remind God of prophecies not yet fulfilled
  • Even if you do all this there are no guarnantees
  • When children grow up they make their own decisions and this sometimes means walking away from God – God wants to remove the blanket of shame you have

Great fathers lead with:

  • Grace

Bring children up with tenderness, care and love. They have an emotional tank that you need to keep filling up

  • Discipline

This is not about punishment, it is about training. Deep down, children want boundaries.

God fathers us with grace and discipline – Hebrews 12:4-11

 

 

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God as a Father

June 20th, 2011

John 14:1-11

We see the Father in the Son

The God of the Bible is one God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus wanted to make clear that, although he is not the Father, that we can see the character of the Father through him, that he shows the family likeness. (see Colossians 1:15)

Like Phillip, we can often fail to see the Father. It is not that God is hiding from us, but, that that we are so busy looking over Jesus’ shoulder looking for the Father that we fail to see the Father in Jesus, as though God becoming a man were too obvious for us. Are we trying to “crack the code” of who God is, or are we seeing the Father in the person of Jesus?

We know the Father through the Son

If we want to know what someone is like, we spend time listening to them. The wisdom of a father is a wonderful thing. We have a whole book of fatherly wisdom in the Bible.

Furthermore, Jesus reveals to us that the Father is personal. This can be quite difficult for us. In the Facebook age many people have more communication with others than before but fewer personal relationships. This struggle with personal relationships can be seen in the following common ideas about God/spirituality which we often encounter:

1. God is a force rather than a person

2. God is not an authority involved in people’s lives

3. We should maintain independence from God, tuning into him when needed.

Even some Christians can keep God at arm’s length, so as to make him convenient. True relationships are often inconvenient but they are more important than anything else in the world.

We can identify that a love is not genuine if it is (1) limited, (2) controlling or (3) detached.

(1) In Jesus we know a God who is not limited in his involvement with us, who became a man, kneeling down, as it were, to put himself on a level with us.

(2) In Jesus, we see that the Father’s love is not controlling. Jesus came not to be served but to serve, associating himself with the poor and broken.

(3) In Jesus, we see that the Father’s love is not detached. Jesus made himself vulnerable, looking at the crowds with compassion and weeping at the tomb of Lazarus.

Our relationships with our earthly fathers often influence our view of God as a father. No earthly father is perfect, even those who are good, and, sadly, many fathers are absent or abusive. We can look at the fatherhood of God through the lens of our own earthly fathers.

However, from Ephesians 3:14-15 we can see that the true picture is the other way round. Our earthly fathers, instead of providing us with an image of God’s fatherhood, are instead a broken reflection of his eternal fatherhood. God is the original father.

We come to the Father through the Son

In Luke 3:21-22 we see how God affirmed his Son through an audible voice at the start of his earthly ministry. It is as if God were saying, “That’s my boy!” and this affirmation echoes throughout Jesus life of service and sacrifice. Jesus shows his obedience to his Father’s will by bearing the weight of our sins on his shoulders. Even here the Father is saying, “That’s my boy!” at his Son’s sacrificial obedience.

At the end, the Son is abandoned by the Father. The worst suffering of the cross is that the Son suffers the loss of the Father and the Father the loss of the Son. The Father’s love is greater than we can understand, he did not spare his only Son but gave him up for us that we too can become sons and daughters of the Father.

Through Jesus, we can be rescued into God’s family. Our separation from God is dealt with at the cross and we can know the Father.

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Prepared for Jesus

June 7th, 2011

Sunday 5th June 2011

Stef Liston

A tenant waiting for a visit from the landlord would work hard to ensure that the landlord was pleased with how the property looked. Even if the landlord is a nice person there would still be an element of dread.

In the same way, God owns everything and has leased his possessions and responsibilities to us as his tenants. Jesus often warned us, in his parables, that he will be coming back, and, unlike human landlords in the UK, he doesn’t have to give us 24 hours notice. We should be prepared for his visit.

God often prepares his servants over a long period of time to work things into their hearts (e.g. Moses as a shepherd, Joseph in prison, David on the run, Hannah in her childlessness). Likewise, John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus.

The message of today’s sermon is “are you ready?”

Are you ready to meet with Jesus (perhaps for the first time)? Are you ready for him to speak into your life? Are you ready for his return?

There are many things which can distract our hearts from Christ, including worries, desires, longings and false-promises.

Luke 3:2-6

There are valleys, mountains, crooked paths and rough places which can obscure Christ to us, and obscure Christ in us.

When we are born again, we are given new hearts and can gaze on Christ with unveiled faces. The more clearly we see him, the more clearly others see him in us.

1. Valleys

Biblically, valleys are places of refuse, decay and death, places where the sunlight does not reach.

What are the hidden things which we tolerate in ourselves and are not bringing to the light of Christ? What are the things that need to be confessed to another trusted brother or sister (James 5:16)?

Christ has been punished in our place for the vile things that we have done, yet some believers still live in shame. We should remember that both David and Peter committed terrible sins as believers and yet were restored (see Pslam 51, John 21). We can be trapped by the hidden shadows of the heart, let us bring these things to the light (1 John 1:9), remembering that we are to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

2. Mountains

Mountains are insurmountable objects. Guilt, shame, the fear of other people, addictions, futile ways of thinking etc. can be like Goliaths in our lives, mocking our attempts to be Christlike.

The answer to this is remember that the LORD is lord. Too many believers are tragically unimpressed with God. If we consider who God is, and make him our dread, he will subdue the other dreads in our lives (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Colossians 2:13-15).

3. Crooked paths

Crooked people can put a spin on things to make themselves look better than they are. However, God is truth, it is impossible for him to lie (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18). We should not be devious, manipulative or hypocritical.

A big element of British culture is that we don’t tell the truth to one another in love (e.g. being far too ready to say “I’m fine” when we are hurting). Let the Spirit deliver us from this cultural baggage (Ephesians 4:25, Matthew 18:15-17).

4. Rough places

These are things in our lives which may not seem like great sins but which still obscure Christ in our lives (e.g. holding to to a sense of humour full of bawdy jokes and put downs, critical talk, gossip, control, things which are part of the “old” us). We need to clear these boulders out of the way (Psalm 139:23-24).

In conclusion, we must engage and face issues in our lives for the glory of God. We are not to be sin-focussed and introspective but we must be responsive to the Spirit, and deal with what he reveals in our lives.

Jesus is coming back, we will see him face to face and all will be well. Let us live our lives now in the light of this truth.

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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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Process and Crisis

March 20th, 2011

1 Samuel 2:12-26

  • It was a bleak time in the history of Israel – the nation had missed its calling, to be God’s pure people. Even the people in charge of religion were corrupt, stealing and sleeping with the temple women. The end of the book of Judges paints a similar picture.
  • God’s desire through the book of Samuel is to set up the right kind of kingdom and the right kind of King.
  • All God seems to be doing at this time is sending one little boy (Samuel) into the centre of Israel’s corruption. God uses the most unexpected people for the His work – He uses the weak people for great things to show His great strength.
  • None of us have fully obeyed God – we all need rescuing. And God sent a little baby boy to accomplish this – His own Son, Jesus – to achieve the greatest victory in history.
  • God’s power and greatness is made perfect in our weakness. Part of knowing God is that we come to know and see how weak we are. A Christian is no more weak or needy than anyone else – they have just come to realise it. We are all weak and needy whether we feel it or not.
  • God GROWS us.
  • When Samuel was older, he would speak and everyone would listen. He had great authority. But v.21-26 simply says he grew and continued to grow – in stature and in favour with God and man. It speaks of God’s pattern for people He wants to use.
  • God has saved us for a purpose – Ephesians 2:8-10.
  • Samuel achieved the purpose that God had for him, but he had to grow. It took time – it wasn’t glamorous or exciting.
  • We have to accept the process.
  • There’s a big difference between process and crisis (dramatic moments). Process takes time; here are things you can only have or achieve if you submit to the process.
  • Luke 2:52 – Jesus went through the same process of growing as Samuel.
  • Hebrews 12:11 – we need to be trained in God’s “gym” – it’s not pleasant at the time but it is essential and produces fruit.
  • Discipline brings freedom. God wants us to be liberated not oppressed.
  • Our generation prefers crisis to process – we want dramatic moments, crisis solutions, shortcuts and quick fixes.
  • We barely look at the Wisdom books of the Bible, e.g. Proverbs. We need to be learning a life of wisdom in the day-to-day – this is where we truly grow, and not so much in the dramatic/emotional moments.
  • We want instant success but it can take years and years.
  • Proverbs 13:4.
  • We need a plan, to get to grips with God’s plans. Proverbs 13:12.
  • It’s wisdom to not only to plan to achieve something for ourselves, but for our children and our grandchildren – to build a legacy.
  • You have to take the stairs – there is no elevator option. One step at a time.
  • How do we build a life for ourselves and the generations to come? Psalm 1:1-3 – God’s word has to be our foundation, immersing ourselves in it daily, trusting that it will do us good – then we will be truly happy and will be like a tree planted by streams of living water.
  • Samuel also grew in his reputation with men as well as God – same as Jesus. It’s important that we reflect well to others, representing God well.
  • Jesus worked hard in the day-to-day life of carpentry. He grew in wisdom and submitted to His parents. Why? Because He was living the life we should have lived in our place, and also showing us how to live.
  • Submission scares us – we think it’s going to be hard, tough and unpleasant. But we need it – or our hearts will end up sick.
  • Both submitting and not submitting will exhaust us – but Jesus came to give us rest as we submit under His yoke (Matthew 11:28-30). It makes us free, not oppressed, the closer we get to Him.
  • The Christian life is both hard and easy.
  • Jesus is the most gentle and patient with us – so different to what we expect.
  • Jesus took the worst burden for us. He became obedient even to death, on our behalf. Now we can be obedient to Him.

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).

A matter of exclusion – Michael Ramsden

March 9th, 2011
  • We are asking why is the Christian faith so exclusive?
  • Whenever you say that something is true, you are automatically saying that any contrary statement is untrue.
  • For someone raised in an Islamic culture, Christianity can clearly be seen as a different message from Islam, however, in the West, many would argue that Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism are basically the same. Maybe we need to allow the adherents of these beliefs to explain their own systems.
  • Surely if God is loving, isn’t being a good person all that matters? Jesus was very clear, all good people are going to heaven. When someone came to Jesus, asking, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good? No-one is good, but God alone” (Mark 10:17-18) If good people are going to heaven, and only God is good, then who is going to heaven?
  • In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells a story that is pertinent to our situation, which shows us that there are only two possibilities as to how a person can become righteous, either (1) we make ourselves righteous or (2) someone else makes us righteous.
  • A Phariseeand tax collector were both praying at the same time in the temple. The Pharisee thanks God for making him such a good person, the tax-collector beats his breast – a strong gesture of remorse. The tax collector literally prays, “may this sacrifice be for me“. Jesus has come into the world as the sacrificial lamb which takes away the sins of the world.
  • Richard Dawkins argued after the Asian tsunami that it is morally reprehensible that an innocent man should be sacrificed for the guilty.
  • Why this emphasis on sacrifice, why is the cross at the centre of Christian teaching?
  • The answer is that we cannot separate love and judgement.
  • In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennett rejects Mr Darcy’s eloquent proposal of marriage, because Darcy states that he loves her against his will, reason and better judgement. He claims to love her though he does not know her.
  • Most of us project an image of ourselves which is better than the person we really are, the danger of this is that people fall in love with the image, not the real person. Love is only truly meaningful if the one who loves us truly knows us, but God sees everything, therefore, his love is truly meaningful.
  • True love can only exist in the presence of judgement, “If you never know truth then you never know love” (Black Eyed Peas, “Where is the Love?”).
  • If your sister is raped, and the judge lets the offender go free, saying, “we must be merciful” then where is the justice? In Christianity alone, God exercises mercy through the exercise of his justice.
  • Jesus, teaches us that the man who prayed, “may this sacrifice be for me” went away having received God’s gift of righteousness. Christianity is radically humbling – not only does it teach that no-one is good, but also that no-one can make themselves good.
  • Jesus’ answer to the question, “don’t all paths lead to God?” is that there are no paths that lead to God, only the path that God has made in coming to us.

Responses to questions

(In response to a question asking why each religion confirms the truth of the previous religion, but persecutes the followers of the religion that came after it) – The first point is not true, the later sayings of Muhammad abnegate the earlier sayings (which are more tolerant of Judaism and Christianity), Buddhism arose out of the rejection of the Vedas and the Hindu caste system. The second point is, sadly, true. People have persecuted others on the grounds of religion, however, Jesus explicitly denies the use of the sword for the propagation of the faith, and Paul argues that the fruits of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23) should be what people taste when they bite into the life of a genuine follower of Jesus.

(In reponse to a question asking why, in Romans 2, Paul argues that people will be judged by what they know, and whether this means that people can be saved through Christ indirectly) – We are not saved by an idea, we are saved by a relationship, even if that relationship is confused – is this relationship with God a reality in your life?

(In response to a question, asking that, if love is inseparable from truth, how it is that God can only love us when we have been given a righteousness which is not ours, and is therefore untrue)  – The message of the gospel is more radical than that God forgave us when we begged him for mercy, God loved us and paid the price to make forgiveness possible, long before we sought him, when we were still his enemies. We forgive people when we think that they have earned forgiveness, but this is not the message of the gospel, God is offering us forgiveness BEFORE we repent, our repentance is the means whereby we receive God’s forgiveness and the relationship is restored.

A matter of inflation? – Michael Ramsden

March 9th, 2011
  • It is often argued by sceptics that the church has, over time, inflated Jesus’ claims about himself
  • It is a matter of historical record that early Christians worshipped Jesus as God, even pagan opponents, such as Pliny the Younger record this.
  • The argument that the Church inflated the claims about Christ fails on a number of levels, but, perhaps the clearest is that the time-line involved is too short.
  • The books of 1 Corinthians and Galatians are almost universally accepted by scholars as having been written in the mid 40s A.D. about twenty years after the events that they record.
  • In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 Paul cites a creedal hymn about the death and resurrection of Christ, which had been passed down to him. We know from Galatians that Paul met with Cephas (i.e. Peter) around 34-37 A.D. and Cephas would doubtless have passed the core teachings about Jesus down to him at that time, only years after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
  • Even the leader of the Jesus Seminar, which argues that 90% of the recorded sayings of Jesus in the New Testament are false, has recently argued that the Gospel message was held by Christians from day one, although he argues from this that the church was wrong from day one!
  • Another question raised by sceptics is why Jesus didn’t just tell us that he was God. The gospel of Mark is probably the first gospel to have been written and in it, Jesus is asked whether he is “the Christ, the son of the Blessed One” to which he replies “I am” – this is not a question of interpretation. Even though some may not accept its authority, they do so because they don’t like what it clearly says.
  • This question as to whether Jesus’ claim to being God has been inflated can be answered using a passage of scripture accepted by almost all scholars.
  • In Ezekiel 34, the shepherds of Israel are denounced for feeding themselves at the expense of the sheep, until the true shepherd rescues the sheep from their abuse. At the end of the passage, it is made explicit that God is the good shepherd, the people are the sheep and that the bad shepherds are the religious leadership.
  • We should note from this passage that God is disgusted at the behaviour of the bad shepherds and that he himself has promised to intervene as a good shepherd, to seek out the lost and rescue them.
  • In Luke 15:1-7 Jesus compares himself to a good shepherd who searches out the lost sheep and asks the religious leaders whether they would not leave the ninety-nine safe to seek after the one lost sheep.
  • “This is who I am” said Jesus, and this is why the bad shepherds killed him. Jesus wasn’t killed because the religious leaders misunderstood him, they killed him because they understood.

Responses to questions

(In response to a question about why God would allow bad shepherds) – All leaders fail. Leaders are called biblically to lead first by example. Our trouble is that we are so obsessed with image that we sacrifice honesty. The extent to which the leader is able to be honest and vulnerable about struggles and failings is the extent to which the congregation will be able to have the same honesty and vulnerability. David remained a leader, even after his sin with Bathsheba.

(In response to the accusation of the film “Zeitgeist” that the claims of early gods are the same as the claims of Jesus, and that the claims of Jesus are simply derived from those of earlier stories about gods) – In Greek mythology, for example, the stories of the gods are influenced by other stories. Pre-Christian stories of pagan gods contain none of the alleged similarities with the story of Jesus, these only appear in the pagan stories centuries after Christ. Also, there is a universal need for redemption which is found in all religion and in all good literature.

A matter of convenience – Michael Ramsden

March 9th, 2011
  • This is a challenging and difficult message, but we must note how the world sees us in order for us to be able to minister effectively.
  • We should acknowledge that some of the things which the “new atheists” say about us are 100% correct!
  • Luke 10:25-37 – An expert in the law asks Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ answer is a relational answer about love for God and for others.
  • The lawyer’s next question is “who is my neighbour?”  One of the key accusations levelled against the church by the “new atheists” is that Christianity makes life convenient for us
  • Professor John Gray, the author of “Straw Dogs” argues that there is nothing special about being human, and attacks humanism as being simply Christian morality dressed up in secular language, ignoring scientific reality. According to his argument, all human morality is a matter of convenience, something which people follow when things are going well, but discard in tough times, when we revert to acting in our own interests.
  • Jesus replies to the lawyer’s second question “who is my neighbour?” with the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’ first audience probably wouldn’t have been surprised that the priest walked past on the other side. The priest was not only in danger, but in a moral dilemma.
  • The story continues with the appearance of a Levite, one who served the priests.
  • Audiences in Jesus’ time would have expected a story about a priest and a Levite to be followed by the appearance of a member of the congregation of Israel, who served the Levites, however, Jesus departs from this formula by introducing a despised Samaritan as the rescuer of the wounded man.
  • It was manifestly not convenient or safe for the Samaritan to help the wounded man, but he did so.
  • When Jesus ends the story the audience must have realised that the Samaritan may have had literally to lay down his life for his neighbour.
  • Jesus therefore changes the question, from “who is my neighbour?” to “who is neighbourly?” We are called to “go and do likewise” and love everybody, whatever the cost to ourselves.
  • This moral choice is particular problematic for those, who, like us, live in an affluent part of the world. It has been found by sociological research that affluence often leads to a lack of a sense of meaning to life. If our Christianity is too convenient, we should not be surprised if the world is not impressed.
  • Is your Christian faith simply a matter of convenience?
  • In struggling with addictive behaviours (such as internet pornography) have you so accommodated God into your way of living, that you barely feel guilt anymore?

Responses to questions:

(In response to a question about whether we should treat people differently on the basis of their behaviour) – We are sometimes worried that the redemption of those who have done terrible things means that justice has sometimes failed, and misses the point of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not about making us feel good about ourselves (as though God were some sort of “forgiveness ATM”) but about restoring our relationship with him.

(In response to a question about how best to speak to others about Jesus in a non-threatening way) – We should have such compassion for people that we do not need to preface our comments to them with words such as “I need to speak the truth to you in love” (which is often neither loving nor truthful). A good approach is to put yourself in a position where you have no power over the other, and everything to lose if you speak inappropriately, and then seek God’s wisdom!

A Ransom for Many

February 16th, 2011

Mark 10:13-16, 35-45

  • Carrying on the theme of “why Jesus came to die” and why it is significant for us all
  1. What He came to do
  • Jesus came to serve not to be served
  • He is saying: look at what I’m going to do for you – this is the heart of everything
  • Vs 45: He came to give His life
  • Jesus is different from other world religion’s founders – they were successful but their deaths were different – the Jewish dictionary states that Jesus’ enemies defeated Him
  • When the disciples realised what Jesus had done, they proclaimed it
  • Challenge: has the penny dropped for you yet?
  1. Why He came to do it
  • As a ransom for us
  • In ancient times a ransom was paid to free slaves – Jesus paid a spiritual ransom, He paid a debt for us, died a death we should have died
  • Objection – I don’t want to be controlled – Jesus said we’re all slaves to something – the disciples were slaves to status and position – Jesus said if it isn’t Him we will run dry
  • Jesus set our hearts free but sometimes we’re free and yet have run dry – we must get back to the Cross – Paul says it is the heart of everything
  • We’re addicted to what people think of us
  • Often to forgive someone there is a cost
  • If God just forgave us He wouldn’t be just, but if he didn’t forgive us He wouldn’t be loving
  • Jesus’ death means the debt is paid and we can receive forgiveness
  • Ghandi: doesn’t believe Jesus’ death has any bearing on his life but it is a good example of follow à this will crush us because His life was perfect
  • Why do we live our life according to morality? Jesus has set us free! Look to the cross
  • Jesus saved and liberated us
  • Jesus wants us to know He died for us, how much He sacrificed for us
  • If anyone is thinking “here we go again”, they have lost sight of the Gospel
  • Jesus gave His life to show us how much He loves us
  • What Jesus did only works if you accept Him into your life
  • What is the one reason you that means you can’t accept Jesus? One person you can’t forgive? Jesus died for it
  1. How can we personally connect?
  • Jesus said come as children – not childish, but child-like
  • To get Jesus, we must come needing to depend on Him completely
  • We are fully accepted and loved by Jesus
  • Jesus has seen us at our absolute worst, and still loves us and died for us
  • When we accept Jesus He doesn’t leave us as orphans, He sends us the Holy Spirit
  • Jesus said all who call on His name will be saved
  • We must make a response, right now.
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