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A Church For a New Age

November 17th, 2010

Amos 9:5-16; Acts 15:6-21

The book of Amos speaks about God’s judgement of His people – it paints a big picture of Almighty God. But alongside the promise of judgement is the promise of restoration. The key verse is  v.11 – the “booth” or tabernacle of David – one day the people of God will live with God in the new heavens and new earth.

1. The Prophetic Mandate (Our Vision):

i) Eden:

  • Adam walked with God and was able to hear God and minister to God on behalf of creation. He had authority on earth to expand Eden – the cultural mandate.
  • But Adam sinned and the fellowship was broken.
  • But from Genesis to Revelation, we are shown that God is restoring this and wants to dwell again with His people.

ii) The Tabernacle:

  • The dwelling place for God and His glory on earth.
  • The tabernacle of Moses on Mount Gibeon was about rules and rituals, but the tabernacle of David on Mount Zion was about being able to freely enter and worship God – a foretaste of the New Covenant of grace.

iii) The Temple:

  • This was God’s next dwelling place for his manifest presence.
  • However, with the second temple there was no presence of God – just rituals and religion. God wanted a restoration of the tabernacle of David.
  • When Jesus was on earth He said the temple would be destroyed but that He would rebuild it after 3 days. He was talking about Himself – He identified Himself with the temple, of God dwelling with man – and the resurrection after 3 days.
  • The coming temple was not one built with stones, but with people – the Church.

iv) The Church:

  • We are being built into a temple, experience God and His presence and power, by the Spirit.

2. The Prophetic Pivotal Point (Our Theology & Practice):

  • This is where the passage in Acts comes in. The era of the early church, filled with the Holy Spirit. The Jews were adding to the gospel – that Christians had to obey the Old Testament laws.
  • Here we see displayed the following:

i) Relationship leadership:

  • The leaders discussed this issue – whether new Christians should obey the Law of Moses.
  • v.16 – James quotes Amos – the restoration of David’s tabernacle, the covenant of grace, no more sacrifices or rituals.
  • The church are to fulfil the cultural mandate – to take the good news of the gospel to the ends of the earth.

ii) Operational power

iii) Defining grace

iv) Missional vision

3. The Prophetic Process (Our Lessons from History):

  • There is a process with promises being fulfilled. Things in history have happened in order to get us further towards that end fulfilment of the mandate and of the restoration.
  • 3 key words from the last 30-40 years: revival, renewal, restoration.
  • We are restoring the Church – building right. God has a bigger plan than just little pockets of revival.
  • What God does in one generation is different but all part of the big plan.

4. The Prophetic Challenge (Our Commitment):

i) Expect to grow – the fruit of restoration

ii) Expect the Spirit – He is given to us to reach out to others, not just for our benefit

iii) Build the church

iv) Change the city – rebuild the city, take Eden into it, release the captives, see people restored to God

v) Expect stability

Did Jesus Start a Religion by Accident?

October 19th, 2010

Many people question whether Jesus really meant to start Christianity or the Church, usually because people tend to like Jesus a lot more than the Church and Christians. People blame the Church for many awful things done in the name of God or Jesus, and famous figures like John Lennon have said that it is the disciples that ruin the image of Jesus. People often don’t reject Jesus but the Church.

However, we need to examine whether Jesus meant the Church and we need to look at his actions as well as his words. One thing Jesus did was that he chose 12 disciples – just like how God’s people began with the 12 sons of Israel. In this he was making a clear statement – that he was starting a new community belonging to God. Jesus also called his disciples his “little flock” – same terminology used by God to describe his people Israel – and he used the imagery of the bride and the bridegroom like in the Old Testament. It shows Jesus was meaning to do the same thing as in the Old Testament – preparing a people for God.

Jesus also called his disciples his family above his natural family – this was a shocking declaration in that culture. It was radical and it showed Jesus believed in this.

Matthew 16:13 – the turning point of Jesus’ ministry, the first revelation of Jesus’ identity. This changes the course of events – Jesus says they’re on a new mission. This is the plan – ‘on this rock I will build my Church’. It is so serious that not even the gates of hell will prevail against it.

Jesus entrusts the authority and legacy to Peter and the disciples to inherit his calling. God wills that people carry this authority – His reign – on earth. When Jesus was on earth he was the light of the world; now his Church is the light, carrying his rule and glory across all over the world.

Jesus invented and intended the Church.

It’s no use debating about the good vs. the bad that has been done by the Church; the real question is was it really true Christianity, or a distortion, when bad things have been done in the name of Christ? Unfortunately we live with the consequences of what Constantine did in the 4th century, which was to make everyone in the Roman Empire a Christian, leading onto the tie we still have between the Church and the State. Jesus did not intend for this to happen – no one can be forced to become a Christian. But what we have had over the centuries is people who claim to be Christians, who didn’t even believe in Jesus, doing terrible acts while wearing the “uniform” of Christ. The Crusades is one example, done on false teaching about how killing Muslims would be your ticket to heaven.

Don’t dismiss Christianity because of what some people disguised as “Christians” have done. There are also countless amazing things that the Church has done, because of faithfulness to Jesus and his commands, acting as it should – e.g. Martin Luther King. But we have to remember, this doesn’t mean the Church will always look right when it’s being faithful to Jesus – people won’t always like or approve of what it does. Jesus said the Church will be persecuted and hated.

As the Church, we should aim to have favour with all people, but ultimately our allegiance to Christ always comes before pleasing people. We will sometimes be criticised by people who thing they’re doing good or the right thing (for example, when the disciples thought they were right in criticising the woman who poured out a whole jar of perfume on Jesus’ feet). However, do not use persecution as an excuse for just being obnoxious.

Some people find joining a church of Christians unattractive – we love individualism in this culture and don’t want to conform. But the truth is we’re still conformists no matter what, just to other things and other communities. For others, it’s an issue of standards, thinking they’re better than Christians – that Christians are boring failures and hypocrites, and they can “do better”. But Christians are just people who have admitted that they’re failures – that is the difference. We all need to admit the same, because none of us are perfect, and come freely into Jesus’ community.

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.

Alternative Temple 1 Corinthians 3:10-17

November 24th, 2009

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The Church Really Matters
The Church can be seen as an embrassamemt, even by Christians, but we are in fact the temple of God.
God wants a place where he dwells and he wants to share that with us, this should be a place where we can relax with God and ever since the fall of Adam he’s been working to restore this temple.

This temple is not the building or a physical location, it’s the people of God, His living stones. Us. We are not a club or social network but the dwelling place of God. We must expect God with us and not just on Sundays, at zones, small groups etc…

The Foundation Really Matters
We need to build this temple on the right foundation – Jesus Christ. If the foundation of the church is not Jesus it’s not a church.

This strong foundation, Jesus, should be our foundation for life as well as the church. Everyone trusts in something but for real peace, real hope, real life and we must have our trust, our foundation in Christ. He is trustworthy. So trustworthy that he gave up His life for us.

Your Life Really Matters
There is a day appointed when God will judge all people. He will test and filter our lives. You can be saved but still suffer loss. You can store up treasures, real riches in heaven. Our lives need to count.

1 Corinthians 14:1-25 Gifts and Ministries of the Holy Spirit Part III

June 1st, 2009

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What are your expectations when meeting with the church – at a zone meeting, in small group, on a Sunday? How do you prepare yourself? Our expectations will inevitably affect the outcome of these events.

Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth is instructive when it comes to key principles and goals for when we meet as the people of God. He puts them right on a few things and in chapter 14 he looks specifically at the public use of the gifts of tongues and prophecy.

A central idea of Paul’s is that each member of the gathered church shares the privilege of carrying and conducting the presence of God and his many gifts. This adds enormous potential to what happens when we gather. It also goes directly against a religious consumer culture (persisting in the west) whereby we come to church to be entertained – and evaluate each meeting by whether kept us sufficiently amused.

In all of this we need to apply the biblical principles fittingly for different kinds of meetings. A meeting of several hundred will be different in many ways from meeting of around one hundred (e.g. a Zone meeting). This is not to say that we don’t look for the gifts of the Spirit from the congregation on a Sunday – but that we will be slightly more front-led by in a larger meeting. The meeting needs to be just as spirit-led (and with anointed people leading, this is more than likely).

There are two major concerns for Paul in dealing with the Corinthians and their use of the gifts:

1. Build up the Body. This theme is repeated almost obsessively in our chapter. Paul is determined that the Corinthian believers contribute spiritual gifts to their gatherings with the appropriate motives. And in Paul’s case the over-riding goal for all contributors must be the glorifying of Jesus and the building up of the body (and the best way to do the latter is to do the former!)

The Corinthians had fallen into the error of speaking in tongues publically – more as a ‘spiritual stunt’ than out of any desire to build other up. The only things being built up were the spiritual egos of the people dominating the meetings. Paul is telling them to serve the body and keep Jesus the focus – this cannot be done if we are busy setting ourselves up as something special in a church meeting.

2. Connect the Newcomer. The terrible spin-off from the ‘Corinth’s Got Talent’ approach to spiritual gifts was that non-Christians in the meetings were completely confused and switched off. They would leave, deciding the church was off its head – and thereby bring judgement upon itself (this is the meaning of the Isaiah quote and the strange idea of tongues as a ‘sign for unbelievers’ – it means a sign of judgement.) For Paul, the intelligibility of the gifts of the Spirit was as important as their use. It was no good, as far as he was concerned, for Christians to have meetings where wackiness goes on unchecked, jargon is never explained and non-Christians are made to feel like unwelcome aliens. For Paul, being good at welcoming newcomers and helping them understand the word and the Spirit – so that they could come to see that God is real (v.25) was simply being like Jesus. (1 Corinthians 10.32-11.1).

These are essential things to take on board as we continue to grow and excel in the presence and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Joy…Because of the Church

May 11th, 2009

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In this talk John uses the NIV instead of the ESV

Ephesians 3 vs 7-13 (New International Version)

7I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

Eph 3 vs 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms (NIV).

Paul’s passion is that Christ should be made known.
In Eph 3 vs 8 Paul speaks of preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ. There are infinite riches in Christ and unlimited wealth in his salvation. The Incarnation and the Cross have always absorbed the thinking of men and women and still do. For time and eternity we will be explorers of the infinite riches of Christ. Heaven will not be boring!
Eph 3 vs 9 speaks of making plain the administration of this mystery. Again this is about making Christ known. God has a plan – previously it was hidden (a mystery), but now God’s great rescue plan in the work of Christ for men and the world has been revealed. We must make it known.
Eph 3 vs 10 tells us that the manifold wisdom of God should be made known. ‘Manifold’ means multi-coloured or richly diverse. Supremely Christ is the wisdom of God. See 1 Cor 1 vs 22-24, 30. Christ is God’s wisdom as through Christ we have the answers to life, death and eternity. We should make him known.
Eph 3 vs 11 tells us that finally everything is summed up in Christ. Salvation is not just personal; it is cosmic as Eph 1 vs 9, 10 make clear. This comprehensive saving work of Christ must be made known.

Who is meant to know?
Verse 10 tells us that Christ is to be made known to rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. Certainly he is to be made known to the peoples of the world and we are engaged in that mission through evangelism and church planting. But he is also to be made known to angels and demons; to cosmic powers.  But why? Again it reveals the cosmic dimensions of the saving work of Christ. Finally, all that God has created, visible and invisible will submit to Christ. Believers are saved, creation will be renewed and every cosmic power will submit. See Eph 1 vs 20, 21.

How is Christ to be made known?
The thrilling answer is given in verse 10 – ‘through the church’. God’s purpose right now is that through the church Christ should be made known to cosmic powers. How we do this implies some wonderful truths about the church.

By the church’s very existence. The wisdom of God in Christ brings down the barriers between people whether it be race, colour, language or social standing and forms them into one great community. The church is a miracle, a phenomenon, and speaks of God’s wisdom
By declaration. The proclamation of Christ changes people. Sinners become worshippers. Atheists become believers. Persecutors become church planters. Cynics become witnesses. God’s incredible wisdom!
By faith and prayer. Confident approach to God and believing him for great things and therefore doing great exploits reveals a people changed by the wisdom of God. Angels love it and demons tremble when the Church prays and believes.
By her weakness. See verse 13 – there is a link between weakness and glory. The world thinks of the church as weak and failing. Angels and demons see it differently; they see an ever increasing number of people becoming worshippers of Christ from among all the peoples. Glory!
What dignity the church has – there is nothing else like it – what a privilege to belong – Joy…because of the church.

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