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Posts Tagged ‘Freedom’

Hannah’s Misfortune

January 18th, 2011

1 Samuel 1:1-7

  • This is a story of pain and agony – Hannah is barren, which is a traumatic thing anyway, but in the culture of her day it carried social stigma and shame. It was seen as a sign of disfavour and failure to not be able to have children.
  • Furthermore, living under the same roof as Hannah is her husband Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, who continuously mocks and taunts her and adds to her sense of inferiority.
  • We look at the 2 people closest to Hannah and how they responded to her suffering:

1. Elkanah

  • Although he wasn’t very sympathetic with his words, he did do something well: he dealt compassionately with Hannah.
  • He gave her a double portion ‘because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb’. He offered kindness and affirmation despite knowing that God has closed her womb.
  • He recognises that God has the power to open Hannah’s womb but hasn’t – he recognises God’s sovereignty over the situation, that nothing happens without God’s allowing it. He doesn’t try and excuse God.
  • The example of Job – people blamed his suffering on something wrong he had done, like modern-day karma. Whereas it was nothing to do with that.
  • The example of the blind man that Jesus healed in the gospels – the disciples queried whether it was his sin or his parents’ sin that made him blind; Jesus said neither, but so that the glory of God might be shown.
  • Our response should not be spectacle about why certain suffering happened, but compassion and love for that person and trust in God and His wisdom.
  • We often have no idea why God’s doing what He’s doing in our life and in the lives of others – but we do know that God works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). He has a plan and a purpose.
  • Elkanah believed God was good even before the greatest act of God’s goodness and love took place – His Son coming to earth to be misunderstood and rejected and to suffer for us.
  • Psalm 73:16-17 – we need to keep the big picture in mind – eternity.

2. Peninnah

  • The same phrase is used about God closing Hannah’s womb in relation to how Peninnah responded. The same 2 people can have the same theology and understanding, but one can be compassionate and the other can be cruel.
  • We look at Peninnah and question how someone can be so cruel – but we should be careful because we are only a few steps away from acting the same.
  • She is probably jealous of Hannah – Elkanah gives Hannah a double portion and shows special love for her. Peninnah therefore cannot enjoy her own life and is robbed of joy.
  • Jealously is incredibly harmful and destructive – it is so easy for us to be jealous of people are are seen as more special than us, e.g. Joseph and his brothers (Gen. 37:4).
  • Peninnah probably is satisfied with her lot of children – she wants what Hannah has that she doesn’t have, so she taunts Hannah about she has and Hannah doesn’t.
  • We secretly love it when the people we envy fall.
  • Envy rots your bones – Prov. 14:30.
  • Envy thrives on pride because we want to feel more special than others and for people to acknowledge it – in other words, we want to be worshipped.
  • We can only deal with pride through the gospel and understanding it. We see that we are desperately wicked and needy and deserve nothing, and that Jesus had to die a horrific death because of the evil of our sin and pride.
  • We can be freed to be truly happy for others and to offer kindness to others because God shows us such mercy.
  • Get to know Jesus and you’ll find you become more like Him.

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

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

1 Corinthians 6:12 – 7:5 Why is Sex Such a Big Deal?

January 25th, 2010

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Sexual freedom is supposed to bring liberty but instead it enslaves and controls people. We think that somehow our physical bodies are disconnected from the spiritual. We think that what we do with our bodies doesn’t affect us but it does. Jesus was a physical man after the resurrection and is now still a physical man.

The sexual act creates a union, we become one flesh. It is created to take place in a marriage relationship. Marriage itself is a foretaste of something greater, it points to our union with Christ, we are his bride. Also, sex points to something better, something greater. God created sex to point to the joy we’ll experience in eternity with him. Knowing God is profound union, sex is a picture of that.

Our application
We should flee from sexual immorality and deal ruthlessly with temptation

2 Corinthians 3:7-4:6 Death or Freedom?

March 2nd, 2009

Freedom for Bondage?
In the Bible, freedom is understood as freedom to worship (and thereby serve) God. The Exodus (the rescue of Israel from slavery in Egypt) is a story picture of this. Paul is using Exodus language here to link themes of freedom and true worship. The irony is that the Exodus generation, having been liberated, received the law, which Paul sees as a bondage to the Jew.

Freedom for Freedom
In this respect the difference between the Exodus generation and believers in Jesus could not be more striking. Unlike those who knew God only through Torah (the law) we are set free for freedom (Galatians 3).

Paul paints the difference in striking terms – life and death… when it comes to finding a way to live and worship – choose the way of the Spirit – not the law.
And this is only possible if you are born of the Holy Spirit.

  • The law condemns the old heart
  • The Spirit gives a new heart
  • The law gives instructions
  • The Spirit gives companionship
  • The law puts nails in the coffin
  • The Spirit sows seeds of life
  • The law veils our eyes
  • The Spirit opens our eyes
  • The law makes you a slave
  • The Spirit makes you a son
  • The law promotes to compliance or hardness
  • The Spirit promotes love and joyful obedience

Working It Out
The application of this is 2 pronged: reckon on it… have high expectations of new covenant life – and don’t trade them in…
Sow to the Holy Spirit – time, edification, fellowship with God.
God’s desire for the sons of Adam: glad worship and obedience from a liberated heart