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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

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

1 Corinthians 12 – One Body, Many Parts

August 10th, 2010

Paul is dealing with another issue in the Corinthian church – how they have misunderstood and mishandled the things of the Holy Spirit. They have become sensationalists, becoming obsessed with spiritual and mystical ideas, with having simply an “experience” void of any meaning or purpose. They have also become competitive, having rivalry with spiritual gifts, being proud in how “gifted” they were.

But spiritual gifts are for a purpose and a goal. This is why the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts:

1. To honour Jesus

  • You can only say that Jesus is Lord from the heart by the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Likewise you can’t curse Jesus from the heart if you have the Spirit.
  • The Spirit wants to bring about the Lordship and worship of Christ in people’s hearts.
  • The Spirit brings about revelation of Jesus – who He is and the fact that He’s alive
  • Jesus gets a lot of attention when the Holy Spirit turns up. Jesus sent us the Helper who would bring an awareness of Jesus wherever the Spirit goes.
  • The Holy Spirit is God and should be worshipped as such, and yet He brings attention to the Father and the Son.
  • We don’t worship spirituality, or even just focus only on the Spirit, but God Himself in all He is.
  • The Spirit works powerfully when Jesus is honoured and worshipped and enjoyed and exalted.

2. For the common good

  • Same Lord, same Spirit, same Body.
  • All of us are who are in Christ are given the same manifestation of the Spirit.
  • Spiritual gifts and abilities are for the good of others and the building of the Body. It’s bigger than just you – it’s for the Church.
  • The gifts are to server – otherwise they’re not a gift!
  • Paul uses the analogy of a body – you become part of it automatically when you come to Christ
  • You only hurt yourself if you damage the Body, the same if you hurt one part of your body, there is a knock-on effect on the rest of yourself.
  • We need to live for the overall purpose of the Church.
  • Don’t be a cancer! This is someone who only lives for their own purpose, draining the Body of time and energy. Don’t just be a consumer – be a part of the answer and the solution.
  • The part you play is vital for the Body. A healthy body is where every part plays its correct role. How are you functioning?

This deals with two problems:

1. Self pity (v.15-17)

  • We need to resist feeling like we are not a part of the Body just because we don’t have a particular gift or are not a particular part of the Body.
  • We are not called to be the same as each other – not called to do what others are called to do.
  • We fall into self pity when we can’t do the same thing or be like someone we admire and measure as the idea of a successful Christian. Don’t give into gift envy!
  • Be the most useful version of yourself by the grace of God, to the blessing of the Body. Don’t waste your time trying to be something you’re not!
  • God custom-designed us each for a specific purpose. Eph 2 – we are His workmanship, created for good works which He prepared in advance.
  • You learn what your purpose and role is by trial and error.
  • Help others find out what they’re meant to do – tell them what they’re good at (and be brave enough to tell them what they might not be so gifted in).
  • You won’t find out what you were meant to do if you’re not in the Church!

2. Superiority (v.21-23)

  • We are totally wrong when we identify importance with profile.
  • The last shall be first, the first shall be last.
  • Your gift is not there to make you more public. That may happen anyway, but don’t idolise fame and profile.
  • Give honour to the “lesser parts”. Outdo one another in showing honour to others – be competitive about that!

Self pity and superiority are both issues of the same root problem – a security that is not found in Christ. Find your security in Him – not in how good you are at doing particular things. God could take away your gift at any time, or bring someone along who is more gifted in the same thing as you. Ensure your identity is firmly built on Christ!

Elijah’s Preparation and Release of Elisha

December 15th, 2009

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Transition is a popular theme at the moment as certain people reach a certain stage of maturity! So it was fascinating on Sunday to speak on the theme of Elijah’s preparation and release of Elisha as the one who would take on his mantle.

I have been occasionally speaking at CCK on the life of Elijah over a two-year period, and began on Sunday by pointing out that, though individual life stories can be fascinating, in reality they are not the whole story. Though one life or ministry comes to its conclusion, God’s story, the one that really matters, continues.

As a nation, Israel gave high priority to passing on its heritage to the next generation. Honouring your parents and being wise sons who obey parental counsel was hugely significant. Their world view was shaped by the rehearsing of their history and anticipating their future inheritance.

So Elijah’s disciple needed to be equipped for a ministry that would be wholly consistent with what went before while also developing new dimensions.

Elijah responded to God’s command and initiated what proved to be a loving, open-handed and respectful relationship. Elisha was wholehearted in his response, ‘burning his bridges’, saying goodbye to his past and throwing himself unreservedly into his God-appointed training programme, which proved magnificently fruitful as he ultimately entered into his own particular God-given role, similar yet different, discipled but not cloned.

Jesus told his disciples, ‘go and make disciples’. The apostles obeyed by starting churches, not for mere ‘church-goers’ but where individuals could be ‘apprenticed’ by others who lovingly accept them because Christ has, yet also take responsibility in ‘one-anothering’, mutual discipling, encouraging, admonishing, restoring and equipping.

Maturity and fruitfulness are the goals of a discipling relationship. We need to emulate Elijah’s and Elisha’s great example by embracing life-imparting friendships in local church life that develop us into our full potential in God.

Elisha’s final request, namely a passionate appeal for a double portion of the Spirit that was resting on Elijah, is a great reminder to us that we will never fulfil our Master’s ambitions for us without the same promised outpouring of the Spirit on our lives.

How can we continue the work that our Master started without the power that He enjoyed? Praise God that the promise of the Holy Spirit is for us and for as many as the Lord calls to be his disciples (Acts 2:39).

1 Corinthians 1.1-17 Alternative Attitude

September 28th, 2009

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Grace Makes Us Thankful

After his brief salutation Paul is remarkably positive about this church. He is full of thanksgiving for them. But how can this be so when he is about to open up a can on them? It is because of Paul’s mature gospel based perspective. Do we really understand thankfulness as described and displayed here by Paul?
 
Without thankfulness we betray an evil heart of unbelief (Romans 1). So we must guard our hearts against ingratitude and learn from the Holy Spirit ways of maintaining a thankful heart.
 
Remember this is a grace thing – a gospel thing. It cannot be manipulated, true thankfulness is gospel driven.
 
Grace Promotes Unity

In the third paragraph (10-17) we have Paul’s opening salvo against the fundamental failings of the church. They have written to him about a few things (7.1) – but he will not touch on them until he has got some things off his own chest. He has been told that there is serious division amongst them.
 
There is nothing about Paul’s message and ministry that should naturally lead to factionalism and party spirit. So another influence is at work here. The culture of Corinth was affected by an obsession with popular orators – who had a kind of rock star image. The believers in Corinth had transferred some of that man-centred hubris into the church, imagining that they belong to a particular team in the congregation – not realising that the preachers themselves – including Paul were simply servants.
 
Paul brings them back down to earth by pointing out the centrality and sufficiency of Jesus and his work.

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.

Romans 12:1-10 Gifts & Ministries of the Holy Spirit Part II

April 27th, 2009

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The book of Romans is the closest we get in the Bible to a single explanation of God’s plan of salvation. It starts in chapter 1 with dark comments on the way things went wrong for the human race. Having been made to worship God, men and women turned instead to the worship of created things. The result was foolishness and darkness (Romans 1:21-23).

Well, chapters 2-11 explain how God wins. Through the work of his son Jesus, God has brought a new ‘race’ into existence. And you can tell by the way they worship. You see the book of Romans, when it gets through describing God’s plan, and moves on to the life of those who are rescued by God, automatically starts with worship (Romans 12:1).

Renewed to Worship

The point? Those who belong to Jesus have their minds renewed (Romans 12:2) so they can offer worship, which is ‘reasonable’ (the meaning of the word in Romans 12:1, which is commonly translated ‘spiritual’). Reasonable worship is the opposite of the futility and foolishness of the idolatry of chapter 1.

So Romans, amongst other things, is about God fixing broken worshippers and, by the Holy Spirit, giving them the right mind.

Renewed to Serve

This book then goes on to talk about how these new people, with new minds, treat one another. In these verses we are told how they need to use the gifts God graciously gives to them ‘according the measure of faith assigned’ (Romans 12:3). God has not brought into existence a random bunch of disconnected superheroes and a few nobodies. He has placed us in a body – a body in which everybody plays a part, in which everybody is needed.

This means the end of individual pride and selfish ambition. That is like a cancer in this body. Members which function without the ‘renewed mind’ agenda are dangerous and need correcting. They are ‘conforming to this world’ (Romans 12:2). The antidote is to serve according to the grace and faith that God uniquely gives. This means God’s strength, not our selfishness, is the driving factor.

We’re then given some examples of how different gifts serve the body

  • Prophecy
  • Service
  • Teaching
  • Exhorting
  • Contributing (giving)
  • Leadership
  • Mercy

Renewed to Judge Rightly

Without the goal in mind being the good of the whole body, and without the energy coming from the Holy Spirit, our ‘service’ becomes self-aggrandizing. If we ‘outdo one another’ it should be in ‘showing honour’ (Romans 12:10).

To avoid missing the point we need the sober judgement, which comes from the gospel – a gospel view of ourselves.

This means reflecting on how all that we have (our salvation, our faith, our gifting) is a gift from God – therefore it is nothing we can boast in (1 Corinthians 4:7). We mustn’t idolize our own gifting or we’ll lose perspective and react fearfully or proudly whenever our false self worth is threatened.

To think soberly about oneself is to remember one is nothing special and one has no better thing than Jesus, with whom we must be completely satisfied, however well our gift is received!

We must also avoid idolizing other people’s gifts, to the point where we wish we were someone else and, instead of practicing our own measure of faith, submit to unbelief.

The main gift of the Holy Spirit is a renewed mind. With that in place everything else falls into place.

The final thing we need to do is settle with the fact that God has put us in a body. The best way to discover our gifts is to find out what it is we do which truly builds up other members. Then we can go crazy playing to our strengths. But this is humbling as we need to start accepting the evaluation of the people around us.

That can hurt but the gospel helps us to remember we are nothing special in ourselves – but loved as the most treasured possessions of almighty God! This means we can afford to get our ‘spiritual gifts ego’ jilted from time to time.

Apostles and Evangelists

April 6th, 2009

Sunday before last at CCK I preached the fourth of six messages on the theme of the Holy Spirit. The focus this time was on the gifts of the Holy Spirit (and this will remain as the theme for the rest of the series). I looked especially at the ministry gifts listed in Ephesians 4:11 and we finished the evening service with one of our occasional Q and A sessions.

I only had time to take a couple this time as the first two needed long answers.

Another that came in, however, was worth a quick blog entry:

The foundation of the church was laid long ago, so why do we still need apostles?

There is a sense in which the foundation of the church was laid long ago. The first apostles in that respect were unique. The whole church through history was given its foundation in the complete writings of scripture – and there is no authority above the scripture. Any ‘Apostle’ or ‘Prophet’ suggesting otherwise (or claiming some secret interpretation of scripture over against the obvious one) should be ignored – or pushed off a cliff. Yes in that sense the foundation is complete, final and not to be supplemented.

But to deduce from this that all the foundation laying in church life has been done forever is a mistake. Every generation – and indeed every church – will have foundations: non-negotiable deal-breaker characteristics, doctrines, values, principles, goals and sustained passions. These exist by default. In any given community, you keep pushing and you’ll soon find what these things are. What are these people living for? What makes them tick? What can you get thrown out for? What is the mission, how do you know who is in on it, and on what basis do you get in? The answers to these questions are your foundations.

Either these foundations will be laid down by accident or deliberately. The people who lay them should not do so according to preferences. The first apostles knew they were servants of revelation and insisted that this revelation should be set down at the very heart of every local church. When they laid this foundation properly, their work would take them elsewhere. This is surely the kind of activity Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 3:10 every local church needed apostolic foundations. With these in place in a key city, Paul could consider a whole region to have as good as received the gospel (Acts 19:10; Romans 15:18-19).

Apostles given by Jesus to the church today must continue to lay foundations in every church. The major difference between today’s apostles and ancient ones is that today’s apostles submit to, and apply, the scriptures – they don’t write them!

On another note, I also taught that Sunday on the Ephesians 4:11 gift of evangelist and referred to Phil Turner as a good example of this gift in CCK. Well I like to think I was proved right this week. Phil preached at our services today and saw at least 22 people make a response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Aside from baptizing 16 new believers – 8 at each service – I’d say that made it a good day. Jesus is giving gifts for the building of his church

Ephesians 4:1-16: Gifts & Ministries of the Holy Spirit Part I

March 31st, 2009

Often we feel like we need to defend the church or even ignore the church if we are to lead people to Jesus. Is it possible that the church is the primary reason men and women don’t accept Jesus Christ? However, the church is God’s plan, the only answer. God’s plan throughout history is worked out through the church.

God’s has given grace gifts to the church, in particular gifts of leadership. In the church everyone is on an equal footing, leader or otherwise but the ascended Christ has given some leaders to serve the church. Leadership starts with service and ends with service.

God has given apostles, to outwork foundational values in churches, Prophets to bring God’s word for a particular moment and Evangelists to help bring people into the Kingdom of God.

Luke 3:15-17; Acts 1:1-8 – He Will Drench You

March 16th, 2009

What is this?
Acts 2 fulfils John the Baptist’s statement concerning Jesus ‘He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit’.

At Pentecost, the disciples were filled with the promised Holy Spirit. This changed everything for them. For example, the Spirit transformed Peter from a coward denying Jesus to a man preaching to thousands that they had killed the Son of God.

Peter, along with the other disciples in Acts 2, believed in Christ’s resurrection from the dead and that He was the Son of God long before being filled with the Holy Spirit. So did the Samaritan converts in Acts 8 and Paul in Acts 9. The Ephesian disciples in Acts 19 are probably not yet real believers – but Paul’s question to them is nevertheless revealing.

Throughout Luke’s writings, the baptism in the Holy Spirit is distinct from salvation through believing in Christ – even though the two happen together in Acts 10.

Throughout the book of Acts there seems to be a general theme of an experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. It is always more than a secret work.

How does this happen?
Often through the laying on of hands, but not always. There are visible manifestations of the infilling of the Holy Spirit – for example the gift of tongues (languages). But there are some Spirit filled men who do not speak in tongues. That said, it would not be wise to despise the gift of languages.

Have you received this?
There are 5 types of people:

  • You know you have been Holy Spirit baptised
  • You have not and want to be
  • You are not sure
  • You have not and you think you have
  • You don’t know Jesus yet

Ask Jesus and He will give the Holy Spirit to you.

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