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Posts Tagged ‘Love’

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.

Hannah’s Husband

January 12th, 2011

1 Samuel 1:1-8

  • The nature of the human heart is that we love stories and want to be apart of them.
  • God is the great Storyteller and He involves people – we get to play a part.
  • The Bible is about the Great Story – and it is true!
  • God created the world to be a place of His shalom – wholeness, things being as they should be. But we rejected God and replaced Him with ourselves, and consequently shalom has been broken.
  • But God’s plan is to restore His shalom – He will not quit until it is complete.
  • In the book of Samuel, God is establishing the idea of a righteous King; King David stands out the most, but even he is not the true King. He points to the King who will come and rule over the whole world forever.
  • This story begins in a dysfunctional domestic situation – we see Hannah, and her situation is a sad one. She is barren – which in that day brought not only grief but also shame on her – and she is in a bigamous marriage, where the other wife Penninah constantly provokes her.
  • Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, has not done a good job and has made brought pain into her life by marrying another woman, departing from God’s design for marriage.
  • Bigamy is not promoted in the Bible – it is merely describing the situation. Not everything in the Bible is prescriptive – the Bible is full of people’s sin, errors and wrongdoing, so we can learn from their mistakes.
  • Throughout the ages we have fled from God’s plan for marriage – from polygamy to co-habitation in our present day. People just go along with the way everyone else in society does it. And women are usually always the ones who suffer because of it.
  • Another of Elkanah’s errors is the way he responded to Hannah’s grief – he effectively tells her just to stop crying being sad, because he can’t cope. He fails to really listen or to sympathise or to enter into her grief with her. He just wants it to be solved and to go away.
  • It is demanding to enter into somebody’s else’s pain, especially when we have our own issues going on.
  • Often husbands will take their wife’s sadness to mean they’ve failed and that they’re not respected – but husbands are called to love their wife above themselves. How can they do this? Ephesians 5:25-35 – Jesus, the perfect Husband, is the role model – He sacrificially gave Himself for His Bride, the Church. He knows more than anyone what it is like to lack respect from His Bride.
  • We need to receive God’s love in order to love other people. God gives us the emotional resources we need to love others – even the unlovely.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 – God comforts us so that we can comfort others with the same comfort He gives to us.

1 Corinthians 13 – Love

September 20th, 2010

This is a popular and beautiful chapter, but we mustn’t forget that it is also a useful and practical chapter – meant to change and prepare us and help us understand the character of Jesus.

1. Love rescues us from futility

  • Love gives us meaning
  • We fill our life with things – career, relationships, entertainment – to cover the emptiness we feel deep inside and give us some kind of meaning. We construct our own meaning.
  • In this passage, Paul is deconstructing some things that the Corinthians have built to give their lives meaning and importance – e.g. spiritual gifts, impressive talents, etc. They were impressed with the wrong things.
  • Without love, all of these “impressive” things are nothing. Even generous giving and devout religion is nothing without love.
  • Paul is talking about motives – why we do what we do, rather than just what we do. This is exactly what Jesus was concerned with.
  • There is even the danger of raising our kids to do the “right” things regardless of the motives, teaching them effectively to do things to impress people rather from a genuine heart.

2. Real love is a miracle

  • The definition of love is shockingly unlike what we are naturally like.
  • The parable of the Pharisee and the sinner praying – the sinner was the one counted as righteous because he acknowledged how far short he fell, and there was hope for him because of that. This is how we are to be – aware of our desperate need of mercy and help, not making excuses for how we are already “nice” and “good”.
  • This passage is a description of Jesus who never failed at love.
  • Jesus scored 100% on every point of love, and that was transferred to us in exchange for our sin! All of Jesus’ goodness is given to us a free gift – this is the wonder of the gospel! It changes everything, changes how we live – we are transformed by His love.
  • Luke 7:47 – the woman knew she was forgiven much, and so she loved much.
  • We love God and love others because we understand how loved we are.

3. God has made it possible

  • God makes love possible.
  • Paul reminds the Corinthians that spiritual gifts are temporal. He wants to get to the motives of why they want spiritual gifts, and wants them to gain perspective of what’s really important. The gifts are there to serve something greater.
  • Faith, hope and love are the most important things – and love is the greatest. We see Jesus dimly now but one day we will see Him face-to-face – so we rely on faith and hope now in order to love on earth, but in heaven we won’t need faith or hope. Love, however, is everlasting and will be in heaven for all eternity.
  • When we don’t love others it is because we don’t trust in it – we don’t have faith that someone has our back when we put others first, and we don’t trust in the promise of the outcome or that Christ is all-sufficient for us.
  • In order to love we need to first be filled with God, satisfied in Him.
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Romans 14:1-17

September 7th, 2010

Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Paul was concerned about the church in Rome and that there was a split over certain issues. The church in Rome was a very key and important one in that day, and it was crucial that they got it right. In working out their Christianity, there became a divide between Jews and Gentiles on matters of  food, drink, holy days, etc.  However, there should be harmony in the church – God wants unity and oneness in Christ.

They were trying to reduce Christianity to rules and regulations. Colossians 2, however, says self-made religion and rules is of no value in becoming Christlike. We need to seek the things of Christ and set our minds on things above. For the Kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking and rules, but of love and peace and God’s power.

Paul defines the Kingdom of God:

1. Righteousness
• All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s righteousness, but in the gospel He gives us the gift of His righteousness.
• It is completely free – not our own but a gift from God.
• On the cross there was the great substitution – our sin was exchanged for Christ’s righteousness.
• Romans 4:5 – ‘the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness’. A righteousness not from the law.
• Religion and our own “righteousness” is like dung to God.
• We fall from grace when when we follow laws to try and be righteous, or try to add to Jesus’ righteousness. We have been perfected for all time!

2. Peace
• We have an untroubled conscience as we now have peace with God through Jesus. We are accepted forever.
• No condemnation! Satan cannot accuse us of anything because we have been cleansed of all our sin.
• We also have peace to deal with the troubles and issues of life.
• Peace to live well and to die well – there is no longer fear of death.
• It surpasses all understanding.

3. Joy in the Holy Spirit
• The church is often seen as a killjoy, but the New Testament church began with an explosion of joy!
• As Christians, we have more than enough reason to rejoice! We have conquered death through Jesus and will live forever!
• It is of the Spirit – not a joy associated with our circumstances but from God – otherworldly.
• Be happy in Jesus! It prevents against misery, complaining, grumbling, etc.
• It is better than being drunk, enabling you to a carefree life.
• We should have to use the gospel to explain why we are so happy!
• God is exceedingly happy beyond imagination – He laughs and sings and dances with joy!

All the 3 aspects are in/of the Holy Spirit – the New Covenant is under the Spirit. We live a life full of God, not by rules. Christians are those who live a supernatural life from meeting with a supernatural God.

A promise from the Bible – you will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh if you walk by the Spirit, filled with God. It is a command to the whole church to be filled with the Spirit – not just a personal thing.

Don’t reduce the gospel to a list of silly rules! Live in the power of God.

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

1 Corinthians 6 v 12 – 20 Sex and Purity

February 1st, 2010

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The first experience of sex in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2) was without shame, there were no hang ups. But Adam and Eve fell away from God into rebellion and immediately were ashamed. One of the many results of our rebellion is a sense of shame and embarrassment associated with nakedness and sexuality. We now no longer use sex to worship God but now we can worship sex itself.

God’s model for us is to enjoy sex within a covenant relationship, a lifelong marriage commitment made before God of the body and soul to one another.

In sex we are looking for pleasure
We are designed to look for and find our pleasure in God. God intends pleasure for us and ultimately only He can give it to us. We look for it elsewhere but it can only give limited returns.

Sex is a magnificent gift from God but in itself it makes a terrible God.

In sex we are looking for love and security
We crave physical intimacy because we are looking for love, support, security, protection etc. Again God intended that this need was ultimately fulfilled in Him and Him alone.

A lifestyle pattern can develop of desiring physical intimacy and this, or the person who gives it, can become our saviour.  This can lead to a blinding dependence on people which can lead to abuse.

Defilement and the answer
The reason we are left feeling defiled is really the same reason we feel guilt. We feel guilt because of guilt. We feel defiled because we are defiled.

In the end something has to objectively be done to set us free and the fullest true answer is what Jesus alone can do. Through real repentance, which is rediscovering the person we should have been worshipping in the first place, we can be free. The route to freedom is finding our joy in Jesus.

Through the cross we can receive forgiveness and also cleansing from our sin. Part of the work of the cross is the removal of shame from us. It’s taken away. In our place Jesus has became the scapegoat, he became shame for us.

Titus 2.1-2; 6-8; 11-15 Gospel Men

June 29th, 2009

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Paul doesn’t ASSUME believers will automatically live a life in line with the doctrine they have believed. This is a temptation preachers can give in to. There is, and always will be, a specific place – a vital need – for exhortation. Don’t just teach the sound doctrine – teach what ACCORDS with it. Lifestyle, choices, etc.

This is why Titus needs to be tough (good thing he was. He has a tough name too. Paul might have been more worried if he was writing to someone called Rupert). People like debating doctrine all day – but when you suggest their life changes it gets awkward.

But here’s the thing – it must accord with sound doctrine: the grace, which teaches us to say no to ungodliness. How does it do that? It replaces ungodly passions with godly zeal…

With this in place we can be exhorted/instructed as to how we should live… if this is not in place – the exhortation is either water off a duck’s back, a provocation, a miserable burden or a reason for smug moralistic pride…

So the work of Christ comes first. He purifies us and makes this life possible. So how does sound doctrine express itself thru men? N.B. All of Paul’s exhortations have a missional focus. The gospel must have a good rep in the city. Titus needs to ensure this. Guys being stupid are harming the progress of the gospel by distorting it.

The older guys are called to sobriety, dignity, self-control and soundness in faith, love and steadfastness… Paul is using his faith, hope and love trio – but the hope is being expressed in terms of steadfastness. For older guys this would appear the way it shows. Maybe hope is an easier thing for young guys – so older men are called to be sound in steadfastness.

Young men need to be self controlled – and Titus needs to exemplify this. So that men will never shame the gospel.

Joy…Because of You

May 18th, 2009

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