Posts Tagged ‘Paul’

On Mission With Jesus – 1 Corinthians 9:15-23

May 17th, 2010

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1. Culture

  • Each culture has its own language, customs, habits, etc, and we have to learn these if we are cross into other cultures. Culture isn’t confined to being international – there are many sub-cultures within any culture. There are even different cultures just as we step outside our front door!
  • Paul dealt with the challenge of culture crossing – he especially needed to as an apostle.
  • Paul was firm and unmoving in his beliefs and convictions, but he was also pliable and able to accommodate different types of people.
  • The problem is that we often assume that our culture superior and is the “right” way of doing things, and we can equate certain customs and cultural values with the gospel – bringing the gospel plus our customs to other cultures. But what we need to do is bring the gospel in its absolute purest form.
  • It is difficult and it isn’t comfortable to cross cultures effectively.
  • Paul is FREE – he is free from trying to impress people and God. He is not taking on other people’s cultures to impress those people, nor is he trying to earn favour with God. He is free from condemnation and free to live for God alone.
  • Paul’s home is not in any culture because it is in heaven, so he can put aside his cultural comforts and enter any other culture.
  • Paul makes himself a servant to all – for the sake of those who don’t know Christ.

2. Jesus

  • Paul was free because of Jesus. Jesus bought our freedom and peace with God with His blood. Jesus was made a servant so that we could be free.
  • The way Paul enters other cultures like this points to something deeper and more powerful – he is acting like Jesus.
  • God Himself came down and entered our world, taking on our likeness, and made all the effort and took all the steps to reach out to us. He gets on our level and communicates to us in a way we can understand.
  • Like Jesus, we are to take the glory of God to other people.
  • Jesus will take us over borders in order to reach those who don’t know Him.
  • We have to learn the cultures and world in which we live – we need to go as far as we can to reach people, without sinning.
  • Don’t put barriers in the way of the gospel!
  • The onus is on us to take the steps and go to people with the gospel.
  • We need to be flexible and get our priorities right.

3. Challenges

  • Listening challenge: we need to learn to listen to others first, as our propensity is usually to preach at people instead. People will listen more when they’ve been heard.
  • Persuasive challenge: we need to know what and why we believe, and we need to give reason for those beliefs. Sometimes we can be superspiritual and just “leave it to the power of God”, but we need to challenge other people’s worldviews because we love them and want them to know Jesus.
  • Sunday challenge: the church has the challenge of drawing people into the community of God. We need to present ourselves and our meetings in an intelligible way, being accessible to all, and not being lazy about explaining what goes on during meetings.
  • Community challenge: drawing people into zones and small groups, particularly those who are on the fringes, and not sticking to Christian cliques. Jesus left the 99 sheep to go and find the one – we’ll grow to be more like Jesus when we reach out to and hang out with those on the edges.
  • Public challenge: this is how we present ourselves as a church in terms of communications, aesthetics, online presence, etc – presented in a clear and relevant way.
  • Misunderstanding challenge: by trying to reach out into our culture(s), people may accuse us of “selling out” and just trying to be “hip”. Other Christians and other churches may cut us off – but true maturity is putting aside the barriers and our personal preferences in order to advance the gospel whatever it takes.

Alternative Fathers 1 Corinthians 4 v 6 – 21

December 7th, 2009

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Admonition, Not Shame

In this letter to the Corinthians Paul sometimes speaks harshly but he is not trying to make them feel ashamed or bad. He wants to admonition them as beloved children. He speaks firmly and corrects them but only in love. This should be our attitude also, we need robust care for one another.

The church is not to be a lecture hall, admonishment is not solely the preachers job. We have a collective responsibility for each other and we all need to preach at, encourage, admonish one another.
We can’t change on our own and we can’t change by just listening to sermons. We, all of us, need small groups, zones, discipleship. We need community to grow.

The thought of opening our lives to other people can be difficult, particularly if we’ve had previous bad experiences when doing this, so we should always look to restore people gently. As a church we need to grow in this.

Power, Not Talk

Paul is utterly confident in the power of God. There is lots of ‘talk’ that we hear and can even engage in ourselves but the test should be how much power comes out of it? If there is no power there the talk is worthless. We should be on guard against foolish talk. The power is in the Gospel not in the talk and Jesus is the only one with genuine power not just talk.

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.

Acts 18: 1-17 Many in this City

September 22nd, 2009

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Why the City?
There are many similarities between the ancient city of Corinth and our own city of Brighton.
There are unique opportunities in Brighton as, like Corinth, it is a city of consequence. Some cities are just influential. What is created in Brighton will have a much wider affect beyond our city, the ripples go out from here.
What could be possible in the next 20 years if we really make a difference in this city?

How the City?
The story of Corinth from Acts 18 emphasises the sovereignty of God in mission – and our partnership with him in it. Our story here in Brighton will be the same. Despite all our efforts and publicity it all rests on His sovereignty.
Like Paul we should seek ‘men of peace’, those who God is already working on, perhaps even people who’ve been part of CCK in the past.

What Price the City?
This great mission will take perseverance and faith.
When the gospel is loudly proclaimed, resistance and persecution will come and sometimes in very public ways. This is when we need to be strong in faith and remember that it’s His gospel.

Author: Categories: Alternative City Tags: , , , ,

Titus 3.1-15 – Gospel Spreaders

September 7th, 2009

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You People are Different [1-2]

Having handled the impact of the gospel on internal relationships amongst God’s people, Paul now specifically calls Titus to set the churches straight in terms of their relationships to outsiders.

In reality this has been Paul’s burden throughout the whole letter [e.g. 2.10]. He wants healthy churches in Crete for the sake of the people in Crete who don’t yet know Jesus. None of this happens in a religious vacuum. We are always God’s sent people, being made holy for the sake of His mission to the multitudes still in darkness [John 17.15-19]. Our lives will either help draw people to Jesus or block people from Him.

The more we get our lives and relationships in line with the gospel, empowered by the gospel, the greater the sway the gospel will have in the city.

Most of us will have stories (perhaps even our own) of those who came to Christ barely needing any persuasion since they saw enough in the revolutionary kinds of relationships on display in the church community. They knew God must be real because they saw how the believers treated each other.

That is what Paul is on about.

This will be an incentive for bringing friends to church. They should see something different – even compelling – amongst us.

Specifically Paul wants Titus to look for submissiveness to those in authority – and courtesy to all people. These things need emphasising as it is easy for Christians to fall into a very ugly superiority complex and self-righteousness in dealing with ‘sinners’ without God.

Perhaps this was especially worth nailing in Crete – with its reputation for squabbling people. The gospel sets us free from the kind of grasping attitude that makes us embittered towards those in authority. Trouble is believers can swap one antagonism for another showing their new zeal for the Kingdom for God by becoming pretty obnoxious.

Remember the Old You? [3]

The root of this nastiness is pride. So Paul typically goes back to the gospel to get us down to earth. He rubs our faces in the hideous human condition without grace (and this leads to one of the most densely packed gospel descriptions in the Bible).

Isn’t it striking how God sees humankind (and God sees things as they are)? It’s an ugly list of evils. It’s also striking that it is not limited either to things we perpetrate (foolish, disobedient, malicious, envious, hating one another) or to things we suffer (led astray, slaves to passions, hated by others). None of us can hide behind our grievances – as though God couldn’t understand. God sees both the wrongs we have done and those done to us – and looks with compassion.

All of us must bear the responsibility of sin. And this is why we need to be saved.

Look What He Did [4-7]

The concept of salvation is odd enough in our culture to make many Christians – even preachers – awkward about using it. Many would rather reduce the gospel to self-help, or moralising, or having a social conscience. All this talk of needing to be saved seems over the top – from a less sophisticated age and culture. But our blindness to our need is just another symptom of the need.

And this blindness leads to religion – where we put together a spiritual construction (God, gods, a force, whatever…) to suit our preferences. But such a thing can have no power to change and rule over us. No more than any kitchen appliance.

The answer for mankind comes not from somewhere within. Our only hope is from someone outside. And this is just what has happened.

Look at how he has saved us. There are a couple of ideas locked up together in verse 5 which come together especially in the phrase ‘washing of regeneration’.

These words allude to promises made back in Ezekiel 36.25-27. God knew that the state of the human heart would always prevent his people from living for him. Something more radical than mere law – even law with great threats – was going to be necessary.

Firstly they would need to be made all over again. That is what this word regeneration is getting at. Paul is saying that, through Jesus, God’s grace has appeared in a new way – a way that was promised centuries before.

And in fact, this grace is not destined for the mere personal fulfilment of some nice religious types. God is bringing his new creation (gk: paligenesis) to the cosmos. Yes, people get to be born again – but that is because the universe will be born again – and God is just starting with people.

So be careful asking Jesus into your life – you are playing with a fire hose.

Secondly they would need to be cleansed, washed – forgiven. Ezekiel gets at this and Paul picks it up here. You word washing may well allude to baptism – but only as an outward demonstration of something which happens through the work of Jesus. Water itself will not deal with our sins. This is why the saviour gave his blood.

The result: we are declared righteous because of the perfect life, death and resurrection of Jesus and given a new nature as part of God’s renewal of the whole creation.

Can this actually be true? Are there really people of whom this is true? In Brighton? They would really stand out, right?

So Love The Lost As You Have Been Loved

Author: Categories: Titus Tags: , , ,

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.