Sermons to Read

If you go to YouTube and search for KCVICAR you can watch the sermons there

7 Mar 21: Building Healthy Churches - Discipleship

Reading - Hebrews 12:1-3

Today I want us to consider a second calling that all Christians share: WE ARE CALLED TO BECOME LIKE JESUS.

 

The comedian Tim Vine said, “As a scarecrow, people say I’m outstanding in my field. But hay – it’s in my jeans”.  In one way and another we are all a product of our genes and our environment; nature and nurture – but also of our choices.   I must admit I have sympathy with two guys who have recently started training on the road just outside the vicarage, both possess the bodies that all of us in middle age know only too well. One of them said he’s fighting his genes, that he has to wrestle with what nature landed him with in terms of weight gain. Ah it’s hard, the big temptation is to give in and say ‘that’s just the way I was made’ – but when the heart starts hurting, and catching your breath becomes harder and everything becomes such an effort – it’s not time to give up but to get up and do something about it. And they are – good on ‘em!

Obviously, we are in Lent and we journey with Jesus as He faces pressure from outside to bow the knee before various temptations – and He fights the good fight and deploys the truth of Gods word to fuel His defence, and He overcomes.

In the early church we can see that those first believers sought to journey with Jesus – they were hungry – hungry to become like Jesus and that meant they were hungry for information that would lead to inspiration – so we read in Acts 2 ‘they gave themselves to the apostles teaching and to prayer’ – 2 good Lenten disciplines of learning and praying. They understood that the way to become like Christ is to capture the vision of Christ and then to allow that vision to capture every other part of their lives.

A healthy church will be a growing church – and of course the church is not the building it is the people, so that means we all have to be growing.  Do you recall the first time you ever went on a escalator – a moving walkway!!?  In Bradford Kirkgate Mkt Mall – of course we kids all immediately made for the downward flowing esc and ran up it the wrong way! You could do it as long as you didn’t stand still!  Someone once said that the Christian life is like walking up a downward flowing escalator – go fast enough and you’ll make progress, stop and you go backwards - so, we all have to life-long learners otherwise we will go backwards.   Q? As you review your Christian life are you still hungry to learn more about Jesus or have you come to a standstill, or worse, started going backwards?? Friends without a crystal clear vision of Jesus you will soon go backwards – but when you are possessed of a vision of Him that fires your heart you will make progress.

Q? HOW CAN WE BECOME LIKE JESUS – well it doesn’t just happen – it will involve intentional action, just as any victory on the field of endeavour doesn’t just happened it is the result of careful attention and discipline – of course the word disciple and discipline come from the same root.

In the rdg Mitch just did for us fm Heb 12:1-3 we read about 4 principles that can help us grow deliberately in our discipleship – to make progress on the journey to becoming more like Jesus day by day: 1. SOMETHING YOU MUST KNOW  2. SOMETHING YOU MUST THROW      3. SOMEWHERE YOU MUST GO  4. SOMEONE YOU MUST SEE

1. SOMETHING YOU MUST KNOW – you are being watched!! When the author of Heb says we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, they mean that gone before us is a whole host of other believers who have run their race, and they’re now in the stalls watching us as we take to the field to run ours, not looking to see if we fall but cheering us on, and if we do fall they don’t shout boo they shout get up, come you can do it!!  Now for some of us we have to deal with a certain mindset, that feels like God or others are always judging us, maybe waiting for us to fail and that discourages us and puts us off trying. Friends we have to be for each other, we have to want the best for each other and encourage one another. But also we have to recall God is watching and wanting us to succeed, that’s why He has given us His Spirit to empower and gift us. He is NOT like the policeman in the sky just waiting to catch you out – St Paul wrote ‘if God is for us who can be against us’ He is FOR YOU NOT AGAINST YOU. That’s something you must know. God and His people are right behind you! How encouraging is that!

2. SOMETHING YOU MUST THROW – “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles”.  We all have certain weaknesses, certain temptations we are susceptible to.  Q? What are yours? Habits – that maybe harm your body? Attitudes – that colour your personality and spoil your relationships?  Perhaps Character traits – that get you into trouble?   Friends the first step to overcoming these problems is to spot them (ask those who know you best – they’ll tell you!), then name the sins that have entangled you, and throw them off.  Friends anybody involved in doing anything serious will realise that time is.    IN this recent pandemic we have witnessed how the scientific community have worked with huge commitment to develop vaccines – simply amazing!!                As they worked they will have had to prioritise tasks – some things have to come before others; they laid aside distractions – maybe good things but not the most important, and they would have had to steward their precious time wisely and even worked overtime sacrificially, why? Because we do not have all the time in the world, the clock is ticking.       But look at what they achieved when they did all these things – the product of their labour may well be pumping around your body today protecting you!    If we want to become like Jesus what do we need to throw off?

3. SOMEWHERE YOU MUST GO – where? Well it’s your day at the races, your lane has been called, it’s now time for you to take to the field and “run with perseverance the race marked out for you”.  But look you don’t go alone – your friend Percy Verance comes with you!! He’s a helpful guy to have around, with him you can really go places!   You know  there’s a certain bottom line about discipleship and it’s this – you either choose to do it or you choose not to do it. Indifference (not being bothered one way or the other) is a choice not to do it, putting things off (procrastination) is a choice not to do it, but making the decision, getting your kit on and walking out onto the field is a choice to do it!  That’s decisive action.    The thing is if we do not choose to be serious about our discipleship we will miss it, it won’t just happen we need to be deliberate about our discipleship – so, are we in the race or not turning up? Are we on the road to discipleship or the road to nowhere?    Are you running or retiring?     Is your faith about entertainment or endeavour? Is it about fun or the run?

So – something you must know: God & His people is rooting for you

- something you must throw – all the stuff that impedes our progress

- somewhere you must go – to the race set out before you and do it with commitment!

 

Finally,  SOMEONE YOU MUST SEE – becoming like Jesus is not just about principles, it’s about a person: Jesus.  It’s one thing to read a book, it’s another to be shown how to do something by someone.   As we reflect upon Jesus in Scripture – our daily bread - we catch how He dealt with people, we catch what made Him happy and angry, we see the effects of His life and His love on others and we experience it for ourselves. Becoming like Jesus won’t be by just not by just having principles, but it will happen as we give ourselves to the apostles teaching and to prayer and by allowing His Holy Spirit to work in us, to follow His promptings.  From that organic rather than academic place we get a vision that is compelling!! So Heb12  says ‘FIX your eyes upon the person of Jesus’ and when we do - that will aid us in our knowing, throwing and going!! The writer says “consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” – Jesus our leader will inspire us as we fix our eyes upon Him.

A daily discipline of reading scripture and praying is the starting block, training with others is a great help, being regular in church on Sundays is fundamental.  The Big question – do you want to become more like Jesus? If we do and we go for it we will build a strong and healthy church…… if we’re not really bothered well I hope everything else you do in church is lovely and that you enjoy the time you have it, because it will have no future.

21 Feb 21: Building Healthy Churhces - Worship

READING - EPHESIANS 1:1-10

I want you to have a look at these amazing pictures; they are all the work of an American artist called Eric Grohe who specialises in transforming spaces through art murals.

The visual affect is stunning – the drab reality gives way to a vision that transforms, that vision then works it’s magic on those around it – and the world becomes a better place.     A chap called Rick Warren once said this when talking about the need for vision and to have some kind of a clear purpose as you move into the future,

“A clear purpose statement will provide the direction, vitality, the boundaries and the driving force for everything you do”

As we move together into the future and build church together we need to have a clear vision of what we want to do and why.

As I explore the pages of the NT I see that at the heart of the healthy young church we see there are 5 important features around which their life grew and flourished:

Discipleship, Fellowship, Worship, Ministry and Evangelism.

Acts 2:42 tells us this:

The Fellowship of the Believers

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

We will be exploring each of these dimension of a healthy church as we go forward in Lent but I want us to start with Worship.

Now the text there mentions ‘breaking of bread and prayer’ – holy communion and prayer – just a couple of aspects of their shared worship – but there is another and it is in vs45 ‘they gave to anyone who had need’. There are 2 Gk words used n NT for worship one is proskuneō - lit means ‘to kiss towards’ maybe it’s like blowing a kiss – a visible expression of love and adoration towards someone and our hymn singing, prayer and worship are aspects of that, but the other word is latreuo which means to minister. So, in acts of adoration and in service we worship God.

 

Jesus said that the greatest command is to ‘love the Lord our God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength’ – that’s worship.  And yet we all know that you cannot command someone to worship – oh you may force them to their knees and get them to say certain words – but that’s not worship, worship – by it’s very nature, must be freely given, just as love has to be freely given not commanded nor coerced. Worship is a response not an attempt to curry favour or meet a demand. We all know that in a successful marriage you will have 2 people who adore and serve one another freely, sacrificially and persistently – a beautiful thing!

 

So, if worship is a response to something – what is that something?

 

Well, it’s that 4 letter word. And friends we need to be crystal clear on something here – God has a calling on all of our lives – but it is not firstly to obey Him, it is not to be His servant, it is not even to do good!! The very first call God makes upon us is to know that we are loved, loved by Him.

 

Now we get so used to saying ‘oh yes God loves us all’ that it can lose the affect it should have on us – there are numerous things that happen when you know you are loved:

 

1. You feel accepted

 

2. You feel significant

 

3. You feel relieved!

 

1. Feeling Accepted:  I recall one day getting off a train in Lincoln station when Jane and I were courting.  She’d had her hair done specially to meet me and silly old me I walked straight past her – I didn’t recognise her!!  But when I did, we embraced and just held each other, she rested her head on my shoulder and I rested mine on her head – and we savoured a moment where we knew we were loved and accepted. How wonderful!  (BTW yesterday was our 39th Wed Ann).  In our rdg: Eph 1:4 - .” 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us …” Think of that before He made the stars and ignited the sun He loved you; before He lay down the mountains and poured out the seas He loved you.   And even when we did not know Him, when we had turned away from Him – He still loved us and kept holding out His nail-pierced hands of grace. He has never been ashamed of you and nor does He ever begrudgingly welcome anyone, He just loves us – St Paul tells us that we are His workmanship – His prized possession. He loves us and accepts us.  That doesn’t mean

 

2. When you know you are loved, you know that you are significant, that your life matters, you are valued. In our rdg St Paul tells us that not only does God love us – He chose us!! Now there’s a mystery, and it’s not like lining up in the playground waiting to be picked for a team – wondering if it would ever happen! God sees our true potential; He knows of what we are made and has a place for us in His great purposes for the world. When you know you are loved, you know that you are significant – significant enough to be loved. And look at this it gets even better – He choses us not just to employ us in His great plans, He choses us to become members of His very own family!!! Vs5: 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do”.. and listen to this, “and it gave him great pleasure”.  He not only loves us – He even likes us!

 

3. When you know you are loved, you can relax, you can feel relieved. One of the most heart-breaking things in life is to feel no-one wants you, to be friendless, to be without those to whom you can belong, to be lonely. It’s a terrible thing to feel that you don’t matter to anyone or that ultimately in the great big scheme of things your life didn’t matter!  But friends when a person becomes a Christian all of that is chased away into the shadows – we can know we are loved, accepted and significant. Wow, that is such a relief and it is good news indeed - it means that ultimately I play to an audience of One, there is no-one else I need to impress only Him.

But how can we know all this is true? By looking at what Christ was willing to do on our behalf – it’s there in our rdg v6&7 “6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins”.   What a relief – no matter what others think about me, no matter what I sometimes think of myself – Jesus Christ loves me, so much so He suffered the cross so I could be rescued from, reconciled to God and renewed in the image of my maker! And when you know that someone has done all of that for you because they love you – well there is only one response and it is love. St John, the patron saint of our churches wrote this “We love because He first loved us”. That love we call worship.

 

And worship is the very basis of the church – not beautiful music, not a heavenly choir, not well-crafted liturgy and profound prayers, not a lovely building. All of these are important – but without love behind them it’s just window dressing.   But with love firing them up they become moments of joy and then overflow in our fellowship – how we care for one another, when love is present it motivates our desire to grow more like Jesus – that’s discipleship, when we love we want to serve and care for others that’s ministry, and when we understand the height and depth and breadth of God’s love we want it for others – that’s evangelism!

 

So as we look to build healthy churches together in the future – let’s understand first and foremost our very first calling is to know we are loved, so let’s fall into that love and embrace a truth that assures us we are accepted, we are significant and we can feel relieved! Amen

NEW SERIES - Seeing God as Father, Son & Holy Spirit

God the Father: 6 Jun 21

A 54 year old woman had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital.

While on the operating table she had a near death experience.  Seeing the Lord she asked "Is my time up?"            God said, "No, you have another 33 years, 2 months and 8 days to live."       Upon recovery, the woman decided to stay in the hospital and have a face-lift, liposuction, breast implants and a tummy tuck.     She even had someone come in and change her hair colour and brighten her teeth! Since she had so much more time to live, she figured she might as well make the most of it.  After her last operation, she was released from the hospital. Sadly, whilst crossing the street on her way home, she was knocked down by an amb.              
Arriving in front of God, she demanded, "I thought you said I had another 33 years?  Why didn't you pull me from out of the path of the ambulance?"  God replied:  I didn't recognize you."

 

Now, last Sunday was Trin Sun & took time to think about the way we see God. It’s an important issue and so I wanted to take some time to consider a bit more closely how we see God as Father, Son & Holy Spirit over the cse of the next few weeks. Today   God the Father.

In our 1st rdg we have a typical OT vision of God – a God who has acted in time and history, a God who has acted in deliverance and shown Himself as an all-powerful and awesome God, and yet a God to be known - a God who is Father as well as the very One who made us, as a potter works the clay.

 

In the gospel reading Jesus, speaking of prayer, wants to bring us ever closer, ever deeper into the knowledge of God – the God who knows us in all our needs – but who wants us to know Him and seek Him in the private places of the heart through prayer. And so He tells us 9 “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father ….” 

 

Now I am conscious that for a number of people our relationship to our Father has not been straightforward and actually may have been quite damaging. When the Bible uses that term about God it’s important that we do not anthropomorphosise God – God is God, He is not human – He’s not even that gentle Father Christmas type figure we so wish He was, who winks at sin and then let’s ‘em in!  The term ‘Father’, when used of God, is useful only inasmuch as we connect with the meanings intended by that term, it is NOT useful if we project our experience of earthly fathers onto Him, that will only obscure and not reveal Him to us – true fatherhood is to be recognised when it is taken up into God, not when God is brought down to earthly images and meanings.

 

There are 2 principle meanings of God as Father that Scripture illuminates for us:

1. God the Father as Creator

2. God the Father as Carer

1. God the Father as Creator:  as early as ch1 of Genesis we learn that “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” and as male and female we were charged with being fruitful and multiplying. Any vision of humanity that seeks to mute the sexual and physical distinction between male and female is not only scientifically in error or psychological confusion, it also does violence to the very nature of what it means to be made in the image of God. But amidst our diversity there is also an elevating unity in that together – as male and female – we represent the very image and likeness of God, and it is this that makes the knowledge of God comprehensible – there’s enough to learn about God that we can recognise Him because we are like Him, but enough also to demarcate our differences – He is Creator we are Created.

The importance of understanding God the Father as Creator is to recognise that in human beings there is something more than merely a spark of the divine – there is the very image of God! We share powerful family likenesses in our nature that bear witness to the fact that God is our Father -  we have the capacity for creativity, we have the capacity for morality we know right from wrong, we have power to initiate and make things happen and we have the power of will – to will things into existence through our power of thought, learning and the application of our abilities. IN all of this we are outstanding in creation, and we are outstanding because we are the very creation of God, not just a product  of random and accidental moments in time that evolved through history and are merely intelligent matter today. St Paul speaks of humanity as God’s handiwork – the Greek word used there is poema from which we derive the word ‘poetry’ you and I – we are poetry in motion, and the fingerprints of God are all over us. God our Father as Creator.

There is no such thing as an accidental child, only accidental parents! Every human being is the creation of God.   It’s really important for us to own that truth, to think that into the way we treat each other, our children, our peers and co-workers, and how we treat ourselves too – physically, emotionally and spiritually. We are all the creation of a good God, we are not merely matter, we actually really matter!

2. God the Father as Carer:  – St Pet in 1st Epistle exhorts us to cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us. So, God is a Father to be as One who cares for us, One to be known in personal relationship, not just as a force out there, or a kind of divine headmaster – or even worse Cosmic Police Officer!

Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father ….” 

Prayer by its very nature speaks of the most profound intimacy. Story of 2 boys at Xmas staying at grandmas hse – at bedtime one of them was busy praying out his Christmas present list and when it came to the request for a bike he shouted it out really loud. His bro said, ‘whoa – God’s not deaf’ and bro said ‘No, but grandma is!!’        Prayer often comes from deep places – as we pray for our daily bread, we wonder out loud in the face of our dilemmas and difficulties trusting that light will be shed on our path and that resources will be made available to help sustain us. We confess our sins – telling God what we’ve done wrong and seeking forgiveness – things we say there we might not want anyone else to hear but God!!; we confess our deepest fears and seek His deliverance for the time of temptation. Prayer in the life of Jesus was no merely formality it was a lifeline, Jesus took time to steal away and spend time alone with His Father – and in that place of union with Him to experience grace – to experience moments of tender illumination where the Father helped Him to make good decisions and to understand people and situations; to experience precious moments of encouragement – ‘you are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased’; to receive inspiration to know what to do next and to receive guidance when decisions had to be made; to know moments of reassurance that ‘you are not alone’ – and for us there will be moments when we have to face a sense that we have displeased God and may be standing in line for judgement. Taken together this all speaks of relationship with God not mere obedience to God.   God is our Father and we are made to know His care in relationship.  Now this is not the same as saying that unless God protects us, always provides everything for us on a plate, always makes straight our paths that He doesn’t care for us…. There are always situations when we have lessons to learn through experience and even through chastisement. Right across scripture is written ‘God disciplines those He loves’ – that is, He disciples us through experience and chastises us through the law, through parents and through people as well as through the convicting presence of His Spirit in our lives.

 

The big question for us as we seek to grow as Xian people is simply this, “are we growing in our knowledge and experience of God?” Are we coming to know His ways and His will in your life?   Or does God feel just like some kind of energy or force ‘out there’ rather than ‘in here’?        Just as we get to know our partners and comprehend their ways, so we should also be getting to know God – and, of course, we always have His word to check our perceptions…. Left to our own perceptions we would quickly produce an image of God who simply fits in with our plots and plans – such a god is merely an idol.

God is our Father because He is our Creator, but He is also Father because He is our Carer – we matter to Him, He wants us to know Him personally.

May the prayer of St Richard of Chichester be our prayer too – that we may “ know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day”.  Amen

Series - Seeing through the eyes of faith

16 May 21 - Seeing problems and possibilities through the eyes of faith
Shocking Advice from Mothers to Daughters

- Never let your man's mind wander - it's too little to be out alone.
- Go for younger men. You might as well - they never mature anyway.

How we perceive people is very important for lots of reasons; have you ever been in a situation where you thought you understood someone and presumed it was OK to say something and found out it wasn’t?  Me studying in Hull – gender studies dept run by feminists and lesbians: ‘All these women’s libbers should be kept safely behind bras’! Went down really well!!

 

The truth is how we see people affects how we relate to them.  As Xians this means we have to see people thru the eyes of faith and not just thru our preconditioned ways of seeing or judging people, this takes a deliberate act of re-imagination.    Our rdg has 6 pointers that call upon us to see people differently – and this is imp as we want to do all we can to build bridges between us because we have something they need to hear.

 

BPascal (17c scientist and philosopher) reflecting upon human beings, once said: PP “What kind of freak is man! What a novelty he is, how absurd he is, how chaotic and what a mass of contradictions, and yet what a prodigy! He is judge of all things, yet a feeble worm. He is a repository of truth, and yet sinks into such doubt and error. He is the glory and the rubbish of the universe!”   In people we see the good, the bad and the??? (ugly).   St Paul saw it too but recognised that within these ‘jars of clay’ – our human condition there can be real treasure! And when a person becomes a Xian they can undergo transformation - that’s what Vision2026 is all about – the church – you and me – at work in the heart of the world encouraging transformation.     Let’s see what we can learn from St Paul’s words about people from our text: a point and an implication for each:

 

1. V2 People have consciences

Couple yrs ago I sat in ‘Dynamic Earth in Edin’ and listened to a propaganda broadcast on behalf of the theory of evolution – time and again making the point we are simply one form of animal amongst the rest – it even explicitly said ‘we are not the crown of creation’ a deliberate swipe at the Christian worldview.   The human moral capacity for understdg right/wrong, the human aesthetic capacity for understdg beauty and ugliness, the human capacity for creative and intellectual genius (and stupidity) marks us out as towering above the rest of creation – the Bible tells us we are made in God’s image, and the gospel is all about restoring that image.

Therefore; to see people through the eyes of faith means:

Everyone is a potential Xian!!   Unless we are damaged in some way we all have a set of profound capacities that give us an awareness that can open us up to the life of God, we were all made for God.

2. V4 People are battlegrounds – places of conflict.

Little boy warned not to go swimming in local river – did! Told off by Dad. ‘Why did you disobey me – I was tempted by devil’ dad says next time say ‘get behind me Satan’.

2 days later home – all wet. Dad – why? ‘I said get behind me Satan – he did and then pushed me in’! 

Every human being is a spiritual battleground –  Jesus said the devil comes only to steal and kill and destroy – and he will do it by lies, half truths and deception.

Therefore; to see people through the eyes of faith means:

We need to recognise that we are all in a battle – bx light and darkness, spirit and flesh, the past and the future, and make allowances. A momentary pause can yield a momentary perception and once we realise what’s going one we can then choose the best outcome deliberately – We do not have to obey the dictates of temptation nor our desires!

Therefore, don’t be hasty in judging others, but do be quick to offer support – even if that means a gentle challenge. There are 2 outcomes to every battle – either a loss or a win! We often loose battles when we don’t hold on for the victory. Faith holds out for the victory and never presupposes a defeat and throws in the towel.

 

V3-6 People are blind but light is available.

BP wrote about how people show different attitudes to spiritual things – some are open and others have become hardened, many are indifferent which is the most dangerous position of all. People are still the same today. And the truth of the gospel is still the same today – PTL! v6:”For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”.

Therefore; to see people through the eyes of faith means:

No matter how hard people are, no matter how long it takes – we must never, ever give up on anyone. Tell them about Mum’s conversion – death of 2 children – terrible life – my witness and process of her conversion.           If He can do it in Mum – He can do it in anyone!      Jesus said we are the lights of the world and we can shine His light into others lives.

4. V7-9 People do not have to live in slavery, darkness, defeat or despair.       Paul tells the Cors about his experience of ministry – the very gt cost - hard pressed on every side - but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

He is saying that in the face of harsh and bitter experience we do not need to be overcome by it – and he is not talking about some kind of fluffy bunny spirituality – this is faith in the face of ferocious facts of life!  He is saying that no matter what happens to us as Christians – we are not alone – an ‘all surpassing power is at work in us, and it’s from God’.

Therefore; to see people through the eyes of faith means:

When your life or someone else’s just seems so awful, take heart – we belong to One who said ‘John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Who promised He would never leave nor forsake us, who gives His Spirit to work in us – to set us free, to give us gifts, to empower us. This is not a recipe for failure - we must not give in to despair – Paul didn’t and he lived to tell the story of God’s goodness until he finally surrendered his life in the service of Christ and went to be with the Lord – his victory was - he never gave up!

 

Sometimes we must keep this hope alive for someone else – let’s face it even the best of us can sometimes struggle, so much that we sink and loose sight of things – that’s when we need each other to keep hope and faith alive, that’s when we need each other to pray!

5.  V14-15 People are the objects of God’s grace in Christ.

Every single person on God’s earth is an object for His love and for His salvation. I do not believe that anyone is created for damnation. No-one is written off – remember the thief on the cross, recall how Jesus prayed for those who crucified Him – Jesus knew about the spiritual battle within people. But love – not nails – is what held Him to the cross – and that grace, that unmerited favour keeps on being given THANK GOD!

Therefore; to see people through the eyes of faith means:

We never write anyone off – Christian or non-Christian, God loves everyone so much He holds out the possibility of salvation right up to their last dying breathe.                  We have to be people who just can’t help being hopeful – John Bunyan (Pilgrims Progress) said, “Hope is never ill when faith is well”. Because of Res – there is always hope.

6.  V16&18 People have an outside and an inside.

Inside every pupa there is a butterfly waiting to get out. Inside every seed is a flower waiting to beautify the world. Inside every fruit seed is something to nourish the world. Inside every finite person is the possibility of someone infinite.    Obviously, the opposite is true too – hidden away inside people can be immense anger, lust, evil and destruction.  

Therefore; to see people through the eyes of faith means:

‘we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen’ – we do not judge by appearances alone.  Faith wants to believe for the best – not that we become ridiculously idealistic or naively trusting, no, Jesus said we need to be as wise as serpents but as gentle as doves.   But He also said ‘My Father is always at work’ - and that may include working in people in ways we cannot yet see – they may not yet even be aware of.

 

To see people through eyes of faith is to re-imagine humanity, it is to allow this knowledge to change how we relate to people – even to ourselves, and it is to see the glory of God at work in people who may well be - at this moment – the rubbish of the universe, believing that ‘with God.. ALL things are possible’. God can do more than we can imagine BUT & it’s a big but!!  – He has chosen you and me to do it through. You & I are His normal means of grace – so we must learn to see people thru the eyes of faith and reach out with hearts of love and hands of service.

Amen?

2 May 21 - Seeing the world throiugh the eyes of faith

This is the first sermon of 3 in a series all connected by the thought of seeing through the eyes of faith – today we’ll look at ‘Seeing the world thru eyes of faith’

9/5- Seeing people through eyes of faith

16/5 - Seeing difficulties & possibilities thru eyes of faith 

 

My hope is that by the end of this series we will all have travelled some distance in deepening our faith – so that when we look out onto the world of creation, of reality, of people, circumstances and possibilities we do so as people who are being changed by God, whose evaluation of life and of our place in it is being born again and we become agents of Good News.

Most of the western world is currently in the grip of a new kind of identity crisis – this one born of gender related issues.  People speak of feeling that they don’t identify with the sex that they were born with – for e.g. they ‘feel’ like a woman but trapped in a man’s body. For many they are clearly deeply conflicted and distressed in life.  But this declaration raises big issues for others around them. What do you do with a woman such as Rachel Dolezal who was born to two white parents but is now identifying as black – even leading BLM marches? Visibly she clearly isn’t, but wishes to identify as black. This is a moment when we realise that something has shifted and people are seeing the world & reality in new and novel ways.  One thing that we need to identify if we are to negotiate life well is that behind every action, every behaviour are ideas – ideas precede actions. In the case of identity politics a whole new worldview has been hatched.  

What is a worldview? A worldview is a set of assumptions about fundamental aspects of our world.  Worldview has been defined as a lens, a framework, or a set of pre-suppositions about foundational questions of reality: is there a God, what is the nature of the universe, what is the nature of man, and so on.  Our worldviews permeate every area of life – both personal and public. Every time you turn on the TV, read a book, listen to some music, listen to the news or hear the latest piece of government legislation you are being bombarded by someone’s worldview – not all bad, but these days increasingly confused.   The problem for Christians is that we live in this world and we can be affected by false thinking and false consciousness too, and if actions spring from ideas then we have to ensure our thinking is right.     A fundamental problem identified by St Paul is that life apart from God is a life in darkness – in his opening words of Romans he speaks of how our thinking becomes “futile,” and our foolish hearts “darkened” and we have a distorted vision of the world and reality, in Col 2:8 “See to it that no-one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ”.  There comes a moment when we have to start deciding who calls the shots – I would argue that booting God out of the universe of your thinking is not going to advance your position in any helpful way, G K Chesterton once wrote this, “When men stop believing in God – they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything”.    Xians are called to have the mind of Christ and to walk by faith and not by sight, to be people who have definition – we stand for something and not for nothing, we have clear thoughts, convictions and aspirations – disciples are people with definition.

That means we the way we view the world will differ from our non-Christian neighbours as we pursue the call to be transformed from one degree of glory into another, as we seek to be renewed by the transformation of our minds. How? – here’s just 3 simple but vitally important ways: PP

1. The Biblical affirmation that God created the world, must mean we see it differently – Christians should be right upfront with ecological concerns – the world is a work of art and the gift of God to us – something to be nurtured, cultivated and cared for – not simply raped and pillaged to get all we can from it and blow the future generations.

2. The fact that all human beings are created in the image of God and somehow bear His likeness means we are not just animals – no matter what evolution tells us – we are unique – we are powerful – we are significant – we are meaningful beings – all of us and by virtue of our creation in the image of God all human life has inherent dignity. That means Christians should have a voice on issues related to the treatment of other human beings – from the womb to the tomb – on abortion, on euthanasia, on human trafficking, on sexual exploitation, on the education of children and the cultivation of culture.  We must realise that if we do not assert our Christian voice, and seek to build God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven then we WILL BE COOPERATING with other voices that seek to build a different kind of world – and that world will be free of the values, virtues and vision of the love of God in Christ.  Indeed it will quickly be the case that a Xian vision will be driven quickly from the church, the world and our individual lives. What happened in China could happen here. Societies such as the British Humanist Society want all signs of Christianity and religion out of the public spheres of life, in the media world the big giants such as Disney, Google, YouTube, Facebook and the rest are actively removing content that does not coincide with their vision and values. Even banks like Barclays are now entering the fray closing down the accounts of Christian organisations who do not reflect their values. Jesus said ‘you are the light of the world, the salt of the earth – but if you lose your saltiness what good are you to anyone?’ A Xian worldview, living by faith and not by sight, must mean we share deep ecological and ethical concerns that are shaped by our bigger story as people made by God, loved by God and – finally redeemed by God.

3. That God entered the world in Christ and then died for every single one of us also tells us something of how valuable we are to God, He loved us so much He gave His only Son, and Jesus bore the shame, the pain and the horror of all that a Roman cross meant out of love for us – for all of us, no matter who we are or what we have done.  This has immense implications for how to are to love others, serve others, give to sustain the work of God through the church and other Christian agencies.

Seeing the world through the eyes of faith means we are also going to live out our lives in ways directed by God in His Word and through His Holy Spirit. In the deepest places of our hearts and minds we are going have to acquire the Wisdom of God and allow it to utterly penetrate all we are, to conclusively shape our thinking, our ethics, our use of resources so that all we are and do becomes an expression of the Kingdom of God in our lives and as an expression of a new kind of humanity.  Seeing the world through the eyes of faith may be more than this, but it is certainly nothing less.

So, let me ask you – what are the influences, the personalities, the ideas that are shaping your way of seeing the world and making decisions?  Are you distinctively different to the world around you?   If you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you of the charge?

Writing to the Cor Paul said, 1 Corinthians 2:6 “We… speak a message of wisdom… but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing”.  We do not take our cue from the opinion makers of the day – from the talk show hosts, from the popular idols, not even from our politicians or church leaders UNLESS that wisdom lines up with the Word of God and the loving Spirit of God. 

PP Jesus said: Luke 11:34 “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness”.

If we get our way of seeing wrong, if our worldview is defined by the wisdom and standards of the world rather than the faith of God – we will be in trouble and deep darkness – thinking ourselves wise we will become fools. 

Jesus said in His great parable of the sower: PP 15:But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

May we always, always, always seek the mind of Christ, commit ourselves to seeing the world through they eyes of faith and so make a real difference in a world that will increasingly choose darkness and chaos – and in so doing we will help others find His light, His peace and the benefits of a life free of the polluting chaos of the world.  Amen

 

21 Mar 21: Building Healthy Churches - Evangelism

 

1 Peter 3:15-16 New International Version – UK Matthew 28:16-20 New International Version -

INTRO – so we have journeyed across 4 of the 5 callings that will help us build healthy churches that transform communities during our Lenten series: Worship – our response to Gods love of us, Discipleship our call to become like Jesus; Fellowship our call to belong to the family of God the church and last week the call to be a blessing through our shared ministry. Before we think about the final call – the call to go I want to ask you a question…  I’m going to describe a word for you – hands up when you think you know what it is….

This condition causes an increase in heart rate and temperature, such that blushing occurs. It can make you feel so uncomfortable and self-conscious that you want to vanish….. [EMBARRASSMENT]

Today we are going to think about another word beginning with E and it is Evangelism, often a word that conjures some embarrassment for many people.

 

The word Evangelism literally carries several meanings related to proclaiming good news, we speak of the 4 Evangelists Mt, Mk, Lk & Jn as they hand to us the good news of Christ in their gospels, that was part of their obedience to the great commission of Christ to them to ‘go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptising and teaching them’ but also a command they past to us that we also are called to go and share the good news with others.

St Peter tells those he wrote to how to go about this task: be prepared to give an answer when asked about not just what you believe but why you believe – and do it with gentleness and respect in such a way that no one can point the finger at you. Peter knew exactly what it was like to operate in a context where people were cynical, suspicious and insulting too – but the bearers of good news had to react in a way that was good news.

The NT also uses a word for those who bear witness in this way and it was the word ‘martyras’ from which we get the word martyr – pointing up that this is can be a costly business – but the call is there, the need is there and we are here faced with the call to go there.

People may be embarrassed or even frightened of evangelism because they are aware of all the stereotypes of ‘bible bashers’, maybe enthusiastic and sometimes harsh street preachers or perhaps because they simply don’t know what to say or how.

In 1 Jn 4:8 he writes, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love”.    This is an important text in relation to this call to go because we are to grow in love – and it must be love that motivates us to go and share – not a desire to conquer, convert, coerce or corner anyone into submission.  So let’s use this word LOVE as a mnemonic to help us think about why we should obey the call to go and share:

 

L – Liberation If we love we will want to share the good news of liberation – When prophesying about the coming of the Messiah the prophet Isa wrote, “He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
   to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”, Jesus Himself said “If the Son shall set you free – you shall be free indeed” and St Paul wrote Rom 8:1-2 “1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set you free from the law of sin and death”.  At the very heart of the mission Jesus, why He came into the world, was to set the captives free, liberation is at the heart of it all – all held in bondage to sin and its consequences can reach out and experience salvation. In my own experience I have met a wide range of people who have experienced deliverance from life controlling behaviours, be they substances, sexual behaviours, or destructive habits. I’ve personally dealt with those who struggled beneath the dark and oppressive power of evil spirits and seen them set free. And for those who still wrestle to overcome they do so at least with a real hope that one day things will be different. The liberating power of the gospel is good news!

 

O – orientation If we love we will want to share the good news to those who feel so lost and disorientated in life, or maybe even don’t realise they are lost and in darkness.  Jesus once healed a man, blind from birth, - he was quizzed by the teachers of the law who wanted him to denounce Jesus – his response? “All I know is that once I was blind, but now I can see…” a line picked up in John Newton’s famous hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ in which he also added his own personal testimony as a former slave trader ‘once I was lost now I am found’. And the wonderful thing is that when people are able to enjoy a resetting of their moral compass, when they find out who they really are in Christ, when they get a vision for life and their very reason for being here that can have the most profound effect on their life – suddenly they’re on the road to somewhere not nowhere -  And that’s good news.

 

V – Verification If we love Christ we will want to share the good news that He died to make possible – and when we do that clearly verifies our claim to be His disciples – we do what Jesus did.    You will recall the parable Jesus told of a group of people given talents and sent away to work with them for the sake of their Master. When He returned, they all reported back – one who had been given 5 bags got 5 more, another who was given 2 bags got 2 more – but the last one had decided to hide his and simply returned to the Master what had been given. The master was angry, the lazy servant didn’t even put it in the bank so it could gain interest – and condemned to man – he wanted all the benefits of being in the masters’ service but wasn’t willing to share in the family business, proving that no matter what he said – he didn’t really belong. Jesus said, when referring to the day of reckoning, 21 ‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.   Had it not been for the courageous saints of old – young women, young men – even children and very old people – making a stand for their faith and sharing it with others we would not be here today; I think about old Polycarp born in the 1st century, made Bishop of Smyrna by St John – who when persecution broke out against the church was asked to simply burn a bit of incense to the Caesar but refused to do so, the soldiers sent to make him conform didn’t want him to die, I think they even said ‘you don’t have to believe it – just burn a bit of it what harm can that do’ – Polycarp would not compromise – he said, “Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour?” they burned him at the stake, but we still tell his story today.  

 

E – Education If we love we will want to obey the call to go and share the good news of our salvation, of forgiveness, of restoration and the plans God has for His world that all people may live in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  There is so much we have to share that can illuminate the mind, inspire the heart and ignite a fire of love in the world that can brighten dark places – why would we want to keep that to ourselves? why would we want to modify it because today it does not fit in with the powers that be?  If you possessed knowledge that could cure cancer and kept it to yourself what kind of person would you be?   We have something here greater than that – a cure for cancer can only save the body, not the soul – the good news of Jesus works in such a way that it inspires people to work for such cures but offers good news that can save us from being eternally lost to God. Surely, we must come to a point when our love outgrows our fear and we start to share good news that has such power to heal, to comfort, to inspire and to transform. St Paul wrote to the church at Corinth 2 Cor 4:6 “For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ”, when we joyfully, humbly and sincerely start to share this faith with others we will build a strong and healthy church. RW ‘Obedience to the great commission and the great commandment makes a great church’

 

Not everyone will want to hear – but some will.

Not everyone will respond – but some will.

Not everyone will join us – but some will.   Amongst the crowds – the elect are waiting to hear the call of Christ. Let’s give them a chance.    

 

We’ve already been through a series using our Why Jesus booklets and I hope you have managed to pass on at least one by now?      Maybe we need to read it again, with the eyes of our hearts and come to a new place of faith and commitment to Jesus – when the reality of the good news hits us afresh and we will be overflowing with the joy of our salvation such that we will earnestly desire opportunities to share it with others. Amen

14 Mar 21: Building Healthy Churches - Fellowship

BIG Q? WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE SHARED LIFE OF THE CHURCH?

 

Fm our rdg it seems that both as an Ind and as a people we have a story, it has 2 dimensions a BC/AD – Our rdg tells us that Before Christ we were separated from Him, excluded fm people of God, foreigners to God’s promises. We were without hope and without God in the world. But thru Christ we are brought near and brought together; He is the agency of union, of healing, of reconciliation. In Jan each yr there is a week of prayer for Xian unity – when actually the church is already united in several important ways – all Xians are part of a new humanity!! How? By being united to Christ, united to the people of God and united to the Covenant promises of God.   Sometimes we labour the fact of Xian unity when all the time it’s just there and the reality is that anytime you find yourself in a different part of the church – say on holiday – and you get the chance for some fellowship (presuming you do go to church when on holiday?) you soon discover an organic unity that exists even outside of visible and institutional unity.

I did hear a story of a nun at a Catholic school asked her students what they want to be when they grow up.
Little Suzy declares, "I want to be a prostitute."
"What did you say?!" asks the nun, totally shocked.
"I said I want to be a prostitute," Suzy repeats.
"Oh, thank heavens," says the nun. "I thought you said 'a Protestant!'"

 

The truth is that in the Xian church there is a whole lot more that unites us than divides us.                          Our true story is not one about denominational divisions but universal unity through Christ. But this is not going to be about having shared worship services and looking for some kind of bland union – we are already united in the fundamental truths of the gospel and only when we find our unity there will we be able to work together effectively to build the KofG. Only when we share the aspiration to share the good news about Jesus for lost souls will we discover not just our true fellowship but our true purpose. The church – united by Christ’s salvation, united by Christ’s mission, and sustained by Christ’s unconditional love.

 

At the local level one vital aspect of our shared unity is captured by the Gk word for fellowship: Koinonia – It won’t translate directly into one Eng word – so you will find this one Gk word spans 3 different Eng meanings, each of which furnishes us with a key to our understanding of how we are all called to build healthy churches that enjoy fellowship with each other – we are called to belong – everyone of us.

 

Koinonia has at least 3 aspects – SOCIAL  SPIRITUAL AND VOCATIONAL

 

1st =  SOCIAL FELLOWSHIP shared lives – v15 is a stunning revelation! “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two” – the purpose of Jesus in calling us to belong to the church is a whole lot more than us simply having a shared habit, hobby or interest – His vision is to create in the church a new humanity!! Talk about having ambition for us! Did you know that parents who have ambitions for their children without breaking their children give their kids the best chance of making the most of their lives!!  Jesus has ambition for us, He has vision for us – the idea is we share the love, laughter and lifestyle of being a community of bros and sisters together of the same heavenly Fr – we share a social life with each other – once we were far off, now we are near, once we strangers now we are bros and sisters, once there were divisions that separated us but in Christ these are to be torn down and we are to live as a new humanity – built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone!!   Of course, we have disagreements, fall outs, differences of opinion but that is no excuse for open warfare!   I heard about 3 small boys were bragging about their Dads, one, a vicar’s son, said, "Well, my dad owns hell."
"No way," another boy scoffed. "How can anyone own hell?"
The vicar’s son said, "I heard Mum tell grandma that the PCC gave it to him last night."!!

 

Fellowship must be so much more than a natter after the service – a healthy church is populated by people who are sharing their lives, not full of people who keep their religion private and others at arms length that’s  only going to build a hobby society not a new humanity! In a healthy church fellowship you will hear people saying these kinds of things - ‘we had this problem and folks at the church did….’ ‘I was lonely and a bit lost but folks at the church did..’ ‘I never thought I could do … but folks at church were so encouraging and I managed to..’ ‘Folks at church didn’t know what to say – but they prayed with me, some even wept with me’ and one the meanings of koinonia is a fellowship of suffering too.  Friends we are called to belong, to belong to a fellowship with a shared social life.

 

2nd aspect of koinonia = SPIRITUAL FELLOWSHIP of shared worship – we are those who love singing, praying, and learning together; we are a choir – later on in ch5 St P sees the church as those who are “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” who are “singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord”. A wider biblical perspective identifies us ministering to each other in worship, building up, stirring up and cheering one another up as part of our shared worship. People who, in loving God through our worship, love one another too. Here’s a choir that harmonises and is filled with surprises at what that fresh breeze of God’s spirit can work amongst us and between us as we give ourselves to Him and to each other.  Though we are many, we are one body because??? We all share in one bread.. and one cup.. and faith..one baptism.. one Lord and Fr of us all.

We are called to belong to a spiritual fellowship.

 

3rd aspect of koinonia = called to belong to a VOCATIONAL FELLOWSHIP of shared responsibility – the word koinonia was used of the ch at Eph when they reached out financially to the ch at Jerusalem – they stood with them in their physical and material need – they ministered to them, that’s fellowship!  We are our brothers keeper and we are all the very workmanship of God and each of us have a part to play in the church – there are not to be any passengers, we all sit side by side with a grip on the oars and make the boat move forwards – fellows in a ship, a fellowship on a journey fm darkness to light.  When this happens we discover something v.encouraging - we become more together than we are apart – me playing my roles you playing your, all of us discovering and using the gifts the HS has given us for the common good and for the sake of the Gospel; sharing our resources – both financial and in terms of time to serve; there is a sense in which we are not just part of the choir – we are all soloists too – and as we share in this kind of fellowship look what happens v22 we are “built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit”.

 

C S Lewis wrote ‘next to the Blessed Sacrament your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses’ because in every believer Christ is present – there to be loved, cared for, served.

 

A church that understands this and has a deep social, spiritual and service orientated fellowship will be a healthy and growing church. I want to be a part of a church like that… do you?

 

We can make the wonderful discovery that we are more together than we are apart, or that we either stand together or we fall apart. It’s upto each one of us – my prayer is that we won’t hold back but move forward in fellowship with one another?

7 Feb 21: The Deity of Jesus

Here I am down at St John the Divine at Cliviger, standing beside our very old lectern. Like so many in our churches it takes form of an eagle – why?  All gospel writers came to be represented by a created beast – Mt=angel, Mk lion, Luke bull and John by an eagle. Why an eagle – believed to be bird flies highest – closest to God, and Johns gospel (last written) has a very elevated and somewhat different angle to the others, John doesn’t just report the narrative he plunders the truth behind it.

John Ch 1 opens with those amazing words.. In the beginning etc

It delivers a punchy powerful vision of the pre-existence of Christ (calls Him the Word), of His pre-eminence in creation and then  in v14 it tells us ‘The word became flesh and dwelt amongst us’ – that’s why in the creed we confess:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.

The deity of Christ is the fundamental difference between Christians, Jews and Muslims – some of them may have accepted Him as a prophet – but as God incarnate?!! Wow – that’s another thing.  Their vision of God is very different to the Christian vision – now in our nation it is a key British value to have tolerance and so we respect one another’s beliefs, but we should never go in for the foolish notions that they are all basically the same – you just could not be more different on this most fundamental issue.

The Christian faith boldly declares that The God above all gods has come amongst us and we rejoice that heaven declares its love and commitment to us in an unmistakable and glorious fashion – no wonder C Wesley wrote so many beautiful hymns about this very issue:

Let earth and heaven combine, Angels and men agree,
To praise in songs divine, The incarnate Deity,
Our God contracted to a span, Incomprehensibly made man!

You see perspective is important, truth is important – not just because it’s about being correct, but because behind every action lies a belief. Behind how we live out our lives are beliefs, and so, for the Christian, we are confronted with the big question today – what is your personal vision of Christ? By this I don’t simply mean what we believe about Jesus – but do we possess or are we possessed by such a vision of Him that it actually moves us, affects us, changes us, motivates us. Do we have a vision of Him that makes for transformation?  Or does He feel distant, mysterious and unknown? Do we feel neutral or indifferent to Him? If we do that also with have its own affects.

 

In St Pauls’ letter to the Col we have one of the most animated theological descriptions of Jesus you will find in Scripture, to me it sounds like the overflow of a heart fully possessed of the most profound vision of Jesus – Paul understand just who Jesus is, His agency in creation, His pre-existence and why He came into the world – you could be forgiven for thinking that Paul and John must have had some very close fellowship!

 

Q? Let me ask you – what happens when we either do not have such a vision of Christ or we water down our convictions about Him?   Well nature abhors a vacuum and if we do not have a good, sound vision of Jesus -informed by Holy Scripture we will have another vision informed by something else. But here’s a few things to consider.

 

1.  If the Jesus of Scripture does not sit enthroned upon our hearts and minds as King of our aims, aspirations and affections then other things or people will. And the reality is that we will never have a relationship with Him that renews and recondition us. We will discover that as our affections are warmed by other things and people our affection for Him will be diminished.  

 

2. If our thinking about Jesus becomes shady and our convictions are compromised and weakened then that will have a direct moral knock on. I’ve seen this time and again.   Suddenly the things He stood up for don’t become as important – esp if we swallow the lie that He was merely a man of his time and was subject to the same historical errors of His peers, this is bound to undermine our confidence and our imitation of His life and values.  When Christ begins to grey out we will find our hearts grow cold, and when He says something challenging in His word we simply worm our way out of it by re-interpreting it. That’s self-delusion.

 

3. If Jesus is no longer held as Lord and Leader in our hearts, but we can’t bring ourselves to walk away from Him then we will end up creating Christ in our own image; suddenly we will use Jesus to buttress our own ideas, desires and wants. We will start lining Him up behind the things we think are important, things we want people to believe – even if they go against His teaching.  Then our ‘new’ Jesus becomes an idol – that breaks the 2nd Cdt! And we should have no part in it.

Jesus was uncompromising in His call to His disciples – take up your cross and follow Me; if you will find your life you must lose it for my sake, whoever confesses me before men I will confess before my Father in heaven. He tended to react to people who were merely ‘playing at religion’, He despises those who are luke warm and half-hearted. Basically, with Jesus - He is either Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.

 

A W Tozer once wrote ‘wrong notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear’ – and he is absolutely right.

But if we savour that biblical vision of Jesus, if we capture that beautiful truth “that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich”. If we grasp the height, depth, breadth and wonder of His love for each of us, if we espy His vision for humanity – then we will find there is such truth in Him not only to stimulate the mind but to ravish the heart and draw us into newness of life and hope and love.      There’s only 1 thing I regret about becoming a Christian… it took me 19 years to find Him properly, and they were 19 years that showed me how much I need Him, how much He can do with a mixed up and confused individual when they bow the knee. I would urge you if you don’t know Him to reach out and find Him, and if you are a flickering candle then turn to His word and let it refresh your vision of Jesus – if that means you need to sort things out, say sorry – then do it – do it as quickly as possible life is too short to waste time outside of His love and service.

 

What’s your vision of Jesus? Who is He to you? What difference is He making in your life?

May God help us to grow n Christ and be recreated in His image. Amen