Mar 072013
 

Large Group of Happy People standing together.In last week’s blog I talked about the fact that as Christians we have been adopted into God’s family. I started listing some of the benefits of being adopted into His family.

 

The benefits we looked at last week were:

(1) We are able to speak to God

(2) He takes care of our needs

(3) He gives many good gifts

If you missed it or want to read it again, click on the link here.

This week we will look at another 3 benefits:

(4) He gives compassion, care and protection

God cares and provides for us, not just physically but also emotionally. God provides in every area where a father should provide for his children. He provides completely where earthly fathers never can.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

You, Lord, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked, (Psalm 12:7)

The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. (Lamentations 3:31-32)

(5) God disciplines His children

Hang on a minute, what’s that doing in this list? Even though discipline is painful at the time, God disciplines us because He loves us. It is for our good, so that we can grow in righteousness and holiness.

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” (Hebrews 12:5-6)

(6) Inheritance & ‘sonship’

We have an everlasting inheritance.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:3-4)

Another interesting term from the bible is the word “sonship”. This is a term relevant to men and women. “Sonship” as used in the bible is a legal term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture. This is the inheritance we gain as ‘Sons of God’.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’  So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:4-7)

Meditate on these truths and verses over the coming week and let them change your whole outlook on life. As a child of God you have an amazing position which should affect how you relate to God and others.

 March 7, 2013  Posted by at 9:37 pm Community, God's family, The Church No Responses »
Feb 282013
 

gods familyOver the last three weeks we have been looking into our Identity in Jesus. We have seen that we are now new creations, no longer sinners but saints. Last week we looked into the victory that Jesus won for us on the cross and the implications of that.

This week and next we are going to look at the fact that we are in Gods family and what that means.

Adoption

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3)

When we become Christians we are adopted into His family and called God’s children. We now relate to one another as family members, like brothers and sisters.

We are now able to call God ‘Abba Father’. Abba translates into English as ‘dad’, being even more informal than ‘father’.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:4-7)

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:15-16)

I have listed a few of the blessings of adoption below and will add to this list next week:

(1) We are able to speak to God

The Lords prayer starts “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). Two important points to take out of this are;

(a) we can come to Him anytime

(b) we can come to Him boldly.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19–20, 22)

(2) He takes care of our needs

As His children God will provide everything that we need. He tells us not to be anxious and to trust Him.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? …….. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:25-33)

(3) He gives many good gifts

 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)

He gifts us good gifts, not just to bless us personally, but so that we can be a blessing to the rest of our family (the church) and then be a blessing to the rest of the world. Everything we have is a blessing and a gift from God, but there are other gifts that we can use to bless others. I explored these gifts in much more detail in a previous post here, they include such things as pastors and teachers, prophets, gifts of healing, service etc.

Most of all He gives us the gift of His wonderful Holy Spirit who draws alongside us, to help us and to fill us with His power.

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)

(I have gone into great detail about being filled with The Holy Spirit in a previous post here.)

Next week I will look at another 3 blessings of being adopted into Gods family. Until then brothers and sisters, enjoy the wonderful truth that God has brought you into His family and if you are not in it yet, why not join the family?

 February 28, 2013  Posted by at 10:42 pm Community, God's family, Grace, Holy Spirit, The Church 2 Responses »
Sep 212012
 

Join a church 2In my last blog we took a brief look at the big picture of God choosing to have a people for Himself. Now we shall look at the following question:

Why should we join a local church?

In the book of Acts, on the day of Pentecost we see 120 cowering followers of Jesus waiting fearfully in an upper room, not even quite sure what they are waiting for. Suddenly the Holy Spirit comes and fills them with power, Peter preaches and 3,000 people are added to their number. The word “added” is important here-it is evidence that a local church was organised and had actual members. We see later in Acts how elders are established and how home groups spring up as people fellowship together and practice their new found spiritual gifts. (Incidentally ‘lone ranger’ is not listed in the bible as a spiritual gift!!).

We see further through the book of Acts how churches are planted and established and how leadership in each congregation is developed. None of this would have happened without organisational and membership structures. Have you ever tried to organise and motivate people into a team who are not committed to each other or to you as a leader? If you haven’t I’m sure you can imagine what it would be like.

Leadership

Most of the letters that Paul and the other apostles wrote were to specific churches, for example the churches at Ephesus and Corinth. Much of the content of these letters included how Christians should be and act with one another and how they should submit to leadership. A lot of this would not make sense if people were not committed members of these congregations. A good example of this is found in 1 Corinthians 5: a member of the church is found to be immoral and Paul urges them to put this man out of fellowship. How could they have put him ‘out’ of fellowship if he was not ‘in’ in the first place?

This leads me to the role of leadership and specifically Elders. Elders are exhorted to look after those under their care. In Acts 20 v 28 it says “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Again in 1Peter 5 v 2-3 it says “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock”. On the other hand the members of the church are instructed to “have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” (Hebrews 13 v 17). None of this makes sense unless a person is submitted to a leader through church membership. A leader cannot perform his shepherding care if no-one is submitted to Him.

Analogy of the body

Paul uses a very good analogy of what the church should be like in 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

This for me is one of the strongest arguments for having church membership. God has put us together to rely on one another and be part of each other. If you are an errant body part you need to get back into the body. How strange a body would be if an eye was over here and a hand over there etc… It wouldn’t be an effective body at all.

There is something unnatural about a Christian attaching himself to a body of believers and not being a member of the body”. John Piper (sermon, July 13, 2008)

Gifts

Another reason for being a member in a local church is so that we can use our gifts in a safe environment, whether they be spiritual gifts or practical ones. In the local church we can prophesy knowing that our contribution will be ‘weighed’; we can practice hospitality; teach and encourage. We can also exercise our gifts of serving or helps; we can be part of a programme that ministers to the poor. We can find a myriad number of ways to serve in the context of membership within a local church.

Discipleship

In a local church there will always be somebody who can disciple you in whatever area you need it. You may be a new parent and you can look to couples who have successfully brought up children; you may feel you don’t pray very successfully and you can get alongside real prayer warriors and learn from their passion. Of course, your own contribution is vital as you in turn disciple others and play your part in the growth of your church.

Conclusion

Just because membership of a local church is not highlighted in a specific verse, the concept of being a member is implied countless times in the New Testament. It’s not necessary to keep looking for the ‘perfect’ church because it doesn’t exist and if you did find it and joined, it wouldn’t be perfect anymore! Until we get to glory, every Christian has imperfections and we will all have difficulties with each other from time to time. But God in His wisdom has chosen this imperfect group to be His people, bought with His own blood, to declare His glory to the rest of creation. We are His people and His delight and He has chosen us to be built together in Him. If you are still not quite convinced, go through the New Testament again and see the skill with which God builds his church together and then consider getting stuck in where you are. You have a part to play.

 September 21, 2012  Posted by at 12:00 am Community, The Church No Responses »
Sep 132012
 

Why join a churchI did it MY way

We live in a  very ‘me’ centred culture. The prevailing questions we ask ourselves are; “what do I want?” or “what is good for me?” Everything is geared towards being individualistic and considering others is way down our list of priorities

This can influence our decisions concerning our commitment to the church we attend. We may be of the opinion that if we have been going somewhere for a while and it now doesn’t  suit my needs, it’s ok to move on and look elsewhere. This is commitment only when it suits us.

This is not exclusively a 20th century viewpoint of course. In our humanness our natural inclination is to be selfish and “look after number 1”. In fact we may find that the vast majority of people wouldn’t consider this to be a selfish viewpoint at all.

However when we become Christians this all changes, as we hand over control of our lives to Jesus Christ and submit ourselves to His authority. Our mindset now is to please Him. We also become part of His body ‘the church’.

Membership is vital

Some would argue that when you become a Christian you do become part of Christ’s ‘universal’ church, which of course is true. They would also say that nowhere in the bible does it command that you should join a church, which is also true. But to then make the assumption that it is not necessary to join a local church is like adding 2 plus 2 and making 5.

In the rest of this post and in the next one, I want to argue from the bible why joining a local church is not only necessary but absolutely vital, not just for you but also for the other members of the church you are joining. Pay special attention to this post if you are in the following 2 categories:

  • You stay at home for ‘Church’, subscribing to God TV or listening to preaching podcasts and worship services online. You are well fed but you are accountable to no-one as your contact with other Christians is minimal.
  • You attend a local church but have never committed to whatever joining process is required. You may be well acquainted with a few people but for whatever reason you have not fully signed up.

For everyone else, I hope to show you what a great decision you made by joining your local church and hopefully inspire you to get even more involved. My hope is also to help enable you to engage in discussion with people in the above two categories. If you are not a Christian, please read my previous post on ‘the gospel’ – discover the God who loves you and join a local church!

God’s chosen people

Looking at the ‘big picture’ of the bible we see throughout that God has chosen a special people to have a relationship with in order to demonstrate how great He is to the whole world. This is of course a very special relationship. There is very little in the bible about God’s relationship with individuals, it is almost always in the context of His people. When God does relate with an individual, it is usually so they can pass on a message to His people.

In the Old Testament we see the formation of the nation of Israel (God’s people) and his interaction with them, how he blesses them and disciplines them and shows them great patience, wooing them back to Himself as they turn away from Him again and again. When we proceed into the New Testament we see the development of the church no longer made up solely of the Israelites, but now through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection to include Gentiles and in fact anyone who trusts in the finished work of Christ to save them. This ‘Church’ is God’s possession, also called Jesus’ bride and will be made up of people from every tribe, tongue and nation. This ‘universal’ church is now made up of many local churches that you and I are to be a part of. The New Testament closes with the glorious wedding supper of Christ and His church as they prepare to spend eternity together in the new heavens and earth. If you are a Christian, however hard life may be now, this is the wonderful future we have to look forward to.

Next time I will look at the reasons (and benefits) as to why we should join a local church.

 September 13, 2012  Posted by at 10:51 pm Community, The Church No Responses »
Aug 302012
 

community fishing 2I don’t think we get evangelism quite right in our churches. We tend to think of evangelism as something that evangelists do. They love telling people about Jesus, they seem to be quite good at it so we tend to let them get on with it. If we do have somebody who shows an interest we often wait until the next outreach Sunday and invite them to come along to listen to our evangelist speaker. Or we wait for the next Alpha course to begin and pack our interested friend off to have a meal and discussion with another evangelist. I am not knocking evangelists – they do a fantastic job! No, if this is your mentality then I’m knocking you! This mentality is basic laziness. (And before you get indignant, I include myself among the lazy ones!).

I think there is a better way. You won’t be surprised to learn (especially if you have been following this series) that the most effective way to reach people is through community. We still need evangelists but if you think of a community as an arrow, evangelists are the sharp arrow point, but the body of the arrow is made up of the rest of the community working together to reach souls for Jesus.

Let’s remind ourselves what the great commission is:

“…Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age…” (Matthew 28 v 18-20).

This command is for every Christian. It is our privilege to be involved in Gods mission and He has equipped us with everything we need. I believe that every one of us should be able to lead somebody to Christ and be able to present the gospel (see my previous post on ‘giving the gospel’). As it says in 1 Peter 3 v 15 “… Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…”. I am not saying we should all be evangelists, rather that we should not negate our responsibility. On the other hand however evangelists are very effective at winning souls, so working in partnership as ‘fishing in community’ we will all be even more effective.

Ok, it’s that time in my blog when I produce another list. I find it much easier to gather my thoughts in bullet points and so in no particular order I’ve gathered a few thoughts about how we can reach our friends and families through community:

  • By praying together. We need to start praying for each others’ friends, families or co-workers. In this way as they are introduced into your community you will be more eager to meet and get to know them because you already have an interest in them.
  • There is no pressure. Jesus wins people, we just introduce them to Him and tell them how great He is. Easy!!
  • We need to be adaptable. The apostle Paul said “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9 v 22). Reaching out to people means meeting them where they are at.
  • There is huge power in testimony or telling your story. In a community we already know each others’ stories, so if we meet somebody with a similar story we can introduce them. (For instance somebody you meet may be struggling with an illness and somebody in your community has already been through the same thing – this can give hope and encouragement and create a real connection).
  • It is really important that people see we are ‘normal’. People have all sorts of strange misconceptions about what Christians are like. When they step into our communities they should see great friendship, interaction and a genuine love and respect among us.
  • It makes a huge difference to the world when they see Christians loving each other with genuine care and concern “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133 v 1). Every person needs good community, it is what God has put into each one of us and He wants His church to model what it should be like.
  • People are not trophies. We need to genuinely love them whether they respond or not. They will see through any shallowness.
  • Throw a party! Jesus loved going to parties and loving people, so much so that the religious people called him a drunkard and a glutton! (Matthew 11 v 19).

Let’s get out into our communities and get involved in the great commission. There is a wonderful sense of security and comfort in doing it together, and joining in the great celebration of heaven when even one sinner repents. Let’s go for it!!

 August 30, 2012  Posted by at 9:03 pm Community, The gospel No Responses »
Jul 242012
 

fellowshipIn my previous blog I talked about how important it is to live in community both for our growth and our Christian walk; about following the example set by The Father, Son and Holy Spirit of being in community; and that Jesus is praying for His church, that we would be one.

This week I want to talk about a very important word: ‘fellowship’. This is how we live out our community life together.

The word ‘fellowship’ is translated from the Greek word ‘Koinonia’ which has a wide range of meaning in the bible, but principally means “fellowship, sharing in common, communion.”

A powerful example of what koinonia should look like can be found by studying the phrase “one another” as it appears in the bible. When thinking about what community should look like it would be worth meditating and reflecting on the following scripture passages:

Following these biblical principles will give a good example of what true biblical koinonia looks like.

The apostle Paul uses the word koinonia in his letter to the Christians in Galatia. It’s an interesting reference: “James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship (Koinonia) when they recognized the grace given to me.”(Galatians 2 v 9). In other words, despite Paul’s previous history of persecuting the church, he was now welcomed as one connected with them in the Lord Jesus Christ.

This koinonia fellowship – one of the essential characteristics of authentic Christian community – has a dual dimension. It not only has a horizontal dimension of brotherly love between believers, but also a vertical dimension of being connected to God the trinity; loved by the Father, saved and redeemed by the Son and filled and equipped by the Holy Spirit. What a precious fellowship!

We are now in God’s glorious family with fellow believers we can call brothers and sisters united under one father. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!!” (1 John 3 v 1). We are called to love one another just as Jesus commanded in John 13 v 34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Next time we will look a bit more at this most important of attributes, love, and study some practical applications of how we can “love one another”.

 July 24, 2012  Posted by at 11:07 pm Community No Responses »
Jul 162012
 

CommunityOver the next few weeks I want to look at the whole subject of Christian community.

In my view, if we fail to understand how important Christian community is, we will struggle to grow and develop in our Christian walk. True Christian community is a fairly alien concept to those of us who live in a western culture. We tend to think we are in a community if we have a few friends on ‘Facebook’. This is miles away from what true Christian community is like. We may even think that by going to a couple of church meetings a week we’ve cracked it, but that is still a long way short. The early church had a good measure of community – we read in Acts 2 that the people were together and had everything in common, they shared their possessions and ate together, meeting together every day for times of worship and breaking bread.

The bible reveals that we have been created in the ‘image’ of God, made to reflect Him in many different ways. God reveals himself in the bible as being in a three person community; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We will never fully understand the concept of ‘one God but three distinct persons’, but we can glean a lot from how they lovingly interact and honour each other – the Son glorifying and obeying the Father, the Spirit revealing the Son.

Jesus reveals in his high priestly prayer of John 17 just how he wants his followers to reflect the relationship that he has with the Father:

John 17:21–26

“… .that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

What a glorious relationship that is! Perfect loving unity. This is what Jesus is praying for His church. We see it again in Philippians 2 verse 2 where Paul talks of ‘being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind’. It could be a description of the Trinity, but it is in fact a description of the Christian community.

The Christian community is to reflect the divine community. We are to love one another; share with one another; rejoice and mourn with one another and share our lives together.

In the next few weeks I am going to be delving into various aspects of being in community and how we can benefit from it. I hope you will find it useful. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your own thoughts and ideas as we look at this important subject together.

 July 16, 2012  Posted by at 9:53 pm Community 2 Responses »