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 »
Jun 112012
 

Holy spirit giftsI previously looked at How the Holy Spirit fills and equips us to live a fulfilled and vibrant Christian life. I hope you were able to experience this infilling whether you had received it before or not. If you are truly thirsty you won’t stop until your thirst is quenched.

Today I want to look at another aspect of what the Holy Spirit gives us: His ‘gifts.’ If you are using these blogs as a guide for discipleship (and I hope you are!), why not discuss what gifts you think you might have and even those that you desire, because the bible says “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit…(1 Corinthians 14:1).

There are three main passages in the New Testament where these gifts are listed, some of them overlap as you can see. I have set these out in the table below;

Romans 12 1 Corinthians 12 Ephesians 4
Prophecy (v6) Wisdom (v8) Apostle (v11)
Serving (v7) Knowledge (v8) Prophecy (v11)
Teaching (v7) Faith
(v9)
Evangelist (v11)
Encouraging (v8) Healing (v9 & v28) Pastor (v11)
Giving
(v8)
Miraculous powers (v10 & v28) Teaching (v11)
Leading (v8) Prophecy
Showing mercy (v8) Distinguishing between spirits (v10)
Speaking in different kinds of Tongues (v10 & v28)
Interpretation of Tongues (v10)
Apostle (v28)
Prophecy (v28)
Teaching (v28)
Helping (v28)
Guidance (v28)

What a lot to choose from! As an appendix at the bottom I have listed them out again with an explanation against each one. If you want to go straight to a specific gift then click the name in the table above.

These passages and the context in which they were written give us a good idea about how we receive the gifts and how we use them

As the body of Christ we are joined together and we use our gifts to encourage and help each other and to build one another up. Each part of the body has something different to offer. In the Corinthians passage it says that they are for ‘the common good.’ They are all distributed by the same Holy Spirit and He is the one who determines who gets them (but that is not to stop us desiring certain ones and even asking for them) We should never be proud of what we have or envious of others. We can trust the one who made us and who knows all about us and has a specific purpose for our lives to know exactly what gifts we should need.

It is worth mentioning that some of these gifts are given to us as part of our character. We could be a natural born leader or someone who finds it easy to teach or encourage etc. Some of the gifts are given for a specific time, for instance we encounter someone who is sick and we receive a supernatural surge of faith to pray for them and see them healed.

But our main gifts are given to us as we continue to follow Christ, as we seek to please Him and see His glorious bride (the church) fulfil its potential. We discover these gifts as we see a need in the church or something lacking that needs to be accomplished.

As we continue in our Christian life, these gifts are developed and strengthened as we become mature and keep using them.

Do you know what gifts you have and if so are you using them? Have a prayerful look at the list below and seek God for guidance. Why not ask a friend or your church leader for their honest opinion? Sometimes others can see things clearer than we can.

Apostle

The Greek word apostolos means “one sent forth” There is a lot of debate whether people can be called apostles today. It appears there were degrees of apostles even in the New Testament, with Christ’s original followers and then others such as Paul, Barnabas, Andronicus and others being called apostles. We would not of course place anyone today in the same category as the original apostles but I believe that all the original gifts of the spirit are still in use and are needed in the church today including the gift of apostle. It is vital that we have knowledgeable, wise and godly fathers who are able to oversee large groups of churches, the planting of new churches into new regions and the establishing of elders in the local church. If you want to know more I recommend the book “Fathering leaders, motivating mission” by Dave Devenish top

Distinguishing between spirits

The bible describes Satan as being an ‘angel of light’ and some of his deception can be hidden behind apparently ‘good deeds’. However, someone with this gifting will be able to discern what spirit is behind the ‘good deed’, whether it be from God, man, or demonic. This gifting can work well together with the pastoral gift in counselling situations, or in determining what spirit is influencing a person. It is also useful for discerning true biblical teaching from false doctrine, which can be very subtle. top

Encouraging

The gift of encouragement (also referred to as exhortation) involves motivating and encouraging those who are struggling in their Christian walk. People with this gift have a lot of compassion, sensitivity and time for others. Often called a ‘people person’ they tend to naturally gather needy people around them, who know they will be helped and not judged. top

Evangelist

The gift of evangelist is the ability and desire to clearly and boldly share the good news of Jesus Christ so that non-Christians can become Christians. They seem to have an innate ability when talking to non-Christians to turn any conversation around to talk about God.

Evangelists have a strong desire to see the lost meet Jesus, so much so that often they would prefer to be with non-Christians than spend time with other Christians. The evangelistic gift fits in well with a healing gift as the power of God demonstrated in peoples’ lives will often make them receptive to the gospel. Many Evangelists are ‘apologists’ (from the Greek word ‘apologia’ meaning to ‘give a defence’). This is where they will use reason and arguments to defend the Christian faith. top

Faith

As with a lot of these gifts, all Christians have them to one degree or another, the gift of faith being a prime example. You wouldn’t be a Christian if you didn’t have faith and the bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

This extra gift of faith though, is the ability to trust God in almost impossible circumstances and believe that God will accomplish things purely because He has said so. Those with the gift of faith can persuade others of biblical truths because they believe them so completely themselves. They are able to hold on to the promises of God when all else seems helpless and others are ready to give up. Doubters annoy them, although they would always believe they could overturn doubt anyway.

They are often visionaries who dream big dreams, pray big prayers, and attempt big things for God. They tend to be optimistic and hopeful, persevering and positive. They are vital people to have around when things are going wrong. top

Giving

Giving is something that again every Christian should be doing, after all “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7) but as with the gift of faith, the gift of giving is on a different level. Someone with this gift really enjoys blessing people and ministries with money or material possessions; they do it generously, joyfully and sacrificially and they view their possessions as ‘on loan’ from God. Where He points out a need they respond. They can often be people who are well off because God continuously blesses them as He sees them steward well His provision, but they are not always so. Jesus was poor but was the most generous man who ever lived! top

Guidance

Also known as Shepherding. Shepherds nurture others in the Christian faith and provide a mentoring relationship to new Christians. This gift is closely linked to the gifts of teaching and pastoring, and combines well with both. Shepherds are usually mature Christians with a wealth of experience, able to pastor with patience and wisdom. This is one of the key gifts of an elder. top

Healing

The gift of healing is the ability to believe God that the sick will be healed when they are prayed for. A person with this gift will see many healed as he/she prays for them. Not everyone is healed (which is in the mystery of God) but it would seem that more are healed the more this gift is exercised and faith is increased. Those with this gift have a deep compassion for people who are sick or infirm, and delight to see them restored and God glorified. This gift can often accompany the evangelistic gifting with the proclamation of the gospel. top

Helping

Also called serving, it is the ability to joyfully work alongside others to help and serve them. This gift is normally performed behind the scenes, the person not looking for the limelight but simply happy that the task gets completed. People with this gift derive much joy from helping others, from volunteering without being asked and seeing a need and getting on with it. This gift would normally be associated with humility and someone willing to give sacrificially without reward. top

Knowledge

There are a few ways of interpreting what a ‘word of knowledge’ is, some would say it is simply the ability to study deeply and research a subject to more than just a surface understanding. I don’t think this is what a ‘word’ of knowledge is. My understanding is this: a ‘word of  knowledge’ is knowledge revealed by God that otherwise would not be known by observation or human resource; it is a supernatural insight or understanding of a certain situation or circumstance. An example would be in Acts 5 where Peter ‘knew’ the deceit of Ananias and Saphira which appears to have been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. However, it wouldn’t only be used to reveal hidden sins, it could also be used to bring encouragement to someone who is faltering to know that God is in control and he ‘knows’ them and their struggles. top

Leading

The gift of leadership involves the ability to lead and motivate a team with diligence and care. By definition a leader will have followers; if no-one is following, you’re probably not a leader! Leaders have a clear vision from God which they communicate to others, inspiring them to work towards a common purpose. top

Miraculous powers

Someone who has the gift of miraculous powers is able to call on God to carry out supernatural acts that reveal God’s power. These are not always extravagant acts (for example, seeing fire come down from heaven) but could be situations such as seeing food increased and distributed to more than would naturally be possible. We see in the bible a wide variety of miracles performed by Jesus and others, demonstrating that God does things for certain reasons at certain times according to His will. By nature they would need to be operated with a large degree of Faith. They are uncommon and do not happen regularly (or they would not be called miraculous) top

Pastor

A pastor is someone who protects, guides, counsels and disciples other people. It is one of the main functions of an elder but not exclusively so. The pastor (or shepherd) has a care and love for people and a desire for them to mature into all God has for them. Someone with this gift will be sought out by people and will instinctively look to help those who are hurting or need counselling. top

Prophecy

A huge subject, to which I will not do justice here. One could talk about the office of a prophet but I’m just going to concentrate on the gift as mentioned in these passages.

Prophecy is the ability to speak forth the message of God to his people. Those prophesying are not speaking their own words but those given to them by God, however no prophecy will be 100% accurate and will naturally reflect the speaker’s theological views, sensitivities etc. For this reason prophecy should always be ‘weighed’ by the elders and other prophets. Prophecy will never contradict scripture.

Prophecy is designed to strengthen, encourage and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3) and if it leaves one feeling condemned it is most likely false. top

Serving

See Helping top

Showing mercy

The gift of mercy is the capacity to feel and express great compassion and sympathy for those who are suffering physically, mentally or emotionally and to provide them with the necessary help and support to see them through tough times. They desire to make a difference in the lives of hurting people, without being judgmental, and will do it joyfully through deeds of love and self-sacrifice to help in any way they can. top

Teaching

The gift of teaching is the ability to teach, instruct and communicate biblical truth clearly so that those being taught gain a full understanding of the truth, see the relevance to them on a personal level and are then able to apply it to their own lives. Those with this gift enjoy studying scripture and love to expound God’s truth to others, so that lives are changed. top

Tongues (speaking and Interpretation)

The gift of tongues is a very emotive and misunderstood subject in the church today. If you have strong views either way, please remember that 1 Corinthians chapter 13 on ‘love’ over-arches all this teaching on spiritual gifts!

Tongues is also interpreted as ‘languages’. We see it first demonstrated at Pentecost when the believers were first filled with the Holy Spirit and praised God in the various languages of their onlookers, so in this context it would not need interpretation as it is a gift given to communicate with someone in their own language.

The passage in Corinthians however points to another aspect of the gift of tongues, that of speaking in a heavenly language that edifies our spirits. In a church service, someone would pray out in a tongue and someone would then interpret that tongue. The tongue would be directed towards God.

The gift of tongues is also useful when interceding or praying to God. We can be sure that we are praying in the will of God, which is a great help when we do not know what to pray. In a wonderful way our spirit is communicating with God’s spirit. top

Wisdom

The gift of wisdom is the ability to have Godly insight into people’s hearts, lives and situations that is not obvious. Wisdom is associated with the word of knowledge and is exercised through the understanding and application of that knowledge. It is useful for those looking to apply biblical truth to their lives and is especially useful in counselling situations. top

 June 11, 2012  Posted by at 8:30 pm Holy Spirit No Responses »
Apr 252012
 

2_men_talking_silouette-300x231In my last blog I talked about the importance of accountability questions in Discipleship. We looked at a number of honest questions we could ask each other regularly to become accountable to one another.

Last time I looked briefly at James 5:16 which says “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” In this blog I want to look at what it means to confess our sins to one another.

When we talk about confession you might, if you have a Roman Catholic background, think of the confessional booth and having to recount the weeks’ wrongdoings to the priest. Should we do this? Do we confess to each other and then to God, or the other way round? It can all get very confusing. We can sometimes come to some wrong conclusions which I will address later. Continue reading »

 April 25, 2012  Posted by at 9:58 pm Accountability, Confession, Discipleship 1 Response »