Apr 102015
 

Why did Jesus have to dieEaster is a wonderful time to take some time aside and think about what Jesus has done for us. It is amazing that God should become a man and die for us, but have you ever wondered why he needed to die for us and why it had to be in such a horrific way?

When somebody writes a biography, they usually write the vast majority about the person’s life and very little about their death. In a biography of Winston Churchill’s life, the British prime minister, there are only 3 pages out of 300 that are devoted to his death. That’s just 1% of the book. However, when we look at the New Testament we see that approximately 33% of each gospel is devoted to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The reason for this is that His death and resurrection are absolutely vital to the gospel message. Indeed, the main reason why Jesus came to earth was not just to give us a good example of how to live, or provide us with moral teaching, but to die and rise again!

The cross of Christ lies at the heart of Christianity, to not understand it means we have missed the very reason why Jesus had to die. The death of Christ was no accident, it was foretold in many places throughout scripture.

Some would ask “So why couldn’t God just forgive sin without Jesus having to die?” To ask this question demonstrates a lack of understanding of the holiness of God and also the severity of sin which undermines it. The holiness of God means that God cannot just sweep sin under the carpet, it must be punished. The true and just punishment of sin is death. The other side of God’s character is love and mercy and that is what happens at the cross; God’s holiness and judgement meet His love and mercy, in a ‘once for all’ sacrifice. It was once for all because only a perfect person could meet the full criteria. If we had died on the cross it would simply have been a just punishment because we are all sinful, but because it was Jesus, the perfect substitute, God’s judgement is satisfied. Jesus died in our place.

There are 4 main things that happened at the cross and we will look at each of them briefly;

Justification – to be declared ‘just’ (or not guilty)

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we are declared not guilty by God. Christ died for us to pay our debt. How amazing, the God whom we have offended is the one who comes to our rescue!

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The Apostle Peter also speaks of Christ’s death in this way:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

An easy way to remember this concept is to break the word justified up into ‘Just as if I’d never sinned’ not great English but a great truth!

Redeemed – to be bought out of slavery

To redeem means to ‘buy back’. The bible shows that we were slaves to sin and death, but now we have been bought back at a very high price, the death of Jesus. Slaves were sometimes redeemed in ancient times, if they had enough money they could redeem themselves by buying their freedom for a price. The bible is clear that we would never have had enough ‘money’ to free ourselves, we were morally bankrupt. The only person who could buy our freedom was Jesus and He paid the ultimate price with His own life.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace  (Ephesians 1:7)

Substitution – to have someone take our place

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a big follower of football. Oftentimes in football, when somebody is having a bad game, or is injured a substitute will come on in their place. One person is replaced for another. Jesus was our substitute. In the Old Testament a lamb was substituted for the sinner and was killed instead of the person. A death had to occur and it was better that it was the lamb’s. In the same way Jesus was our substitute, He took our place on the cross and bore our punishment. He was saying to the father “Father, punish me instead of them”

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Jesus was willing to be our substitute to bear our punishment so that we could be spared.

Reconciliation – the healing of a broken relationship

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18)

The bible makes it clear that even from birth we are alienated from God, we were born in sin because of our first parents – Adam & Eve. Every human being since has started life separated from God because of that sin. We don’t start life with a clean slate, it is already tainted. This prevented us ever having a relationship with him.

But on the cross Jesus restored that broken relationship by removing God’s wrath and anger from the sinner and taking it upon himself. With the barrier of sin removed, it is now possible to have peace with God. A relationship restored and not only that but adoption into God’s own family.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)

These 4 things mean the following wonderful truths:

  • We know God’s forgiveness– God chooses to forgive and not remember our sin anymore
  • We have access to God – We can now enter right into God’s presence, free from guilt and fear. When Jesus died, the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom (Mark 15:38) signifying the separation has been completely taken away.
  • We have peace with God– we are no longer enemies of God but have now become friends
  • We are adopted into God’s family– God has adopted us into his family and we are now sons and heirs.
  • We have eternal life – The fear of death is gone because Jesus has defeated it. When we die in this life, we just pass on to a better life forever with Him.

So how do we know that Jesus succeeded in what he set out to do on the cross?

We know He succeeded because He rose again. We can so easily purely focus on the cross, but His death and resurrection go hand in hand. In fact, if Jesus had not raised to life on the third day our faith would be pretty meaningless. But the very fact that he did rise shows that his mission was completed and his death on the cross was a success. He rose because death no longer had a hold on Him and everything He said about himself, including His divinity was true.

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14)

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

So in conclusion, there was no other way for our sins to be dealt with. The cross shows us the seriousness of sin before a Holy God and that a death had to occur. It shows how rebellious mankind can be and it also shows us the amazing love that God has for us and the beautiful obedience of the son who would go to any lengths to rescue us.

The fact that Jesus died though, demands a response. It is not enough just to know that it happened. The bible makes it clear that we need to take some action in response. To fully experience God’s forgiveness and have a right relationship with Him you need to;

  • Repenting of your sins, admit that you have done wrong in your life and that you need Jesus’ forgiveness.
  • Believe that Jesus is the Son of God and died on the cross bearing the full penalty your sins deserved. That He rose again from the grave and has conquered death as the risen Lord.
  • Commit your life into his hands. He is now Lord of your life and with the power of His Holy Spirit, you can now live a life that pleases Him.

That is the gospel in a ‘nutshell’ and it is no wonder they call it good news!

 April 10, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics, Resurrection, Salvation, The gospel No Responses »
Apr 182014
 

The_Resurrection_And_The_LifeSometimes when people proclaim great names over themselves they have a hard time proving it. For instance, Muhammad Ali called himself “the greatest”. Now there is no doubting he was a very good boxer, but he did lose on quite a few occasions. When Jose Mourinho (the newly appointed Chelsea manager) labelled himself “the special one”, he did prove to be quite good, but has failed to conquer all before him and be really ‘special’.

When Jesus labelled Himself with a name He went on to prove Himself as well worthy of that name. Have you noticed how often, when Jesus says ‘I am’ something, He backs it up with hard evidence? When He said “I am the bread of life” He had just fed 5,000 men (probably up to 20,000 if you include women and children) with a few loaves and fish. When He said “I am the light of the world” He proceeded to bring sight to a man born blind. And when Jesus stated “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) He went on to demonstrate His mastery over death by raising Lazarus to life after being dead for 4 days.

Little did anyone realise as Lazarus was being unwrapped from his grave clothes that Jesus would further demonstrate His power over death in just a few months time, during these momentous days of the first Easter.

Eventually Good Friday would come, and even though the disciples had witnessed Jesus commanding Lazarus to come out of the grave just a short time previously, they struggled to see how this dead body on Good Friday could raise itself from the dead. But this is the wonderful truth we celebrate at Easter.

Jesus Christ is alive and He has defeated death for all time. In the book of Revelation, John meets again the glorified, risen Jesus: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades’”. (Revelation 1:17-18).

Jesus is The Life. He gives life to every living creature. Every one of us has breath in our bodies because He says so and when He allows it, that breath will be taken away from us.

If you are a Christian you have been transferred from the kingdom of death and darkness to the kingdom of light and life.

Let’s expand today’s passage even further. After Jesus had declared He is the resurrection and the life He then says: “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26).

You see, for the Christian, the sting of death has been completely taken away. Even though we will die physically, we will continue to live beyond this life. The New Testament on many occasions speaks of Christian death as falling asleep. I don’t know about you but I quite like falling asleep; there is certainly nothing to worry about. That is what Jesus has won for us and what He proved when He said He is “The resurrection and the life”. What a wonderful thing to celebrate this Easter!

 April 18, 2014  Posted by at 7:30 am Names of Jesus, Resurrection No Responses »
Dec 052013
 

god-came-downBy now the preparations and planning for Christmas have probably reached fever-pitch: so many things to think about, lists to write and things to do. It can be a time of great pressure but I hope also brings a sense of fun and expectation.

During December I am going to be writing some Christmas reflections, some thoughts to share with you that I hope will bless you. In all the busyness of this season, it is so important to take time out and reflect on what Christmas really is all about. (If I get time myself I may send a few extra blogs out on other days, not just Fridays, but we will see!).

One of the most amazing mysteries in the history of the world is that the God who made us, the creator, the one who spoke and stars were formed in a moment, should come to the earth and live as a man for about 33 years.

He could have come in so many ways; He could have come as a fully formed man (without the fragility of being a baby); He could have come as a king in a palace; He could have come with a perfect body which didn’t get tired and hungry. He could have appeared in any way He wanted to but He chose to come as a baby, born in a smelly cattle shed to an unmarried couple in a desperately poor third world country.

God Himself became a man. I have become very familiar with this fact over the years. Maybe you have too if, like me, you have been a Christian for a long time. I have been told this story since childhood many many times, not just at Christmas. But I never want to get used to the wonder of what this actually means. ‘God Himself became a man’. Perhaps this could be a reason why so many people don’t believe it; because it is simply too amazing to be true.

But why would God do this? The answer is woven throughout the bible and perfectly summed up in one of the most well known verses:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

Jesus came because He loves us, because He knew there was no other way. A perfect man had to die and so God became a man and lived a perfect life.

I don’t know whether you feel loved at Christmas or not. For some it can be a very lonely time, but even if you have nobody around you at Christmas, consider this when you look at a nativity scene: this is God in the manager and He is lying there because He loves you. Now that’s a great thought to start with.

 December 5, 2013  Posted by at 10:35 pm Christmas, The gospel 1 Response »
Oct 282013
 

Peaceful shoesI hope you are enjoying my series on ‘The Armour of God’. I am enjoying writing it and feel that God is speaking to me through it (hopefully to you too!).

If you have missed the previous posts you can find them on the left hand side of this web page.

This week we shall look at the part of the passage “….and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15).

I used to think this was solely about being ready to walk into situations and preach the gospel, but having thought about it a bit more I have come to the conclusion that there is more to it than that.

As I have said before, as Paul wrote this he would have probably been looking at the shoes of the soldiers he was chained to. Roman soldier’s shoes were not necessarily built for speed, but rather to be able to stand firm in the heat of battle. You will notice in the passage immediately before this, Paul mentions to ‘stand firm’ 4 times. In battle, Roman soldiers would stand side by side with their shields locked together. They would dig in and withstand every enemy onslaught and then push forward together as one unit. They would not give way.

The gospel of peace is a ‘firm foundation’ in our lives. We are called to a life of peace:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace”. (Colossians 3:15).

It’s wonderful to think that we carry the peace of God with us wherever we go. Jesus said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27).

The world is an anxious place and is lacking much peace. There is worry, concern, anguish and anxiety everywhere we turn. As those who have received God’s peace, we should carry it everywhere we go, ministering it to others.

As we know, this whole battle we are in is not physical but spiritual. We fight with weapons of peace, weapons that bring calmness in times of turmoil. This is the total opposite of physical fighting. We vanquish the enemy by bringing the peace of God into every situation we find ourselves in.

Are you standing firm in the peace that God has given you?

Did you know that.. “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Romans 5:1)? Let the peace of God reign in your life, as you read God’s word and spend time enjoying His presence. As you do, people will start to ask you “what is this peace that you have?” You can then share the wonderful news about the ‘Prince of peace’.

 October 28, 2013  Posted by at 8:37 pm Armour of God No Responses »
Apr 172013
 

Free gift of righteousnessAs we saw last week in Romans 5:17 we reign in life, not only through God’s abundant grace but also through His free gift of righteousness.

We can enjoy God’s grace fully when we become absolutely assured that He has made us righteous. We are not ‘being made righteous’; we are fully, completely and utterly righteous right now. Again, not through our own works but because through His sovereign grace, God has made it so.

As people prior to conversion become aware of their sin, they may try to improve themselves through ‘good works’. Until one day they hear the glorious gospel; that all they have to do is repent, turn and come to God just as they are. However, even before they have finished giving their lives to Christ, the person leading them through the ‘sinners’ prayer’ can start adding a list of things they really should be doing (bible reading, prayer, witnessing etc). Many churches can be found doing this and it is often due to a misunderstanding between “justification” and “sanctification”.

Justification and Sanctification

It is vital we know the difference between justification and sanctification.

Justification is our standing before God. When we become Christians He declares us righteous. We cannot add to it or take anything away from it. It is summed up in one of my favourite verses: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Sanctification is the ongoing process which makes us holy. It is the gradual change that happens through our Christian walk which changes us “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). This happens as we spend time with God and other Christians, but it never affects our justification. Some of us are sanctified quicker or slower than others but we are all justified the same, hallelujah!!

In Adam or In Christ?

The apostle Paul’s favourite title for a Christian is someone who is ‘In Christ’.

Before we became Christians we were all ‘In Adam’.

The bible talks about various people in the bible being ‘types’ of Christ. For example, Jonah was in the belly of a fish for 3 days; Jesus was in the tomb for 3 days. Adam is a type of Christ in that what he did had an affect on the whole human race. Because he sinned, we are all considered sinners because we are considered to be ‘in Adam’.

We are saved now because we are ‘in Christ’. He died and rose again so that whoever believes in Him will be saved. We have died to the old life and have now been raised with Christ. We have now been ‘born again’. (John 3:3)

When you were ‘in Adam’, whatever good works you did were never enough to ‘get you out’ of Adam. You can’t ‘get out’ that way. Now you are ‘in Christ’ you can’t ‘get out’ of Christ by sinning.

That’s right – nothing you can do can take you out of Christ because it wasn’t your efforts that ‘got you in’ in the first place. It was all by God’s grace.

Bu that’s scandalous! Yes it is and it begs the question “shouldn’t we keep on sinning then so that God’s grace looks even better?”. This is the question we will look at next week. But this week let us simply enjoy the magnificent freedom of God’s grace!

This blog is a summary from a chapter in Terry Virgo’s wonderful book “God’s lavish grace” you can order a copy by clicking on the links on the left hand side

 April 17, 2013  Posted by at 10:01 pm Grace, Justification, Righteousness, Salvation, Sanctification 2 Responses »
Feb 222013
 

We have looked in recent weeks into the fact that when we become Christians we become new creations, our whole nature has changed. We are declared righteous before God, not through anything that we do but because what Jesus has done for us. We are also called saints or holy ones, with power over sin.

My question this week, given the truth that I have just stated is; “why do we still struggle to overcome in certain areas of our lives, why are we not living victorious lives on a daily basis?”

If it is true that we have been transported from one kingdom to another, things should be a lot different It is certainly true that Jesus won complete victory at the cross. In Colossians 2:13 -15 it says; When you were dead in your sins and in the un-circumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,  having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Jesus won the victory at the cross, winning us complete freedom, but the enemy still likes to lie to us and sometimes he can be very convincing. We are in a constant battle, although against a disarmed foe, he is still very cunning.

We have been set free – our old life the bit tied to sin has died – we can choose to follow God. The legal freedom in our lives however, needs to be applied as a literal freedom We need to be those who move from hearing and understanding the word to those who hold fast to it in daily situations. We need to Know the truth Believe the truth and act on the truth.

In John 8:31-32 Jesus explains; “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” It isn’t enough to just hear and understand without knowing the truth. To hold onto it is to know it. We take baggage from our old life into our new life in Christ and we need help taking that baggage off and having a completely new mindset. In Romans 12:1-2 it talks about renewing our minds. That’s the first step in discipleship.

Sometimes we can get stuck in patterns of behaviour that are unhealthy. That can be because things we are doing now or in the past have left an open door for the devil to get in. Here are a few examples of what I mean;

1. Occult influence – e.g. fortune telling, spiritualism, witchcraft, horoscopes, Ouija boards etc

2. False religions – Cults, paganism, legalistic churches, new age etc

3. Drug and alcohol abuse

4. Sexual perversion

5. Habitual gambling

6. Traumatic rejection

If you haven’t already done so, these old habits and destructive tendencies need to be renounced and dealt with. The important thing to note in all of this is we do have a choice. We can either live a life of freedom or of bondage. As I finish this week I would just like to ask you a couple of questions to consider;

• In what ways have you been lied to about your identity?

• How can you counteract these accusations?

• How can you know the truth, believe and act on it?

• How can this knowledge about your identity affect the way you live your life.

Let me encourage you to get together with a good Christian friend or church leader who can help you work some of these things through so that you can live a life of victory that is yours by right. If you have any questions about this subject or anything that has been said, please do not hesitate to contact me as I can make a few suggestions as to where you can go to for help.

 February 22, 2013  Posted by at 4:35 pm Confession, Faith, Resurrection, Salvation, The gospel No Responses »
Jan 172013
 

Les miserablesLiz and I had the opportunity to go to the cinema together last week (quite a rare occurrence) as she was keen to see Les Miserables. As a Christian I thought it had a really interesting story which I would like to share with you, but don’t worry-I’m not going to give away the plot! I was quite intrigued by it; I knew the stage show was a musical but I hadn’t realised that the film was too. It came as quite a shock for me to see Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Maximus Decimus (Russell Crowe) having a sing-off in the opening scene. I half expected the claws to come out!

I’m really not a fan of musicals. To me it seems so unnatural for people to suddenly burst into song in every situation they find themselves in. I was determined however to embrace the film come what may and I’m glad I did. You soon get used to the singing and actually appreciate how cleverly it is all put together, with people singing different parts simultaneously yet all in harmony with each other.

What struck me most about this film was the very obvious investigation into the conflict between legalism and grace and how different people react and respond in different ways. The story briefly is about a criminal who experiences extraordinary grace (probably the part of the film I found most emotional). He experiences this grace on a personal level and he then takes every opportunity to extend that grace to others. Legalism is shown in the person of a policeman who cannot accept that a person can change and is determined that the law be fulfilled to the letter.

The film is also an exploration into injustice; one of the main characters had been condemned to 19 years hard labour for stealing a loaf of bread to feed a starving relative, whilst another character is victimised by work colleagues to such an extent that she loses her job and is forced into prostitution. Injustice is a constant theme in many Hollywood films; it psychologically causes a stirring of a sort of righteous indignation which in turn creates an emotional attachment to the characters, (hence the shares in Kleenex rocketing over the last few weeks-I suspect the reason the film was so loud was to the muffle the sound of sobbing!)

This would be an excellent film to take your non Christian friends to see as it creates a fantastic opportunity to discuss with them the grace that God extends to us through Jesus Christ.

I would love to know what you thought of the film; please drop a comment in the box below.

 January 17, 2013  Posted by at 10:26 pm Grace, The gospel 4 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 »
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 »
Apr 062012
 

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why is it called ‘Good’ Friday?”

Reading what happened on ‘Good Friday’ it seems far from good. An innocent man has just been declared guilty in front of a baying mob, he is dragged before two further courts who insult him, and beat him up in a really violent manner. He is abandoned by all of his friends who he has lived in community with for the last 3 years and one of his closest friends even denies him vehemently with an expletive ridden denial. He is then tortured further and made to carry the cross he will be nailed to, naked, in full public view.

But despite all the horror of that day, for us, this is really good news. Continue reading »

 April 6, 2012  Posted by at 6:44 am Salvation, The gospel 2 Responses »