Sometimes I get to preach a couple of weeks in a row, and often when Ben and I discuss the structure of a passage and realise that it would make sense for one preacher to take a particular block. This has happened to me these past weeks as I’ve gotten to preach from Mark 1:16 all the way through to Mark 3:6. The section has been broken in two, with part one looking at 1:16-45 and part two looking at 2:1-3:6.
As I was preparing for the sermon last week I noticed, with the aid of ‘Dig Deeper into the Gospels’, a chiasm that Mark has inserted into this section. A chiasm is a structure of writing in which two halves parallel each other in an ascending/descending fashion, often to highlight the middle portion. The chiasm in this section of Mark’s gospel looks like something like this:
A. 1:16-20 – Calling disciples to follow him
B. 1:21-28 – the Authority of Jesus teaching confirmed by a miracle
C. 1:29-34 – Healings
D. 1:35-39 – Jesus’ focus on preaching
C’. 1:40-45 – Healing the leper
B’. 2:1-12 – the Authority of Jesus to forgive confirmed by a miracle
A’. 2:13-14 – Calling Levi to follow him
You can see the small problem I had because we had originally planned only to go to 1:45 rather than through to 2:14 to cover the chiasm. This isn’t too big of a problem – many other commentators break up the structure of Mark at 1:45, and I was happy to work with that, but it did mean that because I was convinced of this particular chiastic structure I had to work out what to include and not include in the sermon.
So one of the things I dropped was the A, A’ bracket. While in the first service I shoe-horned it in, I dropped it for the second service as I realised it didn’t make much sense. Preaching 1:21-45 as it’s own unit made more sense – focusing more on the teaching of Jesus as confirmed by the miracles surrounding it all.
This coming week I’m preaching on Mark 2:1-3:6 and I’ve begun to notice something else: an escalating conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees.
It begins in 2:1-12 with the healing of the paralytic man. The authority of Jesus to forgive the paralytic man’s sins is questioned by the scribes – and rightly so. Only God can forgive – so their questioning of Jesus here makes sense, and we can give them the benefit of the doubt.
But then when Jesus calls Levi to follow him and hangs with the Tax Collectors and sinners (2:13-17) the Pharisees insert themselves again into the story asking why Jesus would hang around such people. Jesus’ response has a bit of a double edge (he came not to call the righteous – but no one is righteous… so is he saying that the Pharisees are self-righteous?).
By 2:18-3:6 we then have three incidences which escalate the dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees. They involve fasting and two incidences on the Sabbath until it finally ends in 3:6 with the Pharisees beginning their plot to kill Jesus.
It seems that the point of this weeks’ sermon will fall on the Pharisees and their objections to Jesus. Point A’ of the chiasm will, therefore, fall more naturally within the discussion on Jesus hanging with tax collectors/sinners.
So what this means is that discussion on the cost of following Jesus – which I was thinking I was going to highlight, is going to probably fall by the wayside.
And that’s why I’m blogging this – to say here what I was hoping to say on Sunday but realise is better left on the cutting room floor. Or the post of a blog.
On the cost of following Jesus
In Mark 1:16-20, and 2:14 we have two clear instances of Jesus personally calling disciples to follow him. Five men in these stories are called – Simon, Andrew, James and John (1:16-20), and Levi (2:14). In each of these stories we read that these men followed immediately – there appears to be no time elapsing in between the call and their decision to follow. There is no double checking with the spouses, no seeking permission from parents, just a simple act of responding.
And in each case, we can see a relatively massive cost to following Jesus.
First, there is the cost of leaving everything behind. By the description of the fishing operation, Simon and Andrew had a relatively successful business as fishermen – enough to own a home from it (cf 1:29). James and John were a part of a sizeable small business as well – not only were they also fishermen in what appears to be their father’s business, but the operation was large enough to require ‘hired servants (cf 1:20).
When Levi was called he was sitting at the tax booth – he was a tax collector. Given that these men would own the rights to tax collecting, and it was a relatively profitable venture, all these men gave up their wealth and ‘careers’ to follow Jesus.
There’s also the cost of leaving father (and mother). James and John were probably going to inherit their father’s business after he passed away. And yet here they were, not only turning their backs on this but also parting ways with their father whom they leave behind.
Following Jesus is a costly thing. In small ways we see here what Jesus demands of his followers later:
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. – Mark 8:34
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:26
The Luke quote is hyperbole – over the top exaggerated language to make the point: Jesus comes first.
It’s no small thing to follow Jesus. But as we saw in the opening verses of Mark, Jesus – the authoritative teacher affirmed by his miracles – is worth following. He is worth the cost of giving up everything we have to follow him.
Subtle Christian Traits. I joined the group I think when it numbered a few thousand. The posts were witty and funny, and while some memes/posts had a small sting they were ‘loving’ jabs – the wounds of a faithful friend (cf Proverbs 27:6).
But as the group got larger the posts began to stray from the original intent of the group (“Our aim with this group was of course humour, but also embrace our not-so-subtle traits of edifying one another as brothers and sisters in Christ!”). A number of posts appearing with more pointed theological jabs, a couple of heretical posts (!), and a few really unfunny weird flex memes. Is that a bad thing? Well, I’m not the moderator or admin of the group so I don’t have that strong of an opinion on the evolution of the group. In some ways it was expected – the larger the group got the wider the umbrella would have to become to accommodate anyone claiming to be ‘Christian’. So this didn’t bother me.
What bothered me more were the comments section. Kevin DeYoung said it best:
Heaps of opinions and debates – and most concerning: heaps of opinions that appeared to be based on faulty foundations.
This is partly why I don’t engage much in comments or debates online anymore – despite the sometimes overwhelming temptation. I’ve personally found Facebook, and the comments section in general, to be such a bad forum for debates. Taking conversations offline, meeting someone in person – face to face, imagine that! – and thrashing out our differences with our Bibles open has been much more fruitful.
This differs to comments on my own personal wall/posts. Those I’ll generally engage with and interact with – you are my friends after all! But in public groups such as Subtle Christian Traits, and on other sites like Relevant of The Gospel Coalition, I personally feel the comments section are a bit of a waste of time.
But I know that some of my readers are often in the comments engaging with others – good on you. It’s not for me, but more power to you. For these friends I’d like to give some encouragement on how to engage and how to think through why others engage the way they do. (This post is mostly sparked by a comment debate I’ve seen one friend get into with a stranger where I’ve realised my friend just didn’t seem to connect or understand where the stranger – a fellow Christian – was coming fromt).
So you’re in the comment section, you’re engaging with someone and sharing your thoughts, and they respond in a way that surprises you. You might be wondering why some Christians hold their positions so strongly. I’ve seen some comment debates derail before they even begin – and all for the same reason: Christians leaning on different authorities.
BRIE and Authority
In matters of faith and spirituality, we all lean on an authority to shape and form our opinions. The question is what authority are you leaning on?
Here’s where the acronym, ‘BRIE’ can be a helpful compass to orient where you might be in any given conversation.
BRIE stands for Bible (the Word of God), Reason (logic, arguments, human reasoning), Institutions (such as the Church, traditions, and history), and Experience (our feelings, emotions, and experiences in general).
When it comes to authority in our faith there can be a tendency to elevate one over the others in the position of supreme governing authority – and in turn that shapes how you view your faith and the world around you.
Elevating reason to first place is the tendency of liberal Christianity – where arguments and human reasoning have been used to argue against central doctrines like the resurrection and the trustworthiness of Scripture. The arguments have generally relied on things like science disproving miracles, or arguments of historical reconstructions to explain away parts of the Bible. But the main thing about this is that the Bible is filtered through the lens of reason and when the two seem to conflict, human reasoning takes precedence.
Elevating institutions to first place is the tendency of Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity – where the traditions and history of the church have been used as the primary filter for interpreting the Bible. Start with a particular tradition or historical view and read the Bible through that lens. One example I’ve read of this is to find support for the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory within the parable of the unforgiving servant (cf Matthew 18:34 where the master delivers the unforgiving servant over to the jailers ‘until he should pay all his debt’).
Elevating experience to first place is the tendency of charismatic influenced Christianity – where your experiences are relied upon and given authority, even if scripture says something different. Experiences are used as examples for other Christians to follow. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when experiences are authoritative, and alone form the foundation of wisdom and advice then we run into problems. Experience becomes the lens by which we filter scripture. To give a somewhat controversial example: some argue that women can be pastors and preach to mixed congregations on the basis that they have experienced fruitful/helpful teaching from women pastors in the past.
By now it should be clear that I intend to argue that we should elevate scripture to first place. But I want to be clear that in doing so I’m not denying the use or truthfulness of reason, institutions, or experience. But I am arguing that whatever use or truth there might be must first be examined in the light of scripture’s governing authority. If my reasoning conflicts with scripture on matters of faith, then I must humble submit the conflict to scripture and persevere in working it through (as opposed to just rejecting scripture in favour of human reason). If the institution or tradition conflicts with scripture, then I must reform the institution or tradition in the light of scripture. And I must understand my expereince in the light of scripture as well – ensuring that the practice of faith is not dependent on an experiential moment alone.
Here are five reasons I think that on matters of faith and spirituality scripture should have supreme authority.
Jesus prioritised the Word in his ministry. When he fended off Satan’s attacks in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), corrected the Pharisees’ misapplication of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-5) and traditions surrounding cleanliness (Mark 7:1-13), or pointed to what framed the purpose of his ministry (eg. Luke 18:31, 22:37) Jesus put God’s Word front and centre. Scripture drove, shaped, and was the basis of his ministry.
The Apostles prioritised the Word. When Peter explained the meaning of the apostles speaking in tongues, announcing the coming of God’s Kingdom with the death and resurrection of Jesus, his Pentecost sermon was saturated in scripture (Acts 2). When the Apostles later heard of the conversion of the Gentiles and the Holy Spirit descending upon them, they turned to Scripture to inform their understanding of these events (Acts 15:1-18). Scripture was used to filter these experiences.
Paul used scripture to reason for the gospel. In the towering letter of Romans he reasons clearly that our perfect standing before God, our righteousness, is received by faith alone. In order to make this point (cf Romans 4:1-12) he refers to Abraham’s story in Genesis and quotes David from Psalm 32. Paul doesn’t use reasoning alone, but his reasoning is rooted in and shaped by Scripture.
Paul would later declare that because ‘All scripture is God-breathed’ it made it perfect and sufficient for all our spiritual needs (cf 2 Timothy 3:14-16). The scripture being referred to here is the Old Testament, but as the Apostles wrote and affirmed each other’s writings as scripture (cf Peter’s equating of Paul’s writings as scripture in 2 Peter 3:15-16, and Paul’s quoting of Luke in 1 Timothy 5:18), and as the New Testament gospels and letters were affirmed and then canonised, it wasn’t inappropriate for the Church to then affirm Paul’s words in 2 Timothy as referring to all of scripture – the Old and New Testament.
The church, during the Protestant Reformation, returned to prioritising scripture as the ultimate authority. It is a distinctive hallmark of reformed theology that the Bible rises above other forms of authority and is also constantly reforming our faith (in regards to our knowledge and practice). Which is why the reformation movements kept returning to the Bible and asking, ‘What does scripture say on this subject?’ in order to work out the biblical fidelity of any doctrine or practice.
That’s five good reasons, I think, why scripture should be our chief authority in matters of faith and conduct. It makes further sense as well given that the other three aspects of authority are prone to change – institutions/traditions are always changing, reason and arguments are ever evolving, and our experiences wax and wane constantly. In the middle of all that is the Bible – ever constant and unchanging. Yes it’s hard work to get to that unchanging message, but hard work should not stop us from keeping it at the centre and making it the first authority.
So what does this have to do with Facebook comments?
First, for my friends who engage themselves in online debate – knowing a bit about BRIE might help you work out why someone argues for their position. It helps us reflect and perhaps ask gentle questions about their position in more pointed, and prayerfully helpful ways.
Second, it helps us listen. Knowing which BRIE authority someone is elevating helps us to listen to why they lean on their position. In listening and understanding can we then engage with what scripture has to say. I don’t think I’ve read or heard any Christian deny the authority of scripture over their lives – but perhaps they haven’t realised how much scripture speaks on a particular issue or train of thought. Perhaps they haven’t realised how much they rely on other sources of authority.
Third, it can help you work out when to call it quits. I had a short-lived debate with someone online once where I quickly discovered that his theological foundation was not only weirdly charismatic (emphasis on weirdly – even my charismatic friends would have found his position on things untenable) but he couldn’t and wouldn’t engage with the scriptural arguments I was putting forth. He began talking past my replies – not engaging with them at all – and at that point I realised it was fruitless to continue. I would have offered to meet up for coffee, but he lived overseas and I figured I didn’t have pastoral responsibility over him. So I pulled the plug.
So there you go. I hope that introduction was helpful. In what ways have you seen BRIE in action? Do you think there are other sources of authority I haven’t considered? Let me know in the comments below.
I had a strange moment over the recent holidays. For a while I’ve been a bit suspicious over discussions about ‘representation’ – the need for minority groups to more widely seen, predominantly on screen. I’ll admit that the height of my suspicion over this sort of relatively political debate came when the movie ‘Black Panther’ was released, setting and breaking all sorts of records and opening up the discussion about representation.
But over these past holidays, I had a couple of moments that have changed my mind.
The first incident was in the car. My three children love singing along with songs, and the two youngest (daughters) are particularly fond of the Disney Princess songs. In particular ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen and ‘How Far I’ll Go’ from Moana. Neither of them has seen the movies but they are familiar with the tunes. Them singing along in the car was nothing new, but I noticed that other songs which were equally played were not often sung to. Songs sung by male leads.
Then I noticed they gravitated towards another new song that I added to their playlist – ‘Gravity’ from the musical Wicked. Again, a song with two female leads was picked up quickly and often requested.
The second incident happened while Steph and I enjoyed a number of movies during our time off. We finally got to see ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ which I thoroughly enjoyed. It had its wonderful moments of humour – especially in playing up the Singaporean accents and culture (which I am so fond of – wonder why!) – but also poignant dramatic moments between characters. And perhaps for me, an Australian Born Chinese person, those scenes were heightened through the complex layering of Chinese culture into those moments.
It wasn’t just a relationship between characters that I saw on screen, with this new addition of a culture that I was familiar with the impact was so much greater.
I think I get this issue of representation now. It’s not just about seeing the faces and culture on screen. It’s about having your story known and understood.
I think I also understand a little more why minorities desire greater representation on screen. Whether it be Crazy Rich Asians, Kim’s Convenience, Black Panther, or other characters who are not simply typecast but are given layered, complex, central voices (ie voices that reflect real people living in the complexities of real life) – having someone to visibly connect with is both reassuring and empowering.
And as a Pastor, I think the desire for representation cuts into the core of all of us. Each individual yearns and desires that our personal stories are known and understood – not just by other individuals, but I think there’s a yearning in all of us that we be truly known and understood by God.
This is what makes the incarnation of Jesus even more special. God has come to earth, in the greatest act of representation. He enters into our world, into our story, to live and breathe like one of us. In Jesus, then, we find our ultimate source of representation – one who demonstrates that God truly knows and understands our condition.
I think I get now that representation isn’t just a political thing, but something that all of us yearn for.
A female lead in a song connects with my daughters and gives them a voice to sing along with. The Chinese face and culture on screen connects with me individually and reassures me that I’m known and understood.
And the incarnation connects with us all, and reminds all of us that God is not distant – but that he knows us intimately, desires to connect with us, and give us what all our hearts yearn for: restoration into right relationship with him.
[Bittersweet, no matter how often I’ve been here at this conference Day 5 is filled with bittersweet feelings. In the immortal words of Ignite/BLT co-founder Ying Yee, ‘We’re exhausted and [hopefully] excited’ by God’s Word and God’s work in our lives, our churches, and the world. My strand group has been a delight to lead, conversations have been varied and deep, the talks have been monumentally helpful, and I’ve been delighted to recommend great books to people – praying that they will be read and applied joyfully in the lives of the readers. One more final talk and we’re done for another year – prayers for the strand groups and the delegates in the things that they have learned are appreciated!]
Morning Talk | John 5:19-30 | The Holy Spirit in Trinity | Tony Rowbotham
To understand another person, what must we know?
The way we grow to know someone is to hear them speak, to find out about them – to learn about their family. The best way to understand someone is to understand their family – because if you know that you know where they stand in relationship. To know someone in isolation is to know someone only in part.
If you want to understand the Holy Spirit you have to understand the Holy Spirit in the context of his relationships – and that is the Trinity. You cannot do justice to the knowledge of the Spirit without knowledge of the Trinity.
1. Relationships in the Trinity
Father and Son (5:19-30)
5:19 – Literally ‘the Son can do nothing by himself but can do only what he sees the Father doing’. Same idea is present in v30. This observation helps us to see what the Son can or cannot do – that Jesus can do only as the Father does, and nothing by himself.
In context Jesus has just done a miracle – a man has not been walking for years, and with a word Jesus helps this man to walk. But he gets into trouble because the miracle is done on the Sabbath, and also that he was calling God his own Father – making himself equal to God. The reaction of the Jews gives this away – they understand Jesus’ claim (even if we don’t).
We also see in this passage the Father has given the Son the right to judge and give life – and he does so by giving his Son authority (cf 5:24). Why? 5:20 – the Father loves the Son and shows him all that the Father does.
We see this also in Revelation 1:1 – God the Father gave the Son a revelation about himself. Didn’t the Son already know what he was on about? A pattern is established – the Father reveals to the Son, the Son reveals to us (in this case through an angel, in the NT through the Holy Spirit). This is the pattern of revelation (the revealing of God’s word).
The Father does this so that the Son will be honoured (cf 5:23) – and all who do not honour the Son do not honour the Father. Why does God give authority to judge and give life to Jesus? So that people will honour Jesus.
In Philippians 2 we read that everyone will honour Jesus – everyone will bow down to him – either in judgement or in worship.
5:30 – and so Jesus’ desire is to do the will of the One who sent him. We see this in 4:34 (my food is to do the will of him who sent me), 6:38 (I come from heaven not to do my will but the will of Him who sent me), 8:28-29 (I do nothing on my own, I speak only as the Father has taught me – I always do what pleases him), 17:4 (Jesus’ prays that he has glorified his Father by completing the work the Father has given him to do).
The Son obeys the Father in 14:31 is that he wants the world to know how much Jesus’ loves his Father – that the world may learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly as the Father has commanded me.
So we have this beautiful picture forming: who is at the centre of the universe of salvation and creation? The Father at the centre of all who points to his Son, and the Son who seeks to live only to please his Father, and we have the Spirit (in 16:13b-15) who only speaks what he hears from the Father and Son. We’re seeing here in the Trinity an other-person centred life. Each member of the Trinity wants to see the other glorified, expressed from love.
2. The Persons of the Trinity
Notice their roles – the Father does not obey the Son, the Spirit is not glorified like the Son, the Son does not seek to elevate his own personal will (not to say that he does not have a will). The persons of the Trinity are not interchangeable. [Yes! – Steven] And what we also see in the Trinity is not authoritarian and there is no subjugation. Instead we see loving authority, voluntary submission, mutual honouring, and love. Glory is when each person of the Trinity honours the other as appropriate for their personness. [Double yes!! – Steven]
First – love is at the centre of life because it is at the centre of the Trinity – which means love is at the centre of the Christian life. Love is best expressed when you love and seek the honour of others first. Love is not a gateway to self-indulgence, not a pathway to personal glory – but the life we are called to and the life that the Spirit helps us to live.
There are so many normal daily actions that are actions of love – volunteering to help car parking, those on rosters, choosing to chat someone who is alone, helping each other in our strand groups – love is at the centre of what we are called to do because it is the centre of who God is.
Second – freedom. Freedom is probably one of the highest values in Australia. We must not diminish another person’s capacity to freedom – do not tell me what to do and how to live, because if you do you are doing the wrong thing. It silences us when we feel the need to speak.
Consider Lady Gaga – a culture and trendsetter. In one of her lesser famous songs called ‘Hair’ her hair becomes a metaphor for freedom:
“I just wanna be myself
And I want you to love me for who I am
I just wanna be myself
And I want you to know, I am my hair
I’ve had enough, this is my prayer
That I’ll die livin’ just as free as my hair”
Freedom is what we have been trained to accept as the highest value.
But the truth is only God is truly free. And in his freedom the Father gives authority to his Son. The Son is free and lives to honour his Father. The Spirit is free and steps into the background so that the Son will be honoured. Each member of the Trinity is truly free – and true freedom from sin is freedom not to do whatever we want, but to seek the honour and love of another according to your personness.
Christ has set us free a Christians – from slavery and sin, from the Australian dream of freedom (which is actually slavery in itself). If you think that gap-year is the best thing you could do in life you’re thinking like an Australian and not like God. True freedom is found in who God has made us to be.
This could hurt sometimes. In Luke 22:42 the Son’s freedom hurts him – because doing the will of the Father at that moment (in the Garden of Gethsemane) was going to be costly.
Like in Netball – position determines how you play, what role you take, and what you can/should do.
The personness of each member of the Trinity shapes their work and what they do. And this is appropriate even for God. [Bam. – Steven] The Father is the originator from who all things come, and to whom all things will return (1 Cor 15), the Father sends the Son; the Son is sent, the Son obeys (the Father does not obey), he lives to seek the glory of the Father, to implement the Father’s plans and works because he is the Son; the Holy Spirit seeks the glory of the Son – that is what he wants! – he reveals the Son to us that we might be saved, and to help us say, ‘Jesus you are my Lord and you gave your life to me!’, he works through us to glorify the Son.
The glory of the Holy Spirit
See why the name of Father, Son and Spirit is important? We should maintain this language. There is in the revelation of God of the name of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).
Why is the third member of the Trinity called ‘Spirit’? Because Spirit does His work through others. The Spirit rests on and equips and directs Jesus’ mission. And so to the Spirit does the same to us – in us and through us. The Spirit is named so because his invisibility is actually important because he wants to place the focus on Christ, and he wants to do His work through others. This is the self-effacing nature of the Holy Spirit.
[Bam – what a fantastic talk helping us see the glory of the roles that each member of the Trinity freely and willingly take up. Well that’s it, folks! Ignite talks are done. Thanks for following along, and prayerfully there will be more posts this coming year.]
[Thursday is here. Everyone is getting pretty tired, but we’ve got another big day of learning. Thanks for joining me on this live blog – and if you’re coming in the evenings please check out the bookstall and let me help you find some great books for your growth in 2019 :)]
Morning Talk | Galatians 5:16-26 | Our Obligation to the Spirit | Tony Rowbotham
Because we are now in the Spirit we have an obligation – not to the flesh (for if you live according to the flesh you will die), but to the Spirit (for if you live according to the Spirit you will live). We have an obligation to the Spirit because we are now in his realm – and it is an obligation of grace.
When you walk into an Asian home you take your shoes off – you seek to honour the home of someone else. It is rude if you were to walk into someone’s home, sit on the lounge and put your shoes on the coffee table – take control of the remote, and raid the fridge. That would not be conduct which would honour the house of the owner. We have an obligation to honour the work of the Spirit that Christ has placed within us.
7 Marks of Spirited Living
1. Put Jesus first
John 15:26 – The Spirit is the Spirit who testifies to Jesus – through the words of the Apostles who testify to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
John 16:13 – the Spirit will guide the Apostles into understanding about him.
When you seek to bring about the glory of Christ that is when the mark of the Holy Spirit is within you. When you see in Jesus the death of a man who gave his life for sin, and when you see in his resurrection the power to raise people from the dead, and by simply putting faith in him you are set right with your Father in Heaven – that is the work of the Spirit.
In Ephesians 1 there are four blessings – they all come from Jesus – and every blessing takes us to Jesus.
So the first mark of Spiritual Living is to put Jesus first. Not to be on about the Spirit. If you’re a spiritual person you will be on about Jesus – his person and achievements.
2. You will be a person of the Word
You cannot elevate the Spirit without elevating the Word of God. All scripture is God-breathed, God-spirited. The task he gives the servant of God, to Timothy, is to preach the Word. That is your task, that is how the gospel comes to the world, and that is the task of the spiritual person.
Ephesians 6:17 – one of the parts of the armour of God is to take the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. The cutting edge of God’s work in the world is through the word of God.
When you attempt to do a handyman job with the wrong tool it is bad – it takes way too long, and you can stuff it up way too easily. The tool that the Spirit gives to do His work in the world is the Word of God.
Go to a church that teaches the word. Go to bible study regularly. The most important thing you need to hear in the week is the Word of God.
What makes out the fourth soil in the parable in the sower? The fourth soil is the person who hears and accepts the Word of God. That is how you grow as a Christian, and how you ensure you’re the fourth soil.
To be a Christian without the Bible is to be Luke Skywalker without a lightsaber. [Noooooooooo! That’s not possible!! – Steven]
1 John 5:14 – you can ask God for anything according to His will. What do children of God ask for? They ask for the things that the Spirit wants. They want to please their saviour, to live for him. So they can ask for anything – and what they want to ask for is what the Father wants – for what it means to live in the realm of the Spirit.
If we take this to heart it will revolutionise our prayers – we will pray as Paul prays, we will pray to know Christ better. Our prayers tend to be centred around stuff in our lives – and while it’s not bad to pray about the things of life, our prayers should be reformed and saturated by what is revealed in the Word of God. Spirit people’s prayers are different – for we will want what the Spirit wants.
4. Stay in step with the Spirit
When you’re in a three-legged race your obligation is to keep your legs in step together, otherwise it ends in a mess. Our obligation is to keep in step/walk in the Spirit.
Galatians 5:16-25 – how do we walk in the Spirit? First, we don’t gratify our flesh – we do not do whatever we want. There is a big conflict that happens inside a spiritual Christian – and the battle is not evidence that you are losing the war between sin and Spirit, the battle is evidence that you are indeed a child of God. If you sinned and did not care that is evidence that you are not a child of God.
Sometimes we think that to be spiritual is to have your life together. That is not true. To be spiritual is to battle – from new birth to new creation.
The acts of the flesh (6:19-21) – if we are in step with the spirit we will step away from these things. The fruit of the Spirit (6:22-23) – how much do we appreciate and celebrate the work of the Spirit within us? We are more patient because of the work of he Spirit within us. You are not just nice people, you are Spirited people – people who are keeping in step with the Spirit. This conference, this fellowship, is a work of God. God is to be praised – not you! This fruit ought to lead to the praise of God and not you! Sometimes we assume it’s the person – but it is truly the work of God.
Arrange your life around your obligations to the Spirit – what He values. Learn to value peace, love, joy, and self-control – more than productivity, freedom, or other things that the world says are more important.
What sort of person do you want to spend the rest of your life with? Make it someone who is going to help you arrange your life around our obligations to the Spirit. It requires discipline to say ‘No’ to a relationship with a non-believer. That takes discipline and courage. If you want to arrange your life around your obligations to the Spirit find a believer who does the same.
5. You are a child of God (Romans 8)
The greatest achievement of the Holy Spirit is that you have been made children of God.
You deserve judgement, and yet we receive sonship. We are brought right into the family – not just to observe the dinner table as an onlooker, but as a guest seated at the table.
We need constant encouragement to remember that we are children of God because we have yet to receive everything that children receive – our inheritance, to take off this body of sin and receive our redeemed bodies – so the Spirit is there to remind us that we haven’t received everything as sons and daughters… but we will one day!
Hebrews 5:7-8 – another form of suffering in our lives is the suffering of living a godly life. Think of Jesus in the wilderness – he suffered for his godliness. As you continue to say no to yourself and yes to God.
6. Know this verse (Ephesians 1:13)
You were included in Christ when you heard (and received) the gospel – when you believed you were sealed with the Holy Spirit. You believed the gospel of your salvation – when you believe that Jesus died and rose in your place, and He gave you His righteousness you received the Spirit in his fullness.
There is no second blessing to come.
No second blessing that you might do ministry better. When you believed that is when you received the Holy Spirit.
There is so much out there which is wrong on this – so much unhelpful or false teaching about second blessings of the Spirit.
When you have the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is yet to complete his work in you. Some people speak of having the Holy Spirit meaning you have everything – but that’s not the teaching of scripture. The NT uses words like seal, deposit, first fruits to describe his ongoing work.
Matthew 28:18-20 – God’s Spirit is with us as we take the gospel to the world. If you’re a Spirit person you will be on about mission and will love mission.
Reflect upon these seven marks – which do we want to rejoice in and work on?
[You’ve heard of 9Marks of a Healthy Church? Here are 7 Marks of a Spirited person. Lots to chew on here!]
Evening Talk | John 17 | Jesus’ Prayer For Us | Paul Grimmond
1. Listening in on Jesus’ Prayer
These are the final words of Jesus as he leads up to the cross. This passage, these last words before he walks out to face his accusers, we find Jesus at prayer. Jesus finishes all his instructions by praying.
Imagine that – Jesus finishes by praying. God incarnate, the all powerful Son, heir of the universe, in authority over all creation under the Father stops and prays. Jesus knows he is dependent on his Father and needs His help.
This reliance on the Father is throughout this section – 14:28, 30-31; 15:10
Jesus is not only our lord and ruler but also our model of submission. He knows as he comes to the end of his life what it is to cry out to his Father for his needs and sustenance. Jesus was deeply aware of his need to depend on his Father – which puts our self-sufficiency to shame.
17:1 – Jesus’ lifting his eyes to pray. We have in this chapter the beautiful and immeasurably wonderful final words of Jesus in prayer.
Why is Jesus’ prayer recorded? Jesus said and did lots of other things that are not recorded (cf 20:30-31) – so John chose particular things that we need to know about Jesus in order to love and trust him.
2. Three prayers – all for us i. Jesus prays for himself (17:1-5)
The very first words of Jesus’ prayer echo the words we started with on our first evening – the hour has come. John 12:23 – the hour is something that will lead to the glory of Jesus. 12:27 – the hour is also a time of deep sorrow.
13:31-33 – Jesus is about to go the place that none of us can go. None of us can go to the cross to die for the sins of the world. Jesus’ hour of glory and sorrow is the hour of the cross. And so Jesus’ prayer in 17 is a prayer for God to give him the strength to go to the cross to fulfil his Father’s plan (17:5).
As John speaks this to all of us – he speaks in a way that is incredible to hear.
John 19 – see how John speaks of Jesus as the King – this chapter is dripping with irony – because everything that proclaims Jesus as King is done in mockery. And yet the remarkable thing what they do in mockery God the Father is doing in reality. What they proclaim is actually the truth – here is the King of the world being crowned in glory as he dies for you and me.
We don’t belong in the Father’s presence, not in our sinful state would we dare enter the presence of the living God. Jesus goes to the cross to take ALL of our sin so that we can walk into the presence of God so that God would say to us, ‘Welcome!’
Here is glory. The moment that redefines glory.
Paul’s confession: growing up desperately wanting to be famous. Paul played in a band, loved playing in front of a crowd – and dreamed of playing in front of a massive crowd. But he’s not the only one who has dreamed that. We all have dreamed that because we live in a world that elevates high achievement. The high marks, the musical certificate, the grand final win – and even FB which teaches us to chase ‘likes’. We live our lives for the approval of other people and we call that ‘glory’.
Jesus moment of glory is to suffer, to be spat upon, to be killed in service of his Father. This teaches us what true glory is. Glory is to honour the Father to give up ourselves for the wants and needs of the people around you. Some of the most glorious things you do will never be liked by everybody. True glory is the pleasure of the Father.
So true glory needs to be redefined in our lives. Please your heavenly Father and glorify the Son by the life you lead.
In praying this for himself Jesus is also praying for our benefit – that we might know and live for true glory.
ii. Jesus prays for his disciples (17:6-19)
Why is it important that Jesus prays about how the disciples have received him and believed him. Jesus, as he goes to the cross to be glorified, is also glorified in his disciples as the ministry of the Spirit uses the ministry of the disciples to deliver the good news of Jesus’ death to the nations.
v12 – a remarkable statement – why this phrase in this passage? A reminder that even Judas and his work in the betrayal of the Son was not an accident, mistake, or God not in control. God was in charge of the whole of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The Bible is never shy about declaring the sovereignty of God. The most evil act that ever happened in the world was under God’s sovereign control. Acts 2:23 – Jesus delivered up according to the foreknowledge and plan of God. God gave his Son to the cross so that we could be forgiven.
This truth must form the bedrock of our life when we face suffering and the chaos of an out of control world. God in those circumstances will give us his Spirit to sustain us to get through. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that God is hands-off, gives us freedom and really wants us to love him – that’s now how the Bible expresses it. God is in control of every circumstance of your life.
So Jesus’ prayer for us – that even as the world hates us, that they not be taken out of the world but they be kept from the evil one.
Jesus also prays that we would take his gospel to the world. And while there has been debate about who should speak and share the gospel with the world the truth is that in the heart of all of us must be the heart of the Father for the world that we would love the world to tell them the gospel they so need to hear.
iii. Jesus prays for us (17:20-26)
And finally at the end, in verse 20, he turns to pray directly to us.
So what does Jesus, as he goes to his death, pray for you and me? What does he ask for us?
Jesus prays the same thing twice within four verses:
v21 – unity. v23 – unity = so that the world will know that Jesus has been sent into the world.
He prays for our unity so that our world will know who He is.
The same thing is said in 13:34-35 – if God’s people love one another the world will know they are disciples.
Two big principles to living this out:
First – what Jesus is calling us to is a unity of heart, mind, and purpose about the truth about Him. Our job is to workout how to be in gracious, forgiving, Jesus-centred relationship with all the people who God has placed around you. The people you like and the people who drive you nuts.
So are there brothers and sisters to whom you are currently out of fellowship? Are there people you hold a grudge against? Is there someone you’re holding bitterness against? You’re running away from because you’re angry with them?
If Jesus has died to unite us to the Father it is not enough for us to say, ‘I don’t like them and don’t want to see them again – and all will be ok.’
Speaking and seeking reconciliation won’t always work – but we are told to seek the risk of it because we belong together for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Maybe we need to acknowledge the wrong we have done, maybe we need to point out the wrong done to us – and there will be 1000 excuses to avoid sending that message to catch up – yet be encouraged to work towards being united. This requires an incredible amount of grace.
Have you ever noticed that when you get into an argument with somebody you both say, ‘You started it.’? What is it that we are hoping when we say that? We’re hoping that they will acknowledge they started the wrong and that justifies every wrong that happened after that. But their sin does not justify your sin – their wronging you does not justify gossiping or slandering them.
As you open up and own what you’ve done wrong doesn’t negate what they have done wrong – but we are to take the first step towards reconciliation.
Second – because unity is so precious to Jesus and so precious to Jesus’ people – it is a truth we should expect to be deeply exploited by Satan. Unity does not mean we agree everything is right and hold hands and sing songs together. The Apostle John who heard this teaching wrote in 1 John 2:18-19 about false teachers. We don’t know what happened in 1 John but there appears to have been a group gone out from John’s church and not because of some disagreement but because they are abandoning the gospel. Then in 1 John 2:21-24 John goes on to call them back to the truth – so it looks like these “brothers and sisters” were going out and teaching lies.
We don’t have fellowship for the sake of fellowship.
So we need deep discernment with people who say they are brothers and sisters around our city, nation and globe. We need to overlook folly, sin, and lack of wisdom – but we need to so know the truth and hold onto it that when people reject the deep truths about Christ we need to say to them we no longer belong to you and you no longer belong to Christ.
This is very hard work. As sinful humans we tend to choose the wrong option – we hold onto truth when we need to forgive, or we forgive and let go of truth. But we need to do the hard work on this to get it right.
3. What about the work of the Spirit?
While the first passage on the first night and this final passage don’t tend to speak of the Spirit – His work is deeply woven in all of these passages.
What is the purpose of a spotlight in a dark concert hall? It’s job is not to draw attention to itself – but to draw attention to the singer. That’s the Spirit’s job – to focus attention on Jesus. So if we’re not talking about him and talking about Jesus the Spirit is delighted! Because that’s what it wants!
Ephesians 4:1-3 – we are to eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit – but the Spirit doesn’t sulk because it doesn’t get a mention in John 17 because Jesus is only speaking about unity and not about him. He is delighted because Jesus is speaking what the Spirit desires – unity around the Son.
We speak about the work of the Spirit all the time in our churches – because when we focus on Jesus we are doing what the Spirit delights.
Do not let people accuse you that you are not a “Spirit Christian” or not a “Spiritual Person” because you do not speak of the Spirit that much. We are the people of the Spirit because we understand what the Spirit is doing – and when we speak of the work of the Father and Son we are doing the work of the Spirit.
[The Spirit delights when we do not speak of him but speak of Jesus for that is what the Spirit desires. What a wonderful teaching! May we be ‘Spirit’ people because we so love the Father and Son and speak of their work in this world.]
[Humpday is here! For those following along at home, please keep everyone here in your prayers – for energy as we continue to engage with the talks and material, and for God’s Spirit to be at work as we open His word!]
Morning Talk | Living in the Spirit | Romans 8:1-17 | Tony Rowbotham
In Romans 8 there are 22 references to the Spirit. In the great epistle outlining the gospel there are +30 references to the Spirit – so in this chapter alone are 2/3 of all the references to the Spirit.
But before we get into the chapter we need to consider the hard subject of sin.
Sin (through the lens of addiction)
Tony is big on songs regarding addiction. He grew up in a small town where everyone knows about everyone – nothing is hidden in small towns. And there’s a small part of Tony that appreciates that he is only ever one decision away from ruining his life – one decision from unravelling everything he values in life.
One of the songs he loves is Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’. Some lyrics:
“I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel.
Chorus: “what have I become, my sweetest friend”
End: “if I could find a way, a million miles away, I would keep myself, I would find a way”
There is a big sense of regret and sadness, and a reality that you’re caught up in a bigger issue than yourself and hurting yourself and being unable to escape – but at the end of the song he reflects that he cannot escape.
Greenday – 21 Guns
“When your mind breaks the spirit of your soul
Something inside this heart has died, you’re in ruins…”
Another great song about addiction – your mind wants something, and it will break you in the process of achieving it. In addiction, you become the agent of your own demise. This song expresses that feeling of being trapped by addiction.
Addiction is a helpful lens to understand sin. It is oppressive – and if we could choose another way we would.
Another example – in Australia gambling is a massive problem. Porn, drugs, alcohol, nicotine, sex, games, work, phones, acceptance, FOMO, fashion, looking good/slim – you can be addicted to anything. They can often be good things, but they turn on us and trap us. Though we seek to be released we just cannot. The power of sin is like the power of addiction – and as Christians, we wish we could stop, be changed, yet our experience teaches us that we are not in control, we are not masters, we are enslaved.
But… in Romans 8 we will see something powerfully different.
1. Sin rules us with an overwhelming mastery (Romans 5-7)
Sin entered the world through Adam, it entered through him and through him into the world comes death. Sin is an all-encompassing master – no one can escape his influence, for all will die.
5:20 – the Law was brought into the world to increase trespass – Law was brought in not to restrain sin, but to make it more apparent.
Sin rules and reigns – and we are condemned by it.
7:21-24 – Sin undoes my good, even when I want to do what is right I’m a prisoner to it. It undermines even my best intentions. I’m a wretched man because of sin and the Law.
We are like people on the verge of drowning at the beach – we’re in our final throes before we drown, we’re needing to be saved.
2. ‘set free’ by Christ (Romans 6:6-7, 7:6-7)
Yet in our helplessness we have been given a connection that changes everything.
6:5-7 – here is this big truth that the Holy Spirit has made real for us – that we have been set free from sin because, by faith, we are united with him. We’re not set free from sinning, but we are set free from the consequences of sinning. We are no longer slaves to sin. The very things that Jesus has gone through we too have gone through.
Jesus died, and we have died with him. He was buried, and has been raised – and we too have been raised, and in such a way that we have been set free from slavery to sin through our connection with Christ.
7:4-6 – we’ve been set free from sin and the Law to belong to Christ. Many Christians continue to be under law – trying to keep parts of it – but if you return to the law you diminish what Jesus achieved on the cross.
3. ‘now no condemnation’ (Romans 8:1-2)
Notice the ‘now’ – which is present. It’s not a future, and it’s not provisional. If you are in Christ you are no longer condemned by sin or the Law. If you were a slave to sin you would be condemned.
4. Realm: flesh OR spirit, NOT flesh AND spirit (Romans 8:5-8)
8:8 when your mind is governed by the flesh, your sinful nature, you cannot please God. So in 8:9 Paul writes that you’re either in the flesh or in the Spirit – in one realm or in the other. We’re not conflicted, jumping between the two (that’s not what Paul says) – Paul is unequivocal: are are ruled and are in the realm of the Spirit – so when we sin we sin in the realm of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a plugin while we live in our sinful flesh.
5. ‘you, however….’ (Romans 8:9-11)
Jesus gives us his Holy Spirit, which transfers us from kingdom to another (to use his words from Colossians) – in the language of Romans 8 we’re not in the realm of the flesh but in the realm of the Spirit.
So who are we listening to? Do we listen to the voice of our flesh – which tells us that sin is winning and we deserve to be condemned? This voice is speaking a half-truth. We do deserve to be condemned. But in Christ that condemnation is gone. Though you sin as a believer the Spirit will give life.
This tension is there in 8:10 – though your body is subject to death because of sin the Spirit gives life. When you sin as a Christian you are not being controlled by the flesh. Even when you want to sin you are not being controlled by the flesh – because the flesh will not have the final say, it will not condemn you – because Christ has died for us and we have been given His Spirit. And the Spirit speaks a word to us that takes us back to Christ.
The Spirit helps us to go back to Jesus when we sin – but he’s not just simply an addition to our lives. He changes the realm that we live in.
So when we sin we sin no longer as slaves to sin. A slave to sin has no say in their eternal destination. We’re not headed to death and judgement because the Spirit of God takes us back to the cross of Christ where we died and to the resurrection of Christ where we have been raised as well.
We do not deserve this. No, not at all.
Isn’t that incredible?
6. ‘we have an obligation’ (Romans 8:12-13)
If you have been taken from deserving the judgement and condemnation of God to now no longer being condemned – you are going to be so thankful! You’ll rejoice, be happy, and want to repay that in some way? Not repay in the same way as ‘must’ – but out of delightful joy.
So our obligation now is to live for the Spirit – and put to death the misdeeds of the body (we’ll pick up on that tomorrow morning).
Another obligation is to preserve this understanding of teaching and living in the realm of the Spirit. If we preserve this we will not lose the grace of God, and we will not slip back into the Law.
This is not easy – the early church in the New Testament shows us how much the church struggled to keep trusting and teaching and preserving this truth. Preserving grace for the NT church was not easy for them to do and it will not be easy for us to do. Our tendency will always to be to go back to the Law.
And we will find it really hard for ourselves – because we listen to our own experience more than the Word of God, and we will forget so easily and quickly what Jesus achieved on the cross for us and the victory of his resurrection.
How do you handle the dilemma of sinning and wishing you didn’t, desiring it on one hand and hating it on the other? Our confidence in this dilemma has to be in Jesus – the confidence that we will live because of Jesus. The realm of the Spirit is a realm which always draws us to Jesus – where he reigns, where sin and death and law do not have the final word over your life.
Are you harder on yourself than Jesus is when you sin? Probably most of us are.
Remember: Jesus has taken us and transferred us into his Kingdom, and given us his Spirit to help us and transform us even in the midst of the messiness of sin and life. The realm of flesh no longer masters us. We might feel the frustration of sin, but we have a new master, we live under a new reign – that master is Jesus and he rules us by His Spirit within us.
And what he will do with us by His Spirit will be amazing.
[Wow. Just wow. Tony has lovingly smashed us again and again with these gospel truths about our new identity in Jesus. How I pray we would never forget these wondrous truths!]
Evening Talk | John 15:18-16:33 | Jesus, Persecution and the Power to Persevere | Paul Grimmond
1. What is your most treasured possession?
The problem in working out what our treasured possession is – we have so much in our lives that is replaceable. A phone? No. Photos? Now on the cloud. Lots of the stuff we have is not really stuff we treasure now. Why is this? Because we have so much of what we need in our lives so that we can go from one thing to the next. We live in a world of constant distraction – we have so much of what we require that we get bored with life. There’s not much we have in life that gets us new excited.
Paul’s prayer for us – that we would learn to treasure the word of God this evening.
This is the longest section we’re going to deal with this week – and we’re going to have to hold this all together. Like last night the themes in this passage interweave each other – but there’s a new set of themes.
2. Obvious themes misapplied i. If you belong to me, the world will hate you
15:18-21; 16:2-4, 20 – there’s a big picture of persecution and the world hating, seriously hating, Christ followers.
ii. But I will empower you to witness
15:26-27 – the Spirit will come from the Father and his job will be to testify to the nature and character of Jesus – and he will be at work in his people to witness about Jesus as well.
16:7-11 – a picture of the Spirit coming to convict the world of how it is doing wrong, but then after this the focus flips.
16:12-15 – the Spirit will come to convict (passages before) but he will also come to witness to Jesus and help you remember all that Jesus has said.
Pattern we see – suffering, witness, suffering, witness. At the end of chapter 16 it will close with joy – but the main theme is suffering and empowered witness.
iii. However, it’s not all about you!
Something that happens to Christians is that we’re challenged to think and read through the Bible as a book written for us – and that is right on some level. But the problem is that not all of the Bible has been directly written to you. All of the Bible has been written for you, but not all of it has been written to you.
15:22, 24 – who is spoken about here? Is this about the non-Christians in our world? Has Jesus spoken to everyone in our world? No – probably a reference to those who had seen Jesus in the flesh (the Jews of his time).
15:27 – that is also not us – because we have not been with Jesus from the beginning.
16:2 – how many of us have been kicked out of synagogues? None of us.
16:12-13 – how many of us cannot bear the truth now so that we’ll need the Spirit later to know the truth?
See how the whole of this section of the gospels is Jesus words to the disciples about what is just about to happen and take place as Jesus is going to the cross. The Bible is written for us but not necessarily always to us.
So how is this passage written for us as believers 2000 years after all of these events have taken place?
3. The presence of the Spirit in the age of persecution i. The disciples are witnesses
One of the disciples jobs at this point as to directly witness to Jesus. They were the ones who experienced the ministry of Jesus – and have been with Jesus – and that is what qualifies them to make them witnesses. This is incredibly significant for your faith. How do you know the Jesus you believe in? Have we seen him with our eyes? Have we spoken to him? We know Jesus because his witnesses recorded it down in the scriptures for us.
So how reliable are the eye-witnesses?
ii. The Spirit will teach them after Jesus has gone
16:12-15 – Jesus tells them that he has lots of things to tell them but they can’t grasp it now – but after he’s gone the Spirit will help them understand these truths – more truths to grasp now. Jesus’ earthly ministry was not the end of his teaching ministry, he had not yet taught all that he had to teach.
What was one of the qualifications for a disciple after Judas had gone? Acts 1:21-22 – someone who was a witness to Jesus from the start, and who saw the resurrection.
4. How is this God’s word for us?
John 2 – Jesus driving out the temple money changers. 2:21 – Jesus speaks of the Temple of his body. Who that day knew that Jesus was speaking about his body? Answer: nobody. Not even the disciples. 2:22 – when Jesus was resurrected and they received the Spirit they remembered what he had taught, they had seen the events of Jesus life, and they understood what he was saying.
Jesus’ promise in John 15-16 to give his disciples the Spirit is a wonderful promise to ensure that His word is fully and finally given to us!
Friends – do you see that what these verse in John are is not a promise to you that the Spirit will come to you and guide you – but are a promise to the disciples that they will be led into all truth for our benefit? This means that every single word in your New Testaments is Jesus’ word to you.
All of God’s truth is Jesus’ truth – and the Spirit will take this and make it known to his Disicples… making it known to us.
So where do we sit in this text? We’re not Jesus, and we’re not one of the disciples, but we are those who will believe because of their testimony.
Acts 14:22 – Jesus’ teaching of being hated by the world is repeated by Paul to all Christians.
1 Thess 3:2-4 – same thing that Paul writes – repeating what Jesus has said in the gospels about being hated.
2 Tim 3:12 – same thing again.
Question: Are you like me? Grimmo has a thing that if he’s nice enough everyone will like me. [That is definitely me. – Steven] Who was the nicest and most gracious, most godly, most wisest person in all of history? Jesus. What did they do to him? They nailed him to the cross because people hate righteousness. The world hates goodness. So if you want to live the way Jesus lived people will hate you – they don’t like it when you tell the truth. They don’t like it when you stand for biblical truth: sexual immorality is bad for us; refusal to gossip; they stop speaking when you enter the lunch room. That’s a badge of honour – you are enough like Jesus that they are embarrased by the way they live.
Being like Jesus, owning what he had to say, will cause the world to hate you.
Caveat – don’t be hated for being a sinful idiot. But if you want to live for Jesus they won’t love you.
So how much do you treasure your Bible? In countries where persecution is extensive and hard – it’s amazing to hear how believers go to great lengths to obtain a Bible. Do we realise what we have in our Bibles? What do we do with this truth?
Grimmo shares about his dating a woman in Uni (who would later become his wife). He was in Sydney, she was in Lismore (Northen NSW). Phone calls were expensive. So they had to write letters to each other. And every time he saw an envelope it was his delight to read it. He would read it and re-read them because he so delighted in her – he wanted to know her and hear from her and treasure her words.
Surely we should do more than that with the Spirit inspired words of Jesus.
What is the work of God’s Spirit in this world? The greatest treasure of the Spirit’s work is the Word which has been given to us.
The world might hate us, but that’s ok. Because Jesus is going to come back and make it all worth it.
[I am absolutely stunned, floored, and in awe. Holy Spirit – thank you for preserving your beautiful Word for us!]
[Yesterday was the first time I had blogged here in a while – WordPress had also changed the publishing of new blogs was done in a weird blocks format. But I’ve been able to get it back to classic post mode so hopefully it’ll be easier to read the posts and their formatting! Day 2 is here, workshops begin today, so there will be plenty to write about. Follow along and let us know in the comments if you’re reading!]
Morning Talk 2 | Isaiah 11, 42, 61; Luke 3:22, 4:18-21, 4:43-44 | The Messiah-Anointing Spirit | Tony Rowbotham
Stuck on selfie mode
One of the funny things that sometimes happens with our phone cameras is that they get stuck in ‘selfie mode’. And often misunderstandings about the Holy Spirit are caused by us being stuck in theological selfie mode. It’s easy to understand how we get stuck there – Jesus puts his Spirit in us, he changes us, we become more like the Son of God. So there can be a sense that the Spirit is about us.
But today we’re going to be switching back to ‘normal mode’.
Isaiah 6:8-13 – Isaiah’s Ministry
Isaiah’s commissioning is in this passage. He puts his hand up for God’s mission – but the mission that God gives him is strange: preach to harden the hearts of your hearers. Isaiah’s ministry is to close people down – to help them hear and not get it. Their hearts calloused, their eyes blind – he will preach for a negative outcome. Not because Isaiah is incompetent – but because God ordains this so.
So Isaiah rightly asks – how long will I keep doing this? God’s answer: until everything lies in ruin.
Isaiah 11:1-5 – The Spirited King
Isaiah’s ministry was to cut everything back to a stump – but now God will make that stump live, bear fruit, flourish. A branch will come, and bear fruit – and the Spirit of the Lord will be upon this shoot. It will be a king – a Davidic King – and God will be with him.
The Spirit will also pour out upon this King wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord (11:2) – he will not be like Saul, that King who disobeyed God. He will not be like David whose passions overcame him and disobeyed God. He will not be like Solomon who though he had wisdom was brought to ruin by his sin. This king will not be like those kings. This King will have God’s Spirit upon him in ways that no other King had before.
11:4-5 – this king will judge the earth, with righteousness. His words will slay the wicked. And he is doing this on behalf of the needy, the poor of the earth
Isaiah 42:1-7 – The Spirited Servant
Here is God’s servant – who receives rave reviews from God, God is delighted in this servant – God will put his Spirit upon him. Same spirit, different person. This servant doesn’t speak – the King in the previous passage speaks and floors people, but this servant will not speak.
Yet he will also bring justice through his actions. The way he does this is in verse 6 – God will be at work through Him to be a light to the nations. This servant will bring justice by being a covenant for the people. This comes to head in Isaiah 53 where the servant will take on the sins of the people – he will become the new covenant, the bond between God and the people. And it will be God’s Holy Spirit that will make him out and strengthen him for this task.
42:7 – he will become a light to the gentiles to open the eyes of the blind – the blind whose eyes were shut by Isaiah’s ministry, the servant will open the eyes of. He will undo the ministry of Isaiah – here is the future beyond the felled stump. Here we have the same spirit, the same goal.
Isaiah 61:1-3 – The Spirited Mission
God’s mission of proclamation – carried out by the Spirit and the Word – the good news proclaimed to the poor, the broken hearted, to comfort from sin.
In all of these passages we see that the Spirit of God is marking out His work through a King/Servant – to be a light to the gentiles – and marks out the timing of this for the future. This ministry of the Spirit is also not for everyone. It is for those who consider themselves poor in spirit, those who are humble before God and not for those who are proud in spirit. The ministry of the Spirit is not for those who think they do not need God – those who are self-sufficient and independent, but for the people who know they need God.
Luke 3:21-22 – ‘the Holy Spirit descended on him’
This moment in the gospels is significant and different. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove – not exactly sure what this would have looked like – but in God’s speech at this moment we find out that Jesus is the servant king that Isaiah was looking forward to. By the Spirit the servant and king are identified in the one person.
Luke 4:18-21 – ‘the Spirit of the Lord is on me’
Jesus reading out the Isaiah 61 passage we read before – Jesus is the servant that God is sending to proclaim good news to the poor in spirit. The mission of Jesus is laid out in these verses – how did Jesus know what his mission was to be? He read Isaiah!
Luke 4:42-44 – sent to proclaim
Jesus often leaves the sick and suffering people – not because he didn’t care for them, but because his primary mission was to proclaim his gospel of the Kingdom of God.
From selfie to Christ
One of the key works of the Holy Spirit is to identify the Christ. We need to move out of selfie mode to think that the Spirit was sent for me – and to see that the Spirit was sent for Christ. The Spirit here was sent to anoint the Christ, to strengthen Him and keep Him for that task to bind up the broken hearted and the poor in spirit. Those who are not proud, but humbled before the God of the universe.
This is one of the wonderful things about being an evangelical – which is a fancy long word for being gospel-people. The gospel is at the centre of how I think about the world and how I relate to God – only through the work of Jesus. To be evangelical is to understand the world through Christ. The Spirit here is being ‘evangelical’ – marking out Jesus and equipping him for the mission.
An observation from Tony – one of the main differences between evangelicals and Pentecostals is in their testimonies. In an evangelical testimony, people talk about Jesus (and how he gave his life for us and died in my place). There might be a story attached to that, but the goal of an evangelical testimony is to raise up Jesus. Pentecostal testimonies tend to focus on the power of a changed life – he’s done this in my life, taken me from this, and made me into this. Because the Pentecostal focus is on the Spirit’s work in me.
We all have that same problem – we all want to be about me.
[A helpful reorientation of our thinking about the Spirit and ourselves. The selfie/normal contrast is a great way of reflecting on whether we have a self-centered view of the Spirit’s ministry or a Christ-centred view. May we see the Spirit for who he truly is.]
Evening Talk 2 | John 14:15-15:17 | Abiding in Jesus: Love and Obedience | Paul Grimmond
1. The questions we have as we come to the text i. Whatever you ask in my name I’ll do?
What’s up with this? At the beginning of our passage and the end of this passage is the incredible promise that Jesus will give you whatever you ask in his name – and that will involve bigger things than he has ever done.
What is Jesus saying here? And why is it that we sometimes feel like we’re missing out on it?
ii. If you obey me, my Father will send the Spirit
Again, in this passage there’s a sense that if you obey Jesus you’ll be fine – but is that the Christian gospel message? And yet Jesus says – love me and keep my commands/words and my Father will love him. You obey Jesus, Jesus will come and be with you, and everything will be great.
iii. What on earth is the fruit?
There are also some tough things being said about bearing fruit – and whatever the fruit is you’ll need to bear it otherwise you’ll be thrown out, and if you do bear fruit you’ll be pruned. So what is this fruit that shows you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to you?
2. Seeing the threads of the tapestry
And still, there is another problem when we come to this text. Jesus says so many things that seem to circle round and round that you get lost – like you’re looking at a tapestry and finding it hard to follow. There are so many ideas that bounce around.
The ideas that are at the beginning, middle, and end – promises (14:12, 27; 15:11, 15) and prayer (14:13, 15:7, 16)
The ideas woven through the passage – love and obey (14:15, 21, 23, 24, 31; 15:9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 17).
Ideas that appear in the first half of the passage – the Spirit, the Helper
Ideas that appear in the second half – remaining, dwelling
[Gosh Paul is flying through this section! Best find the talk online to listen to it…]
3. How Christ dwells in us by his Spirit
The logic of this section is a little strange – Jesus has just said, ‘You know the Father through me…’ and then just said, ‘I’m going…’ – so how can we continue to know the Father when Jesus is about to go?! Answer: He will send his Holy Spirit.
14:18-20 – Jesus promises to not leave them as orphans. v16 speaks of Jesus sending the Holy Spirit, and yet in v18 he speaks of himself coming to you – so when the Spirit comes to dwell in you it’s not just the Spirit – but the Son and also the Father will be dwelling in you. The Trinity dwells within you.
Do you realise that the promise of Jesus is that when he goes he still comes to dwell within you? Alongside the Spirit and his Father. And that means you are never alone. At the worst moment in life, when people ridicule you, when you’re snubbed and depressed and feel all alone – the Triune God is with you. If God has made his home with you then he is here right now! What a great privilege… that we so easily forget.
14:25ff – some people are feelers and others are thinkers – and some people think that the Spirit is all about feelings – yet the passage here is saying that the Spirit’s role is to teach you all about Jesus as you hear His truth. The Spirit is not more present with you when you feel like he’s there – the Spirit is all there. He’s there to teach you all the truth in Christ and to understand all that Jesus has said. Be encouraged that genuine Spiritual Christianity is thinking Christianity – it is word based, truth-based, and will transform us to bring us deep joy. Know that you are not alone, especially when you feel alone – God is always there – by the ministry of the Spirit in your life the Son and Father are also with you.
4. The call to dwell in Christ
15:1ff – here Jesus flips it over – in the latter part of 14 he wants to show how He will dwell with us – and now he flips it and speaks of us dwelling with him. The words ‘dwell’ (chpt 14) and ‘abide’ (chpt 15) are the same word.
The central image of 15:1-8 is a vine. The way to thrive in the Christian life is to remain in Jesus. You don’t have to move, you don’t have to find something new – the one you came to in faith is the one you stay with.
15:9-10 repeat 14:21 – and show us what abiding in Jesus looks like: keeping Jesus’ commands.
We live in the most anti-authoritarian culture in history. We’ve been taught that education is about scepticism – don’t believe anything you’re taught and question everything. We are terrified of authority and being told what to do. And some of us might have codified that in our theology: that it’s all about grace and not works – so when we read that in scripture we caveat that away by saying we’re saved by grace. But Jesus is not afraid to tell us to listen and obey. To know Christ in person is to trust that what he says to us is good for you – even a word of obedience. It is for our joy, delight, and life.
So friends – what is it in God’s word that you are running away from? What command raises anxiety and shame?
Know this: Jesus loves you more than you know – and his love and forgiveness is great. Confess your sins to one another – ask God for forgiveness, and plead with God for transformation and change.
15:12ff – how are we going at loving one another? It is a rich beautiful truth that we get to share life with others in church – so how are we loving the people there? But this is tough – if you’re in the in-crowd, are we including the people on the fringes? We’ll need to leave the fun space and enter the hard space to do so. But Jesus did that when he came – he left the fun space and entered the hard space. Who is the person that needs encouragement, needs prayer, needs to be sat with. What will it mean for us to look at the people in our church instead of the people just next to us? Will you find the elderly person to get to know them?
If you find it hard to do these things, and struggle to put these commands into practice – go back to the promises of Jesus, and see their deep significance.
Why does Jesus say ‘whatever you ask in my name… I will do it’? Is this here to make you feel guilty when your prayers are unanswered? Has this been placed here to keep punching you in the nose to show you how faithless and godless you are because you can’t get your prayers answered?
The most important thing you can pray for are for things you cannot see. If you pray for a new car then you’ll be able to see it – but if you pray for forgiveness, for grace, for patience – these things are unseen. The things that are most precious and our deepest needs – all the things in here that Jesus tells us for godliness and grace – the promises that Jesus gives – if we pray for these things we will receive them.
How can we do more than Jesus? In the OT the great problem of God’s people is that they have hard hearts and cannot obey God. In the NT we are given new hearts, and can do things like obey God and know God in ways that are totally new compared to the old covenant. You have been raised spiritually from the dead, are made alive, and are given opportunities to bear fruit. You won’t do this perfectly – but you can always find forgiveness in Jesus.
[How great is that? My notes here have not done this talk justice – please find it online soon! But what a great reminder that all of Jesus’ words to us are for our good – even the hard words.]
You know things have been neglected when it takes a year to roll back around to them. But in Marie Kondo style, this blog sparks joy for me so we’re back to it!
This year’s Ignite Training Conference is going to be excellent – with a focus on what the scriptures say about the most misunderstood member of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit. Check back daily for the live blog of the talks and selected workshops.
Morning Talk 1 | The Breath of Life | Genesis 1 & 2, Ezekiel 37, Numbers 11, John 1:1 | Tony Rowbotham
One of the great privileges in life is to know someone – to know them well, not just in passing. And we love it when people know us well. When somebody knows us well it makes a world of difference.
And that’s what we’re doing this week. We’re thinking about the Holy Spirit – not just learning things about Him, but venturing into something far more significant: knowing God.
Tony hopes we’re both excited and daunted by this journey. It’s such a massive task – there is a huge amount of material to sift through. And it’s daunting because we’re getting to know the creator of the universe!
What is ‘spirit’? (Prov 20:27; 1 Cor 2:11) We know in this life that we do not just live in a physical world, but also in a spiritual world. Paul speaks of this in Ephesians 6. We know from the gospels Jesus rules over this world.
Prov 20:27 – the human spirit is a part of our inmost being. When you peel away our facebook posts and what we present to others our spirit remains.
1 Cor 2:11 – and yet at the same time we learn here that the Spirit searches all things, even the spirit of God. To know God is only possible through the Spirit of God. To know a person you have to engage with that person’s spirit – and likewise the Spirit of God reveals God to us.
The Spirit carries God’s powerful words, and enables their effect
The pattern: Genesis 1:1-2 In the opening pages of the Bible, we read of the creation of the world, and we learn of the Creator. We learn that he made everything and without help.
In the opening verses, we also meet the Spirit of God – hovering over the waters. Before creation was made there was a watery chaos, darkness over the face of the earth. Like a child given a plasticine lump, the Spirit of God is hovering over these waters and is ready to create.
By the end of Genesis 1 we will find a creation that now has shape and is filled – it is a wonderful creation, and the Spirit of God is present. He is not just giving form and shape, but he is giving ‘birth’ to a canvas but a living thing.
So what is the Spirit doing here? He no longer appears after this point.
Literary Context (Genesis 1) In the opening ‘let there be’ pattern we see God creating and filling the earth. In the latter part of the patterns we see the lines ‘God saw… God named… etc’. So where is the Spirit in all of this?
The Hebrew word for Spirit is ‘ruach‘ which is can be translated as ‘wind/breath’. If you covered your mouth and spoke you’ll feel something in your hand – our words are carried by our breath. And without breath there are no words. God speaks and the Spirit takes those words to do the will of God.
This is one of the most fundamental aspects of the Spirit of God: taking the word of God to enact the will of God.
God could have created everything with a thought – but he used words. Why? Because he uses words breath is needed – the Spirit is required.
Whatever the Spirit is doing here in Genesis 1 it is essential to the creation process. God’s will is enabled through God’s speech – Spirit carries God’s Words, bears God’s Words, and brings God’s Words into effect.
Note – the Word does not originate with the Spirit. God said – not ‘Spirit’ said.
OT Context (Numbers 11:24-26; 1 Samuel 19:19-24 Numbers 11 – Moses is not coping, the people are complaining and it is becoming too much for him. So God says that he will take the Spirit that is upon Moses and place it on the 70 elders. And as soon as it rested on them they prophesied.
1 Samuel – Saul is king of the land, David also has been anointed and his popularity is growing. Saul sends off some soldiers to arrest David but when they arrive they end up prophesying David will be King – and he sends a second lot and a third lot and they still end up doing the same thing. So he takes the job of bringing David back himself, but when he arrives to David the Spirit rests on him and he prophesies that David will be king.
NT Context (Acts 2:1-4, 11; 14ff, 2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Tim 3:16) Acts 8 – when Luke recounts what happens with Philip – told by the Holy Spirit to go stand by a particular chariot. In that chariot is an Ethiopian Eunuch – and he hears this man reading the Word of God. So they strike up a conversation starting from that very passage of scripture.
2 Peter 1 – no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation – for prophecy never had its origin in human will, but men spoke from God through the Holy Spirit.
2 Tim 3 – all scripture is God ‘breathed/Spirited’ so that the servant of God can be thoroughly equipped for every good work – everything you need to know about God is in scripture because it is from God.
So where do you go to connect with the mind of God? The Word!
3 Errors (one Error in three ways) You cannot emphasise the Spirit and negate the Word of God. The Spirit affirms and works through the Word of God. If you negate the Word of God you are working against the pattern and work of the Holy Spirit.
Error 1 – preachers and teachers saying, ‘God revealed to me through… (something other than scripture)’ – and this revelation is often independent of the Word of God. The Bible then becomes illustrative of what the Preacher wants to say, rather than authoritative. What the preacher says might be true, but how the preacher has said it undercuts severely a biblical understanding of the Spirit.
Friends, the cutting edge of the sword of Spirit is the Word of God.
Error 2 – the Spirit residing in an institution or the head of an institution – the Bible becomes not enough. The Spirit gets affirmed, but the Bible gets negated. John Calvin noticed this: Word and Spirit belong inseparably together (Institutes 1:9:3)
Error 3 – where we emphasise the Word, that we can understand the word through human activity, study, and technique we can understand the Word of God. Wrong. You can only understand the Word of God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
John Calvin – Accordingly, without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the Word can do nothing (Institutes 3:2:33)
2. The Spirit is Life-Creating and Sustaining At the beginning of Genesis 1 we have ‘stuff’, at the end of Genesis 1 we have ‘life’ – and all accomplished through the Spirit.
Just as the Holy Spirit brings life into being, so too does the Spirit bring new life to us in Christ.
John 3 – no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and Spirit. Without Spirit there is no new life. The Spirit is life creating and life sustaining.
Holy Spirit – the breath of life God is a powerful speaker. The Spirit of God carries God’s words and makes them effective – and does so for the purpose of life.
What brings the Spirit joy? Bearing and enabling the Word of God for the purpose of bringing life, and eternal life.
[What a great start! A short survey of key texts reminding us that the Spirit’s main role is to take what is God’s – his Word – and enact it.]
[Back this evening with the night talk. No afternoon workshops were held today. Not sure how many people are planning to turn up – so come early to make sure you get a chance for parking and a seat! And while you’re early, come check out the bookstall ;)]
Evening Talk 1 | John 14:1-14 – Jesus Is The Way| Paul Grimmond
John 14-17 and the Holy Spirit?
When it comes to understanding the Holy Spirit – we will be looking at 1/3 of 1% of the Bible. So to understand what the Bible says about teh Holy Spiri – is this a good way to start? In fact, our passage tonight has no mention of the SPirit! Are we happy with that?
Often we come to the BIble with our own quesitons – with our own ideas and things because they affect me. But as God tells us abotu himself in the Scriptures he does so in a big story from Genesis to Revelation. An epic – a Lord of the Rings kind of story. The whole of human history is recounted – a sotry with kings, adventures, wars – people sing and dance, and write poems, have children, build houses, lose houses – a story about the whole history of the world.
To know God well it is not a matter of us picking and choosing what we want to read and making a story about them.
Part of the process of knowing God well is to read in context – bit by bit – as God tells us about himself in the way he tells us about himself.
in John 14 we have this – a long speech about the Holy Spirit – but he begins not with the Spirit. We are introduced to the Spirit in the context that Jesus introduces us to Him.
2. Where are we up to in John?
The Gospel of John covers a big amount of time – 12 are spent on three years, but the final 9 focus on the final three weeks of Jesus’ life.
The context of Jesus’ life – something has happened that has changed everything. In John 2 at the wedding at Cana in Galilee Jesus tells Mary, ‘Woman – what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ At this point we know nothing of ‘the hour’, and through the following chapters we keep reading that ‘the hour has not come’ – but at the end of chapter 12 we read ‘the hour has come’ (see 12:23, 27; 13:1) – Jesus realises that now is the moment that he is going to die on the cross.
So at this point Jesus takes his disciples aside and gives them the longest block of teaching from him. How are they going to live without him in this world? This section lays it out.
14:1 says ‘let not your hearts be troubled’ – he sets the tone that they should not be afraid, because what he says next will help them through his absence.
3. The questions of the text: i. Where is Jesus going?
He’s going to the Father. When he says that he is going to the Father’s house the key thing to know about that is that he is going to his Father.
Paul shares about how his family has moved many times – and yet he will call each of them his ‘home’ – because what makes a place ‘home’ is the people and the relationships he has with them. The place where he experiences all the warmth, love, and generosity of his parents to himself and his own children.
When Jesus speaks of going to the Father he’s not talking about the place itself. When we get to heaven the fact that we share it with our brothers and sisters in Christ pales to the fact that we share it with Jesus.
ii. How do you get there?
14:6-7 – when Jesus speaks of no one coming to the Father except through him it’s related to the next thought in v7 – no one can see the Father, but if you have seen Jesus then you have seen the Father.
Genesis 32:30, Deuteronomy 4:12. 5:24 – seeing God was utterly frightening. Nobody in the OT gets to truly see God face to face.
John 1:18, 1 Timothy 6:15-16 – reiterate the OT points above.
So when Jesus says if you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father is utterly astonishing in the whole of scripture.
Philip in v8 says something a little silly next – Jesus has said ‘looking at me is looking at God the Father’ – so Philip is asking for what has already been given!
Jesus’ response reiterates his earlier point – Jesus in all his fullness displays God in all his fullness.
So what have we done with this profound truth? How much of our live has been given to wrestling with, and reading and re-reading the Jesus we have revealed to us in scripture?
God reveals himself – and we live lives of distraction in a world of distraction made by people who live off your distraction.
The people who made the technology that distracts us do not allow their children to use the tech. Why? Probably because they realise that it’s so addictive. When we scroll the page on our screen our little finger needs to bow down… which is somewhat metaphorical for what we are doing. And sadly most of our time our Bibles remain beside us unread.
Jesus says, ‘You’ve seen me… you’ve seen the Father’ – how much more should we be people who are captured by this truth, to let it dominate our lives? We have in our hands, in the scriptures, the knowledge of the God of this world.
14:10ff – it’s a bit of weird passage – he says I don’t speak on my own authority, but when I speak God works… and the secondary reason for believing me is all the things I have done. The fundamental reason you should believe in me is because I have told you that it’s true.
The gap between what we speak and what we do is huge. Do we believe our politicians? Do we believe our neighbours? Do we believe ourselves? We tend to say things but not often fulfil them.
In Christ there is never any gap between what Jesus says and what he does. Every word he speaks is true because he is the very definition of truth. Out of Jesus’ very essence Jesus speaks and works. To hear Jesus is to hear truth, to believe his words is to believe the truth.
This is so counter-cultural to us – our non-Christian family and friends will never believe this. Our own beliefs change over time – nobody believes exactly the same things they did when they were 14. Even science changes as it evolves – and all along the way people believe they are right because they are doing the science of their day.
When Jesus speaks he speaks with all the authority of God. I am so righteous true and good that what I say is righteous true and good. So if we’re reading the Bible and we start to say, ‘Jesus, I’m not sure I believe you here…’ the problem is with us and not Him.
Do we come to the Bible with a longing to hear God speak to us, and to speak with is true to us? You can only know the Father through Jesus – and you can know God through knowing Jesus.
iii. If you ask anything in my name? (to be continued)
14:12ff – in the midst of all that he has just said, he then goes on this tangent about doing things in his name? Why? Come back tomorrow night. (Edit – see… I’m not the only one who does that!!)
4. What should I do with Jesus?
What is something you could do to engage more clearly with the words and life of Jesus so that we can know God better? What practical steps might we need to take – what things might we need to cut out of life to know God better in the Word?
And if we have friends or family who don’t know Jesus, and you want them to get to know God, how is it that they are going to come to know him? There are all sorts of questions we might have – but people don’t come to know Jesus simply by answering those questions. What will we share with them about how Jesus is affecting us? How his life is shaping us? Let’s begin with thinking about how we can share the reality of Jesus shaping our lives.
[Whenever I hear a talk about the astonishing beauty of Jesus I’m always floored. Tonight was a great reminder of this.]
[Day 5 is finally here. It always creeps up on you quicker than you expect. The first day is all fun, settling in, and getting to know people over lunch, dinner, and late-night Maccas. By day 5 you feel like you’ve run a marathon. Prayerfully we’re exhausted, but also excited by what we’ve learned, how we’ve been equipped, and renewed to serve in our churches in the year to come.]
Day 5 | Morning Session | Derek Hanna: What’s In A Name [Genesis 11]
What’s in a name?
The self-help industry is massive. Derek googled and stumbled upon a way for people to love you:
follow your bliss
lead with your heart
look the part
get your swagger on
tell your greatest story
amplify your voice – make sure your website, linked-in, social media reflect your authentic voice and mastery of your area of business – write blogs, curate your voice, retweet people and no doubt you’ll grow your influence.
What happens when every single person is about building a name for themselves? When you get 1000 people together in community all about themselves? What if my way of building myself up is about tearing you down?
People want to be loved and admired, to leave a mark – as opposed to what the world put forward in building your own name the Bible says there is a better, more significant, more eternal way you can get a name for yourself.
In Genesis 11 you have a narrative sandwiched between two genealogies (records of families). Since the Garden of Eden you’ll notice that mankind has been heading steadily eastward – away from the Garden, away from God. And their movement now stops – and they settle in around the area probably of Babylon. What will happen?
Brilliance & Rebellion (v.1-4)
Genesis 11 probably happened before chapter 10 – in chapter 10 we read of other languages and spreading out, here in Genesis 11 we have the precursor to that (a chiastic structure).
11:1-4 – their plan. They combine their brilliance and creativity, and technological advancement to do three things:
v3 – Build with bricks and bitumen – there is some advancement in technology – society harnessing creation working together for a cause. Which at first appears to be good.
v4 – they use the technological advancement to build a city – and in the heart of the city is this massive landmark. They build a tower (perhaps a ziggurat) – but it’s a landmark with a twist. The function of ziggurats at the time was to provide access for the gods to come down or provide access for man to go up to heaven.
And notice the ‘let us build’ – which echoes God’s creation ‘let us make’ – just as God created, so shall we. But what are they building? ‘A name for ourselves’ – they are building a tower, but their real target is to build a name for themselves. This tower is for them to ascend to heaven and take their rightful place. This tower is about their glory.And when you think about it, this is how our society operates. We do all that we do not for the glory of God, but for the glory of man. We land on the moon for the glory of man. We invent the quantum computer for the glory of my bank account. We legislate the NDIS for the glory of our government. Does society ever do anything for the glory of God – it is ever committed to him?
And yet – even in church – how much of our conversations are about building a name for God, or for building a name for ourselves? Have we mapped out our own lives in the steps that we want to take to achieve our career or life? This is our default setting… and we’re not good at asking questions of each other to penetrate this thinking. What would it look like to sit down after this conference to map out our lives – the next month, year, decade… etc – based solely on the question of how to grow the name of God in my life. This is a map which would have eternal consequences.
Judgement & Mercy (v.5-9)
So what does God do with this name building people? v5 – God comes down. What an irony. Mankind is so busy building their way up, so impressed with themselves at the scale of their construction – and God has to come down, squinting at this little building project. And what he sees doesn’t impress him in any way.
But what he sees does concern him in v6. But he’s not concerned about competition – as though they really will come up to heaven. What he’s concerned about is where this is all heading – it’s not like they are going to finish it and look upon it humbly, realise it wasn’t fulfilling, and then turn back to God. That there is the problem – this is God’s concern. As one people they have crossed a threshold – they have set up a society in direct opposition to God. They have removed the good and proper boundaries that God has put in place for mankind. And now that God is out of the picture, and without external restraint for what they should do, their creativity and ingenuity has led them into places where they should not go. Where life is destroyed and not nurtured.
And that’s what we see in our world today as well. We have pills over the counter to abort unwanted pregnancies. We have developed nuclear technology to cure cancer… and use that same tech to build weapons capable of wiping out cities. We build a server to provide heaps of information at our fingertips… and we adapt it to upload photos and videos for our sexual gratification.
God is not threatened by all this. He is grieved by it.
So in v7 he comes down to judge – by confusing and dividing people. The word ‘Babel’ is a wordplay with ‘Babylon’ which also sounds like the word for ‘confusion’. Throughout the Bible Babylon is set in opposition to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the City of God, Babylon is set in opposition to God, the city of Satan. That’s why it appears so much in the book of Revelation as the picture of human rebellion against God.
And then he scatters them.
As this story closes, and as we walk through the next genealogy, it appears that humanity is just lost.
But then… in Genesis 12, we open up with some extraordinary promises and work of God. The promises to Abraham, which are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus – the reversal of this terrible moment in Genesis 11 takes place.
Then in Acts 2 we read:
 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.  And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.  And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?  Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome,  both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (ESV)
Note those final words – many tongues are heard. Sounds like babel. Those people who were scattered at Babel are now gathered here, hearing together the news of Jesus Christ. They hear about God’s new king and kingdom – and how God is gathering his people back – and how sin is going to be done away with in the future, and how people can come into this kingdom by faith (not works).
And then finally we see the final place where God is taking this world:
 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,  and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (ESV)
 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (ESV)
Here is the new place where God and his people will live. No longer will they try to claw their way up to heaven. No more pain in Genesis 3, it is done away with. The pain of life – gone. Death, gone. Grief, crying, pain, has no place in this new creation – they are things of the old creation.
 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (ESV)
The city is beautiful, the leaves of the tree for healing – and notice the name written on God’s people: God’s name.
Reflections for us…
So whose future are you going to build? Whose name are we going to bear, and going to proclaim?
This past week we’ve heard from people who are going to Japan to preach the gospel – learn the language, learn the culture, uproot themselves. We’ve heard from people going to university ministry so that students on campus can hear the gospel. Why? Because they believe that there is no other name than Jesus by which people must be saved.
There’s been a shift in thinking in the past decade regarding the work. We’ve shifted away from the idea of vocational gospel work to now just vocational work as redemptive. The pendulum swing has been helpful in some ways but unhelpful in other ways. But we must remember the uniqueness of gospel ministry – it is still special, and only the gospel redeems.
And even if we’re not great at teaching or discipling others – we are a part of a body where we can do it together. We partner financially with each other to pursue the work of the gospel. We take the skills we employ in the workplace and we don’t give second best to the church. We use the skills we use at work and work out how we can use them for the glory of the gospel.
When we think about the common denominator for the heroes of our faith is rarely brilliance. God doesn’t move people from darkness to light through brilliance. The common denominator is the gospel. It’s that which God takes to renew hearts.
So will this be our future? Will it be the Name that we glorify?
[What an end! A big call to give our lives over to gospel ministry, in whatever capacity, in community together, because Jesus has reversed the curse of Genesis 11. Stunning.
Well that’s it folks. Strand groups are left and we’re done with Ignite for another year. Heaps of great conversations. Lots of great books sold. Lots of encouragement and prayer through the week. Keep praying that the effects of this week will last a lifetime in joyful service of God’s kingdom.]
[The penultimate day is here. Everyone is feeling the exhaustion creeping up. We’ve been well fed – physically and spiritually – and today’s the big day when the delegates begin to synthesise their strand material and formulate a bible study/talk. Your prayers are appreciated as we round the last bend and head into the last stretch. But first, Derek Hanna up speaking on 5 chapters from Genesis 5-10!]
Day 4 | Morning Session | Derek Hanna: Loving Enough To Judge [Genesis 5-10]
Judgement Vs. Tolerance
The story of Noah is a confronting story. When you live in a Christian bubble you can make this story really cute and domesticated. We have lots of toys of Noah’s Ark – we make it really cute, the animals look fun, the happy ending… it all looks fun, until you remember that thousands of people died. Richard Dawkins thinks that the story of animals coming into the ark is charming, but also morally reprehensible – how could God kill humanity like that, and also kill the animals. This story, for Dawkins, is another nail in the coffin for God.
In the William Lane Craig vs Lawrence Krausse debate – Krausse attacked the bible on the issue of the killing of the Canaanites. He argued that no God would commit genocide like that. The response to that should have been that the story neither proves nor disproves God – but that all you can say is you disapprove of how God judges.
But this story in Noah is so much more.
A God who grieves
First we need to see that God’s grief starts this story off. Genesis 6:1-4 is a little confusing and strange – but what we generally see is that there is fundamentally wrong with creation. This is a continuing corruption of creation – the ‘sons of God’ might be understood to be rulers of the time – and that they were taking new wives away from their new husbands to lie with them (right of first choice). This is a corrupt society. So what God does is limit their rule by limiting their lives to 120 years instead of the long lives we’ve seen in the other genealogies.
But God’s gentle judgement of limiting their lives seems to have no effect. 6:5 and 6:12 onwards spells this out. Every inclination of humans was away from God – every thought and deed was in rebellion against God.
The pain that God feels in 6:6 is similar to the word of ‘pain’ in childbirth upon women. God regretted that he had made man on earth and was deeply grieved. And this grief reveals both his deep love of creation and his understanding of how deep the problem runs – how wrong it is that it exists in this world. The picture of God’s grief gives us an insight into the ‘grief’ that the Spirit feels in Ephesians 4:30-31. When there’s bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour, etc (v31) in us then we grieve God. While those sins are against others, the first and foremost one grieved is God. David knows this as well from Psalm 51 – in which he says, ‘Against you (God) and you alone have I sinned…’ Uriah might have objected to that – but David knew that the first person he had wronged was God.
We might find that generally unacceptable. If I blew up at someone who I thought was a friend we might think that our issue is with that friend… but the Bible says that this issue is first and foremost against God. This is difficult to communicate to our world – that sin is not just against others, but against God first. How can we communicate this? Here’s Derek’s attempt:
Derek had an exchange student from Japan staying with them. He stayed in their house and others – and Derek’s boys loved him. He was the most polite person ever to stay at his house – he offered to cook, clean, and low impact. You would hardly see him around the house. The garden was clean, the sun shone when he was around. Here was a man in his house respecting the house and lovingly engaging with the family.
Now imagine that this boy now started to not acknowledge Derek, didn’t engage with him, didn’t interact with Derek. It wouldn’t matter if he did all that other stuff – because if he lived in Derek’s house and didn’t acknowledge him then we would think that was strange and wrong. We think that if this student was trashing the house then that is a clear problem. But even while he was that house and living a good and moral and upright life, if he ignores Derek whose house he is staying in – using his house and enjoying the fruits of Derek’s labour, there is a fundamental problem.
See – we forget that this is God’s world and believe it is ours. We think we’re morally upright and define what it is. And we wreck it.
We cannot live in this world and ignore the God who made it.
In Genesis 6 we’re not sure exactly what’s wrong, but we can be sure that it’s not a Genesis 2 picture.
A God who judges
So what does God do? From 6:13 onwards his actions are a reversal of Genesis 1. He systematically dismantles all the work in Genesis 1 – what happens is un-creation. Instead of waters separated from land, now the distinction is gone – water covers the earth. Instead of populating the earth with life now that life is taken away. We see here the depths of God’s pain – that everything, even those that were made in his image, are un-created.
Putting aside the big scientific questions about the flood, and keeping with what the author is trying to say – we see that this act was an act of uncreation.
So how do we explain to people that God would arbitrarily flood and kill all of mankind? There are two unhelpful paths that we can go down in order to explain it.
First – the danger of explaining away the unexplainable. This is a challenge when it comes to other commands like God’s command to wipe away the nations in the conquest – same in 1 Sam 15 the wiping out of the nation there. There can be a tendency to say, ‘These people got what they deserved.’ We read that some of these Canaanite societies were committing child sacrifice – wow, they deserved it. Right? Well, nations are complex things. Even in Nazi Germany not all Germans were supports of the Nazi’s. Could the write of Genesis been a little more nuanced? (A good book on this topic is ‘Is God a Monster?’)
See on some level when we get to these issues we have to let God be God. He may do things we can’t understand, can’t fathom. We do need to let the clear interpret the unclear. God does clearly reveal his character in the Bible – particularly in the Lord Jesus.
Second – another unhelpful response is to bury our head in the stand – to wash our hands clean of it. To say that the God of the OT is not the God I know – the God I know is in Jesus who loves and gives his life. But in doing this we create a bipolar God in our liking. You end up creating a soft God who can’t deal with the hardship and suffering and evil of this world.
Just because God’s judgement, or any other aspect of God, makes us uncomfortable doesn’t mean we can ignore it and not deal with it. If God is a person then there may be parts of him that resonate with you and some parts that don’t. Some parts we might not like.
See if everything God says to you makes you fine and comfortable then you are probably not dealing with or engaging with the God of the Bible. If God is real surely there is a possibility that he hasn’t told me everything I want to know
Judgement is something that God does. But we need to keep reading the story – for we will find that God desires to judge without condemnation.
A God who’s determined to save
Genesis 6:8 – Noah finds favour with God. He has integrity, is righteous and blameless. Noah’s name means ‘relief’ – and in him there’s a sense in which Noah gives relief to us the reader and to God. We know the story – Noah is selected, set apart, and given the big task of building the boat and helping the animals on board.
In Noah and the saving of his family, we see God has not abandoned his creation. Now he is like a new Adam – the instructions to Noah and his family echo the instructions given to Adam. And then he makes a covenant with Noah to never again strike down the whole of creation like this – confirming it with a rainbow.
And yet even within this new creation there is a tingle, a warning that this isn’t going to last. See 8:21 – while God will not again smite the earth, human hearts have not changed. And then moments after walking off the boat we have a bizarre encounter in chapter 9. 9:18ff – as soon as God has reestablished creation, the next Adam gets on the booze and his sons shame him. Talk about short-term memories. Another Fall.
Reflections for us…
Here’s the thing about God’s judgement. We often think that God does need to judge the most heinous and evil of people – but that we are fine. We’re on the right side of (judgement) history. But really… where is the line between ok and ‘should be judged’?
In Romans 3 we see that God does judge. 3:1-20 there’s the clear bad news that all of us are on the wrong side of (judgement) history.
3:21ff there is now one who has come and taken God’s judgement upon himself. What we see in these verses is that the sin that is so prevalent in this world is not overlooked – it is dealt with. 3:25 God deals with all that sin on his Son. 3:26 God must judge because he is just – but he is also merciful. In the cross we see that God is righteous in and of himself – and his declaring of others righteous by faith in Him is also an act of God’s righteousness.
This idea that faith in Jesus alone is the only way to be saved is repugnant to this world. Our world wants all people to go to heaven because we’re all basically good. And here we come with this news that only through Jesus can this happen.
A few years ago in a NY Times article Tim Keller was asked whether this was right – right that good people should go to hell. Keller replied,
“You imply that really good people (e.g., Gandhi) should also be saved, not just Christians. The problem is that Christians do not believe anyone can be saved by being good. If you don’t come to God through faith in what Christ has done, you would be approaching on the basis of your own goodness. This would, ironically, actually be more exclusive and unfair, since so often those that we tend to think of as “bad” — the abusers, the haters, the feckless and selfish — have themselves often had abusive and brutal backgrounds. Christians believe that it is those who admit their weakness and need for a savior who get salvation.”
And that’s right. We don’t get in by our goodness – but by admitting our weakness and need for a saviour.
The story of Noah, as understood by the Apostle Peter – 2 Peter 3 – is a reminder that this world is reserved for judgement. But Christians don’t tend to live that way. We live as though this world is ok. Do we look at our friends and family who do not know Jesus and does our heartache that they do not know Jesus?
Peter Jensen shared last night that on Q&A the hostility he felt was not directed at him, but directed to God. And yet he lovingly stood his ground on the gospel, proclaimed it in the final minutes… and two people that he knows of got saved. Would Peter Jensen trade away the 55 minutes of mockery and scorn for the eternal lives of two people? No way.
Judgement is looming. 2 Peter 3:9ff – God’s heart aches for the lost. And that should shape our priorities, our lives, and the way that we view this world. In the face of mockery, we will lovingly proclaim this news.
[Another big talk from Derek. Another massive implication to boldly proclaim the gospel, and judgement, to our dying world.]
Evening Session | Peter Jensen: Why Are we here? [1 Corinthians 15:35-58]
[Final session with Peter Jensen. He’s such a warm, loving, andgentle man. I’ll miss these evening sessions!]
We are born to worship. Wherever you go around the world people worship – all sorts of religions. In our country we don’t like the idea that we are worshippers because that means someone is bigger and more important than us. We believe we’re good enough, we’re essentially good, we can rule ourselves.
You can see that we’re all worshippers by watching shoppers at the shopping centres. The worship of money/material possessions. In communist China and Russia there was worship of people bowing down before statues of their mighty leaders.
But we are all dependent creatures – depending on each other – frail creatures, not gods. We are worshippers.
The trick is not do you worship, it’s to make sure you worship correctly. You worship the right God. Worship is not good in of itself – it depends on who you worship and how you worship. You must worship the right God in the right way. Jesus said in John 4 that worshippers must worship in spirit and truth.
So the number one question is: Who is the God we worship?
The God we worship
The God we worship is the God who has revealed himself. We do not have the capacity to find the true God on our own – we must rely on disclosure. In order to know someone we need to have someone disclose themselves to us – reveal their name, reveal their habits, etc.
What do we learn about God in the Bible?
There is one true God. He is three-in-one. He is holy, sovereign, righteous, and good. And many other things – including and summed up in ‘love’.
The One God – this is shocking. Most people through human history thought there were many gods. In the forces and powers around us, in our individual homes, etc. The fact of one God was a gospel – a paradigm shift for many people. And for millions of people who were troubled by ‘spirits’/gods this was good news.
Three-in-one – he is one God, with three persons. Not like us. This is the best language that we can use to describe this. Through all eternity we discover that God is love because the Son loves the Father and the Father loves the Son and the Spirit binds them together in love. He is pulsating with love within himself.
Holy – separate from us, different from us. Not us. The temptation in all religious thinking is to make god in our image. Just a bigger version of us. No – he is a holy God, not human, not angelic, but God – a different person from us.
Sovereign – in charge of all things. It is his will that reigns supreme.
Righteous – he is perfect, through and through.
Good – not evil. In all he does he is good – through and through.
In all of these traits he is thoroughly unlike us. And it is only when we understand this one God we are released – we come to know the who and what we are, and we are now free to work out the why we are here and where we are going.
The King who has a kingdom, who has set us up in his kingdom and under his rule – and we rebelled in mutiny. The human race’s history is one of rebellion. But then he gave promises, righteous promises and covenants with a people – and they find their YES in him (Jesus).
If we want to find this picture of God we can look at Mt Sinai (Exodus 19), or in Isaiah 6. When Isaiah saw the holy God his instant reaction was ‘woe is me for I am lost!’ What an encounter!
The worship we offer
What is worship? Worship is sort of like homage or reverence – what you give to rulers. When you worship you give due to a superior being. At it’s heart is service. You worship by serving, you worship by obedience.
And yet we have used the word worship so frequently it has changed the meaning to church attendance (even singing) – but it’s meaning is obedience and service. It involves your whole being – your heart, mind, and body.
Worship requires responsiveness. Even Christians can have the belief that we are here to manipulate God. And so we use the idea of worship to squeeze blessings out of God. Instead of our religion being ‘Thy will be done’ it becomes ‘My will be done’. Our business is not to force him to do our will – which is corrupt and ignorant – but to do his will – which is righteous, good and for our benefit.
Fundamentally worship is an exercise in faith. The first duty you owe to God is to believe him, trust him. Faith is worship. If we try to get to heaven by good works – which God says is impossible anyway – it is deeply offensive to God.
Worship is also not an outward thing. A common confusion is that it is involved with ritual. God gave Israel ritual – there’s nothing wrong with ritual per se – but it’s wrong when ritual takes the place of heart.
Isaiah 1:10-15 – God gave these people the rituals, but they had replaced their hearts with it. 1 Samuel 15 also says the same thing. Mere ritual will not save you. It will only condemn you.
The voice of worship lifts up and attributes all glory to him and not us – even the grace we say before meals does this.
The worship He taught us
God gave the following for his people:
Tabernacle/Temple – presence of God (relationship) – like his palace in Jerusalem, which indicated his presence and helped signify relationship with God
Sacrifices – propitiation (redemption) – they were given for a number of reasons but the heart of which was the Day of Atonement, which were propitiatory sacrifices.
Priests – Mediation (reconcilation)
Festivals – Commemoration (remembrance) – remembering things of the past
All of this was stimulated by the word of God – but it had to be inward, it was public but had a personal aspect to it.
The worship He bought us
What we saw in the OT was the blueprints of what was to come – the blueprints point to the reality to come.
Jesus Christ as temple – the meeting place, the presence of God in our midst; sacrifice – bulls and goats couldn’t do it, only the sacrifice of the God-man Jesus could take away sin; priest – he is the mediator; and redeemer – the one who gives his life to save us, the one who fulfills the worship of the OT. His death is the one we remember as the redeemer.
Our confidence in approaching God in Christ through the Spirit – what gives us the confidence to approach God? Christ enables us to enter the presence of the living God in order to be embraced by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Such confidence!
One of the reasons why funny things happen in churches is because of a lack of assurance. But the NT encourages us to see what we already have. The death and resurrection of Jesus is God’s great permanent sign for all of us. We don’t need another miracle – we have the miracle. When you lack assurance, return to the cross of Christ and remember he died for me – and in his mighty resurrection we are justified.
Our whole life as worship – Romans 12:1-2 – when we present our bodies 24/7-365 to the living God that is our act of worship. Hebrews 12:28-13:1ff – acceptable worship is to be offered to God – which is listed in chapter 13 – which is our worship book.
Our fellowship as worship – Colossians 3:1-17 – as the body of Christ we grow together in the likeness of Jesus Christ – including singing and making melody to the heart. The great genius is congregational singing – not musicians on stage drawing attention to themselves.
Our destiny as worship – 1 Corinthians 15 – the contrast between the dust man and the man of heaven – and just as you were born in the image of dust so you will bear the image of the man of heaven. As we are waiting for that great day to come again and we feel that eternal weight of glory. Not only will we be able to see Jesus, we will be like Jesus, and we will not be able to sin, and we will be working for Jesus. It will be unimaginably brilliant.
So what do we do in the meantime? 1 Corinthians 15:58 – be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.
[There’s something about Peter’s simple preaching. He preaches with a simple transparency of a man who earnestly believes the promises of God’s Word, and the history of one who has had that trust tested again and again. When he tells us to persevere… we listen.]