Ignite Training Conference 2019 [Day 5] {LIVE BLOG}

Understanding what the scriptures say about the Holy Spirit

[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]

Some applications.

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.]

Ignite Training Conference 2019 [Day 4] {LIVE BLOG}

Understanding what the scriptures say about the Holy Spirit

[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

Romans 8:12-13

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]

3. Prayer

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.

7. Mission

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.]

 

Ignite Training Conference 2019 [Day 3] {LIVE BLOG}

Understanding what the scriptures say about the Holy Spirit

[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!]

 

 

Ignite Training Conference 2019 [Day 2] {LIVE BLOG}

[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 uswe 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.

Stopovers
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.

Destination
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.

[Umm… wow!!]

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.]

 

 

 

Ignite Training Conference 2019 [Day 1] {LIVE BLOG}

Understanding what the scriptures say about the Holy Spirit

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.

  1. 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

  1. 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.]

Ignite Training Conference 2018 [Day 5] {LIVE BLOG}

[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
  • score facetime
  • celebrate yourself
  • 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

Acts 2:1–11

[1] When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. [2] And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. [3] And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. [4] And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

[5] Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. [6] And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. [7] And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? [8] And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? [9] Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, [10] Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, [11] 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:

Revelation 7:9–10

[9] 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, [10] and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (ESV)

Revelation 21:1–4

[1] 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. [2] And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [3] 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. [4] 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.

Revelation 22:1–5

[1] 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 [2] 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. [3] 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. [4] They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. [5] 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.]

Ignite Training Conference 2018 [Day 4] {LIVE BLOG}

[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.

But…

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, and gentle man. I’ll miss these evening sessions!]

Worship

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.]

 

 

 

Ignite Training Conference 2018 [Day 3] {LIVE BLOG}

[Hump day of the conference is here. By now we’re settling into the routine, being challenged by the talks, being stretched by the strand material, being encouraged by the workshops, and growing new friendships across churches. Your prayers for the delegates to continue being sustained for the remaining week is appreciated!]

Day 3 | Morning Session | Derek Hanna: What’s Your Problem? [Genesis 3]

What’s wrong with us?

So what’s wrong with the world? In the news this week: murder, animal abuse, global unrest. Every day is like this – the news filled with terrible events. Derek was chatting with a friend and they concluded that they both knew something was not right with the world. ‘There’s lots of brokenness out there… but do you think there’s any brokenness in you?’ That’s a rather confronting question, especially when trying to build a new friendship!

But we all know that there is something broken in all of us. The self-help industry is massive, as a reflection of the problem. But whether the problems are ‘out there’ or ‘in here’ they all have the same starting place.

Genesis 3.

At the end of Genesis 2 we have a picture of perfection. But then 3:1 opens up with a sinister plot with perfection. The serpent is ‘crafty’ which in Hebrew rhymes with ‘naked’ (ie the nakedness and goodness and perfection of Adam and Eve). Here in this verse is the sinister music of the antagonist coming in.

What happened?

1 – Eve doubts God’s Word.

It begins with questioning. He starts by questioning the motives of God. He is the introducer of chaos – and begins by asking, ‘Did God really say…?’ He’s not introducing himself, and then asking a genuine question of inquiry. His words are a sneer. The fall of mankind did not begin by logic or rationale, it started with a sneer.

If you want to make a Christian feel stupid, don’t start by questioning their logic. You undermine how they feel. You question their faith.

A few years ago Lawrence Krauss debated William Lane Craig – but the debate was not about logic and reason and rationale. If you watched him on the night it was all about disdain, sneers, used to communicate his point.

Why do people move away from God and faith in Jesus? Rarely is it logical or rational. It is often started with embarrassment about what we believe, doubt, having our faith sneered at.

Notice also that when the Serpent speaks he removes God’s personal name ‘Yahweh’ from the equation. He asks ‘Did God really say…’  And then disastrously Eve copies this way of speaking.

You know there’s a breakdown in your relationship with your children when they start calling you, ‘Mr Hanna.’ I’m not Mr Hanna, I’m your dad!

When Eve copies the serpent’s language she creates distance between herself and God. Into that space, doubts creep in. And that’s the way it is with us as well. Questions arise about God’s goodness. Why would he have that tree there and tell me to not eat? Why would he make me a sexual being and then tell me to remain pure? Why would he open up an opportunity for me and then close the door? Doesn’t God want me to be happy? Instead of a relationship of trust with God we start to see all the rules and restrictions.

2 – A lie.

The serpent lies. He changes God’s word – and suggests that God’s word was unreliable and that God has a hidden agenda: to keep you subjugated, a slave, ignorant. If you eat the fruit you will be like him.

And that’s what God says happens in v22 – they have become like him. They have become like him in knowing what is right and wrong. But now in their fallenness, they could not distinguish which was the right choice. Choice now became enslaved.

Imagine looking at something that will kill you as if it would bring you pleasure. Independence from God is based on the lie that you’ll have more life (not less) apart from God – but that choice that appears to bring you pleasure will actually kill you.

We know that we live in a sex-saturated world where it’s increasingly difficult to talk and share the opinion that the Bible says that while sex is good it is reserved for men and women in a committed monogamous relationship. But the questions raised on this truth is to doubt God’s goodness in this plan – why would God restrict me from this pleasure with anyone I wish?

Back to Eve – with God held at a distance the whole world is now seen in a new light.

3 – Eve break’s God’s command

Halfway through v6 she takes the fruit and gave some to her husband, they ate, their eyes were opened, they were ashamed, they hid from each other.

This wasn’t a mistake. She didn’t just eat the wrong fruit in a moment of confusion. It was a deliberate decision. When she believed the lie that God was not for her, withholding goodness from her, she grasped for it herself. That’s what sin does – we doubt God’s goodness and attempt to seize the goodness of life for ourselves. Sin is born in a mindset that God does not have your best interests at heart. That he is holding something back for you – which is for your good. But if you take it you’ll have more than what you have now, you’ll be more content.

Does this ring true for us? When we struggle with sin in our lives, when we feel distant from God – that we find it harder to believe that the things God says are good for us we do not believe. But instead we believe that the things that are not good for us will actually bring us contentment – and we walk down that path in unbelief.

The real problem is in our hearts. It begins with our distance from and distrust of God.

The Consequences

The scene after the eating of the fruit is somewhat tragically comical. They hide and then deny. God comes into the scene and Adam and Eve flee. He calls out to them and their shame comes out. What do they do next? They rationalise their behaviour.

When God asks what they did – Adam blames Eve for their actions, then Eve passes the blame onto the Serpent. No ownership, just passing the buck.

God curses them in reverse order: the serpent first, then Eve, then Adam. The curses for the woman include pain in child rearing and conflict in her relationship with her husband. The curses for the man include hardship in work, and ultimately death. They both then get booted out of the Garden. Everything has unravelled from Genesis 2.

How could this have all be avoided?

Well, for one – you could have gotten rid of the tree. Did God set up the situation for failure?

One of the faculties that God has given to mankind is the ability to choose – the capacity to make decisions (as a result of being made in the image of God). And one of the choices God lays before his morally capable creatures is to choose between living in relationship with me, or to choose to live apart from me. We can often get caught up in the tree – but if you do you’ll miss what is being said here.

Notice that the character who is prominent in the first half of this story is noticeably absent in the second half of the story. Where was Adam in all of this? He was right there. In 3:1 the ‘you’ on the lips of the serpent is plural. He was there. He was silent. In Genesis 2 he was given the task of watching the Garden – to guard the Garden. We often blame the tree for this disaster. But really, the blame is on Adam. As soon as the words came out of the serpent’s mouth he should have whacked him. His job was to guard the garden. We shouldn’t be getting rid of the tree – we need a better gardener, a better guardian. A better guardian who will defend God’s honour and Word, and one who will secure our future.

Paul says this in Romans 5:12ff. The first Adam brought destruction. But the second Adam, through his death for us, gives us the (free) gift of life.

Reflections for us…

First, you have to stop being your own guardian. Sometimes when we’re watching sports on tv we can easily think we’ll do a better job – easy to do that from a distance. We can do that with Adam as well – thinking we would have done a better job. But seriously, we would fail just as much. We need to trust Jesus.

Second – we live in a world of wide and expansive choices. And while it’s not unique historically – that we can choose so many different avenues to walk down with all its allures to live in ways other than God intends for us, and with its pressures, and with its temptations to modify God’s word to suit our lives – it is probably fair to say that we have far more choices than ever to do that with. And unless we have dealt with our hearts beforehand we will not be able to tackle these choices in right ways. We need to be convinced that the God who created all things is also our loving heavenly Father who has done so much for us to live in relationship with him. We need to see that Christ is the better guardian and our Saviour. We need to see that we need to draw nearer to him rather than draw nearer to this world.

“There is a difference between believing that God is holy and gracious, and having a new sense on the heart of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. The difference between believing that God is gracious and tasting that God is gracious is as different as having a rational belief that honey is sweet and having the actual sense of its sweetness.” – Jonathan Edwards

We need to taste that God is good – otherwise, we will continue to see the lies of this world as sweeter.

[I think I’ve heard sermons on Genesis 3 more than any other passage of scripture, and still today I was challenged to see the depths of my brokenness and sin, and encouraged to see the goodness and grace of Jesus.]

Evening Session | Peter Jensen: Where Am I? [2 Corinthians 4]

Purpose and meaning

Psychologists have looked at the issue of death and dying. In Australia, there is a phobia about death – and so we do not talk about it. The Funeral Industry has also changed in relation to that – now death is a celebration event. People eulogise at funerals as well. Peter went to a funeral of a 30yo which had 16 eulogies! As though they wanted to speak him back into life!

But according to psychologists, we manage our fear of death by focusing on purpose and meaning in life. Attempts to deal with our phobia: take selfies and celebrate life, attend church, do whatever we can to empower us against death.

What is said here is true. In the Australian community there is an intense fear of death and all sorts of ways to bolster the mind against it.

When Peter asks professionals about what is happening with the soul of the country the same message comes out again and again: people detect in Australians anxiety. You may live a wealthy life, have a good job, but you’re anxious. Anxious because of disease? No – an underlying angst in the Aussie soul. We create a sense of permanence and meaning in life to try and cope with our fear of death.

This turns into loneliness, especially in old age – architects are evening working out how to build retirement villages for loners. But this sense of loneliness will be massive. The destruction of the family, collapse of organisations and communities. And even the communities, like clubs, that we attend are not real places that help – especially with the alcohol and gambling/pokies that infest these areas. But alcoholism and gambling addiction is an outworking of this anxiety/phobia of death.

And since we have invented for us a godless world we find ourselves in a timeless life. A life without time, a life without purpose. And while we try to construct meaning they are shallow, or ultimately meaningless.

The people that Peter speaks to also note that with the anxiety there is also a sense of entitlement. When patients hear from a GP that there isn’t much that can be done, patients respond with rebuff – there must be something you can do because Google told me you could!

All of this comes from a deep sense for a hunger for significance and a hunger for meaning. We fill the gaps with work, play, sex – but for what if there is no purpose in life?

But there is a gospel. A gospel which gives us purpose and therefore meaning.

 

The promises of God

We know that in the beginning God made everything good. Yet man reached for autonomy – aut (self) nomos (rule) – and that ruined everything. But into this catastrophe God still speaks. The narrative goes forward, and we see someone like Noah who receives a covenant in the rainbow, and various other figures who receive other covenants. Fundamentally the promises of God are all about this: I am going to re-establish my kingdom through the reestablishment fo my people and bring them into my heavenly rest, into a new age in which every blessing will rest upon their head. I am going to save the world and the Kingdom of God will be restored.

One of the key promises was to Abraham and the threefold promises: people, land, blessing. Another key covenant/promise is to David – with a Davidic King to rule eternally. Then through the Prophets, like Jeremiah, in which the promises of God will now be written on the heart of his people.

So what are promises?

First thing about promises: every promise ever made is about the future. Every promise is the attempt to control the time that comes to us and shape them in our way. The second thing about promises is that they are always verbal. God’s promises are always verbally made. The third thing about promises – how do they impact upon someone? By faith. But you see, one of the problems with this is that most people can’t keep their word. So a ‘promise’ is not a strong thing in human parlance. But God always keeps his promises.

So when in the Bible his promises don’t seem to be going well he reiterates them and builds on them, and continues to promise that his Kingdom will come. There will be a day when all comes good, when he reigns again. Isaiah has extraordinary pictures of what this will be like. The Bible is filled with all sorts of promises within the bible.

The structure of the promises of the bible push its narrative along. So whenever we see a promise in scripture we see a goal and a purpose in life – and then we have a purpose: to be there when the Kingdom comes. And one day we will stand before God in judgement – that’s his promise as well – and every deed we have done, and every deed with did not do when we should have done it, will be judged. The goal of our lives is to get that tick of approval from God in the end.

[Peter at this point turns to the whiteboard and draws a diagram of biblical history. Check out the audio to hear his explanation of the ‘present evil age’, the coming of Jesus, ‘the last days’, and ‘the age to come’.]

God’s great ‘Yes!’

2 Cor 1:20-22. All of God’s promises find their resounding YES in Jesus. The good news is that we don’t have to look anywhere else to work out where God’s promises are fulfilled.

The battle against evil and the evil one has been won already – on the cross. The greatest moment in history has turned everything around.

“If William Shakespeare walked into the room right now we would all stand, but if Jesus Christ walked into the room we would all kneel.” – Charles Lamb

Jesus is so wonderful, so central to everything in God’s purposes and plans.

2 Cor 4:1ff – we get to see the glory of God. Glory has the idea of heaviness, of weightiness, of significance. Where do we see it? In the face of Jesus. Where do we see the face of Jesus? In the preaching of the gospel.

And yet…the great ‘Not Yet’

4:7ff – While we have glory, and see glory, Christians are not relieved from pain and suffering. The New Testament does not pretend that Christian living is easy street. 4:8-10 makes this clear – this world, this life, is filled with suffering and pain. And we shouldn’t be surprised.

4:16ff – the outer-self wastes away – but our inner self is getting changed and transformed from one degree to the next towards glory. That’s our great hope.

And so…the life of faith

We live by faith. 2 Cor 5:4-7 – while wasting away the life now is by faith. How do we live? By trusting Jesus. Trusting the promises of God – that we will be resurrected, that we will see Jesus, that we will be suffering free.

Living by ‘faith’ has been so mangled today by false teaching – especially the prosperity gospel. Faith has become the means by which one attains freedom from suffering, pain, and freedom to live prosperously. Faith is something we have and make.

No. The power of our faith is in accordance with the power of the person we put our faith in. It’s not the quantity of your faith, but the person in whom your faith rests matters. This is why the prosperity gospel’s version of faith is eschatologically flawed – attempting to take all the things in the ‘age to come’ into ‘the present age’. Paul speaks of wasting away. Stephen was martyred. There’s no escape for them in their faith.

2 Cor 4:17-18 – the glory we receive will be huge. If we saw ourselves in glory we would be tempted to bow down in worship. We will win. Nero put Paul to death. But now we name our dogs Nero and our children Paul – so who won that?

Who are we? We are great scum of the universe sinners. But we are saved. Redeemed. Where are we now? Between the first and second coming. Redeemed, renewed, and waiting for redemption and renewal. Yes, we might be afraid of death – but Jesus promises to walk with us through that valley, and then we will see him face to face and we will be glorious: reflecting his glory.

[Gosh… if you’ve missed Peter’s talks so far you need to make it to the last one. That was stunning. A wonderful gospel-centred reminder that in the midst of our fears and feelings of being rubbish Jesus lifts us up and will get us to the end. Come Lord Jesus, come quickly that we may see you!]

Question and Answer | Peter Jensen, Derek Hanna, Christopher Lung

How can our generation avoid misreading our culture?

Peter: You will fail, that’s ok. But this sort of conference (ie Ignite) that we didn’t have is essential. The books you’re getting are first grade. So you are better resourced then we were. Furthermore, it is important that we are all thinkers and thinking through the implications of our faith with others, so we don’t go off track. And finally, we have to have the courage to stand up for Christ – especially at university where people take for granted that the secular way is the only way to think.

Why did God allow sin to exist and happen in the first place? Were we created with an evil heart or a heart that was not perfect?

Derek: The person I’d want answering this question is Peter!

Peter: That is one of the most perfect illustrations of original sin! One of the key thing in asking questions is to ask what the Bible says. God has made his revelation to us for the things we need to know – but many questions we have, which are legitimate to ask, sometimes are not answered in the Bible. So it is better to say ‘we don’t know’ because it’s better than to speculate. In terms of the origin of sin – we don’t know. Why did God allow it? Again we don’t know. But in permitting it he has taken it and created out of it something even more wonderful than was there before. And it cost him the death of his own Son in the process.

Derek: Often the challenge we have is we want a clean cut answer, and pull the data out of the Bible that we want to fit the model we want it to fit. And when it doesn’t work we pull something out, anything out, that fits with what we want. At that point, we are telling God how he should act and be. So we need to keep being people that allow God to speak and answer the questions he deems important, and not be people who ram things into place.

Ben: How would you answer that for a non-Christian? Often this is a genuine barrier for them.

Derek: We do need to allow God be God – and to deal with God as he has revealed himself.

Peter: Also remember that a non-Christian asking the question about evil also has a problem in defining why it exists and what it is. So we should be thoughtful about how to ask questions back to them.

I have a mate who has his life altogether and doesn’t need God. How can I respond to him?

Chris: In one sense there’s not much you can do if he believes he’s fine. If he was at church and believes this then they fundamentally misunderstand the gospel. Keep trying and praying for them. And keep asking questions.

The resurrection of Jesus: Jesus didn’t need to be resurrected as God but as a man. Does that mean that the eternal God died – there was a break in the Godhead?

Peter: No. Jesus in his divinity did not die – for God cannot die. In his humanity he died. But we also have to be careful not to divide the humanity and divinity of Jesus. So remember the astonishing thing is that when Jesus died and was raised he did so like us – as one of us. He was resurrected as man, and continues as man. Wonderful!

We were created by God to be relational beings – is that because God is relational. And how does sin impact our relational component?

Derek: Being made in the image of God is to be relational – and that is a reflection of God’s triune nature – eternally relational within himself. And he has transmitted that to us – so when we are in community we reflect this nature. Was it God’s intention? Well, we can only extrapolate what is revealed in the text. We can sort of see it in Genesis 1 – without ‘relationship’ being the only thing about imaging God. In Jeremiah the people of God are spoken of as a Bride, and this image is picked up also in the New Testament as well – the corporate body is described as the singular ‘bride’. This doesn’t reduce our individuality but encourages us on our communal nature.

Peter: How does sin impact our relational nature? It does – every day. For instance – one of the main differences between Christianity and Islam is that Christianity says that ‘God is Love’. Islam cant’ say that. We can because of his triune nature – he has objects of Love in order to love – love requires an object. Peter notices in his conversation with CEOs that CEOs talk to each other not about relationships but about their jobs. Our western culture has so focused and emphasised individuality – and that’s an aberration.

What’s the importance of becoming a member of a church? Why not just attend?

Chris: As a Pastor it leaves a good annual report for me (!). I’ve noticed in my younger generation that there’s a distinct disinterest in formalities such as signing up to become a member of the church – or even marry and sign a document to be married. So we’re losing the idea of losing these commitments. So the rate of people wanting to be baptised and become members happens but is slower. A good analogy is with marriage. Having a public marriage ceremony publicly and officially says to the world that this is the person who I’m committed to. So with membership – it’s a sign of commitment. For Millennials, this is a particular struggle that we face.

Holy Spirit questions – can a Christian ever be at risk of losing their salvation and the Holy Spirit? If those who have walked away were they ever really Christians? And how can the Holy Spirit dwell within me when I don’t feel victory over sin?

Peter: What does the Bible say about whether Christians can fall away? The Bible is full of strong warnings about falling away. So does that mean that real Christians can fall away? Yes… but no. The warnings are there so that real Christians will heed them. Jesus tells the parable of the sower and warns us that various people have the appearance of faith but end up fading away. We also have the promises of God in scripture that once he has us in his hands he will not let us go. So as far as we are concerned we need to watch out for the warnings in scripture – take them seriously. Do not rely on past performance. As the Holy Spirit dwells within you he will use those warnings to keep you going.

In Christian maths it works out that God keeps us 100% and we follow him 100%.

True believers will make progress in their faith – but you will never reach sinless perfection in this life. It is always a struggle. What happens often is that as you grow more like Jesus you become more conscious of sin in your life. I often look back in life and realise that I have sinned in ways I didn’t know then. And as I progress in life I keep remembering that I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Saviour.

What was going through your mind (Peter) as you were hearing scathing comments on ABC’s Q&A – and how did you manage to still speak the gospel.

Peter: First – I have never been more prayed for. People all around the nation were praying for me. If indeed God used it then it was through the prayers of God’s people. Second – before the program began I made a clear aim to love the people on the panel. I did not view the panellists as enemies out to get me. They were not out to get me, or you, they have a quarrel with God. So by his grace he enabled me to love them. Yes, they were a bit rude but what was going on in their hearts and minds that led them to act that way? Third – in response to God’s prayer the host, Tony Jones, asked me for a final word. In God’s timing, I remembered John 3:16 – and heard later that two people were converted through that. Praise God for that.

Ignite Training Conference 2018 [Day 2] {LIVE BLOG}

[Day 2 is always the most fun – you’re getting into the groove, there’s heaps to look forward to, and the first days talks have left you salivating for more – and today more is on offer! And for those reading, don’t forget to check out the bookstall – heaps of books left, especially the biographies (which are phenomenally great ways to start your 2018!).]

Day 2 | Morning Session | Derek Hanna: Being Human [Genesis 2]

What does it mean to be human?

Peter Singer – an Australian philosopher – “Sanctity of Life or Quality of Life” Pediatrics 72, no. 1 (July 1983)

Whatever the future holds, it is likely to prove impossible to restore in full the sanctity-of-life view. The philosophical foundations of this view have been knocked asunder. We can no longer base our ethics on the idea that human beings are a special form of creation made in the image of God, singled out from all other animals, and along possessing an immortal soul. Our better understanding of our own nature has bridged the gulf that was once thought to lie between ourselves and other species, so why should we believe that the mere fact that a being is a member of the species Homo Sapiens endows its life with some unique, almost infinite value?” p128-129.

One could probably tell that Peter Singer is not a Christian. Singer’s philosophy leads us to see that no life is more special than any other – so to take the life of a lamb is as great a crime as taking the life of a human.

No matter what your views of God there’s something about Singer’s quote that just doesn’t sit right. When Praying Mantis’ mate the female eats their mate afterwards – sometimes beforehand. How does that work?! We giggle at the thought… but if a human did that we would not be laughing.

Derek’s dog got cancer… and they opted to put him down. But if a human gets cancer… would we ‘put them down’? No. We know that there’s a qualitative difference between a dog and a human life.

In the Western World where secularism has created a vacuum, areas of life where God has been entirely removed, we are struggling to fill the gap left by God. How we function as a society, how we form right and wrong decisions – it’s a big wrestle. Our generation is more informed, more connected, more interconnected, and more confused and challenged in knowing how to deal with our world and it’s secular outlook. And these things bear down on our identity, our sense of worth, our place in this world, how we justify our experience, what it looks like to be normal and what it looks like to be human. It’s unprecedented.

And into this confused mess speaks Genesis 2.

Humanity: Created with a difference (1:26-27)

In Genesis 1 everything is created external to God – it’s out there, distinct from God. But with humans, you have something different. God has created humans now in his image.

But there’s a problem. What does it mean to be created in the image of God? It’s a big debated point. And while it appears to be a key part of who we are it’s not defined immediately. Another use of the phrase appears in Genesis 9 – if the blood of a human is spilt that’s a crime because they are made in the image of God. So even after the fall of Genesis 3 mankind is still in the image of God. Another function of image bearing is to rule – set apart from creation. The ‘image’ is applied to Jesus also – Colossians 1:15 Jesus is the image of the invisible God. 2 Cor 4:4 Jesus again is referred to as the image of God. The New Testament again picks up on this – those in Christ, Col 3:10, are being renewed in the image of their creator.

So while the image of Genesis 1-2 still exists in humanity it needs to be fixed.

Three implications from this arise:

1.  We are spiritual

We are people created to be in a relationship with God – which is fundamental to who we are, and the first thing of significance for who we are. God forms Adam from the elements of creation, and then uses his own breath to give him life. The same breath that created the universe – the stars, the solar system, the earth, the land, the water – that same breath now animates man. And he takes that man, creates a place of perfection and richness and abundance, and places mankind into it – and says, ‘It’s yours! And they are to live with God as their King – in relationship with him. And if that does not exist then something is fundamentally broken.

2.  We are material

This land that Adam and Eve are put into is pleasing, they are supposed to enjoy it. They are given the task of naming things – which is a massive authority. God outsources his own authority to this man. To name something is to have ownership over it. When parents have a child they spend a lot of time naming them. When we forget someone’s name constantly that’s offensive. A name is an invitation to relationship. Dog breeders don’t name their puppies in order to not get attached. God gives authority to mankind to exercise this power over creation – to name, to rule.

And not to rule in a way that exploits – but to rule in a way that reflects God’s goodness. They are to ‘work and keep’ the Garden – to do what God does in pushing the boundaries of the Garden out and bring order over the chaos of this world. This is God’s world, we are to care for it, we are stewards of it. It is his good world. So the lack of care, to turn a blind eye to its destruction – is sub-human. Creation is not there for us to exploit but to tend.

That said, we do not worship creation itself. It is not the ultimate good, not on par with mankind. The idea that it should be preserved completely intact for the future – not changed, or cut down in anyway – goes too far. On the one hand we don’t exploit creation, but we also don’t leave it and not touch it. We are to steward it appropriately for the present and the future.

Note – the Fall changes how we do that, but Genesis 2 sets these parameters in place.

3.  We are relational

Everything in creation so far is good – but then something happens in the creation order that is ‘not good’. The loneliness of man. Genesis 2:18-20 – Man takes on his role, but notices his loneliness. It’s not good for Adam to have no one equal to relate to, a complementary partner. Pets are great, but we are wired to connect emotionally with humans.

The point: being in the image of God is not about being married, nor is it saying that when you’re married you image God better. And while 2:24 is about marriage, the point of Eve’s creation is a reminder that humans are created to be in relationship with others.

Notice back in 1:26 that there is a plural ‘we’ used. Some have argued it is a royal ‘we’ – God is consulting his angels or another part of his creation in this moment. But that seems odd – God doesn’t do that much. We know from the rest of scripture that God is a triune God – his very nature is relational. We see within the Godhead love, relationship, submission, roles, creativity, delight – he is in perfect relationship within himself, he does not need us.

Notice also in 1:27 the parallels in this verse – ‘created’ appears three times in parallel. Image is paralleled in the second part with ‘image’ as well – but then in the third line the parallel is ‘male and female’. ‘Image’ is complementary relationship.

Humanity’s end goal – Revelation 7:9ff – is of a people who are connected, and in relationship, and bowing before God. That’s the end goal. But for now we are in Ephesians 4:11-24 – we are given to one another to build each other up, to help each other take off the old self and put on the new self. We are not saved into individuality, we are saved into the people of God. So when we hear people say, ‘I can be a Chrisitan and not go to church’ we want to push back strongly (and lovingly and gently) because it is incompatible with what God says. We were not meant to be lone rangers, it is not in our wiring.

Reflections for us…

Now here’s the kicker. When our world jettisons God but appears to flourish the temptation will be to change ourselves to be more like them. But look at our world with right eyes: the destruction of our world, and while wealth increases generationally we also see more addiction, more things made to grow our addictions, more family breakdown, more hurt people. Why? Because they have disconnected themselves from all goodness and forgotten what it means to be human. They are searching and searching for that thing that will make their brokenness whole.

We need to be going to this world with the great news that to be truly human is to be in relationship with God through Jesus Christ. To look at Jesus: the perfect man – the one who walked on water, who loved his friends, who loved his enemies that he was willing to lay down his life for them. We need to say ‘this is the One you need to be looking for’. Our communities need to exist not just for ourselves – we must not look inside so much, but also outside.

Our message: Be reconciled to God.

[Great start! Pact with insight into Genesis 2, and a massive exhortation to not fall in love with our world – to see it rightly, and to call out to it the great news that Jesus offers what everyone is really and earnestly seeking for.]

 

Evening Session | Peter Jensen: Who Am I? [Hebrews 2:5-18]

Who you were designed to be

 

For those who declared ‘God is dead’  were often seen in the Marxist movement. Marxists were not satisfied with simple godless living. They wanted to restructure human life.

Joseph Stalin – ‘Artists and writers are ‘engineers of the human soul’ to train human beings in a more socialistic way. It was always the aim of the Bolsheviks to train the human mind and to create a new type of human being.’

Communism engineered the whole of life. Even architecture – so that people would live in communal groups, sharing everything (even underwear).

Elizabeth Farrelly – ‘Modernism didn’t just promise a new world order it also promised a new human being to inhabit it… the New Jerusalem.’

An interesting reference there to Jerusalem, which is a biblical idea, and here were worldly ideas of communism taking this biblical picture and wanting to import it into this world presently.

Malcolm Turnbull – ‘The old regime of telling people how to live their lives, be you a government or a churchman, is running out of time. Australians want to be free. They want to have independence. They want to have choice… Now there are some people who distrust human nature and believe that people won’t make the right decisions and that others should make them for them. We err on the side of respecting individual judgement and respecting individual choices.’

  • Thoughts: There’s a very high view of humanity and individualism here (perhaps too high), entrusting humans to make choices for themselves

Peter makes the note that Turnbull’s quote is often assumed as correct in our culture – but is it correct? Is lack of freedom having other people telling you what you should or shouldn’t do? Turnbull’s insight is that he notes the quest for freedom is one of the great pillars of faith for our world. Freedom is choice.

Or is it? Is freedom just about choice?

Turnbull however stumbles on one major point – he ‘trusts’ human nature. But we all distrust each other – which is why we use keys and locks and have fences and gates.

Take this to a more profound degree – voluntary euthanasia. Do we trust each other to help each other make the right choices in this matter? We shouldn’t.

From a Christian point of view Turnbull’s statement is deeply lacking.

Stalin and Trotsky tried to remake human nature. Turnbull thinks we already have a good human nature – so you can pass laws that allow people to make their own choices.

Another question: what is freedom? Is it to be free from external constraint, or the ability to make choices?

The modern world is besotted with freedom, proclaiming it’s gospel of the goodness of human beings. Having abandoned God, we have turned ourselves into little gods.

In our postmodern world the saying is: ‘The reader is the author.’ If the author is the interpreter then they have power over you. But you must remain autonomous, you must remain self-governing – so it’s better that you are the author. It’s your reading of the world that makes the world. Is this freedom?

In the sexual revolution from the 1960’s this experiment was played out. You had freedom in choosing all your sexual partners. Sex was pleasure, power and identity. Today that trajectory has led us to the point that you can now choose your own gender. And what has been the result of this freedom? STD’s on the rise, cohabitation on the rise leading to more divorces, lots of sexual partners leading to damaging your persona.

Yet when we go back to the Genesis 2 picture we have Adam in perfect freedom – he lives within guardrails of God’s commands and living as God designed him to be. We open with a picture of a Kingdom – God’s people living in God’s place living under his Rule and Command. Our identity is therefore found in our relationship with God and our relationship with each other. This is how we discover who we are. To break away from that and demand our freedom leads to the catastrophic question about your identity. And that’s what we see in our world today.

Who you are in fact

In Hebrews 2 we have a quote from Psalm 8. Humanity is created crowned with glory with everything under his feet. The creator of culture as we take the materials of this world and reshape them under God’s guidance and rule.

But as we keep reading the quote and how the author uses it we realise that this quote is not about us humans today. We are not seeing ‘everything in subjection’ to us human beings (v8).

The author of Hebrews also notes that, in our observation today, we are kidding ourselves with the belief that we are free. He notes that there is one who has power over us – the devil, and death (v14-15). Death is to be feared, it is the great power over us and after death comes judgement – and this should be sobering for all to hear. The evil one uses the fear of death to bring us into slavery. And at the heart of this is sin. v17 highlights this as well.

The biblical picture of humanity is of sinful humanity. Rebellious against the Kingdom of God – his right to rule our lives. We have been proud, arrogant, and decided that we will be gods. And consequently, we have corrupted ourselves. Our sinfulness is not that we make bad decisions every now and then, it is a deep heart condition in which we rebel against God. Fundamentally we don’t make bad desires we have bad desires. It’s not that you have free will, but that your will is so corrupted that it constantly makes wrong choices.

In order to understand ourselves and our world we must understand the depth of our human depravity. It doesn’t meant that you’re totally bad, but it does mean that every part of your is corrupted. You cannot climb out of this pit with your own strength.

The great hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ was written by John Newton. He was a slave trader, a wicked man. And when he was saved he concluded at the end of his life, ‘I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great saviour.’ This is the confession of every true Christian.

Who has been a real man

So what is the solution? V8ff – the one who has been a real man. Jesus!

He suffered death, but he is crowned with glory and honour. It was our crown, and now he has it – because of the very thing he did for us: he suffered death so that by the grace of God he might taste death on our behalf. So now we no longer need to be afraid of death and in the grip of Satan.

Now note – Jesus did this as a man. The Son of God, a person of the divine Trinity, took upon himself human nature and became like one of us. He suffered and died and was resurrected – not because he was God but because he was a man.

Jesus was one of us, and he will now always be. In his humility he took upon what we are so that we might become what he is. (!!!!!)

God said he has put man in charge of all things and he has – Jesus is that man. And we are in him. We receive a crown because Jesus received a crown.

v17 – Jesus was made like us, so that he could be the high priest in the service of God, to turn away the wrath of God that was upon us. Through his sin-bearing death, he bore the sin of the world – and in doing that he propitiated the wrath of God. And from that we become freed from death and condemnation – no longer condemned, no longer fearing death, no longer under the bondage of sin and Satan. That is freedom. Release to become what we were meant to be.

Who gives us our humanity

v11 – We who believe in all of this are described as Jesus’ brothers. He bore our sins so that we could have the freedom we all long for. And in this he helps us become who we are meant to be, he helps us grow up. He helps us change from one degree of glory to another until we become like Christ.

Is that what you want? If you don’t want that then you don’t understand the gospel.

Our business then in life is service in worship of God. Worship is not just what happens on Sunday as we’re singing. Worship is our whole of life – with every fibre of our being. We worship God when we put our trust in God and in obedience. Worship is evangelism. Worship is faithfulness so that we will not cheat on our taxes – even for our employer.

So who am I? Your identity is a gift. You dont’ make it up for yourself. In our modern world people are trying ot make up their own identity and it is a catastrophe emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Identity is not found in what our parents gave us either. Ultimately whether you have been failed or squandered what you’ve been given – your real identity can only come as a gift from God. And it is only when you learn by putting yourself under God’s Kingdom and rule – to turn to him in repentance and faith – will you find your identity as a son and daughter of the living God, and that you are in Christ forever and ever. That’s who you were designed to be. That’s who you are. I am a great sinner, but Christ is a great saviour.

[So very amen!!

Day 2 is over and done with. Peter is on fire. If you haven’t made it yet please come! And come early – last night we packed in 250, tonight I can easily say we’re up to +300! Come early, check out the bookstall, grab an early seat, and enjoy the wisdom of a great sinner saint in Peter Jensen :)]

Ignite Training Conference 2018 [Day 1] {LIVE BLOG}

Ignite Training Conference 2018

[We’re back again! A big thank you to Brisbane School of Theology for opening up their doors and campus for our conference! The bookstall is up and running, and I’m personally excited to be opening up the Bible again with an enthusiastic group, ready to learn the grand overarching story of the whole Bible! Follow these posts to get live updates on my notes from the talks and selected workshops.]

Day 1 | Morning Session | Derek Hanna – Where To Start [Genesis 1]

Book recommendations from Derek Hanna on Genesis:

(apparently only John’s write good commentaries on Genesis!!!)

It’s challenging:
Externally/Internally –

An article in the NY Times a while ago – titled ‘Social Media is making us dumber’. One of the challenges when we come to Genesis 1-11, which is a controversial part of the Bible, is that we have lost the ability to engage with the Bible and engage with complex arguments. There are external and internal debates and arguments with this book of the Bible.

For instance, Sam Harris – a new atheist – is very convincing in his arguments against Genesis 1. He argues that Genesis cannot be taken seriously in our scientific age. And it’s not just atheist asking these questions – Christians are asking the same questions. If we believe that Genesis speaks about our nature, then how do we grapple with it in the day and age of scientific progress and theories? There are challenging questions being asked.

And then there are other questions that get asked:

  • what is with the talking snake?
  • where did Cain gets his wife – and what city did he go to?
  • how did all the animals fit on the boat? What did the lions eat when they were on there? How did the smaller marsupials survive that trip?

These are good questions. Ignoring some of the bigger scientific questions – there are still major internal questions being thrown at us.

But one of the major issues surrounding all of this is that we have lost the ability to engage with hard and difficult complex questions. An example of how this works is in the viral video of Steven Pinker (?) in his commentary on the Alt-Right movement. His quote was taken completely out of context – but social media made it difficult to really engage with what he said. The same thing happened when we saw the recent Same-Sex Marriage debate in which sound bites were the only things being engaged with.

Here’s the deal though: if you get rid of Genesis 1-11 (because it’s too hard) then what you lose is the beginning. You lose the all-powerful God who is intimate and personal with his creation, who creates on purpose with purpose, and when he creates he delights in what he creates and mourns over it when it goes pear-shaped.

Calvin says at the start of his Institutes, ‘Nearly all wisdom consists of two things: understanding self and understanding God.’ He wasn’t being narcissistic – he was saying that before you can ever know yourself you must know God. Knowing God helps you see yourself properly. If you gloss over who God is and how he is revealed – as in Genesis 1-11 – then you will miss the whole.

Clearing the ground:

The controversy in Genesis is not new. Lennox in his book mentions that the Galileo controversy illustrates that debates on Genesis are not new. Though he was making a scientific pronouncement it was viewed that he was making an attack on religion and faith. Lennox makes a point that this incident in history is illustrative of how we should approach the Bible, and Genesis – that it may be more complex than we think.

So we need to be careful about tying our reading of the Bible too closely to the science of the day. We can’t be so convinced that our scientific view is right that there is no room for discussion or debate – no room for fuzziness on the edges. There has to be humility as we read the Bible and discuss it with each other. Science is a work of progress – there is so much we don’t understand. So we need humility in viewing science and the Bible.

The other obvious danger is to ignore science. Augustine says that it does no one any good to exceed their expertise in any field, and make pronouncements on areas we have no competency. It marrs our witness to the gospel.

Christians should be the ones driving scientific exploration as we seek to understand the amazing complexity of God’s world. And also careful to speak about what we know and to show that we do not know all things.

On Genesis, we need to be just as careful. We need to understand the genre of this text before us. When we come to any piece of writing we need to understand what is being said, how it is said, and what that means.

When we read Calvin and Hobbes we need to understand that genre. Same with Shakespeare, and biographies – we expect certain things about facts, history, and truth. These are all different genres – and our brain switches instinctually between these things and how to read them. But when it comes to the Bible we often don’t think this through. If we treat the Bible as a documentary or a biography we are going to read it in a way that is not intended to be read – and draw conclusions that it does not intend to draw.

God does us a massive, profound privilege of condescending to our level and speaking to us. In a variety of genres and formats, he accommodates himself to us. He is incarnational in the way that he communicates himself to us. John describes Jesus as ‘The word became flesh’ – how much more contextual could God be?

Genesis 1: In the beginning…God

Why does the author in Genesis leave us with so many unanswered questions of our modern mind? The author isn’t stupid – he knows there are gaps in the storyline. So we need to come to the text with the right questions, or do we come to the text with our preconceived questions searching for the answers? The text itself gives us the questions it answers: who are we, who is God, why are we here, what hope is there when things seem broken? Those are the reflection of the text.

So when we turn to the text what do we see?

First – God is the beginning of all things.

There is no proof or argument provided for this. He just is/was. No symposium, debate, committee – in the beginning… God. It’s not bad to ask questions of/about God’s existence, but when we read Genesis 1-11 we see that Genesis is not interested in answering those questions. The first thing that God’s Word has to say is about God – not about your or me.

Second – this God creates like no other.

The word for ‘created’ is only ever used of God. The first law of Thermodynamics is that no matter can be created or destroyed. Matter exists and can morph. But here in Genesis God does something else – ex nihilo – he created ‘out of nothing’. It didn’t exist before. Nothing existed before. Nothing in all its massiveness and minuteness was there for God to ‘morph’.

Dereks’ son was watching a documentary on the universe and was in awe of how small we are in the universe. And that is true. We exist in a large and vast universe – but it also shows us the kind of God who created us. In the vastness of space, how could God be interested in me? Well, Genesis has thoughts on that too. Are we small in the universe? Yup. Are we therefore insignificant to God? No chance.

Third – God is orderly and deliberate and purposeful in creation.

There is a parallelism in the opening chapter. The author shows us the completeness of creation and the orderliness of creation. In days 1-3 God forms, and in days 4-6 he fills – and in parallel order. And it’s good and ‘perfect’, deliberate design that nurtures life. He is also not immune from this thing – this act of creation from a God who is self-sufficient – he looks at the thing he has created and is moved by it.

Fourth – God takes a personal interest in his creation.

He spoke. See how many times in Genesis 1 it mentions God speaking. A lot.

And God’s word is so powerful that something profound happens each time. There’s an intimacy and relationship that is formed when we speak to someone. Think of the difference if you walked into a room and you just communicated through pointing. There is an intimacy in saying something out-loud. Speaking is a personal, intimate act that expresses relationship – people speak to their family, to their pets, even their plants (not random plants – their plants!). God speaks with his creation. He is invested here – so much so that when it runs away from him he will pursue it, become part of it, and die for it, to bring it back to himself.

See how God reacts when he sees what he creates? It’s good – all the pronouncements of how good it all is. God isn’t indifferent to the world. He doesn’t look on what he’s created and think, ‘Oh… that’s a practice run, I’ll get it right next time.’ And he does so not in an egotistical way – but in a pleasured, delighted way of his perfect creating act. The book of Job reminds us that God delights in creation as well. He loves the tenderness of motherhood, the absurdity of the ostrich (!), the majesty of the hawk. God’s creation is somewhat unnecessarily diverse and abundant. Not just functional – but extravagant. Inspired.

Why did he do that? Because… God. That’s what he’s like!

Fifth – the pinnacle of creation is humanity.

You can’t talk about creation and not talk about humanity. It’s part of the created order – and yet different. Singled out. Set apart. Only humans are created in his image, in his likeness. Mankinds’ role is to rule the other parts of creation as they multiply. They are not like dogs, cats, or apes – they are made in God’s image, as the pinnacle of his creation.

With that comes privilege and responsibility. Pick up on this tomorrow.

Then notice Day Seven – something completely unique happens in this part. So we don’t miss it – it is repeated three times that God does not work on this day, but rests. He sabbaths on this day. He takes creation and he sets it aside as holy – the whole of creation is holy and set apart for himself. The most fundamental aspect of this creation is God – not us.

In our day to day lives it’s so easy to be myopic and see only our temporary pleasures, short-term security, things we are sure will fulfil us, and when we get there we realise that it’s not quite what it thought it would be. People often ask questions of the origins of the universe. The curiosity that drives that is possibly this thought: Where do I fit into the grand scheme of things? Who am I?

These are questions of purpose, meaning, and rest. The Bible says that those things start with God. They are ultimately found in him. That’s where you have to start.

In our world of social media, we often portray a picture of perfection to others. Or we long to see ourselves in others as we endlessly scroll through Facebook, Instagram, or whatever else. We see these things and want them. We post stuff about ourselves because we want others to think that we have it. Social media has amplified the longing for these things for us but has not provided an endpoint to satisfy it. We will scroll infinitely to search for it. We will search for it in a place what Genesis says can only be found outside of creation – in the Creator. In relationship with him, at peace with him.

So how do we enter God’s rest again after everything has gone pear-shaped in Genesis 3? The theme of ‘rest’ is wonderful to track through the Bible – culminating in Jesus who offers rest of the weary and burdened.

Colossians 1:15-23 – how will God restore creation to himself? Through his Son Jesus. His fallen creation which was alienated from him, the world through His death would be made holy and faultless and blameless because of him, through him, for him.

The great transcendence of God can make us think that God has forgotten us and that we are unimportant to him. You might read Genesis 1 and think that – but you cannot think that as you read through the New Testament and the gospels.

Reflections for us…

We live in the ‘now and not yet’ – we still yearn for full consummated rest. If you are hurting, struggling, and feeling the effects of a post-Genesis 3 world remember this: it is temporary, it is passing, it is not what God has in store for you, rest is coming.

What if, instead of putting up a well-put-together front on social media – what if we posted up the effects of Genesis 3 in our lives with the hope of eternal rest in the future. Vulnerability in this area is hard – because it’s scary being open and honest with your struggles. How can we as a community paint a picture of needing a saviour while at the same time posting up pictures of our self-sustaining, self-reliant life? They are antithetical.

Full assurance and identity is found in none other than our Saviour.

[What a great start – God is our personal, intimate, loving creator and redeemer. Genesis 1 opens up so much about who God is and who we are in relation to him.]

Workshop 1 | Andrew Bain: Ethics Framework

What is Ethics?

Usually how we work out the answers to difficult questions in life. IN a general sense it’s a word or concept about how we live and how we ought to live. Ethics is the study of making right decisions about life and about living. Christian and non-Christian, from all works, have been thinking and walking and writing about ethics.

What is Christian Ethics?

Christian Ethics is not merely a subset of Ethics in general. Christian ethics is about making and carrying on right decisions about life from a Christian point of view. Not just about the hard, unusual or extreme cases – but about everything, the every day. For Christians, it’s more about the every day than it is about the rare decision that come up once or twice in a lifetime.

How many of us have had conversations with our friends about the Bible, or about big topics in life? They obviously have their views, informed or otherwise. So knowing Christian ethics can help us start and carry on conversations with our friends. If we are wise and biblically thoughtful we can engage helpfully.

The Bible speaks on things which humans cannot know on their own – that unless God speaks we would not know. The Bible also demands action on these things. It speaks on his will, what he’s doing in his story in the world – which leads to ethical questions about how we should live, and how the gospel and character of God ought to shape how we live.

How does the World think about Ethics?

  • Your friends?

Do what makes you happy. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, and can support yourself, do what you want.

  • Consequentialism

Primary evaluation on the basis of the consequences of an action – and (often unconsciously) make value judgements on issues based on the perceived consequences.

  • Deontology / Ethics of Duty

Based on the work of Immanuel Kant. Ethics of duty – the idea that the nature of an action (looking not at other factors) that you may or may not perform, in asking questions about that action, can I connect it to my duty to live in a way that is ethical? Simply put: what is my duty in this situation? In it’s simplest form can be a bit of a cop-out.

  • Teleology: Ethics driven by given purpose and design

The idea that ethics is driven by some kind of given purpose or design in the nature of human life and the world. This view is uncommon outside of religious faith views. In modern Australia, you’ll find fewer people who buy into this.

  • Virtue Ethics

Ethics is not about acts, but about character. About cultivating thoughts and habits of mind that will improve you as a person. Some Christians, particularly Roman Catholics, have seen some value in this. But the idea that you can change and improve yourself by your actions seems antithetical to the Christian gospel of grace.

  • Strengths & Weaknesses of these approaches? Problems from a Christian point of view?

Strengths:

  • Consequentialism – it’s practical, and you don’t have to think too hard. Sometimes consequences are clear in relation to your actions.
  • Deontology: asking what our duty is can force us into action.
  • Teleology: where it is clearly articulated, it can be argued for – saying something is in the Bible can be a means for arguing that this is the best for the flourishing of people.
  • Virtue: we should be aiming to improve people through their actions

Weaknesses:

  • Consequentialism: humans place the value on the consequence, and they can be self-centred rather than other-person centred.
  • Deontology: can be a cop-out if we argue that there is no duty
  • Teleology: not always convincing, especially if based upon scripture texts
  • Virtue: humans, in general, cannot improve themselves through their actions alone – and research is there to show that people generally done.

How should we as Christians think about Ethics?

Key Idea: Christian ethics ought to be driven and shaped at every point by the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. We can give this shape by relating the biblical doctrines of the gospel to our thinking and practice regarding Christian Ethics.

  • Why driven by the gospel and the doctrines which comprise the support of the gospel?

If we want to talk and think about Christian ethics the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ must be our fundamental starting point. Why should Christian ethics be driven by the gospel? Because…

  • Notice that Christians (even theological lecturers!) haven’t and don’t always do ethics this way!

Sometimes a common approach which Christians can take (which should be discouraged) is to take a single verse from the bible and let that guide all decisions in life. Christians believe that God gave us the whole Bible and that each verse is to be read within context. So to take one verse and keep applying it is to do injustice to the text of scripture, and to do injustice to who is at the centre of scripture (Jesus!).

Other Christians have taken principles – like the Law of the OT whose directions are from the mouth of God. To distil a list of do’s and don’t’s from scripture. But this is not how the gospel works. Do’s and Don’t’s in the Bible have their foundation in the gospel of grace – what God has done for us in Jesus.

Other Christians take a principle/idea like ‘love’ – but often do so by taking this idea/theme out of context. We take it out of context and fill it with our own context. So there are dangers in taking even an idea from the Bible and building an ethics on it.

The following points sum up Christian Ethics:

  1. Christian Ethics: based on the gospel of salvation from sin.This is a very different starting place from all other ethics – not from a position of making right decisions or living in a particular way. The NT does not measure all action by consequences, by identifying values or human rights – instead, it makes some fundamental assumptions about human beings and what human beings really need. And these assumptions are totally different to other ethical systems. Right at the top to start with is the gospel.Other systems assume that it is within our own power to behave rightly and do the right thing. Secular ethics then tells us what to do  to move towards these things. It assumes we are either neutral or basically good – and therefore we have the power to shape ourselves.Christian ethics does not share any of these assumptions. Sadly, some books, with ‘Christian’ and ‘Ethics’ will give false ground to secular ideas of humanity. The bible says that we cannot achieve transformation by ourselves. Bad human behaviour is not external to us – it comes from our own being.

    It’s not just that we win and live unethically – but that our grasp on right and wrong are severely weakened.

  2. Christian Ethics: based on the gospel of salvation through God’s Right Man, Jesus Christ
    Who Jesus is is significant to our ethics today as well. Jesus is alive, in heaven today, seated at God’s right hand. And seated there he is the one in charge. Many people around us will drag us to live in another way – but remember that Jesus is the one in charge and the one with the ultimate say.
  3. Christian Ethics: based on the gospel of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
    The events that stand at the centre of the gospel story are what drive our thinking. We live rightly not to earn God’s favour, we live rightly because we have already received God’s favour. Because of Jesus’ death, we can approach God with confidence and be certain of his kindness toward us.We have been redeemed from our old sinful way of life, and redeemed for a new way of life. We have died to sin, and are therefore owned by the one who died for us. This gives our lives a new purpose. It reveals the purpose of what humans ought to be.For Christians, the ethical life is patterned on Jesus as well – taking up our cross and following him. How they treated our leader is how we ought to expect to be treated as well.
  4. Christian Ethics: based on salvation by grace and through faith in Christ
    We have Jesus, and many other examples of men and women of faith who live and act on faith – even in all their weakness and foolish acts (eg Abraham). Jesus Christ is the ultimate pattern for our actions.The Christian life is also powered 100% by Jesus and our union with him. Many passages which relate to our ethics are founded upon our union with Jesus. And through faith in Christ – through faith in the biblical promises concerning Christ and that flow on to us.
  5. Christian Ethics: based in God’s community, the church, and directed towards God’s future for his people and his world (biblical eschatology)
    Christians live out our ethics within a community, not just individually. God brings us as an individual through the death and resurrection of his Son into a relationship with himself – but not just on our own. He saves us into a community. The bible speaks a lot in the plural – addressing not individuals, but more often addressing the community. Biblically speaking our ethics are then worked out within community, and also shaped within our community.Living ethically will also take a long-term view. It’s hard – carrying your cross – but be glad. Hebrews 12 reminds us that suffering is used by God to make us more like Jesus. And we have hope in the future return of Jesus – and that hope has a profound impact on how we live today as well.Our hope is also in Jesus’ resurrection – that as we follow our persecuted and crucified saviour, if we experience the same we shall also experience his glorification. Hope beyond this life directs our actions and thoughts today.Our future hope affects how we spend our money. We give generously, just as God has been generous to us.
  6. Christian Ethics: based on a gospel (as above) which assumes:
  • a single sovereign God
    So when it comes to Christian Ethics we have to push back on the religious and ethical pluralism we live in today – we push back that our Ethics would not morphed/evolved with the ethics/religion of our world. We believe in a single God who has a single way of doing ethics – and our work as Christians is to conform to that.
  • who reveals himself in Scripture including through divine commands
    Even those commands that we don’t think are relevant today – those commands tell us about who God is and what he is like.
  • who has created the world with a God-given moral order
    We should not pretend that God is in heaven and what happens on earth ethically is detached from him. He didn’t just create a physical world – he created a moral world. He created the world, with things in order, with rules for the humans in engaging with creation. And this order (though corrupted) does not change because God doesn’t change.
  • which reflects his character and will
    As we seek to live God’s way we can have confidence that this isn’t something that God or the Apostles just made up one fine day. The shape of the Christian ethical life is based upon his very own character, nature, and will. Recognising this should help us relax, trust God, and walk by faith as we live his way.

The key question: for any ethical issue, great or small, how can we understand the issue biblically in the light of the gospel and the doctrines and biblical assumptions on which the gospel rests? (as outlined above)

  • If it’s not grounded in the biblical gospel… is it really Christian ethics?
    Yeah… no. We need to be honest about how we’re building our ethics.
  • Implications of other biblical themes/doctrines for Christian ethics?
  • Christian ethics and the non-Christian world? Does it apply?
  • Making ethical decisions today and tomorrow?

[Sorry if these notes are a bit scatterbrained! The workshop has been recorded and will be available online soon.]

 

Evening Session | Peter Jensen: What Am I? [Psalm 8]

Peter begins by reminding our generation that a conference like this is a chance to get seriously equipped to teach the Word. Also to learn how to think through our culture. Peter quotes an historian on how Christians impacted the Roman Empire – they out-thought and out-loved their culture. But Peter’s generation missed the boat on a fundamental cultural change in his time (1963 – the introduction of ‘the pill’ contraceptive). He calls on us to keep working hard to out-think and out-love our world, understand our own culture, and our history.

A question fundamental to humanity

Anthropology – the doctrine of man – who, what, where, why we are here. Peter believes this to be a key subject to be thinking about in our generation – that we may learn it well and out-think our culture.

Every university has an anthropology – a set of beliefs about what humans are, and that shapes the subjects we learn at Uni. There are no neutral subjects. The big thing to get our heads around is how our world/culture views their anthropology vs how does a Christian think through anthropology.

So what are you? Two answers from Western culture:

The first old answer – you and are immortal spirits trapped in a body. Perhaps drawn from self-examination – realising that there is a thinking part of you (the spirit/soul) and the physical part of you (the body). And you can tell that when someone dies that their body is there, but perhaps their spirit/soul has left the body.

Some philosophers believed that the soul was a priori – and through some catastrophe, the soul became imprisoned in a body.

For most of his life, Peter has enjoyed good health. And now in his old age, his body is beginning to decline and he can feel the effects. And he says to himself, ‘But this is not the real me – this body is letting me down!’ Despite the fact that 100 years ago pain was a much more prevalent part of life.

This must have been the prevailing idea of the time – that the body was not the real deal, the real deal with inside. The Greek world of the time played up this duality strongly. You were a spirit inhabiting a body.

Second way of thinking – a little more modern – we are effective but randomly produce animals. There is no fundamental difference between you and a chimpanzee or an elephant. Extraordinary as you are, you are basically an effective brainy animal. In the spirit world there were many gods and spirits. In this physical world we’re all atheists. You have no spirit – you’re just an animal. A standout animal. And now that you’re an animal why should you be treated better than a dog? What makes humans so special after all?

Perhaps in due course we will become extinct. And after that? Well there is no survival after death. No spirit that lives on. You have no imagination before you were born, so you will have none after you die. You will physically drift back into the world that you came. (Circle of life stuff).

If you embrace this view then objective truth is hard to come by. Philip Adams, a well-known atheist, describes morality like traffic lights. Existing to keep things orderly but no life or value beyond that.

So therefore it all depends on who has power to determine right and wrong, and it’s also all subjective what is right and wrong. And it’s also relativistic – I believe something and I acknowledge that you believe something.

And yet…

They are pretty unsatisfactory options aren’t they? Not just from a Christian view – but from a human point of view. Is my body just a prison house? Is there no fundamental connection between my body and spirit? Is it plausible that you have a spirit trapped in your body waiting to be let go? And haven’t we discovered that ghosts and spirits are imaginary?

And on the other option – if I’m just an animal, am I so insignificant? When you sit down with someone it can be pretty easy to end up in gossip and criticising someone else. But if we are just animals – on what basis can we criticise someone else? When we criticise others we do so appealing to some objective standard of truth.

There are holes in these stories/options.

What about the quest for meaning? Humans find it difficult to live without a sense of meaning in their lives. Where do we get that from though? We get it from hope – and purpose.

Imagine for a moment you’re an Olympic athlete. Peter has been told that there is nothing worse than winning a gold medal. Because once you achieve that purpose then there is nothing else on the other side.

But if we are just animals where does this desire for purpose come from?

If we listen to secularists they will inevitably say things that show their thought processes do not work. If you listen to a child who doesn’t receive a lolly when another child does – it’s not fair! On a larger level we all yearn for justice. But how can there be justice in this world if the greatest virtue is tolerance? If tolerance is the greatest virtue they can come up, according to Peter, that is stupid!

The greatest virtue is love!

(Peter hits on a point about the teaching of ‘follow your dreams’ – which is not only stupid but dangerously damaging).

How do you value human beings above animals… if they are just animals? If you went into a burning house and there was a dog, a priceless vase, and a baby – which would you save?

What God has told us

Psalm 8 has Genesis 1 in mind – it’s a song on Genesis 1.

The first thing it tells us in v1-4 is that there is one God. In the ancient world there were many gods. In the modern world there is no god. In the Biblical world there is One God.

In Psalm 8 it begins with the name of the Lord. There is no sphere over which God is not the sovereign Lord.

After the big introduction the author then asks the question, ‘Who are we?’ in v3. He looks at the sky, when he looks at the work of his hands David is awe-struck. He asks who man is that God should be mindful of him? We are nothings in comparison to this universe – we are dust in comparison. And that’s the conclusion you must reach in our modern world.

But God reveals his truth. Man is made a little lower than the heavenly beings – the angels – crowned with glory and honour. God has created something special in human beings in v5-8. The size and obscurity of our suburb makes no difference. It is what God does and thinks that matters. We are insignificant in comparison to creation when seen through a telescope. Yes we are made of dust. And yet… you are a King… a Queen. We are crowned by God with glory and honour.

We are the rulers of the world. We are given dominion – yes, the Bible says, you are an animal. But, the Bible says, you are utterly unique – you are in charge of the world, of the structures that God has made. Yes, when you go into that burning house there is a priceless vase, a beautiful dog, and a baby (or old-and decaying human being) and you do not hesitate to throw the vase aside to save that life – because you are made in the image of God. No other creature has this privilige. We are unique and particular in all of creation. We have a special place. We are animal, but we are not merely animal.

And so…

Human beings matter because we are unique image bearers – and not just mere animals. Yes, we are unique individually. Every single one of us is made in the image and likeness of God. At that level there should be no discrimination – for each one of us is as important as another.

In the ancient world, and even in the modern world, that is not true of the way that people think. In the ancient world girls were abandoned – boys were prized. The Disabled were not precious. But the Bible says that each one of us individually is made in the image and likeness of God and each one of us is valuable and precious in God’s sight.

Maybe the way you were brought up makes you feel worthless. That you were told from an early age that you were worth nothing. You may have an attractive body but not feel that. You may have a brain that’s big… but not feel that because of the way you were brought up. God says – whoever you are, you are precious to me.

In Galatians 3 Paul personalises Jesus’ death – he died for me. Yes, he died for the world, but he also died for me. That love of God for you establishes your worth eternally.

Second consequence – your body does matter. The Greek idea of elevating the spiritual over the body is unbiblical. The things in God’s creation are good and precious to him. And part of what he has made is your body. Note – we do not talk of the idea of the immortality of the soul, but the resurrection of the dead. In the Greek world, this was scandalous because the body was dirty. The Bible says that the body matters, it has a future.

The modern world is besotted with the body because it’s afraid of death. Yet we should not scorn the body because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit and will be raised from the dead.

Third – this life really does matter. Work is not what matters. Work is now the new god of our age – sex used to be worshipped, but we know that’s not enough.

One of the terrible things of our world is that we have chosen individualism over community. We now live in a world with a lot of lonely people. But the Christian chooses community – because God intends that. We are created as relational beings, and the Christian recognises that.

Spirit vs Body, animal alone – these are deeply unsatisfying answers to what we are. The Bible says we are uniquely made in the image of God – and that matters for who we are, our relationships with others, and our relationship with the world.

Question from the floor – what does it mean to be made in the image of God? To be made in the image has its emphasis on the role given to humanity – to rule this world, to parallel how God rules.

What am I? I am a creature, not the creator. I am an image bearer, not a mere animal. I have a bodily future, not a mere spirit. I am a relational creature not a mere individual. And that paves the way for tomorrow night.

[Peter could go all night. That was a wonderful tour through history, thought, and Psalm 8!]