[Steven: Middle of the conference – hump day! Please pray for the delegates and their energy levels, and for the speakers to keep preaching it up!]
Day 3 | Morning Talk | Richard Gibson – Christ’s Heart (Luke 4:1-21)
I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29
The leaders we deserve
There’s a saying, particularly at election time, that the people get the leaders they deserve. Especially in a democracy. And now that we’re days away from the inauguration of Trump in the USA it’s a pretty profound saying. In our post-modern world he’s almost perfect. He says things primarily for effect, not necessarily for its truth.
Two big news items in Australian politics. First is that the Australian government is cracking down on welfare cheats – but the issue has been that some debt collection letters have been incorrectly given to some people. We also know that there are people who do rip off the system and it’s a problem that does need to be tackled. Second, the rorting of travel entitlements by government ministers is also in the news.
The bible says that the problem of picking bad leaders is because we can’t see their hearts. We have a level of trust with our government leaders, our pastors, and even our bible colleges. Our culture is geared in so many ways to making superficial judgements. If only we could look upon their hearts it would be easier to identify people we could entrust our churches and colleges to.
But in the bible we find a heart revealed to us – the heart of God. God is not condemned to the practice of judgement the way that we are – he can identify leaders on their hearts, whose synchronization of lips and heart qualify them for leadership. God, in his mercy and kindness, has provided people with darkened sinful and corrupt hearts a leader they need, not just one they deserve. A leader who can capture our hearts for God, who can captivate our imagination, who can present us with such treasure, such glory, that he can eclipse the idols of our hearts. He repossess our heart for God by the quality of his own devotion and obedience to God, and his willingness to lay down his life for us.
The heart of God
The bible uses the language of God’s heart in the way that is analogous to the way it speaks of our heart – as a way of speaking about getting into the inner life, thoughts and emotions of His inner being. And because the Bible reveals these things to us we can know God more intimately, to know what really matters to him and what he wants from us.
- Grieved (Gen 6:5-6) – God shares his grief at how humanity is treating each other and Him. When we enter the mess of this world and are grieved we can know that God shares this grief.
- Setting his heart (Job 7:17, Deut 10:15) – Deut 10:14, God owns everything and yet out of all the nations of the world he set his heart and affection on Israel’s ancestors and loved them, and chose their descendants over and above all the other nations.
- According to his heart (2 Sam 7:21, 1 Chron 17:19) – Extraordinary promises to King David. David planned to build a temple to God, but God said no (your son will do it), instead I (God) will build a dynasty for David. David responds by acknowledging the greatness of God. God has bared his heart to David, let David into his plans to bless the whole world and bring salvation through one of David’s descendants.
- Vengeance (Isaiah 63:4, Jer 23:20) – The intention of God’s heart is justice – to not allow people to get away with rebellion and sin. God in his heart nurtures his plan to bring people to judgement and to expose justice. And yet…
- Compassion (Hosea 11:8, Jer 31:20) – …there is something else going on in God’s heart. The Prophets present this as a tension, somewhat of a conflict, in God’s heart. He wants to bring justice, but also wants to shower compassion. He knows what the people deserve, but even as he plans his judgement compassion and tenderness wells up inside of him. This tension between justice and compassion is resolved at the cross of Jesus!
- Wholehearted commitment (Jer 32:40-41) – the verses that wrap up all things – for even people whose hearts are corrupt, unclean, dark and sinful – in Jer 32 God makes a new covenant, and places a new heart in his people – and his promise is made with all his heart and soul. Hear how the Creator speaks here. The whole hearted response that God wants from us is a response to HIS wholehearted commitment to us. (Steven: just… wow…) And God will not stop until he’s able to achieve this.
What we’re looking for is now someone who can carry this off. Someone who can bring about all that God’s heart desires.
Someone after God’s own heart
A faithful priest (1 Sam 2:35)
The person are we looking for – looks like Samuel. But here we find out that it’s not Samuel at all – Samuel’s task will be to minister before the anointed one.
A ruler (1 Sam 13:13-14, 16:1-13; Acts 13:22)
1 Sam 13:13-14 – Samuel’s blast against Saul and his unfaithfulness. God has selected ‘a man after ones own heart’ – which is often understood to mean a special man whose heart is for God. But… given the way that David behaves later in his life it’s hard to argue that David’s heart was always after God’s own. The phrase itself more likely refers to God choosing the man that God’s own heart has chosen.
- The Lord’s Anointed –
- From Bethlehem
- The Eliab principle – the principle that most people use, which has gotten us in a lot of trouble appointing Christian leaders. Eliab looks externally very impressive. Samuel thinks immediately, ‘This must be the guy…’ And it’s not just Samuel’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem – we are always focused on the outside, on the externals.
- The LORD sees the heart – 16:7 – God operates on a different principle – God looks at the heart. God’s choice isn’t even in the lineup before Samuel. Jesse’s family is mostly lined up, but the youngest and ruddiest little boy is out in the field. So Samuel calls him in and anoints him as King for David is God’s choice.
- The Shepherd
- Controlled by the Spirit
- Greatness from God’s heart (2 Sam 7:18-21)
David’s Son, Solomon
- Heir to the house (1 Kings 8:17-19) – there are high hopes for Solomon. He’s the heir of the dynasty, and he built the temple. At the dedication of the Temple Solomon repeats the need for a wholehearted response to God.
- Wise to the issue (1 Kings 8:23, 46-48, 58, 61)
- Where Yahweh’s heart is (9:3) – In response God says that the Temple is precious to him above all that has been made – his eyes and his heart remain there… conditionally: as long as Solomon walks upright before Him God will always be with him.
- No David (9:4-5, 11:1-4) – but Solomon is no David. There is a mighty gulf between his lips and his heart. We see this in 1 Kings 11 with his numerous wives.
David’s Greater Son, Jesus (Luke 4:1-21)
- From Bethlehem (Luke 2:4) – not just a geographic coincidence.
- After his heart (Luke 3:22)
- Son of David (Luke 3:31)
- Full of the Spirit
- Tested in the desert – Jesus is thrust into the desert for 40 days, a parallel to the way Israel was sent off into the desert for 40 years. There in the desert Satan tempted Israel and they failed. And so with Jesus he seeks to do the same – and he’s looking for some crack to drive a wedge between Jesus’ lips and his heart.
- Faithful where Israel failed
- Trusting God’s Word – the first test from Satan in Jesus’ hunger is to turn the stones into bread. Jesus deflects Satan’s attempt and quotes God’s Word about living by God’s Word alone.
- Serving God alone – Satan’s next test is to offer him the whole world if he would bow down to him… Jesus responds by quoting scripture about worshipping God alone.
- Refusing to test God – the final temptation from Satan is to test God’s faithfulness – Satan quotes scripture to Jesus about the protection of the anointed, but Jesus responds by also quoting scripture about not testing God.
- The LORD’s anointed
In this temptation we find a leader willing to live for the sake of God and other people – someone who will always live for His Father’s will. Jesus is the one who can recapture our hearts.
He who dwells in our hearts
Jesus is the one who can dwell in our hearts, he is the one who gets our hearts pumping as they should. Cleans out the contamination and washes out the filth and guilt.
By his Sprit (Rom 5:5, 8:14-17; Gal 4:4-7; Eph 1:18)
Ruled by his peace (Col 3:15; Phil 4:7)
Sanctified as LORD (1 Peter 3:15)
Peter says we are to sanctify Jesus as holy – quoting Isaiah 8:13 where Yahweh is the one we are meant to honour as holy. God himself, in the person of Jesus, clothed in compassion and mercy and kindness, comes to give us rest from our chaotic, destructive and deceiving hearts. God comes in flesh to reclaim our hearts, so that we can give him the devotion that he longs for from his people.
…strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Ephesians 3:16-17
[Steven: the heart of the Lord is demonstrated in his wholehearted commitment to transform our rebellious hearts so that we can delight in and be in awe of his glorious heart forever. Just… wow…]
Day 3 | Afternoon Workshop | Grace Lung – Help and Hope for Handling Conflict in God’s Way
Biblical wisdom for handling conflict differently…
This seminar brought to you by PeaceWise! Who is PeaceWise? Vision: to provide practical help and real hope to a conflict-weary world. We help people: learn life-changing biblical peacemaking principles; and build cultures of peace.
What do I most struggle with?
You might think about a current situation, or pattern in your life where we struggle with conflict. Each of us have it to some extent.
How do people usually deal with conflict?
- silent treatment
- avoid/ignore it
- complain about it to others
- passive aggressively
What is different about the way Christians approach conflict?
- At the end of the day we’re family – and will spend eternity together – so resolution must happen (either now or in the future)
- God is the motivation for resolution
- In conflict with Christians we can draw on other Christians to help mediate the issue
- As Christians we recognise that conflict is rooted in our sinfulness, and we need the gospel to help us resolve
- As Christians our resolution seeks to build each other up, rather than just resolve an issue
Big point of the workshop:
- we all deal with conflict, it’s a basic part of living with others
- but we’re also not very good at it
- and the Bible has the help we need
See conflict as an opportunity!
In 1 Cor 10:31-11:1 – do everything to the glory of God, try to please everybody in every way, follow the example of Christ.
A radically different way to see conflict: conflict is an opportunity to…
- Glorify God
- Serving others (not in the sense of being a people pleasure, but having a servant heart to bless the other person even within a conflict)
- Imitating Christ
This sees conflict as an opportunity to glorify God, serve others, and grow more like Jesus.
So what’s different for Christians? First – how we think about conflict (as an opportunity); and secondly how we act in relation to conflict (the wisdom in the bible is our framework to respond).
Here’s a simple four part biblical framework to respond to conflict…
God: Glorify God (1 Cor 10:31)
Rather than seeing conflict as a complete disaster, we can use conflict as a chance to focus upon God and asking how can we please and honour God in this situation?
Me: Get the log out of your own eye (Matt 7:5)
How can I show Jesus’ work in me by taking responsibility for my contribution to this conflict? Rather than blaming the other person alone, we ask ourselves whether we’re willing to see what our contribution to the issue is. Often most people have made a contribution to the conflict.
What’s often our knee-jerk response to conflict?
You: Gently restore (Gal 6:1)
How can I lovingly serve others by helping them take responsibility for their contribution to this conflict?
Consider this question: if you did have a speck in your eye, what sort of person would you like to help you remove that speck?
- you wouldn’t want someone with a log in their eye – someone coming up to you and pointing out the speck with that sense of hypocrisy over themto
- it would be good to have a third person who is more neutral to the matter to help
- a humble and gentle person
Us: Go and be reconciled (Matt 5:24)
How can I demonstrate the forgiveness of God and encourage a reasonable solution to their conflict?
Responses on the slippery slope of conflict:
- Fight: peace-breaking!
- Flight: peace-faking! Often based on fears in our heart.
- Peacemaking: peace-making (a first response is ‘can this be overlooked?’ Prov 19:11) – the response where we choose to involve God.
Peace breaking/faking make conflict worse by inflaming it or not dealing with it at all.
Ways to lean and grow from here:
- Get further training – you can ask PeaceWise to come to your church and run a training event (highly recommended)
- Get free online resources – there are a lot of free resources on their website.
- Come to a hub – there are small ‘hubs’ that PeaceWise runs in local areas to help people work through practical examples of conflicts and what can be done
[Steven: a very practical little session, with simple tools on how to resolve conflicts. And yet as simple as the tools are, they require gospel-centred hearts that seek to glorify God and seek the best for others – and that’s hard prayerful work!]
Day 3 | Evening Talk | Steve Nation – Our words say a lot – about us! (James 3:1-17)
The power and devastation of the tongue
Remember that Mel Gibson incident when he was pulled over by a Police Officer for drunk driving? What he said about Jews was deplorable. An Oscar winner, a hero to man, a respected man in Australia and America… and because of this people vowed to never work with him again. Only now, 10 years later, is his reputation beginning to come back. 15 words said early in the morning while drunk radically changed his life.
We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what they say they are a perfect person able to keep their whole body in check (James 3:2). What hope do we have? To know our hope we really have to nail our problem
Most of us can say we’re not going to stumble in corporate fraud or into violence – but we are likely to stumble in our words. When our words come out we cannot take them back. We struggle in saying the right things, we struggle in saying the wrong things… so what hope do we have?
Well, our hope is that we have been saved from our sins, we have the Spirit indwelling us, we can call God our Father, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence for help in our time of need, we have church to encourage us daily so that sin will not harden our hearts. And so fuelled by these things we are to speak wisely. But in order to speak well we must understand the root of our condition of failure with our speech.
Problem #1: our tongue (3:3-12)
The first thing James tells us is the incredible power of the tongue (vv.3-6)
- Horses: powerful but controlled by a little ‘bit’ (v.3)
The ‘bit’ is the little piece of metal in their mouths that rider uses to direct the direction of the horse.
- Ships: massive, powerful but controlled by a little ‘rudder’ (v.4)
How in the world do these big ships still float? yet they are directed by a relatively small piece of metal…
- The tongue (vv.5-6)
The tongue is relatively small in the body – but what a muscle to control us.
- Small things control big things
A fire that rises 10m high in a bush fire can be started by a cigarette thrown out the car window. By comparing the tongue to fire we are focused on the destructive consequences of the tongue. Our speech is not just ‘words’. So many flames that we experience in life are started by a loose tongue.
The warning (v.6).
There is no member of the body that can wreak as much havoc as that little muscle in our mouths.
Words that destroy:
- Gossip – we try to sanctify it with ‘prayer’ but can use this as a cover for gossip
- Negative innuendo – little words that cast a little, but negative light
- Flattery – gossip is stuff you wouldn’t say before a person, flattery is what you would never say behind their back
- Fault-finding – picking on little things, especially how our Asian parents communicate to us – will we be people of grace and truth speakign the truth in love or will we be fault-finders?
- Angry words, sharp words, impatient words, careless words…
The tongue is extremely difficult (almost impossible) to keep under control (vv.7-8)
All sorts of animals have been tamed by humans, but no human can tame the tongue.
Double talk (vv.9-12).
With the same mouth we praise the Lord then tear down another Christian. The spring of water illustration is also apt – two types of water cannot flow from the same spring.
- How we speak to others is a test of our Christian life.
Resentment and bitterness that we speak of others is truly Hellish – for that is where they spew forth from. A person who is not right with God, walking daily with Jesus, cannot consistently speak pure and helpful words.
Destructive words come out of a compromised heart
Problem #2: our heart (vv.13-16)
The “humility of wisdom” – the foundation of all that is beautiful that can come out of a person’s life (3:14, 4:6, 1:21).
How do we assess wise people? We often think about theology as the first. But it’s about how they live first – someone living with Jesus first, being shaped by his truths, is the wise person. It’s not so much how much we know but what you do with what you know. At the heart of wisdom is humility.
Humility is not something prized by our world. We are taught to talk up our lives and work hard to earn prestige. We are not taught to think of ourselves less.
Our problem = bitter jealousy and selfish ambition
- “Bitter zeal” is desire going wrong in the heart (3:14, 16)
- “Selfish ambition” means we self-exalt (3:14, 16).
- For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34)
If we don’t deal with God on a heart level then it will come out in other ways. Whatever is in you will come out. Our trials only bring out of us what is already there. We often ask what will help me prevent hellish words coming out of our mouths… but we don’t often ask what was in there in the first place to cause those words.
James sets up a two-sided worldview: Will you choose wisdom or folly? False wisdom is:
- Earthly, unspiritual, demonic…
- The end result: disorder and every vile practice
- Our problem: a compromised heart
Is there any hope for us???
The solution: wisdom from above (vv.17-18)
- The peaceable
- Gentle – gentleness treats others with utmost consideration
- Open to reason – can you be approached and appealed to?
- Full of mercy and good fruits
- Impartial and sincere – impartial is the ability to be honest without condemning
- Peace – real peace, not some shallow face response – in the East it’s about keeping a happy outward look, in the West it’s about keeping people happy no matter what – a peacemaker is someone who enters the mess, asks questions, is vulnerable
James asks us to reckon with what is wrong so that we can really grapple with the wrong in our lives in order to move towards what is right.
Our response: how do we get this wisdom? How do we tame the tongue? How do our hearts become uncompromised?
- Repentance: no self-righteousness – no self-justification of sin, no excuse making, stop with bearing all guilt (godly guilt vs ungodly guilt – godly guilt leads to the cross, ungodly guilt keeps it all on shoulders). We need to own our words and the enormity of the outcome of our words.
- Faith – When we consider Jesus on the cross he was silent, he accepted our guilt upon his shoulders. We ask God to forgive us, and cauterize our lips. We thank Jesus that he bore the penalty for the misuse of our tongues.
- Prayer: James 1:5
- Silent Fast:
- Goal – we are to be people who have been gripped by the gospel and sound like Jesus. The effect this will have in church, in our marriage, with our children and at work will rock the world. Jesus guarantees that peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
[Steven: Another big challenge to consider the weight of our words and how powerful they are. We prayerfully remember that our tongues must never be underestimated, and keep praying and asking God to transform our words.]