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!]

Ignite Training Conference 2017 | Day 5 [Live Blog]

[Steven: the final day is here, I’m on my second coffee already, and as Ying Yee wouldn’t often encourage us: the week has been exhausting but exciting – exciting to have our hearts exposed and the cure administered by a most loving and faithful heart donor and High Priest; exciting to have great discussions about life and faith (and books!); exciting to see how much has been learnt by delegates (and strand leaders alike!); exciting to see a bunch of Gen-Y and Millennials apparently not get the memo that you don’t go to conferences like this, sing the songs we sing, and submit to an authority far greater than themselves – and love every minute of it; exciting to be a part of investing into the eternity of others; and exciting to be praying for Steve, Keiyeng and their family as they take the next step of their faith journey down to Canberra. The end of conferences like this are always bittersweet, but here we are – and we are exhausted… but excited :)]

Day 5 | Morning Talk | Richard Gibson – Cultivated (Colossians 3:1-17)

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21

The secret garden

Springsteen of Asbury Park

The song by Bruce Springsteen ‘The Secret Garden’ – a song of the idolatry of sexual liason of our age, but also a song about the frustration one feels because while Springsteen can access her in some intimate ways he’s frustrated about her ‘secret garden’ that he can never get access to.

In some ways this is what we’ve been talking about this week. God created human beings with a depth and hiddenness and an internal reality that is so complex and rich, that one of the great joys of a creatureliness is that we can’t conquer, own, and know perfectly another person. People are endlessly fascinating – because of the complexity and richness of their hearts.

 

Clement of Alexandria / Weeding and feeding

Long before Springsteen used the image of a garden for our internal world – for our mind and soul. The interest of the philosopher was for us to tend to this garden. The challenge for Clement was to keep the garden cultivated, tended, and looked after – to make it a beautiful garden. To plant lovely beautiful plans that honour God, and tearing out the weeds that dishonour God.

But for any gardener you’ll notice that weeding never stops. There’s always work to be done in terms of weeding, and constant feeding to do – constant watering, especially in the heat and dryness of Brisbane.

The cultivating of our hearts involves a lot of weeding and feeding. Weeding = repentance. Getting rid of those things that take root in the secret places in our life – the sins, fantasies that we might be feeding and watering… but to get rid of them. Conversely we have to feed our faith in God, trusting it, storing it up in our hearts, not getting stuck on it and never putting it into practice. This is what we look forward to as Christian people for the rest of our lives. Even some of the most godly older people are more and more aware of the noxious things in our heart – and that is kinda how Christian living is.

 

Jesus on storing up treasure (Matt 6:19-21)

The image Jesus uses here is a matter of investment – where we see true value is where we will invest in life.

Living to impress people (6:1-2, 5, 7-8, 16)

One of the ways in which we lay up treasures of ourselves on earth rather than up in heaven is living to impress people, to establish a status in life. It is in the moment that we are living to look religious that we can be ensnared by the total misdirection of our faulty investment.

6:1-2 – If you’re living to look righteous infront of people we need to be very careful – because we cannot expect to live to look good before others and be rewarded by God at the same time.

We live to be seen in our works and in our prayers.

While we may not intentionally seek praises – but we can get into the habit of praying in public, and rarely in private.

v7 – hypocrites love to draw attention to themselves by heaping up lots of words

v16 – and they can do it via public fasting

The problem: the constant temptation to turn our hearts away from God and turn towards seeking the praise of others. This is a constant temptation especially for those in full-time paid ministry: to focus on the externals and neglect the internals.

My worst lies have come from keeping up appearances in the Christian community. The worst lie is often, ‘I will pray for you’ – because I want to appear spiritual, I want to appear like the carer… and a week later I haven’t prayed… and never intended to pray. They were just a form of words that were intended to make myself look good.

How does one change from this habit? Turn from the audience of man towards the larger audience of One.

 

Pleasing the Father who sees in secret (6:3-4, 6, 9-15, 17-18)

Note how much the idea of secrecy is in these verses.

Secrecy safeguards sincerity. Recognition that God knows the deepest recesses of our heart means that we are prepared to practice our piety for his witness alone – because you are so convinced that God sees everything.

 

 

Serving wealth (6:24-34)

When Jesus started talking about treasure here is where he ends up – you cannot serve both money and God. You can’t navigate through life and make life decisions based on living for money and security vs God. Eventually you’ll collapse into the sin of materialism, living for physical comfort.

From v25ff we are reminded not to worry because our Heavenly Father knows what we need. The One who provided the heart transplant that we needed, the One who rewards what is done in secret, is the same One who knows our deepest needs and looks after us. Jesus goes about watering our faith in this One.

The illustrations of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field are an affectionate, gentle, and kind reminder of our loving brother. He’s gently tearing at the weeds of our hearts.

Our great fear about repentance is that we will be driven away or rejected because we will not match up to the standards God sets… and yet Jesus offers to come to him and find rest. We constantly forget the forgiveness and grace that is on offer – and this is why we meet and gather together constantly… to remind each other of the forgiveness and grace that is on offer!

 

Seeking first the kingdom (6:33)

The Father knows what you need more than anything else, and through Jesus we are told to set our hearts on his Kingdom and righteousness.

 

Jesus: the true treasure (Col 3:1-17)

Where your treasure is (3:1-4)

By our union to Christ by faith our whole lives are now reoriented. Our lives are now hidden with Christ. And that day when he appears in glory we will also appear in glory with him. A relationship with Jesus is to be a our true treasure.

 

Weeding: putting idols to death (3:5-11)

V5-10 is a whole range of weeds. You cannot show these things mercy, and you cannot coddle them – they will over run your garden if you don’t take action. The action we need to take: recognise that they are noxious and poisonous and repent of them.

  • focusing on sexual immorality for a moment – the world’s lie and temptation is to find heart satisfaction in sexual passion – and you need to find the right person in the right circumstances and you’ll find satisfaction. And we so ache for this satisfaction we’ll chase for it on the computer screen… but there’s no treasure there.

v8 – Anger and malice – we can habour it and nuture our ‘righteous’ anger like our prized plant as best in show. When we are wronged we slander in order to feed and nurture the weed of anger.

Tear these weeds up and start feeding the flowers that ought to be there in our garden. The flowers found everywhere in Jesus’ life and ministry.

 

Feeding: putting on Christ (3:12-14)

Compassion and love – think of Jesus’ constantly meeting and healing the lepers. Humilty, the grace to put aside what’s best for me, to lay aside my status for the good of others (as Jesus did in Phil 2). Gentleness – the quality of not being overly impressed by ones own self-importance.

And all the other qualities are the qualities we need to be feeding.

V15-16 shows us how we feed it – we let his peace rule in our lives, go back to the cross and make it central, we never move on from the place where our forgiveness and transformation is found, and you make God’s Word absolutely central to your life. You listen, you read, you hear it explained, take it into your heart and put it into practice. At every opportunity we need to take God’s Word permeating through our lives together.

v17 – we honour his name – so that in all our activity we are honouring and actively treasuring Jesus as Lord. Constantly seeking to bring every word and deed, closing the gap between lips and heart, so that we honour Jesus with every fibre of our being.

 

Treasuring Jesus (Col 3:15-17)

[Steven: running out of time here – so Gibbo has to skip this point]

His peace (John 14:1, 27)

His Word

His name

 

Never Alone

There can be a sense that in all this weeding and feeding we’re alone in the job. But we are not!

The theatre where God operates

  • Filling with joy (Acts 14:17)
  • Purifying (Acts 15:9)
  • Opening to respond (Acts 16:14)
  • Searching to hear (Rom 8:27)
  • Making light shine (2 Cor 4:6)
  • Putting concern (2 Cor 8:16)
  • Strengthening (1 Thess 3:13)
  • Encouraging (2 Thess 2:16-17)
  • Directing (2 Thess 3:5)

Fellowship from the heart

We are responsible for each other’s hearts. It’s a matter of basic brotherly Christian life to keep asking each other, ‘How are you going – how are your thoughts, feelings and motivations? Are you responding to Jesus the way you should?’ If this is not a characteristic of the culture of your church then we prayerfully need to build that up – and we start here, with basic relationships that we begin to open up and reveal the hidden secret places that we can remind each other to weed and feed properly.

  • Unity (Acts 2:46, 4:32)
  • Mutual responsibility (Heb 3:12, 1 Peter 1:22)
  • Ministry (Phil 1:6-7; 2 Cor 2:4, 6:11, 7:3)
  • Mission (Rom 9:1-5, 10:1)

Above all else, guard your heart

Know that you are known – by God in the deepest recesses of your being.

Be aware of the symptoms and consequences– of a hard and stone heart

Put your heart in his hands – into the hands of our Father who loves us and cares for us

Tear down your idols

Clothes yourself with Christ – cultivate the love of Christ in ourselves

Love one another deeply – to the glory of God.

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Hebrews 4:7

[Steven: What a great final talk. It’s been an exposing week – the Word of God has stripped us naked, leaving us open to feeling the shame of it all… and yet the gospel has been clear, clothing us in Christ. Now clothed, secure, and loved, we can keep honestly opening up to each other. Let’s do it – for each other’s eternal joy rooted deeply in Jesus.]

Ignite Training Conference 2017 | Day 4 [Live Blog]

[Steven: Penultimate day is here! I’m feeling the exhaustion of the week creeping up, but am thoroughly encouraged from conversations and my strand group that I’ve led so far! Prayers for energy to sustain us all is appreciated!]

I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. Jeremiah 24:7

The Great Exchange

Barnard in Capetown, 50 years ago

50 years ago the world learnt that it was able to transplant the heart of one person into another person and live on. You could give someone a new shot at life when their heart at reached the end stage of functioning.

The race to be first

The Americans and Russians were rushing to be the first on the moon. But there was also an American doctor for years working on heart transplants – who had transplanted 100’s of dog hearts with other hearts. He was ready to trial it on a human. But it was a South African who beat him to the line.

Certain death

Of course one of the tricky things about doing a heart transplant is having someone on the brink of death ready and able.

Suitable donor

And then you’ve also got to have a donor – and a suitable one of course!

Compatible – the right blood type, and the right tissue type (the right antigens that wouldn’t have the body reject the heart)

Healthy – it also had to be healthy, from someone relatively young who hadn’t done much damage to their heart and who didn’t die because of damage to their heart.

Dead – they also had to wait for someone to be brain dead.

A new life

The operation was a success… sort of. It lasted for 19 days, but was a success in the medical world.

And yet, 2600 years before this successful operation, the prophet Ezekiel also spoke of a heart transplant.

Ezekiel in Babylon, 2600 years ago (Ezekiel 36:22-30)

For the sake of his name

The deportation to Babylon was a judgement on the rebellion of God’s people. He had warned her and warned her and warned her. And when she would continue to not listen he ran out of patience.

God then promises in Ezekiel 36 to intervene – but not just for their sake. When God chose the nation of Israel his name became attached with him. When the nation rebelled against him they not only dragged down their reputation in front of the other nations but also dragged down the name of God.

But in intervening God would lift up his name again.

So the nations will know

And he would act in a way so that the other nations would see as well (end of v23).

Cleansed from impurity and idols/Heart transplant

God would reach into the chests of his people and take out that stony hardened hearts, and replace it with a heart of flesh, beating, tender, ready to respond to God and his Word. And also cleansing his people from their impurity and idolatry.

My people, your God

The final promise in v28 is also astonishing – he will intervene so dramatically in Israel’s history and address the most fundamental problem: what’s going on in our hearts – the corruption, the darkness, the contamination. He will perform the most remarkable act of surgery – a heart transplant 2600 years before the first medical one was attempted.

The idea of a heart transplant is completely foreign to history – only until the 20th century did someone actually think you could do it. And yet, 2600 years before Ezekiel gave this radical picture of this graphic, drastic and out of the ordinary act needed to really change God’s people.

We’re just waiting for a donor – waiting for someone with a compatible heart. Someone who will have to die in the process in order to perform that heart transplant for us.

The New Covenant

Jeremiah in Anathoth, 2600 years ago (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

The parallel to Ezekiel is apparent. God will do something internal in order to transform the whole person. God will write His Laws onto the hearts of his people – which means that His people will well up with the desire to obey and listen to God. No longer will God carve the Law into stone tablets, he will carve it into the hearts of his people. Instead of the language of judgement and wrath we now have the language of forgiveness of sins, and remembering them no more. No longer will sin define His people.

Anon in Rome, 2000 years ago (Hebrews 8:7-13)

The writer to the Hebrews quotes Jeremiah verbatim – one of the longest quotes of the OT in the NT.

The whole point: in chapters 8-10 of Hebrews the author explains how Jesus fulfills that new covenant, how Jesus makes that heart transplant happen.

Jesus in Jerusalem (Hebrews 10:1-25)

The inadequacy of the old

V1-4 – points out the inadequacy of the OT sacrifices. They were meant to be a shadow of a better reality to come. The sacrificial system was set up to teach how sins are washed away and forgiven, but they were always a provisional and temporary arrangement. Going to the temple and making your sacrifices year in and year out was a regular reminder that God could forgive their sins – but it was also a reminder that the sacrifices didn’t really fully deal with the problem of sin… because you would be back again soon enough to offer another sacrifice.

Into the world, to do his will

v8-9 – another sacrifice comes into the world ready and willing to do His will – willing to do everything that God desires. Jesus has come to be that person.

One sacrifice for sins

v11-12 – Jesus comes to offer the final and perfect sacrifice – A once and for all sacrifice, to cleanse and purify His people once and for all so that we could live as his people for all eternity.

v13-14 – and because Jesus has become the perfect sacrifice, he also becomes the judge of all. Jesus, is the one appointed to judge all – and yet also is the one who offers the sacrifice to make perfect those who are being sanctified.

What does it mean to be made perfect those who are being sanctified? v16 – God will write the law on the hearts, and v17 their sins and lawlessness he will remember no more. V18 – And where there is forgiveness of sins there is no longer anymore need for sacrifices.

We are made perfect, we have been washed clean, we have been forgiven. And having established our relationship with God, Jesus then goes on to a renovation project in our lives. Jesus has secured our standing and acceptability before God before that transformation process. We don’t relate to God, we don’t strive for holiness, out of insecurity that God will judge us – but out of boldness that Jesus has fully and finally cleansed us from our sin.

Boldness to enter with a true heart

And so, we are urged to enter God’s presence boldly – not flippantly, but with humble and full knowledge that Jesus allows us.

v19-22 – we approach God now with a sincere heart – no longer is their a chasm between our lips and our hearts. We come with full assurance – because Ezekiel and Jeremiah’s prophecies have been fulfilled.

Hearts cleansed of an evil conscience / Promoting love and good works / Encouraging each other

All this now leads to rearranged priorities. We now live for God and for the people around us. We spur one another on to love and good works. We meet regularly together to encourage each other. There is therefore a responsibility we all have for each other’s hearts (expanded more tomorrow).

 

The Righteousness That Comes By Faith (Romans 10:1-13)

From God vs their own

Paul’s heart and prayer is that people would be saved – especially his own people. But they made mistakes. Paul doesn’t question their zeal or seriousness – but as they sought to establish their righteousness they ignored God’s Word and followed their own.

From the law vs from faith

And in following their own rules and laws they didn’t yield wholeheartedly to God. And they ended up rejecting the one whom the whole Law pointed to and was finished in: Jesus. They tried to come to God via the Law, but God said the only way to come to me is on the basis of faith. Faith alone, because of the mess we have made in our lives – to throw ourselves on his mercy and beg for forgiveness and mercy.

For Moses writes (Deut 30:6, 12-14)

Rom 10:5-8 – coming to faith is as simple as hearing the message of the gospel and responding with belief.

Moses said in Deut 30:6 that God would circumcise their hearts in order to love him. That promise is fulfilled as people come in faith through Jesus.

Deut 30:12-14 – Moses commands his people to choose life – and Paul says in Rom 10:9-10 that choosing life means confessing Jesus is Lord, and believing in your heart that God raised him from the dead. And in that act of confessing and believing a heart transplant occurs.

The message of faith / Heart and mouth united / For everyone who calls

Rom 10:13 – everyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved. Everyone is able to come – no matter where you’re from or what you’ve done.

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

[Steven: what a beautiful analogy – in order for us to live we need a heart transplant, and in order for that to happen we need the perfect donor and he needs to die in order for that to happen. Jesus… you’re beautiful.]

Day 4 | Evening Talk | Steve Nation – What rules you? (James 4:1-10)

Who is your enemy?

The enemy within

“Them’s fighting words” – James 4:

    • What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? (4:1)
    • Your passions are at war within you (4:1)
    • So you murder (4:2)
    • You fight and quarrel (4:2)
    • Enmity (hostility or antagonism) with God (4:4)
    • Makes himself an enemy of God (4:4)
    • Resist the devil and he will flee from you (4:7)

These words, after James 3, should be profoundly disturbing. In James 3:18 James said that a harvest of righteousness is sewn from those who seek peace… and here we have war language?

Context: a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:18). What’s gone wrong? How do followers of the Prince of Peace bring strife and war, and become enemies of God?

This is not a new topic, this is a shift in focus. How do followers of the Prince of Peace bring strife and war?

When you consider church splits, how can people who have the Spirit of peace act in the ways that have split and destroyed churches and people?

The war within (4:1-3)

If you’re living in the real world the conflict is inevitable. A broken relationship in the home. With work friends. Or church members. And at the end we often ask ‘Why? How and why does this happen? Where does this brokenness come from?’ But even further – why do I need to lock my car, and house, why do I need to carry all my belongings with me?

James says the root of the problem is the passions within us at war with each other.

Stage 1: Desire (“I want”).

We crave. Inside of us is where we find our deepest desires and dreams and passions – and it’s imperative that we express them. How to live is up to me – what I want and desire. If I say it’s my passion you have to accept that. It’s wrong to not do what I want – it’s wrong also for me to get in the way of what you want.

When our desires clash with another’s desire then all that can happen is the strongest will win. Whoever has the better lobby group, whoever has the better cultural influence (media, universities, etc) will win.

Stage 2: Demand (“I must”).

The desire becomes a demand – we close our fists over something to grab it for ourselves. Not only must you support my desire but you must also enable my desire.

Stage 3: Need (“I will”).   

We view something as something ‘we need’ in life.

Stage 4: Expectation (“You should”). 

If I’m convinced I need something and you say you love me then I’m convinced you should do that thing for me.

Stage 5: Disappointment (“You didn’t!”). 

As we move from fights and quarrels we end up in disappointment. Because we think you should give me something and then when you don’t there is disappointment.

Stage 6: Punishment (“Because you didn’t, I will. . .”).

We are hurt and angry because those who say they love us, or should love us, disappoint us and then we punish them.

  • God’s concern is more with the selfish spirit and bitterness of the quarrel than the rights and wrongs of the various viewpoints. How do you fight?

What God is concerned about is what is in our hearts rather than what we are talking about.

Most church splits are based on a distinct lack of respect, honour, and openness and a willingness to interact not with just the words by why people are acting the way they do.

Selfish prayers. You can tell a lot about a person by what they pray for.

We can treat God like a Pinata in the sky – if we ask/whack him enough then we’ll get what we want. Where is their mind and heart, motivation, and focus.

Friends of the world, enemies of God (4:4:-6)

The central paragraph of the letter of James. “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity against God?” (James 4:4)      

What a change in language in the letter! Christians are married to God – united as one, in the intimacy as of a marriage. A little bit worldly? There is no such thing – you’re either in or out.

Genesis 3 is where we see Adam and Eve seek to live without God. And the world has been seeking to live this way ever since. Our friendship with the world can be expressed in so many ways – we go to church and bible study, and then off to the financial planner to hold on to all our money, and to all other sorts of acceptable and respectable idols.

God gets emotional: Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? (v.5)

Jesus is a godly jealous lover of his people. We should be satisfied in Him, who has given us everything, and to turn away from that is dishonouring. The jealousy of his love is a beautiful picture.

What hope do we have? But he gives more grace (v.6) – not referring to saving grace but empowering grace.

Verse 6 here is simply amazing given the tone of what happens before. He gives more and more grace. He opposes the proud, those who set themselves against God, but to the certain people he gives more grace.

God gives grace, but only to certain kinds of people (v.6).     

He gives grace to the humble. Those who will submit – to be open to change.

How do we become humble? Repent! (4:7-10). How?   

  1. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (v.7). Resist means taking a proactive stand.
    We resist the devil, and whatever power he has we know we have been given the power of the Spirit who is stronger than the devil.
  2. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (v8). Again, this is a deliberate, proactive action.

What do we do?

  • Hate our sin (v.9)
  • Humble ourselves before God (v.10)

Testing our worldliness

#1: Take some time out this week to write out your weekly schedule. Write down every activity, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you. Where are you investing your time?

#2: On another sheet of paper, write out your budget. Now, look at your check register, credit card and bank statements, cash flow. Where are you investing your money?

Time and money are two big markers that Jesus has given us. This two part test exposes in part where our heart is. When Jesus says ‘where your treasure is there your heart is also’ he’s saying your heart will follow your treasure. If you stop and read the scriptures and dwell on Jesus’ magnificence, he will be your treasure. But if you put your time into money and don’t study Jesus and no effort in understanding him, then your treasure is not Jesus and you’ve become a friend of the world.

If you find something

  • Identify it – we are so good at confessing in vague generalities – we need to confess in detail
  • Again, hate it – do you see where your lusts for comfort or pleasure or reputation or power or respect will lead you? Can you see the effects of your sin?
  • Bring it into the light – ‘I see it, I do not like it’, and can you share it with a trusted friend?
  • Confess it and receive 1 John 1:9
  • Reject the lie that we can’t win over temptation – your temptation is not God, God is. James is not only trying to shock us in this passage. James wants us to know the damage of our sins and passions.
  • Fill that hole with something else – Jesus and His grace.  

If you want to trash your life then simply follow your heart.

James isn’t just trying to shock us: he wants us to find the reality of God’s forgiveness. He is reminding us that God stands ready to cleanse the impure, to forgive the sinner, to lift up the humble.

^Can you imagine our church likes this? Who take sin seriously, who love what he loves and hate what he hates. God willing the church will grow into this, the world will see it and will know that we are His by our love for each other.

[Steven: the final evening talk finishes with a bang – James has cut deep and hard this week with his straight talking words.]

Ignite Training Conference 2017 | Day 3 [Live BLog]

[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)

  • Hope
  • Adoption
  • Co-heirs

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?

  • lashout
  • stew
  • 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?
    • Diminishment
    • 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

  1. “Bitter zeal” is desire going wrong in the heart (3:14, 16)
  2. “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)

    • Pure
    • 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.

Implications

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.]

 

Ignite Training Conference 2017 | Day 2 [Live Blog]

[Steven: After a wonderful night of sleep, and now dosed up on caffeine, we’re ready to go!]

Day 2 | Morning Talk | Richard Gibson – Corrupted (Mark 7:1-23)

…their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:21)

If we don’t understand the depth of the problem then we won’t apply the appropriate solution. Nothing short of radical surgery on our hearts will set us aright. There are very serious consequences of not treating our internal disease (of sin) properly.

Cardiovascular disease: the great killer

Heart disease is one of the great killers in Australia. Ever 26min someone dies from heart disease related illness.

Statistics

There are 1.2 million Australians affected by heart disease. But the stats don’t capture the horror of the problem.

Beyond Numbers

Gibbo shares a stories of family and friends who died of a heart attack.

Warning Signs

There are plenty of public health campaigns drawing attention to the risk factors – not to scare us, but to encourage us to change. To change from the lifestyles that will affect our lives negatively.

The bible has in mind an issue like heart disease – but something greater than just physical heart problems. Heart disease may limit our lives on earth, but the inner heart problems of sin threatens each of our lives. The bible warns of this problem consistently to remind us what threatens our spiritual life with God the most.

 

Israel’s Problem (Mark 7:1-23)

Unclean hands

The presenting issue of the debate in this passage here has to do with the washing of hands before meals… but…

Traditions of the elders

The issue is not about God’s Law – it’s about the Jewish traditions that had grown up around the Laws. The rituals had become important to Jewish identity to show themselves different to the surrounding nations. There are rules in the OT about washing – Priests entering the temple, and people washing their hands after a ‘bodily discharge’, BUT nothing close to what the Pharisees had developed by the time of Jesus presenting in this passage. And this issue reveals that they had many other traditions as well.

The Pharisee’s challenge Jesus about this.

Lips vs Hearts

Jesus’ response seems disproportionate at first instance. He quotes Isaiah calling them hypocrites. The quote from Isaiah 29 references how the presenting issue is just like the older issue in Isaiah – an issue of calloused hearts.

Jesus’ point: the Pharisees were playing games with something actually far more serious. Calling them hypocrites was another way of saying they were impersonating someone else: impersonating people who cared about God’s will, but were really people who were hung up on human rules and regulations, of defining their own in group and excluding others. The religious leaders had fallen into the terrible gap of attending and being preoccupied with outside appearances (and that everyone else knew their outward appearance of cleanliness) and shift focus from what was going on in their hearts.

This is not to say that they were insincere in doing their practice. But sincere practice doesn’t cover their sins. Their hypocrisy remains. Their hearts had deceived them and convinced them that this is what God wanted.

They had become sidetracked from giving God heart-obedience by focusing on external and superficial appearance.

 

Tax Avoidance

Jesus gives another example of their hypocrisy. He goes to the Law in Exodus about children respecting and caring for their parents. But the Pharisees had worked out a little trick to get out of their responsibilities. They argued that if you dedicate the money, due to your parents, for God (Corban) then you didn’t have to pay it to your parents. Jesus calls this tax avoidance – a breaking of God’s intention in the Law.

What goes in

Jesus cuts through the rubbish of their arguments – and says that it is not what goes in that makes you unclean, it’s what comes out of your heart.

You might feel some sympathy for the disciples who really didn’t get what Jesus had just done. Jesus had essentially just wiped out the food Laws. A revolution in thinking.

 

Our sewage outlets

And yet, what Jesus said was not really revolutionary at all. For even the OT Laws pointed to the fact that the human heart itself was the cause of uncleanness.

Jesus was affirming what the OT pointed to – that our hearts are a sewage outlets. We are profoundly contaminated by nature. Out of hearts spew forth the sins listed in v21-22.

Working through that list we can diagnose our heart:

  • Sexual immorality – do we entertain adultery and porn?
  • Theft – do you want something so much that you’re tempted to take it without paying the appropriate price, like downloading a song or a movie?
  • Murder – do you ever wish someone was dead?
  • Adultery – have you planned out in your heart having a sexual relationship with someone who is not your spouse?
  • Greed – do you have a desire for possessions and wealth?
  • Malice – have you spoken cruelly to another with the intent on hurting them?
  • Deceit – have you misrepresented a situation to preserve your own standing, or shifted the blame to get you off the hook, have you deceived to gain an advantage?
  • Lewdness – have you thought of abandoning yourself to something for the sake of trying?
  • Envy – evil eye – have you resented someone for the gift or relationship they have, or been stingy with what you have unwilling to share?
  • Slander – have you spoken about someone behind their back to damage their reputation?
  • Pride – arrogance and the puffing of yourself up?
  • Folly – have you been foolish to the consequences of your actions?

And there are heaps of other sins.

And we must be careful not to deflect and miss being cut to the heart. How many of the above have we ticked – how many of the warning signs are there in our lives? Attempts to soften reality so that we don’t have to face up to the depth of the problems that we have, then we are not ready to receive the treatment necessary.

 

Our Problem (Romans 1:18-32)

The symmetry of justice

There’s a striking symmetry to this passage in Romans 1. There appears to be a Chiastic structure, which charts the descent of human wickedness and sin.

Darkened hearts

The refusal to treat God as God means that at our very core we become foolish and darkened.

Given over

God’s punishment is to give mankind over to their dark desires. Being given over to these is a slippery slope to ever more darkness.

Idol factories

In verse 22-23 there is an allusion to Psalm 126 – in which Israel exchanged the glory of God for an image of a bull that eats grass.

Calvin said the heart is a factory of idols. We have turned the heart that was created to love the Creator into a sweatshop for truth exchanging, and for things over the Maker. And we maintain the delusion that these things will give us the satisfaction that we deeply long for in the core of our being.

This is the mess we find ourselves in. This is the depth of the problem. And until we wrestle with this we will not see the appropriate solution, and we won’t see how God has provided that solution.

Warning Signs (for the heart)

  • Uncircumcised (Acts 7:51)
  • Calloused (Matt 13:15, Acts 28:27)
  • Hardened (Mark 6:52, 8:17; Eph 4:18; Heb 3:8, 15, 4:7)
  • Darkened (Rom 1:24)
  • Veiled (2 Cor 3:15)
  • Far from God (Matt 15:8)
  • Going astray (Heb 3:10)
  • Stubborn (Mark 3:5; Rom 2:5)
  • Proud (Luke 1:51; Rev 18:7)
  • Sinful, unbelieving (Heb 3:12)
  • Defiled (Matt 15:18)
  • Unforgiving (Matt 18:15)
  • Weighed down (Luke 21:34)
  • Filled by Satan (Acts 5:3)
  • Trained in greed (2 Peter 2:14)

[Steven: running short of time now and Gibbo skips through the following points]

Hardening of the heart: a greater killer (Heb 3:7-4:16)

Israel’s problem (3:7-19)

A reminder of the hard heart of Israel

Our problem (4:1-11)

The same problem they have is the problem we have.

‘He who searches the heart’ (4:12-13)

Nothing in hidden from God’s sight. And we are warned of the same that we might heed the warning.

Searched in order to deliver justice (Rom 2:16; 1 Cor 4:5)

Do we see the sins in our hearts in order to repent? Or do we take God’s patience in waiting for repentance as indifference?

 

[9] The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
[10] “I the LORD search the heart
and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.”

Jeremiah 17:9-10

[23] … And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.

Revelation 2:23

If your arteries were clogged and you had a heart attack that would not necessarily exclude you from the presence of God. But the heart condition of darkness and sin will exclude you. The God who searches all things and knows the hearts of every person and exposes all things will come to deliver justice. We will all face the consequences of the state of our heart.

 

Warned so we will turn

This is an issue therefore of absolute urgency. Don’t harden your heart. Don’t turn away and be distracted, face it squarely – and do what you need to do to make peace with God.

The bible speaks to us so that we will turn. And we will find out God’s solution to our deeply darkened hearts in the days to come. We are called to repent and live – and we will see how God makes that graciously, and wondrously possible.

Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn (Deut 10:16)

[Steven: A deeply cutting talk this morning. Our hearts are opened and they are rotting and festering and hardened against God. An epic and scary diagnosis. Lord, have mercy.]

Day 2 | Workshop | Q&A with Ben and Faith Ho – Real-Deal Discipleship

What is a disciple?

A disciple is a rather broad generic category. The bible says many things about being a Christian, and the word ‘disciple’ is one of those words. The word has an emphasis on being a learner – to follow him in his teaching, to embrace his teaching and the teacher, so that the disciple looks like the master. To be a disciple is someone who is taught to become more like Jesus.

Discipleship as a process is about helping someone become a better learner and better follower of Jesus. From preaching, to a blog post, to a text forms part of discipleship as long as they help us better learn and follow Jesus. So discipleship can happen formally and informally.

See ‘The Vine Project‘ for more on this sort of thinking and approach to discipleship.

 

How do you approach people for discipleship?

Formally and informally. First port of call is usually in the formal church setting, and then as I get to know them through relating to them.

It will also depend on how, for instance, a non-Christian enters the church. If they are fairly random then I can be a bit more bold in asking questions. If they are already connected with some Christian community (like being the housemate of a Christian), I’ll take the approach a little lighter and softer.

Then I’d ask them if they are keen to find out more in a one-to-one context.

 

What is your approaching question when you meet someone?

I tend to search out what understanding they have of the gospel. Through various contexts I want them to see the needs that they have, and seek to help them see how Jesus fulfills their needs.

With a potential leader I look at someone who is maturer in their faith, and affirm their growth. And then try and convince to see that they can be a part of Word ministry – teaching the word to various people, and explore their gifts of teaching. And through that decide what ministry might be worth their time.

When you approach someone and they freak out a little at the question and possibility, what do you do?

I try and look at whether they’ve picked up the culture of our church – that people often meet up not just to socialise but also to learn more. I generally don’t approach a new person for 6months, and give them time to settle into our community and spend some time with them.

If you have to go cold-turkey with someone totally new, then you’d want to start off informally – coffee and chat. Then through those conversations work out where any discipleship relationship might start.

 

Why is discipleship important?

Everyone should be a disciple – we should all be following Jesus as best we can. So why leave that only to the sermon or the bible study? The encouragement that can be had through the opportunity of deeper relationships makes it worth it.

In non-Christian secular life we do well and flourish in life with a best friend or a closer group of friends. Imagine that for a Christian person. We are made relationally by God for this.

And if we truly believe that church is to be a family, with elders (father-figures) and other younger members (brothers and sisters), and if we believe that an older brother should usually care for the younger siblings – then if we see a family function and one family member off in the corner doing nothing then that would be a strange family set up. Same thing at church. It wouldn’t be a properly functioning family. If church is an event, or if you go as a silent consumer, then you’ll be disappointed as you look for this type of discipleship relationship.

 

Do you meet with just guys or guys and girls?

My wife Faith was going well with a group of girls on Wed evenings, so I found a group of guys to train and disciple. I also train guys and girls in the university leadership team, and also the Church Council made up of men and women.

I generally wouldn’t meet with a woman one-to-one. Bible study is a ‘sexy’ activity – godliness is ‘sexy’ as well. And as a Pastor I want to also remain above reproach and make sure that there is no hint of impropriety.

 

What material do you use? And what is your structure?

With a non-Christian I use the material ‘Christianity Explained’ – which is 6 sessions one to one. I like this because it helps those who are searching, and if they are committed this course can be very helpful.

On an adhoc basis with a non-Christian I go through Two Ways To Live and see how it goes.

With a new Christian I used ‘Just for Starters (I use a lot of Matthias Media because I’m used to it, trained in it, and are very comfortable with it). Just about anyone who is discipling another person one-to-one is trained to use ‘Just for Starters’.

Afterwards I tend to go through either Romans or Colossians. Romans for the keen beans, Colossians for those still a little cautious as it’s a lighter book that’s still encouraging in Christian growth.

In regards to structure I tend to go 50-50 – 50% of the time spent in the bible, and 50% of the time spent on the person and their life. The reason is that you don’t want the whole time you spend with someone to be life and problem centred – or it could become a gossip session. Discipleship is about leading people to Christ, and if we leave Christ out of the conversation then that’s not discipleship. And you can’t lead people to Christ without the Word.

On the flip side you can’t spend all your time in the bible because then you’re not dealing or interacting with the person infront of you. Over a few weeks and months I try to gauge whether our percentage of time together is being used well.

 

How frequently do you meet, and for how long?

It varies between once a week to once a month – and all depending on life circumstances.

For something like Christianity Explained it’s good to go through the 6 sessions over 6 weeks. Once a week is neat.

Once a fortnight is a little more doable with workers. But you have to commit, because if you miss one week it becomes once a month. And for those far away Skype has been helpful.

In terms of how long – it depends on the person, but as a Pastor I usually can only commit to one person over 12 months. Once a week over a year mentorship is usually enough to invest enough in someone that they can start to invest in others.

Adhoc meetings vary depending on the person and circumstances.

 

Do you always have to drink coffee?

Meeting over a drink and some food is always good. I highly recommend not having soft drinks and sugar because you crash energy wise later in the meeting. Not good!

 

Do you diversify your meeting space?

I get really sleepy sitting down after lunch. So I got introduced to walking ministry – which means walking and talking. But you have to find what works for you. Opening the bible works better sitting down :P But maybe some of your time together can be done doing something else.

Faith might take the kids out of the Park for them to play while she meets with another person on a bench to read the bible.

 

How do you know if it’s working?

It’s working when I feel like there’s a real relationship being built. With one guy it was just a little weird relationally for the first few weeks – it was just a question and answer sort of bible study and meet up. But then the ice broke, I got to know him personally, and a real relationship was built. There was much laughter and growth in the desire to love each other and want to serve together.

You’ll also see fruit when your twosome becomes larger because of the desire to include others.

 

And also picking up on Gary Millar’s workshop on holiness as we see that magnified in someone we’re meeting. But what if it’s not working, what do you do?

Let’s be honest, sometimes we just don’t get along with some people. So self-examination is needed – working out whether it’s you or them that might be the stumbling point. And you might need to ‘break up’ then. It’s no failure on either part, but it’s realistic – so be open about it, ask for feedback from the other person, and see if you can deal with it in humour and love.

 

Some people among the crowd here have never seen this form of discipleship before – what can you say to those who haven’t seen this before and want to try it out?

One practical thing – introduce a bit more Christian talk in your everyday relationships and conversations. Talk about the sermon after the sermon – avoid criticising the sermon and maybe just look at that passage together. And then maybe just ask if someone is interested in meeting up! Take the baby steps that we’re comfortable with and keep pushing out. Meet up, talk about life, and as you catch up more talk about life and the bible.

 

‘If someone wanted to meet up with me I’m not sure my heart would be in it. I’m not sure I’m in a place to be able to handle it.’ What would you say?

Keep praying to God to soften your heart. And take the brave step to meeting up, even if just sometimes. There’s so many ways that God works in us to transform us, so find that small thing that can help us and go from there.

 

To Faith: you meet with girls, what do you do differently and why?

Everything I have in my notes Ben has already covered! A few additional remarks:

  • I don’t assume the person I’m meeting with knows the gospel. Just because someone grew up in church and is serving doesn’t mean they know the gospel. It’s very helpful to do ‘Just For Starters’ with people, because it helps you have a firm grip on the gospel.
  • It’s important to help people learn to read the bible for themselves – that’s why it’s important for the bible to be at the heart of what you do together. If God speaks to us and shapes our lives through his Word then we need to teach people to read it well – otherwise they won’t grow as a Christian.
  • I also focus on helping the person I’m meeting up with become someone who can meet up with others.
  • Modelling is a huge part of discipleship and meeting up – modelling a deep desire to read God’s word, modelling repentance (you both sit under the Word), open about struggles with sin, transparent about our lives. We’re not just teaching God’s Word to them we’re also modelling it in our lives.
  • Seek accountability – if you’ve been discipling people for a while, then it can be easy to hide behind your role as a discipler. You’re the helper, and that can mask self-reflection on your own life. It takes humility to have someone else disciple you.

Some distinctives:

  • When I meet with girls I try to show them godliness for a woman looks different to what godliness for a man does. For instance in Titus, Paul tells Titus that he has to teach things slightly differently depending on the gender of the people overseen. Titus teaches older men and younger men, but the instruction to older women is for them to teach the younger women.
  • Women are made differently from men, and the bible’s teaching on what a godly woman looks like is important to teach.

Final thoughts:

Discipleship might look differently as a single person versus a person with a family. Basic principle: as a single person the way you disciple and follow up people changes when you get married and have a family. I went from meeting with 10 people a week, to meeting a few people when married, to hardly meeting with anyone when the family came. As a parent I would sometimes get people over when the kids were in bed at night or during their nap time. But I was limited to 1-2 people a week – as my main ministry is to my children. But now that my kids are older and in school I have more time to meet with and disciple others.

 

Other Questions:

  • How do you get feedback from the person you’re meeting up with – especially with someone from an Asian culture? If you’ve built up a good honest relationship, then there’s a good chance that they will give you honest feedback. Your one-to-one relationship can build a different culture to the normal Asian culture that someone swims in. You’re always aiming to be as helpfully open as you can. And sometimes you need to be clear about asking and giving permission to someone to seek or give feedback.
  • In discipling someone to be a disciple maker, when can you tell someone is ready to do that? It depends on the context, if you have a mature church then you might hold someone back to build their confidence. If you’re in a less mature church then you might want more people out there sooner. Probably the big factor is whether someone can articulate the gospel well. If someone can communicate gospel truths well then that’s a good sign. I also train people in ‘Just For Starters’ and I’m pretty honest in feedback during my training – and if someone lacks an ability to be clear in communicating the points of one easy study then they will receive that feedback. If I can’t train someone I’ll try and make sure they have good guidance from leaders notes or other resources.
  • How can you help a church shape this sort of discipleship culture? Culture is hard to shape. You need people to shape it. Culture is an expression of what people are doing. You can shape it if you’re a Pastor – from top down. Otherwise focus on the people around you and shape them, and prayerfully that will expand to others.

 

[Steven: great little seminar on discipleship with some great nuggets of gold to chew on.]

Day 2 | Evening Talk | Steve Nation – Get Real (James 1:26-2:26)

A job title and what they do

Some job titles are hard to understand. What does an Occupational Therapist do?! Some job titles are clear. Pharmacist. Golf Ball Divers. Potato Chip Inspectors.

What does a Christian do?   

This is the question isn’t it…

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is (1:26-27)

What is religion that God approves of?

The word ‘religion’ is scary to some Christians. We tend to overplay the idea of ‘religion’ as a bad thing – since the word comes up with so many connotations of ‘doing stuff’. But James uses the word here.

The word ‘religion’ comes from a Latin word meaning ‘to bind’. Religion means being bound to something. Whatever it is that we are stuck to, bound to, or even addicted to, is our ‘religion’.

The gospel is the glorious message…    

… through the grace of Jesus Christ we have been delivered from sin and death and the wrath and judgement of God. But it’s also more than this. The gospel word – meaning good news – carries an announcement and declaration: calling for the response of submission.

Too often we declare Christianity as ‘Jesus is Saviour’ and miss that we should also add ‘Jesus is Saviour AND Lord’.

The context of James 2 seems to be that people have neglected the Kingship/Lordship of Christ. And if you have missed this message, that you don’t have to do anything, then James says in 1:26-27 that you are in danger of being deceived.

True religion is manifested in a lifestyle of obedience to God. What does God require?      

  1. keep a tight rein on your tongue (1:26)
    All about our speech – words matter to the Christian. God’s Words restore and build people up – and so must ours. (more tomorrow night)

  2. Looking after widows and orphans
    God in the OT is known as the Father of widows and orphans. The care of those who are hurting and in need of healing – the original word for hospitality did not translate to ‘cook well’ – but ‘hospice’. The place of rest. Hospitality is about providing a place of rest.

  3. To keep oneself from, being polluted by the world
    True religion is other-worldly because we are bound to someone who is completely other. Not to this world that would pollute us. We are bound to the Son who healed the sick and raised the dead, taught radical things, was crucified and resurrected – and in all was so other-worldly.

True religion has true God-centred ambitions.

Breaking the law of love (2:1-13)

Who will you approach, connect with, honour with your time?   

Christians are not to show favouritism – not to judge and favour on the ‘face’ – to discriminate unjustly. Favouritism is evil because it shares glory to those who don’t deserve it – there is only one who deserves glory. Gold rings, nice clothes, a big bank account, a nice car – are these things really worth comparing and sharing the glory of Jesus with?

And then compare the people – a wealthy, middle class person vs someone of lower class: who would be more likely to be welcomed in your church?

Verse 5 – A rhetorical question with the assumed answer of ‘yes’? BUT – is James saying that God prefers poor people to wealthy people? A: it’s not simply a money issue. Those who are most aware of their inadequacy, the poor in spirit, are those that God esteems and honours.

Consistent Christian conduct comes only from a consistently Christian heart and mind.

“Are we being more shaped by and drawn to political ideologies, than gospel realities; more gathered around social causes than the centrality of the cross and what it means for reconciliation between God and humans, and humans and humans” (Steve MacAlpine)

If we have been transformed by His compassionate love, then we are to live that way. When God says ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself’ then we have only two options in response: obedience or disobedience. To not love our neighbour, to favour someone over another, is to turn our backs on something so central to God’s ethics.

The test of Christian health: church attendance, accurate theology, experience of the Spirit’s gifts, involvement in evangelism…? There’s one that’s preeminent: love. 1 Cor 13: faith, hope and love remain, and the greatest of these is love.

Saving faith is proved through works (2:14-26)

Key verse: But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds (v.18)

What good is it to say we believe and do no good works? No good at all.

Verse 15 – is not about asking people for help, it’s about seeing people who need help. Being situationally aware of the needs.

Sometimes when we see needs and concerns we often ask, ‘Should we act… or share our faith?’

Three examples of faith:

  1. Demonic faith (v19)
    Intellectual belief is not enough – for even the demons believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

  2. The faith of Abraham (v21-24)
    Picking up from Genesis 22 – phenomenal faith from Abraham to obey God in this instance.

  3. The faith of Rahab (v25)
    Rahab in Joshua endangered her life by helping the spies.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead (v.26)

The shape of the Christian life will look different to different people. We’re not all called to be Amy Charmichael’s or Hudson Taylor’s and live in big ways they did. But we must find the ways in which we can be most faithful.

 

Implications / so what?

  1. Be encouraged
  2. Be warned – has your faith become mere profession? With no love for God, affection for others, and practical outworkings that is a problem. If you trust Jesus you’ll do what he says. Does the way you use your time say that you trust Jesus?
  3. Be active – who is your face to? There is always the danger in Chinese Churches or purely Caucausian/*insert class/race here* that you hang out with only like people. This passage is calling us to go, get out of our tight circles and seek to bless others.

How are your good works going?

Start small and then go big.

A $50 iTunes card is fine. Maybe it’ll be an encouragement to spend just as much to Compassion for the work they do. A meal out at a restaurant is a privilege. Maybe it’ll be an encouragement to spend the same amount for Tear and the work they do.

Think of your situational awareness – are we seeing the needs among us around us?

True saving faith will always result in a life of love. We can start small, but we are to go deep and wide with multiple acts of kindness in the name of Jesus bringing his Word when we can.

If we have been saved by grace to do good works then it’s worth asking each other, ‘How are your good works going?’

 

[Steven: Finishing on a bang again. I love those last lines – start small, go deep and wide. An achievable challenge, I would think.]

Ignite Training Conference 2017 | Day 1 [Live Blog]

 

We’re here again! This time at the Brisbane School of Theology – which means the comfort of my own bed and coffee machine! As per last year, I’ll be live blogging my way through the talks and select workshops. This year our morning speaker is BST Principal Richard Gibson. Our evening speaker is Pastor Steve Nation.

Day 1 | Morning Talk | Richard Gibson – Created (Psalm 139)

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23)

Warning: your heart at risk

The dangers of smoking are pretty obvious now on cigarette packets, thanks to the graphic warnings you can see on them. Especially the warnings about smoking’s risks on your heart.

Confronting

By exploring what the bible says about the heart we are exposing ourselves to risk. There is going to be an uneasy sense of being watched as we search the bible and what it says about the heart – as though there is someone watching us as we do so. There is also the firm words of the heart that are confronting, and they are unrelenting – just like the warnings on cigarette packages.

Cut

The first risk is that you will be cut to the heart this week. The very first sermon in the book of Acts left people cut to the heart. When Peter spoke in Acts 2 the response reported was that people heard and were cut to the heart. It’s a graphic picture of a painful experience – they were stabbed, pierced in the deepest parts of their hearts, to picture their remorse and regret at having done something terrible and messed up badly. The terrible realisation you get when you realise you have been completely wrong. As Peter spoke they realised they shared the guilt of the execution of Jesus – God’s Lord and King.

Today when we read the bible we expose ourselves to that same risk – the risk of being cut to the heart in the same way as Peter’s hearers. Of realising we’ve messed up and not only missed opportunities to honour God but also to flee from doing so. We read of a God who does not regard this fleeing as a trifling matter – but as a matter of life and death.

But we are better to take this risk rather than the alternative…

Hardened

The way to avoid the piercing, stabbing remorseful recognition of our wrong is by desensitizing our heart. We’re very capable of doing this. Our refusal might be gradual and incremental before it becomes a pattern. After a while our hearts harden so that when the bible seeks to cut our heart we can dodge it.

The risk this week is to fall to the temptation to be impervious to responding to God’s Word. The right response is wholehearted devotion and love.

When the crowd responded to Peter his first response was ‘Repent and be baptised…’ Getting cut to the heart opens up the possibility of repentance and forgiveness – there is  a way forward. No matter what sewage we find in our heart, if we allow God to cut our hearts there is an opportunity for repentance and forgiveness. If we harden our hearts then we will miss the chance for change.

 

Biblical Cardiology

Chaotic anthropology

The bible generally doesn’t have positive words about the state and health of our heart. From Proverbs to Jeremiah to Jesus himself.

The bible speaks of the chaos of the way that we are constituted. There are many terms that overlap and make this a tricky topic to wade through. What function does the heart have – and how it differs from the mind, how it correlates to the soul, the role of the bowels/kidneys, where I think and experience emotion, where I plan and do things, receive a whole range of different answers – and the heart plays a very big role.

 

Multi-function centre

The bible’s teaching on this topic doesn’t give us a precision that we would like. What we discover is what a flexible organ that it is. The essence and core of us as human beings.

It is both the place where evil thoughts come from; where we consider and perceive the message of the kingdom; where evil overflows from and forms destructive words; where people speak to themselves and have an internal dialogue; where a man commits adultery; where we forgive people from; where we love God from; where we keep our treasured possessions – and all of this just from the Gospel of Matthew!

Strikingly there is no correlation between the ‘heart’ and romantic affections! In our culture the heart is all about feelings and romance – not so in the bible. There is also no strong correlation between emotions and the heart – and while emotions are located in the heart, they are also located in the mind as well.

 

Holism of the heart

The heart becomes a way of describing our wholeness – our totality. The bible expresses the heart as something of our essential selves, our core. The bible doesn’t drive a strong wedge between our body and our heart – between the internal world and our external presence. The heart is a way of picturing and capturing the inner reality – and therefore resists the compartmentalism of modern scientific approaches. We are a complex product of a whole range of functions, unified as an individual person. This is how God has made us, addresses us, and how he calls us to respond to him.

 

‘The hidden person of the heart’ 1 Peter 3:4

Lips vs heart

Peter focusing in 1 Peter 3 on the adornment of women – rather than focus on the external beauty, focus on the internal beauty of godliness. Focusing in on the expression ‘your inner self’ (NIV) – lit: the hidden person of the heart (ESV translation FTW!)

God looks upon the heart – this is where God esteems a person. This is the reality that we need to be cultivating and focusing upon.

This tension between external and internal is littered throughout the bible. The image of ‘Lips’ often focuses on the external – how you present yourself. The ‘heart’ is often focused on the internal. eg – Jesus speaking of the Pharisees who give ‘lip service’ to God, but their ‘hearts’ are far from me (ie. God). This is confronting stuff – it’s possible to mouth orthodox theology, lead people in public prayer, lead in public praise, go through the posture of deep worship, and yet have hearts that are a million miles away.

The bible keeps pushing us to consider this gulf that can appear between our ‘lips’ and our ‘hearts’.

 

External vs internal

Mark 7 – the Pharisees had an emphasis on external washing and what they ate. Jesus’ response was that it was not what went into a person that made them unclean – it’s not your physically dirty hands that contaminate your relationship with God, it’s what comes out of your heart that contaminates you.

 

Superficial vs deep

Psalm 64 – the wicked search out injustice, saying they have accomplished a diligent search – but have failed to look at the deep inward heart of men.

 

Whole-hearted devotion

‘He who set his heart…’ Deuteronomy 10:12-16

God sets his heart – there is a mutuality here. That God sets his heart means that his people must render their hearts to Him in obedience and devotion.

 

‘… requires of his people’ Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27

Jesus emphasises this also when he calls on people to love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul. The God who has redeemed us will not settle for half-hearted commitment. He will not settle for less. You were made for a relationship for Him – of lips, heart, and every aspect of your being.

 

‘He who searches the heart’

God is known as one who searches the heart – it’s one of his names.

Searches – Jeremiah 17:10; Romans 8:27; Revelation 2:23

Tests – Psalm 7:9; Proverbs 24:12; Jeremiah 11:20

Knows – 1 Kings 8:39; Acts 1:24, 15:8; Luke 16:15

When Solomon speaks of God ‘knowing’ us it qualifies him to judge our hearts. People will get what they deserve at the Judgement because he knows all that is in their hearts.

 

Exposed in order to enter life – Psalm 139

This intimate knowledge of God is an invitation to know Him and to be known by Him. An invitation to live in his presence fully aware that he knows me better than I know myself.

This is the great challenge of human existence – the recognition that we are an open book before God. We are like cockroaches – when the light hits we run off into the dark. But in God’s light there is no refuge from His light. You are an open book.

When you’re playing ‘peek-a-boo’ with a child under 2 they will think that covering their eyes means you can’t see them – since they can’t see you. It’s an out of touch absurd reality – but understandable for 2 year olds. But adults keep playing this absurd game with God. We think we can bury things in our hearts that God cannot see. Even if there is a gulf between how we are acting and what we are thinking we think we can get away with it – as long as other people don’t know we’re fine.

Psalm 139 gives us a model response to God knowing us.

 

Extraordinary knowledge, beyond me (1-6)

David, the author, had some terrible dirty secrets. But he came to term with the reality that God knows him intimately and lived in response to that light. Knowing that God is his creator that God is entitled to know all these intimate details. Rather than being terrified and intimidated by being known like this he embraces it.
Nowhere to hide (7-12)

 

There is nowhere to flee from the presence of God. There is no dark enough place to hide you from God. David is someone who has given up the childish game of hide and seek – he embraces the knowingness of God as a wonderful truth.

 

Fearfully and wonderfully made (13-18)

David acknowledges that because God built him cell by cell, and remains sovereign over his existence, and the more David reflects on this the more precious God becomes to him. It is a wonder that God knows him so intimately.

 

Your enemies are mine (19-22)

David’s identification with God means he hates what God hates.

 

Expose my offence to me (23-24)

Make these verses our encouragement this week – the prayer we bring to God as we reflect on the nature of our heart and our relationship with him. David wants to be known, and wants to know and experience real life in all its depth – and real life in all its depth is lived in relationship with God where we recognise and acknowledge that there is nothing hidden from him in every aspect of us as people.

 

Searched in order to be known – 1 Corinthians 2:9-13

The deep places of God

God’s Spirit searches the living God – searches His deepest places, and then reveals to us what we need to know about the Living God in order to be in relationship with Him. It’s what makes scripture so wondrous – as it gives us everything we need to be known by God and in relationship with Him!

The searching Spirit

Search me, O God, and know my heart!

‘And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.’ Romans 8:27

David counted as infinitely precious to be intimately known by God, and that God in his great purposes revealed himself to be known by David. God pierced David’s heart in order to do this. And this will be the challenge fo this week – in the storehouse of our heart we must bring out our most treasured idols and repent of them: because we want to know the living God with all of our being – head, heart and soul.

[Steven: What a ripping start to the conference – setting the tone of everything to follow this week: to know God and be known by Him requires a naked openness – are we willing?]

Day 1 | Workshop | Gary Millar – Holiness from the Heart

Gary is giving some book plugs (Steven: on my behalf – thanks Gary!), and in plugging ‘The Valley of Vision’ he makes a salient comment: we need to read books like Valley of Vision because we need voices from the past to reveal blind spots in our present. Each generation has blind spots in their faith, and a previous generation’s voice can reveal them much clearer. (Steven: there are two copies available for $15, and a couple of CD’s of the songs for $10!)

 

What does God ask for us?

He wants us to be Christlike, godly, wise, mature, strong (in weakness). These are all big categories, global categories, that the NT uses. And they all roughly talk about the same thing: the basic thing that God wants for all of us.

Holiness is like these big categories – summing up what God wants for his people.

Be holy, for I am holy.

Leviticus 11:44, 19:2, 20:26, 21:8

God saying to his people, ‘Here is what it means to be my people.’ This phrase, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ is basically a summary of the whole book of Leviticus. God paints a picture of holiness – though it’s a word picture very unfamiliar and strange to us.

Tip: for reading through Leviticus keep taking in the big picture – stand back and look at the effect of what is being said rather than get bogged down in the meaning of the details. The big picture: this is what it looks like to follow a holy God.

Problem: God says you can live with me if you are holy… but we can’t pull that off!

What does this picture of holiness look like?

  1. Separateness
  2. Morally pure
  3. Belonging to God

To be pure and His.

God demands that we are holy.

When the NT writers come to this command in Leviticus they basically repeat it. In the NT God is still committed to the idea of his people being holy. Both Paul and Peter naturally operate with this idea that holiness is what God asks of us – the end goal of God’s work in our lives.

Ephesians 1:4, 2:21, 5:27 – Paul alludes to Leviticus and holiness a fair bit in these passages

1 Peter 1:15, 2:5 – Peter is more obvious, he just quotes Leviticus directly.

This is not rocket science, it’s unavoidable.

 

Big Question: how can we pull this off?

In Leviticus God calls his people to holiness – but through the OT they fail and mess it up heaps. So when Paul and Peter repeat these commands they can do so because something radical has changed in God’s people. What is the radical change? It is not effort – for that ends in legalism. It’s not through ditching the commands in general (ie antinomianism). The key is thinking through what God asks of us and what resources he gives us to do it.

If I say I can keep God’s laws properly I’m deluded and I forsake what God has done to forgive me and make possible to follow him. If I say that it’s far too hard and not even try to do that – I’m selling God short by saying he is not going to provide us with the resources to do it. Whether we are rule keepers or breakers the basic problem is the same: we don’t take God at his word, and we don’t need the gospel.

How do we think biblically about holiness?

  1. Union with Christ
    In the NT the phrase ‘in Christ’ helps us understand a lot of what it means to be a Christian. Eph 1:3-15 has a lot of ‘in Christ/Him’ and it is central to understanding what is being said in that glorious opening chapter. Long before there is a discussion of what a Christian is there is heaps of discussion of being ‘in Christ’.

It is union with Christ that makes us ‘positionally’ (or ‘definitively’) holy. This is why Paul routinely addresses Christians as saints. So we can say definitively that we are ‘holy’ – even though that is not a description we would normally use of ourselves because of the guilt of our sins. But, because we are ‘in Christ’ we are holy.

  • Faith in Christ
    How does God bring us into Christ? By awakening FAITH in us by the Holy Spirit through the gospel. Faith is what brings us into Christian salvation, and it is why carries us dynamically through the Christian walk.

 

In a lot of ways our churches (or at least our church circles) don’t talk too much about faith. Possibly because the prosperity gospel has pushed the idea of ‘faith’ too far, so we’re afraid to be associated with this. But the bible speaks of faith as all conquering – 1 John 5:4 – And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. That’s a verse in our bibles!

  • Transformation in Christ (Steven: sorry – got caught up in listening to this point rather than typing!) And as we live in Jesus, by faith in Him, we will be transformed by Him. A gradual and real transformation, looking forward to total and complete transformation when Jesus returns.

 

The nature of change is really important to grapple with – what are we expecting? Holiness may feel like it operates like a ladder – ie really holy people were at the top of the ladder. But to think of it this way is really unhelpful. Holiness is realising we are in Christ and trusting in Christ, and constantly growing in our awareness of how much we need Christ.

This is a pattern throughout the NT.

We can expect to grow in holiness not because we are great but because Christ is. And we grow more in holiness the greater Christ grows in our lives. Holiness is essentially living in Christ – it’s just what we do. It’s the product of living by faith.

The Marks of Holiness

  1. Love
    Holiness is to be as God is – and God is love. HOliness is appreciating who we are in Jesus, how we’ve been accepted, how our transformation in under way and guaranteed – Jesus says that the way this continues is by loving other people. You can’t be holy without being loving.
  2. Evangelism
    1 Peter 2 – when Peter says you are a holy nation you then proclaim Jesus’ greatness to the world. Evangelism is what you do when you are holy. Israel was set up to be a light to the nations.
  3. Repentance
    To be a Christian is to live a life of repentance – every day we should be able to ask each other, ‘What are you repenting of… just now?’ We drop the ball when we don’t ask that question. If I am not aware of my sinfulness then I am not a pleasure to be around (!).

See Revelation 2-3 – Jesus speaking to the churches and calling them to repent.

  • Suffering
    To be holy is to suffer. Suffering is the normal Christian life. The question is when and where we will suffer for Christ, not if. Living authentically as people joined to Christ is not welcomed in our world.
  • Joy
    Note – these marks are not individual, as though we can choose them. But they are all a package together. Joy is often seen as not a part of holiness – happiness and delight. But God is forever telling people to rejoice and delight in Him. The NT says the same thing also (see Philippians 4:4).
  • Hope
    Holiness leads to hope.

 

So how should we live? As people who are holy in Christ who live holy lives by faith and are growing in holiness as the Spirit applies the gospel to our lives. The holy life is a matter of loving, proclaiming, repenting, suffering, delighting and hoping.

How does God do all this? Through the gospel as the Spirit works in us.

So what should we do?

We could grit our teeth and say, ‘I should be more holy…’ But that won’t work.

So:

  1. Do everything in our power to remember who we are. The first thing you do when you get out of bed is remind yourself of who you are in the Lord Jesus. Get out of bed and read your bible – even if you’ re not a morning person :P There’s no command to do this, but it’s stupid if you don’t. Do what it takes – get yourself out of bed, take a cold shower, have a strong cup of coffee – and run to the word to remind ourselves through the Gospel of who we are in Jesus.This is why we gather together as people in church. That’s why we have communion. That’s why Luther told people to go back to their baptism when they had sinned and stuffed up – to remind ourselves of who we are in Jesus.Now there can be a legalism with reading the bible and quiet time. But the solution is not to not read the bible! Keep soaking ourselves in scripture.
  2. We will love because we are loved. Speaks for itself.
  3. We will speak because God has spoken. St Francis of Assissi never said, ‘Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words.’ Not only because he never said it, but also because it’s a stupid idea. The gospel needs words to be said. The holy life involves communicating something of the reason why we are living a holy life – and what we communicate is the gospel.
  4. We will die to self. Because we are in Christ the old self has been crucified, killed off and eradicated.
  5. We will expect to suffer for Christ wherever we are. And yet…
  6. We will enjoy Christ in the mess of life. Christians are to be the most happiest people in this world.
  7. We will live in the light of eternity. We live for the delight of living the new creation forever with the Son, Father and Spirit.

This is what it means to be holy. It’s not God saying, ‘Here is the spiritual ladder of superiority – climb it and wave to the plebs below.’ Holiness is no compartment of our lives – it’s what it means to be a follower of Jesus, to be those who have been joined with Jesus by faith.

Final tip:

  • Take our sin seriously. Our tendency is always to take our sinfulness too lightly. Some of us are prone to self-pity – and we’ll spend way too long looking at our sin. Either way, we need to keep moving to the Cross. We need to spend appropriate time on our sinfulness (either more if we don’t do it enough, or less if we spend too long on our sin), and move towards the Cross. Movement towards Jesus is the key.

[Steven: I love Gary. He’s one of my favourite teachers, because he makes things so clear and helpful, and he points constantly to Jesus. If you can get a hold of the recording of this workshop please do so – it’s worth it. Some hard words, but strong encouragements that holiness can be striven for… and should be.]

Day 1 | Evening Talk | Steve Nation – Living the Joined-Up Life? (James 1:1-18)

“I want to guarantee that betrayal never, ever happens again”.

The words of a husband. A married woman who commits adultery, convicted of her sin, repents before God and confesses before her husband. After a short time of indecision they decide to rebuild their marriage – it’s hard, but they stick at at it and they persevere. After 8 months the husband is suspicious, the wife feels under surveillance – they are shocked by it. The husband is wondering what’s going on – he desires that the infidelity would not happen again, but that meant he would continually evaluate and judge his wife’s actions and behaviour, becoming controlling rather than loving.

Some things bring out the best in us, and some things bring out bad.

The big questions: Why do certain things bring out good or bad responses? If another person violates me, how will I respond?

  1. Will I forgive or be filled with wrath? (the issue of rage)
  2. Where will I take refuge in times of uncertainty? (the issue of escapism)
  3. Is there a basis in which to have courage in the face of evil – around us and done to us, and within us? (the issue of despair)
  4. What will it mean to have hope?  Where does hope come from? (the issue of fear)

James in his letter answers these sorts of questions.

James and Jesus

  • James the younger brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3)
  • James an unbeliever (John 7:5)
  • James believes his brother is the Messiah – even prays to Him (Acts 1:14, James 1:1)
  • James the pastor of the Jerusalem Church (Acts 15:13) – his role in the Jerusalem church is big.
  • James a slave of Jesus (James 1:1) – James calls himself a slave of his brother, this really is an odd thing among brothers! Ain’t no blood brothers going to call each other divine and willingly call themselves slaves of their brother. As much as this is a problem for earthly brothers, not so for James. And that’s a profound thing.

James had faithfully seen his brother’s ministry, and then he took on a massive role as ‘senior pastor’ of the Jerusalem church.

Consider trials pure joy! (James 1:1-2)

James is writing to the twelve tribes of the Dispersion – a group of believers who have been banished from their home lands. James knows the shame of being in the family of Jesus and the same of being a disciple of Jesus. He also knows the pressure of living for Jesus as his disciple.

He starts the letter with ‘Greetings’ which is more than ‘hello’ – it’s more like ‘Be glad!’ A big start to the letter.

He writes to brothers and sisters in Christ, bonded together in the family of God.

Then he writes something completely weird… he says, ‘Count it joy, rejoice, be glad and happy, when you go through trials of various kinds…’ What the?! No wonder some people think that the bible is nuts. We live to avoid trials – that’s why we diet, we exercise, we get insurance (so we get support when we get sick to pay the bills), that’s why our parents work hard to give us the life we have so we won’t have to go through the same. Whatever the trials are – exams, depression, exhaustion, every kinds of trial (a wide net cast so we can find our trials in here) – and when we experience them (not if, but when – for we cannot escape them) – we rejoice.

Why? Not because the trials are a fun thing to experience. Suffering and evil and trials are not inherently good in of themselves – we are not to be trial hunters. And there is always pain and grief in trials – James is not saying all trials are pure joy. But that joy should be an undercurrent of these trials. Why? Because it produces something else far better than the trial itself.

Perseverance is called for because the end goal is worth it. Perseverance is not generally something our world encourages – move, shift, get around something for your growth. But in scripture perseverance through the difficult is what will cause growth.

Verse 4 – the benefits of perseverance comes to believers who respond in the right way. If you respond with perseverance through trials then it has it’s full effect: a person moving towards perfection and completion, lacking in nothing.

Do we see suffering as something to be avoided, or something to convert you? Something to destroy you, or something to remake you?

Wisdom for trials (1:5-8)

Wisdom is a key theme in the book of James. Wisdom is clarity on how to live life well in God’s world. Wisdom is a life harmonised with reality. All of life – the joined-up life – joined-up with God, living to the glory of God the Father.

What should we do if we lack wisdom? Ask God – why? Because God is the God who gives generously without finding fault. Imagine a scenario: you are part of a company think tank, coming up with a plan to move the company forward. The company is Microsoft, and Bill Gates is there at each meeting. You meet together, you come up with ideas, but you fail to ask for his help and resources, and head off to do your thing to try and improve things. This makes no sense. And yet we do this often with our Father in heaven.

We do not have the skills on our own to do ministry and life. We need God.

The little brother of Jesus rewords what his big brother said, ‘Ask and it will be given you.’ But he also says to not doubt when asking. Not the occasional struggle or doubt – it’s a specific, dishonest, cowardly doubt. It’s the doubt that says God can’t do something, or I don’t need him to do something. To keep your mind perpetually closed to God. In the end this is foolishness.

This sort of person should not expect anything from the Lord.

The trials of blessing and curses (1:9-11)

We often have our eyes on externals, on the things outside of us. In trial we moan, whinge, seek sympathy, we get jealous and active to fix things. We have excuses when we go through trials: I would be a nicer person if you didn’t treat me like this; I act this way because I grew up in a dysfunctional family; I have gone through pain and have been abused by someone and so I act for myself; I had a hard day and you caught me at a low point; I have unmet needs, my dad didn’t love me when I grew up, so I need to find someone who can fill up what I need; I’m tired and didn’t sleep enough.

And yet James speaks of a perfection and wholeness that ripples through the whole of life. But we say, ‘But.. but… but…’ and instead of being joyful we find comfort in stuff, instead of being obedient we make up excuses.

The end of trials (James 1:12)

 

The heart and trials (James 1:13-15)

In verse 13 the word ‘temptation’ is the same as the word in v2 translated ‘trials’.

When we go through trials we often go to blame shifting – even blaming God for them. Verse 14 reminds us that it’s our own fault when these things happen. The imagery of fishing – of being baited and taking the hook is kinda what is going on here.

Why do certain things bring out certain responses? When you shake a bottle what comes out? Whatever is already in there. Our circumstances don’t make us who we are – our circumstances reveal who we are. Sin is not inserted by experience, suffering or the Devil – as though they are determinative. They are influential but not determinative.

How can we tell what our desires are? By our fruits. By our fruit we can see the root of our desires. They come forth and others will see and experience this fruit. Verse 15 – desire leads to sin. In any moment we will see what’s really in our hearts.

This passage is leading us to wholeness, wisdom, and perfection. And we get to wholeness, wisdom and perfection through trials.

 

Implications

Wisdom is the key here: where do we get it?

Trials of many kinds

We need a proper lens when we see trials. When you look at the cross with a narrow lens it is a horrific incident in history. When you look at the cross with a wide lens then you’ll see it’s saving beauty. This is what we will see often in our own lives. And if we have the proper God-sized and God-shaped-perspective lens it will make sense.

Trials show us what we lean on. They smoke out what we are living for. They bring us to the end of ourselves and show us who we really are.

I don’t want to say ‘bring it’ to trials… but I do because I know the end result… but I still don’t want to say it as well. In the end we need to say to God, ‘Whatever it takes…’ We hunger for control, love simple answers to questions – but trials help us long for something better.

How are we responding to the trials of this life? How do we respond to the passions and sins in our lives? Do we ask God to do whatever it takes to work in me, so that I will experience your joy and glory forevermore?

Trials as gifts of grace (John Newton)

  • Maybe a bad thing in our life is actually a good thing.
  • To show us our idols     
  • To bring us to the end of ourselves and take us to a place we could never imagine    
  • Trials are about God liberating me from me, and maybe you from you.
  • The worst thing – the death of the Messiah, is actually the best thing – the death of the Messiah.     
  • Eyes to see and hearts that are responsive

 

[Steven: Our response to trials reveals what’s deep in our hearts. What a brilliant encouragement and challenge: are we willing to ask God to do whatever it takes to make us whole, expose our hearts, and bring us to Him?]