I thought I’d do a daily live blog rather than try to fill up one post! That would be far too long. So, day 2, here we go!
Day 2 | Talk 2 | Mark Baddeley | God’s Powerful Word
It can be a bit odd to talk about the power of the Word of God. Whenever we talk about the Word of God we often talk about its truth first and foremost. And when we do this we often think that the power of God comes externally to the Word itself – from ourselves, or from an anointing of the Spirit.
When you think about it our own words are like this – they don’t tend to carry much power. Say ‘Let there be light’ and nothing will happen. Get up and turn on the light switch and then there will be light. Our words inherently don’t have much power unless they are acted upon externally.
Scripture talks of itself as truth, but also as power. For instance in Romans the gospel word is the ‘power of God’ for salvation. In Colossae the gospel has power to spread, increase and grow – like it has legs! Or even the parable of the sower – in the final good soil there are no barriers to growth and there is amazing growth. Normal preaching and application focuses on the soil – be the right soil for growth. But don’t miss the power of life in the passage – the soil is inactive, the seed (the word of God) is the active one which grows. The soil’s job is to make sure it’s the right one, and then be acted upon by the Word.
So why does the bible speak of the Word of God in this characteristic way?
A Word that changes reality
- A Word that creates
Why does anything exist at all – why is there reality? Because God spoke words – and the things he spoke about came into existence. The things he did not speak of did not come into existence. And it’s not simply the case that God speaks into existence and then is self-sustaining. God’s Word continues to shape and sustain – Psalm 29 makes this point.
In Psalm 29 when God’s Word speaks the mighty cedars snap like match sticks, forests flatten, countries skip and shudder. This is the power of the Word of God – it is like an atomic bomb going off, it is that powerful.
As we watch Jesus’ miracles – over illness, death, storms, producing food – when we watch Jesus do these he does them primarily by speaking a word. When Jesus wants to change reality around him he speaks and reality bends its knee – what he says comes into existence.
Do we see the Word of God this way – that we are handling something with explosive power?
- A Word that changes history
Time and time again history takes its course and when the Word of God enters in it takes a whole new track.
In Genesis 3 people get moved from the garden, access to the tree is cut off, the snake remains a belly dweller. In Genesis 4 God’s word to Cain shapes history. In Moses’ commission God’s people are delivered and Egypt is smashed. In the book of Judges when a judge is raised up by a word it changes and shapes the history of that region. In the books of Samuel and Kings – The Word of God raises up King Saul, tears him down, anoints David, judges David, shifts his history and the life of the nation. In Jeremiah God’s words are put into his mouth – and with this is power over kingdoms and nations, the power to tear down, the power to judge – does this power come from Angels or demons? No, the power just comes from his speaking. As Jeremiah speaks his bleak and depressing words it shapes the reality around him.
This creative power that brings into existences that it deigns, that even human history is changed when the word of God enters in.
In our bible study groups, or at church, does this sense change our view of it? When we open the bible we are going to be changing human lives and shifting history.
- A Word that determines people’s fate:
The word that comes in judgement determines the fate of the people who hear it. Kingdoms and dynasties are ended, peoples lives are put to an end, languages are confused for all-time, an entire world perishes and is destroyed by water, on the last day people are consigned to a second death for all time – and all of this done by God speaking.
The word of judgement doesn’t just describe what will happen – it brings it into existence. It has that kind of power.
And on the flipside, the same word that has the power to judge is also the power of God to save. It may seem weak and foolish, but it is God’s power. Heaven and earth are changed for people when they hear the gospel – keep that in mind as we evangelise!
Death is changed into life – like with Lazarus – by the speaking of a word. Ezekiel sees a valley of dry bones which are transformed into flesh, how? By speaking a word. The word of God can do what is unimaginable. Israel is in slavery to the most formidable power in the world (Egypt), and God needs only speak to a man from a burning bush and their deliverance is put into action.
When we say to people ‘trust in Jesus and you will be forgiven’ something earth shattering and reality altering has happened.
When you listen to a sermon where does the power lie in the sermon? In the preaching gift of the preacher? In his preparation, in his personal walk, in his zeal, in an anointing? The power lies that if they are doing the job of speaking God’s word then the power is in the word of God. The power is not in the performance, it is in what is being delivered (which is dynamite): the word of God which changes reality as it comes into existence.
What about the bible reading in our church? Our bible reading roster is often done by various people – and isn’t really great. When we hear it we often think that we need the preacher to make the word clear for us because the person reading it was flat. By if the Word of God is the place where God is working, and is thoroughly powerful, then our public reading needs to match that.
A Word that addresses human beings
- A Word with authority
The Word doesn’t just address reality ‘out there’ – it speaks to us.
In creation God not only speaks humans into being, God speaks to human beings. He speaks to his people in the 10 commandments. Or from Deutereonomy, Moses goes at great length to say that when the nation was at Mt Sinai they never saw any physical form of God – they heard a voice telling them how they should live. So what is the basis for how you should live going forward? The word of God – so don’t try to form an image of God, don’t try and look for something, listen to the voice.
Relationship with God is determined by our ears. We listen, we pay attention, we hold it close.
Blink and you may often miss these promises littered through scripture. When God commits himself to do something – not just any old thing – invariably the promises have to do with salvation, of eternal life, of overturning the curses of Genesis 3.
Sometimes what he promises happens immediately. Often they are future oriented, and at some point he always keeps the promise.
A lot of the laws are these types of word. Here the words are not about what God is committing to do, but his words committing us to do something.
The commands form the standard by which he judges us. He compares what he says how we should live, and how we have lived, and compares the two.
He tells us things about the world, things he is doing in the world and what he will do in the world – so that we understand his work.
For instance, the first bit of the 10 commandments are instruction – telling them what God has done for them to save them.
So much of the bible is given to instruction. In history, in prophecy, in letters of what God has done – it’s heavy emphasis is on God’s view of reality. And all done so that we have all we need to know to understand what God is instructing us.
The word’s impact on us is not the same as the word’s impact on nature in Psalm 29. It speaks at us, and to us, and take their effect if they are received by faith. If we trust the promises, if we trust the One who gives the promises. Faith is needed to receive the things that God promises.
The way we respond to the authorities and commands is that we do what they say. The way we respond to the instructions is to believe.
The Word of God doesn’t just speak at creation or at reality – it speaks to you, and to me. It creates the relationship between Us and God as the promises are made and kept. It governs the relationship between Us and God as we obey his commands. It secures our relationship between Us and God as it instructs us. It works, it does, and it accomplishes. It saves and it changes. It speaks to us not just with power but with authority – an authority which must be received, responded to and embraced.
The Word of God is central to the way we relate to God.
What does it look like in our life for the Word of God to have this kind of power at work?
Example: Jesus in the temptation in the wilderness – the first temptation from Satan is to use the word of God to provide for himself. Use the word of God in a way that you shouldn’t to provide for yourself. Jesus responds ‘The Word of God’ is more important than bread. The Word of God trumps his own needs as a human being – because he realises how powerful and important it is.
Example: Psalm 119 – your Word is more important than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. Australians love making more money – we love our lifestyle. The Psalmist says I’d rather be poor and have the word of God than pursue money and not have it.
Is the Word of God having this powerful shaping effect on our lives?
Finally, be encouraged that the word of God has this sort of power! Christian living is not done by self-motivation, but in trusting the powerful word of God. It’s capable of changing and transforming us. It’s not just on us alone to change – we have access to this powerful word that changes reality. He works through his word, and the word does so much.
[Another stunning talk. The Word of God is astonishingly powerful. Thoroughly astonishing.]
Day 2 | Workshop 2 | Steve Nation | Reading the Bible with Heart and Mind
What we often do is we have a disconnect between our hearts and minds when it comes to reading the bible. If we start the year enthusiastically reading through the bible we may come to a grinding halt around Easter when we hit Leviticus, or a bit later in April/May when we hit Chronicles and the list of names.
Sometimes our growth is just mental only – lots of head knowledge and no heart or love.
Are we doomed to only reading the bible like this?
Coming to Ignite we learn these skills:
Ignite strands 1-3: What does it say? Where does it fit into the immediate context? Where does it fit into the big picture? What does it mean – for the original reader? How does it lead to Jesus, or flow from Jesus? What does it mean for us today?
This is vital, and so important – but is it everything?
One of the main DANGERs: we become theologically sharp, Biblically astute idolators who live and love badly
You can come a conference like this, learn heaps, and still be an idolater. You can hear and learn and still live for self – an incredible danger for any believe.
Reading the Bible with Heart and Mind
“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:28-30)
- The Heart
- Why is it important? Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 15:8, 18-20
The heart is the moral centre of the person, where the sense of identity, sense of self, core being, the real you lies. There is a distinct overlap between heart, soul and spirit.
Proverbs – the heart is the well spring of life. If your heart is bad, if your identity and self-understand is from a bad place, then out of your heart will come badness. Jesus says that out of the centre of your heart, the real you, is what shapes why and what you do.
- The Mind
- What is the mind?
- Why is it important? John 15:15.
The mind is the control centre of our worldview which overflows into our values and behaviour. This is important to know because in John 15 Jesus says God has revealed things to you so that you are no longer a slave or enemy, but a friend. Because of what Jesus has revealed he can shape our worldview – transformation of our mind (and heart) is possible because of the gospel.
Reading the bible with head and heart means engaging with the words, and letting those words engage and transform us.
But there’s another DANGER: are we living as a pipe or as a reservoir?
Living as a pipe – everything that you take in dissipates – everything you learn goes into other people. Scripture pictures our lives as a reservoir – an overflowing reservoir. Are you someone so full of scripture that it overflows to others?
Finding our place in the story
Real change, at a heart level, happens when we ‘inhabit’ the life of the text, in such a way, that we gain clarity and direction towards God, people, ourselves, life – and carry this with us.
What God does through His redemptive words?
- Confirm our identity as the chosen people of God (saints)
- Console and comfort His afflicted people (sufferers)
- Confront the ways we turn away from His character and redemptive work (sinners)
A final DANGER: we give up too early. We expect quick change, quick affections – but God is gracious, and most often works slowly (or else we’d probably explode)
How do you read the Bible?
Whether we read a paragraph a day, or a chapter, or ten chapters, or follow a plan, or read one book repetitively for a period – we need to get into it. Letting ourselves be filled – head and heart – to overflowing.
Daily, how can we approach the Bible for the good of our heads and hearts:
- We can’t read the Scripture like an attorney reads a will – merely to know the sense of it, and catch its argument. We need to read the Scriptures like an heir – to hear the voice of a loved one describing our inheritance. This means we must read with anticipation – to know the One who loves us so much, that He died for us, to give us an inheritance that will never spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:3-9).
- We don’t read the Bible for fun and giggles, or listen to a preacher to simply critique them. We listen to hear the Word of God, to behold His glorious character, to sense His goodness, to renew our strength, to be conformed more and more into the image of Jesus.
- And we read it to be instructed by our Maker and Master and be filled with heavenly wisdom, and thereby qualified to judge, speak, and act in Christ-like character, in all the relations and occasions of life.
 This is an edited summary from a letter by John Newton to a Christian friend (entitled “The Blessedness of the Believer”), Letters of John Newton, Banner of Truth Trust, p.147
[A passionate and personal workshop from Steve Nation. Our brokenness is probably no more apparent than in how we approach God’s Word. Praise God for his grace, and pray that God would help His word fill and overflow in our heads and hearts.]
Day 2 | Evening Talk 2 | Richard Gibson | Our Ideal Representative [Hebrews 2:5-18]
Which side of the line?
The author is constructing a bridge to the living God of the universe. Jesus secures the bridge at both ends. Jesus secures the best access to God possible. Tonight we’ll see how he best represents us to God. And it is this bridge allows us to come into the very presence of God.
The early church dealt with this question as well – how do we handle the nature of the incarnation, how do we understand how Jesus builds the bridge.
One mistake made is ‘adoptionism’ – Jesus started out as truly human like us, he excelled in righteousness and spirituality so God adopted him into godness. Jesus therefore ceases to be the exact imprint of God’s nature – the bridge is not fixed at the God end. A human Jesus taken up into godness won’t take you into the presence of God.
Another mistake is ‘apollinarianism’ – Jesus had a human body but his whole soul was divine. The God part of Jesus took over his soul and spirit and left behind a human body. Gregory of Nazianzus figured that this wrong – if Jesus didn’t take on a human soul then he can’t fix the human soul.
“We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”
Joni Mitchel reference – her song from Woodstock about the problems in our world. A frank admission that we have messed this world up, and working out how we can try to get back to the pristine garden. But the song was a purely human effort to try and fix it.
The status of humanity (2:5-9)
In chapter 1 the perspective of Jesus was a divine perspective. In chapter 2 the perspective shifts to the other end, to a human end of the bridge.
Psalm 8 is quoted here – that God has taken an interest in humanity. The author’s interest in going here is because there is also a mention of angels, and there’s an interest in placing everything in subjection to someone.
In chapter 1 the angels dominated the discussion. Psalm 8 shifts the whole discussion away from heavenly beings to earthly beings.
Ruler of everything
The astonishing thing about this Psalm is that the psalmist says that the God of the universe who made and created everything is interested and focused on humanity. Humanity stands at the very center of the purposes and intentions of the creator of the universe. This places man in a place of extraordinary honour and importance.
The angels form a dividing line between the divine and the human. The psalmist is saying that of all of God’s creation God chose humans to rule over the universe. We are at the top of the pile (just below angels) and are given the job of ruling.
But is this the picture that we see of humanity now – rulers over everything? Not at all. We live in a broken world and increasingly we see how powerless we are. Our original status and vocation is no longer the picture – and while it’s not completely obscured it is not as it should be.
Jesus the true human
The author of Hebrews then moves to Jesus – he sees one human who is fulfilling the vocation of humanity, someone who lived as the true human being, someone who has had everything placed under his dominion and rule.
And he came to live as the true human being to restore us back to the heavenly place. His short time with us was long enough time to identify with us fully. Jesus moved across the boundary line, from divine to past the angels and came down to human level. And because of the life he lived and death he died he has restored true humanity.
In his resurrection and ascension he takes humanity back to the right hand of God with him.
Identifying to death
Nothing is spared to identify with our existence and experience.
The restoration of humanity (2:10-13)
Taking us with him
And the incredible thing is that he has come to take us with him. The eternal son of God came for us, to take us back with him, to share in the eternal glory of the father that he shared for eternity.
Unashamed to call us family
Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters and take us with him into the presence of the father.
The author quotes Psalm 22:25 to make the point that when Jesus goes out to win the victory over death he comes back to share that with his brothers and sisters.
The liberation of humanity (2:14-18)
Freed from the power of the devil
By identifying with us fully, but controlling his responses, by never succumbing to sin, by always living in submission to his father – Jesus is able to offer up a perfectly sinless human life as a sacrifice.
How do we get back into the garden as a people? The answer is Jesus – the one who frees us from the power of the devil. Jesus by his death snatch the power of death away from the devil.
Freed from the fear of death
Unless Jesus returns we will die. But for us who identify with him who identifies with us we belong to him and have been liberated from the fear of death. We may pass through death but there is no more fear of judgement thereafter.
Even though someone like Paul in 2 Corinthians 5 is afraid of the process of death he has courage to face it – because Jesus has secured both ends of the bridge to God’s presence.
Freed from the penalty for sin
Jesus is also the propitiation for our sins. He fixes our end of the bridge that Adam and Eve messed up. Jesus comes into the world and in his own body mends the bridge so that it is intact again. We can make our way back into the glory of God.
Jesus is our merciful and great high priest granting us access back to God the Father. Jesus isn’t just a random mediator – he is God himself. Through his perfect representation of God the Father to us we have perfect access to him.
What is revealed to us of Jesus is his humility, the self-sacrifice, the great love of the one who spun the stars into space.
Merciful and faithful
Help for the tempted
Last night we had the challenge of not drifting with Jesus. We were left with the almighty powerful Son of God. If we only reflect on him in that mode he can end up being distant.
Here in chapter 2 we have the same Jesus, but now the humble human picture. Someone just like us.
For those tempted to drift away, remember who Jesus is – who he is, what he’s like, and how he invites us to meet with him and find someone who has been tempted like us and won over it. Trust him.
Hope for the drifted and defeated
For those discouraged, remember that Jesus has come to be the propitiation for your sins. There is nothing he didn’t come to make atonement for. Run to him, take refuge in him, enjoy that unbelievable access to the presence of God. Jesus knew you were a hopeless defeated sinner all along – he’s under no pretense – which is why he came to do what he did to stop you from drifting further away.
One of the temptations we face is to think that Jesus has abandoned us. The moment of desperate loss, painful fears, where we feel like our prayers are unanswered. Where our experience says to us, sometimes shouts at us, that we are abandoned.
This is when revelation needs to be clearly before us – to be reminded again and again that Jesus is always with us.
[Wow, another ripping message – now on the humanity of Jesus. What a revelation we have in scripture that Jesus loves us, has come beside us, and draws us into the joyful presence of his Father for eternity. Cling to Him!]