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?]

Ignite Training Conference 2016 Live Blog: Day 5

The Book of Life_edited-1

 

[The final day is here! What a week it has been. I’ve described the talks to others as a slow punch that you can see coming a mile away but when it connects it packs a surprising wallop! I’ll try to track down the mp3 link in the near future.]

Day 5 | Morning Talk | Mark Baddeley | God’s Clear and Present Word

Introduction

If you look across Christian churches and blogs and Christians generally you’ll find a few general things:

  • Christians who find reading the bible for themselves as intimidating – they’ll come to conferences like this and think I need to read commentaries and know all the background and context and exegesis techniques… woe to the person who tries to read the bible on their own!
  • Christians who find the things we’re learning at this conference as elitist – just open the word and find out what it’s saying to you now! Whatever comes to you as you read it today is what we need to find.

For some Christians the bible is a dead word from the past. For others it’s a dynamic word whose meaning changes and evolves. So the question for us is does God speak today, or is what he has said only locked in the past and we have to figure out what to do with it in the present?

  1. A present word

As we’ve discovered in the evening sessions the writer to the Hebrews quotes from Psalm 95 – which is referring back even further to the wilderness wanderings. The psalmist picks up this issue from the past and applies it presently to his hearers. The word which was spoken in the past is still operative – still resonating centuries down into the present. What was said back then is still speaking today. And the writer to the Hebrews does the same thing – which says that what was said in the past is not locked.

The words of God are not like our words – our words we speak into the air and it dissipates. God’s Word continues ever presently – when God said ‘let there be light’ light continues to exist. It continues to be present to every generation.

Application of God’s word, in preaching and in interaction with the bible, is necessary – we don’t want eloquent explanations but people to walk away not knowing how to follow Jesus from the passage. But application can often implicitly teach that the bible needs to be applied by us – that it inherently isn’t clearly applicable. We are asking ‘God, what are you saying through your Word to me presently. Not that I am taking your word to make it meaningful, it already is meaningful – help me understand it rather than try to make it happen.’

  1. A clear word

God’s Word is fundamentally clear. We don’t need an amazing interpreter – God doesn’t give us 66 books and then a 67th book on interpretation. There is no interpretive body/person that God gives because he cannot trust us with His word: the Roman Catholic magisterium, the preacher who has a Masters/PhD. Jesus didn’t expect the apostles to interpret for the people what he said. The prophets did not do that either. Paul wrote some difficult to explain letters – but clearly he wrote in a way that expected that the churches would read and re-read his letter to help their pastoral situations.

We can certainly skill up in our bible reading – but all of us have the clear and present word with us.

This is why bible translation has for the most part of church history been at the forefront of missions.

  1. A riddling word—parables

Parables are not sermon illustrations – they are riddles, mental roadblocks designed to trip people up until it is explained.

Proverbs is similar – you’re meant to chew on them over and over until you can figure it out and apply it.

Paul might go off on a tangent and then come back without telling you. Sometimes there are historical details in the text that we just don’t have, and are assumed in the text – for instance what is baptism of the dead a reference to in 1 Corinthians 15? Nobody really knows for sure…

  1. Very human words

But in all of this we see that God speaks – he doesn’t just stay locked away from us, he reveals himself to us in human words. The bible really is genuinely human words – story telling, rhetorical techniques, persuasive techniques, poetry, metaphor, sometimes highly complex methods of writing.

One problem with this is that when the vocab and grammar expands there is room for misinterpretation. But there is also room for greater and wider understanding. It doesn’t mean that scripture fails to be clear, it means that God uses normal human words to speak to us in normal human ways – full of his authority in order to build relationship with us! His Word repays effort, learning and perseverance.

  1. Clear enough to get the job done

It’s not that everything in the bible is clear – we don’t just open it and the full meaning will jump us into our head. Often scripture is written deliberately so that we will slow down in our reading – it invites us to wrestle with it, to come back to it again and again, to fill our heads with it.

If we understand human speech we can understand the gospel – you don’t need great intelligence to get that. No matter where we are on any spectrum God’s word is clear enough to accomplish what it sets out to do: save us, grow us, equip us, etc.

  1. A clear and present word

Some want to push the clarity of scripture to an unhelpful degree – that everything must be clear and if you don’t get it you’re an idiot. On the other end some say that some bits are not clear, therefore scripture has failed.

If we keep the purpose of scripture in mind then it is fantastically clear. In this way, some bits will be unclear and that’s ok.

For instance, with baptism of the dead in 1 Corinthians 15 – it isn’t explained what it actually is, so that’s not clear. But that’s doesn’t matter – because what is clear is how the use of it functions in Paul’s argument (ie – you don’t ‘baptise for the dead’ [what ever that is] unless you honestly believe in the resurrection).

Scripture brings the authority of God upon our lives to save us and change us. It will also repay us the more we bring to it. Yes, I can read it for myself, but there is also a place to get equipped to read it better, a place to send people for 3-4 years to get trained to teach the bible better.

  1. Clarity and authority—three debates

Three debates in particular cause a lot of heat among Christians.

  1. Genesis 1 and the age of the universe and evolution
  2. Women’s public ministry
  3. Same-gender sexual activity

The heat in each of these debates often boils down to whether the authority of scripture is under threat. There are no easy solutions to these debates. In some (like the first debate) we may need to agree to disagree. However the debate is run – if we see the authority of scripture in question that is where we need to start.

Reflections

The Word of God exists to fundamentally bring us to God in a saving relationship. Scripture, in this regard, is ultra clear. In this core business anyone can access it. It is sufficiently clear to bring us to Jesus and saving faith. We must not let the fact that it is not completely clear on everything to be intimidating – rather it should inspire us to read it better and more often. We must not let the fact that it is basically clear to also encourage laziness.

Work at it, pray, ask God to speak to us through it.

 

Ignite Training Conference 2016 Live Blog: Day 4

The Book of Life_edited-1

[The morning coffee has kicked and we’re ready to go. Another big day – not only for talks and workshops, but also for the strand groups. For those reading, and inclined, please pray with us that the delegates continue to be helpfully equipped to wield the sword of God’s Word. Pray also that holiness, godliness and overflowing love be the greatest response to this all.]

Day 4 | Morning Talk | Mark Baddeley | God’s Christ Centred Word

Introduction

Imagine hearing a sermon series on the topic of ‘Birds’. All the content will be driven by the bible. Question: would this be a biblical sermon series?

Or what about these topics:

  • 5 ways to raise up your children
  • tips on dating
  • dieting and being fit

And again, all the content will be driven by the bible.

Tough huh? :)

  1. Inspiration

We start with 2 Timothy 3 well known verse – that all Scripture is God-breathed.

We note that when other biblical writers refer to each other there is never a distinction between the biblical author and God. While some parts of scripture seem to be the direct product of divine revelation (for instance the prophets who receive a supernatural revelation), there are other bits which are very human (for instance the letters of the New Testament).

 

  1. What is the word of God?

Scripture

Scripture comes to us in different ways. Some bits are highly supernatural, some bits are very human, and some bits are in between. Through it all one suspects that the authors weren’t expecting to be writing scripture as we know it. And yet, Paul tells us that however it has come together it is all God-breathed: all of it is what God intends to communicate.

At this point there is a debate on this issue though. The agreement is that scripture is God’s communication to us. The division is over the manner in which this communication takes place – whether every single detail and grammatical point is inspired. So that Scripture is fully human and fully divinely inspired. On the other end of the debate there are those who would argue that some aspects and details aren’t overly important or divine (but more human), including some errors. The primary importance is the overall message.

Our starting point: what scripture says and what it is communicating is what God is communicating to use.

Christ Jesus

 When we hear ‘the word of God’ we think of scripture itself. But in John 1, and Hebrews 1, the word is Jesus himself. It’s the Lord Jesus Christ who brings the knowledge of God, who brings salvation, who brings the full glory of God.

In the OT nobody saw a form, they only heard a voice. But for those of us in the New Covenant God has come out of the darkness and into the light and revealed himself – in the face of Jewish carpenter! Jesus is God on public display – God can be known personally in a way that wasn’t possible in the OT. We can see the very form of God in Jesus. As we read the gospels and get a sense of Jesus in them we get a sense of who God is.

The gospel

Paul’s characteristic phrase when he refers to the word of God/truth he’s referring to the gospel. The message about Jesus. For Paul in particular that message is the word of God. If you receive it by faith you know God personally, you come into relationship with God, you move from death to life and become a new creation. The Word of God, the thing that creates a saving reality, is the gospel.

How do they relate?

God speaks, and what he says is written down. One of the things he needs to tell us about is the Lord Jesus, and particularly the gospel that we need to believe and be saved by. And the reason why we believe the gospel is because we find it in the bible.

ie. Scripture –> gospel –> Christ Jesus

Going the other way, when we come into relationship with God through Jesus and the gospel, we come to understand that something like the Old Testament is also the Word of God. Why do I read the New Testament? Because Jesus commissioned his apostles and his word there. But for us non-Jews we sort of slip the Old Testament into our lives and adopt that as our own as well.

ie. Christ Jesus –> gospel –> Scripture

Here’s the thing – both these models are good and bad.

The issue with the first model – it unhelpfully flattens the whole of scripture as a collection of stuff, and you can kinda take and leave parts. Scripture becomes the larger category and the gospel’s importance can be lost.

The issue with the second model is that the bible gets pitted against Jesus. For instance the ‘WWJD’ fad which often elevated our personal view of Jesus over scripture. Martin Luther sort of had this as well – he disliking the book of James because he couldn’t find the gospel in it.

So what is the point of scripture?

  1. What is the job description for God’s word?

Give information

The first thing to say is that the Word of God is there to give us knowledge and information when we are ignorant. We are ignorant of who God is.

But it can’t be this alone – so many books in our Christian book shops use the bible this way: that the bible can give us information about dieting, raising kids, dating…etc.

Rescue people in need

The second thing to say is that the bible’s job is to rescue people in need. We are in desperate need, we are in mortal peril, we face death and judgement, we’re enslaved to the world, the devil and our own sinful hearts. We are in danger as the anger of God is upon us.

And fundamentally the Word of God is the life ring thrown to us drowning in the sea.

 

Establish new relationship — promises

Regulate the relationship – commands, instructions

Give the knowledge needed to establish the promises, commands, and instructions

The Word of God’s core business is not just to download information to us – it’s to rescue us.

God is fully capable of filling up our libraries with books of information. But he doesn’t – in fact 66 books are actually not a lot of words. Why does he speak at all? To rescue us, to give us that better life in relationship with him. The knowledge and information serves his promises and commands, to give us what we need to know to trust him and obey him.

God does not care about fulfilling our intellectual curiosity (with all our questions that come from the bible and the gaps that are so apparent). But God does care about the fact that we are drowning and need saving.

Even in 2 Timothy 3 Paul speaks of scripture to make us wise in order to have salvation in the Lord Jesus.

So a sermon has to have the same purpose of God’s speech and be focused on the same direction. God doesn’t speak about birds in order to give us information about birds, but he speaks about birds occasionally to help us understand salvation further.

  1. Scripture, gospel, Christ—natural partners

Scripture is the word of God. Jesus is the word of God. The gospel is the word of God. We can’t separate or pit them against each other.

Scripture is the mechanism by which we understand the gospel and Jesus. And in order to understand the scriptures we need to come to Jesus in faith. We can’t have access to Jesus outside of scripture (unless someone explains it to us orally) – to deepen our relationship with Jesus we need scripture. There is a natural partnership.

There is no Jesus who is not taught by scripture. Neither is there any scripture which is not centred around Jesus.

Reflections

The question for us: do we see the word of God has this laser-like focus. Or do we treat scripture as, yeah, about Jesus, but there’s all this other living and wisdom stuff! Or do we see scripture as completely revolving around and focused upon and upholding the glory and magnificence of Jesus.

 

[God doesn’t care about satisfying every curiosity and question we have – God cares that we are in mortal danger and in need of rescue. The bible is Jesus centred.]

Day 4 | Evening Talk | Richard Gibbson | Our Great High Priest

Sabbath rest

Exegesis is hard work. Reading the text, working on the preaching, wondering if you have bridged the cultural gap, wondering if you’ve worded yourself well. After it all, Gibbo is looking forward to rest.

In God’s kindness and mercy to Israel he had given them a sabbath rest – a day each week to rest from their labours.

The eternal sabbath to come – the resting with God, the enjoyment of his presence for eternity – lies ahead of us. But it could slip from our hands – and we are warned against drifting from it through the book of Hebrews.

Doctrine of Scripture

Chapter 4 in Hebrews is a wonderful chance to think about our doctrine of scripture. Verses 12-13 take us into the heart of the doctrine of scripture.

The rest remains open (4:3-11)

As God said in Psalm 95

Verses 1-2 are a reminder of what was said before regarding that former generation who refused God and were refused entry into the promised land.

The author of Hebrews quotes again from Psalm 95. This verse reaches forward to us – those people in the wilderness had a gospel preached to them, they were evangelised to, they were minutes away from consummating the promises from God but were overwhelmed by the big people in the land, they balked, and they disobeyed God. So they missed out on the land of rest.

As God said somewhere (Genesis 2:2)

Don’t you love it that the author says ‘somewhere it is said…’ when referencing scripture! Anyway…

In chapter 2 of Genesis we have recorded the 7th Day of creation, the day of rest. Even this part of scripture which speaks of God in third person is God’s speaking. Another handy little reminder of this author’s doctrine of scripture.

So when God rested, put his feet up and enjoyed with satisfaction what he had created – the author reminds us that this rest remains open to people ever since. And open for people to enter into.

As God said through David (Ps 95)

It’s important that this word is not left as a timeless word – it was spoken to David centuries after they had entered the wilderness. The point is that the rest back then must still be open in David’s time. By David’s time they had taken the land and settled it – but the rest had not exhausted it, the land had not fulfilled the ultimate rest. It was partial, a shadow of the reality that is coming.

Despite Joshua’s efforts

Verse 8 – Joshua’s efforts to take the land didn’t give the great rest. Even where the rest is partially fufilled there is still a greater reality to be taken hold of. This is the situation that we find ourselves.

So make sure you enter

Verse 9 onwards reminds us that we, presently, are on the brink of entering that rest. If we, who have the promise of rest in Jesus right in front of us, if we can’t trust God with it, if you are sick of persecution and harassment, sick of saying no to sin – understand the tragic consequence of saying no to Jesus. Understand how tragic it is – as tragic as those in the wilderness who fell.

In verse 9 there is a reference to the ‘Sabbath rest’ – a place of eternal joy, no more grieving, no more sin, no more dealing with hostility, no more persecution, losing possessions, being thrown into jail as a Christian, no more terrorism, all our labours done – and entering into the glorious celebration with God. ‘Sabbath rest’ is a glorious celebration.

In the verses that follow there is a remarkable reflection of what has been going on for us over the last few nights.

The risk of reading Scripture (4:12-13)

Scripture

alive and active

When we use the word ‘doctrine’ we can think of something stuffy and dry. But here the author ‘unchains the lion’ (ala Spurgeon on defending the bible). God does not mess around with us when he speaks. It’s living because it’s the very extension of himself. God’s word is living because He is the living God, and it expresses to us his intentions and thoughts.

There is a danger to bibliolatry, but the much greater and more prevalent danger is to drive the wedge between God and his word. Eg – God really is at work in our music at church (we put up with the preaching), God is really at work in my experience which is so much more real to me than the bible. There are all kinds of spirituality around us which are not the spirituality of God. When we want the reality of God addressing us and of God’s thoughts then we open up the bible.

In our lives, churches and world the reality is that transformation will not occur apart from his word. That is the way that God works. Even if there is a dramatic and phenomenal pouring out of his Spirit, it will do so through the preaching of His word.

penetrating

The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Another point at which we cannot divide, or drive a wedge, is between God and his Spirit.

One reason the author uses this image of the sword for the Word of God – because the author has been thinking about numbers 14.

Often we lose heart when it comes to the effect and power of God’s word to bring change in people. But in Numbers 14, after the rebellion the people wanted to try to take the land again. Moses warns them in v41 onwards that they would fall by the sword. The sword of the Amalakites made them fall, yes, but it was also the sword of God’s Word that had promised judgement by which they fell.

judging

The sword of God’s word is not just a unwieldy thing swung wildly – but is also a surgeon’s scalpel. Penetrating deeply and incisively, into the inner most and deepest parts of our secretive heart. And this Word comes in and exposes them. Every little dark thought and dirty deed. The Word will bring us to conviction of every one of these, and bring us grace of being warned, the grace of a chance to repent and find life.

Us

Exposed

Naked

in his sight

Our soul is exposed before God. We are naked before him all the time, there are no fig leaves that can protect us. God sees through me every moment of every day. I am in his presence all the time. Even when we think we are getting away with sin, we never are.

The bible shows me the MRI scan that he is taking – and showing us the hardness of our heart. God has us in his sights and grip and we cannot get out of that.

Despite the fact that most commentaries say this is the end of the unit and the next unit moves on, it would leave us exposed, naked and judged to simply leave things here. But… wow… the next verses…

The rescue for exposed sinners (4:14-16)

A great high priest in heaven

We have a great high priest who has come to help us in our exposed naked judged and condemned state.

Have we been exposed by God’s Word? Jesus says come to me and hide in me and find refuge and I will keep you safe.

Hold firm

A priest tempted in every way, but without sin

Jesus was tempted fully in every way. The temptation in the wilderness is Jesus’ experiencing temptation to a level just like us. He knows what it’s like to hear that tempting voice, feel the allure of turning his back on his Father. This experience makes it possible for him to know what we go through.

“Come to me, all you who are weary & burdened & I will give you rest”

In Jesus’ tender hearted love he came to rescue us. He was exposed, naked, and judged – yet without sin. And now he invites us to come to him and find rest.

 

[The final talk is another stunning reminder that God’s Word exposes every corner of our darkened hearts and minds – and Jesus, our perfect friend who has been through every temptation we have, offers refuge. Do not harden your hearts towards him.]

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on his hands,
My name is written on his heart;
I know that while in heaven he stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart,
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

Ignite Training Conference 2016 Live Blog: Day 3

The Book of Life_edited-1

 

Day 3 | Morning Talk 3 | Mark Baddeley | God’s Trustworthy Word

Introduction

In John 5 Jesus makes a huge claim and he doesn’t seem to defend it – he makes a lesser to the greater claim that if God’s Word refers to men as ‘sons of god’ then what will you do with me who is even greater? He then says ‘by the way, Scripture can’t be broken.’ and moves on. Why does he do this? Because he doesn’t need to establish that the Word of God is something they believe and something they live by.

In Romans 3 there is something similar – in 3:4 Paul ends a short argument with ‘let God be true though every one were a liar’. There is a rock bottom truth in scripture that God’s Word is true.

This is a big issue in scripture. With the creation of the world in Genesis 1 and the garden in Genesis 2 we come to Genesis 3 and find a debate over whether God’s Word is true or not.

  1. Has God really said? – Gen 3

The serpent’s first attack is to question whether God’s Word is true. When it all falls apart, and sin and brokenness is introduced into the world, it all happens in the context of questioning the trustworthiness of God.

When you and I reject God, or when we deny God, there are two things always in play:

1 – There is always a desire – like Eve desired the fruit, there is always something that catches our eye

2 – There is a questioning of the trustworthiness of God’s Word

 

  1. God’s Word is truth

A regular description

The bible’s regular description of itself is as ‘the word of Truth’

Psalm 119, John 17:17, Ephesians 1:13, James 1:18, Revelation 21:5 – all these references emphasise the ‘word of truth’. These quick soundbites function almost like a second name for the Word of God – the Word of Truth.

The importance of truth to how God works in the world

What is it that characterises the way that God works in the world – through truth.

Romans 1:18, 25 – humanity’s basic problem in this world: it’s not ignorance, nor disobedience, it’s deceit – the exchanging of truth, suppressing of the truth, and substituting of the truth for a lie.

We are a race who stumble in darkness, who love the darkness, and refuse to come into the light. How does God work in this situation? He brings the truth to bear upon it so that it cannot be suppressed.

Psalm 25:5 – lead me in your truth and teach me…

Psalm 43:3 – send out your light and truth…

John 1:14 – the word dwelt among us… full of grace and truth

John 1:17 – Law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ

John 8:31-32 – if you abide in my word you are my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set your free

Ephesians 4:25 – having put away falsehood let each speak truth with his neighbour

1 John 1:8 – if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us

Truth characterises the way that God works. He sends out his truth, he leads people in truth, and the truth itself (Jesus) came to abide with us.

Truth also characterises God’s people – someone who speaks and does what is true, because you have been so powerfully shaped by something that is true.

The problem we need rescuing from is a truth problem (deceit, lies), and God solves it by bringing the truth to light and to bear upon his people.

No examples of Scriptures that identify errors in other scriptures

An argument from silence – which is not good to do, but this is a powerful argument.

While there are tricky ways that Scripture interacts with itself, but never does Scripture correct itself. If it is said in scripture then it is true by definition. So the way in which scripture talks about itself tells us that the Word is trustworthy and that we can build our lives upon it.

We often undercut this truth in subtle ways. In evangelical circles we can implicitly undercut the trustworthiness of the Word – sometimes in our preaching we don’t talk about the big idea of the passage before us. When preaching emphasises secondary ideas, even truthful ones, it undercuts the truth of scripture generally.

Why does solid preaching matter? Below…

  1. Truth matters

Truth of the Word grounded in God’s nature

John 14 – Jesus says ‘I am the truth’ – if you’re going to describe God accurately the word ‘true’ must come into it at some point.

Truth characterizes God’s works

The key thing that God uses to work is the Word of God. In trying to move people from non-truth to truth what he must use to do that must itself must be true.

Truth of the Word meets our need

The only way the Word can function for us is if it is trustworthy. There is no ‘plan B’ aside from trusting God’s Word. No other visions, no other miracles or acts.

God calls us to go all in, and we need to go all in, an in order to go all in we need something to trust.

  1. Word of truth and words of lies

And yet as Genesis 3 indicates, the Word of God doesn’t come in a vacuum. The snake runs around casting aspersions left, right and center. Elijah’s fight against the prophets of Baal is a dramatic example of this encounter of words of truth and words of lies. Jesus and his battle against the Pharisees, Paul’s battle against the words of Jews and philosophy of Greeks – constantly the Word of God is in a battleground for truth. In the OT and the NT there are always false prophets and false teachers.

So in wanting to tune into the truth of God we need to see that it comes to us in a battleground.

Discernment is greatly needed.

  1. Our debate: Inerrancy, infallibility, errancy

One area of debate is in inerrancy, infallibility and errancy.

When we say the word of God is true in what sense do we say that it is true?

Liberal churches take an errant view – the word of God is true in the sense that a person who reads the bible finds truth for themselves. So even liberal churches encourage bible reading – but in order to weed out errors and find your own personal truth.

Among bible believing there is another ground of debate – primarily on what level of truth is in the bible? The titles aren’t overly cool or sexy, but they are ‘inerrancy’ and ‘infallibility’.

Inerrancy – everything the bible says in big and small details is factually true. This position was mostly, up until 100 years ago, where everyone was.

But a problem with this view is that there are parts of scripture which are very hard to explain – there are parts which seem to blatantly disagree with each other. For instance the resurrection accounts differ enough to make you scratch your head. Because of these factors one solution is to suspend judgement on these matters for the moment, until something is cleared up and worked out later. And because this isn’t very intellectually elegant, a number of Christians have moved to a second position…

Limited infallibility – that God’s Word is there to teach us doctrine and ethics, and on these things the bible is absolutely true. On big historical events, the bible is also absolutely true. But in smaller details there can be some inconsequential errors.

While we’re not here to solve all these issues there are some markers we should note:

  • you can hold the limited infallibility position and still be a Christian – even if it’s not a strong position to take
  • while inerrancy is probably a better position, recognise it’s own weaknesses

 

Conclusion

At the end of the day we all come back to the fact that scripture is trustworthy. We can trust our eternal destiny to its promises – and God is good for it as well. They are words we can build our lives around, they will hold the weight of that. It is a word that is up to the challenge.

[Another mammoth talk, with perhaps a can of worms opened and unresolved – but the conclusion is all important: God’s word is trustworthy and able to bear the weight of our trust.]

 

Day 3 | Workshop | Ying Yee | How to love the church: warts and all

Loving the church, warts and all, is one of the hardest things to do. So many people in Ying’s experience have major problems with their home church. Ying’s story is no different.

(we pause here as Ying shares some personal experience of difficulties working in church)

Lots of people have good reasons to leave their church. We are called to love our church but it’s also one of the hardest things.

Some difficulties:

  • Change or lack of change
  • Lack of gospel preaching/poor teaching
  • Complaints never direct, always rumours and gossip
  • Church politics and power grabs
  • No one cares about each other – ie no one cares about me
  • Culture clashes
  • Churches which are inward looking
  • There’s no vision
  • traditionalism

And those in leadership will be in the thick of it as well.

Given all this it can be very hard to love the church. So sometimes we pack up and leave and head somewhere else.

Which gives rise to another trend – church hopping. Simply because we have the luxury of so many churches in Brisbane.  Or worst still, some are so burnt out that they give up the faith all together.

Why is it hard to love the church? There are good reasons here – by the are symptoms of a deeper issue. Here are some reasons:

First – in the world we choose our friends. We choose those who have same interests and likes. But in church you don’t choose. God chooses. Whether we like them or not. It’s the same with family.

See Ephesians 2 and 3. Jews and Gentiles had the worst of relationships – and yet it’s God’s design and plans to bring them together in the same church.

God chooses the people. And the kicker is that they are often the people we would never have chosen to be friends with.

Second – we forget that our church is sinful. Not just laziness in service, or unkindness – but deep rooted selfishness. Sinful people by their nature think they are God and everyone is there to do their bidding. This is what we should expect because we are not in the new creation yet. When you realise this it can greatly help.

This is not good. It’s normal, it’s reality, but it is not good. It comes with the territory.

See Revelation 2-3. The picture of the seven churches – a picture/metaphor for all churches. Some churches were all doctrine and no heart. Some compromised the truth, some lacked discipline, some were all show and no substance.

Remember that Jesus did not come to save the healthy by the sick.

Third – Satan goes to church.

Ephesians 6 – the real problem is not the battle out there, but the battle within. The spiritual battle in our lives everywhere.

Fourth – we need to recognise the distinction between the visible and the invisible church. The visible church is the physical gathered community. The invisible church is the community of regenerated believers. Lots of people say they are Christian and do the Christian things but are not actually converted.

Fifth – we fail to understand the doctrine of sanctification. God works in partnership with us to move us towards Christ-likeness. Our problem is that we expect the church to be mature overnight.  Maturity and growth take time, it never happens immediately. One of the marks of immaturity is selfishness, lack of discipline, that you don’t know how to do certain things. The church is a like a little spoilt kid that needs to grow up – and it’s a process which takes a lifetime.

Sixth – we often apply the wrong standard to measure what is a good church. For instance: we think the preaching is bad, but our standard is so high that no ordinary preacher could meet it.

Seven – we fail to see that Jesus loves his church.

Why and how should we love the church?

  1. Because the church is Jesus’ bride. Do we realise that? And when he married his church he did not marry ‘Ms Philippines’ he married an ugly duckling. Acts 20:28ff, Ephesians 5:24ff – reminders from scripture that Jesus loves the church and looks after her. The book of Revelation may begin with a picture of a decrepit bride in chapters 2-3, but it end with a glorious picture of the bride looking radiant because Jesus has cared for her.
  2. Remember also that Jesus not only purchased the church but also purified the church. He’s working behind the scenes to help his church and grow it.
  3. Distinguish the vine work and the trellis work. Trellis work is structures and programs. Vine work is people work. We need both the trellis and the vine, but we often focus on keeping up the trellis.
  4. Distinguish was is important and what is cosmetic. Visions are just well crafted basic work of Christian discipleship and evangelism – if you use the bible you have the same vision.
  5. Growing a child to maturity takes years and years, one step at a time. Remember you’re on a long journey that will take a lifetime, and it is often very painful. Galatians 4:18-19 – Paul is going through the pains of delivering children until Jesus grows in you. Imagine labour pains for 40 years. Producing children is a pain. To grow them up is a painful process.
  6. Don’t get distracted from the real work – people. Ministry isn’t just the programs, it’s the speaking to people in love to build them up. When you’re talking to people you get excited – side by side with each other.
  7. Pray for the church and give thanks for her regularly because Jesus loves your church. He died for your church. He is working in and for your church because it is HIS body. His spirit dwells in there, and he’s working in partnership to present his bride perfect.

 

Day 3 | Evening Talk | Richard Gibbson | God’s Faithful Son [Hebrews 3:1-4:2]

Why angels?

In Colossae worship of angels is connected with hyper-spirituality. But in the book of Hebrews it seems to be a different issue. Their significance has to do with the giving of the covenant in the Old Testament. There is a strong tradition of angels in the OT and in Jewish traditions. In Acts Stephen also makes this point that angels are important in the giving of the law. So also in Galatians 3 there is a reference to this tradition that angels were involved in giving the law.

Hebrews appears to be a long list of comparisons between Jesus and everything else, and the supremacy of Jesus. But it is actually one sustained and connected argument – and the subject of the book is the Old Covenant. The author is writing to a people who are in danger of walking away from the New Covenant in Jesus and back to the Old Covenant in the Law.

The Old Covenant is a shadow of the substance of the New Covenant – and the writer is surprised that this group is running back to the shadow.

Why Moses?

As the author is seeking to call these people back to Jesus he has to be very careful. He’s not in a position to criticise or condemn the Old Covenant. They were part of God’s revealed will to his people! So he isn’t critical of Moses, but his argument is very nuanced and careful.

Once you get Moses in the perspective of God’s revealed will in Jesus then you’ll pick Jesus all the time – this is the author’s point in this chapter.

 

Fix your thoughts on Jesus (3:1-6)

 

Moses, the faithful servant

Moses is held in very high esteem. It’s understandable that these people see in the midst of their confusion, their alienation, their pushing against their culture that they begin drifting back.

Numbers 12:6ff – this passage puts Moses in a category of no one before him or after him. The author of Hebrews has this passage in mind as he develops this comparison and contrast between Moses the faithful servant and Jesus the faithful son.

There was a sense that Moses was an apostle – sent by God, mediator and priest. Moses was the original apostle and high priest – but our apostle and high priest of our confession is Jesus.

Jesus, the faithful Son

 

The problem wasn’t with Moses in the Old Covenant – he wasn’t the point of failure (even in his human frailty). But Moses is the building, whereas Jesus is the builder (v3).

Jesus has more glory than Moses because he is the builder of the building. Moses was always provisional to a further ultimate revelation (in the person of Jesus). Moses was only ever a servant whereas Jesus was a son. Moses was always only intended to be a side character, laying the foundation for Jesus to come. To confuse the servant with the Son is a huge mistake in a households politics.

A warning word from God (3:7-11)

Spoken by the Spirit

Psalm 95 is quoted (the author of Hebrews loves the Psalms) at this point. Psalm 95 is familiar to those who grew up in synagogue. It was a great call to worship.

Notice the way the passage is introduced – that the Holy Spirit says… even though there’s no mention of the Holy Spirit in the Psalm. And notice the present tense – the Holy Spirit ‘says’ in order to connect it with the Psalms’ use of ‘today’.

Israel’s rebellion

The call to not harden their hearts comes back to Numbers where Israel was on the brink on entering into the promised land and their rebellion in response. Their rebellion at heart was distrust of God’s goodness. In God’s anger he declared that this generation would die in the wilderness.

Yahweh’s anger and oath

Here is why the author of Hebrews goes to psalm 95 – he uses the same address as back in the Old to say that you must listen to this word: you are in a comparable position as Israel on the brink of the promised land and are about to run away.

But in the OT there was still rebellion, they hardened their hearts, and they lost the promised blessing. So the author says don’t do the same thing as they did back then.

The warning applied (3:12-4:2)

Watch out

The author is now warning of a heart disease of greater significance than physical heart disease – but spiritual heart disease with eternal consequences.

Who is the warning for – how do you know your heart is hardening? If you keep making excuses for sin, if you keep putting off obedience or listening to later. When you say, ‘I know what God says, and I know… I know… but I don’t care to change just yet.’ This is the symptom checklist to show that the heart disease is rampant – and that you have drifted.

At heart is the belief that God has not been good to you.

How do you know you have a healthy heart? Not when you’re sorry or guilty. But when you are quick to repent. At the bottom of it is the conviction that God hasn’t been good enough for you and you’ve been trying to compensate – and that you’ll turn away from this.

Today is the day to repent of this.

Encourage

Verse 13 reminds us that the above response is not just individual, but corporate. We know how hard our battle with sin is – and that is the same for those beside us.

So look out for each other and share life with each other and live life together so that you’re growing together and keeping each other accountable and watching whether we are drifting.

If we’re serious about this then we will forge deep relationships to keep each other accountable.

Hold on

Verse 14 – the nature of Christian faith is that it perseveres. The author makes clear that we can have a confidence in Christ – but that can slip us into complacency. It can make us think we don’t need to persevere and hold on.

Beware the horror of hearing and not heeding

Verses 16-19 – these were the people who were at the mountain which trembled, where God spoke, with people who heard the law and were eager to covenant in relationship with God. But they were also the same ones who fell in the wilderness.

Still ‘today’

It is still today. Are we hearing God with faith and responding with faith. Is your heart soft to God and responding when his word cuts you to pieces? Do we respond with repentance, with godly sorry, we cling to Jesus and throw himself on his mercy. Or do we continue to make excuses, minimise or explain away our sin?

Friends if you hear his voice today do not harden your hearts.

 

[There are talks that leave us guilty for our sin and complacency. There are talks that stroke our ego and make us feel more better about ourselves than we should. Tonight was neither. Tonight was an extended plea to not forsake Jesus, to not harden our hearts. Please, don’t drift from Jesus!]

 

 

 

Ignite Training Conference 2016 Live Blog: Day 2

The Book of Life_edited-1

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

Introduction

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

  1. 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?

  1. 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.

  1. A Word that determines people’s fate:

Judges

 

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.

Saves

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

  1. 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.

Promises

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.

 

Commands

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.

 

Instructs

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.

 

 

Reflections:

 

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)

  1. The Heart
  • What is 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.

  1. 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?

  1. Confirm our identity as the chosen people of God (saints)
  2. Console and comfort His afflicted people (sufferers)
  3. 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[1]:

  • 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.

[1] 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)

Insignificant stardust

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.

Gone missing

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!]

Ignite Training Conference 2016 Live Blog: Day 1

The Book of Life_edited-1

Alrighty, here we go.

Day 1 | Mark Baddeley | Talk 1 | The Word of God in the Word of God

Introduction

 

Today is a biblical theology of what the bible says about the Word of God. A selection of passages (below) to track the story of how the Word of God fits and appears. Emphasis will be on how the bible will speak about the Word of God.

Genesis 1:1-8, 24-31

The opening chapter of the bible, why anything exists apart from God at all – and we find that the Word of God has a starring role. Each day God speaks, and whatever God says happens. Every speaking moment structures what happens through the chapter. And everything that happens demonstrates the sheer potency of God’s speech: everything comes into existence by mere speech. His words bring reality into existence. Anything that he talks about comes into existence, conversely anything he doesn’t speak about does not come into existence.

And everything God speaks that comes into existence is good. Then he doesn’t just speak them into existence, but he also speaks to his creation: especially humanity. And God does this, again, simply by speaking.

God creates, fills, and directs this world by his word.

Genesis 3: 8-24; Cain, Flood

Genesis 3 is the next big decisive moment in bible history. And again we have the Word of God as a starring feature.

First the snake attempts to take the Word of God, which sought to regulate and shape the way Adam and Eve are to live, is questioned and manipulated by the serpent.

We saw the Word previously create and regulate, now we see a Word of judgement. The words that he speaks bring about the very reality that God speaks about – similar to the way that God speaks and reality occurs in Genesis 1. The snake slithers on his belly, the woman feels her curse, the man feels his curse. The same power we saw in Genesis 1 we see in Genesis 3 but now in an unpleasant way – bringing death rather than life.

Genesis 12:1-3

Such a small passage, but with massive significance for the rest of the bible. Here God speaks again, but instead of creating or regulating or judging, it’s a word of promise. The powerful word we have seen in Genesis 1 and 3, in which we saw the words of blessing and curse, appear again – but in a profoundly different way. For as you start to work your way through Genesis, and the accounts of God’s dealings with his people Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, these promises in these verses keep being echoed and tested.

Exodus 3:1-10 Commissioning of Moses Plagues, Passover

Israel is in bondage, in slavery to a tyrant who seeks their destruction. And God comes down to delivery his people – but not in person, not in a legion of angels, but in words to one man, Moses commissioned to be their deliverer, to set Israel free to serve and worship God.

This word (to Moses) sets in motion salvation itself.

Exodus 20:1-23

Israel has been saved from the mega power of the world at the time. God, over the course of various miracles and plagues, smashes this superpower nation. Now that they are free and free to worship God, God speaks again to let his people know what it takes to be in relationship with him.

The issues raised in Genesis 3 have not been dealt with. In Genesis 3 when God drew near Adam and Eve fled. In Exodus 20 when God draws near the people are afraid and don’t want to hear him speak.

And still, God speaks to regulate the behaviour and relationships of his people.

Deuteronomy 4:1-20

Israel on the foot of the promised land. Moses, for various reasons, can’t go in – and in this book he reissues for the people the statutes and decrees that God passed to him 40 years earlier. Moses takes them back to Mt Sinai (ie Horeb), and gets them to reflect back on the word received there: the 10 commandments. Moses considers not just the commands, but the event itself – and he does this in order to get the importance across of what happened (not just what was said). The importance: you heard a voice, not an object, and the voice said things to you – the commandments are enveloped in the experience they had at Mt Sinai. They heard a voice, not a form – so they were not to go looking for forms, nor look at those things created to be the basis of their relationship with Him. The relationship is based on the words spoken to them.

2 Samuel 7:1-17; 12:1-15 David and Nathan – promise of kingship, death of son

David has been made king of Israel, is now, after a long story, crowned king and comes up with a great idea – to build a house for God. Nathan the prophet says no, your son will build the house – but a beautiful promise comes to David instead.

The promise seems to be, at first, a simple succession of unending kings. But in the end David’s line is sufficiently disobedient that they are dethroned. The prophets later look forward to another Son of David who fulfills all the promises and satisfies all the hopes of these promises back in 2 Samuel 7.

2 Samuel 7 shows the formidable power of God’s word to not only shape the future but also shape and change his people.

(we’re now running out of time in the talk!)

John 1:1-18 –> still keeps the word of God

Jesus is spoken about the ‘Word of God’ – a very deliberate and dramatic thing. John’s opening chapter echoes clearly creation and the story of Moses. Basically that the word of God we have been encountering in the Old Testament is Jesus himself.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:13

The word of God that is spoken of here is the gospel – the message which came to the Thessalonians which they heard and which transformed their lives. When Paul refers to the word of God he’s often referring to the gospel.

2 Timothy 3:14-17

Paul here says that the word of God is scripture.

So in these three passages three things are referred to as ‘the Word of God’: Jesus, the gospel, and scripture. What we’ll work through in the next few days is how these three things relate to each other.

Reflections

First, apart from John 1, the first thing to get is that God’s Word is words. When God’s word comes to people it comes as human words, in a way which is normal for humans to understand. God’s Word comes to us in the form of words – understandable words.

Secondly – there is clearly diversity that also comes. It’s amazing what God’s word can do – bring the universe into reality, set in motion events, make promises, etc. There are very different ways it comes to his people – sometimes when it comes you’re terrified, sometimes it creates things, sometimes it brings a promise. It does dramatically different things.

Lastly, we see how important the word of God is in scripture. The beginning, the fall, the promised Messiah, in different ways the key starring characters through scripture is God’s words, speech, his talking. Almost as though it’s another character in its own right. God’s speech has a life of its own, it does so much in the bible, and often at the most critical points in the bible.

[Wow, what a start to the week! A tour de force of the word of God in the word of God.]

Day 1 | Workshop: Bible Storying | Linda McKerrell

Linda shares a story about sharing a bible story with a stranger in a coffee shop. It sounds better in person :P

The advantages of sharing a bible story:

  • It sticks in your brain
  • It feels immersive: when you explain a story you’re more actively engaged, the listener is experiencing the story as you tell it
  • It’s non-confrontational (at least in the story that Linda shared)

Linda shares another story about meeting some family friends – and sharing bible stories for hours on end with an initially antagonistic listener.

Advantages:

  • people listen and pay attention for longer
  • people understand the connections
  • kids and adults together will listen
  • answering questions with individual bible verses it can end up in an argument that gets muddled – as you share bible stories the bigger picture is shared and engaged with

To be a story teller you need:

  1. To pray
  2. To practice
  3. 20 seconds of courage to ask someone to share the story with someone

As you’re thinking about telling the story, one of the key things to remember is that the story, or story telling, isn’t going to be the thing that converts people (though it may!), the key thing is that it moves people closer to the cross.

We practice the Abraham, Sarah and Hagar narrative. It’s hard to retell it after hearing it multiple times!

Two main ways that Linda learns a story:

  1. She listens to the story, reads it out, listens again, and reads it out again.
  2. She opens her bible, reads it aloud, closes her bible and retells it. She opens her bible and reads aloud again, and then closes her bible and retells is. Repeat.

Tips:

  • Use colloquial language. Be as close to the text as you possibly can, consult a few translations to figure out different ways of saying the same thing.
  • If there are words that are strange to hear – eg. righteousness, tabernacle – flag it before the story, or use different words to capture the same idea.
  • Convert indirect to direct speech – it makes the conversations more vivid and present.
  • Don’t embellish or add details.
  • Don’t explain the story as you tell it.

Now, once you’ve told the story follow up questions are crucial. Are there things you liked in the story, things you didn’t like?

But on answering questions we need to be careful. If you answer questions quickly you become a teacher and implicitly tell them they need a teacher to understand the bible – which is true to an extent, but unhelpful. It can be more empowering for people to ask questions but try to answer them on their own by finding out more. [I think we take the audience into consideration at this point – sometimes we need to answer questions because we know that our audience won’t follow it up. The way we answer is also important, and can produce further questions or halt further discovery.]

Check out www.storyingthescriptures.com for further examples – read about people show share stories, listen to bible stories being told.

Bible stories are God’s Words, and the more you tell them the more they take you deeper into the truths of scripture. As you sit with someone and talk to someone about their lives, and perhaps the mess of their lives, the stories which are filled with heaps of mess in the bible become avenues to share the gospel story.

[What an interesting seminar. It’s a solid reminder that evangelism takes all shapes and forms, and perhaps ‘storying the bible’ is the least intimidating way to do it. Get into it, if only to learn the bible better!]

 

Day 1 | Evening Talk 1 | Richard Gibson | God’s Ultimate Revealer [Hebrews 1:1-2:4]

Reading Hebrews, self-consciously

Richard’s hope: that we will become so engrossed by the Jesus of Hebrews that we just want to keep reading more and more.

Tune into the fact that someone is speaking to us – to read it self-consciously. To understand how the author is writing to us, shaping and composing the message to us.

For its profound theology and literary aesthetic, the book of Hebrews has an in your face message. The author realises that his audience is slipping away from Jesus and this is an urgent and desperate situation.

As we read the book we will get an incite into what pressures are pushing people away from Jesus:

  1. People are probably sick of being persecuted – they’ve faced or seen persecution first hand. Property has been confiscated, some have been thrown into prison. The general picture fits well with what we know about the second half of the first century under Nero. This observation fits with what we see today as well – we are more likely to face hostility today for our faith than a generation ago; Christianity has less credibility in the public sphere; and we know that in many places around the world Christians do lose their heads for their faith.
  2. Many feel drawn back to the relative security and safety of belonging to a social group with social values that they grew up with – back to Judaism. To turn away from Christ, to loosen their grip, would lessen the tension at home. They could go back to pleasing their parents. There was also perhaps something familiar about the old religion that is comforting to them.
  3. Sexual immorality appears to be another issue leading some to question whether it’s worth hanging on to Jesus. The world we live in is similar yes?

The argument in Hebrews needs hard work to get through – but when we do it we’ll see the same arguments to us to not fall away from Jesus.

The message of the writer: do not refuse the message of Him who speaks to you.

Our need for revelation

In any relationship we have we need revelation or disclosure. Revelation is basic to everyday life – especially in relationships.

It’s true of intimate relationships – unless someone discloses what they feel or want we can’t figure that out.

The Son’s resumé (1:1-4)

Intricate design

There’s an intricate design to the opening verses.

There’s heaps of comparisons in the opening verse. There’s a timeframe comparison – long ago, in these last days.

To our fathers, now to us.

By the prophets, by his Son.

The previous revelations of God were incomplete, they were not final, they weren’t finished. The author’s point is that Jesus is the definitive self-disclosure.

Jude 3 makes the same point – we are to contend for the faith that has been once and for all delivered to the saints.

Much of the world’s population is unaware that God has revealed himself in this way. For various and many reasons. For some, Muslims, there is a belief that Jesus was not the final revelation – that something supplemental is needed (a final prophet).

Therefore the first few verses in the letter make a dynamite claim. A claim this controversial and dramatic needs some substantiation. He needs to justify that Jesus is it.

Three qualifications

The resume of Jesus is beautifully designed. In verses 2-4 we see three key qualifications of Jesus.

  1. Radiance of God’s glory
  2. Exact imprint of his nature
  3. Upholds the universe by his Word

Radiance: the remarkable claim that Jesus was the supreme manifestation of God. Jesus embodies the very essence of God in his person. He shines the light of God in all its dazzling brightness.

Imprint: Jesus perfectly represents God to us. The word ‘imprint’ is the word we get ‘character’ from – Jesus bears the very imprint, a product of the very closest contact with the Father and able to express his nature. When Jesus communicates he expresses God’s own thoughts and intentions. He’s not an ambassador, not a messenger carrying a document with exact wording – he is the very word of God from the heart of God himself. There is no room for misrepresentation – there is no gap between God and Jesus.

Upholds: Jesus’ third qualification is his effectiveness of his communication – since he upholds the universe by his power. In the gospels we see this – for instance with just a word calming a storm, exorcising demons, bring a dead person back to life. The one who causes the sun to rise and set again, who rules the weather patterns, who sustains the sun and stars and every planet by the word of his power.

So who would you listen to when you want to know the word of God?

How do we grasp all of this? Even the early Christians would struggle to articulate how grand and majestic Jesus is. And here we have a letter dated to 60AD doing it all.

Creator and Redeemer

Verse 2 – we see that it is Jesus who created everything – everything is created by him, and through him, and for him.

Verse 3 – Jesus made purification for sins – able to do this by his own purity. Jesus didn’t save us by being our sideline coach, he came to be with us in order to draw us into the relationship that he has made possible by the shedding of his own blood.

This is who is speaking to us through His word.

Heir and King

Heir and King are two ideas speaking of Jesus enthronement – of his power and authority.

Jesus has sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high – after his purification for sins, his resurrection and ascension he returned to his rightful place next to God on the throne. The right hand was euphemistic for most trusted person.

This dazzling description of Jesus should blow our minds – but that’s not its sole point. It reminds us of who we belong to, when we call ourselves Christians and trust Jesus, when we run to him for mercy and refuge, we run to the One who has all power and majesty in the universe. He can keep us safe while we cling to him, while we hold fast to him.

Conversely he is also the one we go up against when we harden ourselves against him.

Superseding prophets and angels

The prophets were the promise bringers, Jesus is the fulfiller – he supersedes them not by rendering them obsolete but by fulfilling them.

If Prophets were the agents of revelation at the human end, angels were the agents of revelation at the divine end. Think of the Christmas stories – and how many angels appear to reveal God’s plans.

Angels are regarded as creatures, they are part of the created order – there is a sense in which they are super human. They are granted special access to God’s presence.

The bombshell of the author of Hebrews continues by saying that Jesus supersedes prophets and the ministry of angels.

 

Seven references (1:5-14)
Uniquely the Son

First two Old Testament quotes – both establish that Jesus is uniquely the Son. A way in which God would never have spoken to about angels.

The writer is saying that God is referring to Jesus as his Son – and God never speaks this way about the angels.

Worshipped by angels

Another couple of OT quotes to show that subservient nature of the angels to Jesus.

Never-ending

Verse 8-9 – Jesus is eternal, the angels are not.

At the right hand

Finally in verse 13 there is the climatic quote of Psalm 110 – that to no angel has this quote been given.

 

Notice in every one of the OT quotations the author is free to say ‘God said…’ yet in verse 8 there is quote from the song of Moses (sung by Moses), verse 9 quotes from a Psalm by the Sons of Korah, and Psalm 110 is written by David – yet the author keeps saying ‘God says…’ This is a profound insight into the authors reflection on the nature of scripture – that though there are human authors the ultimate author is God himself.

 

The danger of drifting!  (2:1-4)
The covenant revealed by angels

It’s easy to get lost in the theology and argument – but there is a big ‘therefore’ that must draw our attention.

The big danger is that we will become distracted and unfocused from Jesus – and our attention will drift from that one that deserves it. The word ‘drift’ carries sailing connotations – he’s worried that his audience is drifting like a boat away from Jesus. They may not have even noticed the subtlety of the drift. They will disregard Jesus at the risk of their security and well-being.

The temptation that they are facing is to go back to the security and safety of Judaism. There was an old tradition that angels gave the law to Moses – which is why they are so attached to them, because angels had access to God and could better guarantee the revelation of God. This gave the OT law a dignity and seriousness that they found hard to let go of and walk away from.

But under that covenant anybody who broke the covenant, hardened their heart towards the God who rescued them, faced the consequences. The law was legally binding with consequences for those who refused to listen.

The writer then uses a ‘how much more’ argument – if you want to go back to the angel covenant, stay attached to the Moses covenant, but Jesus is so far superior to them – don’t you understand that when you ignore Jesus, when you stop listening to him, the consequences are even worse, even more drastic, when you drift away from him. You just can’t turn your back on this word and remain safe.

There is no refuge back in Judaism – for that word has been fulfilled in Jesus.

The covenant revealed by Jesus

This is the warning we need to heed – even if we aren’t drawn back to Judaism. We are still subject to drifting, of disregarding our salvation in Jesus.

How are we hearing this word tonight? What we doing with what is being said to us. It’s not Richard that is speaking ultimately, nor the author of Hebrews that we need to worry about – but Jesus himself who is saying ‘Don’t drift away from me.’

Maybe you’re sick of persecution, maybe you’re drawn away to materialism, maybe you’re drawn to sexual immorality, maybe you’re being drawn back by family and remembering the comfort of fitting in with the family… there are all kinds of pressures within our culture that can cause us to drift.

How shall we escape?

If you walk away, you’re not walking away from the social club of church, or friends, or the building – but you are walking away from the all-powerful, all mighty, all distinct and awesome Jesus.

If you have been neglecting your salvation, stop the rot – run to Jesus to find your security and salvation there.

[A massive talk this evening on the supremacy of Jesus. It makes no sense to walk away from him and his glory. Don’t do it. Run to him – and find mercy and grace. Wow!]