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

Understanding what the scriptures say about the Holy Spirit

[Bittersweet, no matter how often I’ve been here at this conference Day 5 is filled with bittersweet feelings. In the immortal words of Ignite/BLT co-founder Ying Yee, ‘We’re exhausted and [hopefully] excited’ by God’s Word and God’s work in our lives, our churches, and the world. My strand group has been a delight to lead, conversations have been varied and deep, the talks have been monumentally helpful, and I’ve been delighted to recommend great books to people – praying that they will be read and applied joyfully in the lives of the readers. One more final talk and we’re done for another year – prayers for the strand groups and the delegates in the things that they have learned are appreciated!]

Morning Talk | John 5:19-30 | The Holy Spirit in Trinity | Tony Rowbotham

To understand another person, what must we know?

The way we grow to know someone is to hear them speak, to find out about them – to learn about their family. The best way to understand someone is to understand their family – because if you know that you know where they stand in relationship. To know someone in isolation is to know someone only in part.

If you want to understand the Holy Spirit you have to understand the Holy Spirit in the context of his relationships – and that is the Trinity. You cannot do justice to the knowledge of the Spirit without knowledge of the Trinity.

1. Relationships in the Trinity
Father and Son (5:19-30)

5:19 – Literally ‘the Son can do nothing by himself but can do only what he sees the Father doing’. Same idea is present in v30. This observation helps us to see what the Son can or cannot do – that Jesus can do only as the Father does, and nothing by himself.

In context Jesus has just done a miracle – a man has not been walking for years, and with a word Jesus helps this man to walk. But he gets into trouble because the miracle is done on the Sabbath, and also that he was calling God his own Father – making himself equal to God. The reaction of the Jews gives this away – they understand Jesus’ claim (even if we don’t).

We also see in this passage the Father has given the Son the right to judge and give life – and he does so by giving his Son authority (cf 5:24). Why? 5:20 – the Father loves the Son and shows him all that the Father does.

We see this also in Revelation 1:1 – God the Father gave the Son a revelation about himself. Didn’t the Son already know what he was on about? A pattern is established – the Father reveals to the Son, the Son reveals to us (in this case through an angel, in the NT through the Holy Spirit). This is the pattern of revelation (the revealing of God’s word).

The Father does this so that the Son will be honoured (cf 5:23) – and all who do not honour the Son do not honour the Father. Why does God give authority to judge and give life to Jesus? So that people will honour Jesus.

In Philippians 2 we read that everyone will honour Jesus – everyone will bow down to him – either in judgement or in worship.

5:30 – and so Jesus’ desire is to do the will of the One who sent him. We see this in 4:34 (my food is to do the will of him who sent me), 6:38 (I come from heaven not to do my will but the will of Him who sent me), 8:28-29 (I do nothing on my own, I speak only as the Father has taught me – I always do what pleases him), 17:4 (Jesus’ prays that he has glorified his Father by completing the work the Father has given him to do).

The Son obeys the Father in 14:31 is that he wants the world to know how much Jesus’ loves his Father – that the world may learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly as the Father has commanded me.

So we have this beautiful picture forming: who is at the centre of the universe of salvation and creation? The Father at the centre of all who points to his Son, and the Son who seeks to live only to please his Father, and we have the Spirit (in 16:13b-15) who only speaks what he hears from the Father and Son. We’re seeing here in the Trinity an other-person centred life. Each member of the Trinity wants to see the other glorified, expressed from love.

2. The Persons of the Trinity

Notice their roles – the Father does not obey the Son, the Spirit is not glorified like the Son, the Son does not seek to elevate his own personal will (not to say that he does not have a will). The persons of the Trinity are not interchangeable. [Yes! – Steven] And what we also see in the Trinity is not authoritarian and there is no subjugation. Instead we see loving authority, voluntary submission, mutual honouring, and love. Glory is when each person of the Trinity honours the other as appropriate for their personness. [Double yes!! – Steven]

Some applications.

First – love is at the centre of life because it is at the centre of the Trinity – which means love is at the centre of the Christian life. Love is best expressed when you love and seek the honour of others first. Love is not a gateway to self-indulgence, not a pathway to personal glory – but the life we are called to and the life that the Spirit helps us to live.

There are so many normal daily actions that are actions of love – volunteering to help car parking, those on rosters, choosing to chat someone who is alone, helping each other in our strand groups – love is at the centre of what we are called to do because it is the centre of who God is.

Second – freedom. Freedom is probably one of the highest values in Australia. We must not diminish another person’s capacity to freedom – do not tell me what to do and how to live, because if you do you are doing the wrong thing. It silences us when we feel the need to speak.

Consider Lady Gaga – a culture and trendsetter. In one of her lesser famous songs called ‘Hair’ her hair becomes a metaphor for freedom:

“I just wanna be myself
And I want you to love me for who I am
I just wanna be myself
And I want you to know, I am my hair

I’ve had enough, this is my prayer
That I’ll die livin’ just as free as my hair”

Freedom is what we have been trained to accept as the highest value.

But the truth is only God is truly free. And in his freedom the Father gives authority to his Son. The Son is free and lives to honour his Father. The Spirit is free and steps into the background so that the Son will be honoured. Each member of the Trinity is truly free – and true freedom from sin is freedom not to do whatever we want, but to seek the honour and love of another according to your personness.

Christ has set us free a Christians – from slavery and sin, from the Australian dream of freedom (which is actually slavery in itself). If you think that gap-year is the best thing you could do in life you’re thinking like an Australian and not like God. True freedom is found in who God has made us to be.

This could hurt sometimes. In Luke 22:42 the Son’s freedom hurts him – because doing the will of the Father at that moment (in the Garden of Gethsemane) was going to be costly.

Like in Netball – position determines how you play, what role you take, and what you can/should do.

The personness of each member of the Trinity shapes their work and what they do. And this is appropriate even for God. [Bam. – Steven] The Father is the originator from who all things come, and to whom all things will return (1 Cor 15), the Father sends the Son; the Son is sent, the Son obeys (the Father does not obey), he lives to seek the glory of the Father, to implement the Father’s plans and works because he is the Son; the Holy Spirit seeks the glory of the Son – that is what he wants! – he reveals the Son to us that we might be saved, and to help us say, ‘Jesus you are my Lord and you gave your life to me!’, he works through us to glorify the Son.

The glory of the Holy Spirit

See why the name of Father, Son and Spirit is important? We should maintain this language. There is in the revelation of God of the name of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

Why is the third member of the Trinity called ‘Spirit’? Because Spirit does His work through others. The Spirit rests on and equips and directs Jesus’ mission. And so to the Spirit does the same to us – in us and through us. The Spirit is named so because his invisibility is actually important because he wants to place the focus on Christ, and he wants to do His work through others. This is the self-effacing nature of the Holy Spirit.

[Bam – what a fantastic talk helping us see the glory of the roles that each member of the Trinity freely and willingly take up.
Well that’s it, folks! Ignite talks are done. Thanks for following along, and prayerfully there will be more posts this coming year.]

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

Understanding what the scriptures say about the Holy Spirit

[Thursday is here. Everyone is getting pretty tired, but we’ve got another big day of learning. Thanks for joining me on this live blog – and if you’re coming in the evenings please check out the bookstall and let me help you find some great books for your growth in 2019 :)]

Morning Talk | Galatians 5:16-26 | Our Obligation to the Spirit | Tony Rowbotham

Romans 8:12-13

Because we are now in the Spirit we have an obligation – not to the flesh (for if you live according to the flesh you will die), but to the Spirit (for if you live according to the Spirit you will live). We have an obligation to the Spirit because we are now in his realm – and it is an obligation of grace.

When you walk into an Asian home you take your shoes off – you seek to honour the home of someone else. It is rude if you were to walk into someone’s home, sit on the lounge and put your shoes on the coffee table – take control of the remote, and raid the fridge. That would not be conduct which would honour the house of the owner. We have an obligation to honour the work of the Spirit that Christ has placed within us.

7 Marks of Spirited Living

1. Put Jesus first

John 15:26 – The Spirit is the Spirit who testifies to Jesus – through the words of the Apostles who testify to the death and resurrection of Jesus.

John 16:13 – the Spirit will guide the Apostles into understanding about him.

When you seek to bring about the glory of Christ that is when the mark of the Holy Spirit is within you. When you see in Jesus the death of a man who gave his life for sin, and when you see in his resurrection the power to raise people from the dead, and by simply putting faith in him you are set right with your Father in Heaven – that is the work of the Spirit.

In Ephesians 1 there are four blessings – they all come from Jesus – and every blessing takes us to Jesus.

So the first mark of Spiritual Living is to put Jesus first. Not to be on about the Spirit. If you’re a spiritual person you will be on about Jesus – his person and achievements.

2. You will be a person of the Word

You cannot elevate the Spirit without elevating the Word of God. All scripture is God-breathed, God-spirited. The task he gives the servant of God, to Timothy, is to preach the Word. That is your task, that is how the gospel comes to the world, and that is the task of the spiritual person.

Ephesians 6:17 – one of the parts of the armour of God is to take the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. The cutting edge of God’s work in the world is through the word of God.

When you attempt to do a handyman job with the wrong tool it is bad – it takes way too long, and you can stuff it up way too easily. The tool that the Spirit gives to do His work in the world is the Word of God.

Go to a church that teaches the word. Go to bible study regularly. The most important thing you need to hear in the week is the Word of God.

What makes out the fourth soil in the parable in the sower? The fourth soil is the person who hears and accepts the Word of God. That is how you grow as a Christian, and how you ensure you’re the fourth soil.

To be a Christian without the Bible is to be Luke Skywalker without a lightsaber. [Noooooooooo! That’s not possible!! – Steven]

3. Prayer

1 John 5:14 – you can ask God for anything according to His will. What do children of God ask for? They ask for the things that the Spirit wants. They want to please their saviour, to live for him. So they can ask for anything – and what they want to ask for is what the Father wants – for what it means to live in the realm of the Spirit.

If we take this to heart it will revolutionise our prayers – we will pray as Paul prays, we will pray to know Christ better. Our prayers tend to be centred around stuff in our lives – and while it’s not bad to pray about the things of life, our prayers should be reformed and saturated by what is revealed in the Word of God. Spirit people’s prayers are different – for we will want what the Spirit wants.

4. Stay in step with the Spirit

When you’re in a three-legged race your obligation is to keep your legs in step together, otherwise it ends in a mess. Our obligation is to keep in step/walk in the Spirit.

Galatians 5:16-25 – how do we walk in the Spirit? First, we don’t gratify our flesh – we do not do whatever we want. There is a big conflict that happens inside a spiritual Christian – and the battle is not evidence that you are losing the war between sin and Spirit, the battle is evidence that you are indeed a child of God. If you sinned and did not care that is evidence that you are not a child of God.

Sometimes we think that to be spiritual is to have your life together. That is not true. To be spiritual is to battle – from new birth to new creation.

The acts of the flesh (6:19-21) – if we are in step with the spirit we will step away from these things. The fruit of the Spirit (6:22-23) – how much do we appreciate and celebrate the work of the Spirit within us? We are more patient because of the work of he Spirit within us. You are not just nice people, you are Spirited people – people who are keeping in step with the Spirit. This conference, this fellowship, is a work of God. God is to be praised – not you! This fruit ought to lead to the praise of God and not you! Sometimes we assume it’s the person – but it is truly the work of God.

Arrange your life around your obligations to the Spirit – what He values. Learn to value peace, love, joy, and self-control – more than productivity, freedom, or other things that the world says are more important.

What sort of person do you want to spend the rest of your life with? Make it someone who is going to help you arrange your life around our obligations to the Spirit. It requires discipline to say ‘No’ to a relationship with a non-believer. That takes discipline and courage. If you want to arrange your life around your obligations to the Spirit find a believer who does the same.

5. You are a child of God (Romans 8)

The greatest achievement of the Holy Spirit is that you have been made children of God.

You deserve judgement, and yet we receive sonship. We are brought right into the family – not just to observe the dinner table as an onlooker, but as a guest seated at the table.

We need constant encouragement to remember that we are children of God because we have yet to receive everything that children receive – our inheritance, to take off this body of sin and receive our redeemed bodies – so the Spirit is there to remind us that we haven’t received everything as sons and daughters… but we will one day!

Hebrews 5:7-8 – another form of suffering in our lives is the suffering of living a godly life. Think of Jesus in the wilderness – he suffered for his godliness. As you continue to say no to yourself and yes to God.

6. Know this verse (Ephesians 1:13)

You were included in Christ when you heard (and received) the gospel – when you believed you were sealed with the Holy Spirit. You believed the gospel of your salvation – when you believe that Jesus died and rose in your place, and He gave you His righteousness you received the Spirit in his fullness.

There is no second blessing to come.

No second blessing that you might do ministry better. When you believed that is when you received the Holy Spirit.

There is so much out there which is wrong on this – so much unhelpful or false teaching about second blessings of the Spirit.

When you have the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is yet to complete his work in you. Some people speak of having the Holy Spirit meaning you have everything – but that’s not the teaching of scripture. The NT uses words like seal, deposit, first fruits to describe his ongoing work.

7. Mission

Matthew 28:18-20 – God’s Spirit is with us as we take the gospel to the world. If you’re a Spirit person you will be on about mission and will love mission.

Reflect upon these seven marks – which do we want to rejoice in and work on?

[You’ve heard of 9Marks of a Healthy Church? Here are 7 Marks of a Spirited person. Lots to chew on here!]

Evening Talk | John 17 | Jesus’ Prayer For Us | Paul Grimmond

1. Listening in on Jesus’ Prayer

These are the final words of Jesus as he leads up to the cross. This passage, these last words before he walks out to face his accusers, we find Jesus at prayer. Jesus finishes all his instructions by praying.

Imagine that – Jesus finishes by praying. God incarnate, the all powerful Son, heir of the universe, in authority over all creation under the Father stops and prays. Jesus knows he is dependent on his Father and needs His help.

This reliance on the Father is throughout this section – 14:28, 30-31; 15:10

Jesus is not only our lord and ruler but also our model of submission. He knows as he comes to the end of his life what it is to cry out to his Father for his needs and sustenance. Jesus was deeply aware of his need to depend on his Father – which puts our self-sufficiency to shame.

17:1 – Jesus’ lifting his eyes to pray. We have in this chapter the beautiful and immeasurably wonderful final words of Jesus in prayer.

Why is Jesus’ prayer recorded? Jesus said and did lots of other things that are not recorded (cf 20:30-31) – so John chose particular things that we need to know about Jesus in order to love and trust him.

2. Three prayers – all for us
   i.   Jesus prays for himself (17:1-5)

The very first words of Jesus’ prayer echo the words we started with on our first evening – the hour has come.  John 12:23 – the hour is something that will lead to the glory of Jesus. 12:27 – the hour is also a time of deep sorrow.

13:31-33 – Jesus is about to go the place that none of us can go. None of us can go to the cross to die for the sins of the world. Jesus’ hour of glory and sorrow is the hour of the cross. And so Jesus’ prayer in 17 is a prayer for God to give him the strength to go to the cross to fulfil his Father’s plan (17:5).

As John speaks this to all of us – he speaks in a way that is incredible to hear.

John 19 – see how John speaks of Jesus as the King – this chapter is dripping with irony – because everything that proclaims Jesus as King is done in mockery. And yet the remarkable thing what they do in mockery God the Father is doing in reality. What they proclaim is actually the truth – here is the King of the world being crowned in glory as he dies for you and me.

We don’t belong in the Father’s presence, not in our sinful state would we dare enter the presence of the living God. Jesus goes to the cross to take ALL of our sin so that we can walk into the presence of God so that God would say to us, ‘Welcome!’

Here is glory. The moment that redefines glory.

Paul’s confession: growing up desperately wanting to be famous. Paul played in a band, loved playing in front of a crowd – and dreamed of playing in front of a massive crowd. But he’s not the only one who has dreamed that. We all have dreamed that because we live in a world that elevates high achievement. The high marks, the musical certificate, the grand final win – and even FB which teaches us to chase ‘likes’. We live our lives for the approval of other people and we call that ‘glory’.

Jesus moment of glory is to suffer, to be spat upon, to be killed in service of his Father. This teaches us what true glory is. Glory is to honour the Father to give up ourselves for the wants and needs of the people around you. Some of the most glorious things you do will never be liked by everybody. True glory is the pleasure of the Father.

So true glory needs to be redefined in our lives. Please your heavenly Father and glorify the Son by the life you lead.

In praying this for himself Jesus is also praying for our benefit – that we might know and live for true glory.

   ii.  Jesus prays for his disciples (17:6-19)

Why is it important that Jesus prays about how the disciples have received him and believed him. Jesus, as he goes to the cross to be glorified, is also glorified in his disciples as the ministry of the Spirit uses the ministry of the disciples to deliver the good news of Jesus’ death to the nations.

v12 – a remarkable statement – why this phrase in this passage? A reminder that even Judas and his work in the betrayal of the Son was not an accident, mistake, or God not in control. God was in charge of the whole of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The Bible is never shy about declaring the sovereignty of God. The most evil act that ever happened in the world was under God’s sovereign control. Acts 2:23 – Jesus delivered up according to the foreknowledge and plan of God. God gave his Son to the cross so that we could be forgiven.

This truth must form the bedrock of our life when we face suffering and the chaos of an out of control world. God in those circumstances will give us his Spirit to sustain us to get through. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that God is hands-off, gives us freedom and really wants us to love him – that’s now how the Bible expresses it. God is in control of every circumstance of your life.

So Jesus’ prayer for us – that even as the world hates us, that they not be taken out of the world but they be kept from the evil one.

Jesus also prays that we would take his gospel to the world. And while there has been debate about who should speak and share the gospel with the world the truth is that in the heart of all of us must be the heart of the Father for the world that we would love the world to tell them the gospel they so need to hear.

   iii. Jesus prays for us (17:20-26)

And finally at the end, in verse 20, he turns to pray directly to us.

So what does Jesus, as he goes to his death, pray for you and me? What does he ask for us?

Jesus prays the same thing twice within four verses:

v21 – unity. v23 – unity = so that the world will know that Jesus has been sent into the world.

He prays for our unity so that our world will know who He is.

The same thing is said in 13:34-35 – if God’s people love one another the world will know they are disciples.

Two big principles to living this out:

First – what Jesus is calling us to is a unity of heart, mind, and purpose about the truth about Him. Our job is to workout how to be in gracious, forgiving, Jesus-centred relationship with all the people who God has placed around you. The people you like and the people who drive you nuts.

So are there brothers and sisters to whom you are currently out of fellowship? Are there people you hold a grudge against? Is there someone you’re holding bitterness against? You’re running away from because you’re angry with them?

If Jesus has died to unite us to the Father it is not enough for us to say, ‘I don’t like them and don’t want to see them again – and all will be ok.’

Speaking and seeking reconciliation won’t always work – but we are told to seek the risk of it because we belong together for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Maybe we need to acknowledge the wrong we have done, maybe we need to point out the wrong done to us – and there will be 1000 excuses to avoid sending that message to catch up – yet be encouraged to work towards being united. This requires an incredible amount of grace.

Have you ever noticed that when you get into an argument with somebody you both say, ‘You started it.’? What is it that we are hoping when we say that? We’re hoping that they will acknowledge they started the wrong and that justifies every wrong that happened after that. But their sin does not justify your sin – their wronging you does not justify gossiping or slandering them.

As you open up and own what you’ve done wrong doesn’t negate what they have done wrong – but we are to take the first step towards reconciliation.

Second – because unity is so precious to Jesus and so precious to Jesus’ people – it is a truth we should expect to be deeply exploited by Satan. Unity does not mean we agree everything is right and hold hands and sing songs together. The Apostle John who heard this teaching wrote in 1 John 2:18-19 about false teachers. We don’t know what happened in 1 John but there appears to have been a group gone out from John’s church and not because of some disagreement but because they are abandoning the gospel. Then in 1 John 2:21-24 John goes on to call them back to the truth – so it looks like these “brothers and sisters” were going out and teaching lies.

We don’t have fellowship for the sake of fellowship.

So we need deep discernment with people who say they are brothers and sisters around our city, nation and globe. We need to overlook folly, sin, and lack of wisdom – but we need to so know the truth and hold onto it that when people reject the deep truths about Christ we need to say to them we no longer belong to you and you no longer belong to Christ.

This is very hard work. As sinful humans we tend to choose the wrong option – we hold onto truth when we need to forgive, or we forgive and let go of truth. But we need to do the hard work on this to get it right.

3. What about the work of the Spirit?

While the first passage on the first night and this final passage don’t tend to speak of the Spirit – His work is deeply woven in all of these passages.

What is the purpose of a spotlight in a dark concert hall? It’s job is not to draw attention to itself – but to draw attention to the singer. That’s the Spirit’s job – to focus attention on Jesus. So if we’re not talking about him and talking about Jesus the Spirit is delighted! Because that’s what it wants!

Ephesians 4:1-3 – we are to eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit – but the Spirit doesn’t sulk because it doesn’t get a mention in John 17 because Jesus is only speaking about unity and not about him. He is delighted because Jesus is speaking what the Spirit desires – unity around the Son.

We speak about the work of the Spirit all the time in our churches – because when we focus on Jesus we are doing what the Spirit delights.

Do not let people accuse you that you are not a “Spirit Christian” or not a “Spiritual Person” because you do not speak of the Spirit that much.  We are the people of the Spirit because we understand what the Spirit is doing – and when we speak of the work of the Father and Son we are doing the work of the Spirit.

[The Spirit delights when we do not speak of him but speak of Jesus for that is what the Spirit desires. What a wonderful teaching! May we be ‘Spirit’ people because we so love the Father and Son and speak of their work in this world.]


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

Understanding what the scriptures say about the Holy Spirit

[Humpday is here! For those following along at home, please keep everyone here in your prayers – for energy as we continue to engage with the talks and material, and for God’s Spirit to be at work as we open His word!]

Morning Talk | Living in the Spirit | Romans 8:1-17 | Tony Rowbotham

In Romans 8 there are 22 references to the Spirit. In the great epistle outlining the gospel there are +30 references to the Spirit – so in this chapter alone are 2/3 of all the references to the Spirit.

But before we get into the chapter we need to consider the hard subject of sin.

Sin (through the lens of addiction)

Tony is big on songs regarding addiction. He grew up in a small town where everyone knows about everyone – nothing is hidden in small towns. And there’s a small part of Tony that appreciates that he is only ever one decision away from ruining his life – one decision from unravelling everything he values in life.

One of the songs he loves is Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’. Some lyrics:

“I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel.
Chorus: “what have I become, my sweetest friend”
End: “if I could find a way, a million miles away, I would keep myself, I would find a way”

There is a big sense of regret and sadness, and a reality that you’re caught up in a bigger issue than yourself and hurting yourself and being unable to escape – but at the end of the song he reflects that he cannot escape.

Greenday – 21 Guns
“When your mind breaks the spirit of your soul
Something inside this heart has died, you’re in ruins…”

Another great song about addiction – your mind wants something, and it will break you in the process of achieving it. In addiction, you become the agent of your own demise. This song expresses that feeling of being trapped by addiction.

Addiction is a helpful lens to understand sin. It is oppressive – and if we could choose another way we would.

Another example – in Australia gambling is a massive problem. Porn, drugs, alcohol, nicotine, sex, games, work, phones, acceptance, FOMO, fashion, looking good/slim – you can be addicted to anything. They can often be good things, but they turn on us and trap us. Though we seek to be released we just cannot. The power of sin is like the power of addiction – and as Christians, we wish we could stop, be changed, yet our experience teaches us that we are not in control, we are not masters, we are enslaved.

But… in Romans 8 we will see something powerfully different.

1. Sin rules us with an overwhelming mastery (Romans 5-7)

Sin entered the world through Adam, it entered through him and through him into the world comes death. Sin is an all-encompassing master – no one can escape his influence, for all will die.

5:20 – the Law was brought into the world to increase trespass – Law was brought in not to restrain sin, but to make it more apparent.

Sin rules and reigns – and we are condemned by it.

7:21-24 – Sin undoes my good, even when I want to do what is right I’m a prisoner to it. It undermines even my best intentions. I’m a wretched man because of sin and the Law.

We are like people on the verge of drowning at the beach – we’re in our final throes before we drown, we’re needing to be saved.

2. ‘set free’ by Christ (Romans 6:6-7, 7:6-7)

Yet in our helplessness we have been given a connection that changes everything.

6:5-7 – here is this big truth that the Holy Spirit has made real for us – that we have been set free from sin because, by faith, we are united with him. We’re not set free from sinning, but we are set free from the consequences of sinning. We are no longer slaves to sin. The very things that Jesus has gone through we too have gone through.

Jesus died, and we have died with him. He was buried, and has been raised – and we too have been raised, and in such a way that we have been set free from slavery to sin through our connection with Christ.

7:4-6 – we’ve been set free from sin and the Law to belong to Christ. Many Christians continue to be under law – trying to keep parts of it – but if you return to the law you diminish what Jesus achieved on the cross.

3. ‘now no condemnation’ (Romans 8:1-2)

Notice the ‘now’ – which is present. It’s not a future, and it’s not provisional. If you are in Christ you are no longer condemned by sin or the Law. If you were a slave to sin you would be condemned.

4. Realm: flesh OR spirit, NOT flesh AND spirit (Romans 8:5-8)

8:8 when your mind is governed by the flesh, your sinful nature, you cannot please God. So in 8:9 Paul writes that you’re either in the flesh or in the Spirit – in one realm or in the other. We’re not conflicted, jumping between the two (that’s not what Paul says) – Paul is unequivocal: are are ruled and are in the realm of the Spirit – so when we sin we sin in the realm of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a plugin while we live in our sinful flesh.

5. ‘you, however….’ (Romans 8:9-11)

Jesus gives us his Holy Spirit, which transfers us from kingdom to another (to use his words from Colossians) – in the language of Romans 8 we’re not in the realm of the flesh but in the realm of the Spirit.

So who are we listening to? Do we listen to the voice of our flesh – which tells us that sin is winning and we deserve to be condemned? This voice is speaking a half-truth. We do deserve to be condemned. But in Christ that condemnation is gone. Though you sin as a believer the Spirit will give life.

This tension is there in 8:10 – though your body is subject to death because of sin the Spirit gives life. When you sin as a Christian you are not being controlled by the flesh. Even when you want to sin you are not being controlled by the flesh – because the flesh will not have the final say, it will not condemn you – because Christ has died for us and we have been given His Spirit. And the Spirit speaks a word to us that takes us back to Christ.

The Spirit helps us to go back to Jesus when we sin – but he’s not just simply an addition to our lives. He changes the realm that we live in.

So when we sin we sin no longer as slaves to sin. A slave to sin has no say in their eternal destination. We’re not headed to death and judgement because the Spirit of God takes us back to the cross of Christ where we died and to the resurrection of Christ where we have been raised as well.

We do not deserve this. No, not at all.

Isn’t that incredible?

6. ‘we have an obligation’ (Romans 8:12-13)

If you have been taken from deserving the judgement and condemnation of God to now no longer being condemned – you are going to be so thankful! You’ll rejoice, be happy, and want to repay that in some way? Not repay in the same way as ‘must’ – but out of delightful joy.

So our obligation now is to live for the Spirit – and put to death the misdeeds of the body (we’ll pick up on that tomorrow morning).

Another obligation is to preserve this understanding of teaching and living in the realm of the Spirit. If we preserve this we will not lose the grace of God, and we will not slip back into the Law.

This is not easy – the early church in the New Testament shows us how much the church struggled to keep trusting and teaching and preserving this truth. Preserving grace for the NT church was not easy for them to do and it will not be easy for us to do. Our tendency will always to be to go back to the Law.

And we will find it really hard for ourselves – because we listen to our own experience more than the Word of God, and we will forget so easily and quickly what Jesus achieved on the cross for us and the victory of his resurrection.

How do you handle the dilemma of sinning and wishing you didn’t, desiring it on one hand and hating it on the other? Our confidence in this dilemma has to be in Jesus – the confidence that we will live because of Jesus. The realm of the Spirit is a realm which always draws us to Jesus – where he reigns, where sin and death and law do not have the final word over your life.

Are you harder on yourself than Jesus is when you sin? Probably most of us are.

Remember: Jesus has taken us and transferred us into his Kingdom, and given us his Spirit to help us and transform us even in the midst of the messiness of sin and life. The realm of flesh no longer masters us. We might feel the frustration of sin, but we have a new master, we live under a new reign – that master is Jesus and he rules us by His Spirit within us.

And what he will do with us by His Spirit will be amazing.

[Wow. Just wow. Tony has lovingly smashed us again and again with these gospel truths about our new identity in Jesus. How I pray we would never forget these wondrous truths!]

Evening Talk | John 15:18-16:33 | Jesus, Persecution and the Power to Persevere | Paul Grimmond

1.  What is your most treasured possession?

The problem in working out what our treasured possession is – we have so much in our lives that is replaceable. A phone? No. Photos? Now on the cloud. Lots of the stuff we have is not really stuff we treasure now. Why is this? Because we have so much of what we need in our lives so that we can go from one thing to the next. We live in a world of constant distraction – we have so much of what we require that we get bored with life. There’s not much we have in life that gets us new excited.

Paul’s prayer for us – that we would learn to treasure the word of God this evening.

This is the longest section we’re going to deal with this week – and we’re going to have to hold this all together. Like last night the themes in this passage interweave each other – but there’s a new set of themes.

2.  Obvious themes misapplied
   i.  If you belong to me, the world will hate you

15:18-21; 16:2-4, 20 – there’s a big picture of persecution and the world hating, seriously hating, Christ followers.

ii. But I will empower you to witness

15:26-27 – the Spirit will come from the Father and his job will be to testify to the nature and character of Jesus – and he will be at work in his people to witness about Jesus as well.

16:7-11 – a picture of the Spirit coming to convict the world of how it is doing wrong, but then after this the focus flips.

16:12-15 – the Spirit will come to convict (passages before) but he will also come to witness to Jesus and help you remember all that Jesus has said.

Pattern we see – suffering, witness, suffering, witness. At the end of chapter 16 it will close with joy – but the main theme is suffering and empowered witness.

iii.  However, it’s not all about you!

Something that happens to Christians is that we’re challenged to think and read through the Bible as a book written for us – and that is right on some level. But the problem is that not all of the Bible has been directly written to you. All of the Bible has been written for you, but not all of it has been written to you.

15:22, 24 – who is spoken about here? Is this about the non-Christians in our world? Has Jesus spoken to everyone in our world? No – probably a reference to those who had seen Jesus in the flesh (the Jews of his time).

15:27 – that is also not us – because we have not been with Jesus from the beginning.

16:2 – how many of us have been kicked out of synagogues? None of us.

16:12-13 – how many of us cannot bear the truth now so that we’ll need the Spirit later to know the truth?

See how the whole of this section of the gospels is Jesus words to the disciples about what is just about to happen and take place as Jesus is going to the cross. The Bible is written for us but not necessarily always to us.

So how is this passage written for us as believers 2000 years after all of these events have taken place?

3. The presence of the Spirit in the age of persecution
   i.  The disciples are witnesses

One of the disciples jobs at this point as to directly witness to Jesus. They were the ones who experienced the ministry of Jesus – and have been with Jesus – and that is what qualifies them to make them witnesses. This is incredibly significant for your faith. How do you know the Jesus you believe in? Have we seen him with our eyes? Have we spoken to him? We know Jesus because his witnesses recorded it down in the scriptures for us.

So how reliable are the eye-witnesses?

ii. The Spirit will teach them after Jesus has gone

16:12-15 – Jesus tells them that he has lots of things to tell them but they can’t grasp it now – but after he’s gone the Spirit will help them understand these truths – more truths to grasp now. Jesus’ earthly ministry was not the end of his teaching ministry, he had not yet taught all that he had to teach.

What was one of the qualifications for a disciple after Judas had gone? Acts 1:21-22 – someone who was a witness to Jesus from the start, and who saw the resurrection.

4.  How is this God’s word for us?

John 2 – Jesus driving out the temple money changers. 2:21 – Jesus speaks of the Temple of his body. Who that day knew that Jesus was speaking about his body? Answer: nobody. Not even the disciples. 2:22 – when Jesus was resurrected and they received the Spirit they remembered what he had taught, they had seen the events of Jesus life, and they understood what he was saying.

Jesus’ promise in John 15-16 to give his disciples the Spirit is a wonderful promise to ensure that His word is fully and finally given to us!

Friends – do you see that what these verse in John are is not a promise to you that the Spirit will come to you and guide you – but are a promise to the disciples that they will be led into all truth for our benefit? This means that every single word in your New Testaments is Jesus’ word to you.

All of God’s truth is Jesus’ truth – and the Spirit will take this and make it known to his Disicples… making it known to us.

So where do we sit in this text? We’re not Jesus, and we’re not one of the disciples, but we are those who will believe because of their testimony.

Acts 14:22 – Jesus’ teaching of being hated by the world is repeated by Paul to all Christians.

1 Thess 3:2-4 – same thing that Paul writes – repeating what Jesus has said in the gospels about being hated.

2 Tim 3:12 – same thing again.

Question: Are you like me? Grimmo has a thing that if he’s nice enough everyone will like me. [That is definitely me. – Steven] Who was the nicest and most gracious, most godly, most wisest person in all of history? Jesus. What did they do to him? They nailed him to the cross because people hate righteousness. The world hates goodness. So if you want to live the way Jesus lived people will hate you – they don’t like it when you tell the truth. They don’t like it when you stand for biblical truth: sexual immorality is bad for us; refusal to gossip; they stop speaking when you enter the lunch room. That’s a badge of honour – you are enough like Jesus that they are embarrased by the way they live.

Being like Jesus, owning what he had to say, will cause the world to hate you.

Caveat – don’t be hated for being a sinful idiot. But if you want to live for Jesus they won’t love you.

So how much do you treasure your Bible? In countries where persecution is extensive and hard – it’s amazing to hear how believers go to great lengths to obtain a Bible. Do we realise what we have in our Bibles? What do we do with this truth?

Grimmo shares about his dating a woman in Uni (who would later become his wife). He was in Sydney, she was in Lismore (Northen NSW). Phone calls were expensive. So they had to write letters to each other. And every time he saw an envelope it was his delight to read it. He would read it and re-read them because he so delighted in her – he wanted to know her and hear from her and treasure her words.

Surely we should do more than that with the Spirit inspired words of Jesus.

What is the work of God’s Spirit in this world? The greatest treasure of the Spirit’s work is the Word which has been given to us.

The world might hate us, but that’s ok. Because Jesus is going to come back and make it all worth it.

[I am absolutely stunned, floored, and in awe. Holy Spirit – thank you for preserving your beautiful Word for us!]



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

[Yesterday was the first time I had blogged here in a while – WordPress had also changed the publishing of new blogs was done in a weird blocks format. But I’ve been able to get it back to classic post mode so hopefully it’ll be easier to read the posts and their formatting! Day 2 is here, workshops begin today, so there will be plenty to write about. Follow along and let us know in the comments if you’re reading!]

Morning Talk 2 | Isaiah 11, 42, 61; Luke 3:22, 4:18-21, 4:43-44 | The Messiah-Anointing Spirit | Tony Rowbotham

Stuck on selfie mode

One of the funny things that sometimes happens with our phone cameras is that they get stuck in ‘selfie mode’. And often misunderstandings about the Holy Spirit are caused by us being stuck in theological selfie mode. It’s easy to understand how we get stuck there – Jesus puts his Spirit in us, he changes uswe become more like the Son of God. So there can be a sense that the Spirit is about us.

But today we’re going to be switching back to ‘normal mode’.

Isaiah 6:8-13 – Isaiah’s Ministry

Isaiah’s commissioning is in this passage. He puts his hand up for God’s mission – but the mission that God gives him is strange: preach to harden the hearts of your hearers. Isaiah’s ministry is to close people down – to help them hear and not get it. Their hearts calloused, their eyes blind – he will preach for a negative outcome. Not because Isaiah is incompetent – but because God ordains this so.

So Isaiah rightly asks – how long will I keep doing this? God’s answer: until everything lies in ruin.

Isaiah 11:1-5 – The Spirited King

Isaiah’s ministry was to cut everything back to a stump – but now God will make that stump live, bear fruit, flourish. A branch will come, and bear fruit – and the Spirit of the Lord will be upon this shoot. It will be a king – a Davidic King – and God will be with him.

The Spirit will also pour out upon this King wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord (11:2) – he will not be like Saul, that King who disobeyed God. He will not be like David whose passions overcame him and disobeyed God. He will not be like Solomon who though he had wisdom was brought to ruin by his sin. This king will not be like those kings. This King will have God’s Spirit upon him in ways that no other King had before.

11:4-5 – this king will judge the earth, with righteousness. His words will slay the wicked. And he is doing this on behalf of the needy, the poor of the earth

  Isaiah 42:1-7 – The Spirited Servant

Here is God’s servant – who receives rave reviews from God, God is delighted in this servant – God will put his Spirit upon him. Same spirit, different person. This servant doesn’t speak – the King in the previous passage speaks and floors people, but this servant will not speak.

Yet he will also bring justice through his actions. The way he does this is in verse 6 – God will be at work through Him to be a light to the nations. This servant will bring justice by being a covenant for the people. This comes to head in Isaiah 53 where the servant will take on the sins of the people – he will become the new covenant, the bond between God and the people. And it will be God’s Holy Spirit that will make him out and strengthen him for this task.

42:7 – he will become a light to the gentiles to open the eyes of the blind – the blind whose eyes were shut by Isaiah’s ministry, the servant will open the eyes of. He will undo the ministry of Isaiah – here is the future beyond the felled stump. Here we have the same spirit, the same goal.

  Isaiah 61:1-3 – The Spirited Mission

God’s mission of proclamation – carried out by the Spirit and the Word – the good news proclaimed to the poor, the broken hearted, to comfort from sin.


In all of these passages we see that the Spirit of God is marking out His work through a King/Servant – to be a light to the gentiles – and marks out the timing of this for the future. This ministry of the Spirit is also not for everyone. It is for those who consider themselves poor in spirit, those who are humble before God and not for those who are proud in spirit. The ministry of the Spirit is not for those who think they do not need God – those who are self-sufficient and independent, but for the people who know they need God.

Luke 3:21-22 – ‘the Holy Spirit descended on him’

This moment in the gospels is significant and different. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove – not exactly sure what this would have looked like – but in God’s speech at this moment we find out that Jesus is the servant king that Isaiah was looking forward to. By the Spirit the servant and king are identified in the one person.

  Luke 4:18-21 – ‘the Spirit of the Lord is on me’

Jesus reading out the Isaiah 61 passage we read before – Jesus is the servant that God is sending to proclaim good news to the poor in spirit. The mission of Jesus is laid out in these verses – how did Jesus know what his mission was to be? He read Isaiah!

  Luke 4:42-44 – sent to proclaim

Jesus often leaves the sick and suffering people – not because he didn’t care for them, but because his primary mission was to proclaim his gospel of the Kingdom of God.

From selfie to Christ

One of the key works of the Holy Spirit is to identify the Christ. We need to move out of selfie mode to think that the Spirit was sent for me – and to see that the Spirit was sent for Christ. The Spirit here was sent to anoint the Christ, to strengthen Him and keep Him for that task to bind up the broken hearted and the poor in spirit. Those who are not proud, but humbled before the God of the universe.

This is one of the wonderful things about being an evangelical – which is a fancy long word for being gospel-people. The gospel is at the centre of how I think about the world and how I relate to God – only through the work of Jesus. To be evangelical is to understand the world through Christ. The Spirit here is being ‘evangelical’ – marking out Jesus and equipping him for the mission.

An observation from Tony – one of the main differences between evangelicals and Pentecostals is in their testimonies. In an evangelical testimony, people talk about Jesus (and how he gave his life for us and died in my place). There might be a story attached to that, but the goal of an evangelical testimony is to raise up Jesus. Pentecostal testimonies tend to focus on the power of a changed life – he’s done this in my life, taken me from this, and made me into this. Because the Pentecostal focus is on the Spirit’s work in me.

We all have that same problem – we all want to be about me.

[A helpful reorientation of our thinking about the Spirit and ourselves. The selfie/normal contrast is a great way of reflecting on whether we have a self-centered view of the Spirit’s ministry or a Christ-centred view. May we see the Spirit for who he truly is.]

Evening Talk 2 | John 14:15-15:17 | Abiding in Jesus: Love and Obedience | Paul Grimmond

1.  The questions we have as we come to the text
   i. Whatever you ask in my name I’ll do?

What’s up with this? At the beginning of our passage and the end of this passage is the incredible promise that Jesus will give you whatever you ask in his name – and that will involve bigger things than he has ever done.

What is Jesus saying here? And why is it that we sometimes feel like we’re missing out on it?

ii. If you obey me, my Father will send the Spirit

Again, in this passage there’s a sense that if you obey Jesus you’ll be fine – but is that the Christian gospel message? And yet Jesus says – love me and keep my commands/words and my Father will love him. You obey Jesus, Jesus will come and be with you, and everything will be great.

   iii.  What on earth is the fruit?

There are also some tough things being said about bearing fruit – and whatever the fruit is you’ll need to bear it otherwise you’ll be thrown out, and if you do bear fruit you’ll be pruned. So what is this fruit that shows you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to you?

2. Seeing the threads of the tapestry

And still, there is another problem when we come to this text. Jesus says so many things that seem to circle round and round that you get lost – like you’re looking at a tapestry and finding it hard to follow. There are so many ideas that bounce around.

The ideas that are at the beginning, middle, and end – promises (14:12, 27; 15:11, 15) and prayer (14:13, 15:7, 16)

The ideas woven through the passage – love and obey (14:15, 21, 23, 24, 31; 15:9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 17).

Ideas that appear in the first half of the passage – the Spirit, the Helper

Ideas that appear in the second half – remaining, dwelling

[Gosh Paul is flying through this section! Best find the talk online to listen to it…]

3. How Christ dwells in us by his Spirit

The logic of this section is a little strange – Jesus has just said, ‘You know the Father through me…’ and then just said, ‘I’m going…’ – so how can we continue to know the Father when Jesus is about to go?! Answer: He will send his Holy Spirit.

14:18-20 – Jesus promises to not leave them as orphans. v16 speaks of Jesus sending the Holy Spirit, and yet in v18 he speaks of himself coming to you – so when the Spirit comes to dwell in you it’s not just the Spirit – but the Son and also the Father will be dwelling in you. The Trinity dwells within you.

[Umm… wow!!]

Do you realise that the promise of Jesus is that when he goes he still comes to dwell within you? Alongside the Spirit and his Father. And that means you are never alone. At the worst moment in life, when people ridicule you, when you’re snubbed and depressed and feel all alone – the Triune God is with you. If God has made his home with you then he is here right now! What a great privilege… that we so easily forget.

14:25ff – some people are feelers and others are thinkers – and some people think that the Spirit is all about feelings – yet the passage here is saying that the Spirit’s role is to teach you all about Jesus as you hear His truth. The Spirit is not more present with you when you feel like he’s there – the Spirit is all there. He’s there to teach you all the truth in Christ and to understand all that Jesus has said. Be encouraged that genuine Spiritual Christianity is thinking Christianity – it is word based, truth-based, and will transform us to bring us deep joy. Know that you are not alone, especially when you feel alone – God is always there – by the ministry of the Spirit in your life the Son and Father are also with you.

4. The call to dwell in Christ

15:1ff – here Jesus flips it over – in the latter part of 14 he wants to show how He will dwell with us – and now he flips it and speaks of us dwelling with him. The words ‘dwell’ (chpt 14) and ‘abide’ (chpt 15) are the same word.

The central image of 15:1-8 is a vine. The way to thrive in the Christian life is to remain in Jesus. You don’t have to move, you don’t have to find something new – the one you came to in faith is the one you stay with.

15:9-10 repeat 14:21 – and show us what abiding in Jesus looks like: keeping Jesus’ commands.

We live in the most anti-authoritarian culture in history. We’ve been taught that education is about scepticism – don’t believe anything you’re taught and question everything. We are terrified of authority and being told what to do. And some of us might have codified that in our theology: that it’s all about grace and not works – so when we read that in scripture we caveat that away by saying we’re saved by grace. But Jesus is not afraid to tell us to listen and obey. To know Christ in person is to trust that what he says to us is good for you – even a word of obedience. It is for our joy, delight, and life.

So friends – what is it in God’s word that you are running away from? What command raises anxiety and shame?

Know this: Jesus loves you more than you know – and his love and forgiveness is great. Confess your sins to one another – ask God for forgiveness, and plead with God for transformation and change.

15:12ff – how are we going at loving one another? It is a rich beautiful truth that we get to share life with others in church – so how are we loving the people there? But this is tough – if you’re in the in-crowd, are we including the people on the fringes? We’ll need to leave the fun space and enter the hard space to do so. But Jesus did that when he came – he left the fun space and entered the hard space. Who is the person that needs encouragement, needs prayer, needs to be sat with. What will it mean for us to look at the people in our church instead of the people just next to us? Will you find the elderly person to get to know them?

If you find it hard to do these things, and struggle to put these commands into practice – go back to the promises of Jesus, and see their deep significance.

Why does Jesus say ‘whatever you ask in my name… I will do it’? Is this here to make you feel guilty when your prayers are unanswered? Has this been placed here to keep punching you in the nose to show you how faithless and godless you are because you can’t get your prayers answered?

The most important thing you can pray for are for things you cannot see. If you pray for a new car then you’ll be able to see it – but if you pray for forgiveness, for grace, for patience – these things are unseen. The things that are most precious and our deepest needs – all the things in here that Jesus tells us for godliness and grace – the promises that Jesus gives – if we pray for these things we will receive them.

How can we do more than Jesus? In the OT the great problem of God’s people is that they have hard hearts and cannot obey God. In the NT we are given new hearts, and can do things like obey God and know God in ways that are totally new compared to the old covenant. You have been raised spiritually from the dead, are made alive, and are given opportunities to bear fruit. You won’t do this perfectly – but you can always find forgiveness in Jesus.

[How great is that? My notes here have not done this talk justice – please find it online soon! But what a great reminder that all of Jesus’ words to us are for our good – even the hard words.]




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

Understanding what the scriptures say about the Holy Spirit

You know things have been neglected when it takes a year to roll back around to them. But in Marie Kondo style, this blog sparks joy for me so we’re back to it!

This year’s Ignite Training Conference is going to be excellent – with a focus on what the scriptures say about the most misunderstood member of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit. Check back daily for the live blog of the talks and selected workshops.

Morning Talk 1 | The Breath of Life | Genesis 1 & 2, Ezekiel 37, Numbers 11, John 1:1 | Tony Rowbotham

One of the great privileges in life is to know someone – to know them well, not just in passing. And we love it when people know us well. When somebody knows us well it makes a world of difference.

And that’s what we’re doing this week. We’re thinking about the Holy Spirit – not just learning things about Him, but venturing into something far more significant: knowing God.

Tony hopes we’re both excited and daunted by this journey. It’s such a massive task – there is a huge amount of material to sift through. And it’s daunting because we’re getting to know the creator of the universe!

What is ‘spirit’? (Prov 20:27; 1 Cor 2:11)
We know in this life that we do not just live in a physical world, but also in a spiritual world. Paul speaks of this in Ephesians 6. We know from the gospels Jesus rules over this world.

Prov 20:27 – the human spirit is a part of our inmost being. When you peel away our facebook posts and what we present to others our spirit remains.

1 Cor 2:11 – and yet at the same time we learn here that the Spirit searches all things, even the spirit of God. To know God is only possible through the Spirit of God. To know a person you have to engage with that person’s spirit – and likewise the Spirit of God reveals God to us.

  1. The Spirit carries God’s powerful words, and enables their effect

The pattern: Genesis 1:1-2
In the opening pages of the Bible, we read of the creation of the world, and we learn of the Creator. We learn that he made everything and without help.

In the opening verses, we also meet the Spirit of God – hovering over the waters. Before creation was made there was a watery chaos, darkness over the face of the earth. Like a child given a plasticine lump, the Spirit of God is hovering over these waters and is ready to create.

By the end of Genesis 1 we will find a creation that now has shape and is filled – it is a wonderful creation, and the Spirit of God is present. He is not just giving form and shape, but he is giving ‘birth’ to a canvas but a living thing.

So what is the Spirit doing here? He no longer appears after this point.

Literary Context (Genesis 1)
In the opening ‘let there be’ pattern we see God creating and filling the earth. In the latter part of the patterns we see the lines ‘God saw… God named… etc’. So where is the Spirit in all of this?

The Hebrew word for Spirit is ‘ruach‘ which is can be translated as ‘wind/breath’. If you covered your mouth and spoke you’ll feel something in your hand – our words are carried by our breath. And without breath there are no words. God speaks and the Spirit takes those words to do the will of God.

This is one of the most fundamental aspects of the Spirit of God: taking the word of God to enact the will of God.

God could have created everything with a thought – but he used words. Why? Because he uses words breath is needed – the Spirit is required.

Whatever the Spirit is doing here in Genesis 1 it is essential to the creation process. God’s will is enabled through God’s speech – Spirit carries God’s Words, bears God’s Words, and brings God’s Words into effect.

Note – the Word does not originate with the Spirit. God said – not ‘Spirit’ said.

OT Context (Numbers 11:24-26; 1 Samuel 19:19-24
Numbers 11 – Moses is not coping, the people are complaining and it is becoming too much for him. So God says that he will take the Spirit that is upon Moses and place it on the 70 elders. And as soon as it rested on them they prophesied.

1 Samuel – Saul is king of the land, David also has been anointed and his popularity is growing. Saul sends off some soldiers to arrest David but when they arrive they end up prophesying David will be King – and he sends a second lot and a third lot and they still end up doing the same thing. So he takes the job of bringing David back himself, but when he arrives to David the Spirit rests on him and he prophesies that David will be king.

NT Context (Acts 2:1-4, 11; 14ff, 2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Tim 3:16)
Acts 8 – when Luke recounts what happens with Philip – told by the Holy Spirit to go stand by a particular chariot. In that chariot is an Ethiopian Eunuch – and he hears this man reading the Word of God. So they strike up a conversation starting from that very passage of scripture.

2 Peter 1 – no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation – for prophecy never had its origin in human will, but men spoke from God through the Holy Spirit.

2 Tim 3 – all scripture is God ‘breathed/Spirited’ so that the servant of God can be thoroughly equipped for every good work – everything you need to know about God is in scripture because it is from God.

So where do you go to connect with the mind of God? The Word!

3 Errors (one Error in three ways)
You cannot emphasise the Spirit and negate the Word of God. The Spirit affirms and works through the Word of God. If you negate the Word of God you are working against the pattern and work of the Holy Spirit.

Error 1 – preachers and teachers saying, ‘God revealed to me through… (something other than scripture)’ – and this revelation is often independent of the Word of God. The Bible then becomes illustrative of what the Preacher wants to say, rather than authoritative. What the preacher says might be true, but how the preacher has said it undercuts severely a biblical understanding of the Spirit.

Friends, the cutting edge of the sword of Spirit is the Word of God.

Error 2 – the Spirit residing in an institution or the head of an institution – the Bible becomes not enough. The Spirit gets affirmed, but the Bible gets negated. John Calvin noticed this: Word and Spirit belong inseparably together (Institutes 1:9:3)

Error 3 – where we emphasise the Word, that we can understand the word through human activity, study, and technique we can understand the Word of God. Wrong. You can only understand the Word of God through the
ministry of the Holy Spirit.

John Calvin – Accordingly, without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the Word can do nothing (Institutes 3:2:33)

2. The Spirit is Life-Creating and Sustaining
At the beginning of Genesis 1 we have ‘stuff’, at the end of Genesis 1 we have ‘life’ – and all accomplished through the Spirit.

Just as the Holy Spirit brings life into being, so too does the Spirit bring new life to us in Christ.

John 3 – no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and Spirit. Without Spirit there is no new life. The Spirit is life creating and life sustaining.

Holy Spirit – the breath of life
God is a powerful speaker. The Spirit of God carries God’s words and makes them effective – and does so for the purpose of life.

What brings the Spirit joy? Bearing and enabling the Word of God for the purpose of bringing life, and eternal life.

[What a great start! A short survey of key texts reminding us that the Spirit’s main role is to take what is God’s – his Word – and enact it.]

[Back this evening with the night talk. No afternoon workshops were held today. Not sure how many people are planning to turn up – so come early to make sure you get a chance for parking and a seat! And while you’re early, come check out the bookstall ;)]

Evening Talk 1 | John 14:1-14 – Jesus Is The Way| Paul Grimmond

  1. John 14-17 and the Holy Spirit?

When it comes to understanding the Holy Spirit – we will be looking at 1/3 of 1% of the Bible. So to understand what the Bible says about teh Holy Spiri – is this a good way to start? In fact, our passage tonight has no mention of the SPirit! Are we happy with that?

Often we come to the BIble with our own quesitons – with our own ideas and things because they affect me. But as God tells us abotu himself in the Scriptures he does so in a big story from Genesis to Revelation. An epic – a Lord of the Rings kind of story. The whole of human history is recounted – a sotry with kings, adventures, wars – people sing and dance, and write poems, have children, build houses, lose houses – a story about the whole history of the world.

To know God well it is not a matter of us picking and choosing what we want to read and making a story about them.

Part of the process of knowing God well is to read in context – bit by bit – as God tells us about himself in the way he tells us about himself.

in John 14 we have this – a long speech about the Holy Spirit – but he begins not with the Spirit. We are introduced to the Spirit in the context that Jesus introduces us to Him.

2. Where are we up to in John?

The Gospel of John covers a big amount of time – 12 are spent on three years, but the final 9 focus on the final three weeks of Jesus’ life.

The context of Jesus’ life – something has happened that has changed everything. In John 2 at the wedding at Cana in Galilee Jesus tells Mary, ‘Woman – what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ At this point we know nothing of ‘the hour’, and through the following chapters we keep reading that ‘the hour has not come’ – but at the end of chapter 12 we read ‘the hour has come’ (see 12:23, 27; 13:1) – Jesus realises that now is the moment that he is going to die on the cross.

So at this point Jesus takes his disciples aside and gives them the longest block of teaching from him. How are they going to live without him in this world? This section lays it out.

14:1 says ‘let not your hearts be troubled’ – he sets the tone that they should not be afraid, because what he says next will help them through his absence.

3. The questions of the text:
  i. Where is Jesus going?

He’s going to the Father. When he says that he is going to the Father’s house the key thing to know about that is that he is going to his Father.

Paul shares about how his family has moved many times – and yet he will call each of them his ‘home’ – because what makes a place ‘home’ is the people and the relationships he has with them. The place where he experiences all the warmth, love, and generosity of his parents to himself and his own children.

When Jesus speaks of going to the Father he’s not talking about the place itself. When we get to heaven the fact that we share it with our brothers and sisters in Christ pales to the fact that we share it with Jesus.

ii. How do you get there?

14:6-7 – when Jesus speaks of no one coming to the Father except through him it’s related to the next thought in v7 – no one can see the Father, but if you have seen Jesus then you have seen the Father.

Genesis 32:30, Deuteronomy 4:12. 5:24 – seeing God was utterly frightening. Nobody in the OT gets to truly see God face to face.

John 1:18, 1 Timothy 6:15-16 – reiterate the OT points above.

So when Jesus says if you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father is utterly astonishing in the whole of scripture.

Philip in v8 says something a little silly next – Jesus has said ‘looking at me is looking at God the Father’ – so Philip is asking for what has already been given!

Jesus’ response reiterates his earlier point – Jesus in all his fullness displays God in all his fullness.

So what have we done with this profound truth? How much of our live has been given to wrestling with, and reading and re-reading the Jesus we have revealed to us in scripture?

God reveals himself – and we live lives of distraction in a world of distraction made by people who live off your distraction.

The people who made the technology that distracts us do not allow their children to use the tech. Why? Probably because they realise that it’s so addictive. When we scroll the page on our screen our little finger needs to bow down… which is somewhat metaphorical for what we are doing. And sadly most of our time our Bibles remain beside us unread.

Jesus says, ‘You’ve seen me… you’ve seen the Father’ – how much more should we be people who are captured by this truth, to let it dominate our lives? We have in our hands, in the scriptures, the knowledge of the God of this world.

14:10ff – it’s a bit of weird passage – he says I don’t speak on my own authority, but when I speak God works… and the secondary reason for believing me is all the things I have done. The fundamental reason you should believe in me is because I have told you that it’s true.

The gap between what we speak and what we do is huge. Do we believe our politicians? Do we believe our neighbours? Do we believe ourselves? We tend to say things but not often fulfil them.

In Christ there is never any gap between what Jesus says and what he does. Every word he speaks is true because he is the very definition of truth. Out of Jesus’ very essence Jesus speaks and works. To hear Jesus is to hear truth, to believe his words is to believe the truth.

This is so counter-cultural to us – our non-Christian family and friends will never believe this. Our own beliefs change over time – nobody believes exactly the same things they did when they were 14. Even science changes as it evolves – and all along the way people believe they are right because they are doing the science of their day.

When Jesus speaks he speaks with all the authority of God. I am so righteous true and good that what I say is righteous true and good. So if we’re reading the Bible and we start to say, ‘Jesus, I’m not sure I believe you here…’ the problem is with us and not Him.

Do we come to the Bible with a longing to hear God speak to us, and to speak with is true to us? You can only know the Father through Jesus – and you can know God through knowing Jesus.

iii. If you ask anything in my name? (to be continued)

14:12ff – in the midst of all that he has just said, he then goes on this tangent about doing things in his name? Why? Come back tomorrow night. (Edit – see… I’m not the only one who does that!!)

4. What should I do with Jesus?

What is something you could do to engage more clearly with the words and life of Jesus so that we can know God better? What practical steps might we need to take – what things might we need to cut out of life to know God better in the Word?

And if we have friends or family who don’t know Jesus, and you want them to get to know God, how is it that they are going to come to know him? There are all sorts of questions we might have – but people don’t come to know Jesus simply by answering those questions. What will we share with them about how Jesus is affecting us? How his life is shaping us? Let’s begin with thinking about how we can share the reality of Jesus shaping our lives.

[Whenever I hear a talk about the astonishing beauty of Jesus I’m always floored. Tonight was a great reminder of this.]

More on Driscoll

A friend of mine recently “accused” (I use this in the most loose sense!) me of lazy blogging by referencing the blogs of others I had recently read. Well that’s partly to do with how good some of the other blogs are, and how good some of their recent postings have been. And this morning’s post will be no different :P

In the wake of Mark Driscoll’s whirlwind tour of Australia (or was it just Sydney and Brisbane?), some blogs of note have been feverishly putting down notes, thoughts and reflections. When Mark brought 10,000 people to the Sydney Entertainment Centre for one talk comparisons were made to the Billy Graham crusades back in the 60’s, and, just like Billy, Mark has drawn his fair share of criticism, revulsion and praise.

So here’s a bit more reflection upon his visit by the Sola Panel. Firstly a summary of Mark’s talk given to Sydney Anglicans on the ‘18 Obstacles to Effective Evangelism‘. Similar notes were taken by Gordon Cheng (one of the Matthias Media men) at his blog, but also including notes from both talks he gave that day. Also of note is Gordon’s posting on his reflection upon Mark the man himself.

But in response to the 18 points talk, Sandy Grant over at the Sola Panel posted these thoughts in reply. Sandy’s post is both self-effacing and humble in accepting the points Mark made which were accurate of himself (and just like a good preacher does, applies the message to himself in a very helpful and practical way) yet balanced in his critique of one of Mark’s other points.

Essentially Sandy’s point of criticism revolves around Mark’s challenge that ‘we are afraid of the Holy Spirit’. His point is summarised here (as copy and pasted from the Sola Panel site):

You don’t know what to do with it, so the trinity is Father, Son and Holy Bible. You are so reactionary to pentecostalism that you have reacted also to the charismatic. The Holy Spirit calls people into ministry. He also empowers people for ministry. You don’t have to be charismatic but you should be a little charismatic, enough at least to worship God with more than just all of your mind. The word charismatic here means prosperity, excessive, bizarre. In London, it means you’re not a liberal. Don’t get hung up on all the terminology. Do you love the Holy Spirit? Jesus says the Holy Spirit is a ‘He’ and not an ‘it’.” Ministry cannot be done apart from the Holy Spirit—I think that is in part leading to the lack of entrepreneurialism and innovation, because if it’s not already done and written down, you’re suspicious of it.

Sandy’s take on this is well worth reading. However I’d like to throw in a few thoughts of my own that I have been thinking through and experienced in our time as pastoral apprentices.

It has been my observation that most Chinese churches tend to hold to a cessationist view of the gifts of the Spirit, whether knowingly or just simply in practice. Mark holds a continuationist view which obviously runs counter to our practice and theology. Does that make him a ‘charismatic’? He would say, ‘Yes!’ But I would say, ‘Well, it depends…’

See, even in the summary statement above Mark points out that being ‘charismatic’ means different things to different people. For instance, in London it means ‘you’re not liberal’. In Sydney it means ‘prosperity, me-centred theology and tongues’. In our church it simply means ‘tongues’. However the biblical definition is simply ‘gifted’. That is, Spirit gifted for a particular ministry – the Greek word, charismata, is often translated as ‘gift’. So when Mark says we need to be “a little [more] charismatic, enough at least to worship God with more than just all of your mind” his critique in relation to my observation in our church is devestatingly accurate.

“But wait”, you might be saying, “isn’t the cessationist view biblically accurate?” Whilst there are plenty of arguments going around that it is, but I’d like to point out that it seems to me that Christian academics has resolved this issue in the negative – for further reading J.I Packer’s – Keep in step with the Spirit and Don Carsons’ – Showing the Spirit. Both Packer and Carson deal faithfully with the scriptural texts and both sides of the charismata argument. Both end up on the side of continuation, but with the ‘seatbelt’ of 1 Corinthians 12-14 to guide (that is, affirming the continuationist perspective whilst cautioning against excessive focus or devotion to the Spirit).

“But wait”, you might again be saying, “does it really matter in the end so long as people are loving each other and our churches are doing ok?” No it doesn’t matter so long as people are loving each other, and there are good books out there from cessationist views with very gracious views towards continuationists (for instance, Graham A. Cole – “He who gives life: the doctrine of the Holy Spirit“).

However, the more I reflect upon this issue the more I come to realise that the cessationist view has a pretty devastating effect upon ministry. Recently at a training meeting we discussed an article from ‘The Briefing‘ by Colin Marshall. In that article Colin discussed the ministry mind-shifts we need to make in order to better serve and minister to the people in our churches. Leading the way in his 10 point argument was that we need to focus more on people rather than on programs. We need to minister to the people and encourage their areas of giftedness rather than search for people who can slot into the programs we have already established. My reflections upon this issue has lead me to conclude that one consequence of holding the cessationist view has been that our church has geared itself towards thinking that the maintenance of the programs we run will bring about growth numerically and spiritually. Instead of seeing the areas in which people are gifted and finding/creating a ministry to build upon them, we squeeze people into particular ministries and expect them to flourish. As a result people complain that they are ‘burning out’ because ministry revolves around ‘doing’ rather than ‘serving with joy’. Serving becomes about doing what you can to maintain the ministry area you’ve been given rather than encourage you shape it according to your giftedness.

Hence, Mark’s last point in that summary statement, “Ministry cannot be done apart from the Holy Spirit—I think that is in part leading to the lack of entrepreneurialism and innovation, because if it’s not already done and written down, you’re suspicious of it“, is a devastatingly accurate and biting piece of commentary upon the way we operate. In what ways can the Chinese church be more innovative? Let’s put our heads together and see if we can’t come up with something.