Wednesday, 29 April 2015

LIVE IT! - Week 8

Galatians 5:13-26 (Read it Here) lays it all out for us very clearly. We are free; but we cannot use that freedom to indulge in our selfish desires.

Actually we can... we are free to go and do whatever we want, but verse 21 has a dire warning if we do.
"I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God"
We live in a world that doesn't always comprehend that there are consequences for the choices we make.  Unfortunately many children grow up without being taught that actions have consequences. It's an almost pandemic issue sweeping our nation that we have the right to do what we want.   So many teachers today are struggling with teaching children and teenagers because they simply cannot communicate to them the importance of responsibility, and education, and that their actions even at such a young age will have a consequence later in life when they are trying to find work or build a life for themselves.

It is again the case of an overwhelming culture of the world around us, starting to have an effect on the church community. I feel on social issues like education and raising kids that Christians are still doing very very well - but that nature of not thinking of the consequences is influencing the way we see grace and our freedom from sin.   Yes it is well within our rights to do what we want, and Jesus has offered us unrelenting forgiveness and limitless love. But Paul warns at some point we have to accept that to be saved by Christ means being given a new life, and that new life is in the Spirit so cannot be enjoying all those sinful things and must be yearning for those fruits of the Spirit mentioned in verses 22-23.

If we don't come to realise that life change... maybe we've never actually been saved in the first place, because we've never accepted all that Jesus has to offer.  The consequence of that is huge!!

Today let's reconsider our freedom.  Firstly, do we have it? Have we accepted all Christ is offering, including this new life? If so, secondly, which life/nature are we feeding, that old sinful one or the new Spirit filled one?  They are both still alive in us, until we meet Jesus again - but we need to live out the new life, feed the Spiritual one - because that's what produces the fruit.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

"I really enjoyed your sermon"

It's funny... after preaching I hear that a lot; or some variation like it and though I know people are trying to be encouraging and nice; most times it leaves me feeling a little bit hollow.

See my intention when I set out to preach God's Word is not that people would sit back and enjoy it. Our world today is so demanding of entertainment, so expectant that when we turn up to things we will simply be entertained.  I personally believe that this culture is crippling the church's effectiveness to complete this mission we're all suppose to be working on.

So when I hear "I enjoyed that" or "that was nice" or "you're getting better at this"; my mind automatically goes to "but what did Jesus say to you through His Word?"

I truly believe that the purpose of preaching is for the proclamation of God's Word into our lives today.  Not that I am speaking the Word of God which must be obeyed... but that I (and other dedicated pastors like me) are expounding on the Word of God in the Scriptures and applying it to our lives today.  We should not sit back during a sermon and say "I am enjoying this... that illustration was very entertaining", but instead we should be wondering what God wants us to do with this revelation, how must we change if this Word is true?

I am generally a good public speaker (have been since high school), and I can entertain - and in some ways that's great to engage people with the message - but I want the intent of the sermon to leave people not feeling satisfied, but in many ways dissatisfied and challenged to go and act on something they heard.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

ANZAC Day reminder.

Today we commemorated one of the most sacred days on the Australian calendar. A day where we cast our eyes back 100 years to the shores of Gallipoli and remember the sacrifice that was made for us. We also remember the countless other sacrifices men and women in our armed forces have made for us as Australians over the years.

On ANZAC Day we have a very real, and powerful, idea that we cannot take the freedom we enjoy in our nation for granted. It was bought at a great cost. I am always moved to see the response of children and teenagers to the commemoration of ANZAC Day. It seems more and more are committed to making it to dawn services, partaking in marches and doing tangible things to remember the price of freedom and to honour those who paid the ultimate price. I remember in school having WWI and WWII veterans come and speak to us about the war – they were always moving stories that stirred my heart. However, even though today the first person stories are becoming rarer and harder to find, the sentiment of honouring our diggers seems to be growing. I feel that is something we can be proud about as a nation.

As Christians, though, it should also serve as a reminder that there is an even greater freedom that we all too often do take for granted (and that many in our nation today completely ignore). The price for the freedom from the punishment of sin was even greater than the price paid on those Turkish cliffs in 1915 – God Himself came to pay for our freedom, and in dying on the cross Jesus paid the penalty for sin for all of humankind, till the end of the ages. The weight of that punishment on Him must have been so great – but how often do we turn to our own selfish desires and take for granted what He did for us?

Today, let’s honour Jesus, like we honour the ANZACs, lest we forget the ultimate price Jesus paid, and the ultimate worth He has for our worship.

Friday, 24 April 2015

LIVE IT! - Week 7

After a short break over Easter we were back into our LIVE IT! series last Sunday Night.

We're up to Galatians 5:1-15 in week seven (go and read it here) and with only two weeks to go we're at the pointy end of Paul's message regarding the influence of false teachers and the true Gospel we have to recognise and live.

In Sunday's sermon I used a heap of different sports to illustrate the way we need to view the Gospel, and our path to salvation.  I thought it might be good to just outline those again here on the blog this week.

The Gospel is NOT like golf
The whole aim of golf is to get the ball into a hole that is only just big enough for that ball. You may have a whole field to shoot at, but it only counts if it goes in the hole. This is the 'gospel' that the false teachers were preaching in Galatia. A list of things that must be done to be saved, if you aren't fitting exactly in then you are not saved.

The Gospel is NOT like AFL
Though the boundaries of the goal are broader, but if you happen to miss slightly you don't need to worry, you'll get a point for being close.  Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life, and without the legalism of law and rules this model gives us an appreciation for grace; but Jesus still is that one way, if you miss that is sin, and you can't have a point for sin. Being happy with being close but not within the bounds of Jesus is not the Gospel.

The Gospel IS like soccer.
There is a clear goal. The aim of the game is to score in that goal, but you could choose to shoot high or low, left or right. The goal in the true Gospel is Jesus' salvation through grace. There may be a few options in understanding that, but as long as you shoot into that goal you are saved. However if you are outside that boundary you are outside the grace by which you can be saved.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

When acoustic is better than the original.

I like acoustic or 'unplugged' versions of songs, usually more than the originals.

It seems especially the case with some Hillsong music - this is fantastic!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The answer to the longings in our heart.

Deep longings pervade the human heart.
   We long for selfless, trustworthy, unending love from someone we can trust to be faithful and helpful.
   We long for the unity within the diversity of humanity, some means by which we can live in peace and oneness that benefits each of us.
   We long for communication - from face-to-face conversations to the proliferation of modern technology created for the purpose of letting us know others and be known by them - and have a seemingly insatiable passion to speak and be spoken to.
   We long for community, significant and earnest relationships with others, so that we are part of a people devoted to something larger and greater than our individual lives.
   We long for humility, where people pour themselves out unreservedly for the benefit and well-being of others.
   We long for peace, harmony and safe altruism for others and ourselves so that abuse, cruelty, misery and the painful tears they cause could stop.
   We long for selfless common good, a world in which everyone does what is best for all and is not so viciously and exclusively devoted to self interest and tribal concerns.
Why? Why do we have these persistent deep longings that occasionally compel us to action and often leave us frustrated or disappointed?
~Mark Driscoll, Doctrine, p11-12

Why indeed! I read this after writing my previous post, and I realised that these longings are many of the things we use to define ourselves... to learn about ourselves... to try and understand ourselves.  If we can meet these longings in our lives then we can say we 'know who we are'.

Driscoll continues and says that all these longings are actually with us by design.  It's not a flaw, it's simply a construct in humans so they seek their Creator. In trying to define ourselves we are simply pointed once again back at the Creator and we see that only by knowing Him will we be able to understand ourselves. We long for these things because ultimately they are things only God can provide.
Tragically, human desires corrupted by sin turn in on themselves; rather than finding satisfaction in God, longings become lusts - bottomless pits of selfish desire, never quite satisfied, inevitable leading to despair. Because we are made in the image of a triune God to reflect his glory, we will never stop longing; yet, our sin-stained longings distort that reflection.
Sin defines any act when we turn from God and focus on ourselves. Any longing that we have should lead us to God, but in our humanness we change the focus and try to substitute something to subdue that longing - which will never work (as Driscoll says it's a bottomless pit).

If you have longings in your life... if you're dissatisfied, lonely, depressed or unhappy... ask yourself where are you directing you attention to fill those holes.  Is it God or is it something inferior that will never work? Is sin causing you to turn away from the one your heart is urging you to turn towards? Knowing that God created this world good, that He is good; allow that to satisfy your longing as you seek to know Him more.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Before I can know myself...

“Of all the knowledge that we can ever obtain, the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of ourselves, are the most important.”
~ Jonathan Edwards
Yes these are the most important... but as I look at my life I realise that they are intrinsically tied to one another and cannot be separated.  The fact is that I cannot actually gain any knowledge of myself until I have gained a proper knowledge of God.

That sounds strange doesn't it? You would think that me being me, it would be easy for me to gain knowledge about me.  In our society today, so many physiologists, self help experts and Dr Phil want-to-bes will tell you that you cannot succeed or even make progress in your life until you 'know who you are'.  I totally agree with that, but I would add the precursor that you can't truly know anything about yourself until you understand who God is.

Why is that?  Well because God is truth.  The way I see the world that is an objective fact.  It is something that just is. I don't care what you personally believe, if you believe God even exists or not... what I am saying here is that objectively He does - no matter what people think - but not only that, also no matter what people may think of Him, He is the truth... He is perfect, all-powerful, all-knowing and all-creating.

At this point some people argue that there cannot be one truth for everyone - that humans cannot demand everyone believe one thing - in some sense they are right... humans cannot... but God Himself can, and He has.

Humans have warped that truth though, even saying that their warped ideas are from God.  That's the trouble we see today - people don't know the truth... don't accept God because they haven't gained knowledge of who He really is and on their own family history, or what they see in the media they just don't want to.

But just consider, if God is the truth, if there's even the slightest chance of that, then it is in your best interest to at least investigate that to the point of understanding what God says about Himself (not just what others say about Him)?

Because I know many people out there feel they don't understand themselves.  Today I'm just putting forward this idea that if that is the case, investigate who God is.  Because when you know that truth it really helps with the perspective of who you are.  I'm not going to write much more than that - if you do want to know who God says He is... contact me and we'll discuss it privately.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

LIVE IT! - Week 6

So stoked to have my good mate Ben Peacock come and preach in our evening service last Sunday.  I really thought he pulled out the truth of the passage (Galatians 4:21-31 - read it here) in a simple yet impacting way.

Sometimes hearing someone else's interpretation of the study and application of a passage gives you such a fresh revelation of what God may be saying at this point in your life.  Ben's sermon definitely did that for me this week.

Then on Monday night we took a turn and really dove into some of the application stuff that effects our lives, and how the teaching Ben gave us really impacts us to live differently.

Two main questions were...

-Why do 'laws & regulations' have such a persistent appeal?
-Why does sin and the idea of having a 'freedom to sin' have such a persistent appeal?

These questions basically framed the rest of the study.  Because the truth is... the best I have ever felt... the most at peace I have ever felt... the most fulfilled I have ever felt... is when I have been well within God's plan for my life, serving Him and worshipping Him.   There is simply no better place to be.

Yet I don't choose to dwell there all the time.  There is some persistent appeal that draws me to either lawfulness or sin.  Why? I don't completely understand it myself but some of the main things we came up with were; self-gratification, self-righteousness, weakness and having a short vision of pleasure and our needs.

I think we pulled out many things that seem to be part of the detrimental effect sin has had on human nature.

Thankfully we are children of the promise covenant... not the law covenant.  The inheritance we receive (and learnt about last week) isn't dependent on what we do... but promised to us on regard of our faith. Our faith makes us part of the family... and eternal life, peace with God and being made righteous is promised to those who are part of the family.

It's still important to ponder those questions of turning away and of sin though, because I still recognise that the best place for me to be is immersed in that family of God - so I want to work at being better at that... not in the sense of working to be better received by God, but in being a better example of God through the workings of my life as I go about LIVING this Gospel that defines my life.
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