Category Archives: Evangelism

21Apr/18

Be the Alien you are!

1 Peter 2v11-12

 

 

These 2 verses introduce a package of practical teaching from Peter of what it means to pursue holiness in the different contexts we find in life – as part of society, as part of enterprise, and as part of family.

He starts with a reminder that we are aliens and strangers in this world.

The world “alien” immediately, for those of us who love a little bit of science fiction, immediately makes us think of strange new worlds, new life and new civilizations, of boldly going where no man has gone before 🙂

The word “stranger”, we are brought up to believe they are someone to avoid – stranger danger.  Don’t talk to strangers.

But Peter also knows that the word “alien” means a foreigner, and “stranger” to mean a person who does not know, or is not known in, a particular place or community.

Now, many of us here, have been living in the Highlands for many years.  We are not aliens and strangers in our communities. We are known.  But we have to remind ourselves who Peter is writing to – he is writing to people exiled and scattered throughout the provinces – he is writing to people who are living for Jesus wherever they are – and for many of them they were actually aliens and strangers in the communities that they found themselves.

They were people were from, say somewhere like Jerusalem, and now found themselves as aliens and strangers in places like Pontus, Galatia, and Asia. 

Now many of you know that I am originally from Hamilton where I was born and brought up and at the age of 19, 1 week before my 20th Birthday, I moved to Inverness.  I know you’ll find this hard to believe because of my youthful looks, but I’ve actually lived in Inverness longer than I’ve lived in Hamilton.  And when I arrived in Inverness, I took some time to get to know the place because, to me, Inverness was a strange place, I was an alien, a stranger in these parts.  And as I got to know the place and the people my life and my speech slowed and I began to become more ‘Highland’.  I was speaking to a work colleague on Thursday evening who was from the village of Cleland, which is not too far from Motherwell and Wishaw, and he was amazed that I was from Hamilton – I obviously don’t come across as someone from Hamilton, whatever that means, maybe because my accent has mellowed from that central west of Scotland dialect you know by the way.

 When my cousins moved from Cumbernauld to Preston in the late 1970’s, my aunt and uncle kept their accents but my cousins who were all below the age of 10, almost immediately adopted the Lancashire accents of those around them.

Because it’s the most natural thing for us as humans to try and blend into the society and the culture that we live in. Because by nature, we don’t want to be aliens, we don’t want to be strangers.

But Peter is reminding them they are aliens and strangers in the world – not aliens and strangers in a place, but in the world. And he urges then, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against their souls.

In other words, no matter where you are folks, you need to remember that you are a whole new person.  You have received a great salvation in Jesus, you have a hope that holds the future in the present because its anchored in the past.  You are called to pursue holiness – to show love, to bring life and light!  Because you have been called out of darkness into His wonderful light.

And Peter is urging them not to go back into a lifestyle from that which they have been rescued from.  Because Peter is well aware that as they try to live in a new place, in a different part of the world, it’s the most natural thing for them to try and blend into that society, blend into that culture – when in Rome do as the Romans do type thing.

He is reminding them as As Paul reminded the Philippians “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body”

Paul is saying, and Peter is saying, conforming to society and culture around us is not the model folks – because we are chosen, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.  We are now citizens of heaven and we need to reflect the standards of heaven.

Peter is telling us that we cannot afford to return to that which we have been saved from, because we are looking towards that which we have been saved to.  Our great salvation in Jesus.

And the challenge of pursuing holiness that we have been talking about over the last few weeks is based on not conforming to the standards of this world – to be different – to live differently.  In other words don’t do what your natural instinct tells you to do and conform to the society and culture you find yourself in.  

Because this society and culture with its temptations are waging war against our souls.  And we are urged to fight against that onslaught.  For the salvation of our soul is of prime importance – that’s why we’ve accepted that great salvation in Jesus, because that salvation is of prime importance; that’s why we pursue holiness, because that salvation is of prime importance.

Our citizenship, our culture and our society is heaven.  We have been bought with a price – with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without sin or blemish.  He has redeemed us for Himself and Jesus has sent us His Holy Spirit to live in us.  We are His temple, where He dwells, we carry His presence.  Once we were not a people, but now we are the people of God.  We are citizens of heaven.  Peter urges us not to be ashamed of that – not to “fit in”; but be an alien, be a stranger in this world for that is who you are, because you’re a citizen of heaven.

Peter urges us to live as citizens of heaven, so that, as he goes on to say in verse 12, we live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.

The goal is the glory of God. “Live such good lives, or keep your behaviour excellent, as some versions put it, so that . . . the pagans, non-believers, might see your good deeds and glorify God.”  The challenge of our lives in living as aliens and strangers is whether our lives direct people’s attention towards the glory of God.

If we live our lives in such a way that it doesn’t point people to the glory of God, then our lives are not as they ought to be.  We become nothing more than people who conform to a culture and society that ignores God. Because we are ashamed. 

But here we have yet again, an urging, a commending, to live in a way that pursues holiness, that points to the glory of God.  Its from the time we get up in the morning till the time we go to bed at night and everything in between is to point people to the glory of God.

Notice too that the doing needs to come out of our being.  Because Peter urges us to win the war of our desires – verse 11 – before telling us to live such good lives that point to the glory of God in verse 12

Because Beautiful Conduct Springs Only from Right Desires

Verse 11 says that it is “sinful desires that wage war against the soul.” So Peter says abstain from them. Then in verse 12 Peter says we should keep our “behaviour” excellent so that people will see and give glory to God. So first he focuses on desires and then on behaviour.  This is the same pattern we saw in 1 Peter 1:14–15. “Don’t conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance, but . . . be holy in all you do.” Fight first at the level of desires and then at the level of conduct.  Out of our being comes our doing.

Jesus said in Matthew 23:25, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”

In other words, it doesn’t do any good to try to shine up the conduct on the outside without changing the desires on the inside. 

Good deeds flows from good desires. As Paul put it to the Galatians – “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature”

So How Does Excellent Behaviour or good deeds Point to God’s Glory?

How does verse 12 work? How do our good deeds point people to the glory of God?

The answer, I think, is given in 1 Peter 3:15 where it says “Always be ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” What they see is some external action, and what they ask about is your internal hope.

What Peter is saying here is that when people look at you, what they see expressed in your actions, is what you hope in. So they see a certain way of acting—some humble act of love (Galatians 5:6) or some righteous act of courage (Hebrews 10:34) or some self-denying act of generosity (2 Corinthians 8:1-2)—and they notice that you must not be hoping in what people usually hope in—self-exaltation, safety, money—and they are puzzled as to where your hope is.

So they ask about your hope: where do you get your confidence, your contentment, your satisfaction when you act that way?  Especially when people think what on earth are you doing? 

For when we direct our desires to God and find hope and contentment in his mercy and power and promises, then our outward life starts to show what Peter calls “good deeds or excellent behaviour”. These behaviours point to God’s glory because they point to a stable, sure, satisfying object of desire and hope that is not of this world. The point to Jesus. 

You see by pointing to the glory of God, we see the heart of God in urging us to live this way.  Because who is glorifying God in verse 12, but the pagans who see our good deeds and glorify God on the day He visit us.

Now how can pagans glorify God on the day He visits us.  I think the answer is very simple.  They themselves come to know this great salvation in Jesus, though the lives that we lead as citizens of heaven, as aliens and strangers in this world.  For the heart of God is that none should perish, and when He returns, He desires as many as possible to glorify Him on that day.

And before Peter then launches into practical teaching about how we live as citizens of heaven as part of society, as part of enterprise, and as part of family – he tells us, no… he encourages us, no…. he urges us, to have very strong desire for, to have a fire in our belly for living as a citizen of heaven so that others can become citizens of heaven.

As we were hearing from Ps Tim Jack at our Highland Network Leaders weekend:  on the day of Pentecost everyone had something in them – the Holy Sprit; but that was just the beginning, that was if you like a breathing in, but the rest of Acts 2 is the breathing out – the disciples breaking out of the room and into community and they spoke a language that people understood.  Our job as spirit filled believers is to engage a society that understands a language we speak by the breathing out of the Holy Spirit.

And this is what Peter is also urging.  Our citizenship in heaven, our status as aliens and strangers in this world does not mean we talk a different language that no one understand, but we speak and show a language that points people to the glory of God, that even though they see we are different, that breathing out of the Holy Spirit, causes the Holy Spirit to work in them so that they come to understand for themselves this great salvation in Jesus.

What these two verses make clear is that there are two tremendous issues in the world. They are, quite possibly, the most important issues in the world. And one of the reasons we know that we are aliens and strangers in the world is that the modern world we live in does not believe that these two issues are the main issues.

If the world believed this, the newspaper and TV and the theatres and the universities and popular music and industry mission statements and government goals would look and sound very different than they do. But in fact we live in a world that shows by its priorities and values and preoccupations and pleasures that it does not regard these two issues as paramount. In fact, they are not even on the list of the world’s priorities.

The two issues that dominate these two verses—and indeed dominate the whole New Testament—are <slide> the salvation of the human soul and the glory of God. The two great issues of the Bible are how the soul of man might not be destroyed and how the glory of God might not be belittled.

Conclusion

As I said earlier, many of us here, have been living in the Highlands for many years.  We are not aliens and strangers in our communities. We are known.  

If someone was to ask me to describe myself, I might say that I am a 48 year old married man who is father to 3 boys. I work 4 days a week as an IT project manager and the rest of the time I work as a Pastor in a local church.

In others words – a fairly average kind of guy that fits into a middle class society of family life and work life.  Nothing special. 

And there in lies the problem.  Because in that description of myself I have conformed to how society and culture describes themselves.  People will think that’s nice, they may think that’s ‘interesting’; If I do some good deeds, they may think I’m a good guy with a big heart, but they can’t see anything that will point them to the glory of God, in other words I am belittling the glory of God in my life.

But if I started with, I am a citizen of heaven, I’m seeking to live a Godly lifestyle in this world because Jesus has saved me from destruction and given me a hope for the future that is sure. And I outwork that lifestyle as a 48 year old married man who is a father of 3 boys.  I outwork that life style as an IT project manager and as a Pastor in a local church.

Then they may think I’m weird, a bit of a fanatic, maybe an alien; but when I do good deeds, they know the reason why – they know the motivation – they know it’s because I’m seeking to glorify God, I am seeking to maximise the glory of God because God has saved me through Christ.  They will observe my lifestyle, my deeds, and if there is a fire in my belly that seeks to live to the Spirit and live as a citizen of heaven then one day, if the Lord tarries, I might have the privilege of seeing those who have observed my lifestyle, they might accept salvation in Jesus for themselves, and so another soul may be saved for the glory of God.

But we need to be unashamed of wearing the badge of being an alien and stranger in this world. We need to be unashamed of the gospel of Christ. Unashamed of declaring our faith in Him. Unashamed of having fingers pointed at us as a result. Unashamed of people thinking we are weird.  Unashamed of living to a different standard. Unashamed of having excellent behaviour. Unashamed of Jesus. Unashamed.

Because we are chosen. We are a royal priesthood. A holy nation. A people belonging to God.

It’s time to stop being a hypocrite.  It’s time to stop playing Christian.  It’s time to stop conforming to this world and this culture.  It’s time to repent from those ways and time to turn again to what Christ saved us to be, and made us to be;  It’s time to be the aliens we are and speak and live differently to this world.

Invite the scrutiny. Live lives that can stand up to such scrutiny.  Live lives that show that out of our being in Christ  comes our doing of love, life and light.

Cause them to ask us why we’re different. Why are we an alien.  And as we do, let’s be ready to give an answer and pray one day they too may become citizens of heaven. 

Amen.

28Dec/16

Community (F.A.C.E. Part 3)

Turn with me please to Luke 10 and verses 25-37. It’s the parable of the Good Samaritan. This a message I have been wanting to bring for some time, and today, at the conclusion of our week praying into Community, it seems an appropriate time to do so.

So let’s read the passage first of all to remind ourselves of it.

Luke 10:25-37
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life? ”
26 “What is written in the Law? ” he replied. “How do you read it? ”
27 He answered: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. ’ ’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live. ”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor? ”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have. ’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? ”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him. ”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise. ”

Amen and may God add a blessing to His word.

Have you ever come stupid question?
Here’s a few

Why do 24 hour, 7 days a week (Including holidays!) Super Markets have locks on their door?

When sign makers go on strike, is anything written on their signs?

Why is the meaning of life hard to find when you have a dictionary?

Why is a person who plays the piano called a pianist, but a person who drives a race car not called a racist?

Why is the word “abbreviation” so long?

How do you know when you have run out of invisible ink?

Why isn’t the word phonetic spelt the way it sounds?

And finally, one to ask Tim Peaks, If space is a vacuum, who changes the bags?

And this, which must be one of the most well known parables that Jesus gave; this parable starts with an expert in the law asking Jesus a question concerning a subject in which he is an expert – what must I do to inherit eternal life? Just like we know when someone is asking us a question that we know they know the answer to, and this is actually a test, Jesus sees this straight away, so He responds to the question with 2 questions – what does the law say? How do you read it?

And amazingly enough the expert in the law responds correctly – he is to love God with all his heart, soul, strength and mind and love his neighbour as himself. Jesus affirms that he has read the law correctly and encourages him to do that and he will live.

Now because we know the rest of the passage, we might think the expert in the law should of quit while he was ahead, but the expert in the law feels he wants to justify himself so asks who his neighbour is. You see Jesus said that loving God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind and our neighbour as ourself was a doing word – Jesus said do this and you will live.

So in asking Jesus the question who is my neighbour, the expert in the law wanted Jesus to spell it out – to define who is my neighbour. And in asking that question he was actually saying who is not my neighbour. In other words, the expert in the law wanted to limit who he could or could not love.

Because he was an expert in the law, he knew how to live – he knew what was right, what was wrong, what you should do, what you shouldn’t do, etc.

And there are many people in churches today that are experts – they have all the answers – they know what you should do and what you shouldn’t do in terms of being a Christian. You could sit and listen to them all day and agree with everything that they say, and I find this quite challenging especially in this role of a Pastor because what Jesus said to the expert in the law was that the word had to be applied correctly as well as read correctly. The word of God not only has to be preached correctly it has to be applied correctly in everyday life – love for God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind and love our neighbour as ourself must be out worked in our actions.

In telling this parable, Jesus wanted to challenge the expert in the law that his neighbour was not something you could define. It was just people irrespective of their religion, their culture, their skin colour, their nationality, their upbringing, what ever – our neighbour, mr expert in the law, is people out there – people outside of your bubble. People that you comes across in the course of your everyday life.

And this is a warning to us, because the bubble is trouble. We can get so caught up in church life life, in learning how to live Christian lives, understanding the scriptures and what it means to be a disciple, that we forget that all the stuff we do in church is to equip us for going out to be church in the community. The community of people that come across our paths every day.

So the expert in the law wanted Jesus to spell it out – to define who is his neighbour and therefore by implication define who is not his neighbour, wanted to limit who he could or could not love.

And we need to be careful not to fall into that trap. If we look through history there are so many atrocities that have been done in the name of Christianity. People tortured and killed simply because they did not conform to a particular set of beliefs.

Story of a man about to jump off a bridge and another man comes along to try and talk him down. And they get talking and the man wanting to jump off the bridge eventually says that even church is not helping. Oh you go to church says the other man. Yes. I go to a baptist church. Oh really me too says the man trying to help. What type of baptist church? A first baptist church. Really, me too, is it open or closed membership; it’s open membership the man wanting to jump off the bridge replies, now getting interested in this conversation. Me too says the man trying to help – 1922 amendment or 1965? 1965 came the reply. No wonder you want to jump, you’re a heretic, and pushed him off the bridge

I know we dont torture and kill people simply because they are not Christians who don’t believe in the tenants of the apostolic church constituted in 1916, but we have to ask ourselves the question – do we define who we love and who we don’t love.

Does the nationalist love the unionist? Does the UK national love the foreign immigrant or the refugee? Does the Christian love the Muslim, or Buddhist, or witch? And if they were presented with an opportunity to help them and show them love, would they?

And that’s the danger of religion – we become bound by our own definition and boundary and anyone that does not fit into that, we simply do not want to associate with. The bubble is trouble.

If we were to look at the parable itself we see this definition, this boundary being worked out in the characters of the priest and the levite, both of whom passed by on the other side. Why did they pass by on the other side?

Well both were walking away from Jerusalem. Both had roles in the temple and in walking away from Jerusalem we could assume that they had finished their duties in the temple and they were off to do something else, maybe go home, maybe visit a friend, who knows. The priest has finished his shift, the levite done his service. The extent of their service to God was limited to their roles in the temple – they had a form of godliness. Their church service was the extent of their worship.

And we need to ask ourselves – is our service to God limited to church irrespective of the role we play – either an up front role like a priest or a behind the scenes role like a levite. And again, this is a challenge to me because many have said – you do so much in the church, but, is that the extent of my service to God? Is that my tick in the box? Done my service, done my shift, don’t need to do anything else until the next time I’m on. I’m off to do my own thing now.

Religion seeks definition and limits but Jesus is looking for devotion. A devotion that says every day all the day in every opportunity You present, I want to be serving You Jesus. Like we were talking about last week in relation to anointing, if we want to know His joy, His setting part, His authority and His enablement we need to abide in Him, daily counting the cost of denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Him. Dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Religion seeks definition but Jesus is looking for devotion. And here we see the contrast between the priest and the levite with that of the Samaritan. Because the priest and the levite passed by, but the Samaritan got involved; and when your worship and service to God is defined by boxes and set boundaries, then you ask questions in your head like what am I going to be stepping into? Do I really want to get involved in that? I don’t have the time to get drawn into that situation.

We know the priest and the levite both saw the man, but we don’t even know if the priest and the levite showed any sympathy for the man, but even then sympathy only feels, it does not act. They saw the need of the man, but in their minds they made a choice not to get involved. Because their hearts were moulded by definition, they made the choice that dismissed helping the man as not their ministry.

Wow! Ever made that excuse in your head? I know I have. It’s not my ministry, not my gifting. And what Jesus is telling the expert in the law is that loving your neighbour can’t be excused by what gifts you think you have or you don’t have, because loving your neighbour is not about stepping over the need, but stepping in to meet the need; sympathy only feels the need, but compassion moves you to meet the need.

And here is something else about the Samaritan that’s in contrast to the priest and levite: the priest and the levite has somewhere they needed to be – but so did the Samaritan – the difference was that the Samaritan was willing to be inconvenienced, the priest and the levite were not. The Samaritan was willing to delay his journey in order to help someone progress with theirs. The Samaritan delayed his journey so the man who was beaten and robbed, could progress on his journey. He took time to take care of his needs, and helped him on his journey, making sure he was looked after. The Samaritan was inconvenienced, but he was willing to be inconvenienced because it’s not about convenience but all about obedience

If we are to be people that are to be moved with compassion out of devotion Christ, then that in itself can’t be limited to just meeting an immediate need and waving farewell, but taking the time to support them, walk with them, follow up with them because it’s not about what is convenient for us – it’s whether we are willing once again to count the cost of what it means to live and act with a heart devotion to Jesus that acts with compassion to those that come across our path. Because our neighbour are those right in front of us, in our path.

At the end of the parable Jesus asks the expert in the law who was the neighbour to the man that was beaten up and robbed. The expert says the one that showed him mercy.

And you could get annoyed with the expert in the law that he could not bring himself to say the word Samaritan, but the point Jesus makes, and the point the expert in the law gets, is that it’s not about who you are but what you do.

The expert in the law asked who is my neighbour. A noun; something to be defined, but Jesus asks who was the neighbour to the man. A verb; something that is done.

So in conclusion.

This dialogue between Jesus and the expert in the law has much to say to us. And the challenge to us from the Lord is the same as the challenge Jesus gave the expert in the law – to go and do likewise.

Our challenge this morning as we come to the end of our week focusing on community, is to change our thinking when it comes to reaching out to community from nouns to verbs, from exclusion to inclusion, from definition to devotion, from sympathy to compassion, from stepping over to stepping in, from what is convenient to what is inconvenient in obedience to Him.

It’s not easy – I’m sure many of us want to be like the Samaritan! But so many of us, myself included, sometimes see more of the priest and the levite in ourselves than we do of the Samaritan. Lord help us we pray!

But I felt the Lord say, yes there is a challenge to go and do likewise in relation to being more like the Samaritan, but there is also the message of Jesus to take to those that are like the man beaten and robbed, lying on the ground half dead

Because life has left people broken, and empty, not able to help themselves, and from the scriptures we know that there are people that are dead in their sin and Jesus wants to let those people know that He loves them. That love is not defined by how they got there – His love has no prejudice and His love is not a noun. You see, He wants people to know that He saw them, that He had compassion on them, that He stepped down from heaven for them, that He stepped in by paying the price of their sin on the cross for them, that through His death He healed their wounds, poured in the oil and the wine. His blood and his spirit are available to bring complete restoration and reconciliation to God.

He wants to pick them up, carry them, restore them to wholeness because it’s not just about who Jesus is as a noun – it’s about what He does as a verb. He transforms lives. He saves for the gutter most to the uttermost, He does not want anyone to perish but all to come into relationship with Him. Because the cross is the power of God unto salvation.

We have a great message to share, we have a great work to do, that work is not about definition or convenience but all about devotion and obedience. Lord help us to go, go to those that are in front of us, irrespective of who they are or what they have done, and see You transform broken and empty lives with lives that are healed and whole through an encounter with You. Because it’s not about who we are, but what we can do through you.

Amen.

03Jun/16

Am I a Christian?

Some questions it does not matter if we say yes or no.  But to the question, “Am I a Christian?”, it does matter.  It matters in time and it matters in eternity

Early Christians were hated by religious authorities. They were known as people of the way.

Acts 11v9 – Antioch

Called Christians first at Antioch

1. They heard something

2. The believed it

3. Turned to it

4. Displayed the evidence of it in their lives

5. Teachable.

 

They heard:

The good news of Jesus – based on Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:

– He is a miracle worker

– He is the messiah – dead and now alive

– His mission

They believed it:

Power in the name of Jesus.  Hand of The Lord was upon them

They turned to it

You can believe but not turn to it.  If you turn to something it means you turn from something else

They repented!

They displayed the evidence.   Saw the evidence of the grace of god without knowing what they were like just what they have become.  Displaying the fruit of the spirit.

16Sep/15

Can win the battle but lose the war!

1 Corinthians 9

Jesus was not concerned about winning against Pilate – He could of – but He didn’t because He has his eye on the souls of men.

The Corinthians did not like Paul – there were questions like ‘Am I not free?’, ‘Am I not an apostle?’.  Paul says to those who sit in judgement over him.

The Corinthians had the attitude of different levels of apostle. Cephas gets all bills paid, Paul has to bring his own tent.  v9-11 even the ox who treads the grain gets the right to eat it.  But that is all Paul says!   He is not concerned in getting one over the Corinthians but all that matters is that the war is won – that the gospel is preached and souls are saved.

Paul’s strategy in v22:  ALL things to ALL men that by ALL means I might win some!

Churches can sometimes be more concerned with winning the battle but the war is lost,  The light has gone.  The church is the only organisation that exists for the non-members!

Don’t be over anxious about the battle.  Aim to win the war!

 

10Sep/15

Not just about what you say, but how you say it (Part 2)

1 Corinthians Chapter 2

Paul was consumed by the message.  Even in prison, Paul was excited because all the guards got to hear the message.  Even in a shipwreck, he spoke to them about Jesus.  How consumed are we with the message?

Motivation.  IN Romans Paul says the message alone is by which we are saved

Method.  By wisdom of God and Spirit of God.

Previous message was on Wisdom: spoke in a language that people understood, started where people were at.

But we also need the Spirit of God.  Why?

v10-16

  1. Enlighten me.  Because it’s touched our own life. You must preach from experience. The Spirit came into our own lives.
  2. Envision us. Spirit of God knows what is on the mind of God, so we need the Spirit of God to know what’s in the mind of God
  3. Equip me to communicate.  The Spirit makes a difference, gives boldness.  We need the Spirit to make us effective and share Jesus.
  4. Effective. 1 Corinthians 2 says no eye has seen no ear has heard, and this verse is usually taken out of context as a reference to heaven.  But the verse is about the gospel. No human eye has not seen the gospel, no human ear has not heard the gospel but we need the Spirit of God to open eyes, unblock ears to be able to conceive what God has in store for them..   We cannot do this. We need the Spirit.

How do we get the Spirit?  We ask.

 

10Sep/15

Not just about what you say, but how you say it

1 Corinthians Chapter 2

Paul not only talks about the gospel but he also talks about how he talks about the gospel – because it is important.

Central to the books that Paul has written is the story of the cross, whether Colossians, Philippians, etc.  In 1 Corinthians, the three most important things are that Christ died, that Christ rose and that Christ ascended.  Why is the message so central?  Why did it captivate him?

Because it was so precious to him – it saved his life and gave him an eternal hope.  It can change lives: his own, religious people, drunkards.

Paul preached the message but in chapter 2 it’s about how you preach it that matters.  Verses 1-10 about God’s wisdom, about God’s Spirit.  when preaching we need the Spirit of God AND we need the wisdom of God.

What is wisdom?  Application of knowledge.  In Acts 21&22, Paul is in the temple and a riot breaks out; Paul is thrown out and people try to kill him but Paul is rescued by soldiers.  Paul wants to address the crowd, so he speaks in a language that they can understand. The crowd was quiet as he shared his testimony.

God speaks to us in a language that we understand and we need to listen.

Acts 2 says one reason for being baptised in the Spirit is so that you can speak people’s language.  In Inverness all speak English BUT it’s not all about language, but also about the method of communication – use of powerpoints, texting, etc.

Jesus called fishermen and asked them to be fishers of men.  He spoke to lawyers and asked him what is says in the law. He spoke people’s language.

Paul used culture to communicate the gospel. He starts where people are at: In Athens he started with the ‘unknown god’; also referred to one of their own poets in his message.

Grant us wisdom to communicate this gospel. How do we get it?  We ask Him.

 

17Nov/14

Your Story

How do we share what God has done in our lives? Through the power of our story – our testimony. It’s always worth practicing how you could share your testimony in 2 minutes or less because that’s all you might get. It also helps focus on what the important aspects of your testimony are.

17Nov/14

What is Good News?

If you had to explain the Gospel using just 4 sentences, how would you do it?

What stops us sharing?

  • Fear of being inadequate
  • Fear of losing reputation
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of appearing hypocritical
17Nov/14

Knowing your subject

A Parable

When the storyteller’s tale was over, a young man followed her away from the crowd. ‘I was wondering’, said the young man, ‘if you might help me learn to tell the best and greatest story in the world?’

The storyteller stopped to look at him. ‘And what is that story?’ she asked.

The young man was confident. ‘The story about Jesus,’ he replied.

The storyteller smiled and stopped to rest on a stone nearby. ‘Indeed, I believe that is the best story anyone has ever heard and I would be very happy to help you tell it.’ The young man sat at her feet as she continued. ‘The first thing a storyteller must do is come to know his or her subject. How well do you know yours?’

The young man looked at the ground. ‘That is why I am here’, he said sadly. ‘I struggled with what to say and when people ask questions, I cannot answer them’.

‘I see,’ said the storyteller. ‘Then you must spend more time with you story. You must spend more time with Jesus. If you listen, in time you will learn his story by heart. When you have done that, come and find me again. Telling God’s story hangs on three secrets, which I will teach you.’

A time passed, then one day the young man sought out the storyteller again. The old woman smiled when she saw him. ‘So, do you know your subject better?’ she asked.

The young man hesitated and said, ‘I know more about him’.

‘Good!’ said the storyteller. ‘You have begun the journey of a million miles. Continue on that path until you can say without hesitation that you are coming to know Jesus as a person knows an intimate friend’.

That is precisely what the young man did. The next time he caught up with the storyteller he was full of excitement and enthusiasm as he told her about his growing love for and friendship with Jesus.

‘That’s wonderful’, beamed the storyteller.

‘Now, can you teach me the first secret?’ asked the young man.

The old woman looked at him and smiled. ‘You have learned the first secret yourself,’ she said. ‘Remember, the first thing a storyteller must do is come to know his subject. Your subject is Jesus.’

‘Great!’ the young man exclaimed. ‘So now teach me the second secret. What do I say?’

‘You don’t say anything’, said the storyteller. The second secret is just like the first. You spent time with Jesus to learn his story. Now you must spend time with others to hear their story’.

‘But I don’t want to hear their stories,’ protested the young man. ‘I want them to hear God’s story.’

‘They will, my young friend, they will. All in good time. Now trust me.’ she said. ‘Go and listen, then return and tell me what you hear’.

The young man was frustrated, but he left and did as the old woman had told him. After a season, he sought her company again. ‘What have you heard?’ the storyteller asked.

‘That it is difficult to hear people’s stories,’ he said. ‘That people are slow to be honest. They are ashamed and afraid and hide behind masks.’

‘Then you must unlock the places where people hide,’ the storyteller said.

‘And where is the key?’

The storyteller took the young man’s hand and looked into his eyes. ‘The key that unlocks their true stories is hidden in your true story,’ she said. The young man was puzzled. He pondered on what she had said for a long while as they walked. Then, tentatively he asked, ‘How much must I tell?’

‘As much as it takes,’ the storyteller replied. ‘Some say you will meet someone who requires all of it’. They walked a while further, then she stopped and said to him, ‘Learn to be generous and fearless. Speak the truth in love. You will learn when enough is enough.’

The young man was different when he returned. He was more humble and yet had a striking confidence about him. ‘What have you learned?’ the storyteller asked.

‘Much’, the young man replied. ‘I have realised that I too hide behind a mask of half truth, that I only reveal to people what I want them to see. I’ve also learned that my need for Jesus is as real today as it has ever been. Beyond that, I’ve learned that listening to another person’s story with my heart and disclosing my own story in return, helps that person make space for God’s story.’

‘That is a very good lesson,’ smiled the storyteller, ‘And a hard one’.

‘I had no idea how proud I was’, said the young man, ‘how afraid, arrogant, judgmental, ungrateful’.

The storyteller nodded. ‘The one who is forgiven much, loves much.’

‘I pray that some day I will love as much as I am forgiven,’ the young man said.

‘Then you are truly coming to know Jesus,’ she said, ‘and yourself as well’. ‘So now will you tell me the third secret of storytelling?’ asked the young man. The storyteller smiled. ‘That part is showing how Jesus’ story connects to someone else’s story. That is why a good storyteller knows both stories well: that of Jesus and that of the person they are talking to. Go and see if you can connect the stories. Remember to share your story through theirs. Theirs will be quite different to yours. Always start with them.

The young man came back sometime later. ‘I see how Jesus meets people where they are,’ he reported. ‘I see how he connects with a person’s need, often in a quite different way to how he connects with me. I had assumed that every person must be drawn in the same way,’ he said.

‘What more?’ asked the storyteller.

‘Once I began to listen sincerely my heart was broken yet again for those around me. I came to see my friends as sheep without a shepherd. And I could not help telling them how Jesus came into my helplessness, how he shepherds me still and will shepherd them if they wish it.’

‘And do they wish it?’ the storyteller asked.

‘They do indeed,’ the young man replied. ‘Not all, but many, and with all their hearts! As for those who do not yet wish to know Jesus as I do, I am committed to my relationship with them, to know them more. Above all, I am committed to my relationship with Jesus, to know him ever better and I believe that my continuing relationship with him will help me understand better what part of God’s story most graciously connects my friends with Jesus.

‘Good’, said the storyteller. ‘You have learned the three secrets. Now do in peace.’

Seeing the storyteller’s words were true, the young man returned home excited and eager to tell the story of Jesus as never before.

17Nov/14

Sowing & Reaping

Ecclesiastes 11 v 1-6

1. Sow with audacious expectancy

2. Sow with generosity

3. Be bold enough to take every opportunity

4. Sow where you are

5. Sow when it hurts

6. Sow, trusting God to do His unseen work

7. Sow at all times