Christ-like love on display.
I see a picture of Europe frozen over and covered in Boreal forests, a forest that is classically found in Arctic regions. They establish themselves on frozen soil called permafrost, preventing roots from reaching deep in the soil. They classically grow in one unchanging season and are unable to produce fruit or flowers; they are simply in survival mode.
God is on the move. Get ready for your landscape to change.
I then saw the frost begin to thaw, roots reach deeper in the soil and the ice melt. This led to deciduous forests replacing the former Boreal forest. Water that was once locked up in the permafrost is now being released to bring life to the new deciduous forest. The once small pine leaves become broad open leaves with an array of vibrant colours. The once frozen lakes are replaced by might torrents of water flowing through the valleys. This was always the original intention for this land, to have deeper, richer soils that produce flowers and advance. When the ice starts melting then the landscape becomes unpredictable, dynamic, beautiful, and uncontainable. Life starts to come from what was once a barren landscape.
God is on the move. Get ready for your landscape to change.
I believe God has called us to pray for a changing landscape across Europe. Where churches that have been in survival mode would come back to their original intention; to come to life, blossom and advance. I am praying for a movement of Gods spirit across Europe that can’t be controlled or contained by man, a movement that changes a stagnant landscape to a widespread network of rivers and waterfalls connecting every community across Europe. Our job is to simply get ready, get ready for the landscape to change. To not be afraid but to let Gods mighty Kingdom Come in this dry and weary land where there is no water.
God is on the move. Get ready for your landscape to change.
At St George’s we love the community that God has blessed us with – and it’s vital we continue to build that! This blog explains 5 ways in which the gospel can impact us sharing life together as a community in incredible ways. Which one of these especially stands out for you? What prevents you from letting the gospel impact the way you share life with others? Jesus calls us to a community which is outward focused and supportive of each other, where there is no shame but real vulnerability and where we join together to do mission. How can you contribute to this kind of community within the students at St George’s?
(Find this blog at: http://theresurgence.com/2014/01/29/5-ways-we-experience-the-power-of-the-gospel-in-community)
We were saved into community. God has gathered under his roof an enormous crew of former rebels, and he has turned us into family. Christian community is where we get to experience the power of the gospel in its full power.
From Pastor Ryan Kearns: Dan Hallock has been a friend of mine since we first met in seminary. He is one of the smartest guys I know, and he has an incredible heart for loving people and building community in the local church. He is a gifted leader who has recently transitioned into the lead pastor role of his church. What I love most about reading his writing is knowing it reflects exactly what he is living out.
Most kings build moats around their castles to keep their enemies out. But the King of Kings built a bridge to his castle on the back of his own Son in order to let his enemies in. Who does that? Only the one true God, Jesus Christ.
Jesus left his castle, showed up in enemy territory, and built a bridge with his own blood in order to bring us home on his back. And even when we disdained Jesus and his bridge, he graciously gave us saving faith in the gospel and carried us to God the Father. Jesus saved us to be with him and part of his family.
SAVED INTO JESUS’ FAMILY
We were not saved for isolation. We were saved into community. Through the cross of Christ, God made us family not only with himself, but also with everyone who trusts in Christ alone for eternal life. God has gathered under his roof an enormous crew of former rebels, and he has turned us into family.
While we look forward to worshiping Jesus as a family forever in his castle, our King and heavenly Father tells us not to wait until heaven to pursue each other. He tells us that now is the time to live in community together for the glory of his name, for the joy of our own souls, and for bringing more people into his kingdom (Heb. 10:24–25).
God has gathered under his roof an enormous crew of former rebels, and he has turned us into family.
Through Christian community, and specifically through the local church, we point each other to Jesus and we live on mission together as partners in the gospel (Phil. 1:5).
Here are five ways we get to experience the power of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection through Christian community:
1. THE GOSPEL DEFEATS OUR SELF-PITY AND SELF-CENTEREDNESS
Sometimes, one of our subtle motives for community is to have others approve of us, fawn over us, and tell us we are valuable. Consequently, when our peers don’t give us their approval, or they don’t ascribe value to us, then we pity ourselves.
The gospel defeats self-pity, because it shows us that we don’t need to try to impress others or have them tell us we are valuable, because Jesus already gave us our value on the cross. Further, the gospel defeats self-centeredness because it show us that our salvation and our lives are not primarily about us at all, but about Jesus and the value we ascribe to him.
So when you’re tempted to stop attending church or community group because you feel that nobody likes you, consider asking yourself this question: “Instead of seeking to be served, how can I serve the Lord and others through my physical presence, through words of encouragement, through listening to others, and through showing mercy?”
2. THE GOSPEL DEFEATS OUR SHAME
Every Christian has spoken hurtful words, thought impure thoughts, and participated in sinful activities. On the cross, Jesus suffered in our place the punishment we deserve for these actions. By doing so, he wiped away our guilt and shame, and he replaced it with an eternal standing before God of innocence and righteousness.
The gospel defeats self-pity, because it shows us that we don’t need to try to impress others.
But even though God no longer looks at our past mistakes, Satan, our flesh, and the world constantly tempt us to remember our past and to cling to our shame. As a result, we often don’t feel justified to enjoy friendships, to be part of a community of people who love Jesus, or to be used by God for good purposes. The gospel combats these feelings by reminding us that we’re not justified to receive the blessings of community because of our own merits; we’re justified and liberated to enjoy the family of God because of the merits of Christ, which we can now claim as our own through faith.
So whenever you feel unworthy to enjoy community with others, remember that nobody is worthy on their own. The only reason any of us now enter and enjoy Christian community is because of Christ, and that’s why we worship him whenever we’re together.
3. THE GOSPEL DEFEATS OUR DELUSIONS OF SELF-RELIANCE
Our flesh tells us that we don’t really need help from anyone, that we shouldn’t burden others with our problems, and that we can meet our needs ourselves. The gospel tells us otherwise.
The gospel tells us we are totally incapable of saving ourselves. If God had not helped us in our helplessness, we would not know him or his salvation. And while we don’t need the church in order to be eternally saved, God gives us the church as an instrument of his grace to support us, to transform us into his image, and to humble us.
Satan, our flesh, and the world constantly tempt us to remember our past and to cling to our shame.
You need other Christians. You need the local church. God’s not in the work of building kingdoms—he’s in the work of building a kingdom. Live in light of the gospel message as you join in fellowship with other Christians who recognize their need for God and his family.
4. THE GOSPEL DEFEATS OUR CONCEIT
A conceited person believes that he is more valuable than other people. He looks down on others and separates himself from those he finds unacceptable or unworthy of honor. We all struggle with conceit on some level.
The gospel both highlights and eradicates our conceited claims. The gospel highlights our conceit by showing us that we have deemed ourselves not only better than others, but also better than God himself. Our sin reveals that we’ve considered it better to worship ourselves and our own desires rather than worship God and obey his desires for us.
You need other Christians. You need the local church.
The gospel then deals with our conceit on the cross of Christ, showing us that the punishment for our conceit was the death of Jesus. As Carl Henry said, “How on earth can anyone be arrogant when standing next to the cross?”
No Christian should be esteemed so much by themselves or by others that they are unapproachable. In God’s family, nobody is too cool, too powerful, too talented, or too refined for others. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We are equally valuable in God’s eyes and worthy of community, regardless of age, gender, race, or social class (Gal. 3:28).
Through the gospel, God brings together the unlikeliest of people and makes them family.
5. THE GOSPEL GIVES US A GAME PLAN
Many of us have spent much time, energy, and resources embracing fruitless community. It’s more comfortable for us to remain superficial, talking about the weather, sports, and movies, than to step on anyone’s toes.
The gospel shatters our superficial, lukewarm, inoffensive notions of life together. Nothing about Jesus on the cross bleeds superficiality, ambiguity, or timidity. Jesus died on the cross and rose again for the glory of God by boldly winning a people for himself. This is the gospel message with which we have been entrusted. This is the gospel we preach, we teach, we memorize, we claim, and we treasure.
In God’s family, nobody is too cool, too powerful, to talented, or too refined for others.
The gospel gives us the game plan of living on mission together as we proclaim our crucified King throughout the world. And as God saves more of his children, we will gather them into our fellowship and together grow as his disciples by the power of his Holy Spirit. We will seek to love others well, to forgive as we’ve been forgiven, and to grow in the grace of God. The advance of the gospel of Jesus is our game plan, our purpose, our vision, and our joy.
Thank you, King Jesus, for leaving your castle; for entering enemy territory; for showing us your Father’s glory; for building us a bridge and carrying us into your holy throne room as your blood-bought family, once and for all. Thank you for the gracious gift of redeemed community with yourself and with your church. Help us to live lives together worthy of your gospel.
This video raises the interesting question of religion vs Jesus – do you think they are on ‘opposite ends of the spectrum’? What message do you think the church gives on this issue? As Christians we are called to share the gospel message through our words and actions – that we cannot earn our salvation and Jesus died and rose again to give it to us as a free gift. Reflect on this video and let it motivate you to proclaim the real message of Jesus in your life.
GO TO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IAhDGYlpqY
Whether spiritual gifts are a normal part of your relationship with God, or whether they feel slightly unfamiliar to you and you haven’t considered them before, it’s important to consider the way in which we receive and use the gifts that God gives us. When thinking about the Holy Spirit, we have to remember that He points us to the Father and the Son and not to ourselves! He enables us to fix our eyes on Jesus and become more like Him, often as a result of experiencing His presence. Make an effort to pray each day this week that you would be filled with the Holy Spirit, and think about how you can use the gifts God has given you, spiritual or otherwise, to glorify God.
(Find this blog at: http://www.thevillagechurch.net/the-village-blog/when-spiritual-gifts-function-as-they-should/)
The nature and practice of spiritual gifts is one of the most controversial dialogues in the church today. Confusion abounds as the faithful seek to find their place along a spectrum of belief, ranging fromcessationists (those who believe the miraculous gifts ceased to operate with the death of the Apostles) tocharismatics (those who believe that all gifts are practiced today as seen at Pentecost).
Most “mainstream evangelicals” fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, holding a position that avoids leaning too far toward one extreme or the other. Yet, instead of deciding which spot on the spectrum is most valid, what if we worked toward an understanding of the role God intends for the gifts to play in the life of the Church?
Why This Conversation Matters
A correct understanding of the role of spiritual gifts leads to a correct application of those gifts. Likewise, an incorrect view of the role of spiritual gifts leads to an incorrect application of those gifts. So, what does Scripture have to say about their role in the life of the individual and the Church as a whole?
In Acts 1:8, Jesus introduces the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell believers and to empower them to walk in a way that glorifies God and builds His Church. In 1 Corinthians 13:10, Paul tells us that the gifts are not perfect but are given to the church until the time when Jesus returns, at which time the gifts will “pass away.” Earlier in his letter, Paul says that the church “is not lacking in any spiritual gift, as we wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7). Paul goes on to exhort the church in the use of gifts: “let all things be done for building up” (1 Cor. 14:26b).
The gifts are not for you ultimately; they exist to build up the church to fulfill its mission. This is important for us to note because it points to the role that gifts play in the New Testament Church: Spiritual gifts are manifestations of the Spirit for the edification of the body (1 Cor. 12:7).
How Then Should We View Spiritual Gifts?
In Romans 1:11-12, Paul writes to the church, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”
There is a common misconception that often accompanies this text. Paul is not saying that he wishes to give to the church or its members a spiritual gift but he means that his spiritual gifts will be used in such a way to strengthen the church. Paul wants to use how God has gifted and wired him to edify the church. He also says that he personally hopes to be built up by the giftedness of those in the church so that both his faith and theirs would be encouraged. The apostle Paul gives us both an example and a description of how the gifts are to function in the life of the body: Spiritual gifts are expressions of faith, to encourage and increase the faith of others.
Glorify God, Edify the Church
No matter which gift you are exercising, the purpose in God giving it to you is to glorify Him through edifying the church. Asking ourselves some helpful questions can help determine whether or not we are correctly applying the gifts:
- Does the use of my spiritual gifts terminate on me, or are they being used to increase the faith of others?
- When I use a spiritual gift, does it result in another believer being encouraged or confused?
- Am I seeking to build up the church or am I seeking to exalt myself?
Regardless of which gifts you believe still operate, all spiritual gifts must operate within these boundaries. Any time a gift is used to bring personal gain or glory to its bearer instead of the Giver, any time it causes confusion instead of edification, it is being misused.
Let’s not spend so much energy arguing over certain gifts that we fail to consider the bigger picture of spiritual gifts in general, both miraculous and otherwise. May we labor to gain a biblically informed understanding of how to utilize whatever gifts the Lord has imparted to us in a way that is accurate and faithful.
How often do you find yourself asking God, ‘but what about them?’ How often do you compare yourself to others? It’s incredible to hear that our Father created and delights in each and every one of us. When we accept him into our lives He does not want to change us into someone else, but to actually become more of who we are. If you are ever tempted to ask ‘but what about them?’, make a stand today to remember biblical truths about who you are in Christ and how much He values you, the real you.
(Find this blog at: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/jesus-wants-you-to-be-you)
God had you specifically in mind when he created you and called you to follow him. You are custom-designed for your calling. But when you face the difficulty of your calling, you may look at others and be tempted to wonder why they don’t seem to bear the same burdens you do. Don’t be discouraged; in John 21, the Apostle Peter faced the same temptation.
“What About this Man?”
After the resurrected Jesus served his sleep-deprived fisherman-disciples a seaside breakfast of miracle fish, he took Peter on a walk down the beach. Jesus wanted to tell Peter a few important things directly before Jesus parted physically from him for the last time in this age. John trailed them, about ten yards behind.
Toward the end of their conversation, Jesus dropped a bombshell on Peter: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” Then Jesus, as only he could do, peered right into Peter’s soul and said, “Follow me.”
Peter had already been dreading Jesus’s final departure, wondering how this small, fearful band of disciples would survive without him. Peter wondered howhe would survive. Now Jesus informed him that he wasn’t going to survive. Peter was going to die for Jesus. Only this time Peter issued no over-confident proclamation like he had during the Passover meal. Now he knew how weak he really was. Left to himself, he was a coward.
But Peter remembered that he would not be left to himself like an orphan; Jesus, though gone, would somehow come to him in the future (John 14:18). Peter believed this. Jesus had never once failed to keep a promise. But how Jesus would come to him at the moment of his execution, Peter could not conceive. He already felt lonely.
And Peter wondered why Jesus hadn’t spoken of other disciples’ deaths. Was he the only one who would have to die? Peter looked around for the others and he saw John, who was walking just where the cool surf gently pushed up and bathed his feet. Peter knew how Jesus loved John, and he wondered if Jesus was going to spare John the cost that he was asking Peter to pay. Gesturing back, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”
Jesus’s brow furrowed as he watched two gulls quarrel over a dead fish. Then he looked at Peter and responded with his familiar tender firmness, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
“What Is that to You?”
Jesus calls each one of us to follow him (John 15:16). All of God’s promises are yes to each one of us in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). We each get to share in Christ’s inheritance (Colossians 1:12) and as members of Christ’s united body we need each other (Romans 12:5).
But we do not all have the same function (Romans 12:4). Each disciple, each individual member of the body, has a unique role. And each of us must lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him (1 Corinthians 7:17).
The question, “What is that to you?” is one you and I need to ask frequently. How God deals with other people is often of excessive concern to us, especially if their paths don’t seem to be paved with the same pain as ours.
The fallen part of our nature doesn’t look at others and glory in how each of them uniquely bears the imago dei (Genesis 1:27). It doesn’t revel in their distinctive refraction of God’s multifaceted glory. It doesn’t rejoice in the sweet providences God grants to them. It is not grateful for the blessings of their God-given strengths. It does not want to deal gently with their weaknesses (Hebrews 5:2). Full of pride and selfish ambition, our fallen nature uses others to gauge our own significance, how successful and impressive we perceive ourselves to be.
“You Follow Me.”
But there is gospel in Jesus’s words, “What is that to you? You follow me.” Do you hear it? It’s a declaration of liberation. Jesus died to make you “free indeed” (John 8:36), and this includes freedom from the tyranny of sinful comparison and coveting another’s calling.
God had you in mind when he created you (Psalm 139:13–16). He knew just what he was doing. You, your body, your mind, and your circumstances, are not an accident. Yes, he’s aware of your deficiencies, and, yes, he’s calling you to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). But God does not expect or intend you to be someone else. Nor does he want you to follow someone else’s path.
Jesus wants you to be you. The faith that Jesus gives you is sufficient for the path he gives you (Romans 12:3). And the grace he gives you to face your trials will be sufficient for you when the need comes (2 Corinthians 12:9).
You are your truest you, not when you are analyzing yourself or measuring yourself against someone else. You are your truest you when your eyes are fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), when you are following him in faith, and when you are serving others in love with the grace-gifts God has assigned to you (Romans 12:4–8).
So, no matter what today holds, be free from saying in your heart, “Lord what about this man?” For Jesus chose you (John 15:16), promised to supply all that you need (Philippians 4:19), and wants you to simply follow him.
If you humble yourself under his mighty hand, trusting him to redeem all your suffering, “thorns” (2 Corinthians 12:7) and weaknesses, he will exalt you at the time and in the way that will bring him the most glory and you the most joy (1 Peter 5:6).
Part of Deep life is about spending time with God and clearing space for Him to speak to you – getting rid of distractions and to-do lists, putting aside for a moment people to see and places to go. And waiting on Him. Time with God is invaluable; waiting and listening to God should be a regular part of each day, but it’s so easy to get distracted and push God into smaller and smaller parts of our day. Spend this time now listening to what Matt Chandler has to say about waiting on God, and then reflect on this and spend quality time with your Father whilst listening to the next video.
GO TO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjOzmz4KYho
AND THEN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nrr-7YA7cfM
How often do you engage in ‘ordinary mission’? This blog thinks through what Jesus meant when he said ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. How do we as students love our neighbours and those in need? June project was a great week of mission to the local area, but how do we make this a part of our everyday lives? The idea of mission is often scary and makes us feel uncomfortable – have a read of this blog to think this through and challenge yourself to commit to ‘ordinary mission’.
(Find this blog at: http://theresurgence.com/2014/06/02/ordinary-people-ordinary-mission)
There is great appeal in pursuing exotic or “extraordinary” mission. But the Bible calls us to look a little closer as we live out Jesus’ mission: those in need and our neighbors.
“Africa!” two or three voices rang out. Then it was silent.
I had just asked a couple hundred folks in a Sunday service, “What do you think of when you think of missions?” “Africa!” was the lone response.
“Anything else?” More silence. The exact same interchange happened at the second service. Different people, but exactly the same question, single answer, same follow-up, same silence. “Missions = Africa.” Exclusively.
TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN
There is great appeal in pursuing the “extraordinary” (in the literal sense—“outside the ordinary”) when it comes to mission. That’s why “Africa” is an easy thought: it’s glamorous. It makes for great stories. And the impact can be tangible, even measurable.
But closer than Africa, the Bible displays two primary groups of people that God sends us to as we live out his mission: those in need and our neighbors.
Jesus’ brother James sums up both well: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27). And a few verses later, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well” (James 2:8).
From Genesis to Revelation, God often uses his ordinary people in his work of redeeming other ordinary people.
It seems that many Christians often have an easier time with one of those commands or the other. We’ll pursue neighbors at the expense of those in need, or those in need at the expense of our neighbors. Or if we’re really honest, some of us are uncomfortable or scared of mission altogether, so we pursue neither.
The problem is that God doesn’t make these distinctions. From Genesis to Revelation, God often uses his ordinary people in his work of redeeming other ordinary people. Wherever we live, we have an everyday mission field, comprised of both our neighbors and those in need. But living on mission in each of those groups takes different types of intentionality.
IT’S HARD TO LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS
The gospel is divisive. As the saying goes, “Never talk about religion or politics.” Many relationships change when faith enters a conversation. Our client might be offended and find a new provider. That classmate might think we’re weird and sit next to someone else tomorrow. Our neighbor might vacate his half-mowed lawn and scurry away until we go back inside. In fact, God promises responses like this: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).
Wherever we live, we have an everyday mission field.
It’s even more difficult if we’ve lived near or worked with someone for many years. “Love Your Neighbor Sundays” see my churchworshiping God by throwing block parties, inviting others over, pulling out grills, baking cookies for hermits, and so forth. After living next to their neighbors for a decade, one couple was embarrassed when their first LYN Sunday came around. The extent of their relationship was a “what’s-up?” nod exchanged between the men as they got in their cars every morning.
The couple worked through their fears and shame, and their first act of loving their neighbors was ringing the doorbell, armed with cookies and wine. And repenting: “We’ve lived next to you for years, but don’t even know you. We’d like to be better neighbors; will you give us a chance?” Today they have regular conversation and even talk about faith. And that first step wasn’t extraordinary, but it was hard. Mission to neighbors is difficult.
IT’S HARD TO LOVE THOSE IN NEED
Loving those in need is equally difficult because it often asks us to go out of our way. Unless we work in certain jobs, it’s unlikely that we spend regular, quality time hanging out with an orphan, tutoring underprivileged kids, playing games at a nursing home, or visiting hospitals or prisons.
Jesus calls similar people “the least of these my brothers” (Matt. 25:40). Too often we consider the first half of that label while missing the second half: to society and likely even to many of us, widows, orphans, prisoners, the elderly, the sick, the homeless, prostitutes, and refugees, are “the least.”
Loving our neighbors is about demonstrating the gospel through normal relationships and rhythms of life.
They may be low-income, less-clean, and “lost” in many senses of the word. But Jesus also calls them “my brothers.” There’s inherent worth in their neediness; there’s dignity in that they’re created in the same marred image of God as we are. Their physical condition reflects the spiritual condition of every human: we need salvation.
A far cry from an annual trip across the Atlantic, loving our neighbors is about demonstrating the gospel through normal relationships and rhythms of life, where we naturally exist. Loving those in need often asks us to go out of our way, lay down our lives for the “least of these my brothers,” and depart from our natural rhythms to go into an area we don’t naturally exist, for the sake of the gospel. But the goal in God’s mission is always the same: “make disciples.”
Which side do you pursue better? Who are the people God has sent you to? We can’t ignore these ordinary mission fields, because these are the two groups of people to whom God has sent us, every day.
This video shows Josh Harris speaking on his book ‘I kissed dating goodbye’ – which is all about putting God first and not relying on other relationships. As part of loving freely in Shared life, we are first filled with God’s love to then show this love those around us. This is important in all of our relationships, and allows us to show sacrificial love for others as we are secure in the love of Jesus. Do you find that your relationships with others come before your relationship with God? Where do you find it hard to show sacrificial love? Pray today that God would show you areas where you can put him first more in your life.
GO TO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVJqlaNJRnw
This blog is all about returning to Jesus and remembering to rejoice in him even when life doesn’t seem great. Do you have a rhythm of remembering and rejoicing? So often we get caught up in everything that’s happening in our day-to-day lives, but it’s so valuable to get God’s perspective on things. This always seems especially hard when we’re away from our regular church services and student community over the summer! Have a read of this, and challenge yourself to establish this rhythm.
(Find this blog at: http://www.thevillagechurch.net/the-village-blog/a-rhythm-of-remembering-and-rejoicing)
In Habakkuk chapter 3, we find a prayer that is 19 verses in length. For 16 verses, Habakkuk remembers God’s past faithfulness to deliver Israel from her enemies. In the final three verses, he rejoices over God’s strength and majesty.
Habakkuk’s prayer is instructive for us today because it establishes a rhythm of remembering and rejoicing. When we remember God’s past faithfulness and rejoice in it, we find a firm foundation regardless of our circumstances, but when we forget this rhythm, the weight of the world feels crushing.
Here are three ways that you can remember and rejoice when your circumstances look bleak:
Remember and rejoice that God saved you. It is imperative that you understand that you did not save you. God saved you. You may say, “That’s not true. I heard a message, walked down the aisle, shook the pastor’s hand and said a little prayer. That’s when I became a Christian.” No, it’s not. Do you know what motivated you to get out of that seat? Do you know what motivated you to come down that aisle? It was the Holy Spirit opening your heart to the reality of Jesus Christ. God began your conversion before you ever stood from your seat.
Ephesians 2:13 says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” You were brought near, and not because God looked down and thought, “Look at all that skill. You’re on My team.” No. You were brought near by the blood of Christ. God saved you. You didn’t save you. You didn’t save you by getting up in the morning and reading your Bible or by no longer saying cuss words. You got in by the blood of Jesus alone.
Remember and rejoice that God is present in your circumstances. God has not abandoned us to our circumstances. It doesn’t matter how dark the night is. Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Some of us are unsure of what to do with the Holy Spirit. We think of the Spirit as the crazy uncle who shows up drunk and makes things weird at family reunions. But consider how the Holy Spirit functioned in the life of Jesus. At His baptism, Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit. He was driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil and overcame those temptations by the Spirit. He returned from the wilderness filled with the Holy Spirit. He began His ministry empowered by the Holy Spirit proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. By the power of the Spirit, He drove out demons and performed miracles.
If the Holy Spirit empowered Jesus, how much more do we need the Spirit? The Spirit testifies that we are children of God and intercedes for us in our weakness. God is with us always through the Holy Spirit.
Remember and rejoice that God finishes what He starts. You should have no doubts about whether or not you can carry your salvation to completion. You can’t. Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” God began it. God will finish it. God is never surprised when you blow it. He is never taken aback. You can’t wear Him out. You can’t do anything to undo the salvation He has worked on your behalf. You belong to Him, and no one can pluck you out of His hand. You are His. He finishes what He starts. That knowledge makes you bold.
Consider Paul. If you put him in prison, he’s just going to convert your guards and all the prisoners. If you try to kill him, he gets giddy about going to heaven. If you beat him, he doesn’t consider the suffering of this day worthy to be compared to future glory. You can’t touch Paul. He’s free because he knows to whom he belongs. He’s free because he knows God has not abandoned him. He’s free because he knows that God began this and God will finish it.
If you can remember and rejoice in these three things, you’ll be unshakeable, even in the darkest days. But we have a way of being forgetful of this rhythm. We have a way of quickly forgetting who is the Author and Perfecter of our faith. We have a way of quickly feeling abandoned. We have a way of quickly feeling like it’s up to us to bring this thing to completion.
May He who is rich in mercy save us from all that. May we remember with Habakkuk the truth of who God is and what He has done. May we rejoice as he rejoiced: “I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places” (Hab. 3:18-19).
This video shows a small insight into the incredible nature of our loving Creator. As we learn more about how much God loves us, and discover small signs of Him in our lives and the world around us, we become more motivated to tell people about God. Whether we would call ourselves an evangelist or not, Jesus asks us all to share our faith with those around us, and he can use our gifts and passions to do this – even in molecular biology! Challenge yourself to pray for new opportunities to use who you are, your unique gifts and weaknesses, passions and personality, to draw the people around you to Jesus.
GO TO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0-NPPIeeRk&feature=kp
It’s really easy to fall into the trap of ‘I obey therefore I am accepted’ without realising. How much of your relationship with God is made up of merely good works? What do you use to try to sustain your own righteousness? It’s incredible that we don’t need any of that – we have the Holy Spirit showing us Jesus who is the only way we can be made righteous! Pure life is all about recognising where we have been turning away from God and repenting of that – think of where you might have been trusting yourself instead of God and repent today. Replace that with a trust in Jesus alone.
(Find this blog at: http://www.thevillagechurch.net/the-village-blog/repent-of-your-goodness)
What if your sin problem isn’t that you’re wicked? What if it’s that you’re good?
In Luke 18:18-25 we find an exchange between Jesus and a very good person, a rich young ruler who keeps the law:
And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
The question that the rich young ruler actually asks is not, “What must I do to be saved?” The question he asks is, “What behavioral modifications must I make to put you into my debt, to make you do for me what I want you to do?”
Sound familiar? I believe that the bulk of American evangelicalism is built on this idea that “my behavior makes God owe me, and that what saves me is my works.”
The rich young ruler fails to understand what many of us fail to understand: that Christianity is not a religion. The mantra of religion is, “I obey therefore I am accepted.” The Scriptures, however, teach against this idea constantly.
Confidence in Goodness
The message we usually hear from the pulpit is “repent of your wickedness.” Stop sleeping around. Stop doing drugs. Stop partying. I would agree that these things are sinful and need to be repented of, but that’s not the message of Luke 18. Instead of calling out the overtly wicked, Jesus says this: “You good husbands, you good fathers, you small-group-leading, church-going, morally righteous men and women—you repent.”
Trying to earn your salvation through good works is just as God-belittling, cross-mocking wickedness as anything on the pagan, dark side of the fence. We tell ourselves, “I’m a better man than my father was...I’m a good husband...I’m a good dad...I’m a good wife...I’m a good mother...I’m a hard worker...I’m involved in the church.” Jesus says, “Repent! That does not save you. That does not justify you.”
A Path to Repentance
So here’s the question: How do you repent of being good? Do you stop practicing righteousness and start practicing unrighteousness? Of course not.
Paul addresses this when he says, “Should we sin all the more so that grace might abound?” In other words, if we sin more, won’t we just demonstrate God’s grace to a greater degree? To which Paul responds, “May that never be,” which can translate more strongly into, “You’re damned if you do.” There’s no Holy Spirit in you if you think that way and walk that way.
Romans 8 says that those in the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit and that those in the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh. So how do we know if our mindset is a mindset of the Spirit? To understand that, we must understand what the Spirit does.
So let’s look at what the Holy Spirit does:
In John 16, the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus.
In John 16:14-15, the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus.
In 1 Corinthians 12, the Holy Spirit leads us to understand Jesus as our Lord.
In Romans 8, the Holy Spirit empowers us to live like Jesus.
In John 14:12-16, the Holy Spirit gifts us to do ministry like Jesus.
In John 14:26, the Holy Spirit reminds us of Jesus.
In Acts 1:8, the Holy Spirit empowers us to tell the good news of Jesus to the world around us.
It seems that the Holy Spirit is just a bit obsessed with Jesus. The Holy Spirit glorifies, the Holy Spirit exalts, the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. So if your mind is set on the Spirit, then your mind is set upon what the Spirit is set upon, which is Jesus Christ.
Repent of your Righteousness
Do you possess a desire for, affection for and an exaltation of the person and work of Jesus Christ in the cross and in the resurrection? Or do you hang all of your hope on managing your morality and church participation?
If your hope, confidence and satisfactions are in being a good husband, being a good wife, being a good father, being a good mother, being a good churchman, you’ve severely misplaced your hope in something that cannot and will not save you.
Repentance means coming back to the cross and confessing. We repent that we’ve become satisfied with serving Him rather than knowing Him. We ask God once again for mercy.
Do you need to repent of goodness? Do you need to ask forgiveness for your righteousness? Throw yourself on the mercy of God. Put your confidence in His cross, not in the fact that you’re “better” this year than last.
The Bible says that if we could earn the favor of God with our behavioral modifications, then the cross of Christ was for nothing (Gal 2:21).
So is your confidence in your goodness? Repent. We have no confidence outside the goodness of Christ. Your goodness is a myth. Repent of worshiping your own righteousness and set your mind on the things of the Spirit—set your mind on Jesus Christ.
What do you think of when you hear of the story of Noah and the flood? Have you ever found it hard to reconcile the God of the Old Testament with the New Testament? This blog interestingly shows the links between this story and the rest of the Bible, pointing out the key characteristics of God shown in both. Remember – Jesus is the hero of every story in the Bible. In dying on the cross, Jesus also builds us an ark at great cost to himself, to save us from the flood waters of the judgement of God. Like Noah, to be in the safety of the ark you need to be part of Jesus’ family, in the kingdom of God. But unlike Noah, Jesus’ salvation is eternal and changes our hearts. Jesus is the ultimate Noah – who rescues everyone in his family forevermore and changes our hearts to be more like him. Have a read of other stories in the Old Testament and see how they point towards Jesus.
(Find this blog at: http://theresurgence.com/2014/03/27/3-ways-noah-sums-up-the-big-story-of-the-bible)
Many Christians would be quick to say that the flood is about sin, righteousness, and the wrath of God. And while that is at least partly true, partial truths can be the most misleading of all. What’s the story of Noah really about?
Everyone knows the story of Noah and the Ark, right?
After all, what household in America (with small kids anyway) is without some depiction of a cute animal-stuffed ark accompanied by a rainbow and a bearded, kindly-looking old man? My kids loved their Noah’s Ark bath toys. Then there are the story books, cartoons, and the seemingly ubiquitous “documentaries” claiming “proof” either that the story is myth, or that remnants of the real ark have been discovered.
One could also mention the 1999 TV mini-series, or the 2007 Hollywood comedy Evan Almighty. Now there is a new Hollywood movie (which I have not seen) starring the likes of Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, and Emma Watson.
Of course, biblically faithful Christians would be quick to point out that these popular depictions inevitably miss the point entirely.
What then is the point?
Many Christians would be quick to say that the flood is about sin, righteousness, and the wrath of God. And while that is at least partly true, partial truths can be the most misleading of all. The true point lies in the fact that this story introduces some of the central themes of Scripture for the first time within the unfolding narrative of God.
Let me show you what I mean.
1. NOAH SHOWS THAT SIN GRIEVES GOD
To begin with, Genesis 6:6–7 gives us the first recorded glimpse of God’s response to sin an emotional level. I believe this is of massive significance. And interestingly, God’s first response is not wrath or anger. Rather, what we see is sorrow tinged with regret, as we are told that God is literally grieved to the heart.
Often we think of sin in merely transactional terms, as disobedience to commandments or law. The infraction then creates guilt and incurs the righteous wrath of a holy God. While technically true, this view is inherently impersonal and almost mechanical.
The story of Noah introduces some of the central themes of Scripture for the first time within the unfolding narrative of God.
What we see clearly for the first time in the Noah story is that sin is primarily relational. For God, our sin is deeply personal. What we see here is something akin to the emotions of a loving dad pained and grieved to the heart over the persistent sin of a rebellious son or daughter. Yes, anger is in the mix, but the primary emphasis is deep pain and disappointment borne through many years of patient love.
The story of Noah utterly destroys the blinders we often wear in regard to the effect of our sinful choices upon the heart of our Father in heaven. My sin causes the greatest pain first and foremost to my Father in heaven. King David had it right (Ps. 51:4).
2. NOAH SHOWS THAT GOD GIVES GRACE
Also important, and perhaps surprisingly, the story of Noah gives us the first ever mention of grace in the Bible.
Question: Why did God save Noah and his family?
Years ago when asked, I immediately pulled my answer fromGenesis 6:9: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation.” What I missed—and what many of us miss—is the previous verse that tells us, “but Noah found favor [literally grace] in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8).
Interestingly, God’s first response to sin is not wrath or anger.
Yes, Noah was a righteous man, but by grace and not by works. This is made abundantly clear by yet another set of first-ever biblical references in Noah’s story: namely, growing a vineyard, making wine, getting drunk, and passing out naked (Gen 9:20–23). Noah was definitely righteous only by grace! Hope begins to appear.
3. NOAH SHOWS THAT GOD MAKES A COVENANT WITH US
The most hopeful note of all, however, comes with the first-ever occurrence in Scripture of the word “covenant.” This is the story of a loving and patient Father whose children, created in his own image, bring him pain, anguish, and grief through unmitigated rebellion.
God’s response is judgment, bringing universal death through the flood. But the flood, although deserved, is powerless to wipe out sin and provide a new beginning for a righteous humanity in a new garden. The state of humankind is no different after the flood than it was before (Matt. 24:37–39). The horror of sin continues. The intention of every human heart remains evil (Gen. 6:5). Judgment and death continues to be justly and universally deserved today.
Yes, Noah was a righteous man, but by grace and not by works.
At one level, therefore, the flood appears futile and pointless, but therein lies the very point. The flood accomplishes nothing (ultimately), but anticipates everything. Noah and his family were saved by grace. God established a covenant through one man by which the human race was preserved.
This true story, authored by the Holy Spirit through the pen of Moses, points forward, anticipating a better covenant established once-for-all through one man, Jesus.
It reveals our sin, shows us the heart of God, and warns of deserved judgment. It anticipates the genuine offer of a new identity, being made righteous by faith in Christ, who suffered death and judgment in our place. As a result, we are adopted into a new family under the righteous Son. In him we know the joy of salvation and the promise of a new beginning in a new creation, free from the presence of sin.
Think of the story of Noah as being like one bite of a bacon-wrapped appetizer. It is not satisfying in itself, but should cause us to salivate in anticipation of the banquet to come. Let us not miss the point.