Sunday, March 28, 2010

Beacon Touchpaper #21: "Jesus, our LIVING founder"

"And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt 28.18-20, ESV)

Martin Luther King, Jr. Mahatma Gandhi. Florence Nightingale. Leo Tolstoy. Sir Winston Churchill. Mother Teresa. William Wilberforce. Albert Einstein. Leonardo da Vinci. Martin Luther. Just a few examples of great men and women of history. All of these people have left immense legacies or made profound change for the generations to follow. Human rights, science, faith, liberty... these men and women have influenced millions for the good and for the future. They have shaped the world we live in. They have all died. They have all stayed dead.

Many more people throughout history have begun radical, continued social movements. But one significant difference each time is this: none of their founders are still with them. The Church, God's called and chosen people here on earth, is utterly unique for many reasons. Notably, it is the "only organisation in the world that exists solely for the benefit of its non-members" (Archbishop William Temple). And, more importantly, its - our - founder Jesus Christ is still with us. Always. To the end of the age.

As we celebrate Easter, just like when we remember Him in Communion, let us not only tell half the story. As we share the Gospel, let us not only preach His astounding work on the cross - paying our penalty for sin, dying in our place, receiving God's wrath so that we don't have to, granting us forgiveness - but let us also preach His glorious resurrection - in which we are raised to new life in Him, partaking in His righteousness, His blessings and eternity with Him. His death is only half the story; His resurrection completes it. Every sermon found in the book of Acts preaches the resurrection, bar one (Acts 7) - and that sermon was interrupted by the risen Jesus Himself while Stephen was preaching!

So be encouraged and preach the FULL story of Who Jesus is, not just was. Let our lives preach the glory of the living Jesus within us through His Holy Spirit. And let us continue to be strengthened by the knowledge that our glorious Founder (Heb 12.2), King and Saviour is WITH us now. Always!

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Monday, March 22, 2010

"2 Peter 2: Dogs and Pigs in the Sheep-pen" - sermon notes for 21/03/10

(hear the sermon here)

Fakery/counterfeit goods/scams/con artists, they can be found everywhere in the world: currency, documents, clothing, software, pharmaceuticals, art, etc. Just as it can be found everywhere, we shouldn't be surprised to find it IN THE CHURCH too! The trouble is we can be lulled into a false sense of security & forget that counterfeits can fool multitudes. And we can be one of those fooled too. The things we read, the things we hear on radio, see on TV... How to discern? How to avoid AND warn others?

False prophets are mentioned throughout the Bible: men claimed to speak from God when He hadn't sent them (Deut 18.20). In NT times, these men are described as:
  • Deceitful masqueraders (2 Cor 11.13)
  • devoted to myths (1 Tim 1.4)
  • shipwrecked their faith (1 Tim 1.19)
  • hypocritical liars (1 Tim 4.2)
  • conceited, quarrelling, corrupted, greedy (1 Tim 6.3-5)
  • ungodly, w/gangrenous teaching (2 Tim 2.16-17)
  • lovers of themselves, disobedient,worming their way, depraved & more (2 Tim 3.1-9)
  • ignorant & unstable (2 Pet 3.16)
  • antichrists (1 Jn 2.18)
Strong language! Another word is heretics (wilfully denies what the Bible says, even twisting Bible to argue their teaching)

NB: Peter doesn't name anyone but gives details of the false teaching, not teachers. The teachers come and go, the teaching persists in different forms...

1. Know the Danger:

Firstly, let it be noted that the false teaching Peter is concerned about here involves a particular brand of sexual permissiveness (13b: “carouse”; 14a: “full of adultery”; 18: “lustful desires”), so there was a genuine moral concern as well as a theological one. But elements of what he is describing here are relevant to false teaching in general:

among you” (1); “secretly” (1) “many will follow” (2) “exploit” (3) “to use selfishly for one's OWN ends”; “with stories they have made up” = as opposed to 1.16: NOT cleverly invented stories but eye-witnesses! “seduce” (14); “entice” (18). We think we'd spot them, but they exploit, seduce & entice... 2 Cor 11: Satan's ministers had invaded the Corinthian church; Jude 19: men described as NOT having “the Spirit

Who do they go after? v14: “they seduce the unstable”; v18: “they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error” - these false teachers here are particularly preying on the weak/the young... Remember they are sly, underhand, secret, seemingly innocuous...

They are often kind, friendly, fun, appealing... THAT's the problem. Remember, they convince MANY.
  • Sensuality & Lust – see above!
  • Greed (v3)
  • Despise authority (v10) – there's a big obvious SIREN!
  • Heresy & blasphemy – THE BIG ONE!!! - denying salvation in Christ alone (v1)
2. Know the Truth:

One symptom of false teaching is that it denies something fundamental (1b: They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them). To not deny but suggest fundamentals don't matter is just as dangerous... (Hear the audio for 2 examples of this)

Above all, the key to spotting false teaching is this: KNOW THE TRUTH. Anything else that isn't that, is FALSE... (1 Cor 15.1-2: “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.” Stand firm!) To spot fake currency, the experts look for markings of TRUE currency. All else is false.

See? The brilliance of the Gospel, of His Word is that we do not need to know all the signs of false teaching and spend all our time speaking against each individual instance. All we need do is KNOW THE TRUTH and anything else falls away, loses its power, is destroyed... So what are the signs of the TRUTH? = The Gospel: Jesus plus NOTHING.

Trinity = ever-existent, self-supportive >>> We = made male & female, made to worship, selfish, worshipped ourselves and things before Him, ruined it all; can't save ourselves: by grace alone, no works >>> Christ lived perfect & sinless as fully God/fully man & died perfect death in our place, bearing wrath of God and paying penalty for sin >>> rose again in victory >>> He opens our eyes to faith & submission >>> once saved, always saved >>> creation & relationship w/Him fully restored forever >>> by Jesus, through Jesus, in Jesus, for Jesus. That's the Truth. Add or take away, is false.

3. Know Him:

He will judge, not us. This whole chapter reminds us of that fact : 5 “if's” = v4: “if... angels”; v5: “if... Noah”; v6: “if... Sodom/Gomorrah”; v7: “if... Lot”; v9: “if this is so...

Trust God and stick with the Truth. Do not fear man or people's thinking of you. Why do you come to church? To be tickled? To have an itch scratched? Or to truly grow? 2 Tim 4.3-4!


These men are described as dogs & pigs amongst the sheep (sheep = church).
Pigs = People can begin to get cleaned up but go back to the mud of the world.
Dogs (from Prov 26.11) = They vomit false teaching. Vomit from the pulpit, people eat it, go home, vomit it back up for others to eat. And so on. Sick (literally!). That's the point.

2 Cor 4.2-6 = all about Jesus! Need Holy Spirit to open our/their eyes to Truth.

Question for the week:
Think of examples of when you've realised something you've long believed to be true/doctrinally correct is actually not so. How did you come to the realisation?

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Two truths about the father of lies...

Further to Sunday's preach and subsequent blog-posting on 1 Peter 5 (find it here), I'm afraid I failed to make one more point clear regarding the devil. This is something I'm certain many of us carry, yet it is a false belief... The true Biblical understanding of this can and will benefit any of you who have struggled with such. I will firstly clarify my point on the inability of Satan to read our minds, and then clarify this extra fact that can make a big difference to our confidence in resisting him:

Firstly, regarding the fact that Satan is not omniscient ("all-knowing") like God, and thus cannot read your thoughts, I'll direct you to Wayne Grudem for elaboration on the subject. He tells it far better than I can:

"With respect to knowing our thoughts, the Bible tells us that Jesus knew people's thoughts (Matt 9.4; Mk 2.8; Lk 6.8, 11.17) and that God knows people's thoughts (Gen 6.5; Ps 139.2, 4, 23; Isa 66.16), but there is no indication that angels or demons [which includes Satan] can know our thoughts. In fact, Daniel told King Nebuchadnezzar that no one speaking by any other power than the God of heaven could tell the king what he had dreamed (see Dan 2.27-28). But if demons cannot read people's minds, how shall we understand contemporary reports of witch-doctors, fortune-tellers, or other people evidently under demonic influence who are able to tell people accurate details of their lives which they thought no one knew, such as (for example) what food they had for breakfast, where they keep some hidden money in their house, etc? Most of these things can be explained by realising that demons can observe what goes on in the world..." (Systematic Theology, p416)

You see, mediums' knowledge of dead grandparents' details, for another example, are a simple by-product of demonic observation over the years and so on. It's as simple as that. And when you know that your own thought-life is totally secure - private between only you and God - you have far less reason to fear the devil.

But there's that one more important fact:

As well as not being omniscient/all-knowing, neither is Satan omnipresent (everywhere at the same time) like God. We can all have in our heads this picture of the devil watching our every move, ready to pounce, making notes... Nope. He can only be in one place at any one time - he comes and goes (Matt 4.3, 11; Job 1.7-12). And I very much doubt he's bothered enough by me to be spending his precious time troubling me personally, while there's plenty of other brothers and sisters who are far more of a threat to Him. Which I actually take as a bit of a non-guilt-inducing provocation, to be honest!

The devil has many demons on his side that do his dirty work for him. When this work is attributed to Satan - even in the Bible - it is a reference similar to saying "Hitler invaded Poland". Actually, his soldiers did. See? Don't for one second let the devil become bigger in your head than he deserves. He is limited in his power and abilities, he is not all-knowing and he is not all-present. Do not fear. Take courage and know that in Christ we are safe and totally protected. James 4.7: "Resist the devil and he will flee" (which in itself proves that he can't be everywhere, or he couldn't flee, eh?). Just don't let your misunderstanding of him become another of the devil's lies that then holds you back... Stand firm!

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Beacon Touchpaper #20: "Do (Not) Disturb"

"Now when Jesus heard [of John's death], he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them..." (Matt 14.13-14, ESV)

The world we live in is increasingly fast-paced and introverted. Nearly one tenth of Britons go a week without meeting anybody socially, and 15% go a week without speaking to their neighbours at all. The way garden fences were built in the 1930's allowed for conversations to develop naturally between neighbours; most new developments today are apartment-based or include 2-metre high walls and fences. And when we're out and about, it's an easy thing to get caught up in our errands and rarely stop for more than a passing hello when we recognise a face or see someone who could do with a hand. The danger is to justify ourselves that we're too busy to stop; or we may not have actually noticed that that person would really appreciate just a few minutes of our time.

Jesus, upon hearing of his second-cousin John the Baptist's beheading, withdrew to a remote place. He needed time to grieve, to reflect and to commune with His Father. However, as soon as He saw the crowds that had followed Him, He had compassion upon them and put their needs before His. And his disciples learned from His example...

In Acts chapter 3, there is an amazing tale of Peter and John being willing to be inconvenienced for the Gospel. As they were heading into the temple for prayer, a lame man asks them for some money. Immediately, Peter stops and offers him so much more; the man is instantly healed in the name of Jesus and the crowds were filled with wonder as a result. So, having given the man his few moments, does Peter then continue his business? No, he then sees the crowd and begins to preach (with the ex-lame man clinging to him (v11)!). And the result of his preach? They got arrested and thrown into detention! But as for the crowd... many who heard the word believed! The total number of the church subsequently swelled to 5,000 men (= over 10,000 people). Peter and John were, just like Jesus, willing to be inconvenienced for the Gospel...

Just imagine for a moment what could happen if we ourselves were more willing to be inconvenienced for the Gospel? Of course, we are allowed to "shut the door" when we need to recuperate/ refresh/ spend time with God and family; being inconvenienced for the Gospel is consciously taking off the "Do Not Disturb" sign in our GENERAL everyday life... With that in mind, imagine what could happen if we put our timetable to one side for just a few moments when the opportunities arose? Churches like Abundant Life Church in Bradford are now practising the "Love15 Revolution" - being willing to give 15 minutes of our day to be inconvenienced; taking the "Do Not Disturb" sign off from around our necks... just imagine... "Do Not Disturb"? Make it "Do Disturb!" Go for it!

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"1 Peter 5: Grace to the Humble" - sermon notes for 28/02/10

(hear the sermon here)

In this chapter, we will study what Peter has to say on humility in church leadership, humility in the church members themselves, and finally humility in life itself. True humility leads to salvation and freedom in Christ...

The Shepherds: (1-4)

Peter was an elder in Jerusalem, handed over to James and the body of elders. He knows what it's like, you can't say he doesn't. And his concern? That all elders serve with the right heart, the right character (lists in 1 Tim 3.1-7 and Titus 1.5-9 are less about status and gifts, but CHARACTER):
  • not unwillingly/under compulsion, but WILLINGLY
  • not greedy for money, but EAGERLY
  • not lording or domineering, but EXAMPLES
If our leaders can't express Christ's humility in their leadership, how can the church be expected to follow, learn, imitate?

The word here “shepherd”, poimaino, refers to not just herding or just feeding, but the whole range of a shepherd's oversight: Elders are not meant to be mere administrators or policy-makers, but truly SHEPHERDS: Shepherds lived with their sheep, cared for them; tended to the weak, the injured, the lost; ensured the safety of the flock; protected the flock: Acts 20.28-35, Paul: “after my departure Fierce wolves will come in among you” – shepherds always went before the flock and searched out the land to ensure it was safe; normally worked in groups...

It is a calling: Acts 20.28 goes on to say “Pay careful attention to yourselves and all the flock, in which the HS has made you overseers” – not simply for those who aspire to it and have ability, or in right place at right time.

Elders need to be learning and growing so they are continually moving forward; else, they stagnate and so does the flock they are leading – if the shepherds don't keep moving forward, neither do the flock. (“leaders = readers”!)

Elders' leadership = about relationship: AMONG and OVER flock (re Jesus, Lk 22.27: “I am among you as one who serves”): not aloof but in authority (hence not LORDING but CARING) – an imbalance of either causes problems – requires a balance of confidence to lead with true humility

The flock: (5-11)

v5-6: ...HUMILITY (here it is again!): humility is a recognition of position and perspective: “under the mighty hand of God

Humility is not a demeaning of yourself. It is not thinking less of yourself, but of yourself less. It is the willing submission to trust the sovereign King of all things and seek HIS will in all things, HIS heart in all circumstances, HIS character in our own, HIS glory and praise and not ours...

v6 leads into v7 = TRUSTING GOD: Peter continues to say cast your anxieties on Him – he should know! Jesus healed Peter's mum-in-law (Mk 1.29-34), helped Peter to catch fish (Lk 5.1-11), enabled him to walk on the water (Matt 26.47-56) and delivered Peter from prison by sending an angel (Acts 12.1-19; v11=“the Lord has sent an angel and rescued me”).

Casting our anxieties upon Him is not a frivolous act. It is a clear, conscious act. Thus, Peter says: Be sober-minded. Why? The devil “prowls... a roaring lion”... “to devour”. The devil is real, and a far greater theologian than any of us. He knows the Bible inside out, He knows our weaknesses, He knows the lies we'll pay attention to. HE CAN'T READ YOUR MIND, but don't be complacent either. Be sober-minded because He's on the prowl. DO NOT FEAR. But true humility reminds us of Who's in charge here. It ain't us, and it ain't the devil. Just don't be ignorant to His ploys.

v9 “resist” = conscious effort, sober-mindedness again. Be aware, avoid places, times and people where you're weak. Be accountable. Don't play games.

firm in your faith” - firm in your faith means reminding yourself who you really trust, and following His counsel (via Scripture, HS and church). This verse is also an encouragement to know you aren't alone (“throughout the world”). Then v10 “...called you to His eternal glory in Christ will RESTORE, CONFIRM, STRENGTHEN, ESTABLISH” = IRREVOCABLE! Be encouraged!

The Gospel:

So, thus far we understand true humility (submitting all to God) as exhorted in our identity (ch1-2), the workplace (2), our home life (3), our social lives (4), now specifically in our church leadership and our submission to that, and Peter reminds us once again of the core Truth that generates true humility. Here's a Truth that underpins this passage, this letter, this Book in my hands:

Peter quotes a proverb in v5: (Prov 3.34 Septuagint version [Greek version of Hebrew Bible]=) “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”.

How can we learn humility? Remember this: none of us deserves to live, or deserves another breath. I'm sure we're all very aware that life can be gone just like that. Age bears no relevance. Ecc 12.6 describes life as a silver cord that can simply snap. Why did you wake up this morning? It's because God sustained you through the night. The Bible says so. (Ps 3.5: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me”)

But why do we deserve to die? Rom 6.23: "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Wages = something we've earned. But it's so much more than simply because of what we do, it's who we are. Which all boils down to pride again. Pride is us placing ourselves before anyone or anything else., the opposite of submission, the opposite of humility. Pride wants to be in control; pride thinks we know better. Pride got us into this mess in the 1st place...

God hates the sin of pride (Prov 16.5: “Everyone who is arrogant is an abomination to the Lord”). Isa 14 described how pride turned Lucifer into Satan. Pride is the reason for Adam and Eve defying God: placed their own desires first, thought they knew better than Him, and defied Him, ripping apart that perfect communion they'd had with Him and fouling it in every way. Sin entered the world and and it's been decaying since.

God opposes the proud. He is SO perfect, SO just, that anything short of perfect is intolerable to Him. Being perfect, He can't settle for anything less than perfection in His character, and that includes setting His heart on His own glory. He's the only Person Who can't be accused of being selfish. So it's impossible for us to please God on our own. Because that's where you stand if you don't have Him. Isa 64.6!

So Peter quoting from Proverbs is not some helpful sound-bite... “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” = The Gospel!

Isa 53.6: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way...” - My pride blames anyone but me, passes the buck, thinks I know better an God. That brings, as we've just seen, judgement and consequences. Humility accepts the truth about ourselves even when it hurts and leads us to God's Good News for us. What Good News? (Isa 53.6 continues): “...and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Glory of the Gospel= the Chief Shepherd (v4) became the sacrificial Lamb.

Heb 9.22: “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness (remission/ amnesty/ acquittal) of sins.”

Sin is dealt with in Christ's death; TRUSTING in Him as our Lord results in sins washed away through His blood, and we are raised to new life through His resurrection. Here's why Peter, writing to people dispersed and suffering, can say “peace to you” (v14)

TRUE HUMILITY recognises:
  • we are under the mighty hand of infinitely wise, holy, good God
  • we can never claim amnesty for our sin and pride
  • we cannot save ourselves
BUT ALSO: True humility receives His grace (that He gives us the free undeserved gift of amnesty, our punishment paid by His Son). You can know His peace in this life and beyond.

Cell Q's:
  1. Have you ever considered yourself as someone prone to pride? Has Sunday's sermon changed your perception of yourself, either way?
  2. Do you find it easy to let go and trust God? Why do you think you can or can't?
  3. Do you find it easy to give up control of things to other people?
  4. What's the one thing that's most significantly struck you during our study of 1 Peter?

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