Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Refreshing Romans 14

Just been reading the truly refreshing Romans 14 asset of my McCheyne reading plan provided brilliantly for me via the youversion app (try it it's excellent). I say "refreshing" as I received again from Paul the singular ethic of Christian living - Faith through love.
Our tendency to legalism is endemic within the church. We had Steve Goss of Freedom in Christ UK speak to us on Sunday morning at X1 and his message of grace drawn from the eternally significant parable of the Prodigal Son was a helpful dose of biblical truth against legalism's constant presence. Romans 14 obviously cuts across the inherent legalism of the apostle Paul's own time but, as is so often the case with God's divine word to us, an ever-fresh and powerful antidote to our own legalism.
I've encountered, and sadly embraced, more forms of legalism than I can remember in my 17 years as a born again believer and have been strongly advised to embrace and enforce others in my almost 3 years of Lead Eldership here at X1. Then I read these words, "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit," and these, "I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died." (Vss. 17 & 14,15)
Love is the paradigm. All is clean but out of love I may need to refrain. Let's enforce righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit as our new 'legalism!' You must have joy in God, you must have the peace that surpasses understanding! That would be truly refreshing. Legalists are not happy and live without peace cause they can never be certain they've done enough or even whether their version of legalism is actually the one that's right.
Romans 14 - refreshing!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A second dose of Carson Brilliance

Just have to add another point Carson makes. Love it!
"A second category of phenomena is in danger of displacing the primacy of the gospel. A litany of devices designed to make us more spiritual or mature or productive or emotionally whole threatens to relegate the gospel to irrelevance, or at least to the realm of the boring and the primitive. The gospel may introduce you to the church, as it were, but from that point on assorted counseling techniques and therapy sessions will change your life and make you happy and fruitful. The gospel may help you make some sort of decision for God, but ‘rebirthing’ techniques—in which in silent meditation you imagine Jesus catching you as you are born from your mother’s womb, imagine him hugging you and holding you—will generate a wonderful cathartic experience that will make you feel whole again, especially if you have been abused in the past. The gospel may enable you to be right with God, but if you really want to pursue spirituality you must find a spiritual director, or practise asceticism, or discipline yourself with journalling, or spend two weeks in silence in a Trappist monastery. These are not all of a piece. What they have in common, however, is the diminishing of the gospel in order to magnify the current device that is guaranteed to bring you toward wholeness. By contrast, the NT passionately insists that everything we need for life and godliness and a walk in the Spirit is secured for us in the gospel. It follows that if someone chooses to adopt some ascetic practice in order the better to focus on the Jesus of the Bible, the attention is still on Jesus. But if someone so ties asceticism to altered moods or to experiences of ‘spirituality’ that the gospel itself is virtually ignored or is implicitly dismissed as a sort of initial stage now to be improved by ascetic practice, the name of the game is idolatry. Again, if someone has experienced cathartic relief and emotional integration after an imaginative ‘rebirthing’ session, I am glad that the emotional integration has taken place. But we must insist that a better emotional integration could have been achieved by meditating on, say, the passion narratives, or on Ephesians 3:14–21. For then the emotional catharsis would have been tied to what God himself insists is the clearest and most complete demonstration of his love for us in Christ Jesus. In other words, the emotional integration would have been tied to the gospel instead of to something as ephemeral and diverting as manipulated imagination. This is a time for Christians to return to the basics, the comprehensive basics, and quietly affirm with Paul, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel [p. 85] because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith”’ (Romans 1:16–17)."

Carson's sheer brilliance on Centrality of The Gospel

Here the brilliant theologian-pastor Don Carson hits one of the primary (as I see it) church 'problems' - everyone has an 'agenda' that we SHOULD be focusing on because, seemingly, preaching 'The Gospel' (and by this I mean the full counsel of God) is not enough:
"Many in the Western world have become single-issue people. The church is not immune from such influences. The result is that many Christians assume the gospel (often, regrettably, some form of the ‘simple gospel’) but are passionate about something on the relative periphery: abortion, poverty, forms of worship, cultural decay, ecology, overpopulation, pornography, family breakdown, and much more. By labelling these complex subjects ‘relatively peripheral’ I open myself to attack from as many quarters as there are subjects on the list. For example, some of those whose every thought is shaded green will not be convinced that the ecological problems we face are peripheral to human survival. But I remain quite unrepentant. From a biblical-theological perspective, these challenges, as serious as they are, are reflections of the still deeper problem—our odious alienation from God. If we tackle these problems without tackling what is central, we are merely playing around with symptoms. This is no excuse for Christians not to get involved in these and many other issues. But it is to insist that where we get involved in such issues, many of which are explicitly laid upon us in scripture, we do so from the centre out, ie beginning with full-orbed gospel proclamation and witness and passion, and then, while acknowledging that no one can do everything, doing our ‘significant something’ to address the wretched entailments of sin in our world. The good news of Jesus Christ will never allow us to be smug and other-worldly in the face of suffering and evil. But what does it profit us to save the world from smog and damn our own souls? There are lots of ways of getting rid of pornography. For instance, one does not find much smut in Saudi Arabia. But one doesn’t find much of the gospel there, either. The point is that in all our efforts to address painful and complex societal problems, we must do so from the centre, out of a profound passion for the gospel. This is for us both a creedal necessity and a strategic choice. It is a creedal necessity because this gospel alone prepares men and women for eternity, for meeting our Maker—and all problems are relativized in the contemplation of the cross, the final judgement, and eternity. It is a strategic choice because we are persuaded that the gospel, comprehensively preached in the power of the Spirit, will do more to transform men and women, not least their attitudes, than anything else in the world."
Amen and Amen.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Edwards on the Tragedy of the Fall & Redemption

Check this out from JE on the fall and redemption:

"The ruin which the Fall brought upon the soul of man consists very much in that he lost his nobler and more extensive principles, and fell wholly under the government of self-love. He is debased in his nature and become little and ignoble. Immediately upon the Fall the mind of man shrunk from its primitive greatness and extensiveness into an exceeding diminution and confinedness. As in other respects, so in this, that whereas before his soul was under the government of that noble principle of divine love whereby it was, as it were, enlarged to a kind of comprehension of all his fellow creatures; and not only so, but was not confined within such strait limits as the bounds of the creation but was extended to the Creator, and dispersed itself abroad in that infinite ocean of good and was, as it were, swallowed up by it, and become one with it. But as soon as he had transgressed, those nobler principles were immediately lost and all this excellent enlargedness of his soul was gone and he thenceforward shrunk into a little point, circumscribed and closely shut up within itself to the exclusion of others. God was forsaken and fellow creatures forsaken, and man retired within himself and became wholly governed by narrow, selfish principles. Self-love became absolute master of his soul, the more noble and spiritual principles having taken warning and fled. But God hath in mercy to miserable man contrived in the work of redemption, and by the glorious gospel of his Son, to bring the soul of man out of its confinement, and again to infuse those noble and divine principles by which it was governed at first. And so Christianity restores an excellent enlargement and extensiveness to the soul. It again possesses it of divine love or that Christian charity of which we read in the text, whereby it again embraces its fellow creatures and is devoted to and swallowed up in the Creator."

Charity & Its Fruits (Yale Ed. Vol. 8) Pg. 252-4

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lloyd Jones on 'Little Faith'

It would not take the brightest among you to note that I am reading Martyn Lloyd Jones as part of my summer reading. His Studies in the Sermon on the Mount is a classic, a stunning read. Today I cam across the idea of 'little faith as expressed by our Lord in Matt. 6: 30. Those who worry, to Christ at least, are those of 'little faith.' Here are the Doctor's insightful thoughts on exactly what that is, I think they're incisive:
"What then is this condition which is described by our Lord as being ‘little faith’? … We can say … in general that it is one which is confined to one sphere of life only. It is faith that is confined solely to the question of the salvation of our souls, and it does not go beyond that. It does not extend to the whole of life and to everything in life. This is a common complaint among us as Christian people. On the question of the salvation of our souls we are perfectly clear … We have seen … that the only way of deliverance is in the Lord Jesus Christ … And we believe on Him, and have that saving faith with regard to the present and to all eternity. That is saving faith, the thing that makes us Christians, and without which we are not Christian at all. Yes; but Christian people often stop at that, and they seem to think that faith is something that applies only to that question of salvation. The result is, of course, that in their daily lives they are often defeated; in their ordinary lives there is very little difference to be seen between them and people who are not Christian. They become worried and anxious, and they conform to the world in so many respects. Their faith is something that is reserved only for their ultimate salvation, and they do not seem to have any faith with regard to the everyday affairs of life and living in this world. Our Lord is concerned about that very thing. These people have come to know God as their heavenly Father, and yet they are worried about food and drink and clothing. Their faith is confined; it is a little faith in that way; its scope is so curtailed and limited."

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, ii, p. 127

Sunday, July 31, 2011

God or Mammon (MLJ)

There are, sadly, not enough biblically saturated prophetic preachers around these days to deliver the messages we need to hear In the way we need to hear them. Thus we quote the men that would dare to do such. Martyn Lloyd Jones is one of those men. In one of a series of sermons on the Sermon on the Mount he preaches prophetically on the relationship between God and money as highlighted by Christ in this stunning message of 2000 years ago:

"We must remember that the way in which we look at these things ultimately determines our relationship to God. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” This is indeed a very solemn thing, and that is why it is dealt with so frequently in Scripture. The truth of this proposition is obvious. Both make a totalitarian demand upon us. Worldly things really do make a totalitarian demand as we have seen. How they tend to grip the entire personality and affect us everywhere! They demand our entire devotion; they want us to live for them absolutely. Yes, but so does God. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” Not in a material sense necessarily, but in some sense or other He says to us all, “Go, sell all that thou hast, and come, follow me.” “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” It is a totalitarian demand. Notice it again in verse 24: “Either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” It is “either—or” compromise is completely impossible at this point. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

There is a perfect illustration of that in the Old Testament. Study carefully 2 Kings 17:24-41. H ere is what we are told. The Assyrians conquered some area; then they took their own people and settled them in that area. These Assyrians of course did not worship God. Then some lions came and destroyed their property. “This”, they said, “has happened to us because we do not worship the God of this particular land. We will get priestly instruction on this.” So they found a priest who instructed them generally in the religion of Israel. And then they thought that all would be well. But this is what Scripture said about them: they “feared the Lord, and served their graven images.” What a terrible thing that is. It alarms me. It is not what we say that matters. In the last day, many shall say, “Lord, Lord, have we not done this, that and the other?” But He will say unto them, “I never knew you.” “Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father.” Whom do you serve? That is the question, and it is either God or mammon. There is nothing in the last analysis that is so insulting to God as to take His name upon us and yet to show clearly that we are serving mammon in some shape or form. That is the most terrible thing of all. It is the greatest insult to God; and how easily and unconsciously we can all become guilty of this.

I remember once hearing a preacher tell a story which he assured us was simple, literal truth. It illustrates perfectly the point which we are considering. It is the story of a farmer who one day went happily and with great joy in his heart to report to his wife and family that their best cow had given birth to twin calves, one red and one white. And he said, “You know I have suddenly had a feeling and impulse that we must dedicate one of these calves to the Lord. We will bring them up together, and when the time comes we will sell one and keep the proceeds, and we will sell the other and give the proceeds to the Lord’s work.” His wife asked him which he was going to dedicate to the Lord. “There is no need to bother about that now,” he replied, “we will treat them both in the same way, and when the time comes we will do as I say.” And off he went. In a few months, the man entered his kitchen looking very miserable and unhappy. When his wife asked him what was troubling him, he answered, “I have bad news to give you. The Lord’s calf is dead.” “But”, she said, “you had not decided which was to be the Lord’s calf.” “Oh yes,” he said; “I had always decided it was to be the white one, and it is the white one that has died. The Lord’s calf is dead. We may laugh at that story, but God forbid that we should be laughing at ourselves. It is always the Lord’s calf that dies. When money becomes difficult, the first thing we economize on is our contribution to God’s work. It is always the first thing to go. Perhaps we must not say “always,” for that would be unfair; but with so many it is the first thing, and the things we really like are the last to go. “We cannot serve God and mammon.” These things tend to come between us and God, and our attitude to them ultimately determines our relationship to God. The mere fact that we believe in God, and call Him, Lord, Lord, and likewise with Christ, is not proof in and of itself that we are serving Him, that we recognize His totalitarian demand, and have yielded ourselves gladly and readily to Him. “Let every man examine himself.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wonderful: Jonathan Edwards on the Privilege of Salvation

Check this wonderful quote from Jonathan Edwards second Sermon I. Corinthians 13 on the surpassing value of 'grace in the heart' - salvation:

Great was the privilege which God bestowed on the blessed virgin Mary, in granting that of her should be born the Son of God; that a person who was infinitely more honorable than the angels, who was the Creator and King of heaven and earth and the great Savior of the world, should be conceived in her womb, born of her, and nursed at her breast, was a far greater privilege than to be the mother of the child of the greatest earthly prince that ever existed. But yet, surely that was not so great a privilege as it was to have the grace of God in the heart, to have Christ, as it were, born in the soul, as Christ himself does expressly teach us. (Luke 11:27–28). "And it came to pass as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou has sucked. But he said, Yea, rather blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it." And once when some told him that his mother and brethren stood without desiring to speak with him, he thence took occasion to let them know that there was a more blessed way of being related to him than that which consisted in being his mother and brethren according to the flesh, viz. in having grace in the heart, and bringing forth the fruits of it in the life. Matthew (12:47–50)

An Older Brother

Kind of post title you think is going to refer to the offended legalistic brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 used as a platform to refer to someone like that in our fellowship isn't it? Well it's not actually, it's exactly the opposite idea.

I tell people that my theology - well my ecclesiology to be exact - changed somewhat once I actually got to leading a church. Before leading X1 I would have been the, "I only want the lost to join us, I don't want anyone that already has faith, only growth through salvation Lord," type. Not long into my leadership journey I began to pray earnestly for significant 'Kingdom Movers' to join us. Those whom God would move about within His kingdom to bless another area of what He is doing to advance His Kingdom.

3 months after our move into Vue Cinema an 'older brother' (someone matured, wise, and secure in the faith) and his wife visited us and 9 months later after significant prayer and a brilliant leaving of his church (tears, honor, love, blessing - o Gosh how few people leave a church like that!) they joined us.
Well it is hard to quite explain how much he is blessing this body of believers, blessing this Eldership in fact. We are transitioning to a far more effective, healthy system of administrative, structural existence and I am feeling certain that this will only aid our impact as a Holy Spirit people set on fulfilling our portion of the great commission!

Thanks Lord for an older brother! Bring more if you can, and bless other churches with men (and women) such as these.


Monday, July 18, 2011

A God Weekend

One of those great weekends this one. A weekend where the preeminence of God as the centre of life was evident in the schedule. Saturday morning was spent at our second men of Watford event, now bearing the name ManUp at the Wellspring home of Watford Community Church. We had the first of these events in March with 30 men and three churches. This time? 55 men and 11 churches represented! I can honestly say that my heart was racing to be a part of something where the Kingdom men of Watford were gathered for inspiration and equipping to love and serve this town. Rev Tim Roberts shared a brilliant message on Kingdom Men: Lip service or Life service, well done guys.

Sunday was one of our X1:AM X1:PM Sundays where the people of X1 gathered morning and evening for corporate celebration of our glorious saving God. What a treasure to take our new young man to be immersed in the people of God. For him to take in the wonder of a worshiping people, for him to know he'll not be raised by individualistic parents but by a community of God's people. Struggled to get him back from all the loving , embracing arms but we managed. One of our young guys shared a brilliant gospel message on the "Living Hope" that is in Christ. Dear friends of ours whom we have enjoyed fellowship and closeness with over the last 2 1/2 years in Watford were with us, they do not know the Lord but have been on somewhat of a spiritual journey and just walked into the cinema as a family much to our delight. They loved it - heck yeah!

Our evening X1:PM was simply special. The Spirit of God was just having his way with his children and there was a lot of joy and fire in the room. Love these times together and again am so delighted to see the young men in our midst leading out in this and flexing their Godly leadership skills. Keep it up dudes. Preached on Daniel An Undiluted Worshiper and basically went all out to say to our young people that is okay to be accused of loving Jesus too much, to be known as a Jesus Freak, to be giving too much, to be at church too much, to be overly devoted to the Person and mission of Christ, to serve the church until their hands are bleeding cause NOW as young adults is the only time they may have time to give it their all.

Good weekend, God weekend. Enter in people of God give all you can to the mission of Christ you'll never regret it!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Super Delight to be Home but Will Miss TOAM'11 Thursday Night

Cannot explain how grateful I am to the ever-faithful Father for the safe arrival of my third "arrow in the hand of a warrior" yesterday morning at 3:25am. It did involve a pretty hasty dash up from the south of England to Watford on the train but again God has lavished us with such blessings in the birth of our second boy. I am simply delighted to be here!

Yet I am conscious that if there's a night to be at the Newfrontiers TOAM conferences it's Thursday and I'll not be there this, the last, time. What I am delighted with is that 20 of the X1 massive will be there, almost half of whom for the first time, to experience a cacophony of praise, an ecstatic barrage of prayer, and joyful overflowing giving that they'll be forever marked by such. For it was this night (Thursday TOAM 2005) that left me astounded by the focus and devotion of Newfrontiers people to global mission and the planting of NT churches internationally.
My prayer for them, and for the X1ers who've not made it to a TOAM conference, as their pastor is that this ethos will mark them indelibly with a consciousness of the sheer joy it is to be invited into, to participate in, and to give to God's global redemptive mission!

Enjoy folks, and bring back some of the hunger that X1 may play our part in making disciples of all nations.

In Him

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

All In!

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:39 ESV)

It's amazing what gloss we put on the call of discipleship. Globally there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Christian leaders selling their version of the call to follow Jesus that typically is rather comfortable for us or, in fact, totally physically rewarding. I love Christ's 'sales pitch' here: LOSE YOUR LIFE, GIVE IT UP! That's my type of call man! Cut away the dross, strip away the false dressing and lay it out. That's exactly what our saviour does here.

There is stunning reward for following Jesus. In fact the cost, which if you read this verse again is ALL - there is no halves here, there is no comfort style option, Christianity with all the trimmings so to speak - is infinitely outweighed by the reward! He's the reward, it is relationship with Jesus that makes 'sense' of tossing aside all other 'valuable' things and joyously holding on to the great treasure, the pearl of great price, that is life in the Kingdom, living for, and following devotedly after Jesus Christ.

In Him

Monday, July 11, 2011

Church Unity

First post in 11 months, what can I say? Nothing, you're right, just get on with it...

Great opportunity to gather with those who fellowship with the other churches across Watford yesterday. It was the annual 'Bandstand' Service here in our town. I deeply appreciate the efforts of Rev Tim Roberts and his Christians Across Watford team as, and this is sadly true, it is easier not to do this than to do it. I will be the first to admit that Ecumenism at one level equals impotence, but at another level it is as reflective of heaven as anything we will do as believers.
There were a good number of us there yesterday (Christians and more particularly X1ers) proclaiming with an obvious visibility that there are a number of people in this town that love the Lord Jesus. That alone is significant spiritually I feel. So it was good to be a part of that celebration.

There is so much that X1 still needs to do, still needs to become, and to set 'it all' aside for one Sunday could be seen as a distraction to our mission some may feel; but the mission of X1 - to Serve Watford, Transform Lives, Shape Culture - must be attained within the context of the Kingdom of God and what our great Saviour is doing through all the churches in this town.
My prayer is that our attendance, input, and active embracing of this event and all that God is doing through the churches in Watford will grow, not lessen, as the years pass.

Blessings all.