Kircubbin community church Facebook
Home About Us Prayer Preaching WhizzKidz Contact Us
Sunday preaching calendar
Catch up or listen again
Sermon transcripts

Catch up, or listen again

speaker   date
Phil Derrick play 15th October 2017
Matthew Kerr play
1st October 2017
Robert Kennedy play 24th September 2017
Baptism Service play
17th September 2017
Matthew Kerr play 10th September 2017
Phil Derrick - WhizzKidz Service play
6th August 2017
Matthew Kerr play
30th July 2017
David Donald play
16th July 2017

Do not merely listen to the word,
and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

James 1:22


Sunday preaching

date preacher subject
3RD SEP ALAN WILSON DAVID'S EXILE FROM JERUSALEM
10TH SEP MATTHEW KERR THE LEGACY OF DAVID
17TH SEP PHIL DERRICK ANNIVERSARY / BAPTISM SERVICE - [CHURCH LUNCH]
24TH SEP ROBERT KENNEDY HARVEST SERVICE
1ST OCT MATTHEW KERR AN HONEST SEEKER
8TH OCT ALAN WILSON A CONFUSED MINISTER
15TH OCT PHIL DERRICK A DESPERATE WOMAN - [CHURCH LUNCH]
22ND OCT WILLIAM MATEER MISSION SERVICE
29TH OCT MATTHEW KERR A HOPELESS CASE
5TH NOV ALAN WILSON A NEEDY CROWN
12TH NOV DAVID DONALD A HOSTILE NATION
19TH NOV MATTHEW KERR A LIFELONG LOSER - [CHURCH LUNCH]
26TH NOV PHIL DERRICK A GRIEVING FAMILY
3RD DEC ALAN WILSON AN ANXIOUS POLITICIAN
10TH DEC MATTHEW KERR A WEEPING WOMAN
17TH DEC BLAIR BAILIE WHIZZ KIDZ SERVICE - [CHURCH LUNCH]
24TH DEC PHIL DERRICK CAROL SERVICE
31ST DEC   SHARING SERVICE

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your understanding; in all things acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight
Proverbs 3:5,6

 

Sermon Transcripts

3rd September 2017, speaker Alan Wilson, subject: David's exile from Jerusalem

13th August 2017, speaker Alan Wilson, subject: David's rise, fall, and punishment

21st May 2017, speaker Alan Wilson, subject: David Annointed as King

26th January 2017, speaker Alan Wilson, subject Luke 10:25-37 - Ministering Grace and Love

8th January 2017, speaker Alan Wilson, subject Galatians 5:1-5

4th December 2016, speaker Alan Wilson, subject Galatians 4:12-20

13th November 2016, speaker Alan Wilson, subject Galatians 3:1-14

8th May 2016, speaker Alan Wilson, subject James 5:19,20

21st February 2016, speaker Alan Wilson, subject: James 2:1-13

22nd November 2015, speaker Alan Wilson, subject: Hebrews 5:7-10 Jesus Learns Obedience

11th October 2015, speaker Alan Wilson, subject: The Humanity of Jesus

2nd August 2015, speaker Alan Wilson, subject: Jonah chapter 4

21st June 2015, speaker Alan Wilson, subject: The Joy of Holiness

28th June 2015, Children's Workshop, subject: David and Goliath rhyming play

 

Date 3rd September 2017
Speaker Alan Wilson
Subject

David's exile from Jerusalem

Life is often very complex and confusing, it is rarely simple, rarely black and white, it is rarely easy to understand, and sometimes we just do not know what to do. We are going to look at a part of David’s life that is dark and discouraging. The bible says there was deep sadness throughout the land at this time. We are also told that David was in a dark place.  In 2 Samuel 15:23 we are told that he walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill. 

Over the past years David had suffered greatly, His daughter Tamar had been raped by her step brother Ammon, David’s oldest son.  Ammon was later killed by Absalom in revenge for the rape of his sister Tamar. Now in our story, Absalom wants to be king, so David flees from Jerusalem, flees from his home, flees from his God given responsibilities. He flees in fear and a sense of panic. In chapters 15:13-20:26 we read about David journey, and the consequences of his fleeing.’

Before we look at this ‘journey’ David made, we must keep in mind that although these are terrible events in David’s life. David is completely forgiven, he could not be more forgiven, the lord had taken away his sin 2 Samuel 12:13.  However he was unable to live in the good of being forgiven. These events are the result of his sin with Bathsheba, not punishment for his sin.   It appears that David was beginning to live his life being defined by shame.  His shame became his motivation, leading to life of destructive passivity.

To help us understand David at this time, I want to read three verses that may help us get a handle on ‘where he was at’.

 

  • Speaking about the rape of Tamar, it says 2 Samuel 13:21 ‘When King David heard all this, he was furious.

The thought behind the Hebrew for furious is referring to the moment anger ignites before there is any sense of control or rational thought.   Sometimes like David, people get angry about a certain injustice, but do nothing about it. Anger can make a person inactive and impractical. If you get angry about something, and that anger does not motivate you to bring justice and change for the sake of others, then your anger is not helpful and has nothing to do with love and concern for others.

  • When Ammon was murdered by his brother Absalom it says in 2 Samuel 13:37-39 Absalom fled and went to Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. But King David mourned many days for his son.38
  • After Absalom fled and went to Geshur, he stayed there three years. 39 And King David longed to go to Absalom, for he was consoled concerning Amnon’s death.’ It is interesting that David longed to go to Absalom, but he didn’t, and when Absalom was allowed to return to Jerusalem we are told Absalom lived two years in Jerusalem without seeing the king’s face.

 

The important thing about these three incidents is that David is both passive and emotional.  He is angry, he is full of grief, but he does not seem to have the ability to act or respond, so when we get to the middle of chapter 15, all David has the strength to do is flee. Emotionally David was in bits, he was full of internal turmoil becoming more incapable of facing his circumstances. David was emotional not practical, he was totally emotionally focused at this time.
Absalom is coming to Jerusalem, to become king, what should David do? Should he allow evil to triumph? Should he stand aside and allow his murderous son to take power? Should he continue to be passive? Should he do nothing and flee? 

If you read 2 Samuel 15-20 you will notice that David is portrayed as a victim who has lost his confidence in God, he has become reactive rather than proactive, he is someone who is fleeing because he feels overwhelmed by his circumstances. I want you to note that David is not being bad, he is not setting out to be evil, rather, I think he living as someone who is struggling to live in the security that God’s forgiveness brings.

 

There is an incident recorded in chapter 16 that reveals a lot about what David was thinking about God at this time, I think David’s response to this incident is one of the keys that help us understand David at this time.

5 As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul’s family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out. 6 He pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David’s right and left. 7 As he cursed, Shimei said, “Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel! 8 The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The Lord has given the kingdom into the hands of your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer!”
9 Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head.”
10 But the king said, “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’”

The interesting thing about this is, it took place after David had been forgiven by God.  Perhaps he was struggling to come to terms with that forgiveness, maybe he was finding it difficult to accept it so he became passive. Let me try and unpack this; -

 

    • We need to experience the courage that forgiveness brings.

All the sins that David sons committed he himself had committed previously. They both murdered, they both used and abused women, they both used deceit and lies. So, perhaps David felt he had lost his moral authority. How could he ever stand up to his son after what he had done, he had no right to confront the sin of others.

This happens people all the time, they have been forgiven, but because they don’t feel forgiven or feel that they deserve to be forgiven, they withdraw, they listen to the accuser who condemns them.

It is true that David did a terrible thing, but it is also true that no matter how he felt about himself, or about God, he was forgiven.  To carry guilt after repentance and forgiveness is not helpful and will cause you to make wrong choices. If we live under the shadow of the past then we are living under the shadow of a lie. The lies that says, ‘God is out to get you,’ or ‘how could God love you after you have done such bad things?’ we believe that because we can’t accept and love ourselves and so in our minds we think that God and others must feel the same way about us.  

The word that David uses in 2 Samuel 16:10 for curse means to treat with contempt, or to make someone feel small. David believed that the God who had taken away his sin was now out to curse him; this wrong understanding of God was the reason he was unable to deal with the circumstances of his discipline.

We need to stand back and think about this. Not to embrace the forgiveness and live out of that forgiveness will prevent us from dealing with the challenging circumstances that will come in to our lives. We are often so like David, we live believing that God wants to curse us and we miss the glorious freedom and security that comes with being forgiven.

Sometimes the evil one comes and remind us how sinful we are, how we have failed. He condemns us, sapping us of spiritual and emotional strength. He tells us things like, who do you think you are?  you have no right to say anything to ‘Absalom,’ ‘God could never use you after what you have done.’  So, we live under condemnation, embracing our status as victims, becoming unable to stand for justice and change.

As Christian’s we can often think that forgiveness is primarily about preparing us for life in heaven, and there is a lot of truth in that, but, forgiveness will also determine how we live in the here and now. As we have said, these events in David’s life are God’s discipline for David’s sin with Bathsheba, however, David needed to accept and embrace the forgiveness of God if he was going to cope with the essential discipline he needed to experience. The forgiveness of God will never eradicate God’s discipline, rather it will allow that discipline to bring change and growth into our lives.       

 

    • David was not only lacked courage, but he did not want to forgive. You remember when David allowed Absalom to return to Jerusalem, David would not allow him to come into his presence, 2 Samuel 14:23-24. He was not interested in reconciliation, there was a cold war between them, David just wanted to ignore him, give him the silent treatment. There were no physical hostilities between them, just passive aggression. Just cold disengagement for two years. Here was David, who had been forgiven by God of terrible crimes. But because he held onto his shame he did not have the ability to forgive his son. At the end of chapter there was a sort of reconciliation, but it appears David treated Absalom more like a subject than a son. Compare this story with the story of the prodigal and how the father embraced his son.  The interesting thing is previously David had longed to see Absalom, 2 Samuel 13:39. Now he had changed his mind. If only he acted earlier, things may have been different.

 

 Someone has written:-
‘Absalom is in exile for some time, and David is passive. He doesn't know what to do or how to do it. He doesn't know how to fight his son or how to forgive his son. He doesn't know what to say. Others have to arrange for Absalom to return to Jerusalem and for their reconciliation. David is buffaloed by life. All during this time he is characterized by tentative decision-making, brokenness, and distraction. He has become someone who can't function, because he sees in his sons what he remembers of himself, and he knows that they have learned it from him. Amnon learned lust from him, and Absalom learned violence.

Absalom has greater and greater contempt for his father, whom he regards as a weakling, a worthless shell of a man. Absalom gathers to himself men from all over Israel, names himself king in Hebron, and leads a rebellion against David. He drives David from Jerusalem and sets himself up in the palace. David is off in the wilderness, and, as Nathan predicted, Absalom takes David's women to the roof of his palace and has sex with them there in broad daylight before all of Israel to further declare, as profoundly as he can, how much he scorns his father.’  Steve Zeisler.   

    • David thought it was okay for him to be treated badly. As you read the story of how Shimei treated David, the most shocking thing about this story is how David allowed himself to be treated. It is as if David has just rolled over. Everything that Shimei said to David was a lie. David never murdered Saul’s family.

I don’t think David’s response to Shimei was a spiritual or godly response. His refusal to refute and confront Shimei may have been a form of self-condemnation. I deserve this, I am not worthy of respect.

Sometimes because of the wrong things we have done in the past, we choose to live under our own condemnation. We refuse to fully accept God’s forgiveness, or forgive ourselves, we allow others to mistreat us. Sometimes people find it hard, or even impossible to receive love, so they expect to be treated badly, they think that to accept such treatment is being humble and spiritual, when in reality it may be rooted in their ability or refusal to embrace God’s forgiveness. David is living as a victim, not as someone whose sin has been taken away by the grace of God. David had become self-obsessed. Reading through these chapters there are  a number of indications about how David was feeling. I do not want to under estimate what David was going through, however, in some of the incidents recorded in these chapters he appears to embrace the role of a victim

      • But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up
      • 14 The king and all the people with him arrived at their destination exhausted. And there he refreshed himself.
      • After Absalom was killed we are told “The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” This is the only time David refers to Absalom as his son.
      • Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. 6 You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. 7 Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.

When we allow the sin of our past to define us, and we hold unto our guilt to give us significance then life becomes all about us. Living in condemnation causes a person to become completely self-focused people who are overwhelmed by confusing emotions. David had now lost three sons and emotionally he was confused. Look at what Joab said to David. ‘You love those who hate you and hate those who love you.’  
The word forgiveness really means to be released to be set free from controlling sin and emotions so we can bring grace to others

  Conclusion.
For some people, the biggest battle in their lives is to receive, enjoy and live from a place where they are energized by the fact that they are totally forgiven, so with that in mind, here are some general principle we can learn from this part of David’s life.

  • To live under condemnation will rob you of the ability to cope with the difficulties of life.
  • God’s forgiveness of our sin is completely compatible with God’s discipline for our sin.
  • Living in God’s forgiveness make God’s discipline beneficial.
  • No one’s life needs to be defined by their sin or mistakes of the past.
  • We often look from others the condemnation we place upon ourselves.
  • The forgiveness we receive from God restores our moral authority. 

As David came to the end of his life, he needed to learn again that the grace of God is the only thing that can make a radical difference for good in his life. 

 

 

 

Date 13th August 2017
Speaker Alan Wilson
Subject

David's rise, fall, and punishment

 

2 Samuel 10-12. The beginning of a sad end.

I wonder if you ever think about how you are going to finish the race of life? Every one of us will finish, but the question is, how will we finish? What kind of relationship will we have with God on the day we step our foot over the finishing line?
As we look at the life of David, we are going to see a man who did not finish well, a man who crossed the line completely forgiven by God, and totally free from all condemnation, but as he crossed the line of the race of life, he crossed as a shadow of the man he once was. Every day matters, and it only took one day, and the culmination of choices made on that day that would change how David would finish. At the end of he did not sprint over the line with joy and excitement celebrating what God had done, but he hobbled across, forgiven for his sin, but weary and burned out because of the consequences of his sin, the sin of that one day.
We have all done things we wish we hadn’t. We all have regrets. But, as we consider David’s sin with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband Uriah, we are forced to ask some very difficult questions. Why would a man of God like David fall into such terrible sin? What caused David to lose his way? Could we fall like David? Could we make the same mistakes?  What can we learn from David’s sad demise?

2 Samuel 10-12 was a turning point in David’s life; from this point, his life was never the same, he never really recovered. The rest of his life he had to live with the terrible consequences of his sin. His family would live in conflict, confusion and chaos. His family was no longer a safe place as his children began to abuse and manipulate each other. For David, the latter part of his life was by far the saddest and most difficult, because of this incident with Bathsheba. Why did David do it, what led up to this fall?   Was there any warning that we can learn from?
The record of David’s fall is set in the context of war with the Ammonites.  If you look at chapter 10:1 and chapter 12:26-31 these are like two bookends that hold the David Bathsheba incident in context. It is as if the writer of 2 Samuel wants to tie David’s fall with his battle with the Ammonites. So, what is the link?

  1. David tried to deal with a problem the wrong way. Look at 2 Samuel 10::1-4

‘In the course of time, the king of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun succeeded him as king. 2 David thought, “I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.” So, David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father. When David’s men came to the land of the Ammonites, 3 the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Hasn’t David sent them to you only to explore the city and spy it out and overthrow it?” 4 So Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away.’
There are many things we need to notice.
1. Nahash, the king of the Ammonites died. The name Nahash means serpent, and he was known to be a very cruel and ruthless man. At the beginning of Saul's reign Nahash attacked Jabesh-gilead, and when the people of that place asked for terms of surrender he gave them the choice of having their right eye cut out or of being killed by the sword. The inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead then obtained a respite of seven days and sent messengers to Saul, who assembled an army and routed the Ammonites (I Sam. 11:1-4, 11). It appears, however, from I Sam. 12:12, that Nahash had threatened the Israelites before Saul was made king, and that it was for this reason the Israelites insisted upon having a king.
2. There is no record of Nahash showing kindness to David, now he may have done so, but we are not told about it so, why did David want to show his son Hanum kindness? Some think that chapter 10 is a continuation of chapter 9 which described David going and making a search for any descendant of Saul that he might show kindness to him.  Now, you might think David is extending to the Ammonites that kindness and grace that he had shown to Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan. But I don’t think David is showing Hanum the same kind of love that he showed Mephibosheth, even though the same word is used. The reason being is as you read through chapter ten, you get the impression of David disengagement, which is the opposite of ‘checed,’ Hebrew for kindness. It is interesting to notice that in chapter 9 David was personally involved with Mephibosheth, but in chapter ten his involvement was through other people. Now there is nothing wrong with that, if we are busy, or if circumstances prevent us from getting involved personally, then it may be the right thing to do to involve third parties. However, if we are choosing not to respond to others personally because we don’t really want to get involved then that is wrong, I think that is what David is doing here. Look at how often David ‘sent’ in this chapter. See verses 2b, 5, 7.  Although, we are told in verse 17 that David led his army into battle. It is possible that chapters 11:1-12:25  took place between verses 14 and 15 of chapter 10, in the middle of a campaign, which ended in 2 Samuel 12:26-31.         

3. God had given very specific instructions concerning the Ammonites.

Deuteronomy 23, 3 No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation. 4 For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim[c] to pronounce a curse on you. 5 However, the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you. 6 Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them as long as you live.’
We cannot be sure, but maybe David was expressing a peace at any price attitude. Maybe he uses kindness to avoid dealing with the real issue.

David had been involved in lots of battles, and now he may have been battle weary, he had fought for years, achieved much, and now he may have been feeling it was time to relax, unwind. That is something we all do from time to time. We don’t really want to deal with a situation so we use ‘love, kindness, generosity,’ to avoid dealing with the difficult things. It is always appropriate to be kind and compassionate, but sometimes the best way of showing love is through confrontation.
  
4. If you read chapter 10 carefully you will notice that David was happy to deal with the consequences of a problem not the source. Look at what the passage says When David’s men came to the land of the Ammonites, 3 the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think David is honouring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Hasn’t David sent them to you only to explore the city and spy it out and overthrow it?” 4 So Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away.
5 When David was told about this, he sent messengers to meet the men, for they were greatly humiliated. The king said, “Stay at Jericho till your beards have grown, and then come back.” What Hanun was really did was a declaration of war, he shamed and humiliated the ambassadors of David, David was very sensitive to this so he told them to hide  in the ruins of Jericho until they recovered. But he ignored Hanun, he did not go to him and try to sort things out, and in not dealing with the cause things began to escalate. 

When things go bad and difficulties arise yes, we need to deal with the consequences that arise, but we also need to deal with the cause, the root, the reason why things happen. When we are having to deal with a situation we need to deal with both the cause and the consequences. We are going to see shortly that David developed a habit of not getting to the root of an issue.

5. In this chapter David is portrayed as someone who is reactive not proactive. He is seen as someone who is responding to circumstances, so instead of confronting Hanun about his shameful treatment he waits until Hanun declares war. As a king David should had been someone with initiative, someone who gave direction, as he had done before. Now he was just able to react, to manage circumstances, it was as if he had lost his drive and vision.

6. He sent Joab.
 
Israel was being greatly threatened, by over 32,000 fighting men and charioteers. There was an alliance of men from many nations ready to attack Israel, so David sent Joab, while he stayed at home. Why would he do that? Why would he not fulfill his God given responsibility?  We don’t know, but we do know that now his people needed him to lead. At this time David was negating his responsibilities, even though it did not look that way. He was a king and he had every right to use his authority to send others to do things for him, but his use of authority became his way of avoiding responsibility.
David’s descent into sin.

  1. David was disengaging.

 He was content not to fulfill his responsibilities. Look at what the text says. 11 ‘In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.’ Spring was the best time for war, after the grounds had dried up after the rainy season, so David sent Joab, with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army to fight against the Ammonites. But David stayed at home, he disengaged, he withdrew into a safe world of self- protection. He had taken off his armour, laid down his sword, and now he was sending instead of leading.
 Disengaging from a God given responsibility may seem a small thing but it can lead to terrible sin and consequences. It can happen in so many areas of life. Sometimes married couples disengage emotionally, they withdraw, they become disconnected, they stop talking, stop communicating, no intimacy, and it is not long before there is a ‘sending’ culture within the marriage where we expect others to fulfil our responsibilities. Or it could be in our jobs, we go to work, but we are there and not there at the same time, we are disengaged in our hearts, and we can begin to see our workplace as a ‘God-less,’ place that has nothing to do with our spiritual life. Or we can even create a ‘sending culture,’ in church, were we disengage, expecting others to fight our battles for us instead of fighting our battles with us.

  1.  David was discontent. He had at least seven wives. Five of his wives are mentioned once, Ahinoam, Maacah, Haggith, Abital, and Eglah (2 Samuel 3:2–5; 1 Chronicles 3:1–3). He also married Michal daughter of Saul (1: Samuel 18-19), Abigail (1Samuel 25), and many other women and had concubines in Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 5:13).

David did not need another wife, but because he allowed lust to affect his heart deeply he would never be content, never satisfied, never at ease always wanting more.  Discontentment wrings the life out of a person, making them hollow and shallow. Contentment is a deliberate choice, an expression of gratitude for all that God has given. The discontented person never has enough, their lack of gratitude robs them of the ability to appreciate and enjoy what they do have.

  1. David choose to live in denial.

Look at verse 3. David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.  David is told three things about Bathsheba. She was married, she was married to one of his mighty men. She was also the daughter of Eliam who was known to David. Here David is presented with a number of facts that tell him that Bathsheba is out of bounds, but he chooses to ignore the facts, ignore his relationships with others and does not care about the pain and sorrow he is about to cause. He has one thing in mind, regardless of the consequences.

  1. David was demanding.

Our English versions do not bring this out. The Hebrew in v.4 translated in modern English translations as "get her" has far stronger tones in Hebrew with its meaning "to grasp her" - a far more violent act. The older versions of the bible use the verb, "took her" which is closer to the Hebrew than "get her. David had a grasping attitude, he was filled with an sense of entitlement, so he forcefully had Bathsheba brought to him. He was not expecting a RSVP, or a gentle refusal, he wanted Bathsheba, nothing else mattered. There is something ugly and uncomfortable about a demanding person, they are selfish, hard to live with.   

As David stood on that rooftop looking down at Bathsheba his life was about to fall apart, he had become accustomed to making bad, easy, wrong choices, and he is about to make one more, not realising that there would be devastating consequences that would scar the rest of his life.
I feel sorry for David, life had never been easy for him.  He had fought battles most of his life. Now he was tired, fed up of it all. If only he had chosen to put on his armour, pick up his sword, and again embrace his God given responsibility, things would have been so different. But he didn’t and soon his life and that of his family would be in carnage and confusion.
Sometimes that’s how it is for us. It’s as if life is one long battle and we get tired of it; fed up just like David, and so we disengage.  We take our eyes off God and what he wants for our lives and make dangerous choices that may have long reaching consequences not only for us but for others.
The Apostle Paul had a tough life too. He was beaten and imprisoned for his faith.  He was shipwrecked, hungry, near death and was persecuted by both Jew and Gentile alike.
Listen to what Paul said before he died in 2 Timothy 4:7-8 7 ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’
The Living Bible reads ‘I have fought long and hard for my Lord, and through it all I have kept true to him. And now the time has come for me to stop fighting and rest.’
Today David is with the Lord so this incident did not affect his salvation. However, it did become a shadow that hung over the rest of his life. Let us not disengage like David.  Let us choose to finish the race well by being faithful.

 

 

Date 21st May 2017
Speaker Alan Wilson
Subject

David Annointed as King

 

The Call of David. 1 Samuel 16.

She was born February 24, 1902 in Edmonton, London. She was rejected from becoming a missionary numerous times because she was not as equipped as other missionaries to serve, due to a minor health issue. So, she saved up all her money that she got from working as a maid and bought a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Railway, a more dangerous but cheaper way to go. As far as people were concerned Gladys Aylward was someone God could never use, yet her life made such a difference in China. Her life was made into a film which some say led to the conversion of Ingrid Bergman who played Gladys in the Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

It is very easy to write people off, to look at them and think, no he/she will not do. It is not only easy to write others off, but it is very, very easy to write ourselves off too. This is something we do most days, in the ways we think and feel about ourselves. We are often the most surprised by our success, and the least surprised by our failures. We find it difficult to receive compliments, and we sincerely believe the lie that says ‘we need to be special before God can use us.’

Noah was a drunk, Abraham was too old, Isaac was a daydreamer, Jacob was a liar, Leah was ugly, Joseph was abused, Moses had a stuttering problem, Gideon was afraid, Samson had long hair (i.e. he didn’t look the part) and he was a womanizer, Rahab was a prostitute, David a nobody, Elijah was suicidal, Isaiah preached naked, Jonah ran from God, Naomi was a widow, Job went bankrupt, Peter denied Christ, the disciples fell asleep while praying, Martha worried about everything, the Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once, and Zaccheus was too small.

We are going to look at the call of David, and discover some things that may surprise you.  David is mentioned in the bible more than anybody else, about 1127 times. One of the reasons why this may be, is that God wants us to learn from someone who struggled with life, he struggled with great failure, but he also struggled with great success. The circumstances of David’s life are very different to ours, but the challenges are the same. Fear, rejection, temptation, relationships, family problems.

 By the time, we get to 1 Sam. 16, the very first king has been ruling over Israel for 20-25 year, his name was Saul. God didn’t want to give his people Israel a king, but they demanded one because they wanted to be just like the nations surrounding them. God finally conceded and chose a king they would want, God chose Saul. By all human standards Saul was a perfect candidate for king, the Bible says Saul was a head taller than anyone else, and handsome (1 Sam. 9:1-2). His family was wealthy and influential. He made a perfect king, at least by human standards. But because of Saul’s disobedience motivated by insecurity, God rejected Saul, he was not up to the job, and so He choose David to replace him.

 

Why did God choose David?

  1. God choose David because of what was in his heart.

There are two verses that tell us that David had a heart for God.

1 Samuel 13:14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

Acts 13:22 says, “After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do. ‘”

This is very interesting, before God used Samuel to anoint David as king we are not told of any of David’s strengths or abilities, we are just told one thing about his heart, he had a heart for God. If David was alive today at this stage of his life, he would be in first or second form, and be going to teen spirit. He had a heart for God, a love for God that defined his life. David’s heart for God choose the direction of his life.

School is important, qualifications are good, gifts and abilities are essential, but above all these is having a heart for God. It is making a conscious, intentional decision to love God with all your heart for all of your life.  Do we want to become people who are known above everything for loving God?  As followers of Jesus, we need to think about our lives in terms of our relationship with God. The jobs we do, the university we go to, or not, the person we marry, the place where we live, the money we spend, in fact everything about our lives should be chosen because we long to love God.  

As we read through the life of David we will see that at times his heart went cold towards God, but that was the exception rather than the norm.  There were times when David blew it, but the general incline of his heart was God-ward.

‘In the Scriptures, God is frequently represented as searching for a man of a certain type. Not men, but a man. Not a group, but an individual. When God does discover a man, who conforms to His spiritual requirement, who is willing to pay the full price of discipleship, He uses him to the limit, despite his apparent shortcomings.’  Oswald Chambers

  1. God is more concerned about what is in our hearts than anything else.  If you read the book of 1 Samuel carefully you will notice that four times the writer introduces David on four different occasions. 1Samuel 16:12-13, 16:18-22 ,17:12-14 and 17:55-57. The first introduction was all about what was going on in David heart

Look at what happened, God rejected Eliab, Abinadab, Shammah and the rest of David brothers based on their appearance.  Samuel was impressed with what he saw, but God saw something very different. Let us be honest, we live in a culture that suffers from an addiction to how we look.

Christian Counselor Julie Smith Lowe Wrote
 ‘Our culture promotes a standard of beauty that is not only unrealistic, but it is potentially harmful. It is a standard that, as is vividly seen in pornography, dehumanizing and can justify violence. This is because a person becomes simply an object of pleasure rather than people being a means to having a mutually satisfying relationship. Our focus on beauty causes a preoccupation with self and a felt need for perfection. Self-promotion is not the answer to happiness and contentment.  What is the answer?  Should we even care about what we look like? Often times Christians stand on one of two extremes. The stoic would purport that beauty is evil and anything that draws attention to ourselves should be avoided. On the other hand, there can be unexamined acceptance. This leads to embracing cultural ideals and measuring worth by superficial qualities. Both of these views are harmful and incorrect. The correct view of beauty acknowledges that creation is a reflection of God’s glory and beauty. Beauty in its proper place always points to God and his sovereignty and goodness. We must remember that we reflect the thing we wish to bear image to, and we image what we worship. Do we worship the world’s view of beauty? Success? Athleticisim? Non-Conformity? Or are we image bearers of the King?

The bible is not saying that it is not good to look good, but it is saying that looking good cannot help you when it comes to living for God and fulfill his purposes for your life. This constant pressure to look ‘beautiful’ is often a root to our insecurity and low self-worth.

The makers of Dove soap/face cream did a very interesting experiment.  They asked a portrait artist to draw the picture of a number of woman, but he was not allowed to see them, they sat behind a curtain and described themselves to him, then he had to draw the ladies a second time, but this time someone else had to sit behind the curtain and describe them.  After all the pictures were drawn the ladies had to choose their favorite portrait of themselves, the first, or second, guess what one they all chose?

God knows us better than we know ourselves, and maybe deep within most of our hearts we are secretly relieved that God does not use our appearance as the basis on which he would choose or use us. Most people I know do not like how they look, So God does not put us under pressure to look beautiful but to be beautiful, which is very different.

  1. God choose David because he was a haqqaton?

You have probably never heard of a haqqaton.  Let us read these verses
8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Notice Jesse’s answer to Samuel, he did not call his last son by name. The word for youngest is haqqaton It doesn’t just mean youngest, it means the insignificant one, not counting for much, the runt. The same word was used for your pinky finger. 
We have all had fathers, some of our father have been/are wonderful, while for others, our fathers have been/are terrible. Some fathers may have made their children to feel like a haqqaton, someone who feels overlooked, forgotten, ignored, neglected, or worse. David’s father did not think much of him, he was less than an afterthought that could be forgotten.
But God saw David, God knew David and David knew God. Jesse’s estimation of David was completely wrong, God was not in any way influenced, swayed or affected by what Jesse thought of David.
When we are told, that David was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features, the writer is not trying to compliment David, rather he is trying to contrast him to Eliab who was tall and strong, David is being portrayed as a kind of ‘milky bar kid,’ cute, a boy who would not come to much.

  1. God choose David because he was ordinary. David was a shepherd. At this time in Israeli’s history shepherds were usually slaves, or people who were not given much responsibility, it was a menial job that was looked down on and despised.  There was nothing special about David, all he was, was an ordinary kid looking after a few sheep.

Sometimes we live with a distain for the ordinary, we think that everydayness, routine, the mundane is unspiritual, we can put ourselves under so much pressure, we want our lives to be radical, epic, revolutionary, transformative, impactful, life-changing, ultimate, extreme and awesome. Anything but ordinary. Looking after sheep, making tea, doing the washing, changing nappies, doing the school run, just ordinary daily stuff. This is the place where we need to meet God the most.

However, it is very often in the ordinary where we least expect to find God, and yet that is where he is most often.  David a despised neglected shepherd finds God there. So, as you look at your life this morning, it may feel mundane, uninteresting, dull, but that is very often where God is.
We so often fail to recognize the supernatural because we're looking for the spectacular. The Jews were always asking Jesus for a sign---some dramatic, spectacular, dazzling display of power. They kept waiting for this mild-mannered carpenter from Nazareth to morph into a spiritual Superman. We often miss God because He comes to us through ordinary people, in ordinary ways and in ordinary places. The Jews failed to recognize God in Jesus because He was...well, so ordinary. Nothing about Jesus' appearance seemed particularly extraordinary. To the cultured and cosmopolitan Judean Jews, Jesus was a despised Nazarene---an uneducated and uncultured country-bumpkin, born on the wrong side of the tracks. A common saying of the day was, "Can any good thing come from Nazareth?" Ed Banghart
 “Somewhere around the midpoint of our lives, when we realize we are never going to find what the soul most craves, we resign ourselves merely to fulfilling the unremarkable requirements of life.  At the end of an ordinary day at our ordinary jobs, we drive home to our ordinary homes.  There the evening passes by, pretty much as we knew it would.  We eat a meal, do the dishes, pay some bills, and fall asleep watching television.  Then we go back to the same job the next morning.  Or once again we shuttle the kids to school and soccer practice.  Along the way, we realize we have succumbed to our greatest fear in life:  We are stuck with ourselves.  Then one day, as we are making just one more trip to the well, we discover that God has come looking for us right where we are, in the ordinary places.” – M. Craig Barnes

  1. God choose David because he had a contented heart.  It is fascinating what happened when Samuel anointed David. The Holy Spirit came powerfully upon him. Are things are going to happen? Is change on the way? No, the next time we meet David, where is he? He is back looking after his father’s sheep.  David circumstances did not change, the attitude of his family did not change. See 1 Samuel 17:28. 

The deep work of the Holy Spirit in David’s life took place in sheep-watching boring obscurity. It was there that David learned that God was a Shepherd. David kept doing what he had been doing, he did not panic, or become anxious about what God’s will for his life, he just kept enjoying God has he looked after a few sheep.  Then one day a messenger from Saul’s palace came, asking him to come and play his harp for the king.  Did David expect this? Probably not. Did Saul and his servants know that David had been anointed to be the next king? Definitely not, but God slowly brought David out of obscurity, as he prepared him for the future. 
Sometimes we get over anxious about the will of God, and we can end up despising the ‘few sheep’ God has given us to look after. We become discontent and begin to belittle the mundane. We forget that God is often in the ordinary, and that is where he wants to meet us.

Conclusion
I think we need to join David in his obscurity, we need to experience the ordinary and learn to be content with it. Why? So we will have the space to develop a heart for God, and gain the wisdom to know what is really important; David made mistakes, he got things wrong, but as a young boy he developed a heart  for God that defined who he was.

 

 

Date 26th March 2017
Speaker Alan Wilson
Subject

Luke 10:25-37 - Ministering Grace and Love

 

The story we call the Good Samaritan is one of the best-known stories in the bible, and therein lies a problem, it is well known but not very well understood. This is a story that explains what it means to really love God, and to love your neighbor as yourself. It is a story about crossing boundaries, about taking down walls, and going across borders to meet the needs of others.  It is not simply about being kind or altruistic, which of course is a good thing, but it is far more radical than that, it is about being kind way beyond your comfort zone. It is about showing mercy to those we would consider at best our enemy, it is about bringing the love of God to those we would consider un-loveable.

All of us at one time or another will build walls in our hearts and minds that protect us from certain people. We develop a ‘them and us’ mindset that that keeps some people at arm’s length. The reasons for this may be to protect ourselves from the hurt that these people have caused us but a lot of the time it is because we have a prejudice against them for no real reason except that they are different from us. However, as we think about our ‘internal walls,’ there are a few things we need to be aware of.

  1. Not all walls are wrong, some of them are essential. If you know from experience that someone is out to hurt you, to do you harm, or wants to destroy you, then you need to protect yourself; you need to contain that relationship with well-defined boundaries. You do not put yourself in a position where you know that a person is going to misuse, control or manipulate you.
  1. However, not all walls are right.

On the other hand, we can build barriers that prevent us from becoming the people God longs for us to be. We create barriers in our minds against people who are different to us. Because we don’t understand them we think we need to protect ourselves from them. They are not like us and so we keep our distance and don’t get too close in-case...
So, the person of a different sexual orientation, or the person who is of a different religion, or different ethnicity, or different ‘social class’ or the physically/mentally disabled, or those who are of a different political persuasion, ‘our Samaritan’, are all boxed up, put in a place outside our comfort zones, at a safe distance beyond our reach and all our walls are intact standing strong.

           
When Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan he was giving us a very clear picture of what it means to love God whole heartily, he wanted to paint for us a picture as to what it means to live a justified life.

The context of the parable.

The teacher of the Law stands up and asks a question in order to test Jesus. ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ This teacher of the law was a theologian who was extremely well read in the Old Testament scriptures, he was probably a Levite for at this time most of the teachers of the law were practicing Levites that assisted the priests in the temple in Jerusalem. This teacher was not coming to Jesus out of good motives, he wanted to ‘test’ him, the same word that is used of Satan when he was trying to tempt Jesus in the wilderness.

 

  1. The question he asked Jesus is very interesting for two reasons. He was asking what one thing could he do to inherit eternal life. He had no concept of grace, he did not understand unconditional love. He had a mindset that caused him to relate to God and to others on the basis of merit. Secondly to speak of doing in order to inherit is a paradox. An inheritance by nature is a gift.
  1. In response to the man’s question Jesus asks him a question ‘How do you read it?’ I think this may have been a moment of pride for the teacher of the law. Here he is, a well-educated teacher going to teach Jesus the ‘uneducated’ rabbi from Galilee something.

 In reply to Jesus the teacher of the law answers ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’  What the teacher of the law says here is a combination of two verses from the torah or the book of the law.  Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18.

  1. In response to what the man said Jesus said ‘You have answered correctly, do this and you will live.’ This response of Jesus must have shocked the teacher of the law, it was as if Jesus was affirming him, not him affirming Jesus, he had suddenly become the pupil not the teacher,   
  2. Still not satisfied the Teacher of the law wanted to justify himself so he asks ‘who is my neighbor?” In asking this question the teacher of the law is trying to show that the restricted group of people he loved were the people God classified as neighbors. So, all good faithful Jews were the people who he loved. He just wanted Jesus to agree with him.

Thomas D Long wrote, ‘The lawyer is now in the dock; the lawyer is now the one on trial. No longer the solicitor prosecuting the case, the lawyer is now the accused defending his righteousness. So, the lawyer, now suddenly the defendant, seeks to do what every accused person desires. As Luke puts it, he wanted to “justify himself.” And so, he asks the one question he believes will do just that: “Who is my neighbour?”  
He was not asking this particular question in order to understand more clearly who were his neighbours, but rather to ascertain the identity of those men and women he could eliminate from his love. Who could he safely put into the category of ‘non-neighbour’? Who could he cross off his list of ‘neighbours’? Where could he draw the line? He hoped that Jesus’ second answer to his question would confirm his own conviction that he was safe in this little circle of love, and bound for glory.’

So, in response to this second question Jesus tells this famous parable. But his answer does not put ‘neighbour,’ into a nice neat category, Jesus pulls down the internal wall of prejudice and inappropriate self-protection. Jesus redefines what it means to love God and love your neighbour. 

The place in the Parable.
The story that Jesus told took place on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. It was a very dangerous road to walk along and was notorious in its day as one of those roads that you wouldn’t travel along on your own as you could easily have been hijacked or killed. Its nickname was the ‘Way of Blood!’  

The people in the parable

  1. In the parable there are four main characters.

[a] The man who was robbed and attacked.

It would be very easy to be like the priest and Levite and walk passed this man. (There were two ways of identifying someone in those days, by the clothes they wore and by how they spoke. Clothing in the ancient world symbolized a person’s wealth, class or religion.) This man lay naked and silent, Jesus tells us he was ‘half dead,’ He had lost the marks of identity, because of the cruelty of others he was reduced to being a nobody.
[b] The Priest and the Levite.

Some people think that the reason that the Priest and the Levite didn't go and see the man is because they thought he was a corpse and they didn't want to come into contact with him because they would become defiled. This is unlikely for a few reasons. They were coming away from the Temple. If they were going up to the Temple to worship that might be a concern, because you if you touch the corpse and became defiled, you wouldn't be able to enter the Temple. The text doesn't say they were concerned about purity.

If you look in the Bible, it shows us very clearly, for example in Deuteronomy 21, that even criminals, even people who had been executed, had to be buried. Ancient Jews had a very serious concern about the burial of the dead. Josephus tells us in one of his writings, that Jews were known for the fact that they did not leave the dead unburied. The rabbis taught that the burial of the dead was considered a very solemn commandment. Any Jew who came across a corpse that was unburied had an obligation to bury that person. In fact, the Mishnah, tells us that even if a high priest had encountered an unburied corpse, they would have an obligation to bury it, regardless of being defiled by the corpse. There was a widely-held view that Jews should help Jews.

Rabbi Ben Sirach in Sirach 12:1, 4-5a 6-7 wrote.
‘If you do a good turn, know for whom you are doing it…Give to a devout man, but do not go to the help of a sinner. Do good to a humble man, but give nothing to a godless one. Refuse him bread, do not give him any, or he might become stronger than you… For the Most High Himself detests sinners and will repay the wicked with vengeance. Give to a good man but do not go to the help of a sinner.’
The word passed by is used only here (Lk 10:31, 32) in the Bible and means to pass by on the opposite side, emphasizing that the priest and the Levite went out of their way! They made a deliberate choice to cross over on the other side of the road.

[c] The Samaritan.
 Samaritans, were the descendants of pagan peoples who had come into the northern part of Israel at the time of the Assyrian exile. And although they worshipped the God of Israel, they were always regarded by Jews as kind of half pagan - half Israelite. Even worse, they had their own Temple up in the north at Mount Gerizim, they had their own priesthood, their own sacrifices, they were, in a sense, rivals with the Temple of Jerusalem and the Jews in the South. So, they were arch-enemies, and there was no love lost between them. They were regarded by many Jews as basically worse than pagans.

Lessons from the parable

  1.  Having a heart of compassion helps us to reach beyond our walls.  When the Samaritan saw the man in the ditch he took pity on him. The word used for pity is the same word for compassion, splanghnizomi which means to be so disturbed and emotionally upset that you must act. Let’s us think again about our internal walls, the ones we use to protect our comfort zones from people who are different than us. The walls of prejudice, sectarianism, and pride. Compassion breaks down these barriers.
  2. Compassion for others should redefine who we are. The title Good Samaritan was a paradox. As far as the Jewish people of Jesus’ day to be good, and to be a Samaritan was impossible. But this Samaritan did not allow what others thought about him to define who he was or what he became.

 

Sometimes it is very difficult to break free from the negative things people believe and say about us, [and to us.]  Sometimes we are brought up to believe the worse about ourselves. ‘I’m only a Samaritan what difference can I make?’  This man allowed compassion for others to shape who he was, he could have had a chip on his shoulder, he could have felt sorry for himself. He had lots of reasons not to get involved, but he couldn’t walk past.  Maybe compassion for others is part of our healing process.

  1. Compassion changed how he saw others. This Samaritan saw the same things the Priest and the Levite saw. But how he saw him was very different. He saw the man lying in the road as an opportunity for him to show mercy.  One commentator pointed out that the word mercy in English is the translation of the Greek word eleos. This word has the same ultimate root as the old Greek word for oil, more precisely, olive oil; a substance which was used extensively as a soothing agent for bruises and minor wounds. The oil was poured onto the wound and gently massaged in, thus soothing, comforting and making whole the injured part. To show mercy entails being a soothing presence. Imagine having a life that is soothing to others.
  2. Compassion needs to be practical and relevant, look at what the Samaritan did: -
  3. He went to him
  4. and bandaged his wounds,
  5.  pouring on oil and wine.
  6. Then he put the man on his own donkey,
  7. brought him to an inn
  8. and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper.
  9. ‘Look after him,’ he said,
  10. ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

 

  1. Compassion will cause you to have the heart of a servant. The elite and powerful sat on donkeys, the power-less servants lead them from the front. Through the simple act of placing the power-less man on the donkey, and then leading the donkey and the man to the inn, the Samaritan turned deeply-held expectations of power upside down.
  2. Compassion is the evidence of loving your enemy, the Hebrew word for neighbor in Leviticus 19:18 is ren, the two letters that make up that word when you take the vowels out, are the same two letters for the Hebrew word for enemy. So, in other words, Hebrew, which is written with consonants and not any vowels, the two letters used for enemy and neighbor are the same two letters. So when the man asks the question, and Jesus says to him, what do you read in the law, there might be a deeper meaning, a more subtle meaning. Namely, Jesus is asking him, do you see in the law love your neighbor as yourself, or do you also see not just love your neighbor but love your enemy as yourself? In other words, there is a kind of a double meaning in the statement. Whether or not that's the case, it's certainly clear that in Luke, Jesus is using the parable of the Good Samaritan, to teach, not just about love of neighbor and love of one's own, but love of strangers and even love of enemies. That's what mercy is all about.

Jesus concludes by asking. ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Jesus is asking which of the three Loves the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself?’  Which of the three displayed, evidence of eternal life?  The Samaritan.

Conclusion

We live in a broken world, where a lot of humanity are living in a ditch where they are hurting and broken. The world needs to experience the radical nature of present day Samaritans who are overflowing with compassion and generosity. This will only be possible when we Love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and all our strength and with all our mind, and our neighbour as ourselves.’

 

 

Date 8th January 2017
Speaker Alan Wilson
Subject

Galatians 5:1-5

DO YOU SUFFER FROM ELEUTHEROPHOBIA?

The book of Galatians was written to people who were in great danger of losing their freedom. Six times in the book Paul address the topic of freedom (2:4-5; 3:23-29; 4:1-11, 21-31; 5:1-12, 13). Chapter 5:1 is the key to the whole book, ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’ Paul is warning these Christians in Galatia that they must not go back into slavery and bondage.

These people were beginning to develop a theology that did not require them to live in/by the Spirit. They were beginning to believe that their obedience to the law would make them more acceptable to God. Their obedience was a problem, because they began to rely on their obedience which made them legalistic, robbing them of freedom.

These people needed to understand that the loss of freedom could jeopardise their whole Christian experience. As Christians, we should be the freest people in the world, free to be ourselves, free from the need of power, prestige or position, free enough to serve others out of love.

Many Christians make a deliberate choice to live in bondage to a system that controls and manipulates them. They develop a theological mindset that is anti-grace, they understand spirituality as conforming to the external expectations that others place upon them.
This lack of freedom is manifested in so many ways, but the two main indications that a person has lost their freedom is that guilt and fear is their primary motivation.

 

Why is Paul so insistent that we take great care remain free? Look at what he says.
‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’
The word Stand Firm is a military word, it was used to describe a soldier holding his ground in the shock and horror of battle with the enemy surging down upon him. I find this fascinating. In the church, we are often encouraged to take a stand over lots of things, from spiritual disciplines to social issues, but rarely are we encouraged to take a courageous stand for our freedom, and maybe that is because we don’t really know the freedom Paul is talking about?  We need to fight to maintain or freedom for six very important reasons.

  • Being in bondage to any religious system is just as bad as being in bondage to sin. Bondage is always bondage, be it to pornography, or alcohol, or some other vice, or legalistic religion, it matters not, if it robs a person of freedom, God hates it.
  • We will only grow and mature as people if we are free. Bondage to any sinful or immoral lifestyle will prevent spiritual growth and maturity. As will bondage to any legalistic form of Christianity.
  • Some people think it is good to have a set of rules to live by, because it will help keep you from sinning. The law, or a set of rules have no power to control sin. Romans 6:14 says ‘For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.’
  • Living in bondage is the opposite of living in the Spirit. Living in freedom is consistent with the activity of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life.
  • It is impossible to live a holy and godly life if you are living under bondage. The last two chapters of Galatians is about our characters and ethical living, and it is interesting that Paul starts off this section talking about freedom.
  • The bondage Paul is referring to in this passage is religious bondage; Paul is very strong in what he says here.  If your religion leads you into any kind of bondage, then you cannot have a relationship with Jesus. Look at what he says: -

‘Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

We will look at these words shortly, but remember he is speaking to Christians, who lives are in danger of becoming unaffected by the reality of Jesus in the present because they have turned their Christianity into a form of bondage.
Here are some of the indications of being in religious bondage.

  • Inability to think, doubt, or question religious information and/or authority.
  • Black-and-white, good/bad, either/or simplistic thinking: one way or the other.
  • Shame-based belief that you aren't good enough or you aren't doing it right.
  • Magical thinking that God will fix you/ do it all, without serious work on your part.
  • Scrupulosity: rigid obsessive adherence to rules, codes of ethics, or guidelines.
  • Uncompromising judgmental attitudes: readiness to find fault or evil in others.
  • Compulsive or obsessive praying, going to church or crusades, inappropriately quoting scripture.  
  • Unrealistic financial contributions.
  • Believing that sex is dirty; believing our bodies or physical pleasures are evil.   

In the mind of Paul, the opposite of living in bondage is living dependent upon our relationship the Holy Spirit.
We need to ask the question, what happens when a person loses their freedom? Or to put it another way, how do we know if we are not free? Paul gives us five clear indications of what it looks like to live under bondage

  • Loss of freedom will rob us of our identity as sons and cause us to live as slaves. ‘And do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’ Paul uses two words in this verse that helps understand how serious slavery is. The first word is burden, enechō which carries the idea to hold on to, to harass, to badger, to be entangled, enmeshed…obliged, in other words, you live in the grip of something. The second word is slavery, douleia. This word describes the state of man in which he is prevented from freely possessing and enjoying his life. This term carries with it the connotation of a condition that, while it may have begun through personal choices, results in a state that supersedes the free will. Just as the slave in Bible times could not break free of his state of bondage, which may have resulted from indebtedness due to his own choices, so is the addict bound in a condition that he will not escape on his own power.
  • There will be a dramatic change in our relationship with Jesus.

 

Christ will be of no value to you at all (v. 2). If you start to trust in circumcision to gain God's blessing, then you have stopped trusting in Christ. If you do not trust in Christ, then Christ is of no value to you. When you put your trust in your own position or performance for God's blessing, you are indicating that who you are and what you have done has more value than who Christ is and what he has done.

  • When we lose our freedom, we will be weighed down with an unbearable burden. You will have an obligation to obey the whole law (v. 3). Evidently the Galatians thought that by observing a few important laws they could identify themselves as full members of the Jewish nation and thus secure God's blessing for themselves. But Paul now informs them that the law is a vast, interdependent network of legal codes consisting of 613 commandments in the Torah; 248 Positive Commandments (do's) and 365 Negative Commandments (do not's).  Getting circumcised indicates that you are relying on keeping the law for God to bless you. If you are relying on the law, then you are obligated to keep the whole law. You cannot be selective.

There are so many Christians who live crushed lives, always trying to measure up, always trying to get everything right. They carry such guilt and feelings of worthlessness. Are they free? Do they feel liberated? Are they enjoying the glorious, joyful freedom that Jesus has died for? No. For some their Christian experience, has been the opposite of freedom. Which is a tragedy.

  • A lack of freedom will alienate us from Christ. What is Paul saying? If we lose our freedom, we will be distancing ourselves from Jesus. The idea behind the word alienate carries the idea of causing someone or something to be ineffective or unproductive; to render idle, or inactive, or inoperative; to make ineffective; to deprive of force or influence; to put an end to, do away with (thus the translation in many versions, “destroy”); and to be separated from. 
  • ‘You will fall away from grace. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.’

People who teach that it is possible to lose your salvation sometimes use this verse. However, upon further study it becomes clear that they have taken the verses out of context and forced a meaning upon the text which the author never intended.  "Doesn't Paul say that at least some of the Galatian Christians had fallen from grace? And, if they could fall from grace, so can we today." 
We would agree that the book is addressed to Christians (Galatians 1:6,9; 5:1).
We would also agree that some of the readers had fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4) and some were on the verge of doing so (Galatians 5:2).
We would even agree that it is possible for believers today to fall from grace. The text clearly does not limit this falling to the Galatian Christians only. Any Christian who reverts to seeking to be justified by law has fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4
 The whole issue here is what falling from grace means. Does it mean that the believers in question have fallen from their positional standing in grace? i.e, are they lost. If it does, then Paul contradicts himself because in other passages he clearly states that is impossible (cf. Romans 8:38-39; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; Colossians 2:13-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:10; 2 Timothy 2:13). Since scripture is God's Word, it cannot contradict itself. Thus, whatever Paul meant by falling from grace he did not mean falling from one's position as a child of God. Falling from grace means that a believer who reverts to a pharisaical way of thinking and practices and has fallen from a present experience of grace.
I don’t think I know how to put into words how serious this is. How do we know if we have fallen away from grace? It is quite simple. Just take a good look at your heart, if your heart is not being transformed, and if you continually find yourself being angry, resentful, unforgiving, bitter or controlling then you know you have fallen from grace.  Grace towards others needs to be the distinguishing feature of your life. I don’t think it is possible to receive grace from God and not show grace to others!  In 1Peter 1:24 the same word for ‘fall’ is used to describe a flower that has lost its bloom and withered. This very helpful, when we live in bondage, we will cease to bloom, and wither because we are no longer prepared to live by grace.
In verses 5-6 Paul draws a contrast where he gives us a picture as to what a life of freedom looks like, he uses five words that are the essence of true freedom.
‘For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.’

1st word Spirit.  The life of freedom is totally reliant on the work of the Holy Spirit. 2Corthians 3:17 says Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. The Holy Spirit will never lead a person into bondage, but will always cultivate freedom.
2nd Word faith. Faith is not an easy word to grasp, what is faith? What does it look like? In this context, faith is choosing to trust in God because you accept of yourself that you have no ability to save or transform yourself. Think of the freedom that faith brings, you realise that you know that you need to change, want to change, but do not have the power to change, so you trust God to bring about that change. Faith is submitting to God’s transforming freedom.
3rd Word Hope. In our modern society hope has been reduced to ‘wishful thinking,’ i.e. I hope tomorrow is a good day. The bible’s understanding of hope is completely different. It could be defined as ‘a certain and excited assurance about the future that effects how we live in the present.   John Pipper writes
“If our future is not secured and satisfied by God then we are going to be excessively anxious. This results either in paralyzing fear or in self-managed, greedy control. We end up thinking about ourselves, our future, our problems and our potential, and that keeps us from loving. In other words, hope is the birthplace of Christian self-sacrificing love. That's because we just let God take care of us and aren't preoccupied with having to work to take care of ourselves.”
4th Word Righteousness. What Paul says he is very revolutionary. What kind of things do we hope for? A job, or security, or a home, or a lot of other things, which are not bad, but Paul says ‘For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.’  It is like saying, ’I see my future not in terms of what I am going to do, or what I will achieve, but I look to the future with great excitement, eagerness and enthusiasm because I know it is God’s plan to help me to become more righteous.’ Hope of becoming more righteous is so liberating.
5th Word Love. Being free is all about being free from ourselves and our selfishness so we can be motivated by love. ‘For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.’ The word the NIV translate as expressing, is usually used to describe God’s powerful saving work in a person’s life.

Conclusion.
These verses describe for us a stark contrast between freedom and slavery. All of us chose how we want to live, either in bondage or freedom. To choose freedom is by far the more difficult and demanding choice, because we are choosing freedom from power, prestige, position and possessions, freedom from having to have our needs met, freedom from the power of sin and dead religion. Freedom to love others, freedom to live in hope, faith and righteousness, which is real freedom.

 

 

Date 4th December 2016
Speaker Alan Wilson
Subject

Galatians 4:12-20

In the book of Galatians Paul has two main objectives, two objectives that cannot be separated or fulfilled individually. He wanted to correct the Galatian Christians, to keep them from falling into error and following a false gospel. Secondly, he wanted to restore his relationship with them; he wanted to know again the relationship they had when they first met

In my experience of church, there is more of an inclination to focus on one of Pauls objective; we want to correct people, make them orthodox, make sure that they believe the truth, which of course is very important. However, leading people into truth and correcting them when necessary does not mean that we should not attempt to restore any fracture there may have been in our relationship with them. This is what Paul is trying to do in our passage. He knew that just to correct their error would not be a complete solution to their problem, he also needed to make every effort to restore their relationship.  It would have been easy for Paul to think in terms of, ‘if they grasp the truth of the gospel, it does not matter what kind of relationship they have with me.’ But Paul knew that to lead people into truth requires a loving commitment to them. Truth and grace can never be separated.    

  Listen to this quote.
“Have you ever been in love? Horrible, isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defences, you build up a whole suit of armour, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life...You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.” Neil Gainmen

Relationships are hard work, and in our society relationships have become dispensable, people are not prepared for the tedious, hard work and effort that is required to sustain and maintain healthy, wholesome relationships. The church has developed a ‘walk away’ culture. When relationships become difficult and messy, we walk away, we move on, we avoid the pain of rebuilding.  It would have been very easy for Paul to walk away now, he could focus his attention on some other church. But he didn’t. He was secure enough to have a difficult relationship with these Galatian Christians.
Often when leadership is insecure, their ministry suffers and sometimes is destroyed because they do not have the love or the courage to fight for the privilege of loving others ‘no matter what’. Their lack of love and courage causes them to ‘walk away.’
In this passage, Paul wants to re-establish his relationship with the Christians in Galatia. He is broken hearted, these Galatians had a superficial love for Paul. They loved him when he was with them, but now their love had evaporated, it was an ‘out of sight out of mind’ kind of attitude. They began to believe what others were saying about Paul.
Relationships are the thermometer of our spirituality. They are the gauge by which by which God evaluates what is going on in our heart. You could say that our relationships with others is the mirror of our hearts. If there is love, compassion and gentleness in our hearts, then that is how we will treat others. That does not mean that we will never confront them, or challenge them, but the motivation will be out of a heart of love. On the other hand, if our hearts are full of anger, bitterness and resentment, our relationships with others will reveal that. No matter how hard we try to hide what is going on inside us, eventually it will come out in our relationships with others.

  1. Paul encouraged the Galatians to become like him. ‘I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you.’ Paul used to be a Pharisee, entrapped by legalistic law, now he was free from guilt, shame, no need to perform to gain God’s love. He was no longer a slave, but a son. Paul pleads with them to become like him.  The word Paul uses for plead carries the idea deep desire and longing. This is important in this context, because Paul was free, and was living in freedom, he could reach out and try to bring healing to his relationship with them.   
  2. Paul was willing to make changes in his own life so he could relate to others. Look at what he says, ‘become like me, for I became like you.’ Paul was willing to become what the Galatian Christians needed him to be, so he could meet their needs. A self-sacrificing attitude, a selfless attitude, he is saying, ‘What I am does not matter much to me, but what you are matters a lot to me, and I am willing to sacrifice my own identity to meet your needs.’

Paul was so motivated by love that he was willing to sacrifice his religious, cultural and social identity to show appropriate and relevant love to the Galatians. As a Pharisaical Jew, Paul had nothing in common with these Gentiles but he understood that is was more important to love and serve those who were different than him, than it was to keep and protect his ethnic and religious identity. This is like an ‘orange man,’ accepting the ‘republican,’ so he could reach them with the love of Jesus, or a Jewish Christian accepting the Palestinian so he could share with them the love of God. 
The love that God wants us to have for others may threaten our cultural identity and deep seated prejudices. God may need to change how we view the world, empowering us to reach others whom we have always perceived to be different to us. He might demolish our comforts zones and empower us to do things that are beyond our planned programmes and agendas. 
Being willing to change so we can relate to, and accommodate others, does not mean that we cannot be ourselves, or we should compromise our morality, but it does mean that we need to be prepared to sacrifice the cultural and political customs that give us our identity.
3. Paul remembered how they treated him when he first arrived in Galatia.  He could look back to a time when they were young Christians and the fellowship they enjoyed. ‘You did me no wrong!’ They had accepted him which made a difference to how he handled this present issue.
Paul loved them enough not to take their betrayal of the gospel personally. He did not allow his ‘ego,’ to be hurt, so he says to them, ‘You did me no wrong,’ It would have been easy for Paul to beat himself up and blame himself for what was going on with them spiritually. His refusal to hold a grudge against the Galatians meant he wanted to work at restoring the relationship.

  1. Paul reminds them how they treated him in his illness when first came to Galatia. ‘As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, 14 and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God,’

Paul does not tell us what his illness was, we don’t know if he took sick on the way to Galatia or if he became sick when he arrived there. But we do know that although his illness was a trial to the Galatians they treated him very well.
(We don’t know why Paul’s illness may had been a trial to the Galatians. There are a few possibilities. [a] Maybe Paul’s illness made him look weak and unattractive. Illness effects how we look, and the strength we have. ‘Paul a man sent from God, seriously?’  Not very impressive. [b] Or maybe they thought, ‘Paul is ill, he must be being punished for some sin.’
This is a big concern to me personally as on several occasions I have been accused of being ‘demon possessed’ or was ‘living in sin’ because I have not been healed from my disability.)
Christians get sick, Christians are not always healed, Christians who have faith are not always healed, and sometimes they die because of their illness. That is the way it must be, because God is God, and he will not allow us to reduce his dealings with us into formula that we think should work.
 Whatever the reason, this illness was a trial to the Galatians. Yet Paul recalls how they treated him in the past.  you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.  The word for contempt means to spit at, and in this culture often ill/disabled people were spat at as a sign of contempt. Sometimes when relationships breakdown we become focused on the problem, the hurt, the issue that has arisen, and we forget the good, the blessings of the past.
I am not suggesting that we should ever ignore a problem, or not deal with it, but how we deal with any issue that arises in the context of a relationship should never be dealt with without considering the good and the positive of the past.
5. Their breakdown in relationship was related to their loss of joy. Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you felt then? NLT. The word used for Joy, or blessing in the NIV is Makarios, it conveys an inner peace, an inner bliss, an inner happiness. Such inner joy is not produced by circumstance. It is a word that indicates character, touching man at the very base of his existence. Look at what this joy produced in these Galatians. ‘I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.’  Internal joy which is the consequence of God working in a person’s heart will always animate and enrich relationships. The bible never relates joy to circumstances or things going well but sees it as a spiritual reality.  It is very interesting that Jesus spoke more about his joy the night before his death than any other time; His joy helped him to invested his life through death in his relationship with us. Relationships that count will need to know the sustaining power of joy.   
I think Paul must have been broken hearted, these Galatians had really loved Paul, they were willing to go to great lengths to meet Paul’s need, ‘if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.’  [That is like our saying, ‘If I could I would give my right arm for you.’] Now they were beginning to view Paul as their enemy, because they did not like the truth of what Paul was saying. ‘Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?’  They could not cope with what Paul was saying, so they began to build barriers, to see him as a threat, to view him with suspicion. Paul was now drawing a stark contrast between how they once treated him and how they were now treating him.
In verses 17-20 Paul changes his emphasis, in verses 12-16 he is talking about then Galatians view of him, but in these verses, he wants to expose the nature of false teachers. Paul wants to draw another contrast between himself and these false Christians. 
[a] The NIV reads Those people are zealous to win you over. This is not a helpful translation The ESV says ‘They make much of you, but for no good purpose.’
The ISV says ‘These people who have been instructing you are devoted to you, but not in a good way. They want you to avoid me so that you will be devoted to them.
The NET Bible ‘They court you eagerly, but for no good purpose; they want to exclude you, so that you would seek them eagerly.’
These false Christians were using beguiling flattery to win the hearts of the Galatians.
[b] They made much of the Galatians. Why? These people were using the Galatians to meet their own selfish needs, to make them look important, and feel better about themselves.  To lead people in the ways of God means that your life is not about you and your needs.  These people had a desire to become indispensable to the Galatians, they wanted to be eagerly sought after by the Galatians at the exclusion of anyone else.  False leaders/preachers exploit and devour vulnerable people to satisfy their greed.
[c] These people do not really understand the purpose of the gospel. Paul goes on to define the purpose of the gospel and the responsibility of the leader. My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you. What Paul says here is very emotional and challenging.  Don Garlington writes
‘On several occasions, Paul can depict his relation to his converts under the imagery of a father (1 Cor 4:14, 17; 2 Cor 6:13; 12:14; Phil 2:22; 1Thess 2:11). But in one instance he switches genders and likens himself to a wet nurse (1Thess 2:7).  In the present verse, too, he assumes the female role— a woman in labour—to intensify the sense of his feelings toward his “children.” Paul might have thought that his labour pains were at an end on his first visit when he brought them to birth in Christ. But now he must endure agony all over again until Christ is finally formed within them. 
As I thought about these verses, I realised that in all my Christian experience no church leader has ever said to me, ‘Alan I am totally committed to you, and I am going to do all I can, even suffer so that Christ can be formed in you’ The word’ formed,’ was sometimes used to describe the development of a foetus within the womb, the word also refers to the act of giving outward expression of one’s inner nature.
I think this must be one of the most challenging verses in the bible, it gives a completely new perspective on leadership within the Church. Sometimes church leadership gets side tracked with things that are important, but are secondary to seeing Jesus being formed in people.  
Paul ends this section by saying ‘how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!’ This was a very emotional statement, Paul does not know what to do, the word he uses means to be confused or bewildered. Sometimes this happens, you don’t know what to do, you don’t understand why those you have loved have made you an enemy. To see Christ formed in people is emotionally challenging, physically demanding and often perplexing.  
 Conclusion
Life is all about relationships, relationships are the thermometer on which God measures our spiritual condition, not our service, nor our position in the church, nor our preaching, but how we treat others; the measure of love we show and the sacrifices we make to meet the needs of others rather than our own needs.


 

 

Date 13th November 2016
Speaker Alan Wilson
Subject

Galatians 3:1-14


Sometimes it is difficult to know what battles you should fight, and the things you should let go because you know that they are not important.  So sometimes you might ask you children to do something, and they don’t do it, you are right to get cross and deal with the issue, and at other times you know that the right thing is not to get too worked up about it. But there are two problems all parents face, sometimes they find it hard to discern what is important and what is not and so they get worked up about things that aren’t important while not dealing with the stuff that is. This not only happens in parent/child relationships, but happens in marriage relationship, where couples avoid dealing with the important stuff that is destroying their marriage by arguing and falling out about things that don’t matter. They become confused as to what is important.

This same dynamic is often played out is the life of local churches, were the unimportant becomes important, the colour of carpet that is on the floor, whether to play the organ or piano, what kind of cup they should use at communion etc. Many churches get caught up in silly debates about things that don’t matter.
Many of the churches in our country have the reputation of being ‘evangelical’ but I think Paul would accuse them of heresy because of their acceptance and encouragement of a legalistic ‘Christianity,’ a Jesus-plus-attitude to salvation. Paul was terrified that these people would lost their freedom and joy.  He wants them to know the fullness of the life there is in Jesus, so he became adamant as he used theology to demonstrate how damming and deforming any bondage within the church can be.

He begins the chapter by directly addressing the Christians in Galatia by calling them foolish and bewitched. You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?
FOOLISH
When Paul talks about being foolish he is not saying that they are stupid or unintelligent, but, they were refusing to apply their minds and think through the implications of wanting to be circumcised. Paul understood legalism to be a commitment to foolishness, rooted in a lack of understanding of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. It is the attempt of the self-righteous to replace the work of the Spirit with good works and religious activity. As we shall see, the work of the Spirit in a person’s life will always lead to assurance and freedom.

BEWITCHED
It is the Greek word “baskainō” and means to malign and to fascinate by misrepresentation.  It means to slander and to mislead someone. This is the only place that this word is used in the New Testament, and it would have the same idea of hypnotising someone.  The idea is that the Galatians had been so deceived and so taken in by the false teaching of the Judaizers that it had produced an almost hypnotic spell-like delusion over them.  
This dynamic is often in a person’s life when they cannot accept or grasp a certain truth. There are some people who have a mental block when it comes to grasping the truth, they just can’t get it, it is not because they are unintelligent, or lack understanding, it is because they have been bewitched, a veil has been put over their minds and they have become locked into a certain way of thinking

There are two opposite ways that we can be bewitched by the subtle lies of Satan, on the one hand we fall into the trap of thinking that something within us can help in our salvation. We believe that we are justified by Jesus’ death, but we are sanctified by our works. We confuse holiness with legalism. We think that if we do all the right things, in the right way then we will be living holy lives. Holiness is primarily about being, before it is about doing, that is why we are told ‘Be Holy for I am Holy.’ 
On the other hand, Satan comes to us and says things like, ‘God could never love you, or you are too sinful to be a child of God, or if you were a real Christian you would be super spiritual.’ The bewitching effects of Satan produces deep insecurity, lack of assurance and ‘I-must-try-harder’ attitude. However, the worst effect of being bewitched is when we consciously separate or distance ourselves from the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. Our I-must-try-harder attitude prevents us from submitting to the gracious, transforming work of the Spirit.  Pride, guilt and shame are the things Satan uses to bewitch us, to pervert us from grasping the freeing grace of God.  
Paul does two things to break the spell that these Galatians are under, [a] he takes them back to the cross. [b] He talks about the ministry of the spirit.

[a] Getting back to the cross. Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
The words ‘clearly portrayed” are one word in the Greek. It’s. Prographo means to set forth clearly by public proclamation. It means to say something in a speaking manner so that people see it so clearly, it’s as if they were there. The word can mean to portray, to draw a picture. It was used for a notice put up by a father to say that he will no longer be responsible for his son's debts; it is also used for putting up the announcement of an auction sale.
Paul is saying, if we are going to get our thinking straight, if we are going to have a right and healthy perspective on life then we need to get back to the cross. At the foot of the cross we see life as it is, we see ourselves as we are.
[b] Being foolish and bewitched will cause a person to try and live a life outside the influence and power of the Holy Spirit. To deliver the Galatians from the blinding mindset caused by them being bewitched, Paul asks four questions about the Holy Spirit. The interesting thing about these verses is that they contain the first recorded teaching of Paul about the nature and work of the Holy Spirit and as we get into them we are going to discover some interesting things.

 

  1. First question. ‘Did you receive the Spirit by keeping the law or by believing what you heard?   

Paul’s first question is to do with how these people became Christians. It is very interesting the wording he uses to refer to their conversion experience. ‘Did you first receive the Spirit?  He could have used a lot of different ways to talk about their conversion experience, but he defines it here as ‘receiving the Spirit.’ The Galatian believers are taken back to the beginning, when they first received the Spirit by believing the message of the cross of Christ: I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? (v. 2). The evidence of the Spirit's entrance into their lives at their conversion must had been undeniably clear for Paul to use it as a reference point in his argument.     

  1. It would be very easy for us to miss the enormity of what Paul is saying here. When you become a Child of God, God comes to live in you by His Spirit. Just step back and think about this. You have been designed for God the Holy Spirit. Your life has been especially made for the indwelling and manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Have you ever watched the programme ‘location, location, location’ were people are searching for their ideal home? Well that is what the Holy Spirit feels about your life, a perfect location for him to make his home.
  2. The work of the Spirit in a person’s life brings assurance. It is interesting that legalism is rooted in and motivated by a lack of assurance. The Holy Spirit loves to fill our hearts with the knowledge of the love of God.    When people lack assurance, they retreat into a legalistic mindset in the hope of getting some kind security.
  3. The work of the Spirit in someone’s live will produce in them an ability to keep the law. Paul asks the question, ‘Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law?’  When you read the sermon on the Mount, you will notice that Jesus internalised the law.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.’
Keeping the law will not produce the work of the Spirit in our lives, but the work of the Spirit in our lives will produce in us the morality of the law. It will create in us a security that will lead to holiness.

2. The second question. ‘Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
In this verse Paul uses the word epiteleō which carries the idea of maturity.
Not only is the beginning of the Christian life a gift, but progress is also a gift, as the question in verse 3 indicates. The contrast between beginning with the Spirit and trying to attain your goal by the flesh (remember that the NIV translates "flesh" as human effort)

 Paul talks about beginning their experience in the Spirit and ending it in the flesh.  Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
The words he uses are the normal Greek words for beginning and completing a sacrifice. The first one (enarchesthai, is the word for scattering the grains of barley on and around the victim which was the first act of a sacrifice; and the second one (epiteleisthai,) is the word used for fully completing the ritual of any sacrifice. By using these two words Paul shows that he looks on the Christian life as a sacrifice to God.

(I just want to mention an important connection between the Work of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life that produces a life of sacrifice.

The work of the Spirit produces sanctification.

Sanctification produces maturity.

Maturity is displayed through sacrifice.)

3. The third question in the NIV reads Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain?

Some translations have the word "suffered" in verse 4 and not "experienced." It is possible that the Galatians have endured persecution for their conversion, so that Paul would be asking them if they have suffered for the sake of Christ, only to turn away from the gospel. However, "experienced" seems more consistent with the context. If this is the case, Paul would be asking them if they have experienced the presence and the power of the Spirit both at their conversion and in the present for nothing?

Paul is drawing a line in the sand, he is asking if the experience of the Holy Spirit these Galatian Christians had has become pointless because he knows that to embrace a legalistic Christianity is to undo the work of the Spirit in our lives, and to prevent future work of the Spirit in our lives.
So, let us ask ourselves the question, What is the Holy Spirit doing in my life? and is my understanding of Christianity doing harm to work of the Spirit in me?

4. The forth question, 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?

This question may sound a bit like the first question ‘Did you receive the Spirit by keeping the law or by believing what you heard?    But the emphasis is very different. In the first question the emphasis is on the receiver but here the emphasis is on the giver. Paul uses a very unusual word for gift in this passage. It was used to describe the generosity of a wealthy man to his city and the arts.  Paul is saying here that the gift of the Spirit is a reflection of Gods generosity towards us. God loves to give generously us His Spirit.

Conclusion

This is a very encouraging passage Paul wants us to become a people who are not bound by law ----but enjoy the generosity of God through the ministry of His Spirit.

 

 

 

 

Date 8th May 2016
Speaker Alan Wilson
Subject

James 5:19,20

 

James chapter 5 v 19-20 (ESV)
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

It would very easy to read the last two verses of the book of James and think they are a strange way to end a letter. Unlike other letters in the New Testament there is no benediction, there are no greetings, and it is a very abrupt ending. You could read these verses and think that they don’t have much to say or teach us. But we could not be more wrong. If the book of James were an orchestral piece, then these last two verses would be the high note, the crescendo, and the climax of the piece. They are a bright spotlight that shines its light on the meaning of authentic Christian community. One of the most important things in life is the need to evaluate, the need to take stock. In many jobs people have yearly appraisals. The boss would set you down and review the previous year, pointing out your strengths and your weaknesses, the good or the bad, the failures and successes. So in these last two verses are James is showing us what a Christian community should look like.

Before we get into the verses let me say a few general things.
These verses are a kind of thermometer that checks the community health of the church. Every church needs a measure of self awareness. There needs to be times when the church sits down and asks itself tough questions.
‘What kind of love do we have for each other.’?
Are we growing as a community?
Do we really believe Jesus when he said that ‘By our love for one another all men will know you are my disciples?
These verses describe the kind of community we all need. We have all in us the potential to wander, (we will come to what that means later,) none of us can live the Christian life as individuals. When we become members of a church we are not committing ourselves primarily to the activities and programs of a church. Rather we are making an unconditional commitment to God by recognizing our partial responsibility for the welfare of others in order to encourage them and by seeking their good. In John 10:10 when Jesus spoke of ‘abundant life’ or ‘life to the full.’ He did not have in mind the life of an individual, but he was referring to a corporate, community experience. ‘Life to the full is only possible in the context of a shared life with others.

Those who wander really find it difficult to get back on their own. When we wander off and loose our way spiritually we will need help to get back.
So let us look at what James says in these last two verses.
1. We need to grasp the fact that the gospel confronts our individualistic worldview. In our society ‘community,’ is more a title than an experience. Researchers found that Britain was the most individualistic society in the world – one that valued the self over the group more than any other country. But while this makes for a dynamic and innovative population, it also appears to make it more anxious and unhappy, claim psychologists. The study by Northwestern University in Chicago compared levels of depression and anxiety in individualist societies like Western Europe and America with collectivist societies like China and Taiwan. They were surprised to find that there was a direct correlation between the two; the more individualistic the country, the higher the levels of depression. Britain topped the list of the most individualistic country in the world, just ahead of the USA, Australia and the rest of Western Europe, based on research by the Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede.

We have over individualised our salvation experience and made our spirituality too private. According to John Diver in Community and commitment, ‘The "meaning of 'fellowship' or 'communion' in the New Testament relates to sharing one common life within the body of Christ at all levels of existence and experience – spiritual, social, intellectual, economic. No area of life can be excluded." Life together in the church is the very essence of what Christianity is all about. What we do here week by week is at the heart of God's plan for the world.

Most Christians see the Church only as a place where they can get their private spiritual needs met. But it is far more than that. It is somewhere where we give ourselves to others in order for them to experience their greatest good. Someone has called individualism a heresy, it is a lifestyle that robs us of an ability to be part of community that we all need and long for.

James is not writing to those who have wandered off but to those who are responsible for those who wander of. I think it would be easier to accept it if James was addressing those who had backslidden, those who were given clear evidence of being far from God. These are the people who need to hear the message of the gospel; these are the people who need God to speak into their lives. However James is addressing those who are have some responsibility for those who are far from God. Look at what James says ‘My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back.’ He is not addressing the Church leaders, or the elders, but he is talking to the whole church. He is saying that we all have a measure of responsibility for each others’ walk with God. If you are a Christian, then you’re a member of God’s search and rescue team.

3. We need to understand what it means to wander. James uses a picture word to help us understand the wanderer. The word “wander” is where we get our English word planet! In those days people looked at the planets who appeared to be wandering over the sky with no direction or purpose. They were going around in circles, isolated and distant. When we wander spiritually it is usually a slow gradual process that takes time. We begin to withdraw from people who we know are a good spiritual influence, we begin to view others with fear and suspicion; gradually the distance increases, and then we wake up one morning and we are drifting aimlessly, alone without roots and security.

Let me just say that when some begins to wander it is not because they are bad or evil. More often our wandering is the consequence of being exhausted by life. We are all broken people living with disappointment and frustration, with life and sometimes with God, and you have no more strength or courage, so you get off the track, step out of the race, and you start to wander. Not because your being deliberately bad, but because you are in desperate need of help, rest and clarity. Sometimes Christians can be so burned out, so tired, that they fall into their old way of living, and before you know it, they have wandered.

4. Unfortunately sometimes people can wander into serious sin, their wandering may not have been intentional but it can lead to intentional disobedience and sin. We need to treat those who wander in the same way we would want to be treated if we were wandering. We will never see a person restored from wandering if have a judgemental attitude. Look at what Paul said in Galatians 6:1 ‘Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.’ The interesting thing about this verse is that Paul talks about the emotional life of the person who is responsible for the restoration. . ‘Gentleness is not weakness; it is great strength under control. When gentle Christians see someone caught in a sin, they should not react with violent emotions or with arrogance. Even when sinful actions are scandalous and harmful, the emotions of the gentle person are under control,’ (IVP NTC) He will not be demanding, aggressive, controlling or panic, but will engage the wanderer with gentle love and patient compassion.

We need to mention that as Christians we can fall into one of two opposite mistakes either we can become controlling and demanding, pushing our way into people lives, interfering in things that don’t concern us. In some churches the ‘care’ for others is just a subtle disguise for spiritual abuse and manipulative control. On the other hand, some churches go completely the opposite way and negate responsibility for each other, wrongly believing that we don’t have a duty of care for each other’s walk with God.
5. We need to grasp the importance of godly confrontation. If you are anything like me, then you will not like confrontation. Part of our problem with confrontation is we see as a kind of attack, but it should be the complete opposite of attacking, it is rescuing someone. Paul Tripp says ‘Imagine the good that can result when confrontation is not a club but a light, when it’s not a sentence of judgement but a loving call to change, not an announcement of hopelessness, but an encouragement to continue the fight with sin till the battle finally won.’ We need to be motivated by love for our brothers and sisters.

6. Those who turn a person from their error are showing great love and doing a person a great service.

“Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death….There has been much debate about this verse. Some people think that James is talking about salvation, and if we turn a person from their sin then we are leading them to Jesus for salvation. I don’t think that is what James is saying, because he is addressing Christians who have wandered. Some would suggest that this is suggesting that a person can be saved and lost, that is like saying a person can be unborn.

Others think that James is talking about people who die prematurely because of sin, they sin unto death, this is very possible, see 1Cor 11:30 1John 5:16 but if this was the case, most of us would not be here today. Notice what James does not say, he did not say” “Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from possible death. Back in James 1:15 he said, “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full–grown, brings forth death.’ What I think James is saying is that when we rescue someone from wandering we are rescuing then from living a life that is not full of the glorious beauty of righteousness. The life of the wanderer is characterised more by things that speak more about the deadening effects of sin.

7. Those who turn people from the error of their ways cover a multitude of sins. Sometimes the thing that keeps a person from coming back to God are feelings of guilt and shame. So As we restore the wanderer we cover a persons’ sin to heal their guilt. This does not mean we ignore or hide their sin, but it does mean that we refuse to identify the person by their sin, or allow their sin to affect our love and care for them. The word James uses for cover means to veil, and to hinder the knowledge of a thing. It is as if you want to protect the person from further shame, so you go out of your way to hinder knowledge of what they have done. It is like covering a wound to prevent further infection. To cover a person’s sin is to communicate full acceptance, it is to shows great grace and it is a refusal to write someone off.

Conclusion

Can you imagine living a life that has a profound spiritual effect on others? Imagine being used by God to turn people’s lives around. Would it not be great if others loved Jesus more, and longed for God more because you are in their lives? Would it not be wonderful if we were a church where when people wandered, they wandered into people who loved and accepted them? If we are going to remain faithful to God, we will never, ever do it by ourselves, we all need the encouragement and love of others.

Maybe you are one of those who have wandered, you used to really love Jesus, your heart used to burn with passion, then life hit, things got tough, you made a few decisions that you wished you hadn’t. The gentile voice of the good shepherd is calling you, so he can carry you home. Restoration is a spiritual therapy which takes time, patience and more time, it is not a quick fix from lost to found, or a quick prayer for spiritual healing, but a slow process that gently restores us from the inside out.

 

 

Date 21st February 2016
Speaker Alan Wilson
Subject

James 2:1-13

James 2:1-13  
       When he was a student, the famous Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi, considered becoming a Christian. He read the Gospels and was moved by them. It seemed to him that Christianity offered a solution to the caste system that plagued the people of India. One Sunday, he went to a local church. He had decided to see the pastor and ask for instruction on the way of salvation. But when he entered the church, which consisted of white people, the ushers refused to give him a seat. They told him to go and worship with his own people. He left and never went back “If Christians have caste differences also,” he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu” (from “Our Daily Bread.”)
      

I wonder if our church is open to anybody. I wonder if there are certain kinds of people we would not be happy with coming to this church? In the passage we are going to look at, James exposes the kind of attitude within a church that prevents people from coming, which prevents people from feeling comfortable. When people enter into a church they are not entering into an emotional or relational vacuum, they are either going to feel totally accepted or not. So James begins to talk about prejudice in the church, what it looks like and how to deal with it.

     Often prejudice is so engrained in our psyche that we are not even aware of it, we are oblivious to it, and if someone were to call you a racists or say that your were sectarian, you would be greatly offended.

‘My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?’
     Why do some people look down on others?  Sometimes we build our significance on the failure of others, we would rather associate and befriend those who make us feel important, those who we believe can add value to us. The people in James were guilty of looking down on the creator, looking down on those who had been created in the image of God. We often think less of others in order to feel better about ourselves. We express our insecurity about ourselves by belittling others in our thinking.
      
The makeup of the local church should baffle the world. The world should not be able to explain how people of different races, economic and social levels, and age groups can come together in love and harmony.
1.  Sometimes we show prejudice towards those who remind us of ourselves. When we are feeling bad about ourselves and find it difficult to accept who we really are, then we will find it difficult to accept those who are like us. For a long time I was uneasy with being with other disabled people; there were a number of reasons for that, but one of the reasons if not the primary one, was the fact I was struggling to accept my own disability.  

2.  At other times we show prejudice towards those who are different to us, we are either intimidated by their differences or we are envious of their differences. We feel intimidated when someone’s life-style, belief system and how they view the world is either completely different to ours. Or when someone has all that we want and lives the kind of life we wish we could live, we can become envious and begin to show prejudice towards them.
3.  Sometimes our prejudice is the result of hurt and pain we have suffered or someone we love has suffered in the past.  In our country, people from both sides of the political divide have suffered, and it would be very easy to have prejudice in our hearts as a means of protecting ourselves from further pain. Although this is understandable, we must not allow bitterness to make us sectarian or prejudiced.

4.  Just as our response to trials can tell us a great deal about our true spiritual condition so also the way we respond to people in various situations can tell us a great deal about our spiritual condition.

     James gives us a comprehensive understanding of prejudice.

1. Prejudice is a blatant betrayal of Jesus and his gospel.

   ‘My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism.’  

The NIV has translated this verse very badly. The Greek indicates that to show favouritism or prejudice is a type of denial of Jesus and His gospel.
      James is saying that prejudice is the opposite to the nature and purposes of God. For us to profess faith in the gospel of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ while being prejudiced is contradictory and incompatible. This very challenging, being prejudiced is an expression of unfaithfulness.
      Look how James describes Jesus in this verse ‘Our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.’ It places before our eyes the standard that should control our response to people. We are not to respond to the glory of people's wealth or dress, for this relative glory is exposed as insignificant compared to Christ's glory. In other words a proper view of Jesus will mean that we will have a proper view of others.

The NIV has translated this verse very badly. The Greek indicates that to show favouritism or prejudice is a type of denial of Jesus and His gospel.
      James is saying that prejudice is the opposite to the nature and purposes of God. For us to profess faith in the gospel of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ while being prejudiced is contradictory and incompatible. This very challenging, being prejudiced is an expression of unfaithfulness.
      Look how James describes Jesus in this verse ‘Our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.’ It places before our eyes the standard that should control our response to people. We are not to respond to the glory of people's wealth or dress, for this relative glory is exposed as insignificant compared to Christ's glory. In other words a proper view of Jesus will mean that we will have a proper view of others.

2.   Prejudice is very superficial.
      The word James uses for favouritism is the word PROSOPOLEMPSIA, which has the literal meaning of lifting up someone’s face, with the idea of judging by appearance and on that basis giving special favour and respect or not. The commentator Roper says: "The word translated 'show . . . partiality' is a Greek word that means 'to receive by face,' i.e. to judge on the basis of some external or superficial factor--to judge a man by the colour of his skin, or the length of his hair, or the kind of clothes he wears, or the sort of academic credentials he carries, or his economic status. This is what James is talking about when he says, 'Do not show partiality.' 'Do not receive a man by face. Prejudice is an attitude of unfaithfulness to God that says to people, ‘your face doesn’t fit therefore I don’t want to know you.’

3.     Prejudice is contrary to the Christian value system.
       In verses 3-4 James give us an illustration of what prejudice looks like; he draws a contrast between a rich man and a poor man.
       A man with gold ring and in shining clothes comes (2a) and
       A poor man in dirty clothes also comes in (2b)
        you show special attention to him. (the one wearing the shining clothes.)     (3a)
        and to the poor man (3c)
        and say, “Sit here, this is a good place” (3b)
        you say “Stand there” or “Sit under my footstool.” (3d)
       James tells us that when the rich man came in that he was ‘shown special attention. This is one word in the Greek  which means that this rich man was looked upon with favour or kindness, but when it comes to the poor man, there is no mention of him being shown respect, he is literally ‘put down.’

In the second part of the verse James tells us why people have behaved so badly.  ‘Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
     James tells these Christians that their prejudice was the result of how they were thinking. They saw themselves as judges, as those who had the right to look upon others on the basis of the other people’s appearance. James wants them to know that their way of thinking was ‘evil.’
     Just let me try and explain what this word evil means. It is derived from the base of a word that means to toil, and by implication anguish, or pain. The word has a meaning of being hurtful, or malicious. The evil thoughts within a person will eventually cause harm to others. That is why we need to be consistently undergoing transformation.

4.  To show prejudice towards others is contrary to how God treats people. The people James was writing to were treating the poor with great disrespect, instead of showing them care.   ‘Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?’ Think of the kind of people God chooses, and why he chooses them. God loves all people, but the rich, the strong, the celebrity are usually so blinded by their prestige and self-importance that they are not weak enough to respond to the call of God’s love. As Christians we are meant to show grace to all people, at all times, irrespective of the circumstances we may find ourselves in, because God shows us grace at all times despite our circumstances. We need to remind ourselves every day, ‘that grace can never be inappropriate.’  

5. Being prejudiced is acting like the enemies of God. James lived in a culture where it was only possible to become wealthy in two ways, you were either born into wealth, or you became wealthy by oppressing others. If you showed favouritism to the wealthy there was a good possibility that they wealthy people had or were oppressing others.
     This is where we need to say something’s that may be difficult to hear. As a church, are we prepared to open our church to any, and to all?  Are we prepared to welcome the homosexual couples, the terrorist, those who are struggling with addictions, or have been involved in crime, or do we want to be a safe sanitised space for middle class people who want to be contained in their comfort zones?

6. To be prejudiced is to break the whole law of God. The whole bible can be summed up in two commandments. Love God and love your neighbour.  James is saying if you do not love your neighbour as you love yourself, then you are guilty of breaking the entire law of God.        

   ‘If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing right.  But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.  For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.’ In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus taught that any person-in-need is a neighbour.

Some people have very low self worth, and we often think in terms of people not loving themselves, I understand this dynamic, and many people suffer from self loathing. However, everyone has a measure of love for themselves. Did you ever feel really thirsty and think to yourself ‘I hope this thirst gets worse,’ or did you ever think the same about a pain or an illness? Of course not, because we all want the best for ourselves. So the point of the second great commandment is, you care about your own needs; show the same care for the needs of others. You care about your own feelings; show the same care for the feelings of others. You care about your own desires; show the same care for the desires of others. You care about how others treat you; treat them as you would want to be treated.  And not to do so is to be guilty of breaking the law of God in the same way adultery or murder breaks the law of God.

7.   To show prejudice is contrary to mercy.  We need to keep in mind that in these verse James is addressing Christians, look at verses 2 and 5 where he speaks of brothers, and dear brothers. So why would he talk about Christians being judged? Surly as Christians, Jesus bore our judgment for us, and there is now no more condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Look at what James says.
      Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What does this mean?  James is simply saying, If we are not showing mercy to others, it is likely that we have not received mercy. To show prejudice of any kind towards anyone is to sit in judgement and to withhold mercy. Or to put it another way,  if we are prejudiced, people have the right to question our claim to be a Christian, because you cannot receive mercy from God and not show mercy to others

Conclusion
    
      As I have been working through James I realised that God wants to deal with our hearts in very deep and profound ways. Treating people unequally is ‘playing God in the lives of others which is positively sinful.  As Christians we are not to judge others according to their appearance.  This must not be a theoretical knowledge but a real challenge to treat anyone who comes to this church to be part of us. Everyone, especially the poor and downtrodden deserves the best place so that they can experience the love of God in and through our love.

       Mercy will be shown to those who are merciful.

 

 

 

Date 22nd November 2015
Speaker Alan Wilson
Subject

Hebrews 5:7-10

Journey through Gathsemane  Mark 14:32-42.

      At some stage in the life of every Christian there needs to be a Gethsemane moment, a significant crisis of commitment where they decide what kind of relationship they want to have with God.  

      At some stage in the life of every Christian, there needs to be a Gethsemane moment where the decision to enter into deeper devotion and absolute surrender to God is made.

      At some stage in the life of every Christian there needs to be a Gethsemane moment where the most important questions of life are answered. It is in the crisis of Gethsemane that the essence of our lives is revealed.   As Jesus suffered in the garden of Gethsemane his humanity was threatened, would he remain a man who needed to live in submission and surrender to his Father? Or would he choose to be more than human, and refuse submission and surrender?  Gethsemane is where we fight to preserve our humanity and integrity. The crossroads of Gethsemane is where our past can be wasted, our priorities are challenged and our destiny is threatened.

     Before we look at Jesus’ time in Gethsemane let me say a few things.

1. Gethsemane is a place of choice. We know from Luke 22:39 that Jesus had visited Gethsemane before, he was familiar with it, but on this occasion Gethsemane was much more than a geographical location. It was a place of massive spiritual significance, a symbol of Jesus’ spiritual choice. It would have been very easy for Jesus to walk away from this garden conflict. He was God, he had the power to protect and defend himself, but as a human he needed to go through the pain of completely surrendering his life to his father, in the knowledge that he would have no control over the consequences of his surrender. Mark tells us that he would be ‘betrayed into the hand of sinners.

      There is something in all of us that wants to avoid Gethsemane, we are happy with a ‘functional’ faith, we love God and we are willing to serve, but go to Gethsemane? Where God might ask more than we are willing to give, that scares us, it unsettles us, and like the disciples we sleep, not realising that sleeping in a place of commitment like Gethsemane could lead to denial or betrayal. Our Gethsemane will never be as difficult or painful as Jesus’. However, it is essential.  There are times in all our lives when we need to visit and revisit Gethsemane, where we decide how we want to live for God, and decide if we are prepared to lay down our lives to fulfil the purposes of God. Gethsemane is the difference between a mediocre religion and whole-hearted following.  Gethsemane is the difference between maintenance and maturity. 

     Let just say that for us Gethsemane is not a regular experience, but it will happen at times of crisis and challenge.

2.  Gethsemane is more about wrestling with God than it is wrestling with Satan. When Jesus was in the garden, as a human he was struggling with the will of his father.  He said, ‘Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’ Wrestling with God is an important part of Christian maturity. God would rather us be honest strugglers who are finding it difficult to accept his will, than unemotional robots that simply go through the motions. God wants our honesty, he wants us to be passionate before him, and tell him our struggles.

 

     So how did Jesus in his humanity get through his Gethsemane experience? As a man how was he able to cope? Let me say again, we will never experience what Jesus did, but we can learn from him how we can mature in our devotion and commitment to the Father.

1.  We must not allow our emotions to dictate our understanding of the will of God.

      As you read Mark’s account of Jesus in the garden you will notice that Mark goes to great lengths to describe how Jesus was feeling, he was deeply distressed, troubled and overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. This was an extremely emotional time for Jesus.

      The word used for distress is the Greek word ekthambeisthai, which means to be moved to an “intense emotional state because of something causing great surprise or perplex.’ Did Jesus know he was going to die? Yes he did, he had predicted it three times, so why was he so shocked? Tim Keller says, ‘As he is on his way to pray, a darkness and a horror come down on him  beyond anything he could have anticipated and the pain of it makes him feel he is disintegrating on the spot. It is as if Jesus was unable to grasp the enormity of what he was going to suffer until this time.’  

       In his humanity Jesus had to learn when it was not appropriate to use his emotions as a filter to discern the will of his father. Sometimes our emotions and God’s will do not sit well together; sometimes we need to acknowledge our emotions by not allowing them to control us. As Jesus talked honestly about how he was feeling he was taking his emotions in hand by refusing to bury them or pretend.

       Again Keller says, ‘The Greeks and Romans have left us many stories of leaders and heroes as they faced death, and without exception these people were calm and dispassionate in their final hours. By contrast, in Jewish literature when Jews wrote accounts of the deaths of major figures and heroes they did not make them cool and removed like the Greeks; rather, they are shown as hot-blooded and fearless, and they praise God as they are being sliced to pieces by their persecutors. Nothing in either of these traditions—indeed nothing in ancient literature—resembles the portrayal that Mark gives us of Jesus‘ final hours as he faced his death.’ 

      For Jesus, Gethsemane was a place where he went through the processes of dealing with his emotions so he could submit to his father. When God asks something from us that is painful and difficult, we need to go to the garden; we need to go to the place where we wrestle with ourselves and with God.

 2. We must create a sacred space of isolation.

     The further Jesus went into the garden, the more isolated he became. He had left the crowded city and come to a remote area outside its walls. Eight of his disciples stayed at the entrance of the Garden while Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him further. Finally, even these three were left behind, about a stone’s throw away and Jesus was alone. Jesus needed to create a sacred space, a place of intense isolation, a place where he could

     pour out his crushed soul before his Father. In his aloneness he pierced the darkness with ‘loud cries.’ See Hebrews 5:7.  The weight he was carrying in his heart was so heavy that he was unable to remain standing.

     There are times in all our lives that we are only able to deal honestly with God and with ourselves in deliberate isolation. There are times when we need to choose to withdraw from everything and everyone so we can engage in the painful act of being absolutely real and honest before God. There are times when we need to create a ‘sacred space,’ a place where all other voices are quiet, were all external distractions are removed, and we feel free to bring to God our hearts.  For some this is a scary place to be, alone with God, dealing with the content of our hearts.

3.     Jesus dealt with the issues that threatened God’s purposes for his life through prayer. The more I have thought about this passage, the more I am beginning to realize that prayer is much more than making requests to God, it may include that, even here in the Garden Jesus was making requests. However, prayer is engaging in a process that will bring about change in us. It is the act of realigning your will with God’s will. It is through prayer that we come to a measure of acceptance. As Jesus prayed he became more accepting of the will of His father and his death.

Let us take a look at what Jesus prayed

 

A.     He prayed out of relationship. He begins with the word Abba.  This is the only time the word Abba is found in the gospels. And it is the only time we find it used in a prayer by Jesus.  Many of us have been brought up being taught that Abba was an Aramaic meaning daddy. However, abba was not merely a word used by young children. It was also the word that Jewish children used for their parents after they were fully grown. Abba was a mature, yet affectionate way for adults to speak to their fathers.” Abba is profoundly respectful; the deferential language of the Servant reporting to His God, yet at the same time is deeply intimate in a way that no other mortal could have used the word. Respect and familiarity seem to come together in Abba

      In the patriarchal societies of antiquity, the father figure is endowed with two particular characteristics. On the one hand, the father rules as head of the household and the person to whom most respect is due, having absolute authority over his family. On the other hand, he has the responsibility of guarding, supporting and helping the other members.

      Jesus’ use of the word Abba is extremely significant, for it communicates Jesus’ perception of his Father. He refused to allow this heart-breaking experience to alter his perception of his Father. In the agony of his heart he still had a deep love and respect for his father. So the ‘abba’ word tells us how Jesus is approaching this time of prayer.

      In this prayer Jesus was honest. As a man Jesus did not want to die a death which was the result of the wrath of God upon the sin of the world. Jesus referred to the Cross as the "hour" and the "cup." The first expression includes everything involved in the Cross. The "cup" figuratively spoke of God's judgment in the Cross.  Yet His desire to obey his father was greater than his desire to avoid the cross. 

        It was a prayer of submission. Submission is not about gritting your teeth and clinching your fists. It is not about determination, and being strong minded. Rather, submission is the consequences of allowing God to change your heart; it is the natural result of authentic fellowship with God.

      The word the bible uses for submit/submission was a military term; to arrange in order file/rank, to get in order under someone else.

        Leaving Gethsemane.

     Jesus left the garden of Gethsemane very different than when he arrived. His circumstances hadn’t improved, in fact they were going to get a whole lot worse, but Jesus’ resolve was back.   Jesus advanced rather than retreated and accepted the cup from his Father’s hands and from the hand of sinners.  Mark’s account of Jesus’ words and actions demonstrates that Jesus was not forced into suffering and death but actively and obediently laid down his life.  It is Jesus who affirms and initiates this final confrontation.  His command to “Rise, let us be going” is similar to a military commander ordering his troops forward into battle.  

       Conclusion.

     It is a long journey through the garden of Gethsemane. It is an emotional rollercoaster. It is a place where real spiritual work is done, where priorities are established, where we wrestle to accept the will of God. It is a place where we find the courage and strength to keep going; it is a place where we have an opportunity to show God the full extent of our love for him. 

 

 

 

Date 11th October 2015
Speaker Alan Wilson
Subject

The Humanity of Jesus

Jesus and the Holy Spirit Luke 3:21-22, 4:1, 10, 18-19

      As we look at the humanity of Jesus we want to look at Jesus’ relationship with the Holy Spirit. The humanity of Jesus not only teaches us what it means to be human, but it also teaches us about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Before we start let’s set down some things that will help us in our thinking.

1.   Jesus lived normally within the confines of his human limitations, relying predominantly on the divine resources of the Father and the Holy Spirit, while using his own divine power infrequently, if at all.  As a man Jesus lived the life he lived not because he had a divine nature but because he was predominantly dependant on the Holy Spirit. As a man he chose to live a life that required the empowering of the Holy Spirit.  In a sermon to the Gentile Cornelius and his household, the apostle Peter offered a summary statement of the ministry of Jesus: “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38). On occasions Jesus did display aspects of his divine nature, for example when he was transfigured, or when he forgave sin, for only God can forgive sin; but for the most part, Jesus lived as an ordinary man who had a life that was empowered by the Holy Spirit.

2.   The humanity of Jesus teaches us how the Holy Spirit wants to relate to us. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came upon people for a specific period of time for a specific purpose. For example when Saul became King he was anointed by the Spirit. We are told, ‘When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.’ 1 Samuel 10:10. Then because of Sauls’ disobedience we are told. ‘But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing Spirit from the Lord troubled him!’ Samuel 16:14. That is why in Psalm 51 David prayed. ‘Take not your Holy Spirit from me.’

       But in the humanity of Jesus we see that we were created to live a life of dependence on the Father and empowered by the Spirit; a life of continual dependence on the Holy Spirit.

      We are told in John 3:34 that Jesus had the Spirit in his life without limit, and Jesus’ experience of the Spirit was greater than ours, but that does not mean that Jesus ceases to be our example or prototype of what it means to live as Spirit filled people.

3.  We have all been uniquely designed by God, and given unique lives that are created to require and accommodate the Holy Spirit. We have all been given lives that have been purposed built by God to be suitable ‘accommodation’ for his Spirit. If Jesus is our example of authentic humanity who we are to follow and imitate, then he needed to live a life dependant on the Holy Spirit. If Jesus had chosen to make his deity the predominate source of his life and ministry, he would have ceased to be truly human and we would not be able to imitate him. The Holy Spirit wants to be to us everything that he was to Jesus.  Or you could say, as a man Jesus needed to learn to relate to the Holy Spirit in order to be authentically human.

     In Luke chapters 3-4 we read a lot about Jesus’ relationship with the Holy Spirit. So we want to briefly look at 5 things that these chapters teach us about Jesus his relationship with the Spirit and the kind of relationship we need to have with the Holy Spirit.

1.At his baptism the Holy Spirit affirmed the Father’s love for Jesus.

            Luke 3:22 reads ‘And the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came from heaven; You are my Son whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ I don’t think that this was Jesus’ first experience of the Holy Spirit, We are not ‘explicitly’ told if Jesus had previous experiences of the Spirit, but there are some implied indications that the Holy Spirit was active in his early life, For example when Luke describes Jesus’ growth he does so in spiritual terms see Luke 2:52. However, at His baptism, Jesus had an experience of the Spirit that prepared him for the next stage of his life. The Spirit descended upon him and affirmed the Love of his father.

  

        This reminds me of Romans 5:5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.’ There is a lot about the baptism of Jesus that is unique to him, and mysterious to us. However, we can be sure that what we learn from it that one of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to assure us of the love of God.

        Most of humanity, both inside and outside the church are living lives that are disconnected from the love of God, and that is our greatest problem. Many Christians have intellectual appreciation of the love of God, but have not really experienced it. As an authentic human Jesus teaches us than our humanity has been created to live in God’s love. It is through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we realise the reality of God’s love. Knowing the love of God in our heart brings assurance of salvation.

2. Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit. Luke 4:1a

      We often think of being filled with the Spirit as something like filling a cup with water, or pouring liquid into a container. But a better way to look at it is to understand the word to mean fulfil or to make complete. Because Jesus was God, the Holy Spirit was unable to add anything to Him. As God, Jesus was complete, but as a man Jesus needed to be filled or ‘fulfilled,’ by the Spirit; authentic humanity is made complete by the fulfilling of the Spirit. I love that, maturity and Spiritual growth are the result of being made complete by the Spirit. Up to this point in Jesus’ life, he had done no kinds of ministry, he hadn’t done any miracles or taught, yet he was full of the Holy Spirit. It was as if the Father was using the activity of the Spirit to develop Jesus in his humanity.  I like the thought that our development, maturity and growth as people is related to us being fulfilled or being made content by the inward work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  All the purposes of God are fulfilled in our lives by us being fulfilled by the Spirit.

3.     Jesus was led by the Spirit. Luke 4:1b.

         Here we are told that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. We are going to look at this in detail the next time. But just let me say that the word Luke uses for led is very different and the complete opposite of the word Mark uses in his account of the temptation of Jesus. We will compare the two words next time. However, the word Luke uses is a very gentle word which means to take someone by the hand and lead them gently forward. It was also used to describe the leading of an animal by a rope.

       There is one thing we can learn from Jesus about our humanity from this word; that is, we need to embrace and joyfully accept the fact that we have been created for a life of submission. This is so exciting and liberating; the realisation that our lives are not about us, or our agendas, but about God.

      Let me put this way, lack of submission is so curtailing for it drives a person into the dead-end cul- de- sac of their own horizons, robbing them of the glorious and the unexpected that is found in having a life that is defined by our relationship with God through his Spirit. 

      It is good to know that the leading of the Spirit in anyone’s life is initiated by the Spirit which means that God decides when we need special guidance or leading. The fact that the leading of the Spirit is God’s initiative means that our agendas, plans and goals are completely dispensable.

     Often in Christian circles when people talk or think about being led by the Spirit they are usually thinking about ministry, or being led to serve or help others. Now that often happens, however, the primary purpose of the Spirit’s leading is character transformation and making us more like Jesus. For example there might be a circumstances or a situation you feel threatened by, and you have a strong desire to take control, but you hear God saying through His Spirit ‘Stand back; let me deal with this, let me sort this out.’ The standing back that God may ask of us is so he can develop his work of transformation within us.

     Remember the verse from Hebrews 9:14 that says “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience.”  Jesus offered himself to God through the Spirit. It as if his willingness to be led by the spirit was an indication that he had offered himself to God.  

4.Jesus retuned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.

         Many commentators point out the fact that the Greek word for power dunamis is the word from which we get our English word dynamite. This may be true, but is not very helpful, for dynamite is usually a destructive power, but the power of the Holy Spirit is a positive, life giving power, is carries the idea of a dynamic or a break-through power. It also is a creative power, This is the word that was used in Luke1:35 where the angel told Mary that the power of the most High will over shadow her, so that the Holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

         For us who are Christians there must be a dependence on the power and strength of the Spirit.  Jesus needed to depend on the Spirit if his humanity and ministry was going to be authentic, helpful and glorifying to his father.

         The  lives God wants us to live, the people God wants us to be, the things God wants us do and the battles God wants us to fight, will always require the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. I think Jesus may have had mixed feelings as he returned to his home town, he needed the courage and the security that only the Holy Spirit could give. In tying the temptation in the wilderness to Jesus’ return to Galilee in the power of the Spirit Luke is making a very helpful point. When we are involved in spiritual warfare we are really fighting to maintain our submission to the Spirit. If Jesus had given into any of the temptations that he faced in the wilderness he would have been taking things into his own hands and putting himself outside the influence and power of the Holy Spirit.

5. Jesus was anointed by the Spirit.

    The word anointed means to sanctify or set something or someone apart for exclusive use. Luke 4:28-19. We read about Jesus’ anointing by the Spirit.

• The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
•19 to proclaim the years of the Lord’s favour.’

      These are amazing verses, which have a lot to teach us about Jesus relationship with the Holy Spirit and his mission. But there are two general principles which we can pick up from these verses.

 a.  The Holy Spirit prevents someone from being exclusive in their relationships.  When you look at the people these verses talk about, many of them would not fit in our middle class church structures.

       Clarence Jordan translated the passage:

      "The Lord's spirit is on me;
He has ordained me to break the good news to the poor people.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the oppressed,
And sight for the blind,
To help those who have been grievously insulted to find dignity;
To proclaim the Lord's new era." 

       As a perfect human, Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit to express his authentic humanity by pursuing and embracing the marginalized and the needy. 

 

 b.  Authentic humanity that is empowered by the Spirit is extremely relevant. Good news to the poor, freedom for the oppressed, sight for the blind, dignity for the insulted.

     The ministry of Jesus was really a demonstration of God’s original intention for humanity, where the people would live selfless lives being sensitive and caring about the needs of others. The work of the Holy Spirit in someone life will cause them to be other-centered never self -centered. 

     Conclusion.

     From the life of Jesus we learn that to be really human means that we need to live a life that is dependent on the Holy Spirit and be empowered by the Holy Spirit. This means that submission to God and his Spirit needs to become a joyful ongoing, natural expression of our redeemed humanity.

 

 

Date 2nd August 2015
Speaker Alan Wilson
Subject

Jonah Chapter 4

Jonah 4.
I want us to look at the subject of self protection from the life of Jonah, but we’re going to consider it from the angle of how we are all inclined on some level, either consciously or unconsciously trying to protect ourselves from God.  Although we may not recognise it, we can all do this from a greater or lesser degree. So to help us grasp the message of Jonah 4 let me read a part of an article written by Emma Straub.

"I always knew I wanted to be a writer, and so by the time I graduated from college, I was ready to get the show on the road. As I’ve told you before, my overnight success didn’t go as planned, and I spent the next decade trying to get published. While I was sure that what I was experiencing was completely normal, I was surrounded by a downright hellish truth: there were other people, some of whom I knew, who were having no trouble whatsoever. Every morning brought news of yet another 20-something woman with a book deal, sometimes for half a million dollars. I could have used half a million dollars! Were those women as good as I was at looking for pretend real estate on the internet? Were they as funny, as charming, as self-deprecating? They were not! Of course, I had no idea what these women were actually like. All I knew was that I hated them.
Thus began my years of torment. Keep in mind that I wasn’t tormented because anything truly awful was happening to me. Getting lots of rejections wasn’t a walk in the park, but it wasn’t physically painful. No one ever threatened my safety, or that of my family. In fact, the rejection letters almost always contained at least one or two compliments, and the editors always, without exception, wished me well. No, I was angry and jealous because good things were happening to other people. I was sure that I was smarter, prettier, more deserving. I was a harder worker, more prepared for wild success, more television-ready! I wanted to drown the people I knew who had sold their books—I wanted to torture them, slowly. And if once they were published those books actually sold well, I was inconsolable."
In some ways these words sum up the attitude of Jonah chapter four. Jonah was angry and upset because he could not comprehend why God would want to show mercy to the people of Nineveh. Jonah could not cope with God choosing to forgive and bless people who were known for their great wickedness and cruelty. Because Jonah understood the far reaching consequences of the grace of God he was unable to live comfortably with it. Before we look the passage let me say a few things

1. It would have been tidier if the book of Jonah had ended with chapter 3. There we read about how the people  of Nineveh repented of their sin and turned to God for forgiveness .  Look at what it says.

The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, 8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.  Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” 
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.  The bible is not like a fairy tale or a Hollywood film with nice neat endings, where everything is happy; it is very real, very life- like and messy.

2. In the forth chapter we are given a more intense look at Jonah, it is like a camera zooming in and showing us detail that we would not see in the big picture. Up to now the focus has been on what Jonah has be doing, or saying, but now the focus is on Jonah’s inner world.  Jonah talks about how he is feeling. The chapter begins by saying Jonah was greatly displeased. The word that is used for displeased means deep sorrow or pain that makes someone tremble or shiver. Jonah is having a meltdown.

3. Sometimes the people of God are the most reluctant to deal with the issues of the heart. In Jonah we have the ultimate expression of someone who refuses to deal with what is really going on inside. The people of Nineveh repented, they confronted their sin, but Jonah refused.  The writer wants us to see the contrast between the repenting pagans and the unrepentant prophet. Some people think that chapter two is a prayer of repentance, but I think it is more a prayer for deliverance from the depth. If you read chapter two carefully you will notice that Jonah makes no mention of his sin.

4. The book of Jonah is primarily about God wrestling with a man. It is Gods pursuit for intimacy with his prophet. It is God stripping his prophet of a tightly held mindset, worldview and theology that had shaped Jonah and prevented him from really knowing the heart of God

So what can we learn from Jonah?

  1. We can do the will of God without sharing the heart of God. Jonah did what God asked him to do, he went to the city of Nineveh and preached a message the God gave to him. However he did  not want these people to repent, he did not what them to receive mercy, he knew how evil they had been, and that they deserved judgment.

Sometimes the will of God can be very scary and demanding. Jonah is the only person in the Old Testament that was sent to a foreign nation to preach to them. That was tough; no one had ever done this before. But there is something that may be tougher and more demanding than the will of God, and that is knowing the heart of God. Feeling the heart of God usually blows our comfort zones to pieces and messes with our heads. It is demanding, challenging and often makes us feel uncomfortable and vulnerable   I want to try and make this as practical as possible. But before I do that, I just want to say, that the application of this chapter to our lives is extremely difficult and even more painful. So what I am going to say, I want to say it with deep sensitivity and love, realizing it will be difficult for some.

I wish the book of Jonah had ended at the end of chapter 3, but it didn’t. The raw vulnerability of knowing the heart of God confronts us in this forth chapter. Let us talk about your ‘Nineveh.’  We have all been touched by a ‘Ninevite.’ Many of us have experienced mistreatment, cruelty, abuse and pain from others. Many bear scars of injustice, both physical and emotional. To be honest we all are inclined to hide our scars, for they cause us to feel demoralizing shame. Every time we think about the Ninevite who hurt us, or hear their name, or see their face  our hearts beats faster, our stomach knots, our eyes water and we become conscious of our scars as our hearts fill with sadness.     When you here that God loves the people of Nineveh, how do you feel? When you are told that God loves the evil ‘Ninevite’ that may have destroyed your life and broke your heart, what do you think? How can God love that person who has brought unimaginable pain and sorrow into your life as much as he loves you. It is not fair, it feel unjust. And that is Jonah’s problem. Jonah cannot reconcile that God would choose to love people who were famous for their cruelty and abuse.
God wanted his Prophet to share his heart, to see the people of Nineveh as he saw them, but this was too much for Jonah, so he did what God asked him without knowing God’s heart. Jonah did not realise that to live a life without embracing the heart of God is never a benign experience. To put it another way, not to know the heart of God will cause us to become dysfunctional people.

Let me point out what we are told about the condition of Jonah's heart:-

He was angry. At this point Jonah was completely motivated by his anger. The Hebrew reads. It was evil to Jonah a great evil and it burned to him.The word for anger literally means to burn inside to be incensed or furious.  His anger is expressed by him becoming self obsessed. In the Hebrew the words I, me, and my are found nine times in this chapter. That is what anger does to a person it drives them into selfish, self-centred living. It makes a person the focus of their own lives. Anger and selfishness are sometimes difficult to separate.

His anger caused him to withdraw. Look at what he did. Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. He withdrew; he stopped engaging with God and with others. That is what anger does to a person, they become more and more isolated, and any engagement they do have with others is usually fraught with difficulties. .
Let me gently ask, are you an angry person? Do you need to come to terms that your anger has become the defining thing in your life? Are you angry with God, with others and with yourself? Listen to these words, taken from a book called Holy Hunger by Margaret Bullitt-Jones.
‘I realized it was time to confront my life. It was time to learn who I was. Enormous anger flowed through me as I broke out of the depression, as if the anger were opening up, enlarging and making firm some kind of inner structure within which would be safe to grieve, to wonder and to explore. For once anger was not a stranger, not a thief stealing into my house. For once the anger was mine; beside me, within me, recognizable, wearing my clothes, inhabiting my body, with my very own face. Here I was. This was me. I recognized myself. I could live with this. For too long I’d been trying to shut it out, and now here it was- in me, around me, defining the space that I lived in like a sturdy house built with my own two hands. This was me. I was home. I could live with this. I was as mad as hell, but I was on my way.’

Jonah had a bizarre value system.  Look at verses 5-7

Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.6 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant  and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant? “It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
If this incident was not so tragic, it would be funny. Jonah got very excited about the tree that grew up over night. The NIV says that he was ‘very happy about the plant.’ That is not a very good translation; it would be better translated as extremely joyful or ecstatic. He may have thought that this was God’s vindication of him. He felt covered protected, sheltered. The next day God removed the plant and Jonah was extremely angry. In fact the Hebrew of verse 9 is an expletive. Jonah was emotionally tied to this plant that lasted for one day. For Jonah life was all about having his needs met.
However, that selfish attitude meant he viewed the people of Nineveh as less than human; he did not care for them. He would have been happy if they were destroyed. Here was a prophet of God, doing the will of God without understanding the heart of God. So God wanted to try and communicate to Jonah something about how he felt

Jonah experienced the pain of loss so he could feel something of what God was feeling.

In verses 10-11 God addresses him ‘But the Lord said, You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died over night.  
God allowed Jonah to experience loss, exposure and vulnerability. The word concern carries the idea of feeling compassion. We have all got things in our lives that we find shelter and protection under. We have all tried to find safety in some kind of transient flimsy shelter. Any one of us can turn the provision of God into our place of security, instead of allowing God to be that place for us. God took from Jonah the very thing Jonah found his Joy in. The distress Jonah felt when he lost his plant was a slight reflection of how God would feel with the loss of the people of Nineveh,

Conclusion

  • Jonah eventually obeyed the Lord. But he did it without sharing God’s heart. He was not prepared to open himself totally up to God so he could share God’s heart. His anger, isolation, and misguided priorities were the things he used to keep God at a distance. The last thing he wanted was to ache with God, to share God’s distress over a lost world, to allow the unlovable to be loved.
  • Not to share the heart of God and embrace his pain means that we are not prepared to enter into real fellowship with him. It is to keep God at a distance, to live disconnected from him.
  • Not to share the heart of God and embrace his pain means that we do not see the world as he sees it. 
  • Not to share the heart of God and embrace his pain will mean that will have different priorities to him.
  • Not to share the heart of God and embrace his pain means that we will not grasp the needs of those around us.
  • Not to share the heart of God and embrace his pain means is to dehumanise who we really are, not being able to discover the potential of the image of God in us.
  • Finally, not to share the heart of God and embrace his pain means that we live our lives from a posture of self protection, being afraid to embrace, endure or share the love and sorrow of God’s redeeming Grace.

It doesn’t have to be like this.
Is this what we really want?

Do we want to be disconnected from God? Or are we prepared to open ourselves up fully to God so we can know His heart and feel his pain and see those around us who are hurting with whom we can share Gods love.

It’s a painful process to embrace the heart of God but a necessary one if we are going to be the people God wants us to be and the people the world needs us to be.

 

 

 

 

Date 21st June 2015
Speaker Alan Wilson
Subject

The Joy of Holiness
Haggai Chapter 2, verses 10-19

I wonder what you get excited about.  What really brings you great joy and deep satisfaction? What kinds of things animate you and set you alight? I am sure we have all different answers to that question, but I want us to consider this question before we get into our text. Do you ever get excited about living a holy life? Holiness and excitement in the same sentence!!!  I don’t think we often get excited about holiness. It not something we often talk about.  We don’t lie in bed and dream about being holy. We don’t get over joyous about holiness. In fact we often view holiness negatively; we see it as something that is boring or dull, something that is not worth getting too excited about. Or we ignore it or neglect it. It is not something we really give much attention to.  Our lack of excitement about holiness has robbed us of the glorious life God has called us to. We won’t appreciate the glory of living a holy life until we learn to love and enjoy holiness.

In Haggai 2:10-19 God addresses his people for the third time through the prophet Haggai about their lack of purity. In some ways this is a remarkable message, because it starkly underlines the kind of relationship God longs for with his people.  At this time the people were obeying God, they were in the process of rebuilding the temple. They were doing what God had asked. But their obedience became part of the problem .They were rebuilding the temple, and making sacrifices without dealing with their hearts.  So along comes Haggai with a message that goes beyond the surface of things and exposes what is going on in their hearts.  (We need to keep in mind, that through his prophets God was pursuing his people, and that pursuit was painful for both God and his people.) This was God asking his people to be absolutely honest about themselves. God wanted them to do His will, but not out of a sense of duty, out of love that flowed from a heart that was right with him.

We need to understand the nature of holiness.
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Ask the priests what the law says: If someone carries consecrated meat in the fold of their garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, olive oil or other food, does it become consecrated?’”
The priests answered, “No.”
Then Haggai said, “If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does it become defiled?”
“Yes,” the priests replied, “it becomes defiled.”

These are very strange verses to us, but to the people of Israel they made a lot of sense. When the priest received consecrated food from the alter it was considered to be holy. So Haggai asks. If the food that the priest’s brings from the place of sacrifice touches other food does that other food become holy. And the priest answers no. Then Haggai asked, ‘If someone who is defiled or unclean because they have touched a dead body, and that person touches one of the things Haggai mentions, do they become unclean, the priest answered yes. In other words holiness is not contagious, but sin is.

Let me illustrate, if you had a bowl of dirty water, and you pour some clean water into the bowl, would the dirty water become clean? No. Now if you were to pour some dirty water into a bowl of clean water, would that water become dirty?   Yes.  So what is the point Haggai is trying to make?

Holiness is not contagious.  These people were doing ‘holy things,’ therefore they must be holy, they were busy doing the will of God, but they needed to realize that doing ‘holy’ things, or being with ‘holy people will never make a person holy.
Let’s be honest, that is the kind of holiness most of us want, where we go to the right places, and rub shoulders with the right people and we hope that we become better people. But that is not how it works. To become holy we need to know the internal transformation that only the forgiving grace of God can bring. We need God to search, forgive and change us. Sometimes our busyness for God is a smoke screen that hides what is really going on in our hearts.  

 

Jesus spoke this issue when he said,
Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

We will need strength and preservation to do the will of God, but we will also require the right heart. God does not expect us to be perfect, but he does want us to be a people who love, enjoy and pursue holiness.

Service without sanctification is unpleasing to God. These people were busy building the temple, doing what God had asked them to do. But they were not growing in righteousness. They fell into the trap that said as long as we do what God asks, it does not matter what is going on in our hearts. The service they were doing was their way of ‘muddying the waters’ they were pouring dirty water into clean water, they were doing the right thing, [building the temple] but in the wrong way. The Lord condemned them for dishonouring Him by giving Him their hands of service in rebuilding His temple without giving Him their hearts of love.

Intimacy with God is more about character than service. You could say that holiness is the way the bible describes authentic maturity. It is the renovating of our characters into the likeness of Jesus.  God loves it when his people serve him. But serving him is not Gods ultimate will for our lives. What God wants above all else is intimacy with us. If we are unprepared to deal with the issues of our hearts, and joyfully take holiness seriously we will not be able to experience the intimacy that God longs to have with us.  Jesus once said, ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’ Think of the implications of what Jesus is saying here. God is aware how far or near our hearts are from him.

 

So Haggai gives his people a message about holiness and how they can become holy people.

Holiness means that we are honest with ourselves about ourselves. Three times in this short message Haggai tells his people to consider their ways.  Give careful thought about the ways of your heart. The Hebrew literally means to take hold of something, to grip something. In our vernacular it is similar to ‘getting to grips with yourself, or taking yourself in hand.’  Many of us do not like to take a good look at ourselves. It is easy for us to become the wrong people doing the right thing. The people Haggai was talking to were rebuilding the temple, but they had not repented or returned to the Lord.

If you  compare Haggais 2nd message with his third message there was a period of time of about two months, [see Haggai 2:1, and 2:10] Now, during those two months the prophet Zechariah brought a message to the people seen Zechariah 1:1-6. The message he brought was a call to repent and return to the Lord.
When God calls us to repent, he is actually calling us to himself. I love that.
Repentance is us moving towards God in order to receive his Grace. But we need to take a good look at our lives, and choose to move toward God in repentance.

Holiness means that we do not live in the present as we lived in the past.
Look at what Haggai said to the people.
‘Consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the LORD's temple.  When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten. When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty. I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not turn to me,' declares the LORD.

I sense when the people had returned to the land they had a half hearted relationship with God, they did not live fully consecrated lives, so God disciplined them, and one of the ways he disciplined them was to strike the work of their hands with blight, mildew and hail.    When Haggai spoke about blight, mildew and hail, he was quoting a sermon preached by Amos 240 years earlier.  The people of Israel had rebelled against God, and God needed to discipline them.  See Amos 4:9.  Haggai wants these people to learn from the past. Their fore-fathers were half-hearted in the relationship with God; they did not need to make the same mistake.
This is a glorious truth about holiness, we don’t have to live as we lived in the past, things can be very different. Holiness is having the character and the freedom not to repeat the sins and mistakes that have marred us in the past. Holiness is growing out of our past. Some people treat the past like a child’s security blanket, they refuse to let it go, and it becomes a symbol of their immaturity.  
Holiness assures us that change is possible. I don’t know if you have ever thought of this, but most of the sinful habits we develop start off with us trying to manage our insecurities in the wrong way. So we feel insecure and in an attempt to medicate our insecurity we resort to sinful practices to help us feel better about ourselves, or to protect ourselves, and over a period of time those sinful responses develop into habits.  Let me illustrate this.  When my friend Sam got a job as a Pastor and I didn’t, I felt so insecure and vulnerable which led to me feel  jealous of him. Or another illustration is pornography addiction, it usually starts off with someone feeling unloved, uncared for, insecure and vulnerable, so they resort to sinful behavior in an attempt medicate the pain they feel.
Holiness produces security in a person; the idea behind being holy is that something or someone is set apart for special use.  Being set apart produces moral purity. It is like someone being selected for a very important role or position.  So when God tells us to be holy, he is setting us aside from the norm for Himself. When you look at the presents under the Christmas tree, each present has a name tag, which indicates that each present had be set  aside exclusively for that person. So think of the implications of God setting you aside just for himself. Being holy is the consequence of realizing that Jesus has died for your sin, so God can set you apart for himself. If you grasp that your life has been set apart for God, think of the security that produces in a person.  Being set apart to play for your nation or being set apart to receive some honour from the queen is wonderful. But imagine being set apart by God for God. Knowledge of the love of God is the greatest sanctifying influence a person can experience. Or to put it another way, we will be able to live Holy lives when we are secure in the love of God.

Holiness helps us to have a healthy perspective about the providence of God. Haggai interpreted the circumstances these people were facing, as God’s way of trying to get his people to return to him. 2:17. ‘’I struck all the works of your hands with blight, mildew and hail. Yet you did not return to me declares the Lord.’

You could say that these verses are a brilliant exposition of Romans 8:28. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

This is one of those verses that people like to quote, without really understanding what it really means. The ‘good' that this verse refers has a very exclusive meaning, it is referring only to the transformational work of God in the life of a Christian, making them more like Jesus, or holy.  
God is determined that we should become holy people. Our holiness is the ultimate expression of our humanity and the goal of God’s providence.

Holiness recognises that a changed character is more important than changed circumstances. For three months these people had been working on the temple. And during those months nothing changed regarding their circumstances, look at what Haggai says. ‘Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now the vine and the fig tree the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit.’ Haggai 2:19. They were still short of food; all their needs where not being met. It would have been very easy for God to change their circumstances, but it was more necessary for God to change them. So for three long months they worked on building the temple and they learned a massive lesson about God. God is a God who we cannot have a transactional relationship with. They could not say to God. ‘We are building your temple, you owe us, and you are in our debt.’ Of course we would never say that but maybe we think it. Deep down we might think to ourselves, I deserve better, or God I have earned your blessing.

Conclusion
Haggai’s message ends with the words  ‘From this day I will bless you.’ Haggai brought a very strong and direct message to the people, but despite all he said he wanted them to know that God intended to bless them. I think the best way to understand blessing is to see it as God’s enjoyment of us.
Holiness is our enjoyment of God, blessings is Gods enjoyment of us. 

 

 

Date 28th June 2015
Speaker Childrens Workshop
Subject

David and Goliath

David strolled into the army base,
With a spring in his step and a smile on his face.

When up from the battle ground over yonder,
Boomed a gruff, rough yell as loud as thunder,
“Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum!
I smell a boy from Bethleh-um!
Why have a war? Fight me instead!
And I’ll grind your bones to make my bread!”

“Who shouted that?” he inquired of a soldier,
“That is a man with a head like a boulder,
He hasn’t a beard, but gnarling out of his nose is
Thick hair filled with food chunks older than Moses.
His breath reeks of out-of-date horseradish sauce,
And his armpits contain nineteen species of moss!”

David continued ’til he found his dear siblings,
Stammering, cowering, crying and quibbling.
“I’m only delivering cheese and bread,
But if you prefer, I’ll kill that giant,” he said.

“No,” chimed his brothers, “T’would be folly to trieth,
No-one has beaten the Mighty Goliath!
Some say that he only eats cheese and raw meat,
And has curly black hair on the soles of his feet.
His blood-blistered eyes flash yellow and red,
And there’s a mushroom-shaped wart growing out of his head!”

Eliab spat, “That brute’s bigger than you!
I’d bet three hundred shekels you don’t make Round Two!”
“He might scare you, but he don’t scare me!
I won’t let him yell such blasphemy.
Hold on to your hats, it’s about to get messy;
The Mighty Goliath versus Dave, son of Jesse!”

David strode up to the anxious King Saul,
And declared, “I’m your champion, pick me for the brawl!”
Saul said, “Don’t be daft, sure you’re only a squirt,
It’s all fun and games ’til you go and get hurt!
He’s polished his shield with fresh wax from his ear,
And the face of his mum is tattooed on his rear.
His helmet is one of his handsomest features;
It’s made from the skulls of his Primary School Teachers!
Leave fighting like this to the grown-ups, son.”
But David insisted, “Nuh-uh, I’m the one.”

So Saul gave David his finest armour,
But David replied, “No, I’m a farmer.
I might be short, but I’m real tough,
I haven’t the time for this armour stuff.
Your helmets and shields are pointless bling,
All that I need is my God and my sling!”

“Okay then,” said Saul, “If Goliath gets slaughtered,
I’ll give you some cash and you’ll marry my daughter.”

So David strode into No-Man’s Land,
With his God in his heart and his sling in his hand.

And there, so ginormous he blocked out the weather,
Was a giant with soggy grey skin like wet leather.
He hadn’t a beard, but gnarling out of his nose was
Thick hair filled with food chunks older than Moses.
His breath reeked of out-of-date horseradish sauce,
And his armpits contained nineteen species of moss.
His lunchbox held only blue cheese and raw meat,
And he had curly black hair on the soles of his feet.
His blood-blistered eyes flashed yellow and red,
And a mushroom-shaped wart grew out of his head
He’d polished his shield with fresh wax from his ear,
And the face of his mum was tattooed on his rear.
His helmet was one of his handsomest features;
T’was made from the skulls of his Primary School Teachers.

“Pah” boomed Goliath, “Haw-har, what a laugh!”
You send out a boy with a sling and a staff?
I’ll yank his brain through his ears, and his guts out his nose,
I’ll feed that to the dogs, and the rest to the crows!”

David replied to the Philistine,
“Alright now, bub, you’ve crossed the line.
I really don’t care for the weapons you’ve brought,
They don’t bother me, because I’m with God!”

Even before there was time for surprise,
A pebble embedded itself twixt his eyes.
Then with a thunderous, sickening THUD,
Goliath fell flat on his nose in the mud!

King Saul warbled, “Are you sure that he’s dead?”
So just to make sure David lopped off his head!
“The giant is beaten!” young David declared,
“Well, that ended quickly,” said the men as they stared.

“Huzzah!” cheered the troops, “Let us buy you a beer!”
“Oh no,” David blushed, “It is God that’s the hero.”