The Ministry of the Pew

25/02/2015

We recently looked at this article in PCC (Church Council). It is originally from The Briefing and can be found here. Enjoy:

Factotum #1: The Ministry of the Pew

The ‘Pew Prayer’

Some years ago a pastor, Ray Ewers, instructed me in the finer art of how to walk into church. To most people, this might appear to be a rather basic accomplishment requiring little or no tutelage. Perhaps a family with five toddlers would appreciate some advice, but most of us would never give it a thought. Ray’s instruction was very brief: “Pray about where you sit”.

Praying seemed like a great way to walk into church, better than grumbling about the full car park or feeling annoyed that the first hymn, ‘Tell Out My Soul’, was sung to Tidings and not Woodlands. But of all the things to pray about, why should I be concerned with seating position? After all, I sit in my pew every week.

Ray’s advice was based on a particular view of church. He saw church as a place where Christians go to work. Church is a gathering of God’s people to hear his word and respond in faith and obedience. In this gathering, we are in fellowship with each other, through the blood of Jesus, and, because of our fellowship, we seek to serve each other. We use our gifts and abilities to strengthen one another and build Christ’s Church—‘edification’ is the word often used to describe what goes on in church. All believers are involved in building the church, not just clergy or preachers. The New Testament consistently teaches that in the growth of the body of Christ each part must do its work (see Eph 41 Cor 12-14). Because of this, we aren’t to see ourselves merely as part of an organization called ‘St Hubert’s Church’, but as servants of God’s people, eager to meet the needs of others even if it means sacrificing our own.

Ray’s view of church was spot on. With this perspective, his advice to pray about my choice of pew makes perfect sense. If at church we are working to strengthen our fellow believers, where we sit becomes important since part of our work will be talking to our neighbour in the pew, welcoming people, helping each other understand God’s word and praying with each other.

The ‘Pew Prayer’ was a significant turning point in my understanding of what church is all about. It changed my reasons for going to church. The shift was made from being the ‘helpee’ to the helper, the served to the servant. Church is where we seek spiritual food and encouragement in order to become more godly; but church is also where we go in order to feed other people and encourage them. In God’s mercy, we become more Christ-like in the process, as like him we deny ourselves for the sake of others. But our purpose in gathering with God’s people is to strengthen them and build the body of Christ. We look for opportunities to assist the growth of the church in practical ways, which is what Factotum is all about. There are numerous ways in which we can carry out the ministry of the pew. In this issue of Factotum, we’ll look at some of them.

Bring others to your meetings

One of the obvious ways we can build the church is to invite others. The minister or the evangelism committee only has limited opportunities to attract others in to your church meetings. The members in the pew, however, are in touch with hundreds of people in the community.

There are several reasons we baulk at inviting people to church:

1. WE THINK CHURCH IS FOR CHRISTIANS NOT UNBELIEVERS

Our understanding of church as a gathering of God’s people to hear his word tends to make church inward-looking and create a ghetto-like mentality which excludes people. We can easily think that church is only for the faithful. However, church is about growing in godliness and the God whom we serve is outward-looking and concerned for the salvation of all mankind. The Word which we meet to hear is a message of salvation for all people and so we must seek out others as God has found us. Paul expected that unbelievers would be in the church (see 1 Corinthians 14:22f).

This gives us the happy dilemma of making church work for Christians and unbelievers. Over the years, many churches have run separate services for believers and outsiders—a ‘regular service’ and an ‘evangelistic service’. However, this solution is often based on the false premise that preaching to Christians is fundamentally different to evangelising non-Christians.

But all Biblical preaching should be gospel preaching. Any and every part of the word of God is ultimately instructing us in the gospel of Jesus. It is too limited a view of the gospel to think that it is only preached in a sermonette from John 3:16. To preach the Bible without being Christ-centred is to mis-preach the Bible. To preach the Bible in a Christ-centred fashion is to evangelise as you teach. If we preach the word of God, the gospel of our salvation, the church will be edified in both the conversion of sinners and the godliness of believers. So church is always a scene of evangelism.

Our personal evangelism with friends and contacts is strengthened by this church-based evangelism. It is easier for new converts to commit themselves to church if they have already attended. The preacher can be more direct and confronting than in personal relationships. Through expository preaching, they learn how to read the Bible and see the grand sweep of God’s purposes in Christ. They see the unity and historicity of the Scriptures which are impressive evidences for authenticity. They see the lives of other Christians, reassuring them that you are not a freak and removing prejudices against Christians and church, thus enhancing gospel communication. They also see in concrete terms how being a Christian will effect them. We can also capitalise on the teamwork of our church. Some are good at making friends with non-Christians, others at explaining the gospel, others at following-up new Christians.

2. WE ARE EMBARRASSED BY OUR CHURCH MEETINGS

We will only invite our friends to church if we are enthusiastic about what happens there. If the gospel is not being preached, there is no point bringing outsiders. We have to do all in our power to make sure that our church preaches the gospel, or find one that already does. There are too many churches in our land that are not preaching the gospel and there is no reason for a Christian ever to be supporting one.

If our church is preaching the gospel but doing it poorly, in a way that is inaccessible to non-Christians, the members in the pew can often provide the motivation for improving things by their commitment to bring others along. Those who are gospel-minded will want to re-examine traditional service styles, if they see that these are a hindrance to newcomers. But sometimes they won’t recognise the problem until unbelievers are actually sitting in the pews. Only then do we start to see our meetings through the eyes of outsiders and we feel the healthy pressure to change what is alienating to newcomers.

When we find church dull, boring and irrelevant, there is no way we will invite friends. If they do happen to turn up, we are desperately embarrassed, cringing over every fault and flaw in the meeting. On the other hand, if we find church challenging, exciting, enjoyable, meaty and worthwhile, we will want to invite our friends and neighbours to share with us.

3. WE ASSUME PEOPLE WON’T COME TO CHURCH

As I write this, a Telecom technician is doing some work in our house. I should invite him to church to hear the gospel, but I can’t imagine him coming. He wouldn’t fit in; he probably lives too far away; he’ll be suspicious of my motives; he’s so frustrated with the job he would probably hit me—I’ve just talked myself out of making the invitation. I’m a pessimist.

Actually, Australians are far more willing to go to church than Christians are willing to invite them. It’s hard for strangers like my Telecom man to accept such an invitation, but those who share in other social events with us—our friends, colleagues, neighbours and relatives—will often come to church.

But we have to be optimists, not pessimists. Seligman, author of the bookLearned Optimism, produces evidence that successful salespeople are optimists. However, the reason for their success is not that optimists have better skills in selling, but that they don’t give up. Unlike pessimists, they keep knocking on doors and making phone calls because they believe in the product and that people should have it. If we are optimistic about people joining us in church, we will keep making invitations on the assumption that some will come. If we invite people often enough we are sure to get some along. My problem is that I become a pessimist after a few knock-backs.

Thinking through ‘people work’

However, the ministry of the pew goes far beyond advertising and inviting people to hear the gospel. Once we make the attitude shift from being passive pew sitters and receivers to active workers and givers, there is no end to the difference we can make to others and to the running of the meeting. All of the suggestions below are of the informal type—things we can do at our own initiative. They are the types of involvement that every congregation member can have. The key to people work is to observe what happens around you and respond to people’s needs. Think through your church meetings chronologically. What can we do before, during and after the meeting?

Before

PREPARATION

One of our great contributions is our preparation. The minister should not be the only one preparing for church. We prepare by praying for the preacher, the musicians, the service leader, the Bible readers and the newcomers. We prepare by studying the Bible passages so that we maximize this learning opportunity by being sensitised to the issues and questions in the passages being taught. Such preparation also has other benefits. We are better equipped to enter into discussion with others if we have looked at the passage beforehand. It is also a great encouragement to the preacher to know that the congregation is eager to understand the Bible and willing to put in some effort. Preaching is hard work, both for the preacher and the listeners. An intelligent question, comment or observation upon the sermon is an enormous motivating factor for the preacher who, week by week, has to try and engage the congregation’s minds and hearts in the word of God. Those who sit in the pew can make a great contribution to those teaching from the pulpit.

MEETING VISITORS AND NEWCOMERS

We enjoy meeting our friends at church, but we need to develop a nose for new people. We need to sit with them and help them feel comfortable in this strange place by introducing ourselves and explaining what is going on. We should greet the non-Christian friends of other members and introduce our friends to others. It’s all about genuine hospitality. The way we welcome and look after people when they visit our homes should be a model for the household of God. And genuine, relaxed hospitality will slowly evaporate some of the prejudices held by outsiders.

ARRIVING EARLY

All of this requires that we arrive not on time or late, but early. That may be the greatest miracle of all.

During

ACTIVE LISTENING

People in the pews have an enormous impact on those who are teaching and leading. Communication is always a two way process. Energetic listening through taking notes, making eye contact with the preacher, sitting at the front, laughing at jokes (even old ones), will spur on the preacher. It is very hard to preach enthusiastically to a sleepy, distracted, fidgety group. Our active listening will also infect others with enthusiasm for learning, just as our fidgeting will discourage them. Unbelievers will also pick up that these ideas are worth listening to if they see rows of regulars eagerly soaking up the Bible.

SINGING

Similarly, those in the pew can be a great help to the singing and leading of music. It is everyone’s responsibility to share in the corporate singing of the congregation. The music may be well chosen and played but if it is poorly sung it is disheartening. Our enthusiasm and gusto in singing the great anthems of the faith is of great help to those around us and those leading the music, even if we can barely hold a tune. Just pretend you’re under the shower.

LOGISTICS

Each member in the pew also has an important part to play in the smooth running of the meeting. The devil will use anything to distract people from hearing the word of God. We musn’t rely on ushers to fix things. If the window needs to be opened, get up and do it. If the microphones are not right, signal to the speaker so the problem can be fixed before they continue on without being heard.

NEWCOMERS

Keep attending to newcomers’ needs. If they can’t find their way around the Bible or the service outline, or they don’t have a Bible, or they need to find the creche, help them yourself. It is your meeting, not the minister’s. It’s all about being observant and outward-looking.

After

DISCUSS GOD’S WORD

We have just heard the word of God and we spend all of morning tea talking about last night’s video. It isn’t right and we know it, but many of us are just uncomfortable starting up ‘spiritual’ conversations. If you get the ball rolling, others will pick it up. During your preparation and the sermon, think up some comments or issues to raise with others. Asking “What did you think of the sermon?” will usually put your neighbour into a coma, but making a specific comment like “I didn’t know Abel was a prophet. What makes someone a prophet?”, may generate a fruitful conversation. Even if the conversations don’t always get off the ground, your enthusiasm for learning the Bible will be contagious and non-Christians will see that church is not dull and boring but fascinating and life shattering.

PRAY WITH OTHERS

Use the supper time to meet others and find out their concerns and pray quietly with them. This will look a bit weird to newcomers with pairs of bowed heads all around the building, but they will know that we love each other and trust God’s providence.

NEWCOMERS

Newcomers tend to leave fairly quickly so we have to move fast by identifying the visitor in our pew and offering them conversation immediately after the service ends. It’s all very purposeful: make sure they are welcomed properly by you and your friends, maybe introduce them to the minister and help them see how they can fit in to the congregation. You may have to postpone catching your friends until after the newcomers have been cared for.

STAY LATE

Once you catch this vision of church, you are always the last to leave because the opportunities to minister don’t end until the last person leaves. Gone are the days of fitting church in between breakfast and brunch. Ministry of the pew takes time. In the forthcoming issues of Factotum, we’ll continue to explore practical ways in which we can be better Christian servants. Sorry to have ruined your ‘day of rest’. Church requires a lot of effort, if we are to build the body of Christ. Don’t worry: you have Monday to Saturday to rest so that you’ll be fit for next week’s work at church.

Training outline

This outline can be used to discuss Ministry of the Pew in a small group to work out how to implement these ideas in your church.

  1. Why think about where to sit in church?
  2. How would your church members express their reasons for attending church?
  3. How do these reasons affect what they do in church?
  4. Who in your church is actively engaged in the ministry of the pew? How can you encourage and support them?
  5. What is the attitude of your members toward bringing others to church?
  6. What practises in your church meeting last Sunday would have alienated non-Christians?
  7. Next Sunday carefully observe who in church is ‘left out’ in some way.
  8. What are your plans for your ministry from the pew?

God’s Big Story (5) – Rescue and the Saviour

16/02/2015

“God’s Big Story” – Rescue and the Saviour (Exodus 3:1-17)

PPP ICON4The Call of Moses:

1. At an Unexpected Time and Place (Exodus 3:1)

In the desert, aged 80 (Acts 7:23,30)

2. In an Unexpected Way (Exodus 3:2-4)
3. To an Unexpected Person (Exodus 3:7-10)

Hesitant about:
(a) Himself (3:11) – God’s reply (3:12)

(b) His Message (3:13) – God’s reply (3:14 cf John 8:58-59)

(c) His Reception (4:1) – God’s reply (4:2-9 cf the sign of the resurrection)

Moses still raises objections (4:10,13) – but went and became a great leader

Questions to consider

1. What do we learn about the Lord from this passage? How did He make Himself known to Moses – and how does He speak to us today?
2. Why had Moses spent 40 years in the desert when his people were in desperate need? What can we learn from those times in our lives when nothing seems to happen? What unexpected challenges might come to us in life?
3. Why was Moses so reluctant? What excuses did he make – and how did God answer these? When might we be hesitant – and what are our excuses?
4. What was the greatest challenge Moses faced? What is the greatest one we face – and what (or who) might help us? What do we learn from the revelation of God’s name as “I am”?


God’s Big Story (4) The promise

02/02/2015

“The Promise: A New Start”

(Genesis 12:1-3; 17:1-8)

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Notes of a sermon preached by Peter Bannister on 1st February 2015

 

“Promises, Promises”

How quickly they are made – and how soon they are forgotten

Think of the plaintive cry of young children;

“But Mummy, Daddy – you promised…”

– perhaps we begin to realise we’ve let them down

As someone once said:

“Parents are sometimes a bit of a disappointment to their children.  They don’t fulfil the promise of their early years”

Think of the promises made in workplace – perhaps offer of promotion or of an increase in salary which somehow never seems to materialise.

Think of promises made by some parents at baptisms – promise to bring up their child in Christian faith – yet never see them in church again.

One thing I can assure you for – over next 3 months we’re going to be inundated with all kinds of promises by politicians as we come up to the General Election – only afterwards that they find excuses why those promises couldn’t be fulfilled.

As someone once said :

“Vote for the party that promises least, that way you will be least disappointed”

But of course there is One Who never fails to keep His promise, One who will never let us down – even though there may be times when we think He has forgotten

Romans 4:20 – 21 Yet he (Abraham) did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

It is with this in mind that we turn to those opening verses in Genesis 12 – page 13

Let’s just recall where we’ve got to. Chapters 3 to 11 of Genesis are a trail of disasters –

The Fall PPP ICON2- Adam & Eve unable to keep the one command God had given them – and as a result thrust out of the Garden of Eden

The Flood - all because God had seen the wickedness on earth

The Tower of Babel - futile attempt to reach up into heaven – result was the scattering of people and the confusion of languages.  If you had troubles at school grasping the intricacies of French or German (perhaps nowadays Mandarin and Russian) – you know where to place the blame

Banishment.  Destruction.  Division.

Yet each time God in His grace gave a promise

After the  Fall, promise of one who would come who would crush the head of Satan (3:15)

With the Flood, not only the provision of the Ark to save Adam & family, but the promise that never again would the Lord destroy every living creature (8:21-23)

And what happened after the Tower of Babel?   Where was the promise?  Well, begins here in Genesis 12

Gen 12:1 not only a key event in life of Abraham (or Abram as was)

– not just a major change for his people

– but it is a turning point in the whole course of human history.

1The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.

Opening 3 verses give the promise of 3 great blessings – 3 blessings that overlap – all of which linked

1st BLESSING - what we’ve just read –

1. PPP ICON3The Promise of a Land. 

go to the land I will show you.

Could well have seemed ridiculous to Abram – after all, he was a city dweller.  Already uprooted himself from city of  Ur and settled in Haran.  Just when thing becoming reasonably comfortable, told to be on the move again.  He was to become a nomad – suppose if he had to fill in a form nowadays – where it said address – “Of no fixed abode”

I guess some of us have had the experience that just when things seem to be settling down, life becoming easier, suddenly it seems the Lord showing us it’s time to move – He has something else in store

Sometimes speaks to us as read His Word – or maybe circumstances

A new job – or loss of a job,  or new course of study

Illness or bereavement  – forced into a move

Maybe growing conviction that the Lord wants you somewhere else

Do we resist?  Or do what Abram did

4So Abram left, as the Lord had told him;

What lay behind it?  The promise of a land.. Promise repeated in 17:8:

8The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God

Abram never saw the fulfilment of this promise – in fact the only piece of ground he was to own in that land was the grave where he was to bury his wife, and where later he would be laid to rest.

Little did he realise prob over 600 years before the land was to come to his people

– the taking of the country under Joshua

– the establishment of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel
But in spite of not knowing the outcome – trusted God:

Hebrews 11:8 – 9  8By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.

Was that the final fulfilment of the promise?

The people of Israel were to come back to the land many times.

– came in to take possession after those years if slavery in Egypt

– came back after being driven to exile in Babylon

Or was the final fulfilment in 1948 with the founding of the State of Israel after Jews fled (as remembering last week) from Holocaust?

Actually Bible points to something far greater than this

The eternal promise is to be found on what lies beyond this earth

Heb 11:10  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

That’s the true inheritance – place of glory where God’s people are with the Lord Himself

Slaves – spirituals -“I’ve got a home in gloryland that outshines the sun”

“Swing low sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home” – song hear next Fri when Eng v Wales coming – but point to far more important!

Cf Jesus (Jn 14:3) “I am going to prepare a place…”  The best is yet to be

A Land

2nd Blessing linked with this

2.  A NATION

Gen 12:2-3  “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

A great nation , and a great name to accompany this

That had been the very aim of those building the Tower of Babel

Genesis 11:4  Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
& of course  plans came to nothing – result was v thing trying to avoid

But what about Abram.  Given a promise – could have seemed ridiculous.  Why?  Look at vs 4

4So Abram left, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.

75!   What children did he have?  None

Not particularly old nowadays  – at 75 things to look forward to.

I’m just about to receive a free TV licence (whether much to watch another matter) – but it’s free!

But somehow at 75 I don’t think I’d look forward to starting a family – think Glenda would be a bit surprised !

But this how Abr wd see promise of a great nation- repeated again in 15:2-5 

2But Abram said, “O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” 5He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

And Abram believed the Lord – at least for a time – but even a great man like Abram has feet of clay.   At the beginning of chap 16 Sarai convinces him that she can’t have children and the promise of a child will have to come another way – throught her maid Hagar – & Abram went along with the plan:

16:2,4 “Abram agreed to what Sarai said….He slept with Hagar and she conceived”

He failed to trust the Lord – and we’re still suffering the consequences of this nearly 4000 years later.

Had God finished with him?  Not a bit of it.  The promise comes again

Genesis 21:1 – 2  Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.

How old was Abram when promise given?  75

How old was he now?  Vs 5 tells us he was  100 when Isaac born.

His faith had been weak at times – just as no doubt it is with us

– but the Lord always keeps His promise

– even if sometimes it appears He has forgotten

“God’s delays are not God’s denials”

A Land

A Nation

3rd  Promise – Blessing for

3.  ALL PEOPLES

Gen 12:3  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Not just one nation – but all peoples on earth – reverse of what happened after Tower of Babel.  Then people were scattered.  Now people are blessed

Promise of blessing comes with a strong warning for those who not prepared to accept this  – those who curse the people of God will be cursed

Told later in OT (in Zech 2:8) – whoever touches the people of God are touching the apple of His eye – putting themselves in a dangerous situation

The promise of blessing is expanded

Gen 17:4-7  “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

And do you realise something? This applies to you and me, if we are people who share the faith of Abraham

Our God is the same God who is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob – we inherit His blessing

2 great passages in NT have both Peter & Paul saying the same thing:

Acts 3:25  And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’

Galatians 3:6 – 9   Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

All peoples! All nations!   That includes Christians throughout world –

those being persecuted (Iraq, Syria, N Korea), places where mission links are (Boroboro, Togo,  Romania, Midlands……) –  and you and me.

How does this blessing come about?

Just look 4 verse on in Gal 3 to verses 13-14

Galatians 3:13 – 14    Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”  14He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Where is the ultimate fulfilment of the promises of God?

Found in Christ – the one who in the very 1st vs of Matthew’s Gospel we are told is the son of David, the son of Abraham

– the one who took our sins on himself on the cross so that we could be forgiven and receive these great promises  given to Abraham

A Land - the homeland God prepared for us in glory

A Nation - the reminder that the Lord kept His promise of descendants becoming a great nation

All Peoples - the message of the Lord spreading out to the whole world

– including us, when we trust in Christ.

Abraham never saw the fulfilment of these promises himself

but he had the faith to trust that God was working His purposes out

and one day they would come

Paul in Romans 4:3 quotes the words of Gen 15:6:

 3What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”

Abraham believed God.  Way of promise today is still the way of faith

 

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 Sermon Headings and Questions for Discussion

Background: Genesis 3 – 11 – the Fall, the Flood & the Tower of Babel leading to Banishment, Destruction & Division – but also to the wonder of God’s Grace.

Three Promises of Blessing in Gen 12:1-3 (as Abraham knew – Romans 3:20-21):

1. A LAND (Gen 12:1)
– repeated in 17:8, and see also Hebrews 11:8-9

For fulfilment, see Hebrews 11:10

2. A NATION (Gen 12:2)
– reversal of Gen 11:4, in spite of seeming impossible (Gen 12:4)

Repeated in Gen 15:2-5, & beginning of fulfilment in Gen 21:2

3. ALL PEOPLES (Gen 12:3)
expanded in Gen 17:4-7

Repeated in New Testament – Acts 3:25 and Galatians 3:6-9
Accomplished through Christ – Galatians 3:13-14 (cf. Matt 1:1)

Same requirement for us – the way of faith (Gen 15:6 and Romans 4:3)

Questions

1. Why were both the command and the promises in Gen 12:1-4 so important – for Abram, his descendants – and for us today? What do we learn from Abram’s response?

2. The promise of Gen 12:2-3 (repeated in 15:2-5) took 25 years to be fulfilled (see Gen 21:1-2,5). What does this teach us about God – and what can we learn from it?

3. How do we become “heirs of the prophets” (Acts 3:25) and “children of Abraham” (Gal 3:7)? How is this promise fulfilled through the death of Jesus (Gal 3:10-14)?

4. What does Heb 11:8-10, 39-40 teach us about the promise of the Lord? In the light of verses 8 and 9, how should we understand the promise in Gen 17:8? If we are the Lord’s people, what have we to look forward to?


God’s Big Story (3) The Flood: A Great Rescue Genesis 6.5-22

26/01/2015

God’s Big Story (3) The Flood: A Great Rescue Genesis 6.5-22

Wembdon 25th January 2015

Reading: Genesis 6.5-22

Introduction – two sides to the character?

Dating and job interviews have a lot in common: in both cases the candidate is trying to present their strengths and conceal their weaknesses. And in both cases, those doing the asking want at all costs to avoid an unpleasant surprise of discovering that the nice exterior hides a nasty interior.

That is why one comic suggestion I came across has a lot of merit. In order to see what someone is really like, arrange a game of rounders, and then blatantly and unjustly call them out. See how they react. Or a modern equivalent, put them in front of a computer with slow internet! That will reveal their true character. (I’m rather glad neither Christa nor St George’s did that to me, I don’t know how I would have fared).

I mention this because for many people, Christians included, reading the Old Testament feels like discovering that God has two sides to him. The caricature reading is that in the NT he is a God of love and peace, and in the Old he is full of wrath and war. This morning’s passage is one of many (indeed the whole OT) which blow that myth apart. We see instead that God is gracious and faithful all the way through Scripture: to be sure that grace is revealed more clearly in Jesus and in the New Testament, but if we cut open the Bible’s story at any point, we can see that every part contributes to the one, Big Story.

Recap the story so far.

If you’ve just joined us, we’re on a year-long study of PPP ICONGod’s Big Story, following the story-line of the whole Bible. We began with God’s Creation: he made a beautiful world, he made us; and he loves everything he has made. In the Beginning there was God’s People in God’s Place enjoying God’s Blessing.

All that changed on one PPP ICON2Terrible day, commonly referred to as the Fall of Man, although it was not an accident so much as a deliberate rejection of God and his loving rule. The man and the woman’s rebellion changed the world forever and  spoiled their relationship with God; their relationship with each other; and their relationship with the natural world.

As a consequence, they were banished from the Garden. God’s People are now separated from God, banished from his Place, and rightly under his judgement and curse.

The rest of the Bible is the story of God’s Big Rescue to reverse the effects of Sin and restore his people to himself. And the story of Noah shows us the character of God’s rescue.

I should add that the recent film Noah bears little resemblance to the biblical account. It is based on and inspired by the biblical story but the details are different. If you watch the film, don’t think it will tell you the story! Here are the key elements from the first chapter:

God’s Grief at Man’s sin (v5-7)

The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.  (Genesis 6:5–6)

Verses 11-12 show how man’s sin affects every element of creation:

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people [lit. All flesh] on earth had corrupted their ways.  (Genesis 6:11–12)

The word translated as ‘all the people’ in verse 12 means ‘all flesh’ and includes animals. The whole creation is infected and affected by sin. We must understand that sin is not just ‘a mistake’: it is a rebellion that spoils everything. Do you remember a year ago when the floods hit the Levels, how Sam Notaro tried to build a defence around his house: but once it was breached, the floodwaters entered and everything was affected. Flood waters bring dirt and put it absolutely everywhere. That is how it is with sin: all flesh on earth had corrupted their ways.

God’s reaction shows us what he is really like:

So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.”  (Genesis 6:7)

First, God is grieved at the mess. Does it mean that God made a mistake? I don’t think so because elsewhere in the Bible we have verses that show us he knew this is what would happen: Peter tells his readers that Jesus, the Rescuer, was chosen before the creation of the world (1 Pet 1.20). God knew it would be like this, and still sin grieved him. He was grieved at sin then, and he is grieved at sin now.

Second, God will act against evil. He must and he will judge it because it corrupts the world and it grieves and offends Good.

So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.”  (Genesis 6:7)

Two comments at this stage:

You may not be convinced about the truth of the flood at all. I could talk about the archaeology that supports an ancient flood in Mesopotamia, and how other cultures besides the Bible have a flood account (and that’s true). Instead I’ll ask you to suspend your disbelief long enough to listen to how this this book, the Bible, experiences and describes the flood. Certainly Jesus and the disciples spoke of the flood as something that happened.

Second, I want us to consider God’s attitude to sin described here, and ask to what extent you share his feelings: do you grieve over sin, and know how it grieves him? When God sees injustice and harm in his beautiful world, it does grieve him. He is not impassive in that sense. He sees and he cares.

If he sees sin in the world and grieves over it, he also sees your sin and grieves over it. There is such a thing as godly grief, in which we weep as God weeps over our own sin.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.  (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Sin grieves God and us because it must be punished. The judgement will mean the destruction of all living things because they are all corrupt. The rescue of Noah shows us God’s ultimate purpose is to save and not to destroy

God’s Grace in the face of evil (v8-10)

But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD.  This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.  (Genesis 6:8–9)

God’s way to deal with sin is that, in the midst of judgement, there will be rescue. It’s what he does with Noah:

So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. (Genesis 6:13–14)

Verse 14 is a big ask! Noah lived far from the sea: his neighbours almost certainly laughed as he built: A flood!? Destruction?! It’s never happened before. An Ark!? It’s never been needed before! Noah, you’re mad. And the Ark was big!

It took great courage from Noah to believe God. Hebrews calls it faith:

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.  (Hebrews 11:7)

Peter calls Noah a ‘preacher of righteousness’ (2 Peter 2.5) because his actions show he believes God will judge evil, and has provided a way out.

=> Noah is a model for us too. We say, in the Creed, that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead; we live as those who believe God will judge sin and has provided a way out. Godly sorrow leads to holy fear – living today in the light of God’s promises.

God’s Great Rescue (8.15-17)

So the rains come down and the waters come up until all creatures on the earth perish: people, animals, the whole lot. Only when God’s judgement at evil is fully satisfied do the waters recede, and the land appears. The Ark settles and we join the story as they emerge:

Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it.”  (Genesis 8:15–17)

Here is a fresh start for the animals. In the beginning God told them to be fruitful (Gen 1.22) and here he repeats the command. So too with humans, in the beginning told to be fruitful (Gen 1.28) and now

 As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” (Genesis 9:7)

God has wound the clock back to Genesis 1.  Or has he?

The recent film Interstellar is a beautiful but overcomplicated Sci-Fi tale of humanity looking for a new world. The old earth has been spoiled by human greed and cannot sustain life for much longer: an expedition is launched through a ‘wormhole’ to explore some new worlds. At one point an astronaut wonders, ‘Will these new worlds have greed on them? The answer is ‘only what we brought with us.‘ Crucially, that is their undoing: those few explorers were unable to leave behind the corruption that ruined the earth.  

That’s what happened on the ark. Noah found grace, but even he was unable to leave behind the sin that spoiled the world. When he stepped off the ark, sin stepped off it with him.

Has God given up?

The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma [of Noah’s sacrifice when he stepped off the ark] and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.  (Genesis 8:21)

God has not given up. He will reverse the effects of sin, but he can’t do it only by judgement. Sin remains in the heart and only a new heart will allow a new earth.

And like the flood, it will come by salvation through Judgement. Jesus warns us of the coming judgement:

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:37–39)

Jesus tells of a greater judgement. He also brings a greater rescue.

God’s Even Greater Rescue

Noah’s ark gives us the pattern for Jesus’ Rescue – justification by faith. It’s the heart of the Gospel, the good news of how God restores sinners – you and me – to become God’s People in God’s Place enjoying God’s Blessing. It follows the pattern of Noah’s rescue in the Ark. He is saved by Grace, through Faith, in the Ark; we are saved by Grace, through faith, in Christ.

Saved by Grace

Grace means that salvation is God’s idea.

  • Whose idea was it to build an ark? It was God’s idea. Noah didn’t come up with a plan and ‘pitch’ it to God. Noah found grace and was told to build an ark. His faith is that he trusted God and built the ark.
  • Whose idea was it to send Jesus to die for sins? It was God’s idea. We didn’t come up with the plan (indeed our corruption means we could never have come up with anything that good) and pitch it to God. Jesus came to die for sin, and because he was faithful and without sin, he died for sin once for all. Salvation is by grace because God makes the first move.

Everything in the Christian life begins with God: faith is responding to what God has said: holiness is responding to what God has made us in Christ; giving is responding to what God provided in the first place. The Good News begins with God because he is a Very Good God. He is, and has always been, the God of Grace.

Saved through Faith

Faith is trusting God and taking action. Faith is responding to Grace.

  • God told Noah about the flood. Noah believed God, built the Ark, and then boarded it. When God closed the door of the ark (Gen 7.16) he confirmed the responses: Noah and his family were on board because they believed God, and they were saved. Everyone else rejected God, and they perished. Noah was saved by Grace (God’s idea to build the ark), through Faith (he did what God told him).
  • We will see the same pattern in the covenant with Moses: God rescued the Israelites from slavery (Grace) and protects those who respond by faith.
  • Just as the door of the ark stood open for Noah and his family, so the door of heaven stands open for you today. And just as God warned Noah of the coming flood, so Jesus warns you about the coming judgement. God saves (or offers to save) you by Grace. But in order to be saved you must respond by faith. For Noah it means stepping aboard the Ark. For Christians it means stepping aboard Jesus Christ. FAITH can be spelled Forsaking All I Trust Him.

Saved in Christ

We are saved by Grace through faith in Christ (alone).

  • Consider how the ark saved Noah. The ark did not remove the judgement: the rains fell, the waters rose, all flesh perished. The judgement fell on the Ark. Noah and his family inside the Ark were safe because the Ark bore the judgement for them. They were saved by grace (God’s plan), through Faith (which they acted on) in the Ark (which bore the judgement in their place). God saves through judgement, by Grave through Faith.
  • We will see the same pattern in that other great OT rescue, the Passover (see 8th Feb and 1st March, Exodus 12).
  • All this points to our true salvation in Jesus. Just as the Ark did not stop the rains from falling, so Jesus does not stop God’s judgement on sin. All sin and evil will be judged. God’s offer of life is that if by faith you step onboard Jesus Christ and are found ‘in him’, then God keeps your safe through the judgement. Just as the waters fell on the Ark, so that the cross, the judgement falls on Jesus, who suffered in himself the punishment for the sin of everyone who is found ‘in him’. That is why you need to come to Jesus to be saved. God is grieved at sin: and graciously he has provided a way out. Come by Grace, through Faith in Christ alone, and you will be saved. Only then will God’s rainbow promise of an earth without curse be realised. He has promised and he will do it.

The nature of this rescue is that you need to commit to one rescue only: Noah and his family could only be rescued by the Ark, and they could either be on or off when the door was slammed shut. The children of Israel were saved from Passover only by the blood of the lamb: they could be either under the blood or not. And you are saved from judgement only by the death of Jesus: when it comes you either trust in his death, or not. Salvation is by faith in Christ alone because there is no other salvation from God’s judgement.

Application

What then has God put on your heart?

  • Grief: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10) Think of instances where God has shone a light on your sin, and brought you to deal with it. God knows where you are: and he knows where he wants you to be. If there is godly sorrow at sin, then take it to repentance and life, and not in stubbornness and death. Our right response to sin is godly grief that leads to repentance. God was grieved and is grieved over sin: ask him to work the same character in you.
  • Grace: Noah’s ark illustrates God’s wonderful rescue. God is a gracious God and he has always been. There is no schizophrenia between OT and NT, it is one story of grace, faith and rescue.
  • Faith. Noah was saved from the floods by grace, through faith, and in the ark. Jesus points us to the great judgement: God is patient and while he won’t subject the earth to another flood, there is a time when he will wipe away all corruption. Will you be swept up in it? Are you ready?

The only place to be ready is to be in Christ now: step on board the ark even before God slams shut the door. Come to Jesus Christ as your only saviour.

Questions for discussion

How was Noah saved by grace, through faith, through the waters of judgement? How does this point to our rescue by grace, through faith, through Christ alone?

Why do we find it so hard to trust in Christ alone for salvation, and where do we tend to go for alternatives to believing that Christ’s work is truly enough to save us?

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10) When is it right to pray for godly sorrow?


God’s Big Story (2) Rebellion in the Garden, Genesis 3

19/01/2015

Matt Neal was our guest preacher for this sermon.

Here are his headings, and questions for discussion that he provided:

Man’s sin and fall (Genesis 3)

(1) TemptationPPP ICON2

(2) The sin

(3) The consequences

 

Discussion questions on Genesis 3

1) We can look at Adam and Eve and wonder why they seemed to fall so easily. Share some ideas about why the temptation to sin can be so strong and what might be some particular modern day temptations for Christians.

2) It may not be obvious who the serpent is. Use the following references to investigate his identity: Rev 12:9; 1 John 3:18; John 8:44.

3) Look at Gen 3:5-6 to see if you can spot the particular bait that the serpent dangled before Eve. In what ways can we fight against temptation (see Matt 26:41 & 1 Pet 5:8-9)?

4) Looking through Genesis 3, share as many of the bad consequences that you can find that result from Adam and Eve’s sin.

5) This is surely one of the darkest hours of humanity’s existence. But against that backdrop of sin, separation and death shines some bright rays of gospel light. Encourage one another by seeing from Gen 3 those rays of God’s grace, provision and promise even in the midst of mankind’s rebellion.

You might like to end with a time of thanksgiving and praise that in Jesus there is forgiveness of sins, new life, restoration and a future hope.


God’s Big Story (1) God the Creator, Genesis 1

06/01/2015

During 2015 we’re preaching our way through ‘God’s Big Story’, an overview of the story-line of the whole Bible. Our home group studies are following the series and for the sake of those who were unable to hear the sermon on Sunday morning, I publish my sermon notes below.

The Sermon Outline is given at the end, as is a link so you can download the sermon in PDF format.

If you would like to be notified when the next sermon is posted, please sign up to the RSS feed for this blog. Otherwise you can make a note to check it a day or two after the sermon.

 

God’s Big Story 1: Creation Gen 1 (2015)PPP ICON

Reading: Gen 1.1-13; 14-2.4

Introduction

Three men were working their allotments. A passer-by asked them what they were doing. The first replied, “My wife told me to dig. I do what I’m told.” The second says, “I am a gardener, I am growing something.” The third replies with evident pride, “I am providing food for my family!”

Each man is doing the same work but only the last man really understand what he’s doing and where his labour fits into the big picture. I reckon he will keep going when the others want to give up.

It’s why a new employee will often be given a tour of the site when they start work. At first you only want to know how to get work from this bag into those pigeonholes. In time your work will lack purpose unless you can see why you’re sorting post – maybe by meeting the workers and departments your office is serving. When you see your place in the big picture, you see how significant you really are.

It’s the same in the Christian life. At first you just want to know that God is with you; learn how to pray; know that you need to read your Bible. But God wants you to grow to maturity, and you will never reach maturity until you see your place in God’s Big Story. When you see how your story fits into God’s story, then you will see why you are significant in God’s purposes.

That is why this year we’re going to be preaching through ‘God’s Big Story’ so that you and I can find our places in it.

  • It is about God and will take us through the whole story to follow the story-line of the Bible.
  • It is a Story with a beginning, a middle and an end. And a hero – Jesus!
  • And it is where you and I find our place.

I can think of at least two benefits to this:

First is that we will see that God is a Bigger God than we imagined. We will see

  • the depth of his love,
  • the heights of his power,
  • the wonders of his grace,
  • the breadth of his mercy.

Be prepared to have the eyes of your mind enlarged.

A second benefit is a better grasp of what we are to do. That is an essentially practical sermon series because when we understand what God has done, we will see more clearly what we are to do; we will know what God’s purpose is for us, individually and together.

That is why we’re preaching through God’s Big Story.

Let’s pick up the reading where Beryl left off.

Read Genesis 1.14-2.3

Three headings (on the sheet)

God (v1)

We begin with God because the Bible says everything begins with God.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  (Genesis 1:1)

God before material world

It seems obvious to the Bible and perhaps to us. But it’s not obvious to others – even in the ancient world. Every religion and culture has a story of origins, and many of them introduce their gods with creation already in place. In other words they start, ‘in the beginning, the world; then the gods.’ Not the Bible: “in the beginning, God.”

“In the beginning, God” means that nothing existed until God made it. Before he created anything, there was – nothing.

Was God lonely? No because the rest of the Bible tells us that God is a trinity of three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is not lonely because he is love. There’s a hint towards this in verse 26 where God says: “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,”

God before spiritual world

Just as God is before the material world, so he is also before the spiritual world. We saw this in our seminar last term on ‘Angels and Demons’.

Because God is before all things – material and spiritual – he knows all things, sees all things, fills all things.

Because God is before all things, he alone deserves our worship, and he deserves all our worship: remember the first Great Commandment:

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:29–30)

Because God is One, he must have all our worship. Because he is not divided and has no rivals, our worship should not be divided or shared. In the beginning, God.

God Created (v1)

Our second point is that God created and made all things. Again this is from verse 1:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  (Genesis 1:1)

Making and Fashioning

Two different words are used for God’s work of creation in the Bible:

  • in verse 1 we have the word ‘created’ which means ‘made from nothing.’ It turns up four times in our passage.  In the Bible, only God does this activity, and the verb is only used of God’s creative activity.
  • The second word, ‘making’ means to ‘fashion’ from one form to another, as in verse 7

And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so.  (Genesis 1:6–7)

That word means ‘fashioning’ or shaping; when we had a new kitchen fitted, the joiner turned the planks in his van into cupboards in our kitchen. He could not turn up on his bike and make it from nothing. All craftsmen make’ or ‘fashion’ their work.

God is both the unique creator and the master craftsman.

Creation and science

Some Christians worry about the relationship between science and the Bible, and specifically about science and creation. Science is a wonderful discipline for unlocking the wonders of what God has made. Science works best when it works with humility before God:

There are reasons to be humble: it now seems that in order for a planet to support life, more than 200 known parameters must be met, and every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing. The numbers involved in believing in creation without God are simply mind boggling, and a recent article in the Wall Street Journal ends with this:

“The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something—or Someone—beyond itself.” (Eric Metaxas)

Science done humbly is a wonderful discipline to unlock the truth that God created. I remember the story of the 19th century scientist (possibly Faraday) who before starting an experiment would briefly bow his head in prayer. ‘Why?’ asked his young assistant. ‘Because I am about to ask God a question’, he replied. That is humble science. As a scientist by background and training, I can tell you that I never cease to be amazed at what science discovers, and how wonderfully intricate, clever and stunning the world is: the beauty and power of seas and mountains; the diversity of creatures and plants; the simplicity and complexity of chemicals and their combinations; the strange charm of subatomic physics; and through it all the poetry of mathematics, the language of science. Science is amazing at unlocking the secrets and power of God’s creation.

Atheist scientists often lack the humility necessary to enjoy the wonder of what God has done.

Let us wonder at God’s work of creation. God Created…

God Created us (v26-28)

Genesis 1 is a carefully composed chapter. One clue to its structure is found in verse 2:

Now the earth was formless and empty,  (Genesis 1:2)

The verses that follow show the creation first formed (Days 1-3) and then filled (Days 4-6):

Day Formed Day Filled
1 Day and night (v3-5) 4 Sun, Moon and stars (v14-19)
2 Sky and Water (v6-8) 5 Sea creatures and birds (v20-21)
3 Land and sea (v9-10)Vegetation (v11-12) 6 Land creatures (v24-25)Man (v26-28)

The last thing he created, as the pinnacle of his creation, is humankind:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”  (Genesis 1:26–28)

Human beings have a special place in God’s creation because we alone of all his creatures are made in his image and likeness.

Alone of all his creation, he made men and women to be his people; to enjoy the blessing of relationship with him and to have a beautiful land to enjoy. The pinnacle of creation is God’s People, in God’s Place, under the Blessing of God’s Presence.

In Genesis 2 we’re introduced to God’s People as Adam and Eve; to God’s Place as the Garden of Eden; and to God’s Presence as he walks in the Garden in the cool of the day.

God’s Big Story is under way!

Applications

These can be quite brief

Everything matters to God (and what God says affects everything)

God cares for everything he made, whether material or spiritual.

Because God made all things, there is no divide between ‘material’ and ‘spiritual’ or ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’. Everything matters to God.

=> God cares about your quiet time (Bible reading and prayer); he also cares, albeit in a different way, about your cup of tea; your radio programme; your journey to work; your work; the money you earn and spend; your family and friends; your clothes; your plans; your mortgage; your pension; even the badger that roots through your bins. God made it, and he cares about it.

Because everything matters to God, there is no single area of your life that is not affected by being a Christian. Some people say that the last part of a person to be converted is their wallet; others say it’s their right foot (ie driving). Whatever it is, God wants it all because it all belongs to him.

=> The Christian’s duty in every area of life is to ask, ‘what does God want me to do here?’

Everyone matters to God (and what God says affects everyone)

God cares for all things he made; but he cares in a special way for all people that he made. He loves us with what the Jesus Story Book Bible calls his, “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.” Remember that

God so loved the world [meaning here people] that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Jesus died to save the world, and he calls the whole world to know him and worship him. He told his disciples:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, … (Matthew 28:18–19)

It is that Big Story which means we can embark on God’s mission: John Stott puts it like this:

Only because all authority on earth belongs to Christ dare we go to all nations. And only because all authority in heaven as well is his have we any hope of success.
It must have seemed ridiculous to send that tiny nucleus of Palestinian peasants to win the world for Christ. For Christ’s church today, so hopelessly outnumbered by
millions who neither know nor acknowledge him, the task is equally gigantic. It is the unique, the universal authority of Jesus Christ which gives us both the right and the confidence to seek to make disciples of all the nations. Before his authority on earth the nations must bow; before his authority in heaven no demon can stop them.

As we find our place in God’s Big Story, may Christ be exalted!

 

SERMON NOTES: Genesis 1

 

Introduction to God’s Big Story

 

Genesis 1

God … (v1)

 

 

God Created (v1)

 

 

God Created us (v26-28)

 

 

 

Everything matters to God (and what God says affects everything)

 

Everyone matters to God (and what God says affects everyone)

 

PDF File GBS 1 Creation Genesis 1 (2015)

Useful Resource: Preaching God’s Big Story (Good Book Company)


Christmas in (another) three words

12/12/2014

The Standard Christmas in Three Words remains the talk and tract by Vaughan Roberts whose Three Words are Historical, Joyful and Essential.
This is another Christmas in Three Words, in skeleton form.

Me

Me is a very interesting subject and it’s one I like talking about a lot….
Me is an amazing subject because you and I are fearfully and wonderfully made…
Jesus was born because God is interested in me and You. He has come to us, as one of us. He’s not distant or abstract as many think.
=> Jesus is called Emmanuel which means God with us
=> Something to celebrate, then.

Mess

Me is a good place to start but a terrible way to end. If we make ‘Me’ everything, then we make God nothing.
Can tell Lighthouse story (look up USS Montana on youtube if you don’t know the story). We are on a collision course with God.
The result is Mess, in my life and in the world’s life. Some mess we can clean up; but much of it we can’t.
Jesus was born because we need help. If we were perfect, or if we could (eventually) sort ourselves out, then Christmas would never have happened.
=> Jesus is called Saviour which means ‘rescuer’.
=> Something to admit: we are helpless rebels

Messiah

Who can bring order to a disordered world? We need a king or ruler who can take charge and turn it round.
Jesus was born as the king to take charge and turn it around.
Surprises are that he was born in humble circumstances, although in a royal city (Bethlehem); that he led through service (e.g. Mark 10.45); and that his victory is celebrated on the day he died, Good Friday. He is an unusual King, but he was born for this (see John 18.37).
God’s wonderful response to the Me-Mess is to send a person, the Messiah.
=> Jesus is called Messiah or Christ which means King
=> Something to do, to put ourselves under his saving loving rule.
The wise men came to worship the child. You’re wise if you do so too.

Simple Visual

I wrote the word Messiah in large letters and covered them up, gradually revealing each part of the word as the talk progressed.

Happy Christmas!

(c) Ed Moll 2014


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