On Sunday we looked at God’s covenant with David and how it relates to Jesus and us as His disciples. Jesus is no ordinary king and the covenant God makes with David helps us to see more who Jesus really is. Listen to the message here
On Sunday we began considering what it looks like when heaven comes to earth. You can listen to the sermon by clicking here. Here are a few thoughts for reflection on what was preached on Sunday.
I said that I felt that God had challenged me to aim for us to be a church of 100.
How do you feel about that?
- Can you imagine what this would look like? What types of people can you see God bringing into our congregation?
- How can you prepare to invite them in?
- How can you prepare to receive them in?
I spoke about the difference between what we read of Jesus in Matt 9, where He performs 4 major miracles in 16 verses and what we see in our church over the last few years. This reminded me of something I was challenged by at the Randy Clark conference, namely does our experience inform our expectation which in turn informs how we read scripture or do we read scripture which informs our expectation and which leads to a greater experience of God’s real power?
- What holds the greater influence over your expectation of what God might do, your experience or the word of God?
- Has your recent experience dampened or excited our expectation of God’s working in and through you?
- Do you believe the works of Jesus in scripture transfer directly into the modern world we live in? If so how, if not why not?
I spoke about the difference between Jesus walking with us and us walking with Jesus.
- What is the general characteristic of your life and lifestyle? Are you doing your own thing and expecting God to bless what it or are you looking to see what God is doing and leaving what you feel is important to do that?
- Are there areas of your life where God doesn’t come first? If so what are you going to do about it?
- What does it mean to you to ‘seek first the kingdom of God’?
Romans 14&15 spends a great deal of time expanding the idea of the how the weak and strong in faith should interact with each other (you can listen to last Sunday’s sermon on this passage here.) This section of scripture lays the foundation for what I believe has become an important ethos in the ministry of our church, namely people are accepted, loved and welcomed where they are at. Or as Paul puts it ‘Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarrelling over disputable matters’ (14:1) or ‘We who are strong ought to bear the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves’ (15:1). We are to ‘Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you’, which means on an individual level that you don’t have to be like me to be welcomed by me, and on a church level you don’t have to be like us to be a part of us. Jesus didn’t wait for us to change before He welcomed us, and we are to live in the same manner towards one another.
- How easily does this sit with you?
- Where/how have you seen this working or not working?
Rom 14:1 tells us not to quarrel over disputable matters, which helpfully reveals that there are disputable matters within the life of the church! Without doubt there are some core non negotiable truths and creedal statements, but there are also many ‘disputable matters’ that should not cause disunity between believers.
- For the 1st century Roman church these disputable matters were to do with food and drink and sacred days, but what are the disputable matters of our day?
- How do we go about accepting those who hold different views in these matters?
- Are there grey areas between indisputable matters and disputable matters, if so can you think of any?
- How do the strong go about bearing with the weak in these areas?
- Have you been caused or felt pressure to stumble through other Christian’s ‘disputable matter’ beliefs? Share them so others may understand what the issues are.
- How can we go about not causing others to stumble?
Rom 15:1 tells us that the strong in faith ought to bear with the failings of the weak.
- Do you feel this could lead a church to sink to the lowest common denominator?
- If so in what ways?
Rom 15:2 says we are to please our neighbour for their good to build them up. Which implies that the concern of the strong in faith should be the growth of the whole body in faith and not just their own individual spiritual development.
Rom 14:19 is a key summary verse of this whole section, ‘Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification’. We make every effort to do what leads to peace, accepting those who are weaker/different in disputable matters. And we do so with a desire and aim to see all edified because our goal is for everyone to grow in strength of faith.
This is the Jesus way!
- Who’s responsibility is it to make every effort?
- How do we go about making this happen?!
In the last blog we considered how we as a church and as individuals faired at living out the ‘One Anothers’ of the New Testament. A number of you completed the survey on your perspective of our strengths and weaknesses as a church and the results can be found here. There seems to be a trend emerging whereby we seem to think we are good at being kind and compassionate to one another and loving one another, but we seem to agree that we are not good at admonishing one another, confessing our sins to one another and submitting to one another.
So the next step is to consider how we can find ways as a church of developing these areas where we are weak in relating to one another……. over to you!
We also need to look at where our individual strengths and weaknesses lie in regards to these ‘One Anothers’. Where we are weak we need to consider how we can grow, and we also need to consider how we can encourage others and share what we are stronger at.
Romans 12 begins the last major section of Paul’s great letter. In these concluding chapters Paul gives practical teaching on how the theology of the gospel that he has outlined in Chapters 1-11 is put into practice in the lives of the people of the church. It is often the pattern in Paul’s teaching that he gives a theological explanation followed by practical application. This pattern shows that Christian life is dependant on, and flows from Christian doctrine. In the words of Douglass Moo ‘All theology is practical and all practice, if it is truly Christian, is theological’. We must never separate these two things, because if we do our theology will become purely academic and theoretical and our practical teaching will become moralistic and based on our effort not the grace of the gospel.
In order to make this gospel theology practical I’d like us to take some of the ‘one anothers’ of the New Testament (the teachings of the scriptures that speak on how to relate to ‘one another’ as God’s people – many of which are found in Romans 12). To do this I’d like us to consider a list of 15 ‘one anothers’, and ask the question how well we as a church, and also we as individuals, do with these things. I’ve put together a short survey to help us see what we feel our ‘one another’ strengths and weaknesses are as a church body. Take the survey by clicking here.
Once we have done this, over the next few weeks I’d like us to think creatively in our home groups how we can practically strengthen the areas that we are weak in as a church and also as individuals. This will involve finding new ways of loving one another and it will involve us taking action! In doing this by the grace of God the church will be richer and stronger, and ultimately more gospel and Christ centred.
15 One Anothers from the New Testament (there are more if you feel you have mastered these!)
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love (Rom12:10)
Honour one another above yourselves (Rom12:10)
Live in harmony with one another (Rom12:16)
Greet one another with a holy kiss (Rom16:16)
Be patient, bearing one another in love (Eph4:2)
Be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph4:32)
Admonish one another (Col3:16)
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph5:21)
Encourage one another (Heb 10:25)
Build each other up (1Thess5:11)
Confess your sins to each other (Jas5:9)
Pray for each other (Jas5:16)
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling (1Pt4:9)
Each should use whatever gift he has received to serve others (1Pt4:10)
Love one another (Jn13:34 and many more)
Just a quick thought for this week based on the beginning of Romans 11. You can listen to Sunday’s sermon here.
Are there things – things that have happened to you or the church – that cause you to ask the question ‘has God rejected his people?’
What is Paul’s emphatic answer to this question? (:1)
Where can you see God’s ‘remnant’ salvation around you? Where are there little signs of salvation hope that show that God is still with us/you?
Live in these signs of hope – God has not rejected His people.
Romans 9 begins a new section of the letter (Rom9-11) which, if I’m honest, I’ve always found the most difficult. It is difficult because there are some things that are hard to understand and it is difficult because there are some things that are hard to hear. If the truth be told we probably wished some of these verses said something different so that they were less disturbing to us. But they don’t, and we need to hear what they are saying in order that we know the fullness of who God is and the riches of His gospel which brings salvation to us.
There is a tendency with difficult passages like these to reduce them to complicated academic doctrines that few people actually really understand or appreciate. However, we must keep in view that this is a pastoral letter written to a church. Discussions about Calvinism and Arminianism can be helpful, but the bottom line is that Paul wrote this to explain the gospel and in the end it should be something that changes our perspective and challenges our behaviour as we are transformed by the power of it.
Romans 9-11 continues to be all about the gospel, but the focus shifts to Israel and her role in the salvation story of God.
Before you read Rom 9 it is probably worth stopping to consider who we are talking about when we speak of Israel:
Who is Israel historically and biblically?
What was the role and relationship Israel had with God in the Old Testament scriptures?
What do we understand Israel to mean today – geographically, racially, in a religious sense and in any other way?
Read Rom 9
What do you find difficult or disturbing in this chapter? Write down or speak out the questions you have and things that you struggle with having read the chapter. You may well need to wrestle with these questions and difficulties with some time, but it is worth the struggle! As it was with Jacob (Gen32), through the wrestling we will gain a deeper appreciation of who God is.
A few questions for reflection
What does it mean that ‘not all that are descended from Israel are Israel’ (:6)?
What does the idea of a ‘remnant’ mean (:27)?
Can you think of Old Testament stories that describe this idea of only a remnant being saved?
Rom 9:10-13 are hard verses to read, how do you react to them?
The tendency is to see these verses highlighting the negative side of God’s election, but what is the positive side (:16)?
In Rom 9:22-23 Paul twice says ‘what if ….’, almost as if to say ‘even if this were the case who are you to argue with it?’! The two ‘what if’s in verses 22 & 23 are a challenge to our belief about God. They ask the questions, ‘Is God really like this? Has He really done this?’
So let us ask the question has God really done these things and if so how does it ‘make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy’?
In conclusion, one thing we must take away from this chapter is what the prophecies that Paul quotes from in Hosea and Isaiah point towards. Through the gospel of Jesus people from every nation are being chosen and saved by God.
Rom9:25-26 tells us that people from the previously rejected are now being chosen for salvation – the harsh rejection of Esau seems to not have been a complete rejection in the sense that the unloved are now loved.
Rom9:27-28 tells us that people from the rebellious and undeserving chosen people are still being chosen for salvation – God’s word has not failed (:6).
Thanks be to God!
‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ (Eph2:8-10)