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Treasure in Jars

I’m sharing what the Holy Spirit spoke through Margaret and Graham on Sunday morning during our worship service. I believe a summary of the message is:

23954840684833p41pwlokrk4l-_sy300_‘Our lives are like a set of stacking bowl. The Lord wants us to take the bowls out from each other and allow each one to be filled with the Holy Spirit rather than only have them filled while they are still inside each other. Each bowl is like an area or compartment of our lives and we need to take the lid of off each bowl so that each and every part of our lives can be filled with the Holy Spirit. We are to lay the fullness of our lives before God and ask Him to fill every area with the Holy Spirit.’

bowlset10pcavs10Let us actively invite the Holy Spirit into the many and various areas of our lives. Rather than just say ‘come Holy Spirit’ let us actively and specifically pray ‘come Holy Spirit into my thought life’ or ‘Holy Spirit fill my relationship with my daughter’ or ‘Holy Spirit come into every area of my work.’ I’m sure you get the idea!

Eph5:18 ‘Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.’

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Romans 11 – Remnant Salvation

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 7 – Free from Law

The beginning of Romans 7 returns to a similar idea we heard at the beginning of Romans 6, in that to be completely free from something we must die to it. The idea of dying to something always brings us back to the reality and power of our baptism into Christ, in which we die to the old and are born again into the new through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Rom7:1-6 uses marriage as an analogy of how this ‘dying to’ works in our relationship to Law. The comparison is that if a married woman has a relationship with another man it is adultery, but if her husband dies she is free from the law that says she married and is able to marry again. In the same way through Christ we have died to our ‘relationship’ with the Law which made us captive to sin, and have been made free to serve God in a new way through the Holy Spirit. Rom6:14 puts it this way, ‘we are no longer under law but under grace.’
The result of this is that we no longer need to follow the Law to be pleasing to God. Following the Law is not what makes us ‘good people’! Christianity and the gospel is not about what we do or don’t do, but always what God does through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
However, this extreme freedom of grace makes most, if not all, of us a little uncomfortable. We all feel more at ease when there are set boundaries for ourselves and the people that are around us. Surely freedom from Law just gives rise to lawlessness?! And with this fear and misunderstanding of what true gospel freedom is the church has been very good at creating laws, rules and restrictions that define things such as salvation, godliness, spirituality and maturity. Far too often the church becomes like the Galatians who started with grace and then added law, making free people slaves again (Gal3:1-3). The result is an unwritten but well known Christian Law that I call the Evangelical Torah that defines criteria by which we measure ourselves and others as Christians. For example:

  • ‘You must have a daily quiet and read the bible at least once a day.’
  • ‘You must attend church every Sunday (preferably well dressed)’
  • ‘You can’t smoke, drink or have tattoos.’
  • ‘You shouldn’t dance or generally show any enjoyment of life.’

Now I’m not saying that reading you bible every day is a bad idea etc, etc. What I am saying is that we all too easily slip into judgement when we take some of these ideas and make them requirements, because the emphasis has moved from what God has done and is doing, to what we are doing. We must remember that the gospel is always God’s salvation action in us.
Freedom from the Law through gospel does not result in lawlessness, but instead brings new birth in us by the Holy Spirit. Through baptism into Christ we receive the Holy Spirit who works in us to change and transform us into the likeness of God. Our sanctification is not something we ‘do’ but is something we allow God to do through the inner working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.


Consider what rules/laws/requirements you feel you live under or impose on others.
What are the signs that these things are enslaving you?

Does the idea of freedom from all law and commandment make you feel uneasy? If so why and how can you overcome this?

How can you be active in inviting the Holy Spirit into areas of you life that need freedom from legalism.


What is the point of the Law in the first place you may well ask? And that isn’t a bad question, and one we will look at next week. But for now let us revel in the fullness of God’s grace and soak in the reality that we have been made free from the Law!

Romans 2 – This Applies to Absolutely Everyone!

So far in our journey in Romans we have covered 2 chapters! In chapter 1 (v18 onwards) we looked at the fall and depravity of mankind, which more than likely is addressed to the godless Gentile world of the time. And then in chapter 2 we looked at how Paul turns the tables by speaking directly to the reader by using ‘you’ rather than ‘they’, which is more than likely addressed to the self righteous Jews of the time. Paul includes these Jews under God’s wrath by saying ‘you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things’ (v1).

Tim Keller* (you may have heard me mention him before!) likens these two chapters to the two characters in the parable of the prodigal son (Lk15:11-32). Chapter 1, he says, is like the prodigal son who sins greatly and needs to receive the Father’s love to return to the house. He likens chapter 2 to the older brother in the story who remains righteous, yet who is actually also outside the Father’s house, not knowing the Father’s love and still in need of salvation. On the face of it the younger brother sinned greatly, however, the older brother also fell short in his anger and self righteousness. In reality neither brother knew the Father’s unconditional love. Romans 1 describes a mankind that has left God for a ‘distant land’ of sin and depravity, whilst Romans 2 describes a self righteous Jewish nation who, whilst being closer to home, are in reality just as distant from the Father.

Paul (like Jesus in Lk15) doesn’t really leave us any room to be outside of this story and description. We may see ourselves more acurately described in chapter 1 or maybe we relate to the description of chapter 2, but either way (or both ways) we must accept that this is talking about YOU! The point being that no one Christian or non Christian is right before God in their own works or effort. Grace through faith is the only way of salvation for all of us without exception.

It is only when we grasp this that we can fully receive the gospel. But crucially it is only when we fully grasp this can we truly minister the gospel. If we are Christians who know we are saved by grace, but then somehow are able to claim the moral high ground over the rest of the world because we in ourselves are now more righteous and superior to the world around us through our reformed and right behaviour, then we have missed the point of the gospel! We will always fundamentally be sinners saved by grace and not our works. If we hold onto this then we will be able to minister the gospel to the broken world around us by proclaiming ‘this is what God is doing in me and wants to do in you’ rather than looking down judgementally on the world and saying ‘this is what God needs to do to you.’ This is actually the way of Christ Himself. Jesus didn’t preach a message from on high or stand aloof and superior, but came to earth and was ‘numbered with the transgressors’ being Himself baptised alongside sinful humanity.

The bad news is we are all in the same boat. Jew, Gentile, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, you name it, we are all sinners and unrighteous before God. There are no really bad sinners and only ever so slightly, almost righteous but not quite sinners. Just plain sinners (including you and me)!
The good news is that we are all in the same boat! Jew, Gentile, Muslim, Atheist, you name it are all offered perfect righteousness before God through faith in Jesus Christ. Those who accept Jesus as Saviour receive His Spirit and their praise is from God (Rom2:29b).


* Tim Keller has brought out a very accessible commentary/bible study guide on the book of Romans called ‘Romans for You‘ which I’d recommend.
I’d also recommend Douglas Moo’s Application Commentary on Romans if you want to really want to go deeper into the epistle without getting overly technical.

 

 

Consecrate Yourselves

In our recent Church Members Meeting we returned again to the subject of the time people arrive for church on a Sunday morning.
Here’s a further thought on the matter.

Josh3:5 ‘Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

Consecrate = to sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified, be separate

I believe God would challenge us to prepare ourselves to be ready for meeting with Him on a Sunday morning. Rather than just turning up and seeing what (if anything) happens, God would have us ready ourselves and be expectant that He wants to speak and act as we gather together in His name.
So let us not arrive at church at 10:29:59 with our heart and mind still in the realm of the world, but come in good time, in the preparation of the Holy Spirit ready to meet with God and His people.

Take off your Shoes

In our Church Members Meeting on Tuesday evening we returned again to the subject of the time people arrive for church on a Sunday morning.
Here’s a further thought on the matter.

Ex 3:5 ”Do not come any closer,’ God said, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

The message here, is recognise where you are. This is no ordinary place, it is a holy place. Therefore show the reverence and respect that is due.
I feel God would challenge us with this in regards to our attitude and approach to arriving at church. I believe He would have us take Him and His church more seriously and recognise that, in a sense, when we come to gather as church we are treading on holy ground. I’m not suggesting that we all take our shoes off at the church door (although if you want to do that symbolically then please feel free), but I am suggesting that inwardly we need to find ways of removing our shoes so that our heart and mindset is right as we enter further into God’s presence at the gathering of His church.
A big part of this would be to arrive in good time on a Sunday morning so as to honour God and honour one another in the church. Let us treat the gathering of the body of Christ with the respect it deserves.

See you Sunday morning, it’s going to be great!!

Home Groups

The church elders got together recently, and one of the things we talked about was how to grow and develop our homegroup/midweek meetings. We thought it would be a good idea to define the purpose of our midweek meetings and ask the church how we find ways together of achieving these purposes.

The elders summarise the purpose and point of home groups/midweek meetings as follows:

To build up and strengthen the body of the church through
1. Fellowship – The relational sharing of life and faith practically, emotionally and spiritually. Supporting each other in the hard times, rejoicing together in the good times, and continuing with each other in the in between times.
2. Prayer and Praise – Prayer for one another, the wider church body and the world around us. Praise for the work of God in our lives.
3. Study – Searching, pondering and meditating on the scriptures together so that we may be built up into the knowledge of Christ

The question we are asking and seeking the Lord is how do we go about achieving this?
We’d like everyone to consider the following questions and prayerfully seek the Lord as to how we can best move forward. We’d like to discern the direction the Lord is leading us with this and draw some conclusions in the Members Meeting on the 22nd, so please give it some thought and conversation!

Consider:

What has worked well in our home group meetings? (Feel free to bring any experience that you may have from previous churches)

What hasn’t been working so well in our home groups?

How can we get our home group meetings to achieve their purpose (as defined above)?

What number of people do you think makes a good home group?

When is a good time to meet up with others during the week?

What things best aid and help us study the scriptures in home groups?

You may also have other thoughts so please do share them!