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Romans 8:31-39 In Christ, God is for us

Can anyone tell me who this picture is of?

1024px-Rick_Astley_Tivoli_Gardens

RA Tivoli Gardens” by Michael Alo-Nielson. Licensed under CCBY 2.0 via Commons

(Rick Astley). His most famous song was in the 80s, when Parra was winning grand finals! The song was called “Never Gonna Give you up” It’s made a bit of a comeback in recent years through Rickrolling, which is trying to trick people into clicking onto his song. The lyrics are pretty well known. Do any of you know them?

Never gonna give you up,

Never gonna let you down,

Never gonna run around and desert you.

Never gonna make you cry,

Never gonna say goodbye,

Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you!

We look at those lyrics and think, he’s promising a bit more than he can deliver here! There’s no human being so perfect as to do all these things. Yet wouldn’t it be amazing if there really was someone who could love us like this, never give up on us, never desert us, always stay faithful to us, never tell a lie, never let us down? Does such a person or love even exist?

God in Romans is showing us that he delivers what Rick Astley can only sing about, and what all of us long for. Through Jesus we can know that God will never give up on us, he will never let us down or desert us. God is for us. As we in v28 just before this section, he’s working for our good in all things.

Yet in our painful, messy and complicated world there are things that might make us doubt that God is really for us. If you’re a Christian – if you’re trusting in Jesus, what are the things that might make you doubt that God is for you? As we look at this passage, let’s consider three big things that might make us doubt that:

  1. Opposition?

Look at v31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

In response to all that God has done for us in Jesus, as we’ve seen in Romans, Paul asks: who can be against us? Well on one level, lots of people. When this letter was written, around 57AD the Christians in Rome were a small minority, and would face much opposition over the next few centuries as the church grew. Just as Jesus church today continues to face opposition as it grows all across the world.

I’m in a face book group for people who like logic and puzzles, and some people in that group enjoy taking regular shots at Christianity. One of them recently made this claim: the facts are in, Jesus never existed.  Linked to an article which listed a number of historical works around Jesus time that didn’t mention Jesus. It’s not actually much of an argument, there were some works that do mention Jesus and some that don’t. Just like today some books mention Richie Benaud, some books don’t, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t exist.

If you use social media, you’ll probably see things like this a fair bit, people posting memes or articles taking shots at Christianity, trying to discredit it. What do you do with those? I think with most of them, it’s probably better just to let them go, because often the person is just having a laugh, or just trying to start an argument for the sake of it, but sometimes if the other person’s interested, it can be worth engaging with them.

In this case, I responded saying that actually there’s quite a consensus among ancient historians that Jesus did exist. I linked to an article that Sydney historian John Dickson had written where he put out a challenge that he’d eat a page of his Bible if there was any professor of ancient history in a recognised university anywhere in the world who believed that Jesus didn’t exist. It went around the world, no one was found. All those ancient history professors believe Jesus existed.

In response to my comment, someone responded with another question, and I responded with an answer, but then the conversation stopped and I was left with the impression that this person was happier just taking cheap shots and not so much wanting to engage in a real discussion.

Sometimes opposition to Christianity in Australia can feel like a little like that – I’m happy to mock your beliefs, but I don’t really want to have a sensible conversation about it, yet often opposition can be more serious. Some of you will be in the minority as a Christian at work, at your place of education, in your family, or sporting group. Sometimes what you experience for being a Christian might be worse than just some friendly teasing, I know of people who’ve been shunned by their families, even forced out of jobs because of their faith in Jesus. In other parts of the world, Christians have had possessions taken, been jailed, tortured, even killed for  following Jesus. If you experience serious opposition, you might ask, how can God be for us?

Jesus experienced opposition. He tells his followers we should expect it. Yet he also tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We can do that, because we know that God is for us Look at v32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

There’s no greater sacrifice God could have made than giving his son Jesus, to die for us. If he’s sacrificed to that level already, we can be sure that he will follow through on everything else he’s promised us.

Do you remember what Joseph said to his brothers, when they were worried about whether or not he would forgive them for what they’d done to him? Joseph found power to forgive them in the God he knew was on his side even in the face of opposition.  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good (Genesis 50:20)

The Bible tells us two things are compatible that we might think are opposite. It tells us God is sovereign and all powerful, yet humans are responsible for their actions. You see those two in this verse. Humans responsible for their actions, are intending harm, yet God is so sovereign, so powerful, that even where humans are going against him and intending evil, he is able to use it for good. If God is for us, who can be against us?

The first soccer team I played in was in the under 8s. I’d never played before so they just put me fullback – I ran from side to side on the 18 yard box following the ball in the other half in case it ever came into ours, but it never did. I remember getting into those oranges at half time, but I hadn’t even touched the ball. We had one really good player who was the fastest and best player in our comp. We won every game that year, some of them 11 nil and he’d usually score ten of them, and set up the other. It didn’t matter what team we came up against we always won, because he was on our side.

How much more true that is if the Sovereign, all powerful God is one our side – we can expect opposition, but we know that opposition won’t last. There is nothing anyone can do against us, that God can’t use for our ultimate good, and his glory.

God is for us: through Jesus, no one can stop him achieving his purposes for us.

  1. Struggle with sin?

Do you remember Paul’s question at the end of chapter 7, he said: What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? He’s an apostle, he’s met Jesus, he had the Holy Spirit, he planted churches, he wrote letters that were considered Scripture – they became part of the Bible, yet he struggled with sin. If you’re a Christian, is there anything you struggle with, that makes you wonder, whether God is for you? Perhaps you keep giving in to anger, and you wonder, can God really before me, after all I’ve done and said? Perhaps you’ve been struggling with porn – you know it damages your brain, exploits people, and dishonours God, you’re making some progress and yet the struggle is real – you wonder, can God be for me, if I’m still struggling with this. Maybe your struggle is with your tongue, you’re working on it, you’re making progress, but you still say things that you find yourself regretting afterwards, and you wonder, can God be for me, when I keep hurting others with my tongue?

Have a look at v33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one.

We saw in chapter 6 how if we trust in Jesus we’re no longer slaves to sin, we have a new power to say no to it, we should see real progress, we’ve seen in chapter 8, how the Spirit leads us and helps us in this process of putting sin to death, yet as chapter 7 shows us, in this life we’ll still struggle with sin, we won’t see perfection until Jesus returns. In that struggle, we need to know that Jesus death is enough to forgive all our sin, past present and future. If God declares you right through Jesus, and welcomes you into his family, who’s going to say to you, no you’re not right? No one, that’s worth listening to.

The Bible says we have 3 real enemies who work against us – we have the devil, a real enemy, the world – all those who are opposed to God, and our own sinful nature, but we have someone far more powerful who is for us, look at v34: if says 4 things about Jesus: 1.  He died – not for his own sin, but the sin of those who would trust in him, 2. He was raised to life – the Father was showing that Jesus sacrifice was acceptable 3. He is at the right hand of God. When the Bible talks about the Father and the Son ruling, it doesn’t talk about two thrones, but one throne. They share a throne: the throne of God and of the lamb (Revelation 22:1,3) One throne that God the Father and the Son share, Jesus is at the right hand of The Father, sitting on the throne with the Father. Jesus is God, just as much as the Father is God. 4. He is interceding for us – speaking on our behalf. God the Son, speaking on our behalf to God the Father.

In 1500s there was a powerful Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Fifth who sent his herald to declare war with Francis the First, King of France. The herald declared war using all the titles this king had, as a way of intimidation. He said I declare war in the name of the Emperor of Germany, King of Castille, King of Aragon, King of Naples, King of Sicily, and on he went with all these titles.

When the herald of Francis the First took up the challenge of battle, he didn’t want to be outdone, but his king only had one title, so he just repeated his master’s name and office as many times as the other ruler had titles. He said, “I take up the challenge in the name of Francis the First, King of France; Francis the First, King of France; Francis the First, King of France; Francis the First, King of France; Francis the First, King of France – over and over, because that was all he had.

If we’re Christians, we will know that there is a long list of accusation that can be made against us, many wrong things that we have done against others and against God, but if our trust is in Jesus, there is really only one thing that needs to be said in our defence: Christ died for me, Christ died for me, Christ died for me, Christ died for me, Christ died for me.

If you’re a Christian, even though your struggle with sin is real, through Jesus, there is no charge against you that will stick.

God is for us – through Jesus, no one can stop him achieving his purposes for us, no struggle with sin will stop us being free from condemnation through Jesus.

  1. Suffering and death?

Look at v35: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

Paul then quotes from Psalm 44. Often in the Old Testament we see things going badly for God’s people because they ignore God and go their way instead of his, but if we read Psalm 44 you’ll notice, that there the people are actually living for God, yet still suffering, as v20 of that Psalm says which Paul quotes in v36 ‘For your sake we face death all day long; They are suffering, not for their own sin, but for the sake of God.

When we suffer, does it mean that God is not for us? No, look at v37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors… That word is literally hyper conquerors, or super conquerors. Hardship actually grows our character, it develops perseverance and hope if we know we are loved by Christ.

What is love really? Lots of people sing about it or make movies about it.

Justice_Crew_

Justice Crew by Eva Rinaldi from Sydney Australia. Licenced under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons

Justice crew tell us – we spread love it’s the only way (they think love is good, but what is it?)

The Beatles told us – love is all we need (but then, they fought with each other and broke up, so maybe they don’t know what love is!)

Taylor Swift says: love means you’ll never have to be alone

Ana in Frozen says: Love is an open door, where you can say goodbye to the pain of the past! (Unfortunately, without wanting to spoil the movie too much 🙂  the man that she sings that with later tries to kill her sister, so maybe she doesn’t know what love is either!)

Pat Benatar says: love is a battlefield

Queen says: they can’t handle it, this crazy little thing called love.

What is love? Everyone wants it, but no one seems sure what it is!

The Bible tells us: This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10) Love is self-sacrifice for the good of another.

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) There’s no greater demonstration of love than a perfect God sacrificing himself for humans who’ve rebelled against him.

Jesus death shows us that we are not just acquitted by God, we are loved. We are not just loved by another human, we’re love by God. We’re not just loved temporarily, we are loved forever.

Here’s a great photo from Cathy and Jarrod’s wedding last weekend

Cathy&Jarrod

Photo: Nail and Twine Photography

– a young couple, declaring their love for each other, walking through the sparklers, happy, in love with each other – it’s a great photo! Yet they know, as we all know, that life’s not all smiles and sparklers – many couples start out like this, yet end up separated, something comes between their love for each other. What can help us keep going in the hardships of marriage, or singleness or life?

If we know that nothing can separate us from God’s love, his love enables us to love others, even when things get hard. Look at the list of things Paul covers in v38-39: neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation… (everything’s covered!)

As a pastor I’ve had the privilege of being with people as they’ve died, I’ve often come away from those experiences encouraged by Christians who’ve faced death, with a great sense of assurance, because although they are sad to leave loved ones, they know both they and their loved ones are ultimately in God’s hands, and they know even death won’t separate them from God’s love.

If you’ve never read the Jesus Story Book Bible, you should read it, it’s great for all ages, it gives the big picture of the Bible better than almost any other book I know. It refers to God’s love as a “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love”.

If you’re not yet trusting in Jesus, he invites you to come to him, to trust in his perfect life, his death and resurrection as being for you, to find in him the forgiveness, love, and security you need. What’s stopping you from turning to him? What is there that can love you, the way God can? There’s no person, no possession, no money, no power that can love you the way humans longed to be loved.

If you are trusting in Jesus, God wants you to know today that he is for you: No opposition can stop his purposes for you, no struggle with sin will leave you condemned, no suffering, not even death can separate you from his “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love”.

The Top 20 Countries where Christianity is Growing the Fastest

The Top 20 Countries where Christianity is Growing the Fastest.

Second Word: God’s Image – Deuteronomy 5:8-10

commendment 2 imageCan you imagine yourself going home today, chopping down a tree in your backyard, carving out an image of a divine being, decorating it, then placing it in your lounge room and bowing down to it? For most of us, it’s probably not an idea that has entered our mind recently, it’s not exactly a burning temptation. We know there are others throughout the world who do have images in their homes, or in their shops that they burn incense to or pray to, so it could be easy for us to think – this commandment is for them, but it’s not really for me.

This second commandment is one of the most difficult, for a number of reasons: Firstly, there’s some dispute over whether this actually is the second commandment. Roman Catholics and Lutherans say vv8-10 are not the second commandment, they are still part of the first commandment. For them the second commandment is the one we’ll look at next week, about misusing God’s name. (They get their tenth commandment by splitting up the final commandment on coveting into two). Yet most Protestants, Eastern Orthodox and some Jewish sources like the Talmud see these verses as the second commandment.

Secondly it’s difficult because even among those who agree that this is the second commandment there are a variety of views of exactly how it applies to Christians today. Didn’t we talk about idols as we looked at the first commandment? How is this commandment different from the first?

A third difficulty is the language of God being jealous and punishing future generations. We read it and think what’s that all about?

But the hardest thing is the issue I started with – it can be easy to think, this command is not relevant for me, making or bowing down to images isn’t a temptation I face, let’s just move on to the next one.

But this second commandment actually points to a deeper issue than sculptures or paintings. This commandment addresses the temptation we all face to obscure God’s glory and worship him in our own way, rather than His way. If the first commandment is about worshipping the right God, the second commandment is about worshipping the right God, in the right way. It’s about worshipping God as he is in the way he tells us to, not as we imagine him to be.  As we think about this commandment, let’s consider two things:1. Some problems with worshipping images  2. Worshipping God His way

1. Problems with worshipping images

If you look at vv8-9 you see this commandment has to do with images (NIV 2011).  An image here doesn’t mean just a picture, it means an object made by humans to represent a divine being. You can see three verbs or action words this commandment forbids in relation to images: You shall not make an image, you shall not bow down to them, you shall not worship them. God’s not saying we can’t make any sculptures or art, artistry and skilled workmanship is actually seen as a gift of God in the Bible. He is saying we can’t make and worship objects to represent divine beings.

In Exodus 32 Moses is up on the mountain receiving the ten commandments, the people get restless, and ask Aaron to make them an image. He makes them a golden calf, and said: This is your god who brought you up out of Egypt (v4). The people then had a festival and offered sacrifices to the LORD (vv5-6). This image then, isn’t of another god, it is an attempt to represent the true God using in image. That is breaking the second commandment. What’s the problem with images?

a) God is invisible yet speaking

If you turn back one chapter, to Deuteronomy 4 you’ll read Moses saying to the people: You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air (Deuteronomy 4:15-17)

When God revealed himself to the Israelites at Horeb or Mt Sinai, there was no visible form of God, there was a thick cloud, an earthquake, lightning, a voice that sounded like thunder, but there was no visible form to see. God is a Spirit, he is invisible, you can’t make an image of the invisible God.

God is invisible, yet he speaks. An image or idol is the opposite. An image is visible, yet mute, it can’t speak.

God does not invite us to gaze on him as a thing, but rather to listen to his voice. He has spoken, he has revealed himself, and he has defined himself by his perfections(Al Mohler)[1]. We can never properly represent God through an image. God is invisible yet he speaks, we need to listen to him.

b) Obscure God’s glory

An image or an idol is finite, it has limits. God is infinite, he has no limit. An image is created, but God is the Creator, an image needs someone, but God needs no one, he is self-sufficient. God is everywhere, and image can only be in one place, God knows all things, an image knows nothing, God hears everything we say, an image hears nothing, God is all-powerful, and image has no power. You can never convey the majesty and glory of God in an image.

 ‘With whom will you compare me or count me equal? To whom will you liken me that we may be compared? Some pour out gold from their bags and weigh out silver on the scales; they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god, and they bow down and worship it. They lift it to their shoulders and carry it; they set it up in its place, and there it stands. From that spot it cannot move. Even though someone cries out to it, it cannot answer; it cannot save them from their troubles. (Isaiah 46:5-7).

You can never represent God’s character in an image, an image will always fail to show the full magnitude of God’s greatness, it will always obscure God’s glory.

c) Provoke God’s loving jealousy (v9)

v9 for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, We often think of jealousy in a negative sense of being insecure or fearful or envious, but the Bible speaks of a good jealousy, an appropriate jealousy. If you’re married and you say to your spouse, I don’t want you to ever talk to anyone else except me, that would be an insecure possessive sort of jealousy. But if a wife said to her husband, why don’t you go out and have an intimate dinner with your old girlfriend, feel free to be emotionally and physically intimate with her, stay over her place if you want, I don’t mind, you’d have to say there’s a problem in that relationship wouldn’t you? If there’s no jealousy, then there’s no love.

God’s jealousy shows his love, and his zeal. He wants what’s best for us. He wants us to love him and worship him in a way that is worthy of him. Worshipping an image, or in our own way will never do that.

d) Impact on future generations (v9-10)

v9 is a hard verse isn’t it? I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me. What does that mean? It sounds unfair at first, but we know God is always just. Let’s be clear about what it can’t mean. It can’t mean that God finds children guilty or accountable for something their parents have done – Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin. (Deuteronomy 24:16). The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. (Ezekiel 18:20)

God does not punish unfairly. It’s true that children often suffer the consequences of their parents sin. If a parent is lazy, or bad-tempered, or overly harsh, children will often suffer as a consequence, but this verse seems to be saying more than that. A number of commentators point out that the last phrase ‘of those who hate me’ belongs not just to the first generation, but to all of the generations in this verse. God is not punishing unfairly, he is punishing those who hate him, just as their parents have done. To worship an image, to worship God your own way, is to hate God, to turn your back on what he has says. This is tragic enough, but even more so if your children follow you in your sin.

Notice though the huge contrast between the four generations punished by God, and the thousand generations to whom he’ll show love.

This must make us think about the impact our life will have on future generations, whether we are parents or not.  If you’re a parent you might be working hard to try to provide for your children materially, but do you ever think about the sort of spiritual legacy you will leave for your children? Will your children learn from you a love for God, that is more obvious than your love for craft, or cars, or career, or sport, or friends?

Imagine a man proposing to a lady. He says: Will you marry me? You’re not all that I’m looking for, but I think you have potential. I’d like you to lose some weight, change your wardrobe, change the way you laugh because it really annoys me, but I want you to marry me, and I’m going to turn you into exactly the person I want you to be. I’m not going to love you quite the way you want to be loved, but I am going to love you the way it suits me to love you. Do you think she’ll say yes? Of course not.

You can’t imagine someone doing that to a person who is imperfect, so why would we try to that with God who is perfect? Why would we say – God I’m going to believe in you, but there are some things about  you I don’t like, so I’m not going to believe those things? I’m not going to do everything you say, I’m going to follow you and worship you the way I want to. It just doesn’t make sense does it? It’s foolish to try to worship God our own way, whether that be with images, or any other way.

2. Worshipping God His way

a) Worship the true image of God

The Bible tells us the amazing truth that humans are made in the image of God. There is a sense in which a living speaking, thinking, loving, honest, gracious, kind human can reflect many of God’s characteristics in a way that no image ever can. Yet all humans are also rebels against God, his image in all of us is marred, we don’t reflect God’s character the way we should. Yet there is one human being who does.

The Son is the image of the invisible God… For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Colossians 1:15,19). I’ve had friends who were Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox, and as they’ve found out that I’m a Protestant, and evangelical, they’ve asked me questions like – why don’t you have statues or images like the Roman Catholics, or icons like the Eastern Orthodox churches? One answer to that question (based on this verse) is: we don’t need them – the word translated image here is ikwn, Jesus is the image of God, the true icon, we don’t need any others. In Jesus the invisible God became visible. Any other images or icons will not display God’s glory the way Jesus did.

In John 14 Jesus’ disciple, Philip, said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9)

To see Jesus was to see God. After Jesus rose from the dead, Thomas overcame his doubts and said to Jesus: My Lord and My God. Jesus said to Thomas: ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ (John 20:29). In Jesus the invisible God became visible. Yet we can believe in Jesus without seeing him, because those who did see him wrote down enough of what he said and did for us to be able to know and trust him.

So here’s an issue: since God became visible in Jesus, is it alright for Christians today to use pictures of Jesus? Some Christians, based on this commandment say: No- Jesus is God, a picture can never fully capture his glory and majesty. Other Christians say: Yes – this commandment is to do with worshipping images, so as long as you don’t pray to or worship the picture of Jesus, it’s OK. If you look at children’s books you might notice some Christian publishers have stories from the gospels, but never put Jesus in their pictures because of this commandment, but others do. Both would agree you should never worship or pray to a picture of Jesus.  Whichever way you go on this issues, it’s important to notice that Jesus’ physical appearance is never described in the gospels, but what is described are his words, and his works, so they should be our focus.

In Mark 9 Jesus is up on a mountain with three of his disciples. Moses and Elijah appear talking with him. A cloud appeared and covered them, just like a cloud appeared over Mount Sinai in the time of Moses, and just like then a voice spoke from the cloud, the voice of God the Father, who said: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7)

We don’t need any other images or icons, because in Jesus God has spoken and still speaks. We don’t have to imagine what God would be like, we can know what he is like, he has shown us in Jesus teaching, in Jesus miracles, in Jesus death and in Jesus resurrection. We worship God his way by worshipping Jesus the true image of God.

b) Love and serve God’s visible church

How do we see the invisible God at work in our world today? The Bible’s answer is: the ordinary, local church. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:22-23) The church is Jesus’ body, it’s described here as his fullness, living as his representatives here on earth.

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known (Ephesians 3:10) How is the wisdom of the invisible God to be made known? Through the church. It’s common to hear people say, I don’t need to go to church to worship God. It’s true that God wants us to worship him with our whole lives, but if Jesus’ church isn’t important to you, you should ask yourself how well you really know God. Do you realise how much God loves the church, how central it is to his plans?

We see that Paul does when he charges the Ephesian elders: Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (Acts 20:28) He’s referring to an ordinary local church, the church at Ephesus, and he calls it, God’s church, the church he bought with his own blood. He tells them to give themselves to shepherding and serving that church which Jesus loves.

It’s easy to come up with excuses for why we shouldn’t go to church isn’t it? The music’s not really my style,some of the people are a bit strange, , the preacher goes on a bit, I’ve got lots of other things to do. Yet it’s through the ordinary, sometimes strange people in the local church, that God is choosing to display his wisdom and glory, as we seek to love and encourage each other, and grow more like Jesus.

One of the things I’ve appreciated about serving in a team, is that we have the opportunity to talk over ideas for sermons with each other, and give each other feedback. One time, our senior pastor, Rog was giving me feedback, and he said, Kevin, I’d like you to keep using humour in your sermons. Not too much, he wants me to take God’s word seriously, but he thinks where it’s natural and helpful, I should use it. I said to him, I’ll try Rog, but I’m not really that funny, I haven’t got that many jokes, the one thing that seems to really work is when I tease you and Steve, people seem to like that. So Rog said, that’s fine, go ahead, keep doing it. I’m telling you this so you know, that when I tease Rog and Steve it’s not because I want to, I’m just the associate pastor here, I’m just doing what I’m told!

As you may know one of the things I like to tease Rog and Steve about is our age difference. Although it might seem we’re a similar age, we’re actually from different generations. Not only are we born on different sides of the moon landing, but they both have at least two kids in high school, and I’ve got a one year old. So that puts them in the older parents category, and me in the young parents category right? At least that’s what I try to tell them!

Whether you’re an older parent like Rog and Steve, or a younger parent like me, a good question to ask is, what are you teaching your children about church, by your lifestyle choices? This commandment makes us consider the impact we are having on future generaons. If you’re not a parent, you can ask the same question, what sort of example do your lifestyle choices set for others when it comes to church?

For a lot of Australian parents, if our kids are in a sporting team, sport becomes a non-negotiable, you’re there every week for the team no matter what. I wonder if you ever think of church that way, a non-negotiable. You’re there every week, not because you have to be there, but because you want to be there. You’re there because you love God, and you see how valuable the church is to God, the church he gave his blood for, it’s where his wisdom and glory are on display. As ordinary as it, it’s a place where God speaks each week through his word, and God acts in the life of his people, as they seek to love others, as Jesus has loved us.  Give yourself to the church. You that are members of the church have not found it perfect … Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us… the church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by grace, who, need all the help they can derive from … their fellow believers. The Church is…the fold for Christ’s sheep—the home for Christ’s family. (Charles Spurgeon)

How do we worship an invisible God? Not by making an image of him, not by making a god that suits us, a god of our imagination, but by recognising him as he is, listening to him as he speaks through his Son and through his word, confessing to him our real sin against him, putting our trust in his forgiveness, serving him in the local church where the power of the invisible God is on display in the lives of his people.

(Edited transcript of sermon preached at MEC 19 May 2013. You can listen to or download the sermon  here )


[1] Al Mohler, Words from the Fire, chapter 2.

Celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection

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Celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection with a few family and friends at Katoomba Easter Convention.

Some purposes of home groups

Here is a list of 24 ‘one another’ or ‘each other’ commands from the Bible. Can you think of others that could be added to this list?

1. Love one another (John 13:34-35, Rom 13:8, 1 John 3:11, 3:23, 4:7,11,12, 2 John 5, 1Pet 1:22 – deeply from the heart)
2. Be devoted to one another (Rom 12:10)
3. Honour one another (Rom 12:10)
4. Rejoice with one another (Rom 12:15)
5. Live in harmony with one another (Rom 12:16, 1 Pet 3:8)
6. Accept one another (Rom 15:7)
7. Instruct one another (Rom 15:14)
8. Greet one another (Rom 16:16, 1 Cor 16:20, 2 Cor 13:12, 1 Pet 5:14)
9. Agree with one another (1 Cor 1:10)
10. Serve one another (Gal 5:13)
11. Be patient, bearing with one another (Eph 4:2, Col 3:13)
12. Be kind and compassionate to one another, (Eph 4:32)
13. forgiving each other, (Eph 4:32)
14. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns etc. (Eph 5:19)
15. Submit to one another (Eph 5:21)
16. Teach and admonish one another (Col 3:16)
17. Encourage one another (1 Th 5:11, Heb 3:13,10:25)
18. Build each other up (1 Th 5:11)
19. Spur one another on (Heb 10:24)
20. Offer hospitality to one another (1 Pet 4:9)
21. Confess your sins to each other (James 5:16)
22. Be at peace with each other (Mark 9:50),
23. Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another,(1 Pet 5:5)
24. Pray for each other (James 5:16)
 

Gathering together each week for church gives us a regular opportunity to put many of these ‘one another’ commands into practice. But the Bible encourages us to build deeper into each other’s life than just our weekly gathering for church: See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:12-13)

We have an ability to encourage each other at a further level when we meet together in a home group. It can also help us build deeper relationships, where we can connect and serve each other in various ways throughout the week.

Home groups, can also give us an opportunity to read out to others. Unbelievers are always welcome at church, but for some a home is a less threatening environment to begin to get to know God and his people. You may be able to think of ways you can work together with your home group to reach out to your neighbours.

For more on the home groups we currently have at our church, see here:

You can download a visual / graphic of the ‘one another’ commands in the Bible here or in high resolution here

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We’re going on a Bear Hunt…

We're going on a Bear Hunt...

Our 1-year-old keeps bringing me this to read to her. It’s nice to have an excuse to still be reading it 🙂

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The Blessing of God’s grace

The Blessing of God's grace

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people (Titus 2:11). In Jesus “God has blessed you with his grace, gifted you with his presence, strengthened you with his power, and made you the object of his eternal love.” (Timothy S Lane).