Tag Archives: gospel

Sheffield Fun

I know I said that I would update on my time here in Sheffield last night, but it turns out finding free time to sit down and write is quite tricky when you’re staying with friends!

After a busy day of thinking hard we got back to Iain and Liz’s last night to be told that we were going out to a Kurdish restaurant shortly for dinner. So after a brief sit down we were out again and at this wonderful little place which served fantastic Kurdish kebabs. I was absolutely stuffed by the time we finished eating and it was a real joy to meet the owner of the place, who is a good friend of Iain and Liz (hence why we went).

Then when we did get back for the evening, Iain and Liz went out to their home group and left me and Richard, who is also on the summer school and staying in the same place, to our own devices. This resulted in us having a long and winding discussion about all sorts of theological things (as if a working day full of Bible study wasn’t enough!), including predestination, the nature of God’s sovereignty, and the destiny of the Church.

Anyway, other than all the fun at my hosts house, we have been spending the last three days working our way slowly and carefully through the book of 1 Peter. I came expecting some specific training on preaching, but what we are actually doing as a group is careful study of the Bible, and that’s all. The day is broken up by lunch and a morning and afternoon coffee break, but the rest of the time we are simply reading a little bit and discussing it in detail, ironing out exactly what Peter was saying to the Church at the time, especially focusing on more difficult words and phrases in an attempt to fully understand accurately what Peter meant. Then some of our discussion is also focused on the question “how would you preach this?”.

It’s been an eye opening experience, and an immense amount of fun. In three days we’ve just managed to get to the start of 1 Peter chapter 4, and we might even manage to finish the book tomorrow (our last day here). I feel that my understanding of the book is clear, and I would be readily able to explain it to other people now which is excellent. More than that though, I feel that I have invested a week of my life into making great friendships with a group of likeminded people, with the express intention of understanding the Bible together. This has been such a wonderful experience, and the truths we have been studying have deeply effected me already, and I know will continue to long after this week is over. More than anything it has reawakened in me the desire to really properly study the scriptures, in particular with other people and not in isolation.

When I’m back in Leicester I really look forward to grabbing my friends and wrestling with scripture together with them.

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Wonderful conversion

When I arrived back at our B&B on Saturday I put 5 live on for a bit just before we went to sleep, and was rather pleased to hear an interview with David Hamilton, a former loyalist paramilitary member from northern ireland who became a Christian.

The interview is fascinating and heartwarming, and you can listen to it here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00t32h5#-

It begins just after 1:39.

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Happiness is not the goal

For the most part I am a fairly cheery fellow, and this is a good thing. I dont pretend to be permanently happy though, and in fact I can be in pretty dark places sometimes. Fortunately for me, the aim of my life is not to be permanently happy; indeed I would be a little worried if I was permanently happy.

The goal is to be joyful and content, neither of these things necessarily equate to happiness. Joy is about praising God for everything I have at this moment, even pain. Contentedness is about being completely satisfied with what I have at the moment, whether its plenty or very little. The key to both of these things is that I have the gospel in my heart, and that is all I need.

No matter what the situation, the gospel is sufficient. No matter how deep the pain, I can always rejoice in what Christ has done for me. I dont ever need to be happy, but I can always be joyful. I need to constantly remind myself of this, because whenever I stop being happy I totally forget!

Happiness is not the goal, and never will be. It would be better to spend the rest of my life in mourning, totally focused on Christ than it would be to spend my life happy but blind to him.

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Becoming a Muslim

Ramadan is over, and I really only caught the tail end of this little debate online, but I think it’s quite interesting and so I wanted to add my two cents.

Basically, a bunch of Christians (for the most part from the emergent church camp) this year fasted alongside Muslims during Ramadan. The main reasoning behind this seems to be to understand the Muslims around them better, as he states in his blog:

“We, as Christians, humbly seek to join Muslims in this observance of Ramadan as a God-honoring expression of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness.”

The response to this has been understandably varied, from people jumping on the idea immediately as wonderful and starting their own Ramadan fasts, to others tearing the idea down as “insane at best … Sad, tragic, horrific, misguided, dangerous, wrong.”

I have to say that I’m not sure I would really sit in either camp. I’m not about to leap on it as a fantastic idea, because to join with Muslims in fasting during Ramadan would need a great deal of care to ensure that what you were doing was not contrary to the gospel. However I don’t think that it is necessarily wrong to do so either, and certainly not insane.

If your fasting during Ramadan is in fact observance of the Muslim faith, then that is clearly contrary to the Christian faith and wrong. However I don’t think that fasting during Ramadan has to be that. What if instead you were to fast alongside your Muslim friends for the sake of understanding them better, for the sake of learning about the observances of their faith. What if that observance of something which for many Muslims is simply a cultural imperative rather than a spiritual act was in fact completely acceptable. What if all you were doing was being a Muslim to the Muslims, just like Paul became a Jew to the Jews and a Gentile to the Gentiles. Not that you were really becoming Muslim, any more than Paul actually became a Gentile, but in the observance of their culture and lifestyle you were seeking to understand them better.

I’m sure that not every Christian who fasted during Ramadan this year did a good job of it. I’m sure that some of them were honouring a religious ritual aimed at a false God. However I’m also pretty sure that some of them were just fasting so that they could hang out with Muslims, and the Bible certainly doesn’t tell us to avoid hanging out with unbelievers.

I’m also pretty disturbed by the suggestion that the only thing we can constructively do for Muslims during Ramadan is pray for them. Of course praying for them is great, but isn’t it also a good idea to get to know and understand them and their beliefs? Shouldn’t we also be seeking openings for the gospel? How about we try to put into practice what Paul exemplified for us in 1 Corinthians 9:

19For though I am free from all,I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

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Generations of Grace

Stuart Townend
Grace

Lord, I’m grateful
Amazed at what You’ve done
My finest efforts are filthy rags
But I’m made righteous
By trusting in the Son
I have God’s riches at Christ’s expense!

‘Cause it’s grace!
There’s nothing I can do
To make You love me more,
To make You love me less than You do
And by faith
I’m standing on this Stone
Of Christ and Christ alone
Your righteousness is all that I need
‘Cause it’s grace!

Called and chosen
When I was far away
You brought me into Your family
Free, forgiven
My guilt is washed away
Your loving kindness is life to me

Freely given
But bought with priceless blood
My life was ransomed at Calvary
There my Jesus
Gave everything He could
That I might live for eternity

Grace loves the sinner
Loves all I am and all I’ll ever be
Makes me a winner
Whatever lies the devil throws at me

I was just listening to this in preparation for singing it at my dear friends wedding tomorrow when I was struck by something. Stuart Townend is older than me. This is an important thing for me to remember because I have a tendancy to be a little arrogant in my faith. I have discovered (actually, God has shown me) this beautiful thing, God’s grace, and I am a young man. As a result I often act as though this amazing thing which I found out is unique to me, and that the generations before me probably didn’t “get it”.

It’s easy enough to look back at the big names like Luther and Calvin and accept that those guys had a handle on the truth of the gospel, but much closer to home, the generations of my parents and my grandparents, it’s much easier to overlook them. It’s really easy for me to be arrogant and think things like “well the Church is in a mess because the guys who are older than me just didn’t understand the gospel, so they screwed everything up.”

OK, so in some instances this is probably true, and continues to be. But it isn’t true universally. The grace that God has revealed to me he also revealed to the generation before me, and the generation before them.

1 Timothy 4:12 says “Let no one despise you for your youth”. Let’s not despise people because of their lack of youth either.

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Preaching should always be about Christ

All of scripture is about Jesus, as we see in Luke 24:13-27. And since I firmly believe in expository preaching, and that Christ is the centre of the Bible, there is only one conclusion, that Christ must be the centre of every sermon.

Recently Tony Reinke blogged a few choice quotes from Spurgeon regarding his opinion on Christless preaching, this being the general flavour of the quotes:

The motto of all true servants of God must be, “We preach Christ; and him crucified.” A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.

Check out the rest of the post

I heartily agree with the sentiment, and the one thing that frequently appears in my sermon notebook is the phrase what about the cross?. It warms my heart to know that most of the time when I write that down, the preacher goes on to answer it later in the sermon.

As I blogged a few days ago, the gospel is the answer to every problem in the world, so what use is a sermon without the gospel in it? What use is a Biblical view on an issue if that view does not include the cross.

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Always the Gospel

Here is a wonderful truth, every Christian in the world holds in their hands the solution to every problem in the world. There is no problem in any persons life which is not answered by the gospel, and there never will be. Neither is there any problem in nature that is not addressed and solved completely by the gospel.

Jesus’ death and resurrection are the solution to all problems ever.

If you ever deal with a pastoral issue in someones life without applying the cross, then you have not offered a solution, you’ve at best presented a “cure” for the symptoms. If you ever try to deal with the brokenness of the natural world without looking to the resurrection then you will miss the fact that this world was broken by sin and will be fixed completely soon (at least, soon by God’s timescale).

Never move on from the Cross of Christ, never look for the other solutions beyond the Cross, never search for the deeper truths outside of the Cross. Everything is in Christ and his Cross.

Colossians 2:6-7

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Fix your eyes on Jesus

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9

Here lies the solution to all of your problems. Stop looking at the problem! Fix your eyes on the one person who embodies all of those aspects Paul has listed, the one person whose example cannot be faulted.

This week is very exciting for me, term has not started yet so I have a week without students in which I am supposed to spend about 40 hours studying. During that time I will be looking at Philippians, and working my way through Tim Chesters book You Can Change. I’m not sure how I’m going to properly take in 40 hours of study on such important stuff, and I suspect I will end up with a pile of notes to go back to in the future (I’ve already got quite a few and I’ve only done some preliminary stuff today).

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Look what You’ve done

I have chosen to spend some of my time this term studying the Biblical view of Men and Women. I chose to look at this area for a number of reasons, the main one being that it is a serious area of contention in the western Church today and as such I wanted to be sure of my views on the matter and more importantly sure that my views agree with the Bible. I also chose to study manhood and womanhood because I am a Christian guy, and as such the Bibles definition of a man applies to me and I should seek to be the kind of man that the Bible says I should be. This is I think especially important in todays western Church climate where there are many more women in Church and masculinity is under attack from the culture around us.

This morning I listened to a great sermon on Ephesians 5:15-33 by Russell D. Moore (pick it up here) in which I was reminded of something really essential that I often forget. A large part of what Moore had to say was that we often read passages like this and think “ah, so Christ’s relationship to the Church is a picture of what marriage should be like”. The reality is that Paul is saying something very different, he is in fact saying something more like “marriage is a picture of what Christ and the Church are like”.

This shift in focus from God picturing life for us to us picturing God for others is an immense thing. We go from a self centered perspective of asking God how he can help our situations to a totally outward looking evangelistic perspective of our lives. When we think like this, the real question is no longer “What can you do for me God?”, but instead we ask “How can I show you to others God?”.

I am reminded of a great song by Tree63 which sets out not only this wonderful attitude towards God, but clearly explains why this is an appropriate attitude if we have understood the gospel!

Look what You’ve done
Look what You’ve done for me
Your blood has set me free
Jesus my Lord look what You’ve done for me

I haven’t been the same
Ever since that day I called Your name
Yahweh
Yahweh Look What You’ve done for me

What can I do for You my Lord?
I want You to know my heart is Yours
It’s not a question of what You can do for me
But what can I do for You my Lord?

Up to Your cross I crawled
Now I am standing teen feet tall
Jesus my saviour look what You’ve done for me

Free at last I’m free
I owe You my life completely
Yahweh
Yahweh look what You’ve done for me

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