Friday, June 29, 2007

Now that's what I call worship

John Risbridger
Hebrews 9
Reading University Christian Union

I'm currently downloading some Get quality MP3 preaches from

Jesus' blood never fails me

Today is my fifth wedding anniversary. Five years ago I entered into a covenant with Em for life. She walked into a church in Bristol to the sound of Delirious' Jesus Blood Never Fails Me. We made promises, exchanged rings. And celebrated with friends and family.

A friend assured me beforehand that marriage is what happens when you get two sinners living under the same roof. And he warned me that would be hard. Because we are sinful people. I've found myself needing to be forgiving and to be forgiven. But how is that possible? Is forgiveness a commitment to forgetfulness? And what if you can't forget?

Today I think we're in danger of losing what it means to forgive. It seems to mean something like amnesia. God takes sin and forgiveness more robustly. Forgiveness is not easily acquired. It's a rare jewel. It should be highly sought after.

I wont win my wife's forgiveness of me by romance and charm or the flowers that I don't buy often enough. Those things are good and vital but if they were to be the basis of forgiveness we'd have a problem.

Likewise I wont win my wife's forgiveness of me by distraction, by occupying her mind with other things so that the memory of my stubbornness and selfishness is crowded out. No, her forgiveness of me is secured in the rings on our fingers. Or rather what those rings represent. The promises we made on June 29th 2002. Above all, promises secured in the blood of Jesus - as all forgiveness is.

Hallelujah, what a saviour! (free mp3 download from Bob Kauflin)
Sheet music here

Martin Downes interviews Mark Dever:

How should a minister keep his heart, mind, and will from theological error?
I would encourage a man to marry a woman who loves the Lord as much or more than he does, and to stay in the Word. I would also encourage him to build relationships with people in a sound Bible-preaching church.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Religious Affections

A friend recently wrote to me: "I am reading Edwards "A Treatise on the Religious
Affections" at the moment and it makes me want to pray and love God a lot. Recommended." - I've tried a few times and have started again recently. Perhaps this time I'll get through it. In case that doesn't happen Sam Storms is around to help (if I can get this in the UK)...

Jonathan Edwards’s treatise Religious Affections is widely considered the most important and accurate analysis of religious experience ever written. Unfortunately, many well-intentioned readers sit down with Religious Affections, only to give up in frustration over Edwards’s lofty style and complex argumentation ...Sam Storms.... has attempted to bridge the gap between how Edwards said what he did in the eighteenth century and how he might say it today. In Signs of the Spirit he articulates the substance of Edwards’s arguments in a more understandable way. The point is not to “dumb down” Jonathan Edwards but to make his work accessible to a wider audience. This volume will serve a companion guide to, a reading of Edwards’s Religious Affections.

HT: Justin Taylor

Ed makes some really insightful comments about Rob Bell's NOOMA. I'll resume my reviewing of Velvet Elvis in the near future. I also resolved today whilst walking around London that I'll be using the blog to work through my thinking on money & possessions so that'll start showing during July....

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Grace that gets under your skin

I love the book of Jonah. I love it because it shouldn't exist. God sends a prophet to preach but he runs the other way, has to be chased with a storm and swallowed by a fish before he's prepared to do what he was originally told to do. When he finally preaches in the evil city of Nineveh everyone repents. Everyone puts their trust in God. Quits sin and looks for mercy. That's at least 120,000 people seeking repentance in a day (3v9), and God grants repentance relenting from wrath towards them (3v10). I don't think you'd find an evangelist who wouldn't come in from that kind of days work and be absolutely exhuberantly overwhelmingly delighted.

And yet (4v1) Jonah is devastated. He's exceedingly angry. Makes you think why does God bother? Surely he could find a prophet who'd do the job and be glad when things turn out well. But this prophet is furious. Enough to die. And he has stern words with God for it. He states what we've all wondered since the beginning of the story. Why exactly had he run away from doing what God had asked of him. And the peculiar reason is because he knew that God would be gracious and save the city. For most evangelists that's the kind of motivation that gets them going. But not Jonah. Oh no. Jonah turns on God and reprimands him for this. He'd told God this would happen. He's warned him. He'd tried to save God from himself - he'd gone the other way in a clear signal that this was an unwise course of action for God. The LORD who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love apparently needs saving from himself. So says Jonah.

It's all too much. If God isn't going to destroy the Ninevites then the only other solution is for him to kill Jonah. And he says it. Angry enough to die. Put me out of my misery!

Meanwhile, there are 120,000 new believers in city. The obvious course of action is for Jonah to do what prophets do and teach the law to them. Not Jonah. He's off. But not westward for home. He goes east. And he sits down to watch. Waiting for God to see sense and destroy them after all. No follow up here. No care and discipleship. He wants them dead and he'll wait for it happen.

One way in which Jonah might have been right to be angry is the nagging question of the Old Testament. How can God just let them off. However, if that was Jonah's issue he should have been asking the same question about his own salvation - why hasn't God just gotten rid of him for his own rebellion. So, I don't think that's really Jonah's problem. That issue is resolved when Jesus comes along with every other outstanding question in the New Testament.

Jonah has miscalculated however because it's way too hot out by Nineveh. He builds some shelter but it wont keep the sun off. God provides a plant. Just as he'd previously provided a fish once more he models grace to the rebel preacher boy. Jonah is ecstatic. He rejoices. Then God takes the plant away. Jonah is once more angry enough to die. But this is all a lesson for him, and God graciously explains. Every step along the way of this story was an opportunity for God to smite Jonah but again and again he abounds in grace and speaks to Jonah.

There's a great little tangent of a lesson here about ministry in Gods' kingdom - he uses people like Jonah with screwed up motives and disobedient hearts and still gets his work done. We're not going to thwart the advance of God's gospel by being sinful losers. This strange Minor Prophet with only a few words of prophecy is a prophecy in it's entirity. Told in the life of Jonah. Worked out in his life as he takes the gospel to the nations.

The point is really simple. Jonah cares about a plant he didn't make grow. Shouldn't God then care about 120,000 people. And their cows. Not sure why. Maybe it's to help us see we can't know everything. Maybe it's because the cows should be dying as sacrifices in the city offered by these new disciples but Jonah just wants everything burnt. Maybe it's an appeal that if Jonah doesn't care about the people but does care about a plant, a cow is somewhere in between. I dunno. David Field : God cares for cattle

Nonetheless, Jonah knows God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. He knows. He can talk about it. He has the application all wrong. The kind of wrong that gets you nearly drowned and then covered in fish vomit. And then the book ends. It ends with a question. We're left hanging. We don't know how he responded. We know the answer to the question but then the book ends. Not even a Blairite flourish of "the end". Another cliffhanger.

Options - either Jonah repents or he doesn't. If not then the conversation should have ocntinued and it's hard to see how Jonah would tell the story like this. Either he'd have rewritten the history to make himself a hero or he wouldn't have told it at all. Most of all though the point wont be how Jonah responded - the question is left for the original readers and for us. Will we apply God's grace in a way that says we want evil people to receive it (people like us for a start), or not? The answer will be in our lives and it'll resound when Jesus retells the story as 'the sign of Jonah'.

For what it's worth I think Jonah repented. The book reads like he must have got it in the end. It humiliates him. All the way through he writes brilliantly, leading us to expect one thing but then getting under our skin with shocks and twists. I also suspect it's only after the end of the story, when Jonah has repented, that God whispers in Jonah's ear to tell the repentant prophet that the pagan sailors got saved too while he was sinking to the bottom of the Med. And if he really got it he'd have rejoiced over that as he went down to get teaching the new believers of Nineveh and write down the story of God's grace in his own life.

I work for UCCF and that means I can talk about God's grace until I drop. That's what we do. The question is, do I get it or am I just like Jonah?

Joyfully reformed

Mark Dever begins a 10 part blog series on : Where'd all these Calvinists come from? I'm happy to bear the nickname Calvinist and there all sort of influences that have brought me to that position. See also Young, restless and reformed. Terry Virgo today : Anyone in newfrontiers would know how much we treasure these doctrines. I am not sure that someone would feel they couldn't join us if they were not reformed. We have never said you have to be reformed to belong. But it is widely known and understood outside our circles that we are reformed and charismatic. That's how people see us. I have often said that I don't know how people who don't fully believe in the sovereignty of God can sleep peacefully at night.

Sadly today the man with a good reformed name Jonathan Edwards, walks away from God. His testimony that "his inner sense of God’s presence was fictitious". Commented on by : Mike, Adrian. Shows to me the importance of having good deep foundations. I'm off to read the other Jonathan Edwards on Religious Affections - what real Christian experience looks like.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Holy Spirit

One of the sad things about leaving Reading soon is the distance that puts between myself and some dear partners in the gospel. People like Sean Green from Reading Family Church. Whatever the distance we share the unity of the Holy Spirit but I shall miss the warm gospel-friendship I've received from Sean and his fellow elder Scott. In July I'm speaking to our 'blueprint' group at Arborfield and in my preparation was greatly encouraged by this Sean Green - The Holy Spirit.

A fire that should set the world alight with passion for God

The Embers of Preaching and
the Flames of Piety
- Pete Sanlon.
"To put it bluntly—a sermon that does not stir up a deeper love for Jesus is not a Christian sermon. It may have many excellent features and could possibly be a good lecture, but it is nonetheless a failure as a sermon."
More from Pete's blog - Grace City : Augustinian Attitudes for Today

Searching for splendour

"We are constantly looking for splendor; and nothing appears to us more incongruous, than that the heavenly kingdom of the Son of God, whose glory is so magnificently celebrated by the prophets, should consist of the dregs and offscourings of the common people. And truly it is a wonderful purpose of God, that though he has the whole world at his command, he chooses rather to select a peculiar people to himself from among the contemptible vulgar, than from the nobility, whose high rank would have been a greater ornament to the name of Christ... And certainly, though this appointment of God contradicts our senses, we discover not only blind arrogance, but excessive madness, if we murmur against it, while Christ our Head adores it with reverence."
Calvin on Luke 10v17-24.

How great it is that Jesus reveals himself not to the great and the good, but instead to little children. It is the Father's pleasure. It is the Son's joy in the Holy Spirit. Let us also rejoice! What grace that is not based upon our intellect or status, desire or effort but only upon his joy.

Humbling effects of Election

A while ago I wrote about how we should approach teaching on Election in Romans 9 with heartbreak and hallelujahs. Sorrowful over those who do not share in an inseparable relationship with Jesus, soaring in joy over the wonders of the salvation we have received by grace.

You may not agree with my conclusions on Romans 9v1-18 and you may be eqally humbled by your own understanding of this passage or this doctrine. Nonetheless, I want to share the way this affects me. In 9v1-18 we see that God has revealed himself much to the Jews yet many don't believe. Why not? Not because God's word has failed but because God never promised to save everyone. Rather he saves by his choice before birth, independent of human desire or effort. Salvation then is by God's free choice in a way that brings most glory to himself. He makes it evident that hardening the Egyptian king would make him famous as would saving his own idolatrous people. There is wisdom far beyond us in this matter.

We may protest that this seems unfair of God to make us responsible for our sin. It is this that occupies him in v19-29. The opening question is a protest from a non-Christian saying : how can God blame me, if I'm hardened because of nothing in me but only because of his choice for his reputation.

The reply floors us. We're likened to clay in a potters hands. We're mud. We have thoughts far above our station when we come to protest in the courts of divine wisdom. Who are we to protest our rights?

The second response is striking. The anguished apostle says that it is God's purpose to harden some to show his wrath and power so that he can show his mercy and glory to those he saves. One must exist for the other to. If he never shows his wrath his mercy is less glorious. We accept that God would judge responsively but this makes his wrath much more active and a deliberate part of his plan to show how glorious he is.

The third response is mostly a word for the saved, those who have received mercy. Firstly from Hosea - we're the Spiritual Adulterers reconciled to God. Though we should be classes as not God's people we are counted as sons of the living God. Isaiah follows this reminding us that God only saves a remnant - and he does save a remnant though he could sweep us all away. And furthermore, if it were not for God's mercy all the saved would be like Sodom & Gomorrah. We should be a byword for evil yet we receive mercy.

One might argue how it seems harsh for the hardened to be judged, but rather we're to conclude: how humbled the saved should be. What mercy to rescue a rebel like me! My heartbreaks for those not saved yet this is for God's glory. And what motivation to go and proclaim Christ that they might believe. The wisdom that knows who will be saved is not entrusted to me, all I can see is that there is nothing in people to excuse them from belief - not family background, not behaviour, not desire or effort. None of those are a reason why God saves. Only his free and abounding mercy.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Being Thrilled

"What thrills me is a local church full of individuals celebrating the triumph of grace, knowing what it is to be a son of God, full of the Holy Spirit, enjoying personal fellowship with God in an intimate way and also reveling in a huge picture of our world mission to glorify Jesus among the nations, and the vast place of the Church in world history. That vision is both intimately personal and massively broad -- both things thrill me." -- Terry Virgo

Confident Christians love the church with the word

Christians are confident people. Not self confident. We're confident in the blood of Jesus. His death in our place that gives us confidence to enter The Most Holy Place. The presence of God that was previously marked No Entry can now be entered boldly. What should we do - draw near! Come on in. We have a perfect prayer life since Jesus is always interceding there for us and he calls us to enter in ourselves. Consider Tim Chester & Andrew Bonar on Leviticus. The blood leaves us humbled and deeply sin-conscious. Devastated by our evil hearts as we see our sin through the cross of Jesus. And yet, made perfect and made alive by the same Jesus!
And then, we live in he light of this. What does confident living look like? Hebrews 10v23-25 : Let us... v23, Hold unswervingly to the hope we profess Why? because he who promised is faithful. that is : because God's promises are reliable. v24, consider how to spur one another on towards love and good deeds. To stir up outbursts and overflowing gospel-life. v25, not give up on meeting together, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the day approaching. Notice the logic : Don't quit meeting because you need to encourage one another. So what is the point of meeting together? For encouragement. Not because it's nice and fun - though it can be that too.

What encouragement? v23 - holding to hope : faith in Jesus' blood. This isn't fuzzy feel-good self-esteemism to make you feel good. He means the encouragement that leads to a deeply-convicted soul. To souls that are really alive to the guilt sin and the glory of God. This is a Hebrews-3-stype speaking God's word to one another. Rooting out sin. Calling one another to hold on to the gospel. It's not a Christian meeting if we don't have God's word open.

What's the goal? v24 - to live love and live good. Not just to know the truth but truth-applied. All theology - all knowing of God is to be life changing. And notice that this discipleship is a community project. LET US do this. Confident Christians love the church, there's no such thing as solo-Christianity. Take a coal out of the fire and it quickly grows cold. We're all in this together and the bond between us will be what we find about gospel-hope in the Bible.

Use your time to open the Bible together. The community of the shadows God's people were to talk about God's word wherever they went and whatever they were doing. How much more in the community of reality should we? Let us delight to open the Bible together. Always carry one around so that you never miss an opportunity to be encouraged, to or to encourage someone else with the word of God. Our meeting together is not Christian meeting if God's word is not heard.

Ask one another - what is God doing in your life? Ask one another - what's encouraged you recently to hold onto Jesus? Confident Christians love the church by encouraging others to hold onto hope in Jesus' blood.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Terry Virgo Interview

"...we have to work with where we are. I feel a sense of commissioning to gather some Christian leaders together, and am beginning to do so. I am praying about throwing a wider net to include more from reformed backgrounds. I am looking for men of the Bible who are men of goodwill to see what would happen. It has to be on a relational basis. I am not just looking at those who 'ought' to be there. It seems to me that the key is to bring together people who really care. I would love to see a rallying point that was not just charismatic but for those who value the Word. I do feel God has given me a desire to have fellowship with leaders beyond Newfrontiers. We love the Word and want to see the Cross upheld as do others. I would love to see some kind of bridging of the Together for the Gospel type of movement in the UK."

Made Perfect Forever

I'll post a few extracts from talks I preached at the Reading University Christian Union Summer Houseparty. This from the first session :
Here. At Hebrews 10v14. Here's the biggest thing to remember! Everything else will be application. And that application is vast. Get this: 10v14 :

by one sacrifice he has made perfect for all time those who are being made holy.

Chew on that. Compare with the old. One sacrifice. That makes people perfect. Forever. Gaze into the mirror of scripture and see how the world really is. See what Jesus has done. Who is made perfect? "those who are being made holy" That is those on a trajectory towards God's ways. Not those who work but those who live by faith in the high priest Jesus - as we'll see in chapter 11.

This is total confidence that you are made perfect by Jesus blood. Notice the tense - "made perfect". That means already done and see how long it lasts? "forever" ! What does it mean to be made perfect? The Holy Spirit tells us again - v15. The Spirit again speaks Jeremiah 31. And today as you hear the Holy Spirit do not harden your heart. What has happened? v16 - the law is written on your heart. For some of us the declaration in 10v14 is something you've never grasped before. It's news.

If so let me urge you to believe it. Believe it. God will write it on your heart! Imprinted for eternity. And what's more, v17, sins and lawless acts remembered no more. Why not? Because of Jesus' one sacrifice. Ask God to invigorate your heart with that.

You see, the new is better than, 8v5 - the patterns, 9v23 - the copies, 10v1 - the shadows. The old reminded. The new is much more excellent. In the new you are made perfect. Forgiven :
Not by divine-amnesia
But by the shedding of Jesus' blood once.
Jesus blood never fails us.
It turns aside the wrath we deserve.
Jesus blood never fails us.
It cleanses us from our sin.
Jesus blood never fails us.
By it you - are - made perfect.
No more need for sacrifice. No need to establish yourself before God. Jesus has granted you 100% perfection. That is already done. Paul would say we've been counted righteous in Christ. This writer says : made perfect by Jesus' blood. Our prayer is simple : 'upward i look and see him there, who made an end of all my sin' We are made perfect forever by Jesus' one sacrifice. Martin Luther puts it very well : "God smiles on you in Christ"

He has no anger towards you. Ever. In Christ. He smiles on you. Not because of you, but because of Jesus' blood. Revel in his superiority! Look at the superiority of Jesus in his one sacrifice to make us perfect. Stand in awe of his magnificent new covenant in his blood. To cleanse. To change our hearts.

His one sacrifice puts everything else in the shade. In fact everything else was just the shade, the shadow cast as the blazing sun of Jesus' one sacrifice was cast back through time from Calvary. He has made you perfect. What a Saviour!

This isn't sin-indifference. This isn't divine amnesia. This is the glory of the cross as God sees you soaked in the blood of calvary. Look to the cross to see your forgiveness secured. Look to the cross to see God's promises secured.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Worth of Christ : better than all you can have

This was going to be part of a preach next Sunday. I think it'll have to stay in the study cos there's too much else to say in 20 minutes from Luke 9-10... I guess that's part of the discipline of preparation.

He's been calling people to follow him for sometime, and then someone agrees to come. What's the first thing you do? Logically, celebrate. But Jesus doesn't do that. He starts spouting small print. Advising that following Jesus is costly, leaving home and family behind. You have to ask, what's he doing?

But then you see? He's just set his face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9v51). Why? Not for tourism. He's going there to "be taken up". Which means to die, rise and then ascend to heaven. Going there will mean great sacrifice so it's not all that strange that those who follow him will also carry a cost.

There's something else too. Telling us about costs when he wants us to follow tells us about how good it is to follow. Following Jesus outweighs the cost of following. And Jesus is telling us that he's better than any of the stuff you could have in life.

Does that mean having a home and family is bad? No. Physical stuff is good - it's made by God and given by him. But Jesus does want us to see that the best thing we can gain is not a house, car and family - it's Jesus himself.

Two ways this works out :

1. Havinng Jesus we can begin to truly enjoy the good gifts God has given. How? By receiving them as gifts with thanksgiving. And to enjoy them by sharing with others. A home can be opened to others for hospitality and accomodation. A car can be used for others. And, how many lawnmowers does any church or community really need?

2. Having Jesus we can be free to lay down what God has given to us. To count any loss of possessions or family to be a gain since then we'll just have Jesus, who is better by far than all we could have.

The weight of evidence is overwhelming

John Buckeridge reviews Pierced for our Transgressions in Christianity Magazine

The first thing that strikes me is that it's a bit of a unbalanced review - almost half of it is dedicated to a critique of a small section in the book on particular redemption, which the authors say they expect people will not have been expecting but that they wrote to get people thinking about how belief in penal substitute effects other beliefs. This is an annoying feature which makes you feel like the reviewer hasn't read the book carefully as he accuses them of opening a can of worms. That said - there have been plenty of conservative reviews of The Lost Message of Jesus that focus in on just one page of that book, which could be claimed not to be it's central theme either!

The review is broadly positive towards Pierced for our Transgressions. This is the magazine that Steve Chalke writes in so that's a bit of a surprise! However, when it comes to the detail it's not quite so clear. Chalke is identified as "inflammatory and ill advised" but noticably, not wrong. Buckeridge says:
"The weight of evidence is overwhelming that penal substitution is something that is foreshadowed and prophesied in the Old Testament, taught by Jesus himself and by the apostles, most notably Paul."
Buckeridge follows NT Wright's critique by saying that they neglect the gospels - though there are two sections on two of the gospels. Perhaps there could have been even more on the gospels but it is already a long book - and all scripture is God breathed not just the gospels. Someone else could write the book on "what the gospel's teach about penal substitution" - and Peter Bolt has done this very well on Mark in his The Cross from a Distance. Step up the writers who will do the same on Matthew, Luke and John.

So the discussion rolls on. I'm deeply struck by the need to get into scripture page by page, gospels and the rest, as I prepare to preach Hebrews this weekend. And all the more as John Risbridger (Above Bar Church & Keswick) spoke last night at Reading CU on Hebrews 9, and the need for the cross to be at the centre of all our lived and sung worship [mp3 to follow].

Christianity Magzine considers Steve Chalke to have brought a needed challenge for us to stop using poor caricatures. And that is fair - though Chalke clearly goes further by his own confession in his paper 'Redeeming the Cross' where he seems to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Meanwhile, the authors of the widely endorsed Pierced are however adjudged to have brought hard edges and unnecessary controversy to the table. One thing is clear, evangelical now describes a very broad church in which we're not all singing from the same songsheet on something very important.

This is an issue to be fought with love from the pulpits of our churches because the centrality of the cross is central to the health of our churches. The writing of books and blogposts may be of some assistance though I'm aware of the parallels between fighting in the new media and Christians taking one another to court. Above all this is a matter for pastoral concern and evangelistic clarity and we have to keep cross-centred.

More on this from Adrian Warnock
Tim Chester reflects on Leviticus

Monday, June 18, 2007

FAQ: I'd rather do evangelism than my course

This will look like a follow up to The Heart of Art and the seminar I've been asked to teach, but actually it's not. I started writing it a month ago. I put it out now as a potential sketch of the issues and for your interactions... Very much a first draft.

Luke Wood wrote:
"...what about the actual studying? Not to suggest that any of the organisations mentioned above would discourage students from their studies; but when they carry a message so thrilling and an ideology so engaging that my degree frankly looks boring, my question has often been "how can I get enthusiastic about my degree?" ...It would seem that being able to engage through service with an amazing mission actually gave me impetus for my degree, without necessarily the time to do it."
Pulling this thing together is a vital thing. I've been trying to get students to think about what studying Speech Therapy, History, Film Studies, Biochemistry and other things to the glory of God looks like. How does 'studying for Jesus' fit into 'living for Jesus. speaking for Jesus'? I think it fits mostly in the first part but also effects the latter.

A Christian Study Ethic? This must be a minimum. Carl Trueman warns in the area of 'Christian' studying that we're probably asking a middle-class question - humility covers much of how we study, work, live etc. Humility averts laziness and disrespect in the workplace. This we know, from Ephesians 6, models the gospel by displaying the Christian's submission to a greater master. Likewise the Christian supervisor/manager displays Christlikeness in their work.

Luke argues that for some, evangelism seems more compelling. I wish that was the case for everyone... It's important. It has an obvious eternal value. And it has an obvious way of bringing glory to God. Piper is right : missions exist because worship doesn't. Doing evangelism leads to more worshippers and so more glory given to God by them. But, can study (and other work) also do that? Is it possible to study to the glory of God? Is it possible to work to the glory of God? If evangelism is the only godly activity then why don't we do it all the time? Sleep seems a waste of a third of my life not to mention all the other things that crowd my day.

For some evangelism might be more compelling because God actually has it in mind for the rest of their life as a primary activity. That doesn't make their degree worthless but it might make it a little secondary. In such a situation it remains that it's not much commendation to the gospel if being a Christian is an excuse to be a slacker - perhaps that attracts students but it must annoy the life out of lecturers. Christian and non-Christian alike. I know for myself that sometimes the compelling nature of evangelism was an excuse for my academic slackness (in addition to my pride that refused to seek the help I needed).

Most Christians are not called to be full time evangelists. The church doesn't have the budget for that, for a start. And - it's pastor-teachers, evangelists and apostles who equip the church for ministry.This seems to imply that they are a few within the body rather than the norm.

Is work just for paying for evangelists? Well that actually does need to be part of it - no-one else is going to pay, and the OT and NT seems to authorise the setting aside of some by God's people to serve the body. But if that's it it seems a bit peculiar. Partly because it makes a very strange relationship between the church and their servants. And partly because it makes the whole thing very odd - the church spends its time in the workplace persuading non-christians to pay them money so that they can go and pay Christians to tell them to be there and do it. Dissolving the whole thing would save a lot of hassle. Also, it's evident that we don't really believe this - otherwise we'd employ a whole lot more evangelists.

There has to be a bit more to it. So is work just a way to meet non-Christians? Well, it is where most of the population spends about a quarter of every week, and if there are no Christians in the workplace that's going to radically slash the opportunities for evangelism.

But again, if this is all it seems strange. Employers don't want evangelists they want employees. Integrity demands that a Christian's primary reason for being in the workplace is to work. If Christians only want to do evangelism at work then Christians are going to find themselves unemployable.

Something more? Rewind to Genesis 1 - God tells us to fill the earth and subdue it from their base in the garden he planted for them. That basically seems to be about creating a global-eden, a global temple in which God is glorified. To achieve this man must form and fill the earth just as God has done with all creation. This is our creation mandate. In all the disputes over Genesis 1 it's tragic that we miss this. Subduing and ruling the world has to include work.

I don't think it's incidental that early chapters of Genesis tell us about Jubal the musician, Tubal-Cain the metal-worker, Noah the Wine-maker etc. These occupations are creative. That's hardly surprising because the definition of human being is as an image bearer of God. God is creative. Human beings will be creative. God is also speaking and relational, so we should expect these to be par of human life. Adam is a gardener. We can surely expect scientists to explore and label God's world as Adam begins to. The arts and scientists exist as part of work in God's creation.

Work happens before the fall. And it continues past it. Post-fall the divine-image is marred. Farming is cursed. Child-birth is going to be hard. There will be illness and death. We already need people in agriculture, healthcare and undertakers. When people gather they organise themselves in idolatrous ways - we need godly politicans. God confuses language though communication was already marred so we'll need speech therapists, linguists and educators.

None of these occupations is a means of gaining eternal life but they do restrain evil just as the law did for the nation of Israel. And they are ways of repairing the creation that God will renew. Bible teachers work to see the divine image renewed in people... so we do in our work to renew creation. God will complete both when the new heavens and the new earth are formed and filled with people from every tribe and tongue around the throne of Jesus. A vast crowded enjoying God's new creation.

What does that mean at University?
Studying is work for a start. It needs to be done in submission to lecturers, working hard with honesty and integrity. That applies to every subject. Much study is a lesson in perseverance, doing something now so that future opportunities will be available. A fresher may not be able to do cancer research, but study enables that down the line. My Maths lecturers loved to tell me that what we studied had no applications unless we got as far as post-doctoral research. If I'd valued the prize that should have helped me run the race.

And then there are the specifics of different disciplines...
We said that science and arts are basic acts of investigating and labelling the world, and living out God's creative image. That gives them fairly straightforward godly applications. Other occupations apply the arts or sciences to the effects of the fall. Heathcare professions such as nursing and speech therapy are needed to combat the pain and problems that sin has introduced. Reducing pain, enabling communication. Philosophers, Historians, Geographers... Politicians, Economists... Teachers, Engineers, Muscians. All will experience futility and emptiness in work (see Ecclesiastes for example) but each should be able to find ways in which their work will restore life to people.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

On eagles wings

Book two begins. The commission stands. The promise stands. The Israelites are multiplying. They're fruitful. Imaging God by increasing. However they don't have dominion over the land - they're enslaved under the dominion of the Egyptian King. That King is trying to kill all their sons. That's bad news. A people don't multiply without children. And the promised 'seed' wont come if there are no sons. Then one son is miraculously saved. This Levite child 'Drawn-Out-Of-The-Water' is rescued from the waters of the Nile, adopted into the Kings house and nursed by his own mother. That child grows up and has his own son called the Foreigner. The people cry out to God and God hears.

Chapter 3. God reveals himself to the Waterboy. He is the God of his Fathers, the God of Promise. He is Exists. He is The God. Moses doubts the people will believe him, and that he could speak to them. Undetered his brother Aaron is appointed (4v14).

Chapters 7-12 battle commences. The LORD vs. Pharoah. The LORD hardens Pharoah's heart. Pharoah hardens his own heart. He wont believe what the LORD says. Plague after plague rains down because (9v14-16) the LORD is showing his power through victory over Pharaoh. One last plague - to kill ALL firstborn sons (11v5). Even greater a cursing than the one Pharoah was exacting upon his residents. But, if all firstborns die so will the Israelite firstborns. Except - ch12 - God will provide. Blood will be shed. A lamb will die instead. When the LORD comes in wrath he'll see the blood and pass over that house. Whatever is going on in the house blood will turn the LORD away. The LORD strikes (12v29) and there is great mourning. God's people go up out of the land (v31). Rescued through judgement, for the LORD's glory, by the LORD (12v51) as promised (2v23).

Chapter14. They'rerescued through water led by the one who was rescued out of the water. Out into the wilderness they come singing the song of the LORD's victory (ch15). Within three days they grumble and wish they were back in Israel. They complain at lack of water and food, and the LORD provides. Then they run into the Amalekites. When Moses prays they win, when he doesn't they lose. Simply, winning battles is God' s work. The Amalekites will be their enemies forever.

A few months out they reach Sinai. God swears they will be his Holy Nation, a Kingdom of Priests. They stand at the foot of his mountain - a consuming fire capable to kill them if they even touch it. God issues commands to those he rescued from Egypt. Chiefly - have no other gods. They're promised a land with vast boundaries (23v31). Covered in the blood that seals the covenant they have one voice. They entrust themselves to God (24v3) - every word they will keep. The marriage begins.

Moses goes back up the mountain to get further instructions on how to worship God. Chapters 24-31, about forty days. Meanwhile down the hill the people lose faith in Moses. Forty days of purpose seems too long for them. They request that Aaron make a new god for them. He speaks and they make a golden calf to worship, attributing this idol with rescue. The LORD is furious. But Moses appeals for their salvation on the basis of God's reputation and his promises (32v11-13). The people themselves are indefensible. The LORD holds back his wrath in forebearance. Moses burns and grinds up the calf and mixes it with water to be drunk by the people. The Levites cut down 3000 people and a plague takes others. Despite their multiple rebellions in the first few months out of Egypt God spares his people, for his own sake. Such will always be the way of God's salvation.

The book concludes with repetition of instruction about true worship at the Tabernacle. A place where God's people can meet with him, via the High Priest who will represent them to God. The people have been lifted up on eagles wings by the LORD. They're out of slavery, not yet in the land but on the way. They keep rebelling but the LORD is remarkably patient with them - not because they deserve it, but because it's the best way to spread his fame. His grace is all over this book, his power is evident.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Don't go sinning your life away. Jesus is better.

Ed Goode - Hebrews 8 (mp3)

Reading University Christian Union
June 14 2007

"If you read the Bible, people sin and people die. And it's a bit more complicated than that. But that's the gist of Genesis 3 to the end of Revelation"

"I don't want to sin my life away. I don't want to diminsh the work of Christ for me. I want to spend my life telling people about Jesus. I want to spend my life enjoying God through Jesus Christ"
Read more Christian Hedonism from Ed Goode

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Heart of Art

What does it look like to be a Christian artist - or indeed a Christian in any sphere of life?

We have to wrestle with this. I have to wrestle with this because I just got asked to do a seminar on it at Forum 2007 - specifically on the issue of how to glorify God on your course when you'd rather be doing evangelism...
"Thinking Christianly about my course when
I would rather do just CU stuff!"

Julian Hardyman has written well on it in his book Glory Days, and UCCF's Interface Arts have been doing some great work too.

See also this new resource at The Gaius Project : The Heart of Art - Jason Harris
HT: Bob Kauflin

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Jesus is enough

This feels particularly pertinent as I sweat over Hebrews 12 this afternoon. Discipleship as enduring hardship at God's hand to finish the race, with a bit from Proverbs thrown into the mix along with the scary story of Esau.

HT: Doctrine Matters.

Esther Cell Notes

Esther 1-3
Esther 4-7
Esther 8-10

We've been studying this book in Reading's CU cell groups this term. A challenge to look at a book with no mention of God and yet it is shot through with God's promises when we read it in the context of the rest of the Bible. And wonderfully, the key seems to be in the genealogies...

25 Things About Sin

Here's a bitesize glimpse at an outstanding blogpost about the deceit of my sin (and yours):
5. Sin makes you irrational, insane, crazy, nuts (cf. Genesis 3—Revelation 22; especially, for instance, Genesis 3:8; Numbers 13-14; Matthew 12:24; Ephesians 4:17-19).
6. People locked into a sin are impervious to logic, facts and Scripture (cf. Genesis 3:9-10).
7. People locked into a sin always say it's someone else's fault (cf. Genesis 3:12-13).
8. People locked into a sin hate anyone who tries to tell them the truth, no matter how humbly nor lovingly (cf. 1 Kings 22:8; John 3:19-21; Proverbs 15:12).
9. People in love with a sin will always find dire and horrendous fault with anyone who tries to part them from it (cf. Proverbs 9:7-8a).
Read the rest and ponder. Dan Phillips - 25 Things About Sin


It's been controversially in the headlines over the last year but Pure is definitely worth giving some attention. It's a course on God's view of sex and relationships designed to equip Christian students to live distinctively for Jesus. Linda presents a gospel-centred grasp of this important topic and you can hear her humour and personality coming off the pages. The original resources were taken offline a while back so they could be republished more professionally. They're now available again: Pure: Sex and Relationships God's way.

Primarily suitable for youth groups, students and young adults but anyone could find it beneficial.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Three Minutes

September 2000. I arrived at Relay 1 to spend 10 months with UCCF. I arrived thinking I'd made it and also that I was about to be found out and sent home. Proud. Arrogant. And woefully ignorant. I knew I was saved by grace but was clueless about life by grace, and was holding firmly to my own plans for my life. That was my first day in Grace School.

Seven years and 16 Relay conferences later my 10 month plan has gone out of the window. My pride remains but God's lavish grace has poured much contempt upon that and increased my joy.

My two years as a Relay were foundational for my work in and out of UCCF and for my marriage these past five years. I will always treasure Relay, I hope in a godly way. I confess that I asked Andy Shudall how staffworkers get onto the Relay team the day before I started as a CU Staffworker. Not by human decision or desire, but of course, by grace. I'm glad he didn't hold my inquiry against me.

At the end of my third of two years on this team I feel immensely privileged to have been able to serve here, gaining more than I've given.

I've been fued by so much encouragement to hold onto the gospel on every today. I've loved the Relay team life. I've loved my fellowship groups. I've loved sharing conferences with Ed and Carolina and my previous Relay. I've loved seeing an extra year of God's work in the lives of those I've served as students, like Jess, Ceryn, Drew and Paul.

I know Jesus' blood is my life, not Relay, but I love Relay because it bleeds the gospel. As I move into a new role in UCCF it's great to know that it's not because I deserve it, nor do I need to worry about being found out. Jesus is my treasure and his abounding grace is all I will ever need.

Galatians 3v26 : in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith
That's enough.

Dave Bish, Relay worker 2000-2002, Relay Staff Team 2004-7

When the real Kath stood up and gave her three minutes just before mine...
Ed on The Fear of the Lord, Proverbs at Relay 3

Where do you want to go today?

Today I'm mostly working on Hebrews 10-12 for the upcoming Reading CU summer houseparty along with a few bits of admin.

In the middle of the day I managed to get out and have lunch with a a RUCU Alumni at Microsoft in Reading. Very nice. And encouraging to talk with him about marriage, work, church and Devon. It's great to see former CU leaders going on daily with Jesus.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Daily Mail of Blogs

"Dave Bish’s The Blue Fish Project is an interesting blog. Theologically very conservative it can sometimes feel like a giant in-joke but persevere, there is some biblical treasure to be found. It works for me in the same way as the Daily Mail. I disagree with loads of it but feel compelled to read occasionally."
Steve Tilley, Church of England Newspaper

Adjective-Adding Preaching

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Including verses 42-47

Adrian Reynolds writes up some reflections from his recent series of talks on Pentecost. Day of Fire:
"My last talk focused on Acts 2.42-47 because I wanted to show the youngsters how being in Christ is a community thing - we are connected into fellowship and all that entails. Most interesting session! The continued growth of the early church seems to be less about evangelism (though Acts clearly makes this clear as a priority) and more about the church being what she ought - it is when the church is most together that she is most effective as a witness (v47) - this is a very challenging idea indeed."
I find this inclusion of verses 42-47 to be very helpful. The coming of the Holy Spirit has been speculated on much and often the focus has ended up being less on Peter proving who Jesus is, and more on the tongues spoken. Aside from that there is world-changing impact from the formation of the church.

Today we spent the best part of 8.5 hours with our church family which has been brilliant. Particularly given the sunshine and bbq, in addition to our shared singing and some top quality preaching from Luke 8 - everyone hears the word, not everyone hears the word... and the word creates a new community.
"My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice."

Saturday, June 09, 2007

All our theology is the cross

"Evangelism is the most basic form of theology. Without the announcement of God's victory over sin and the revelation of His own character Christian theology would not have had anywhere to start. Over the centuries, most significant theological reflection has been related to this evangelistic task. Think of the way in which the doctrine of the Trinity was formulated, or the deity of Christ or the doctrine of justification. In each case, issues of salvation were at stake. That is why Martin Luther once wrote; "All our theology is the cross." Without the cross Christian theology could not get started. Unless our theological ideas and speculations somehow relate to the cross then they may be another example of idolatry."
Unnatural Enemies: Why Theology & Evangelism belong together (David Gibson & Chris Sinkinson)

Will I fall away?

Mike Kendall at Reading CU - Hebrews 5-6
An outstanding warning against spiritual laziness.
Mike is pastor of St. Neots Evangelical Church.

The Cross & Christian Ministry

The Cross and Christian Ministry is, I think, one of the best books on Christian service. It comprises of an exposition of 1 Corinthians 1-4 by Don Carson. But there's a problem. It cost's £9.99 ($20?), has a stinker of an academic cover and is only available on request from it's publisher IVP.

In late 2006 I asked them why this is. They responded by saying that since Don Carson no longer comes to the UK regularly the demand for his books has fallen. Fair argument I thought.

Last week I checked his itinerary afresh...

In 2007 Don is speaking at events and conferences in the UK in In addition to which he'll be at new Word Alive in 2008. That seems rather often to me.

The temptation presumably would just be to get the current version back in print. But... as mentioned it's price and appearance are the kind of things that can kill good books. [See Pete Lowman's non-selling excellent introduction to reading the Bible Gateways to God for another example of great content killed by poor publishing, and Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis for lesser content well delivered and selling highly.]

Here's what I'd love to see, but I don't think I can convince IVP on my own...
  • The Cross & Christian Ministry reissued in 2007.
  • Reformatted to the £5-6 price-range.
  • Typeset to make easier to read.
  • Given a 21st century cover to make you pick it up..

Monday, June 04, 2007

Seeing yet not seeing Moses' law they missed their God. Not that God was missable, but that they were so ignoble that even when faced with all God's naked brilliance in Jesus, they didnt bat an eyelid. This is surely a shock to 21st century western ears. If God ever did emerge from the shadows, it'd surely be us rational, clear headed, open minded types, with eyes wide open...oh yes, we'd be the first to understand and analyse the lot, right?
Chris Oldfield.

Joshua fought the battle of Jericho

A Biblical Theology Briefing
Joshua 5:13-6:17
Graham Beynon
Minister, Avenue Community Church, Leicester
"This land of Canaan is to be God’s kingdom: that is the place where he rules, where he is king with his people. That’s the big picture of what’s going on in the Old Testament. God rescues a people who’ll have a relationship with him and takes them to live with him in his kingdom. This conquering of Jericho is part of that process...

I don’t want to minimise our shock over the events of Jericho and the total annihilation that takes place. But what I want us to see that anyone who has a problem with Joshua over this actually has more of a problem with Jesus. Remember Marcion who had such trouble with the destruction of Jericho, and threw away the OT, he also had to edit the NT, he cut out anything about judgement. He ended up with a very short Bible, because from beginning to end the Bible says God will not allow a rebellious world to rebel forever. He will not allow evil to go unpunished. And the day his kingdom is finally established is the day justice will come, and he will be seen to be God."

The Inestimable Value of Jesus Christ

"I think tracts are themselves worthless -- a 15-cents piece of paper cannot convey to a materialist the inestimable value of Jesus Christ. Me giving up something -- like a vacation, or a day off from work, or an afternoon from my family, or lunch this week -- speaks more loudly to an unbeliever than my blog...
...For unbelieving teens, I think the best apologetics book ever written -- the place where you can take them to the foundations of what they are struggling with and how to resolve those struggles -- is John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life, which is available on line for free. This book is a great apologetic to unbelieving teens because it is about the practical outcome of finally looking up and seeing this God who is Lord of Lords and Creator of all things for the purpose of His Glory and living like that's true."

Frank Turk

Seven Days

1. This morning I feel ill. Eugh :(
2. This morning 24 Day 6 has finished.
3. This morning I go to Relay3, my 16th and final Relay conference. Four hours in the car combined with point 1 probably isn't ideal.
4. This morning my wife went and purchased medication for me ♥
5. This morning it's the birthday of Megan, Tom, Mike, Ed, Ames and Chris. Thank you facebook for the reminder.
6. This morning I am glad to be alive. Genuinely. Today is another day to hear God's voice. And another day of the forever in which Jesus blood has perfected me. Amazed.
7. This morning I'm glad of God's grace in my weakness.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

FAQ: Christian Union Leaders Falling Away?

Fifteen years ago I was learning four languages. My first language, English. French. Latin. Spanish. The reason for this was apparently my aptitude for French, leading to me studying the latter two. Today I speak only English. Why is this? It is not because I was learning too many languages but rather that I simply stopped speaking them when I was no longer taught them.

Today I barely remember any Latin. One phrase I know is: Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc. This however I learned from The West Wing. It's meaning is: After, therefore because of it. And it's a logical fallacy - to presume that because one thing follows another it is because of it. I studied Latin because I was good at French. One followed the other because of it. Doesn't always work that way.

There is a statistic that floats around at this time of year warning that vast proportions of Christian Union leaders fall away within five or ten years. The claim is spurious since the research has never been done. Indeed the only research I'm aware of was on one Christian Union and the results refute the claim very strongly. Nonetheless it's anecdotally true that some who serve in Christian Unions (as members or leaders) are not going on strongly later in life.

The temptation is to fall into the fallacy. To say it is the fault of the Christian Union. Similar claims could be made against Church Youth Groups for the gapping hole that 18 year olds disappear into on the road to University - never showing up in Church or Christian Unions. The commonality is transition from one place to the next which brings certain perils. In my own case, this disconnect was one of the factors in my conversion and yet not the cause. 'Twas God's grace that saved me not the circumstances.

As I study Hebrews I'm struck by the primary reason why someone is an apparently strong believer one day, and then not sometime later. And it seems to have little to do with the former circumstances and everything to do with the daily state of their heart. We're exported "Today, if you hear his voice do not harden your heart". The logical conclusion being that we are ultimately only ever a day away from hard-heartedness. The warnings in Hebrews are strong and conclude with Esau who though sorrowful was so hardened that he found no opportunity to repent. Warning us that past (and present) knowledge is no guarentee of the future if we become spiritually lazy. Don't rest on history. I remember a charge at the end of my year on Relay to be concerned down the line if my best story of God's work in my life was that year on Relay - I can't live off 2000-2002, I need to live daily from the food of God's word.

That I am a Christian Union Staffworker today is no safeguard on my heart. I must watch that I do not have an evil and unbelieving heart. And I need God's people. I need people who will spur me on, who will stir me to love and good deeds - who will encourage me to hold fast to the hope that I have in the blood of Jesus. That is my hope of going on. That is the only hope any of us have of going on. I need my heart in earshot of God's word about Jesus' blood, and I need my heart in earshot of God's people.

Ask, not do Christian Union leaders fall away...
Instead ask - what about my heart? And what about those around me?

Further thoughts on applying the gospel to my heart: CJ Mahaney - Discerning How to Apply
Three Myths about church dropouts

Friday, June 01, 2007

Who does Matthew think Jesus is?

"Single-handed, Chris Wright leads the reader convincingly and attractively into the whole sweep of 'biblical theology'. And he does it with a rare combination of the passion and excitement the man who loves and lives by the Bible with the calm common-sense of the responsible interpreter who is truly in tune with his text."
RT France, on Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament, Chris Wright

Chris Wright provides a valuable resource in approaching Matthew's Gospel with the Old Testament in view. I'm not going to rehearse his arguments here but I'll admit I've found him very helpful in understanding who Jesus is in the light of the promises of God.

The book that opens the Christian New Testament starts with "The Genesis of Jesus Christ, Son of Abraham, Son of David". Though many of us probably skip the genealogy it should be our first point of careful study. The line is traced from Abraham to David, David to the exile and the exile to Joseph. The names are selected with many omitted. To David the line is familiar and notably includes Gentile Women (a global theme recurs in Matthew as the Son of Abraham is presented - even to the global call to proclaim Christ in 'the great commission').

Matthew gives a different genealogy to Luke's (which I'll look at another day). Why? The differences cannot have escaped the church's attention. Having pursued a line from Abraham to Joseph, Matthew then tells us that Jesus wasn't the natural son of Joseph. It cannot be a genetic line that matters to Matthew. Yet he concludes that Jesus is the Christ (v18). He places Jesus in the royal line (from David to the exile are the kings, unlike in Luke's version) yet without apology shows that Jesus is the Son of God, adopted into the line of David. Completing the Abrahamic & Davidic lines is vital but his divine sonship is greater. Great David's Greater Son is - as was promised - God's son.

Matthew goes on to cite five Old Testament references to prove Jesus' fulfillment of what has gone before. He selects obscure passages that are mostly not prophecies. A notable one is his claim that Jesus' journey from Bethlehem to Nazareth via Egypt fulfills what God had said in Hosea 11 about Israel - that they were his son brought out of Egypt. He sees Jesus as the completion of what God has done in the past with his people - what was then, repeated in Jesus. Through history and geography, guided by God's promises.

He had to know he was being obscure! If it's fiction it's strange fiction - why not play more obviously on promises? Matthew perseveres and happily declares that Jesus fulfills all righteousness and fulfills all the promises of the Law and the Prophets.

What of his rule? Matthew sees Jesus proclaiming his kingdom throughout his book, climaxing in his enthronement on a Roman cross, bearing curse in accordance with God's word. Finally Jesus' rule is seen in Matthew closing words: Jesus is given all authority. Not just as David's son, but as God's son. And his rule will be globally expressed as his disciples teach the world to obey everything he has spoken. Come the end of the age Jesus' rule will be most clearly seen with a rule to make every human rule pale in scale and scope. Matthew sees disciples of Jesus coming from east and west to be in his kingdom (8:11) - not just an earthly kingdom but Messiah's Kingdom of Heaven. "And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (24:14).

Matthew repeatedly tells us about Jesus' Kingdom, illustrating with parables to show it's nature and it's glory:
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it." Today this kingdom of scattered disciples may look less than an earthly kingdom like David's, at the end of the age it will be seen by all.

And so the question is then raised (13:10-17) do we have ears to hear what Jesus says and so receive the secrets of his kingdom? Or are we dull hearted and so unable to see that Jesus is Messiah?
Then the disciples came and said to him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" And he answered them, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
"'You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.'

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

As he does elsewhere Jesus asks us to listen to his words by which he rules, he asks us to hear. Matthew portrays Jesus as the King who calls everyone who hears his teaching to obey it. If I don't obey I'm on the wrong end of the King's rule, if I obey (by believing) I'll find myself in his kingdom, truly Abrahamically-blessed and enlivened - counted righteous by King Jesus, the global-divine King who completes all the expectation of God's promises and God's people.