Friday, May 28, 2010

Coffee is The Gospel Drink

Last year I wrote a short guide on how to drink coffee. It needs a little revision since I've had my eyes open to see that this truly is the LORD's world. On twitter yesterday I read this suggestion:
@benjaminhouston How good is coffee! I'm pretty sure it was created on the 6th day with all the best things... like people
I love the devotion but I think actually, coffee is a matter of the third day. The coffee plant is a seed bearing plant and thus made on the third day (Genesis 1:11-13). This is better still!

The third day is the day of seed, the day of resurrection and victory - the day of the figurative resurrection of Isaac, and Esther... of David's victories and the victory of the promised seed.

And of course, the way to make coffee is to see the seed die, then be consumed by fire (roasted, at least), and crushed (Isaiah 53:10), goes under water (Jonah, Jesus, baptism...), giving off a pleasing aroma, and giving life to the one who receives it. Unless someone rips the heart out of it by decaffeinating it, thus it is no coffee at all (Galatians 1:7). Some of course prefer leafy drinks, such diversity is good, though one should pursue the greater gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Bit of Friday fun.

Jesus Manifesto

On the train yesterday I read an freebie advance copy of Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola's new book The Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ .

It's an easy read with a simple idea: Christianity is Christ. You can't really disagree with that. It should be so obvious that no-one would argue with it. Jesus Manifesto suggests this is pretty revolutionary...

"Christians have made the gospel about so many things—things other than Christ. Religious concepts, ideas, doctrines, strategies, methods, techniques, formulas, "its" and "things" have all eclipsed the beauty, the glory, and the reality of the Lord Jesus Himself. On the whole, the Christian family today is starved for a real experience of the living Christ."

In many ways I really really like this book, particularly it's unpacking of what Colossians says about Jesus, and the idea of telling your life story through the story of Jesus is a very good example of what union with Christ means: "From the viewpoint of God, your biography is Jesus Christ" (p59). Amen! When it's doing this, the book is excellent.

But I have some issues with it.
  • I wish they didn't make "mystery" so mysterious, I get what they're saying but it's a bit confusing.
  • I wish they were a bit more encouraging about how things are. It's not as innovative as they suggest, and the state of the church isn't quite as devoid as they suggest. The sense that the church has totally "lost it" made me sad and gave the book a sense of unreality.
  • In an effort to rebalance an underemphasis of Jesus life I think they could probably be clearer about his death.
Overall, its an encouraging devotional book that really is all about Jesus and will direct you to stay with Jesus by showing you what the Bible says about Jesus, and that's no bad thing. What it isn't is particularly "original" you'll get similar from Mike Cain's Real Life Jesus and from any good writing about union with Christ. See: Mike Reeves on Union with Christ or Michael Horton on Union with Christ or Richard Sibbes - A description of Christ, or read Calvin, or anything else by Sibbes, or Piper, or Luther, or Robert Jenson etc. That said, we do need books that are about Jesus and about how our life is in him - this is one of those books and despite my frustrations and questions I'm thankful to have read it.

“Thomas Nelson has just released the new book Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola and it is presently discounted under $9 from You can learn more by going to Endorsements by Rowan Williams, Matt Chandler, Calvin Miller, Ed Young, Jack Hayford, Shane Claiborne, Ed Stetzer, Reggie McNeal, Mark Batterson, Gregory Boyd, David Fitch, Steve Brown, Dan Kimball, Margaret Feinberg, Mark Chironna, Francis Frangipane, Todd Hunter, Alan Hirsch, Chris Seay, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Anne Jackson, Craig Keener, Ken Ulmer, Tommy Barnett, Sally Morgenthaler, and others.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

God's part and Our Part in Evangelism (or Trinitarian Missiology)

Had the opportunity to teach on the old chestnut subject of God's part and our part in evangelism this afternoon to a group of small group leaders involved in student mission.

I decided to take a slightly different angle to how this often done which may or may not have paid off... so we dodged Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility in favour of the easier subject of Trinity, on the grounds that how much of who does what is less important than who the who's involved are.

Non-Trinitarian thinking on Sovereignty tends to end up with a Hitchins style divine invigilator which people don't like and hardly motivates mission (or for some of us we get the big-wow-blast everyone kind of God who is impressive and super-holy don't-mess-with-me but perhaps not quite so personal...).

We get somewhere very different if we think Trinitarianly, and not by going god-is-an-egg/water/three-leaf-whatever, but knowing the Son who signified the Father, and so on...

These are the notes: God & Us & Evangelism - seminar notes

I had 30mins, and only did a couple of minutes on the section on the cross which is a summary of my recent preach on The Welcome of GodMP3: The Welcome of God

Who can I encourage today?

Paul sent Tychicus to encourage the hearts of the Colossians (Col 4:8) and wrote 1 Thessalonians as words for encouragement (4:18). Moses was told to encourage Joshua, and David asked for Joab to be encouraged. The scriptures encourage (Romans 15:4-5) for God is a God of encouragement and there is encouragement in Christ (Phil 2:1). I want to be a Barnabas (son of encouragement).

Encouraging is an under-rated gift, people wilt for lack of it and flourish when they receive it. I once heard someone say - "don't encourage people, it'll make them proud" - nonsense. Always encourage and not just with fluff but with substance.

I want to pursue encouragement today. Not just today.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

300 Leaders - John Piper - 26 June, London

John Piper @ 300 Promo from Jubilee Church on Vimeo.

Three Hundred

Enjoying the sunshine

My friend Stu is reflecting on the sunshine. I enjoy his thoughts and I think we can probably go a even further than just being blown away by the sheer attraction and power of the sun.

1. Psalm 19 speaks of the heaven's proclaiming the glory of God - and the sun's part in that is to be like a bridegroom moving through the sky. That's not abstract power, it's LOVE. Look at the sky and see the love of God.

2. The gospel pattern is that the Triune God sends the Son into the world as The Light who shines in the darkness. The darkness tries to overcome the light but cannot. The moon shines at night to hold back the darkness, and the sun does so in the daytime.

3. And, Jesus died in the dark and rose in the morning. The end of the day proclaims the death of Jesus, the new morning proclaims the mercy of God - it proclaims the resurrection.
This is God's world and it is singing out the gospel. What can you see?
See also:
Theology for the cold days too
Glen Scrivener: This is The Man's world

Ezekiel 36: Your Name in Lights

When the LORD acts it is good news. Christianity is always good news. And Christianity is always about divine action not human action. It’s always the Triune God, the LORD – Father, Son and Holy Spirit saying I will. There is no full and proper coalition here. It’s the LORD. Full stop.

Twice – am going to act not for your sake but for the sake of my name. Ezekiel 36v22, v32 not for your sake… but for the sake of my holy name. Christians dispute: Does God act because he loves us or because of his glory? On the face of it Ezekiel 36 is a big win for the glory guys.

But, what is “my holy name” – what is the name of the LORD?
The name of the LORD has always been his gracious saving gospel character – the name he displayed in Exodus 33 to Moses. “I will proclaim before you my name”. The name is expressed in his deliverance of the people in Exodus 23:21 “I send an angel before you… my name is in him”

The Name dwells in the Tabernacle and Temple (Exodus 20:24, Deut 12:5). Ideas don't live in places - persons do. And priests put the name on people (Num 6:23-27) so they can reflect the name to the nations. 

In Genesis 4, in the days of Seth the people began to call upon “the name of the LORD” as did Abram later. It’s Old Testament language for the saving person of the LORD – for the one in whom the gospel is found. It is the Old Testament language for Christ. Christ who is the name of the LORD, the one who goes out from the Father to display his glory – to shine out his name in the world. Not an attribute but a person. In Romans 10:13 we’re told that everyone who calls upon “the name of the LORD” will be saved. In Christianity it isn't an idea that saves - but a person. And Acts 2:21 “everyone who calls upon the name of the LORD will be saved”

The LORD, the Triune God says through Ezekiel…. Christ has been mocked among the nations but now I will act, not for your sake but for his that he will not be mocked.

What will the Triune God do? Ezekiel 36:24-30
- V24: I will take you from the nations and gather you…
- V25: I will sprinkle clean water on you – cleansing you from your sin and idols
- V26: I will give you a new heart
- V27: I will put my Spirit within you – the one who always cries out Abba Father.
- V29-30: I will make no famine for you – which is a move from curse to blessing. The law said that famine was a curse – e.g. Ruth 1, there is famine in Bethlehem means they were cursed, means they were sinning.

What do you call that? My best translation is LOVE. Lavish, unspeakably wonderful love. This is what he does - and not to some other person, but to Christ, for Christ, in Christ. The promises don't happen in Ezra & Nehemiah - not even close. Only in Jesus.

Jesus The Name of the LORD is the True Israel. Jesus is everything Israel weren't. All four gospel writers want us to see that he fulfils everything about who they were meant to be. From the genealogies that explicitly identify him as Abraham and David and God’s true son. He shares the baptism of his people and is anointed with the Holy Spirit. He endures 40 days (instead of 40 years) testing in the wilderness. He, the LORD the Son, fulfils all that was said of Israel and then climactically at his death he totally completes this.

At the cross he has the sins of his people imputed to him – he becomes unclean. He who knew no sin became sin for us. He was exiled from the presence of his Father who forsook him. He was under a curse heavier than any famine inflicted upon the people. And yet he came through it and was washed clean, raised by the power of the Spirit in whom he finds his relationship with his Father, and he will never again know the curse of the LORD upon him but always blessing from his Father.

When the LORD acts for his name it isn’t in a display of blistering power that blows everyone away, it’s in the sending of the Son to a curse-bearing shame-enduring death. At the cross the love, justice and righteousness of the LORD are perfectly vindicated. In the pusuit of the name we see his love. The glory of God isn't "your name in lights" it's a person.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Six roadblocks to genuine partnership

Krish Kandiah reflects from his experience in Albania and beyond with some very ouch and very wise challenges about gospel partnership over on the Lausanne website and on his blog. Six roadblocks and one challenge: "who can you partner with today? I would love to begin a viral trail of stories of small and significant partnerships that instead of duplicating ministries begin to multiply fruit".

I want to die to ego. I want to see bridges built. I want to continue to benefit from those I'm partnering with. I want to give away what we have. I want to receive from what others have. I want to soon be partnering with people whom I'm not yet partnering with. I want to reach out to those we've failed to work with in the past. I want to be welcoming when others seek out partnership with me. Not because it'll be easy. Not because we can agree on everything. But because Jesus call to unity is a good thing.

Jesus would follow me on Twitter, right?

(Extract from MP3: The Welcome of God - Mark 15.)

We say:
- I like to think that Jesus would have me on his team.
- I like to think Jesus would have formed a coalition with Nick Clegg.
- I like to think Jesus would come to our church
- I like to think Jesus listens to my kind of music.
- I like to think of Jesus as morally inspirational.
- I like to think Jesus would vote for…

Everyone has their own ideas. And everyone thinks they’re in with Jesus. We all seem to have our own plastic Jesus. A Jesus who looks a bit like what I wish saw when I look in the mirror. A Jesus who is on my team and fits nicely in my pocket. The problem is that whenever we say “I like to think of Jesus as…” we’re just creating an imaginary Jesus. It’s no more real than me saying “I’d like to think of my wife as a 6ft-tall brunette who works as an astronaut…” – that’d be a figment of imagination, and it turns out I prefer my actual 5ft4in blonde music teaching wife…

If we burn our plastic Jesus and look at the real one, what do we find?

It’s a plain fact of history to say that Jesus is phenomenally influential. Disproportionately influential by most standards. A man with enduring appeal, through generations and around the world. Certainly we find a person who has shaped history – he has influenced more art and architecture, literature and culture than anyone else in the last two thousand years. And yet this is a man who never lived far from his birth place, never went to University, never married or got a mortgage, never wrote a book or ran for political office, and whose short life ended shamefully with death in his early 30s after just three years of in the public eye.

If we’re serious about burning our plastic Jesus and finding the real Jesus we’re not on a hopeless quest – we can turn to the records of his life. There is plenty to choose from. We have writing from those who hated him and we have writing from those who were ambivalent to him, both confirming the basic facts of his life and legacy.

Within a few years of his walking on earth a multi-national movement called the church had come into being that has never died out in 2000 years, though empires and kingdoms have come and gone, the church has pressed on and can today be found in most people groups and cultures of the world.

The most accurate and reliable testimony about Jesus was recorded by eyewitnesses of his life and their associates. So impressed were they that they painstakingly gathered evidence to document his life and carefully duplicated and circulated those documents. They were later collated into what we now call The Bible and form a part of the world’s best selling book. One of those is Mark’s account of Jesus life, transcribed from the eyewitness testimony of Peter who knew Jesus personally and was an early leader of the church. The document dates to within a generation of the events it records, days in which its testimony was verifiable with witnesses, and we have here an English translation of the oldest extant manuscripts.

Mark presents a breathless account of Jesus’ life. Jesus is introduced to us as the LORD: the 2nd person of The Triune God, fulfilling a prophecy that someone will come and prepare the way for the LORD. We’re shown a man called John the Baptist who does the preparing, and then immediately Jesus comes on stage. The Triune God is walking on the earth.

Jesus is clearly Mark’s main character, on stage in all but two scenes (an observation I owe to Andrew Page's Mark Drama). Heaven is torn open in Jesus’ first scene. A voice speaks from heaven, from God the Father saying – this is my son, I am well pleased with him, and later: everyone should listen to him.

Jesus takes for himself the title of The Bridegroom. An overwhelmingly positive image of a lover on his wedding day; progressing like the sun does through the sky (Psalm 19:5); coming to lay down his life for his bride, the people who follow him, the church. Mark’s recurring theme is Jesus predicting that he will soon die and then on the third day be raised from the dead.... and then we reach Mark 15:33, the scene of Jesus' death.... and this story isn't about you and me, it's about him.

Follow @davebish_

Ed Stetzer interviews Terry Virgo about Newfrontiers

Ed Stetzer's blog

BBC Pentecost from All Saints Peckham

Watch a 1 hour service from All Saints Church Peckham, led by Revd. Frog Orr-Ewing.
Available til May 30th (UK only) from iPlayer.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Receiving The Welcome of God (Mark 15:33-41)

Preached twice this morning at our church on Mark 15, a great way to celebrate Pentecost - to remember the day the Triune God became favourable toward us and tore open the way for us to have relationship with him. He extends his welcome - let us come.
Download - mp3: The Welcome of God (2nd service) - 29mins.

Pray: Mark 10:44 today - yes please!
Introduction - exclusion, how it feels to be excluded.
We all think we're in with Jesus - but that's just an imaginary plastic Jesus. So burn your plastic Jesus and look at the real Jesus. In every scene (except two) of Mark's account which is historically reliable.
Jesus is introduced by Mark as the LORD, heaven is torn open, with whom the Father is well pleased, to whom we should listen. He calls himself the bridegroom - going through the sky like the sun - going to lay down his life for his bride.
Mark tells of Jesus predicting his death and resurrection.
Mark 15 we reach Jesus death. The events of Easter, seven weeks ago in our calender.
1. The cloud - marks judgment over the one who should never face it. The cross is propitiation - the Triune God becomes forever, abundantly favourable to us. No condemnation.
2. Better than that: the curtain is torn. Come in! The resurrection is implied in Mark by the predictions and by the torn curtain - we don't need to see the risen Jesus, it's clear. Come, because of the Cross, come and receive the Spirit (it is Pentecost after all). Come freely and receive the welcome of God.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Step into the light (Lou Fellingham)

This week I've had Lou Fellingham's new album on my iPod. We played her previous album, Treasure, to death in the car for most of a summer a couple of years ago - and this one might go the same way.

These are summer sounds written with the soundest doctrine. Funky, uplifting and yet able to engage with life's difficulties. This is an album of personal songs and declarations of the gospel. It's peppered with old hymn lyrics from a fresh version of To God be the Glory a bit of This is the Day...  and sheer Scripture To Him Who is Able.

We begin with a call that There is More than we see when we know Christ. I can see myself flicking the iPod wheel often to this one to lift my eyes. See the Lamb of God is a great song about the cross that I hope to sing someday with church. From the weight of the cross we move to  My God cares which is a great call to the implications of the cross - God is for us! The title track Step into the light, takes the opening song and turns the suggestion into an invitation - to come and know Christ.

I don't seem to buy much worship music these days and maybe it's because the quality isn't always high. This month I would recommend you buy Step into the Light and get the free download of Matt Giles' latest This Was Your Design and your iPod will be well refreshed.

Simon Brading "interviews" Lou Fellingham:

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Words of the Wise (Ecclesiastes10-12)

The final stretch of Ecclesiastes has the feel of the wheels slowing as the end approaches. Three times we're told about the words of the wise, and how they relate to the rule, to the king and to God. The viewpoint escalates with each cycle.

9:17-10:7 Rulers can be loud and angry but the wise will keep quiet and calm in the face of them. Wisdom has a stability that isn't easily fazed, though things in the world are topsy-turvy, rulers are wicked and the rich can be like slaves. Wisdom stays the course, holding to The Wisdom of God whatever the world is like.

10:8-11:6 Kings can be good and they can be bad. It's tempting to be deeply opinionated about them, but that's like digging a hole for yourself to fall into. Words travel and the wise know this. The wise know that words of fools multiply and consume them. The fool fails to realise that there are limits what he can know and so blabbers on endlessly like a blogger. Words multiplying like books. The wise gain favour. Wisdom is the way of grace.

11:7-12:14 Ultimately it matters where you stand with God. The skies will darken as life heads for judgement where God brings all things into the light, known and secret. And so, to fear God is the way of wisdom. The God who created us and from whom our very life comes. The world is full of vanity - for this is not a Genesis 1-2 world but a Genesis 3-4 world that groans for God to act, to set everything right. It's delusional to claim otherwise and pretend like everything is wonderful. In the mean time Ecclesiastes says: cling to wisdom, to the wisdom of God - the person in whom you can have life itself, and know that the page will turn and it'll soon be time for the Song of Songs to lift our hearts.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ezekiel 36: Another fine mess you've gotten me into?

We all come at life with glasses on – through which we see life, which give us answers to the big questions – where do we come from, what’s wrong with the world, what can fix the world, where are we going. There are really three major views you’ll run into.
  • The atheist view. This says that there’s only the natural and physical. They claim all of reality under that as a place without meaning or beauty. In this world the God people are just playing a game. I’m not sure I see the appeal of this view – just doesn’t fit with my instinct that there is love and beauty and purpose, but there you go.
  • The religious view. This isn’t necessarily about a belief in god though it can be, but essentially this is the karma view which says good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. It’s instantly appealing to people so long as they can convince themselves of their relative goodness, which most of us can. Problem is that it bears no resemblance to the real world either – bad things happen to the best of people and the worst of people prosper.
Then there is Christianity. Opening the Bible we're shown a world where Christianity isn't a game on the fringe of society - it is the story - a complete picture, in which the LORD claims everything.

In Ezekiel 36v15-20 we land into an event. The LORD has taken a bride for himself, clothed her beautifully, provided for her, loved her. Ezekiel 16 tells us that she has paid others to sleep with her, prostituting herself to idols and anyone and anything. . She is defiled and unclean and cannot come to him – v17. This is the story of Genesis 3 again, this is Hosea 1-2. This is the recurring story of the man and his bride in the Bible and it is tragic.

The LORD so loves her that he is deeply jealous for her – and angry toward her. He has a jealous wrath (36v6) for her. God is wrathful because God is jealous because God is passionately loving. So great is his love that in the face of this vile adultery he pulls back from her, he withdraws from the temple – the place for his name where they had relationship.

And then, v19-20 he exiled her from his presence, out of the land into the surrounding nations. Just as Adam & Eve were exiled from Eden, just as Vashti would be exiled from Ahasuerus in the book of Esther. The adulterous bride is sent away – and it has been adultery of the worst degree.

The effect of this has been a defaming of the LORD among the nations – v20. They have defamed the LORD – not by talking bad of him but in that the people said of them ‘These are the people of the LORD, and yet they had to go out of the land’. It’s the mockery of the self-righteous. They have mocked the LORD because he can’t keep his bride in line… if he’d tolerated her adultery at home they’d have mocked, and now he exiles her they mock. We have a great tension. We have a problem in need of resolution. We have a story.

And so now – v22 – the LORD says: I am about to act. Crisis and then divine action. Action in the face of human adultery and the shaming of the name of the LORD. Christianity is always God doing something.
What would you expect him to do?
  • The atheist is going to think – pah, the shame of the spiritual.. stand by and have a laugh at the hypocrites. It’s game over you game players. You've imploded on yourselves, serves your god right for being such an egotist.
  • The religious is going to think – bad persons deserve bad – she’s blown it, burned her bridges, she’s been bruised and abused and it’s her own fault for being immoral. No-one would want her anymore… you’ll be blown away by God, you should have behaved. Religion hates the broken.
What about the LORD... what will he do. The LORD's ways are always good news, but how can anyone get out of this...? To be continued.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Jesus is better (Tope Koleoso & Matt Chandler)

Watch Matt Chandler - The Gospel - Luke 15 at Jubilee Church last Sunday. We celebrated communion together during the meeting and this was Tope's introduction to that.

It's all about Jesus-The Gospel Matt Chandler-H.264 for 1280 video uploading & streaming from Jubilee Church on Vimeo.

Ezekiel 36: The Gospel of the Triune God acting for The Name

It was my joy last night to preach Christ from Ezekiel 36 at Exeter University Evangelical Christian Union. It was a hard passage and I'm still wrestling with it after the event.

Ezekiel 36 draws us into the question of whether God acts "for his glory" vs. "for love of us".  The key seems to be that he acts not for some vague sense of glory but for the sake of The Name, the one who comes from the Father to represent him, the Saviour, the Son who displays his glory. When the LORD acts for The Name he does so in a lavishing of love on the Son, through the cross, which is shared to the exiles and nations who look upon the one lifted up and are then born again of water and the Spirit. In this we see the brilliance of the gospel as the action of the Triune God for the sake of the Son which includes the wretched and the self-righteous in the wonderful loving relationships of the Trinity.
Downloadable here if you'd like a listen.
Ezekiel 36:16-38 Dave Bish - Exeter CU - 48mins 

Also I recently listened to my friend Sean preaching on Prayer on May 16th. It's classic Sean and brilliant, this Spirit-filled duracell-bunny of a man loves the gospel and has a grace-gift in exhorting the people of God. It's particularly sweet in the middle as he dwells on prayer in terms of us coming as sons. Prayer - Sean Green - Reading Family Church

Triune Confession

Richard Walker notes that my good friends at Reading Family Church have published their statement of faith on their website - it's a warm, Triune, charismatic confession and I commend it to you.

This moves from a clear statement about God being Triune, to each of the three persons. Of the Father: The Father is the head of the Trinity who governs all things according to his sovereign and selfless will, which is to display the excellence of his Son to all people, and through the work of salvation, offer them a share in the love he has for the Son.

And then a great Trinitarian statement about the Bible: "The Bible is the written testimony of the Father about his Son, and how the Son faithfully reveals the Father in all he is and does. He has given this testimony to the human race through the Holy Spirit..."

Concluding in the new creation where: ...the righteous will be welcomed into a renewed earth to live in eternal, joyful and direct fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To God be glory and praise forever. Amen.

Link: Reading Family Church: What we believe

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Theology in Music (Mike Reeves)

Yesterday I gathered my team for our final day together this academic year along with Mike Reeves.

We're keen to say Jesus is Lord of all of life so we dug into the subject: theology in music. The question really is, are we playing games in an atheist world, or is this actually the LORD's world?

Session 1 - 48mins
Session 2 - 68mins
Session 3 - 63mins

Some additional reading as recommended in these mp3s:
The prayers of John Bradford
Theology of Everything
The devil has no stories - Peter Leithart
Images of divine things - Jonathan Edwards
Brightest Heaven of invention: study of six Shakespeare plays - Peter Leithart

Being reformed and charismatic - Matt Chandler interviewed by Adrian Warnock

Was great to spend some time with my friend Adrian and his family and sit under the good solid plain and ordinary teaching of the Bible guy Matt Chandler at the weekend.
Matt Chandler on being a reformed charismatic without much of a seatbelt from Adrian Warnock on Vimeo.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Jesus is BETTER

We feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. A better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
You have come to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

He has done it all. He has got it all covered. He knows what I have to do today and tomorrow. He what I need for each day. He doesn't take his eye off the ball and nothing surprises him. And His cross proves he is FOR me. Simply: Jesus is better. 
It's my birthday and I'm I'm glad my wife reminded me of how good it is to look to Jesus.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Weekend in London: Matt Chandler, Louie Giglio, Francis Chan, Passion World Tour

No time or energy to write this up yet, but it's been an immense weekend of sitting under the word of God and worshipping with his people from all over the place and all kinds of churches.

Conference isn't standard-form Christianity but just as we can have working partnerships (like CUs) there are some advantages to occasionally gathering together. One is to spread good stuff widely, one is to get me out of my own head, and another is called friendship which helps because its good, and because we run into each other on the ground and friendship changes the way that plays out.

Love is NOT a choice. It's a way of being.

Dan Hames: Love is NOT a choice. It's a way of being.

Friday, May 14, 2010

No bad news in Christianity

I hear Christianity summarised as "Bad News. Good News".
That is: it's bad that we're sinful and it's bad that God is angry, but good news: Jesus.
I have questions... Firstly it's a bit (coldly) problem/solution rather than invitational and relational.
Second such a description doesn't often end up sounding all that good...
But also...

1. Why do we begin with sin? 
The Triune God begins by revealing Jesus. He has strong words for the religious but for the "sinners" he's a man of unbounded mercy and welcome. Jesus doesn't deny people are sinful - his words are strong but the proof seems to rest in him not in how deeply we see our sin. And, his cross shows us his love but also our sin more clearly than anything else... seeing Jesus I see my sin less as law-broken and more as a problem of the heart, the deeper problem of betrayal and adultery of the heart... and for all that, I see Jesus.

2. Is the anger of God against sin, bad news?
Would we be better off to speak of the LORD called Jealous (Exodus 34). This is a positive trait of a lover, scorned and burning with righteous anger against her adultery. The jealous anger of the Triune God is good news of which the people of God will sing Hallelujah in Revelation 19:1.  Sure, wrath is bad for those who receive it, but the gospel message isn't "God wants you to go to hell" it's "The Triune God wants you to know him, he sent his son to bring you to into that, through his death and resurrection". The gospel is such that we're invited to receive favour instead of wrath and those who stand with the lamb rejoice in his wrath...

Don't hear this as a call for being sin-lite or wrath-lite - but do hear, I'm pondering how we speak of these things from a Trinitarian basis, avoiding a flat-unrelational-merely-legal gospel language and instead speak consistently relationally without having to pit God against himself or making what is good be bad.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Triune God refuses to be God without us

Glen Scrivener continues to explore glory by love (part 5):
 The Father’s generosity towards the Son is described as the lavish riches of His grace. The riches/wealth/substance/weightiness/glory of the Father is an overflowing profligacy, an out-going being towards the Son. But, more than this, the overflow towards the Son has the church in view. Even before the foundation of the world, the church is foreknown as internal to the love that God is. The other-centredness of the trinity is not a holy huddle exclusive of us. The triune God refuses to be God without us.
I love this Trinitarian clarity. A warm, relational approach that draws all attention to the Son.

The Scheme of Things (Ecclesiastes 7-9)

One of the things people love to do is to fit things together. To some extent it's a right desire to order and arrange, to form and to fill the world. My 14 month old does it, moving things from one place to another and back with much delight. Babies do it. Politicians do it.

In Genesis 3:5-6 the desire to see the scheme of thing stepped way over the mark into the adultery of sin. Investigating this is The Preacher's quest in Ecclesiastes 7:25-29. He finds that the pursuit of the scheme of things and of adding one thing to another proves fruitless. The work of God is to thwart this quest (8:17) to restrain our sin, even to exiling us from himself.

And indeed when we look at the world we find it full of perplexity. Things don't quite add up. Good things happen to bad people, bad things to the good. Mourning is better than feasting. Even justice is not speedily delivered by God (8:11) and so the mercy of God ends up making people more sinful, more cursed, more given over to sin and more skew whiff from how we'd expect to find things. The world doesn't cohere the way we'd expect.

The Preacher does know some things. God has revealed what has gone wrong and that though it seems otherwise, in the end it will be well with those who fear God (8:12). 

And in the end a story.  A great king lays siege to a city but is thwarted by a poor wise man, history forgets the poor man but nonetheless being wise is better. For the wise fear God. The grand scheme of things isn't something humanity can construct, we cannot find a theory of everything - it will fail somewhere - but God reveals the scheme, his wisdom, his story. And so: eat, drink and rejoice which is to say in the language of Deuteronomy 14:26 worship, enjoy one another's company and that of God without the delusions that everything in this world makes sense.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

This Was Your Design (Matt Giles)

Here's a new song from a member of our home group. It's taken from Ephesians and Galatians and has been serving us in our current series in Ephesians 1-2.

Download mp3:This Was Your Design and Score

This was Your design:
Before the universe was formed
To choose us in Your Son,
A people for Yourself.
A people who were slaves
Until the Christ destroyed our chains,
And through a sinner's cross
Would die to take our blame.

To make us holy, pure before Your throne,
To make us righteous, sons of the Living God.

How great is Your love for us
That while we still were sinners
You freed us through Your Son.
How great is Your grace to us
That where we once were orphans,
We now are sons of God.

This was Your design:
That Christ be sovereign over all,
The Name above all names,
The only Name that saves.
And here the mystery;
Your will has been made known to me.
In love You called my name,
According to Your grace.

You made us holy, pure before Your throne.
You made us righteous, sons of the Living God,

I love You Father, I love You Father,
I love You Father, for sending Your Son

(c) 2010 Matt Giles

Monday, May 10, 2010

Women speaking in a CU?

Last week I wrote about CU's and baptism in the Holy Spirit. Here's another unity question that often arises....

Question: Should Women Preach at CU meetings?

Let's set this in a situation. Decisions on questions like this are made locally not nationally. There is no fellowship-wide uniform yes or no.

A Christian Union is a partnerships between churches where unity is based upon a doctrinal basis of fellowship - led by students - for the sake of mission to campus to build the local churches. Some CU's in the region I work in currently don't have women speakers, others do. In some cases the policies are wise and loving, in other cases the approach needs some review.

Any attempt at Christian community is an exercise in the art of bearing with others, so no need to be overly neurotic about getting these calls right...

In this case study CU is mostly, though not exclusively, comprised of students from four local churches between whom relations are warm.
Church 1 would say women can lead and preach in church and also in other contexts.
Church 2 has recently changed its doctrinal position to support having female elders and preachers.
Church 3 would probably not have a female pastor but does occasionally have women speak on a Sunday.
Church 4 would probably say women shouldn't be elders or preach on a sunday but can speak or lead in any other contexts.

Some questions where diversity is free don't need a CU practice. It really makes very little difference in the CU whether you think infants should be baptised - we're in the business of seeing students become Christians. Other things do matter however when you're gathering for training, establishing community and involved in evangelistic preaching. You can't dodge this issue.

So: what policy should this CU have on the question of women speaking at CU meetings (or being CU president, leading a small group, giving evangelistic talks etc.)?

The question isn't - which is the right view Biblically... Each person needs to work out where they stand on the roles of men and women because this is important for how we do church and relate to one another but that question and this post is not the place for that. If you think it is you're missing the point I'm making. This is a post about doing unity so we can get on mission together.

The doctrinal basis of fellowship permits a range of conclusions on this question. There are extremes such as culturally-driven-feminism or tradition/culturally-driven-patriarchism that are excluded by the clause on the authority of the Bible, but if you're seeking to get your view from the Bible there's an accepted range of positions in the middle which people can hold and consider themselves genuinely belonging to the CU. You'll find CU's comprised, therefore, from churches with male only leadership, through views with some restrictions and permissions, through to churches where the lead pastor is female. And that's fine.

Instead take into account...
There isn't a neutral position on this issue - it's just not on to say "everyone thinks men can preach". And those who think women can teach feel wronged when it doesn't happen, just as those who think they shouldn't do when it does happen. Unity has a cost.
What's the place of love in this - prefering the needs of others above yourself (1 Cor 13). Doctrinal unity is relational unity that involves sacrifice in preference of others.
How does the desire to avoid exclusion and promote diversity factor into the decision.
People don't have the right to exclude themselves, but equally "we" don't have the right to exclude those who belong (1 Cor 12). This applies to wider questions of diverse-loving unity too, it's just that in a CU one of the most obvious diversities is doctrinal diffferences, translate thsi to church with examples of class, age, status, personality, giftedness etc.

So - what policy and why?

Comments are open. (And yes for those who can work it out, this is set in a real context. But - I'm using it illustratively rather than to address the particular CU).

Mark Driscoll and Tim Chester - Redeem Cities Conference

REDEEM CITIES _ from Box-head* on Vimeo.

Redeem Cities 2010 Conference

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Art: The gift half understood

I love artsyness. We have some great Christians in the arts in the South West. Elsewhere, a friend of mine is blogging a little of her work in Chichester: 'the gift half understood' - an artistic exploration of the Incarnation.
Another is going Beyond Air Guitar.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Esther: A Christian Story

I've been teaching Esther again recently with my team and with The Bath Spa Christian Union so I've revised my Esther eBook. I've enjoyed teaching this book to mixed gatherings, to people from all kinds of evangelical backgrounds, keen to wrestle with this wonderfully dramatic text together - walking through it verse by verse, scene by scene, act by act.

Though the book is much neglected and God is never explicitly on stage... I love the way the gospel story shines from the pages of Esther...

I've pitched the e-book somewhere between narrative preaching scripts and a pop-level commentary, and included some Bible discussion notes for one-to-ones or groups.

Please feel free to interact and to challenge my reading of the book. I've been journeying with Esther for a while and there are things I can see today in the story that I couldn't see previously... I assume I have much more to learn (my general assumption for life).

PDF Esther (ebook) -- revised 2012

Seven things to do with a bad day

Someone asked me the other day what to do with a bad day...  

A whole lot of political candidates are going to have one of those today, as are most of the rest of us so this seems timely. Events occur in real time... 

  1. Feel bad about it. Teflon people aren't really people.
  2. Go to bed
  3. Give the day to Jesus. He wasn't caught off guard by the run of disappointments in your day. 
  4. Rant your frustration to Jesus (i.e. Pray). Join creation's groaning song that longs for Jesus' return. Scream "hebel!" the cry of Ecclesiastes (meaningless, vanity, smoke...) . It's the name of the son of Adam & Eve who could have been The Promised Seed, who could have crushed the serpent and got us back into the garden if his brother hadn't murdered him. Cry "hebel!" and you're already turning your heart to the promised seed who has now come. In the spirit of Ecclesiastes you can feel the slap round the face of your own folly at thinking you could make a real difference - nothing lasts, life really is hateful... 
  5. Go to sleep. Wait for the light to overcome the darkness and proclaim the victory of Jesus. In my case, hoping that your 13 month old son doesn't wake you before that. On waking you can praise Jesus for the gospel proclaimed by the sunrise, and taste the sweetness of the new mercies of the new day.
  6. Go at your work with all his strength in you. Raging against the frustration again by believing the gospel, not prizing what's passing and enjoying the moments of grace that sparkle in the darkness. 
  7. Be ready to laugh hard at the sheer absurdity of life which are bound to bring more disappointment as you learn why the guy from Ecclesiastes thought it would have been better never to have lived...  and do it all over again... and again. And again.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Baptism in the Spirit and The UCCF Doctrinal Basis of Fellowship

Recently I've had emails from a colleague who probably wouldn't call himself a charismatic, and from a student worker who belongs to the same family of churches as I do both asking me what to make of the UCCF doctrinal basis of fellowship (DBF) and the charismatic doctrine of baptism in the Spirit. People from different parts of the evangelical church asking similar questions.
1. One asks whether a belief in Baptism in the Spirit means we're saying the gospel isn't enough... if people need something more. 
2. The other has questions about whether the DBF is saying that every Christian, by having the Holy Spirit, automatically has power for change and mission.
They both want unity but aren't sure if that's possible. I commend both for their doctrinal carefulness, concern for the gospel and God's people. What can we say? 

Common ground is a good place to start! The gospel is enough for salvation and for the Christian life. Anything other than that amounts to a denial of the gospel. We begin with the cross, go on with the cross; we begin with the Spirit and we go on with the Spirit - to paraphrase Galatians 3. Yet, we all tend to think something is lacking in terms of the application of the gospel. We all want to grow and expect and experience progress. Every Christian cries "More!" Put this in the terms of Colossians 2:6-7 and we can call that being built up and deeper rooted in the gospel. There is a lack if this hasn't happened - it happens by continuing in the gospel once received. 

The question is: how?

My answer is that it comes by the work of the Holy Spirit and his work in relation to realising our union with Christ. This is God's gracious gift to us - offered to all if not received fully by all. Where do I get this from Biblically? In the Book of Acts we see a recognisable and reportable experience of the Holy Spirit that doesn't necessarily happen at conversion. One name for this is Baptism in the Spirit.

Some reply that we can't make Acts normative for Christian life today - but that would necessitate not using Acts to argue for persuasive and reasonable evangelism either. Acts is messy and distancing ourselves from it is over simplistic.

Does the DBF conflict with the doctrine of Baptism in the Spirit?
Point i. The Holy Spirit lives in all those he has regenerated. He makes them increasingly Christlike in character and behaviour and gives them power for their witness in the world.
The charismatic notes that the DBF says all Christians have the Spirit - full stop - new sentence: the Spirit gives power for change and witness. What's missing is an omission of detail as to how, but not a denial that some detail is needed. Newfrontiers leader Matt Partridge notes:
Now let’s be clear, Romans 8:9 teaches that ‘if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ’. Our salvation is only achieved by the supernatural Spirit of God, convicting and regenerating us. There is no other way to be saved. But is that it? Does our experience of the Spirit, through conversion, fully represent the expectations painted for us in the New Testament? The Bible clearly presents a work of the Spirit at conversion but also a filling or baptising with the Spirit as a distinct event.
I'm not all that sure what a non-charismatic will argue for as the explanation. An answer is needed - where's the power, where's the change, where's the transformation... 

What's clear is that if you make it a matter of human effort then you step outside the bounds of the DBF, if it depends on the grace of God and the finished work of Christ and the present work of the Spirit then you're standing well within it.

What about teaching this in a CU? 

The UCCF doctrinal basis of fellowship is necessarily brief for the sake of inclusivity. It makes some exclusive moves but seeks to avoid any unnecessary divisions, it avoids any unnecessary breaks of fellowship. Some of us like the idea of being the rebel in the room - but if you hold to the DBF you do belong however "edgy" you'd like to think you are. The charismatic and the non-charismatic both equally belong and both will struggle at times and be uncomfortable with some things if real unity is happening.

In a CU you can teach on secondary issues - but you can't insist that being in the CU means you should agree on the secondary subject. The fellowship works in two ways - we agree to agree on what is primary, and we agree to disagree on what is (very important) but secondary.

So long as secondary issues are considered in love and with an open Bible then its entirely fine to talk about them. Worth bearing in mind the danger of getting caught up in endless arguments instead of getting on mission together...  but there's room to talk, just as there is plenty of room for diversity of convictions and practice between and within CUs. You want to go out and pray for non-Christians on campus (as a charismatic might) then you can. You want to insist that everyone must? You can't. You want to use Two Ways To Live, you can. You want to insist everyone does, you can't.

The context varies drastically in CUs - some are very charismatic, some are not. Likewise among UCCF staff who you'll find as members of a whole range of different kinds of churches. The terms of unity remain the same. The DBF facilitates such inconsistency  and diversity. And it tells me that the last thing I want to do is to promote exclusion of those who belong or provoke self-exclusion (1 Cor 12). The way to that isn't to pretend there are no differences but to embrace them, and so have a robust and open unity which isn't merely formal and paper-thin. The basis is the gospel - the result is friendship, fellowship, relationship, partnership, with the Triune God and his people - and his massive mission of self-giving love to his world to be part of.

Others probably have different ways of working this out in practice, but this is my take... Keep big on the gospel and therefore embracing of diversity and abounding in love and you can do whatever you like.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

What to do when someone sins?

What follows is some thoughts to get my team thinking but I think it's applicable in a wider context...

Observation - students sin. They do, like the rest of us. Say the words "student sin" and what comes to mind is probably sex, drugs and alchol but that's an error - you'll find at least as much if not more student sin (especially among Christians) in pride, youthful-passions, arrogance, laziness and poor stewardship of resources and time and money, and that's to reflect on my own student life.

A key place to see how to disciple one another is to conversation between Paul and Peter - the day Paul observed Peter standing condemned, out of step with the gospel for breaking fellowship with Gentile believers by re-imposing food laws. (Open up Galatians 2 for what follows)

Peter’s unspoken objection is that if he sins it’ll look like Jesus endorses sin. Paul says no. Christians who sin don't imply Jesus thinks sin is ok. In fact we expect it to happen - believers don't always do what they want to do. Rule-based answers to sin only prove people to be rule-breakers.

Instead Paul boldly and pastorally takes Peter back to the cross of Christ. 

Paul reminds Peter that it was at the cross that these two Jewish Christians had died to their old life. Paul says to Peter "the my life you're so worried about is already dead". It doesn't count any more. What counts is the life lived by faith in the Son of God who loved them and gave himself up for them. Paul’s answer to Peter’s sin is to preach the death of Christ and the life of faith in the risen Son to him.

This is vital because persistence in sin and trust in law both constitute a denial of the cross, to which the only cure is the cross. The cross which is not meaningless but meaningful.

Paul is recalling this account for the Galatians who have wandered into similar law-treatment of sin. He asks that they recall the message he preached to them. Did he publicly portray the meaningless death of Jesus? No, he painted with his words the meaningfulness of the cross of Christ for them. This is where change comes from. This is where new creation began for them, by faith in this. This is where life in the Holy Spirit began. This is the basis on which miracles happened and suffering was inflicted upon them. To turn elsewhere is to depart from the cross and deny it. Discipleship doesn’t happen on a different basis to evangelism. In both cases it takes an engaging explanation and application of the gospel, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring about change. To convict, to transform.

The pattern of the Christian life is not rules and regulations, permissions and principles – it is Christ crucified and raised, and faith in that.

So, treat others in sin as you treat your own sin. Portray before your heart once more the meaningfulness of the cross and resurrection. Let the Spirit impact upon you that your life is lived in union with Christ who loved you – dying is death, rising with him. Everything in him. The only cure for sin is Christ. Subsequent change of life is slow-burning. The language Paul selects in Galatians is that of fruit grown by the Holy Spirit, and freedom given opportunity. There is action to take but it comes as fruit of the Spirit’s work in my heart, it comes from the liberty I have because of Christ and in Christ. It comes from a life that boasts only Christ – where the emphasis is on Christ not on my boasting; life that is looking to Christ – where the emphasis is on Christ not my looking.

What to do when you hear a report of someone "sinning"?

Don’t freak out, don’t be surprised. Take the opportunity to be humbled again by the gospel – for you need it as they do. Let the gospel teach you to love your brother or sister, who with you is in Christ, clothed in him, filled with the Spirit of the son. Go to them, watching yourself and gently restore them by telling them again of the Christ who loved them, giving himself up for them. Day by day let us be taking the opportunity to do this – to be seeking to be in step with the gospel, challenging one another – being challenged by others at least as often as we would challenge them. Stand together at the foot of the cross and feel the joy of the gospel as if you’re hearing it for the first time though in truth Christ has patiently revealed himself to you many times before. Stand together, in the anguish of childbirth for them, and seek changed life flowing from a changed heart. Ask, what will it look like to keep in step with the Spirit in this situation.

And though we care not for our legacy, let us be known as those who care not for reputation or being able to boast in those entrusted to us – but let us be known as people who would always treat others with the grace that is found only in Christ. Be remembered as one who loved them and had only had one note to sing.

Self-improvement is Evil (Ecclesiastes 4-6)

We live in a world that is set on progress and change and increase. CS Lewis called it The Myth of Evolution (making no comment on the similar sounding science) saying that we've convinced ourselves that these things are always improvements.

Our commerce depends on the new product being better.  Politically, the party out of power always campaigns that they can offer 'change' and it's taken as read that this will be better.... which it might.

When it comes to my bank account if the balance has changed from what I was expecting it to be, it'll have gone down more often than up...

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes sees the world differently.

He sees the pursuit of these things but considers them to be wearying and evil and awful. Better, he says, less than more. Having more stuff and more work and more money and more words and more life just makes things more disappointing, increases the loss at death and weighs you down to the point of despair.

We want the story to be true but it's simply not. Lewis: "It appeals to the same innocent and permanent needs in us which welcome Jack the Giant-Killer. It gives us almost everything the imagination craves - irony, heroism, vastness, unity in multiplicity, and a tragic close. It appeals to every part of me except my reason."

Better he says to be dead than alive, and ideally to have not even lived. That, however, is outside our power. He says even (shockingly) that it'd be better to be stillborn than to live two thousand years or have one hundred children.

The most disturbing film I've ever seen is Ashton Kutcher's The Butterfly Effect. Kutcher's character seeks to fix problems in his life, travelling back in time to do this. Each backward step repairs something but causes disruptive ripples beyond... so much so that he eventually decides the best thing is not to be born at all. It makes me shudder, but it comes straight out of the pages of Ecclesiastes.

What then can be done if you are alive? The Preacher doesn't suggest we give up, he doesn't advocate suicide. He says we'd be better dead or not having lived, but if we live then there is something to do. We can bail from the game of climbing higher and higher, all this straining and searching gets us no where.

Instead we can adopt contentment with our lot. We don't have to buy the lie that we must keep climbing. Less and little and obscurity is fine.

Then we can receive everything as a grace from God to be enjoyed (three times in 5:18,19,20). This is the way to win over the vanity - by self-forgetfulness brought about by grace-fueled joy in life. That doesn't remove the frustration and make everything wonderful but in the years that we are given to live, with the stuff that we have, it's some relief. Man can stop climbing, grace comes down - and we see that there is someone more and better...

Monday, May 03, 2010

Explicitly Trinitarian Good News (Ephesians 1)

THE FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT are in full-gospel-action in Ephesians 1. We've been in this for a couple of weeks with our church.

When the implicit is made explicit I find myself more personally engaged, especially when adoption is on the agenda it matters what the Father does, what the Son does and what the Spirit does. I want to see what's going on.

In Christianity we're not talking about the unspecified actions of some vague first-cause god here but the three persons of the Triune God overflowing in self-giving love to catch us up into relationship with them. There is perfect unity but each person also plays particular parts...

An attempt at explicitly Trinitarian good news:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Father who has blessed us in Christ 
with every Spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
even as the Father chose us in Christ (by The Spiritbefore the foundation of the world... 
that we should be holy and blameless before the Father
In love the Father predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ
according to the purpose of the Father's will (that is in Christ by The Spirit)
to the praise of the Father's glorious grace (that is in Christ by The Spirit)
with which The Father has blessed us (through The Spirit) in (Christ) the Beloved. 
In Christ we have redemption through Christ's blood, 
the forgiveness of our trespasses, 
according to the riches of the Father's grace (that is Christ, by The Spirit)
which the Father lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight (by The Spirit)
making known to us the mystery of the Father's will (that is, Christ by The Spirit)
according to the Father's purpose, 
which he set forth (by The Spirit) in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, 
to unite all things in Christ
things in heaven and things on earth. 
In Christ we have obtained an inheritance, 
having been predestined according to the purpose of the Father 
who works all things according to the counsel of the Father's will (that is, Christ by The Spirit), 
so that we who were the first to hope in Christ 
might be to the praise of the Father's glory (that is, Christ by The Spirit). 
In Christ you also, when you heard the word of truth, 
the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Christ
were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit
who is the guarantee of our inheritance 
until we acquire possession of it, 
to the praise of the Father's glory (that is, Christ by The Spirit).

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Union with Christ in Ephesians

In Ephesians Paul says that we are blessed and chosen and predestined and adopted in Christ (1:3-6). And that we, the church, are the body of Christ (1:23). The body that sits with the head in the heavenly realms having also been raised from the dead with him (2:1-6).

We also do our good works in him (2:10) and in Christ we're brought near to the Father by the blood of Christ (2:13) and we're the place where the Spirit dwells (2:22). Moreover, we, the church, manifest the wisdom of God (3:10) as you'd expect the body of Christ the wisdom of God to do. Glory goes to the Father through Christ and his body the church.

We grow up to walk in Christ - following his example of love just as my feet follow my head (5:1). And not just his body - but his bride with whom he is one flesh (5:21-32) having given himself up for us. Finally, we're to be strong in him (6:11-20) as the body of the divine warrior Christ who triumphs (Col 2:15) over the rulers and authorities by his death.

Everything is Christ - everything is church. One body. The Christian is with other Christians in the body of Christ - so that everything that happens to Jesus happens to us - from death, to resurrection, to ascension, to revelation of the gospel... walking his footsteps, living and loving as he has by the Spirit who lives in us, fills us and changes us. 

So that: you can't think of being a Christian without reference to Christ.

Pete Greasley interviewed by Adrian Warnock at New Word Alive

Adrian Warnock interviews Pete Greasley.

Interview with Pete Greasley, Sovereign Grace Europe from Adrian Warnock on Vimeo.

Pete's evening session from New Word Alive can be downloaded for £1 including: "If you want to reach people with the gospel then feel it, live it, love it! If you are not like that – restrict your diet and eat the prune juice of grace until you are just flowing! If you are blocked up with religion then feed yourself the gospel!"

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Articles on Union with Christ

UNION WITH CHRIST (and the related subject of election) is where Christianity centres.
For my use and I hope for your benefit, these have helped me think myself clear...

Peter Leithart - Chosen in Christ: Trinity & Election: To consider election, then, is simply to consider Christ. To trust in Christ is to discover God's choosing. Christ is the "mirror" of election. To be in Christ is to be in the Elect One, chosen in the Beloved by the Beloved.

Mike Reeves: Union with Christ at Transformission 2009 - three mp3s.

Rich Owen - Genesis 27: We tend to think that election is all about us, am I elect? I don’t know. And that is where the fear comes from. But its not about us, it is about Christ. Scripture wants you to know that Christ has been chosen, Christ is has been elected to be the champion of salvation.

Tim Challies reads John Murray's Redemption Accomplished and Applied: Nothing is more central or basic than union and communion with Christ. ... Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation not only in its application but also in its once-for-all accomplishment in the finished work of Christ

Bobby Grow - The incredulity of classic calvinism and arminianism: The Gospel is “God’s life in action!” If you think “keeping-the-Law” is the barometer of salvation; think again! It is Christ’s life, it is God’s life which is the Gospel; if you’re in Him, then you are completely saved!

Blogposts here on union with Christ. And Loads more here from Phil Gons.