Spring Harvest 2014: Bible Teaching Day 5

Spring Harvest 2014

Simon Ponsonby, from St. Aldates Church in Oxford is leading the Main Bible Teaching at Spring Harvest this week, and he’s speaking this morning on the Holy Spirit:

 

Thinking this morning about the Holy Spirit.  It was almost prophetic that we got the video wrong, he blows where he wants to be!  It is often how it is with the Holy Spirit.  But if you seek me you will find the Holy Spirit says.

 

Often work in a coffee shop – there is one argument in the development of science, that the enlightenment came from the setting up of the coffee shops in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The water was poor so they used to drink beer which is a depressant, caffeine is a stimulator.  Brains started working together in a much quicker way.  People often leave something behind in a coffee shop.  Often running behind people saying haven’t you left something, forgotten something.  Want to say it to the noble church fathers who just say “I believe in the Holy Spirit” in the Creed – it isn’t enough.  It’s almost as though they are saying that they believe in the Spirit.

 

No mention of the Spirit incubating over creation, operation in the world, in the ministry of Jesus, in the conviction of sin, the focus of regeneration, that constitutes the church, equips and ordains us for service, inspires the scripture, brings new life, brings breath to all life.  The Creed is almost embarrassingly silent on the Creed.

 

The Church is similar, we believe in the Creed.  Gregory named the Spirit, “the God that no one writes about”; Karl Rahner called the Spirit the Cinderella of the Spirit.  Why is it that there is such a paucity of thought.

 

The absence may be due to the context of where the Creeds are formed – often focussed on hammering out Christological issues in their churches.  The lack of presentation may be more fundamental and reflects the nature of the Spirit who always spotlights Jesus and puts Jesus centre stage.  The whole point of the Spirit is that He points to Jesus.  It may have been a concern of church leaders damping down excesses in cults, which were often linked to proclamation of the Spirit.

 

Already by the 4th and 5th century the church had become so institutionalised and liturgically restricted that the freedom of the Spirit had been subdued.  They are writing out of their lack of experience.  Ever since the church has carried on, we have lost something of His immediacy, agency, power, presence in our lives.  Would want to say humbly, haven’t you forgotten something, there’s more to say, to know, to experience.  Spring Harvest have you forgotten something.

 

Schweitzer wrote “long before the Holy Spirit was an article in the creed he was an experience of the primitive church.”  Much of the things that go by the name of the Holy Spirit today has nothing to do with Him, it is often just human sprit sadly manufacturing.

 

Billy Graham says “everywhere I go I find God’s people lack something”.  Interesting as most evangelists don’t care about the church, they care about those outside of the church.  He worked with some of the best of God’s people but he still felt they lacked something, they were hungry.  Their Christian experience is something they didn’t expect, a sense of disappointment with Christian life, a dislocation with the Scriptures, songs and sermons and what you see in your life. “The greatest need of the world today is that many who profess Christ’s name get filled with the Holy Spirit”.

 

James Stuart Stuart, the great Scottish preacher said, “we expected more”.  God gave us everything so it is the problem of our reception.  If there is disappointment it isn’t because God is withholding himself or the Holy Spirit is mean, but is that we haven’t filled enough, we haven’t drunk deeply enough with God.

 

One of the things that marks Paul was that he always desired more for him and the churches he looked after.  Philippians 3:10-14, if we’d been Paul in jail, about to be beheaded by Nero, we would have been moaning, I deserve better, but here is Paul awaiting death, a man who is achieved more than any other bar Christ, saying he wants to know Him more, yet he’s just written a book in Philippians 2.  Want to know the power of the Spirit pulsing through me.  You need communion, intimacy with God.  Some of us Anglicans calm down, you’re too cool for school, where is the fire?  Paul wants to know Christ, to be joined with him, and fulfil every call and mandate on my life.

 

Paul wants it for his community, Colossians 1:8-11 – what a church we would be if we would live that.  They already had the Spirit, they had been saved, but he wants them to receive more.  He prayed it for the church in Romans 1:11, he wants the church to facilitate his mission to Spain, writing to reconcile and resolve the Jews and Greeks, laying down a theology of the cross – where we meet God regardless of Gentile or Jew.  Romans 15:29 has more.

 

1 Corinthians 12:31 – the problem in the Corinthian church was numerous, and Paul was trying to troubleshoot.  In 1 Corinthians 1:7 we know they had the Spiritual Gifts.  Some say that the charismatic stuff had gone a bit overboard and needed to calm down and live a life of love.  You don’t need any gifts, but then he says eagerly desire them.  When was the last time you asked for a new gift and exercised that gift.  When was the last time you were burning to be anointed by God.  Often we’re so weary we can’t be bothered, life is so hard.  We need to ask God to put a fire in our heart.

 

In Ephesians 1 we have an introduction (v. 1-2), and then in v. 3-14 he’s speaking about their role in Jesus Christ.  We would look so much different if we did this.  In v. 15 he prays for them – did you know you have eyes in your heart, you can see what you feel.  Some of you haven’t received much in the Lord since receiving the Spirit in 1982.  Have you pressed on, have you learnt more, have you experienced more.  God always has more to give.

 

Ephesians 1:19 – the power of God was what marked the Early Church, you will receive power when the Spirit comes upon you, without the power there is not much witness.  Power is a dirty word in our culture because often is has been misused and abused.  But power wrapped in love brings transformation.  This is for all the saints, not just the vicars and pastors, don’t rule yourself out, count yourself into the text.  Writing I want to be known what can’t be known would fail you in an essay at Oxford!  But it is true, words run out and we speak in tongues because we can’t describe it.

 

How do we get there

Desire

It is one thing for Paul to desire it for them, it is quite another thing to desire it for themselves.  We can read scripture, listen to the preacher, but unless we desire it it won’t happen.  If we leave the lid on the kettle when trying to fill it up it just goes everywhere.  The Church is the same.  Some of us have lost our appetite for God, we’ve become anorexic, you’ve shutdown, stopped receiving a long time ago, disappointment with God came your way, God wants to turn up the desire, put a hunger in us.  “This longing is like the umbilical cord of life” Soren Kierkegaard.  Oswald Chambers said “I am hungry with a vast desire for him”.  Some are hungry and God wants to satisfy that desire, others God wants to put a desire into us.  Whatever you’re around can stir your affections for it, e.g. food, women or God.  Get those spiritual juices flowing.  “I want, don’t get!” we all become our parents don’t we!  God is the table laying God!

 

We need to be like Jacob, I will not let you go unless you bless me.  Jacob was a nasty piece of work, manipulated his brother, deceiving his father to get a blessing, but one day he finds himself in the desert, wrestling with an angel, he wouldn’t let go until he receives a blessing.  Blessing comes from the greater to the lesser, Jacob no more he becomes Israel, and from that is the line of Jesus, you grabbed hold of your birthright.  Some of us don’t grab hold of it, let go of it too soon.  There must be desire, and we need God to raise that in us.

 

Georgie Whitfield one of the great awakening leaders wanted more of God, he sought him day and night with fasting, prayer, got frost bite from lying on the ground too much.  He records in his journal I resolved to die or conquer.  He was so ill that he couldn’t do more than read his greek New Testament for 2 hours a day.  The Spirit of the Lord met him under a tree in the park.  France had a revelation, we had a revival, men filled with the Spirit.  Why?  Because one man was willing to die to everything for Christ.  Where are his like today?  Maybe some of you will say enough is enough I want more of God.  There must be a dying.  A sense of resolution to go flat out for God.

 

What does it look like

Two things we see throughout Scripture: love and power.  The Spirit always brings greater intimacy with Christ, the overwhelming affection of and for God.  We are filled with love, not just duty, but love and duty.  In the time of the Puritans, more commentaries on the book of the Song of Songs were written during their time than any other book as they were looking for a language of love.  These aren’t just propositions like “God so loved the world” – love historical becomes love existential.  The Puritans created journalling, to read out their thoughts to each other in church.  God so loved the world, when you are filled with the Spirit you underline so because you understand his love.

 

Paul is often going on about power.  The church is often going on about hot air, we’re need the power of the Spirit.  The power to transform us and equip us for works of service.  To live such an amazing life for Jesus.  There is immeasurably more, he can do, he can give, you can be immeasurably more – it comes from the Spirit, and looks like love and power

Spring Harvest 2014: Bible Teaching Day 4

Spring Harvest 2014

Simon Ponsonby, from St. Aldates Church in Oxford is leading the Main Bible Teaching at Spring Harvest this week:

 

Struck last night by the amazing testimony from Barnabas.  Asked himself the question what would have happened if he had not committed Psalm 23 to memory?  What would have happened if he hadn’t have had God’s word stored up and hidden in his heart?  What have you got stored in your heart so when you are under affliction what will get you through?  Great sadness that many of those who would call themselves Evangelical have lost the mooring of being Evangelical – the emphasis on the word.  In the Creed we hear “according to the scriptures” half way through but would like to have seen it after every proposition.  We believe that God has been revealed in a time and place, in the Messiah of Jesus Christ, that revelation is recorded by the people of God in the book of God.  If we lose that Scripture we look for a mooring elsewhere, and history shows that we normally turn to culture, and culture is not predicated on scripture.

 

Psalm 119 – the longest in the Psalter, the longest chapter in the Bible, so why does God inspire his people to create this study.  Each of the stanzas begin with a Hebrew word following through on the alphabet.

 

Second stanza, verse 9: how can someone keep themselves pure.  Like Pastor Barnabas we need to hide God’s word, His decrees and commands in our heart.  If you want to know how to worship get in to the word, it teaches you rejoicing.  We must not neglect God’s word.  All over the world those so called people of God are neglecting God’s word – we must not for the sake of the world.

 

Had an amazing student who came out of an Arminian family from Iran.  Out in Iran taking bibles into the churches, bibles in the boot, and they went to the petrol station, and there was an armed warrior by the door.  The wife says to the husband you need to give him one of our Bibles, so he fills up with petrol, pays for it, and the wife says he didn’t give the bible.  The woman starts on the man, and the man drives off, after a while he turns around, drives to the petrol station, takes the Bible to the warrior and says this is a Holy Bible, the Christian book, and the warrior broke down and cried.  Three days ago he had a dream that he would be given the word of life at the petrol station, and he had been waiting there for 3 days and 3 nights!

 

The dream pointed to the scriptures and the scriptures to Christ who points to life.

 

God’s word is neglected 

In awe of Pastor Barnabas hiding the words in his heart, and getting up an hour before the other prisoners each day to meditate on Psalm 23.  The IKEA catalogue is now the most printed book.  Many Christians now the IKEA catalogue better than the Christians.  You get a catalogue for free but you have to pay for everything in it, the Bible you have to pay for but all of it is free inside.  Non-Christians from 50 years ago knew the Bible better than Christians today, they just don’t know it.  Leaders so often just tell stories, want to hear from the book, to hear about God.

 

Dr. John Bibson, hands up who has read all the Bible, 25 years ago at an evangelical college, maybe only a third had read all of it.  Now maybe a third are not in ministry anymore.  Maybe there is a correlation between ministry and the word.  Four of Simon’s mates have left the ministry having seen wives walk out with others, how was it they could have gone from being spirit-filled leaders bring people to Christ – what went wrong – it didn’t happen overnight, it will have been incremental, there wasn’t a daily seeking and being fed by God, and then the things of flesh rise.

 

P.T. Fawsite said why don’t people read the Bible more, because they’ve not been in that country, they’ve no experience to stir and develop.  People feel like bits of land is there place, this is our place.  This is how we should feel with scripture, it is our narrative, where we belong.  So many are going around like headless chickens because it is not where they belong – this is where we belong.  Go back to the place where you can stand and breathe in the air and say this is my place, these are my people.  A neglecting of God’s word leads to a neglecting of God’s way.  There is no distinction between evangelical Christians and non-Christians – the same ways of spending money, the same divorce rates.

 

The Church’s health and the Christian’s health is directly predicated to a reliance on God’s word.  No amount of prayer ministry will sort you out if you’re not reading the Bible.  We have created a culture of where people do the work for us – the preacher reads the Bible, the prayer ministry team pray for us.

 

Deuteronomy 6:6, Moses instructs the Israelites on how to live, the commandments.  God’s word was to frame every aspect of their life, their heart, their forehead, their forearms, their gateposts, their door frames, with their children, waking up, going to sleep.  God’s word was with them in everything so they could live well and prosper in the land.

 

The people of Israel time and time again went away from the word, all hell would break loose and God would bring them back.  God’s word has got to frame our life.

 

In Krakow in the Jewish quarter where Schindlers list happened and was then recreated, the people as they were being rounded up, ripped off God’s word from their door post and put it into their pockets to take it with them, wherever they were going.

 

The Psalmist prized God’s word

V. 14 he delighted in God’s word, he prized it, it wasn’t just not neglecting it.  Which would you rather prefer a bible or a holiday home?  Open Doors on their website have an account of someone ministering to oppressed Christians in Indonesia, they asked what do you want – money, support, fighting in the courts, teaching pastors – they replied a Bible – we can cope with everything else when we have God’s word.

 

Repeatedly we see in 97, 113, 123, 167 “I love”.  Maybe one of the things we have to ask God is to stir our affection for God’s word.  For God to overcome the stupor, the spiritual dyslexia, stirring a fire for God’s word.

 

His dad read the Bible four times a year, once a year when bringing up little children.  He is the nearest person to Jesus, he is a man of God, as he has been framed and fashioned by God’s word.

 

The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, over a billion people tuned in to watch it.  In her gold plated chariot, she comes to the cathedral with all the world’s royalties, Prime Ministers, dignitaries.  Power like the world has never seen, and the Moderator of the Scottish Church hands her a Bible, “this is the most valuable thing the world affords, this is wisdom.”  This book puts us on par with the Queen of England.

 

Spoke at a conference of worship leaders in Cambridge, asked them to get a Bible, they were through the cupboards in the Monastery they were in to try and find Bibles.  This girl had a Bible bound in denim, covered in stickers and stuffed with notes.  Discovered she was from a church where he had bought a CD and loved using one of the songs his quiet times, turned out she had written it.

 

The Bible is Power

The Bible is so precious as it mediates God.  There is power in this book.  So often we want more power but there is power in the book.  “Your word stands the heavens” – your word is in the heavens, but also upholds the heavens.  There is power, not just to split an atom, but to create an atom.  Some of you need to the power of God, to transform your character, to transform what comes out of your mouth and into your eyes.  To be a better man, husband, father, colleague and human.

 

Why would God pour out his spirit on you if you don’t read his word?  150 times the Psalmist speaks of scripture as your word, your law, your decrees.  The divine has somehow chosen to use this thing to reveal and mediate himself.  You want a blessing, walk according to his law, you want freedom, insight, peace, overcome sin – open the word.  Fill yourself with a better vision, a better picture, a better story.

 

Every demonic regime seeks to ban or burn the Bible.  Throughout the history of church, when regimes come against the church they try to repress the Bible because demons recognise the power in the word.  Famous Christian missionary sat on a train alongside a Indian mystic who went into a trance staring at him for four hours.  The mystic after four hours said what is this power you have in your breast, the missionary pulled out of his pocket the New Testament!

 

The Nazis forbade the Bible in concentration camp, they called it The Book of Lies, if the demonic hates something then maybe that something is really special and important.

 

Young Christian interpreter who translated the Bible in Vietnam.  When it was collapsing he was arrested and daily brain washed.  After several years of this he came to the end of himself.  He prayed every day but he thought God had given up on him.  He decided to consciously not pray.  He was given the job of cleaning the toilets, as he emptied them out, he found some paper, wiped off the excrement.  Read it later and discovered God’s word, 31,300 verses in the Bible and nothing more relevant than the verse he was given “Nothing can separate you from my love”.

 

What a God, we are people who believe, and we believe according to the scriptures, and it is in the scriptures we find life, love, power, and transformation.

Spring Harvest 2014: Bible Teaching Day 3

Spring Harvest 2014

Simon Ponsonby, from St. Aldates Church in Oxford is leading the Main Bible Teaching at Spring Harvest this week, and he’s speaking this morning on Colossians 1:12-23: Giving thanks to the Father.

Laurence of Arabia grew up in Oxford.  His mother heard the then Rector Canon Christopher, moved to Oxford after becoming a Christian whilst on holiday at the Isle of Wight.  His brother and his mother went to be missionaries from St. Aldates to the China Inland Mission.  Laurence of Arabia later in life said I only believe in the first four words of the creed: “I believe in God”.  Is that enough?  James says so what, even the demons believe in God.  This God, this eternal father is revealed concretely, incarnately in the person of Jesus Christ.  Karl Barth said “Jesus is the centre of the creed”.  How do we know what the Father is like, because Christ shows us what the Father is like.

 

The Colossian church weren’t satisfied with Christ.  Despite in 2:6 receiving Jesus as Lord they moved onto higher things.  In 2:8 they were following hollow and deceptive philosophies.  There is a lot of this in the church as well as the world.  Too often we think Jesus is not enough, but we’ve been taken captive by false prophets.  They exchanged freedom in Christ, moving from a religion focussed on special dates, astrology, diets and more.  Paul wants to put Christ back in the centre of the Church.  As J. John says if you take Christ out of Christian you’re only left with Ian and he can’t help you.

 

We believe in Jesus who is God with us

Verse 15-20 generally regarded as an early creed.  Almost certainly they’re not Paul’s words but he is echoing back a creed, hymn or song that was written, possibly even in this church.  Listen you’re singing this song, you wrote this song, but do you really understand the reality behind the propositions you are saying.  So often we just sing songs and say religious statemtns, it is imperative that we understand the reality of what we are saying.

 

There are so many people who have fallen away from church having led worship and more, and that’s because there is a disconnect between their words and their reality.

 

There are 14 specific responses name as Jesus, He or Him with personal pronoun.  It is all about Him, it is to Him, it isn’t for our benefit it is for His benefit.  We delight in worship, but it is not about us.  It is about Him and what He has done for us.  Once asked about the worship, and said he didn’t think much about it.  We think we’re the adjudicator of good worship.  But God said, “I liked it”, oops!

 

Oswald Saunders said worship is “the adoring contemplation of God”.  When he draws near it is wonderful to be in His presence, but regardless of that He deserves our worship.

 

Michelangelo was asked by his pupil Raphael to comment on a picture of Jesus.  He went round  and looked and wrote a comment.  Raphael came back to find that Michelangelo had painted in huge letters “Amplius” – make it bigger – make Jesus bigger.

 

The challenge is is Christ at the centre of our Christianity.

 

It magnifies Jesus’ divinity

In v. 15 he is the seen, unseen God.  The word image is “ikon” from which we get icon.  It refers to an exact copy or portrait.  Philo referred to it when speaking about logos, the human mind.  Jesus is the image of the invisible God.

 

It is polemic in challenging the false doctrine that had seeped into the Colossian church.  It was an early form of Gnosticism, a dualist idea driving a huge wedge between the divine and matter.  Matter doesn’t matter to God, God who was Spirit and good.  We get to God through secret keys, secret knowledge, opening secret doors with special prophets having special knowledge and passwords of access into the divine.  If we are matter, and matter doesn’t matter to God who is Jesus, he can’t be Spirit as he is matter, but he can’t be matter as he is more like God.  He is more a demi-God, a mishmash.  Paul says he is both fully God and fully man.  All the fulness of God dwelt, in verse 19, dwelling amongst us.

 

Dwelling is a great Old Testament theme, as he dwelled and lived among the Israelites now dwells amongst them.  Verse 17: he is before all things – he is the ancient of days become flesh.  As a little child once said, he was born when he was old.  He didn’t suddenly become God at his baptism, he was the eternal logos.

 

Verse 18: He is the beginning, like Genesis 1:1.  Jesus doesn’t just break into time, he was before all time, he is Alpha and Omega.

 

Verse 16 he highlights his creativity.  The Gnostics emphasised levels of distinction, here Paul challenges this.  Jesus stands over all these categories and levels.  This is why we worship.

 

The Greek and Roman Gods struggled to hold up earth and sun etc., in the classical atlases, e.g. Hercules straining to hold the earth up.  Mother Julian of Norwich presented the concept of Jesus holding the world as an acorn, spinning it in his palm.

 

Blaise Pascal: “Jesus is the centre of everything, and he is the object of everything, and those who don’t know that know nothing.”  Science’s Grand Theory of Everything – how does quantum physics link with Newton etc., is there an overarching theory that makes sense of it all – yes it is Christ, the Logos!

 

We need to amplify our conception of Christ.  He is not just the person who may or may not heal your toothache he is the Lord of all the universe.

 

It magnifies his supremacy

The word all in Greek means all.  All things are created by and for him, all things are held together by him.  All, every.  “There is not a square inch of the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ who is supreme over all says ‘mine!’”.

 

Jesus is the head of the body, the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury good though they are are not the head of the body.  Men are not the head of the body, Jesus is the head of the body.  If you lose connection with your head you lose connection with the nervous system.  It is always back to Christ, the supreme centre of operations.  Kierkagaard said the church is like a train carriage that in uncouple from its locomotive that is rolling but will soon come to a stop and may even go backwards.  We know people who get disconnected from the head, who have lost their faith, made life altering decisions.

 

We believe in Jesus who is God for us

Not so much in the song, but v 12-14 and v. 22 which bracket or sandwich the song.  In the hymn we celebrate the person of Jesus Christ, God who is with us, but around this Paul is celebrating the God who is for us.  The reason he is with us is to be for us.  His back is not turned toward us.

 

Some of you think God is against you.  Loved Pete Greig when he said sometimes he thinks God is after him, if he hasn’t had a quiet time etc.  What a man of God he is.  Because God is so awesome, and we are so creaturely, we live in fear of a Monty Python foot coming out of a cloud and squashing us.

 

He is not a moral traffic warden, he is not out to get you.  He is out to get you out, out of your sin, darkness, bondage, away from judgement and brought into the light of God.

 

v. 12 the Father has qualified us.  Some people think they stand over God qualifying whether or not he can exist.  We don’t qualify ourselves for God or make ourselves acceptable, God qualifies us.

 

We are lost if you have to qualify yourself.  Colossians thought it was your work, your merit, your clothes, no God qualifies us.  Like the Prodigal Son you say you bring nothing, he didn’t say he was bringing anything.

 

Karl Barth said “so often we are refugees from grace, so often we try to do it on our own.”

 

We need to condor our inheritance

V. 12, we have an inheritance.  Some of you are worried about your inheritance, and think your parents will live forever and you won’t get any inheritance.  Dad collects antiques, others call it tack, and he says “one day son this will all be yours!”  That’s what God does for us, sharing in the inheritance of the Saints.  These glorious universe on universe on universe will be ours.

 

Recently been a circuit of books about people who claim to have visited heaven.  They are as realistic as the Hobbit, their vision is not big enough.  This world has no analogous correspondent to this.

 

V. 13 he has delivered us from the powers of darkness.  He has delivered us from sin and condemnation.  Note the tense, he has delivered us.  Some Christians tie themselves in knots thinking they are still entrapped by the enemy.  He has done it.

 

Much of the Colossian church was focussed on a spiritually of dualism, and if they didn’t do the right thing then evil would gain the upper hand.  A lot of spiritual warfare rests on this theology, but he has delivered us, and we are mopping up before his return.

 

We love rags to riches stories, e.g. Les Miserables, Oliver Twist, Shrek, Cinderella.  They are archetypes that touch something deep in our psyche as they are our story.

 

Redemption: to be bought out of slavery, used for the Israelites taken out of Egypt and brought into the land and brought into life.  He brings us out and redeems us.  Reconciliation: in the Greek it becomes he lassoos us.  Brought to God, to an inheritance, to a new kingdom, to eternal life.

 

Spring Harvest 2014: Bible Teaching Day 2

Spring Harvest 2014

Simon Ponsonby, from St. Aldates Church in Oxford is leading the Main Bible Teaching at Spring Harvest this week, and he’s kicking off today with the Unfathomable Father.

 

Romans 8:14-17

Looking at God as creator, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and also looking at what is the nature of belief.  In the Creed is condensed the Father of the Universe, we over the next few hours will be able to highlight some of the words.

 

I Believe in God the Father Almighty

Before God created the universe he was already the Father, that’s why the Creed puts this preface at the start.  It is part of his nature, it is his definition.  The overflow of his fathering is poured out before us.  Providing, delighting, wonderful father.  Many of us struggle with this, and one of the things God wants to do is to renew our affection and understanding of God’s love for us.  No one is more thrilled that you are here than God – he wants to spend time with you, and he wants to delight in you.

 

Little while ago a man came to see Simon, worked as a Verger at the church, had had a colourful previous life including drugs and jail.  He thought God wanted him to become a Vicar, so Simon asked the guy to share more of his story.  on holiday he was was aware that he had been saved, that God had been wonderful to him, and yet still felt there was something missing, a sense of emptiness.  Friends prayed for him, they went to a charismatic event in a barn, during the worship time he was on his knees calling out “what is the key”.  Someone else who he didn’t know walked in front of him, and walked to the barn door, pulled out a wrought iron key, and then put the key on his neck, “this is the key – you are my son and I love you”.

 

Three simple points – a baptist heritage!

 

A Cry for a Father

There is a fundamental cry, aching and longing for God as Father.  If you’ve seen Cider House Rules, set in the 1940s in an American orphanage, following the children as they come of age.  A couple arrive in an open top car to adopt; all the girls are lined up in height.  At the ned of the row is a new born baby which they pick.  Then the scene changes to a 11 year old lad looking out of the window as the car drives away, he’s asked are you going somewhere, no, he’d packed his suitcase hoping someone would take him.  “They wanted a girl” he responded with “no one wants me, nobody has ever asked.”

 

That image somehow prophetically gets to the heart of the human condition.  Waiting on the landing with a suitcase packed, waiting, longing for God to take us home.  We’re aware of waiting for something but we can’t put words on it.

 

Since Eden there has been a deep and profound sense of abandonment within the human soul and a fear of rejection, then a rejection of ourselves and others.  We don’t know what it is and what will satisfy its need, we try all kinds of things to fill the hole.  We try with intimacy in relationships, promiscuity for fleeting momentary pleasures, self-love through driving ambition, achievement, acquisition of goods, others hit out angrily at the world.

 

Man speaking to 70 lads in prison asked how many of you ever heard your dad say I love you – not one!  In that sense of absence of a father figure they find a substitute father as a gang leader and end up doing crime.

 

God wants to meet us on the landing with our suitcase packed.  We are made for God our father.

 

Many of us struggle to understand God as Father, e.g. feminists suggest there is a power play, deifying masculine and women are pushed aside – sadly this has happened within the church.  Paul calls all of us sons of God whether male or female – it is a place of privilege and inheritance.  In the same way men are called to be the Bride of Christ!

 

Freud argued that God was like the little girls made up friend.  He understood that we project onto God the experience we have with our earthly father.  If we struggle in our earthly relationship it affects our Godly relationship.  We can cope with God as almighty, saviour, etc., but not God as father.  Not easy to appreciate your adoption by God, Abba, Father, if you were an unwanted child.  Not easy when your dad beat your mum, when your parents divorced and dad left, if you were sent off to boarding school, if dad was more interested in work or your achieving sibling.  Then we live in fear, we don’t draw near, we become perfectionists, we don’t want to hang out with him.

 

A man was called “Stupid number 5” until he was in his thirties.  God never spoke those words.  He wants to heal these situations.  If this was your experience as a father you know you shouldn’t but it is repeated.

 

Your father at worst bears no resemblance to God and at best is a poor resemblance of God.  This is the number one point of contact for the gospel in our society today.  We need to have apologetics to deal with Dawkins and Hitchens etc., but fundamentally the question is normally if there is a God is he like my dad because he and I didn’t get on.

 

There is a Cry of the Father

There is a longing in the divine heart for us.  The Father wants to father us.  Ever since Eden, and the dislocation enters into human life God also felt it.  God said “Adam where are you” before Adam spoke, it’s not like he didn’t know where they were.  Is God hiding from them, they’ve moved away from God, God is moving towards them.  The calling out is a sense of loss and pain that ripped the heart of God.  No one ever adopted reluctantly.  There was an overflow in your heart, space in your relationship and home and you had to adopt, you had to do it, even going through all the hoops.  God can’t wait to adopt you, he went to hell and back seeking his heirs.

 

Luke 15 – the prodigal son, or the prodigal affections of the Father.  The son offends his father, wishing he was dead so he could get his inheritance.  He squanders the share of the inheritance, ending up feeding pigs, for a Jewish boy this is a bad story.  He is starving, longing to feed his gut with the food he feeds the pig.  He comes to his senses, even the servants are treated better than this.  When he was still far off, his Father saw him – was it an accident – every day the Father felt the loss of the son, every day looking for his Son.  He sees him, picks up his skirt and runs to him and then smacks him in the mouth – no!  He hugged him and kissed him – there is no sense of the son causing shame and bringing dishonour on the family.

 

When we come to God we come saying we’re not worthy, make us a servant.  But God has all the servants he wants through the angels.  He gets the best robe, they always kept a great robe spare for honoured guests.  Then they throw a party and kill the fattened calf.  The fattened calf was looked after whilst the son was away; the butcher comes each week offering top price and the father says it isn’t for sale, it is for the sun.  The only person gutted apart from the older brother was the calf!

 

The nature of the human condition is feeding pigs and your gut is empty; the nature of God is we throw a party an eat BBQ ribs.  The older brother can’t cope with that.  The father says to him, “son, you are always with me, always near me, always for you and towards you, you could have had the fattened calf, the butcher couldn’t but you could.”  The older brother had a servant mentality, he was the son but acted like a slave.

 

Calvin said the Spirit is the Spirit of Adoption.  The Romans looked to adopt children because they weren’t sure who were their children.  They would look for great leaders, warriors etc.  Many of the Emperors were adopted, given inheritance that wasn’t originally theirs.  Paul says you can have this with God.  You can have his inheritance.

 

There is a Cry, Oh My Father

Romans 8 speaks about the Spirit, the instrument by which we cry Abba, Father.  We also read about this in Galatians 4:6.  The word in Greek means to cry, to shriek, a welling up, an involuntary ecstatic exclamation.  C.H. Dodd said when people are filled with the spirit and cry Abba Father it is a charismatic experience.  So often we major on the minor – tingling, falling over – we need to focus on the birth title.

 

This is the unique thing.  The Ancient Greeks had no concept of God as Father.  None are specifically father.  In Islam there are 90 names for Muhammed but none are father.  Orthodox Jews call God “the name”, they wouldn’t dare to call him father as it would constrain God.  The Rabbi Paul could say Abba Father is extraordinary.  Jesus invites us into the relationship he has eternally with God.  The nearest to Father is daddy, children.

 

The Spirit gives us the revelation.  The Preacher can preach until the cows come home but it won’t make sense of take place without the spirit.  This is a need in the world and in the church.

 

In 2 Timothy 1: “I know whom I have believed”, do we know the Father’s love, that he wants to say “come away with me”.

 

In Romans 8 and Galatians 4:6 both talk about slavery to fear.  When we know God as Father we won’t be gripped by fear.  Many are gripped by fear, you’ve walked around yourselves with trumpets seven times, you’ve been ghost busted, you’ve done prayer and pilates, and a whole load more.  Ask God to fill him with his Spirit and to free you.

 

Luther Vandross wrote I want to dance with my father, he lost his father as a child and expressed his thoughts in it.  We need God as Father