Martin Saunders has written a brilliant article on how too often we misinterpret Jeremiah 29:11 – instead we need to understand that God “doesn’t promise we’ll all get rich, and he doesn’t promise that life is going to be easy. His plan is so much grander than that.”:
It’s one of the most popular verses in the Bible, bringing comfort to millions every day. It’s a wonderful, warm sentiment, which has spawned a veritable industry of bookmarks, posters and mugs. It is pinned to refrigerator doors all over the world, a source of daily encouragement that ‘God is in control.’ Most Christians will know it well:
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
There’s an awful lot of truth in this verse. God is absolutely all-seeing; he knows everything that has been and that will be already. He certainly has a plan for the world, and our privilege as his followers is to experience and join in with it daily. He definitely promises us a hope and a future. But that’s not really what we read into that verse, and it’s not really what it’s saying, either.
The third Lausanne Young Leaders Gathering is happening in Jakarta. YLG2016 is a gathering of 1,000 younger leaders from over 160 countries who will connect, pray, and discern together God’s leading of their generation for his global mission. It’s a privilege to be here and to share my notes of Dave Benson from the first Morning Plenary with you.
Where is here?
You wake up in your room, you are still jet lagged, trying to find the bathroom, you headbutt the wall, wake up your room mate.
And yet …
Nearly 3 years ago the YLG Planning Team could see you, from over 160 countries, united in God’s big story. This is meant to be. God sees the beginning and the end. God planned for you, jet lagged as you are, to be here. We might get lost, but God never does, God invented the map.
Anyone seen ‘Thank God you’re here’, the TV show you dress tem in a costume and send them through a door into a drama they know nothing about. It could be a court scene, a home, a party, or more. The humour comes as they say inappropriate things for their scene. Isn’t that like our life?
The world is a complex state, a drama. The challenges we face our great, poverty, pluralism, sexual redefinition, secularism and more. There is no evangelisation as usual. We must search for creative ways forward in a rapidly changing world.
It is tempting to simply copy other cast members, we ask ‘What would Billy Graham do?’. Even though we should learn from the past, we should ask who would Jesus Christ ask us to be for this time and this stage. A complex stage requires us to listen to the directors voice using resources such as The Mission of God by Chris Wright.
We can only play our part when we step in. We can only play our part in the story through creation, fall, repentance, reflection, love, reconciliation and worship as we look at the story of the mission of God.
Evangelisation is re-entering this ancient story, this is telling the story in fresh ways. It is glocal – global mission in a local context and flesh. If you are a white male living in the West your story is incomplete until we hear from sisters in the 10:40 window, from brothers in the majority church, from those in the persecuted church. We must act, we must act with wisdom, we must act with courage and we must act with love. Only as a great cast united in the story would we discover more of the great triune God.
The third Lausanne Young Leaders Gathering is happening in Jakarta. YLG2016 is a gathering of 1,000 younger leaders from over 160 countries who will connect, pray, and discern together God’s leading of their generation for his global mission. It’s a privilege to be here and to share my notes of the Opening Ceremony with you.
Why are we here, what is the vision?
- We are here because God is about to orchestrate divine connections for us to be here. We welcome the Spirit to bring birth to life long friendships, Gospel partnerships and more.
- We are here because God wants to speak to us. He is longing to speak to each one of us. Speak oh Lord for your servants are listening.
- We are here because our Father has given us a task that has not yet finished. The evangelistic cutting edge of the world is here tonight to see how it can fulfil Christ’s great missions as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
- Throw off anything that hinders: We might need to throw things off, cut things out this week.
- Run with perseverance: not just run, but run with perseverance, he knows it is a tough race. Perseverance is used 27 times in the NT, normally within the context of persecution.
- Fix our eyes on Jesus: after two moving metaphors he tells us to stay, to fix.
Live in Rome a few kilometres from the Colosseum, from where many Christians became martyrs. As I run in the area I could imagine the early Christians, those first martyrs in the stadium.
Grandfather grew up in a family in Brazil in real poverty. His first five siblings did not survive due to starvation. He was blessed with a great mind, became a Professor and enabled people to access schools. As I told my 6 year old son, I realized I was passing on the blessing to the next generation.
The father is inviting us to come close and hear his story, from generation to generation. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, including grandfather, and some from Lausanne 1974. One day like YLG 2006 we might be cheering on the next generation.
It will be a long but incredible week.
Although I am fluent in all 7 languages meaning I can say good evening in all of them I want to greet you in the name of Lord Jesus Christ who is Lord of all nations, and of all generations. I opened the 2006 YLG with these same words. Much there is that is different in the world and much that is the same. My 4 kids have become 5, my 12 years of marriage have now 22 years, I was 35 years in 2006, people tell me I look the same age or even younger, but I just wish I felt as young as I look, a few weeks ago I got a hearing aid! Even though my body is feeling old I am still young at heart. You may even see me wearing a Brazilian soccer shirt, on a scooter, trying to save precious minutes running from appointment to appointment.
Seeing you all like this my heart is gushing with joy. Ten years ago I was just like you, a younger leader with so many dreams, so many questions so much hope. I was a bit naïve I thought I knew a lot about the world and yet I didn’t know very much about myself. I can’t wait to see how God will use you in the next 10 years.
Welcome, I am so glad you are here. Your being here is the fruit of many prayer, by many people. One of 3,000 younger leaders who were nominated, and one of 1,000 young leaders invited. This event has taken three years to come to fruition. You have come so far to come, so committed and interactive in preparation. Thank you for being so well engaged.
For many of you one of the hardest aspects was the fundraising. Thank you for your perseverance. I am going to personally take time to thank each and every single person who enabled you to be here, when I get to heaven. Thankful to Scott Horton for his biblical wisdom for us all on fundraising, it is a biblical ministry. Jesus demonstrated it was core to his disciples, he could have provided from his carpentry, or do more miracles, but he chose to be supported by a group of women. He chose to be dependent on others, something we can also do, without shame, following in the footsteps of Jesus.
We were planning on hosting this in Ukraine, but due to political unrest we had to postpone the event. I reached out to Dr. James and Eileen Riady on a hunch never having met them. I wrote it on a plane to Vietnam. By the time I was boarding the plane to Cambodia, Eileen had written back and said yes. James and Eileen and their children are amazing examples of the 4th principle as impacting society for the gospel. Their two businesses have impacted the Vietnamese society hugely.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
Connecting generations to proclaim the gospel. Be it in the public square, or for those with disabilities, or 26% of the world’s population will be under the age of 14, by 2100 50% of the children under 18 will be African, but 700 million die of starvation, 1 billion are witnesses to violence, and millions are orphans. We have no future without our children, and they have no hope without the gospel.
This past year has been the most challenging of my life, days of desperate dependence on the Lord. Through this darkness and suffering the Lord has been sanctifying and refining me in very painful but very gracious ways. A reminder that God can only work through me when he is working in me.
Christ-like leaders: the formation of your character is at the core of our vision, hope and prayer for you. We cannot shape the future, but we can help to shape future leaders. Sanctified, redeemed, loveable, Christ transformed character. We each have natural weaknesses and God-given strengths, we need him to redeem our weaknesses and sanctify our strengths.
Many of the alumni from the 2006 YLG have received blessing through the Lausanne movement. This time we are more intentional in how we support and structure this through the launch of YLGen helping not just what you fulfil, but who you are:
- Connecting every leader with a mentor: In 2006 I asked Jim Chew to mentor me for prayer. For the last 10 years I have enjoyed the kindness and blessing of his prayer. You can sign up for mentor connect.
- Connecting every leader with a global connect group: either your group from YLG or a new issue group.
- Connecting you with an issue network: currently 35 groups working alongside nearly every area for global mission.
- Connect you with Lausanne movement in your region: Lars Dahle will be taking on this role to help you engage in one of the 12 regions.
- Connect you with strategic mission resources and teachings: we have a wealth of information so we want to help make them available and influence your strategies for evangelisation.
Welcome, we are here to serve you. The road ahead will not be easy, we are engaged in a battle that is taking place in the heavenly realms. Satan is not happy in this moment, but the Lord is rejoicing in singing over us at this moment. Let’s have an amazing week together.
Connected from all over the globe through Jesus.
They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
If we want to see growth this week, growth in the kingdom, we need to connect.
Recently I have been doing some reading about children and Holy Communion. One of the most helpful things I read was this blog by Margaret Pritchard Houston:
As we were preparing to admit six children to Holy Communion before Confirmation, our curate turned to me and said, ‘So we admit them at age 7? Explain this to me theologically.’
And I had to explain that I couldn’t – that the only reason we do admission to Holy Communion at 7 is that we’re not allowed to do it from baptism, that our policy is more a compromise than a coherent theological principle.
She goes on to answer the following questions:
- If we admit children to communion at baptism, then what is confirmation for?
- Children are allowed to participate in other ways, aren’t they? They can come to Jesus through Sunday School and worship without receiving communion until they’re older.
- Wanting it doesn’t mean they should have it. They don’t understand what it means, and that’s crucial to receiving the sacrament.
I am excited to be one of the contributors at the Global Connections conference in May. I find this a fascinating conference in comparison to many others I go to as this is one of the few conferences where I see not just training or abstract research being presented, but instead new agreements and partnerships are developed that impacts mission around the world.
Here’s the blurb for what’s going on at the conference this year, I’d love to see you there:
We are used to hearing mission leaders, typically European and American men in their fifties describing what the most important issues in mission are. But is this the full story? At the GC Conference in May 2016, we will have the opportunity to listen to a variety of voices; under thirties, women in mission, missionaries from the majority world and leaders of international networks sharing from their perspective on mission today. In a diverse world, it is important that we listen to a range of opinions to really understand what is going on. This conference is a start in that process and we hope will be challenging and inspirational.
Our Bible reflections will be given by Steve Timmis from Crowded House, and there will also be times of worship, prayer and reflection led by Luke Hamlyn.
Contributors include: Adam Lowe (WEC), Chris Kidd (All Saints Didben), Harvey Kwiyani (Missio Africanus), Israel Oluwole Olofinjana (Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World), Lesley Cheesman (Agapé), Lucho Sanchez (Latin Link), Mark Oxbrow who will be bringing videos of leaders from around the world (Faith2Share), Philipa Kalungi (OMF), Ruth Wall (former All Nations), Sarah Brighton (Hope UK).
The programme will include plenary sessions led by the various groups above, opportunity for discussion and workshops as well as times of prayers and reflection to listen to what God might be saying to us.
The Children’s Society have recently published a very helpful paper on ‘Too old, too young?: Theology on the ambiguity of adolescence and the impact of neglect’.
As the foreword by Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester says:
In order to deal with the practical issues around how to protect and nurture children and young people as they grow, we need a better understanding and a fuller vision of what it means to be a teenager. Furthermore, it is vital for the church to wrestle theologically with the issues of what it means to be a young person in relation to family life, community membership and participation in wider society. Thus, this collection of essays is both timely and important.
The first section takes a fresh look at what the issues are including new analysis of how young people are neglected within the home. The second looks at these issues through a theological lens with a reflection on what Scripture might tell us, and the final section takes on the urgent task of how we might constructively act within families, communities and at the legislative level. These essays aim to provoke both hearts and minds and is a prophetic call to respond.
REBOOT is RZIM’s Youth Apologetics strand for ages 12 to 18. They launched their first ever REBOOT event last year:
I’m looking to bring the Dibden youth along to this event. Book now for REBOOT 2014 on Saturday 27th September at St Mary’s Bryanston Square, London W1H 1PQ.
Text your questions to be covered on the day to 07981973740.
Listen to Amy Orr-Ewing talk about REBOOT 2013 on BBC Radio here.
Listen to Michael Ramsden talk about REBOOT 2013 on UCB here.
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
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
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.
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.