Sunday, April 30, 2006

Peter Adam on Preaching

1. Arguing for Expository Preaching

2. Preaching and Pastoral Ministry

3. Preaching and Biblical Theology

Peter Adam, Principal of Ridley College Melbourne, Australia

Articles now at

Men of the Spirit

Yesterday a group from our church went to the London Men's Convention at the Royal Albert Hall. This year was on being men of the Spirit. I'll give a few reflections on the day but it looks like Nathan Burley is going to give some more detailed notes so I recommend you read his blog.
The Spirit of Life
1. Pete Woodcock on Romans 8. No condemnation. This is the song of the Christian. And all Christians have the Spirit. There is no such thing as a Christian without the Holy Spirit. And we should be Spirit-led. What does that mean? The Spirit leads us into battle against sin.

The Spirit of Truth
2. Dick Lucas on the Spirit and the Bible from John 16. This was the first time I'd heard Dick Lucas speak. He is warm, rigorous, careful and applied. In passing he very helpfully reminded us that Jesus isn't speaking to us in John 16, but to the disicples. And what Jesus says gives assurance that the Holy Spirit is the one who gives us the New Testament through the disciples. We cannot divide the Spirit from the Word. Dick observed that if he were the devil (which he isn't) then he'd "want to disarm the Holy Spirit but taking away his sword... suffocating the breath out of the Spirit". So, there is no separate gospel of the Spirit for the saints (as opposed to a gospel of Christ for sinners), there is no disjunction between Jesus and the apostles teaching: only one gospel. And there is no Christian Spirituality without a commitment to truth.

Question Time
3. The panel was John Benton, Mark Birkill, David Peterson, Vaughan Roberts and Tim Thornborough. They tackled with clarity and brevity questions about prophecy, tongues and grieving the Spirit. John Benton spoke of his own experiences of the Spirit as a student. He spoke of how he had to search God's word to explain his experience - and concluded it was not the conversion experience of Spirit-baptism, but rather Spirit-filling. Further, he reminded us that not all speak in tongues, whilst saying that he himself does. Vaughan spoke well about prophecy in the local church. He observed that it does happen in small groups at St Ebbes and in their church council. However, he also said that he thinks we should focus on the sure word of God from the Bible in services (not sure I agree entirely). David Peterson was very helpful in speaking about worship in all of life, and also in terms of music. There was also comment on the apparent absence of joy in church music. The answer was mostly culture which I'm not sure really convinces me. Sure people can have "deep joy" but sometimes it needs to overflow doesn't it?
(Seminars ran at the same time as this giving more attention particular questions)

The Spirit of Holiness
4. Richard Coekin on Galatians 5. Very struck again by the reality that living by the Spirit is a battle.... the Spirit leads us into war against our sinful nature. I'm challenged to keep fighting. We were invited to daily delight in God's word... and to have absolute surrender to the will of God.... whilst remembering that there is no total victory over sin now. The sinful nature is condemned, the Holy Spirit would have us remember Christ.
Some comment on large gatherings being a vision of heaven. I'm not sure that's really the point! However, when God's people gather and have their attention fixed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, then we do indeed have a glimpse of eternity!

Next year: Godliness from Titus.

Other thoughts
We didn't sing it (though a delay meant we missed the first time of sung worship) but it was cool to see Grace Unmeasured in the songbook. Brilliant song. Still, we did sing This the power of the Cross which is a great song.

The little picture of Nigel Beynon in the programme is the one I took of him at Reading University Christian Union last May, borrowed from On the other side of things our picture of Peter Sanlon is what they made the big blue banner out of.

Cool to see Garath "Mallangong" Batten in a suit.... similarly attired was Dave Gobbett with his number 2 board. Around the corridors I saw Skully, Mike Kendall, Mark Arnold... several ex-Relays and lots of people I don't know.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Now that's what I call preaching

Just read it:
Why Expositional Preaching is Particularly Glorifying to God
"Preaching is not talk, teaching, discussion, but the heralding of a message permeated by a sense of God's holiness and majesty. It can be any topic, but that topic must be taken into the blazing center of the holiness of God in the Word of God."

"Where will the weight of God's glory be felt if not in the preaching of the Word? If not from the man in the pulpit, where? God planned for His Son to be crucified and for hell to be terrible so we would have the clearest witnesses possible to what is at stake when the pastor preaches. What makes preaching seriousness is that the mantle of preaching is soaked in the blood of Jesus and singed in the fire of hell."

"The mission of the church, therefore, is to declare His glory to the nations. Nothing affects preaching more deeply than to be struck almost speechless (almost!) by the passion of God for the glory of God"

" The job of the pastor is to make the glory of God seen so that people are changed."

"The gospel is a message about the glorious God Himself as our final, eternal, all-satisfying treasure"

"The face and tone and life and demeanor, if dull or downcast, betrays the value of the gospel. If you do not value the gospel, you perish, no matter how many right thoughts you think."
Thank you Marcus for giving us expository exultation at Reading University Christian Union last night.

Together for the Gospel (UK)

Together for the gospel is now happening in the USA. Liveblogged by Challies. How and who can make this happen in the UK? I really think we need this... to unite on this sort of basis:
"We are brothers in Christ united in one great cause -- to stand together for the Gospel. We are convinced that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been misrepresented, misunderstood, and marginalized in many churches and among many who claim the name of Christ... We are also brothers united in deep concern for the church and the Gospel. This concern is specifically addressed to certain trends within the church today. We are concerned about the tendency of so many churches to substitute technique for truth, therapy for theology, and management for ministry... that God's glorious purpose for Christ's church is often eclipsed in concern by so many other issues, programs, technologies, and priorities.... [there is] confusion over crucial questions concerning the authority of the Bible, the meaning of the Gospel, and the nature of truth itself... We stand together for the Gospel -- and for a full and gladdening recovery of the Gospel in the church."
We have the excellent newfrontiers Leadership conference and the proctrust Evangelical Ministry Asembly but can the gap be crossed and the circle widened to include more, without diluting the foundations of the gospel?

Download from Sovereign Grace Store

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Fish Grew Legs

Fish grew legs and pigs might fly
Certain God can't exist, don't ask me why.

Things have never been better
Thats why we're killing each other
Set you free from your morals
Make you lay down religion
I'm the cream of the crop
I'm the top of the pile
Wont let you forget it
This is me, this is I

Fish grew legs and pigs might fly
Certain God can't exist, don't ask me why.

Accelerating faster than ever
You wont stop me now
The king of the castle
The Lord of the manor
Understanding more, we're so clever
No more indoctrination
Just listen to what I say
Let me say it again and again

Fish grew legs and pigs might fly
Certain God can't exist, don't ask me why.

I'm on your TV screens
Watch me I'll set you free
John me in the vacuum
The world that I'm making
I'm full of perfect excuses
To stop me from believing
Deleted God from my history
And put myself on the throne

Fish grew legs and pigs might fly
Certain God can't exist, don't ask me why.

Believing in random selection
That always picks the winner
Playing the natural lottery
To top up my pension
Presumed to know the answers
Before I checked the evidence
Decided how and what to think
I wrote the story to fit

Fish grew legs and pigs might fly
Certain God can't exist, don't ask me why.

© 2006, Dave.

Them Links Are Made For Clicking

I am coming back properly... soon.
The urge to write is almost irrestistable.
In the meantime do read the archives and read other blogs too. Back into termtime here. Highlights of the working week so far....
...exploring heights of the gospel and seeing how small I really am in Romans 9 with Paul and Ben... (seeing again why Piper realised that this God would not just be analysed but also proclaimed!)

...wrestling with Habakkuk with Hoops and then lamenting with Joel... meeting with Reading CU committee... (Dan that missing line really matters)... trying to craft that talk on Acts 6 for Surrey...
Meanwhile, yesterday was Em's birthday - I'm now officially numerically young for three weeks.
Looking forward to the weekend: London Men's Convention and we start a series in 1 Corinthians 12-14 with church!! And 24 continues.
Also loving reading Acts with the companionship of Chris Green's The Word of His Grace.
  • Challies is live-blogging from Together for the Gospel. I'm sure someone offered to get me there a year ago, but it never happened. Not jealous. Not jealous. Its in Louisville which I'd not heard of until Elizabethtown. And actually I'm loving this week here. Global gospel!
  • Matt Harmon is a breath of Biblical Theology fresh air in the blogosphere.
  • TeamPyro continues to explore the resurrection in "conversation" with NT Wright. Bit heated in places, but there's some vital lessons to learn by eavesdropping.
  • Mark Dever interviews... are brilliant. Don't miss the ones with John Piper, CJ Mahaney, Carl Trueman, Phil Ryken or Michael Horton.
  • returns under new management.
  • Ruben Shudall coins Generation-I.
  • David Powlison on suffering at Justin Taylor's blog.
  • Ed Goode picks out one of my favourite Piper quotes. I was reading that, in the book, last night.... Remember the gospel is not a way to get people to heaven, its the way to get people to God.
  • Doug Groothuis would appreciate some silence.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Out to lunch

Taking a blog-break.
Bit of time out from blog-reading and blog-writing.
Making time to eat the book.
Back in a while.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Pray-Play-Say. Gospel Partnership

Finishing the week with Graham Daniels, evangelist and director of Christians in Sport is the perfect way to be sent home. It was good to see Dano again so soon after Reading CU's mission last term.

Sadly I was feeling quite ill during this meeting and my concentratino wasn't great... still a good preacher makes simple points: Pray, Play, Say, Partnership.... plus a memorable introduction to Alan Godson... not to mention Richard Cunningham's banter with Dano before the talk.

This is all about life under Christ's rule.
Paul and Epaphras are continually in prayer, wrestling in prayer. They're devoted to it. It is hard to pray. Evangelism needs prayer. Prayer is our vulnerability to God. There are no short cuts and easy answers. We hvae to be watchful - looking to Christ. Watchless Christians will be easily attacked by the devil.
Is your prayer life devoted?
Who can I be praying for to come to know Christ?

Paul's life work is to proclaim Christ, presenting people perfect in Christ. He requests prayer. The threat to the gospel led to introspection... heresy needed fixing so they're called to look outward. Our doctrine must be right and we must unite - stanidng together. Praying for preachers to have open doors. Not an open prison door, but a gospel door. So that Christ can be proclaimed. Scripture must be proclaimed - told and explained. Its what Epaphras did to establish the Colossian church. Some are called to teach the Bible - some find opportunity easily, but we need to pray for such people.

PLAY (behave)
Paul had to make opportunity. They had to take opportunity. To be wise and make the most of the opportunities that came to them.

This removes the stress. Answering questions when they come. Our answers must be full of grace. Paul had to speak, they answer. So they must be ready to answer. That means they must be devoted to God's word. If they don't know the word they wont be ready to answer. If you're going to wait to be asked you'd better be ready... and then answer with gentleness, kindness, preserving and healing as you speak.

Gospel ministry is team ministry. Its shared ministry. Paul supported his team and expected faithfulness from them. Everything is predicated on authentic gospel ministry. On the need to be standing firm in the gospel and not setting down roots into anything else.

Stand firm in God's word, assured, film. Pseudo fulness isn't quite seen of yet - pray that you stand firm. Stand in the gospel. False fulness is immaturity. If the Colossians will stand firm they will be looking outward. Are you inward and pseudo spiritual? Are you in the on Jesus and totally full? Gospel community looks outward.

1. Fulness is in Jesus - life and freedom.
2. Exhort one another to gospel sharing.
3. Partner in the gospel with faithful gospel people.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Be Men of the Spirit

London Mens Convention 2005 - 29th April

Finally got booked - should be interesting if potentially contraversial.
Anyone else going?

The Ministry of Marriage

Word Alive is all about getting into the Bible, glorying in the cross and seeing the Spirit at work in our lives.
Now to turn to the more contraversial evening celebration talks... Contraversial because Biblical teahcing is very counter-cultural. Contraversial because we're more culture-compromised than we realise. Contraversial because it probably didn't cross the cultural divide from middle-america to studentdom enough. Nonetheless there were some vitally important things for us to hear - and we should not let the difficulty of it excuse us from application of these things.
Setting our hearts and minds on heavenly things gets firmly rooted into the day to day of relationships in the church community... in marriage, parenting and work. To look to our heavenly marriage to Christ is worked out in our relationships of today. Talk of married life in the student venue might have felt a bit too future-minded for most, but it needs thinking about in advance.

The gospel teaching about these things is very counter-cultural... and we've bought into our culture more than we know. Often we view marriage as a life-style choice, Biblically marriage is a ministry in which God can be served... in which heavenly mindedness is worked out.

1. The Bible is very pro-marriage.
We find it in Genesis 2 as man and woman become one flesh.
The Westminster confession claims it is sinful to "unduly delay" marriage.
Some are given singleness but we ought to pursue marriage.
"Singleness is a rare gift" - so men, seek a wife. (counter-cultural!)

2. Husbands love
Loving for husbands is daunting.
Living like Christ - sacrificially. Love is like death.
This is being manly. Being like Christ by living for your wife.
Sanctifying love - leading your wife in holiness.
Love leads - headship is not passive.
There is a call to marriage - "be a man!" - a call that many young men need to take note of. This is a call to the ministry of marriage.
This really struck me - I've always tried to maintain that first and foremost I'm a husband, before I'm a Bible teacher or anything else... It struck me that we really need to view marriage as a high-calling in ministry terms. It is one to pursue. And in our culture men are not encouraged to love like Christ, nor women to submit... but we must stand against that by setting our hearts and minds on Christ.
3. Wives submit (This bit was Barbara Hughes)
Does that mean being a doormat? Quiet? Unintelligent? Denying rights?
No. Why submit? It addresses what is most difficult for wives to do.
Most women try to dominate their husbands, either passively aggressive, or aggressively aggressive. But wives are created to submit. Its trinitarian - following Christ and the Father... in God's image... with that image being renewed.
See also 1 Peter 3.
Following Christ's example... not belittling husbands, not taking over... not saying "I told you so", not "speaking ill of him in public"... but speaking well of him and not nagging... obeying and trusting God, even when your husband is wrong.... then the gospel shines!
This is hard teaching to hear in our feminist culture but like teaching to husbands is vital if we are to let the gospel shine in marriage. Less and less people get married today and yet God values it highly. All this talk of marriage is not to play down the difficulty and challenge of it. Nor does it deny the challenges of singleness many face today (I wonder if that would be reduced a bit if we got more of a grasp on Biblical marriage and Biblical manhood...). Life is not simple, its messy - I think Kent and Barbara Hughes presented a very simple rosy picture with much personal testimony. I rejoice at God's work in them, but know that many of our lives are fraught with struggle, mess and difficulty in relationships.
3. Children.
Kent stated that marriage is a given, as are children. This wasn't argued from the text and I'm not convinced. Nonetheless, those who are or become fathers should instruct their children. Fathers most typically put their children down, or are mean and inconsistent, overstrict or distant - the must consistently teach their children. And children must live under their parents (while they are children, not as adults). Children need to be gradually released from parental control so that they develop self-control and become Spirit-controlled.

4. Work
Everyone works for God. Doesn't matter who is watching. God sees. This applies to the workplace and to "ministry". Work is not life so we shouldn't be workaholics... family requires time and sacrifice. Workaholics are not serving the Lord. We should be the best employees, with the best attitude and integrity, dependability. Less than this is sin. We're all answerable to God.

Take domestic ethics to heart. Everything has to do with the gsopel. Fulness of God in christ in daily life. Put off the old ways, put on God's ways. Life goes fast - ride it fast for Christ:
... a few blinks and you'll be with Jesus.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Global Broadcast

On Easter morning Piers spoke at our church on Luke 24v46-47.

Firstly about the proof of Jesus' resurrection - they saw him, he spoke and he ate with his friends. They were eye-witnesses of his resurrection.

Secondly, about the promise of Jesus' resurrection:

"...and [Jesus] said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." - Luke 24v46-47

Repentance and forgiveness of sins proclaimed to all nations. A promise being fulfilled today! Repentance means turning around, from idols to God. This is what God's word had been promising. Beginning with Moses and all the prophets their testimony had rung out together... and Luke carefully surveyed the evidence to present it in his gospel. This is Jesus, we can have certainty.

The message of the church is then repentance and forgiveness of sins, because of Jesus' death and resurrection. This is our message, for global broadcast by teaching the Bible.
"Legalistic repentance takes sin to Mt. Sinai,
gospel repentance to Mt. Calvary"
- Tim Keller (HT: Dan Cruver)

There can be a wrong repentance, one that gets condemned and attempts to perform. Right repentance comes to the Cross of Christ for forgiveness. We're not called to guilt and condemnation, but to come to the cross for life. We bring no excuses, no explanation. We carry only our sin to the cross. The truly repentant receive certain forgiveness.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Whole New World

"A whole new world
A dazzling place I never knew
But when I'm way up here
It's crystal clear
That now I'm in a whole new world with you
Now I'm in a whole new world with you"
When the apostles came to replace Judas among their number this was their task:
"Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection."
They needed someone who had witnessed the life and death of Jesus, and crucially his resurrection. The elected person's life work would be to "become a witness with us of his resurrection". This was a particular task for the apostles. Today no living witnesses remain to the historic resurrection of Jesus. But we pass on the apostles teaching... the dawn of the new creation.

As the history of the church unfolds we find opposition:
"The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day."
Those who opposed them did not believe in the possibility of resurrection... and the apostolic message was that in Jesus resurrection from the dead was possible... a new age begins.

Peter and John are later released. Told not to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus they consider themselves compelled to testify to what they had seen. No-one in Jerusalem could refute their message. No body of Jesus could be produced. The only card the authorities had to play was to try and silence the eye-witnesses. And they would not be silenced! With a word the world was created, now the new creation is announced in the apostles preaching.

Rather than staying silent, they prayed to the Sovereign Lord that he would give them power to speak and then...
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all
Later in Greece Paul preaches Jesus and the resurrection. Some think he is babbling, both others want to hear more. He was later arrested by the religious authorities for his message:
"Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, "My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead."
He had a solid expectation of resurrection, and could not cease to speak of it. His message always, Jesus Christ, crucified and then resurrected. The Creator and his new creation!

Why is the resurrection of Jesus so important?
  • By raising Jesus from the dead he is declared to be the Son of God - Romans 1v4
  • By raising Jesus from the dead he is declared to be Lord of the living and the dead, the supreme ruler over the new creation - Romans 14v9
  • It is the raised Jesus we're called to believe in for new life - Romans 10v9
  • Without the resurrection of Jesus there is no hope for anyone to be resurrected, this would be as good as it gets - 1 Corinthians 15v13-14
  • Just as Christ is raised, so are Christians - Ephesians 2v6
  • Christians hope for the coming of the raised Jesus when creation will be fully renewed- 1 Thessalonians 1v10
Some try to drive wedges between different aspects of our preaching - proclaiming resurrection without crucifixion... or crucifixion without resurrection. Our message is not one or the other, it is both. And more. It is Jesus incarnate, crucified, resurrected, ascended and returning to reign over all things. This Jesus we proclaim, just as the apostles did.

"Penal therefore the prerequisite for a strong doctrine of the resurrection as the beginning of the new creation, not a detractor from it. The old is done away with, the new can begin. Hence indeed the scope of Christ's work is cosmic: he reconciles all things to himself (Col. 1:20), because he deals with the curse on Adam which affected all things. The new creation has begun with the resurrection, and it is the death of Christ which exhausted the curse which held the old creation in spiritual death. This is no merely personal or individual doctrine. As he bore our punishment in our place and put us right with God, Jesus secured the risen life of the entire new creation." - Garry Williams - Punished in our Place
Since the resurrection of Jesus, the way to a whole new world is open...
Death is dead, love has won,
Christ has conquered;
And we shall reign with Him,
For He lives, Christ is risen from the dead!

Further Reading: Redemption & Resurrection, by Richard Gaffin @
Further Thought: The irrepressable Mike Reeves suggested at our last team days (on doctrine of creation) that there are massive parallels between the Creation narrative of Genesis 1, and the teaching of the New Creation in 1 Corinthians 15... the third day, the first-fruits, the Spirit... still chewing on that.

Is the resurrection essential? - TeamPyro discuss it, after NT Wright's comments.... take a read.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

When wolves kill eskimos...

Roger Carswell took us into Colossians 3, into the practical application of being rooted in Jesus Christ...

Before he stood to speak we witnessed Roger being given a wardrobe makeover by Anna Mack and Linda Marshall... quite possibly the funniest moment of the week. This was to illustrate the theme of chapter 3... putting off the old self, and putting on the new.

Roger began by reminding us that the cross and resurrection of Jesus changes everything. He warned us against BK Theology. Their place mats declaring:
"It's all about you...
we are the Kings...
you are the almighty ruler

Why did Jesus die and rise again? Romans 14v9 - from God's point of view to make Jesus Lord of the dead and the living. Great benefit to us, but primarily about him.

1. Seek the things above

This is the positive. Set your heart and mind above. Why? Because Jesus is risen. This is reality.

v3 - We died we can't come to sin anymore. We're dead.
v3 - Life is in Christ.
v4 - Christ is my life. Without Christ nothing is left.

Roger, like Richard on the first night, paid tribute to Nigel Lee. Nigel's last words to Roger:
"I'm looking forward to seeing Jesus"

2. Slay the things of earth

This calls for a moral and spiritual change in our hearts. Old passions are to be gone. I am not now what I once was. Its very specific. Sex is only in marriage. We must be ruthless against sin - putting it to death. Roger reminded us that the way that Eskimos kill wolves is by placing a bloody knife in the ice... they're attrached and begin to lick it... cutting open their own tongue their insatiable lust for blood eventually means they kill themselves by drinking their own blood.

3. Put off the old self

Caterpillar to butterfly... we're now in Christ and must be disciplined. Not super-spiritual harsh-discipline (ch2) but life giving discipline. Cultivating what we are in Christ. Roger noted that what TV calls strong language is filthy langauge.

4. Put on the new self

Sin doesn't fit in the new life. We're dead therefore... we're raised therefore...

We stand united in Christ. Don't lie to one another. Do bear with one another. Do teach one another.

How do we live it?

1. Clothed with love
2. Ruled by Christ's peace
3. Let God's Word dwell in you (Eph 5 - Spirit filled)
4. Everything in Jesus name

Finally, following the lead of Matthew Henry, be thankful:
"Matthew Henry was once robbed by a highway man. When he got home he listed four things to give thanks for:
1) That he hadn't been robbed before
2) That although they took all he had, it wasn't much
3) That he still had his life
4) That he wasn't the one doing the robbing

Friday, April 14, 2006

Love Actually

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport. General opinion makes out that we live in a world of hatred and greed I don't see that.
Seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy but it's always there. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends.
When the planes hit the Twin Towers, none of the phone calls from people on board were messages of hate or revenge, they were all messages of love.
lf you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.'

So says Hugh Grant's Prime Minister at the start of the film Love Actually. Is he right? Where do we find love? We want it, but what is love?

Is God love? Certainly people seem to think so. And we like the idea of God being love. No one is offended to hear that God loves them. In fact, rightly or wrongly, it makes us feel good. Whether we believe it, it appeals to us.

Others object. Does God really love us? Unlike Hugh Grant we can't brush greed and hatred and terrorism under the carpet. We see it. We experience it. If God is so loving why hasn't he done something about it!

Others say, Yes I get the idea. But I don't experience it. God seems distant. Isn't God indifferent to his creation? Not concerned for us? How do we really know God's love?
Look with me at 1 John 4v10.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Two things to see about God's love.

Firstly – “God's love stepped in”
We wonder if God is too distant for love. Too “other”. Too “holy” for us to know love from him? But he isn't remote. God sent his Son into this world. Into this fallen, marred world. Into history. Into his world.

If I want to communicate and relate to you I could send you an email, I could write or phone. But the best expression would be for me to visit you in person.
And God has done that, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. But it wasn't just a gesture...

Secondly – “God's love saves”
The Son of God came into the world. And we didn't worship him. We didn't revere and celebrate him. We killed him on a Roman Cross. Why?

Was it a tragic mistake? No this was God's plan. He sent his Son into history for this very purpose. Sent to be a “sacrifice of atonement for our sins”. A what?

That needs some explaining! Two things:

One: Jesus taking our place.
Two: Jesus bears God's wrath.Jesus takes our place. We're familiar with the idea of a substitute.

We know it from sport – one player takes the place of another... But don't take the illustration too far – this isn't sport. Where then?

Jesus bears God's wrath. The NIV footnote defines the term for us helpfully. It means that Jesus is - “the one who turns aside wrath”.

Jesus takes our place under God's wrath. Wrath due because of our sin. Not petty or rash anger... but righteous anger. Wrath that is exactly what our sin deserves.
It is in the face of his own wrath that God's love is stirred. Love so amazing, so divine that he does not remain distant.

No, he comes into his world to save his people from his wrath. Opening the way for us to come to eternal life with himself. Eternity seeing and savouring the Son.

What is love? Love is not firstly our love for one another. Nor is it our love for God. We must turn away from ourselves and look to God's love sending his son to bear his wrath in our place.
What do we do with this?

1. See it – mediate on the love of God in the death of Christ.
2. 4v11 says, since we are loved by God, let us love one another sacrificially.
3. 5v13 says, that John writes his letter - so that we would know that we have eternal life. When we're overwhelmed by the hatred and greed in the world, and in ourselves... when God feels remote and distant.... we don't look to our love for God, but to his love for us at the Cross.

Love actually is God sending his son to bear his wrath in our place.

Recommended: Expositional Listening - Thabiti Anyabwile

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Where are you planted?

Nigel Beynon is a genius, clearly bringing the hard teaching of God's word about the gospel, with brilliant illustration and careful sensitivity.

Last year he led us into Galatians by way of Bridget Jones...
This year he arrived on stage with a pot plant!

We were kept us in suspense for a moment about his pot plants whilst getting us thinking about why we want more in the Christian life.

In our quest for more we start to set down roots in other pots. We put down roots outside of Christ. All such other pots may look appealing but they're hollow and empty.

2v6-8 are the answer we're looking for....
"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. "
We need the positive and negative of this:
Positive: Keep going with Christ (v6)
Negative: Don't get taken captive (v8)

There are three false ways here. Three empty pots.

The Negative: Don't get taken captive

1. Religious ritual (16)
Such things are only shadows. The reality is Christ. Don't get judged by people because you don't do religious stuff. Today - could be Islamic religion. Could be Catholicism. Could be evangelical piety of church attendance or books or quiet times. We need to make sure we don't judge others in Christ, imagining our ritual makes us better. Don't get decieved! Think carefully, don't get offended.

2. Mystical Experiences (18)
Paul himself got caught up into heaven. But he's concerned about people who go into great detail, who are puffed up their experiences... they disqualify others as second rate believeres. Today? Buddhist meditation? Some charismatic experiences. Paul is fine about experience but the problem is if we make them THE mark of fulness... so much that we disqualify others proudly. Think carefully, don't get offended.

3. Harsh Discipline (20)
v23. They try to overcome sin by getting tough. With harsh physical discipline. Da Vinci code flagilation? Closer to home? We think that if we get up to pray at 5am we'll be more holy. Single for the gospel? No TV? No pub? And so we judge others. There is a right discipline - and right practice and right experience... but its not the way to fulness with GOd.

We find invitations for "more" very attractive... they make us feel better than others. But they are all hollow and deceptive (8). And moreover they cut us off from the head (19) - Christ! The tragic irony - we chase after more and end up with less. We need to be warned. We need to hear this!

The Positive: Stick with Christ!

Why? In Christ we know God fully! So why go anywhere else.

1. Christ is fully God (v3,9)
All of God. All wisdom. All knowledge of God. Its all in Christ. There is no-where else to go. Nothing to know of God outside of Chirst. Christ is God! 2v10 - in Chirts we have fulness. Wake up to what you already have! We already have it all. The struggle is to believe that.... a struggle because of our sin.

2. Christ has fully dealth with our sin (v13)
Pre-Christ (13) we were dead.
Why? (14) Sin, a great debt to God. Linked to law that exposed our debt.
(15) Powers and authorities were against us knowing God.

The devil would stand between us and God and say you can't come - showing us a list of sins. But that is nailed to the cross. Its gone. The problem is that we still believe what satan says. But he has no accusations that are real.

v13. God made us alive. God forgave us. The code was cancelled. Sin is nailed to the cross. Our sin is counted as Jesus' crime. Jesus is punished for our sin. All gone! No barrier between us and God. Satan has nothing on us. No accusations.

The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. The accusations are true, but they're cancelled. Believe this! No condemnation anymore. No barrier between me and God. We're fully accepted. We can't improve on it. We can't improve on complete. We can't get better than perfect acceptance. Christ is fully God and fully dealt with our sin.

QN: What is Christian life then?
QN: Is there a right sense of "more"?

Rooted - founded on him!
Built - like him!
Strengthened - empowered!
Thankful - overflowing!

So keep going, keep growing! There is room to grow. There is room for more. But it is more in Christ! All of Christ and more of Christ! Its like being married and living as married... not more outside of Christ but more in Christ! More of what we already have. Practice, discipline and experience are good if they take us deeper into Christ. Authentic Christianity.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Jesus the Only!

To treat someone rightly you have to know who they are... and thus Vaughan Roberts introduced us afresh to Jesus Christ. All-surpassing!

People suggest "there must be more than this...", more than Christ. But if we try to move beyond Christ we drift away from Christ. The Colossians were doing this. Sometimes by religious things, sometimes by non-religious stuff. We must not lose sight of Christ.

1. Christ is the All-Surpassing God (15-17)

Jesus is unique. He is the image of the invisible God. He is the way to get introduced to God. Look only to Jesus. See the image of God. No need to guess or speculate about who God is. See the picture. Unique Jesus, therefore unique Christianity. Everything else is only guessing.

He is the firstborn over creation. Most honoured. The family head. The leader. (Ps89v27). He is the most exalted. He is the sovereign ruler. Everything is his, for him. He has authority over all things. He is not meek and mild. He is the Lord. Its all for him and all made by him. He is the why of the universe.

Stephen Hawking:
"Science can't answer the why of the existing of the universe... that would require the mind of God"
You can't reason the why of the universe. It has to be revealed by God. And it is. Everything is by Jesus and for Jesus. Everything to bring honour to his name... and only sustained by him. There are many greats... but no one compares to Jesus. Jesus the Only. Worship him, don't drift from him.

2. Christ achieves an all-encompassing salvation (18-23)

He is the Lord of creation, and the church. No pope, no pastor... just Jesus. He is the firstborn of creation, and from the dead. Lord of the New Creation! It's pioneer, who invites us to follow him from death to life. Jesus made creation - he can fix it.

All God's fullness is in Christ. He makes full peace by his blood. He is the turning point of all history and the centre of the universe. All reconciliation is at the cross. Now, there is a delay - giving time to repent. And so, v23, persevere. Reconciliation is true for us, if we continue - and not drift away. Stick with the gospel. We'll be presented perfect in his presence. Do you love Jesus? There is no where else to go.
Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God

PDF Preview: Mark Dever's
The Message of the Old Testament
- It's all about Jesus!

(HT: Justin Taylor)

This is us, we, you and me together...

Mid-week I found myself having coffee with Mark Stone, a fellow Staffworker. As we walked away from the Skyline Cafe we saw Becci Brown who we both happened to know - from the realworld, rather than the blogworld. Its nice to meet people again face to face, if a bit odd when you normally interact online.

As we were catching up with spotted a crowd of bloggers standing by the UCCF stand... people I knew, who had interacted with Becci on her blog, but whom she'd not met.... namely (I think): Alison Young, Kath Arnold, Sarah Brown (and probably someone else I've forgotten). We stood there for a moment we stood there looking, being slightly freaked out as our online experience slipped into the realworld. Its one thing to meet people in the real world and then interact online... somehow different when it starts online. It's a moment that could have been caught on camera - but I didn't have it with me... Eventually we went over and they were introduced... shortly after Pod arrived too.

I also met Dan Hames and Caleb Woodbridge for the first time during the week. Most of RUCU bloggers were also there: Ed Goode, Ceryn Oakes, Kat Entwistle, Lou Abercrombie, Naomi Bayliff, Tim Caird... along with Surrey bloggers: Paul Huxley, Cat Hare, Andy Poole... so also Relay Bloggers: Jonny Hannan, Dan Deacon, Curt Harrier, Nathan Burley and Staff Bloggers: Kenny Robertson, Jonathan Bennett and Ally Gordon

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I have absolutely nothing to say!

Word Alive is all about getting into the Bible, glorying in the cross and seeing the Spirit at work in our lives.

On day two I checked-in to the HitchHiker track. There are three of them. One is a Chronological Bible Overview - following the whole story of redemption (which produced Vaughan Robert's God's Big Picture) - this year with Charlie Skrine. The next is a Thematic Overview (see also Vaughan Roberts - Life's Big Questions), tracing themes through the Bible - this year (be)longing with Graham Beynon. The third is on Understanding, Applying and Teaching the Bible. All three are unmissable.

Vaughan taught us in the third track, taking Exodus as his source text. He did a similar one two years ago from Ezekiel. He warmly and carefully how to read the Bible, how to apply it rightly and then how to teach it....

Being able to read the Bible as a book that is all about God, and not firstly about me is life-giving. We were reminded that We Have Nothing To Say. But God does. So we don't go straight from us to the world, but from us to the word, to the world...

Exodus is a big book, but when we get the context the narrative becomes more accessible... dense difficult sections read within their context become much more accessible.... and everything climaxes with the Tabernacle - the God who draws near to his rescued people!

As we turn to the word we find God speaking by the Holy Spirit. The authoritative voice of the Holy Spirit on the pages of the Bible. There is no such thing as a Word vs. Spirit dichotomy. You can't separate them!

We were reminded to read every text in its context. Primarily in its Biblical context - of verse, paragraph, section, chapter, book, Testament, and the whole Bible (for which we need to know the story - hence the importance of the Chronological Overview). As we do that our hearts and minds are drawn to Christ, because all scripture is about him.

  • I love this track. I love it for myself because it sharpens up my ministry - making me more careful with God's word... and prayerful that I would come with due humility to God's word.... and that as I teach I would only ever teach what God's word teaches.
  • And I love it because it's good for my students - it makes God's word accessible to them and helps them to believe what God has promised them... and not to believe false things... and it leads them to teach God's word to one another, and to teach it to the vast numbers of their fellow students who need to hear the message of the Bible.
Forthcoming Blog Reflections:
  • Vaughan on Christ the Only!
  • When Bloggers Meet
  • Nigel Beynon and his pot plants
  • Roger Carswell, Wolves & Eskimos.
  • Kent & Barbara Hughes on Marriage
  • Social Action & Evangelism

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Gospel has legs!

Word Alive is all about getting into the Bible, glorying in the cross and seeing the Spirit at work in our lives.

This year in the student celebration, where 2000 students from throughout UCCF: The Christian Unions gather, we dug deep into Colossians. It was great to have around 45 of the students from my patch there.

Richard Cunningham spoke on the first night (last Monday) from Colossians 1:1-14. Our focus all week was on Authentic Christianity and that theme runs from the start of the letter... a focus on Jesus Christ. I think that was one of the things that struck me all week. Everything was distinctively Christian.

We were reminded that there is no-where to move onto... beyond the gospel is beyond Christ. We can't get further than Christ. So we see:

1. The Nature of the Gospel - a true word to be understood, with power to spread and transform life. The gospel has authority and power: the gospel has legs!

2. The Fruit of the Gospel - faith, love and hope. We have faith in Christ - we don't have faith in "faith". There is love for all the saints - a corporate Christianity which is costly. And we should notice that Hope is not the consequence but the foundation. It is the source... hope is not the icing on the cake, it is the cake! We might be mocked for being too heavenly minded but we can only be of earthly good if we are utterly heavenly minded.

3. The Growth of the Gospel - Paul is in constant prayer for the Colossians. (I was struck later as I looked at Acts 6 that the heart of gospel ministry is both word and prayer ministry - not one or the other) For what? Knowledge and power. Why? So they live a worthy life. So what? Endurance, patience and joyful thanksgiving. He wants them to stay Christian - growing in knowing God and the Holy Spirit's power to keep going.

No superspiritual saintliness - but a joyful thankful perseverance... great joy in the struggle. Around that we praised God, ably led by Sam Chaplin, Mark Stone and Jayne Lewis. The next day in Impact Group we reflected on The Gospel - Objectively, Personally and Growth.

Next: Vaughan Roberts on Colossians 1v15-29: Christ the All-Surpassing! and Understanding, Applying & Teaching the Bible from Exodus.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

St Neots Evangelical Church

On our way home from Word Alive (many blog reflections to follow over the next few days) we stopped off over night at my parents and then went down to St Neots this morning. A friend of ours is an apprentice at St Neots Evangelical Church. It was great to spend the day with them and to visit them for their family service this morning.

The pastor is Mike Kendall and he preached a great and challenging sermon from Matthew 13 (the parable of the weeds). Jesus patient rule and his judging rule... It was very engaging, simple, faithful to the gospel calling us to Jesus from the Bible. Mark Dever fears that too few pastors teach the Bible. That may be true, but if it is St Neots is most blessed to have Mike.

Along the way we met the Nottingham CU evangelism sec, who had been at my Social Action & Evangelism seminars at Word Alive a couple of days earlier... didn't expect to see me at his home church! Good to chat with him and several others after the service.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Sound of Music

Rich, Em and I spent Saturday doing something we've not done since January 2000. Recording some of our songs. We spent the day at Arborfield Church Hall and arranged and recorded two new songs: too many hours and two sides.

We'll look to do a few more tracks over the coming months and perhaps offer up our efforts for your listening pleasure later this year.

Too many hours is a reflection on the futility of seeking understanding apart from God. Two sides considers the self-destructive nature of our society... something that is no surprise to those who know the gospel.