You Will Be Saved

This morning we looked together at the concluding comments on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:13- 23. It was great to hear so many engaging with this text that is challenging.
There were three parts to it that we looked at:
1. Matthew 7:13-14  
 ‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’
Here is a stark contrast – destruction or life. There is no middle ground. There are only two roads. Christianity makes this difficult and offensive truth claim that there is only one way to God – John 14:6 Jesus says I am the way the truth and the life – no one come to the Father except through me. Here is the truth proclaimed by Jesus that there are no alternate ways to God. There are not a number of paths to God of which Jesus is one – He is the only way. Pluralism doesn’t like this – it doesn’t like an idea that there is a monopoly on truth. So many will look at Christianity as exclusive an intolerant. BUT any argument against Christianity is an argument for an alternate truth – and that is in itself exclusive. Not also the gates – Wide – it’s inviting and easy – the go with the flow, drifting without thought. We are told that in order to find life we have to turn away and find the alternate path. The only other option – and it is a difficult one, and few will find it.
2. Matthew 7:15  
‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.’
The warning for the church to all of us is that there are those who will pretend to in. Who claims to know the way, but are leading people astray. The scripture both Old Testament and New Testament are full of warning against these people who distort the truth – and of the harm, they can do to the life and the health of the Church. So we are called to be discerning – to check what is been said against the Scriptures – and to look at the lives that these people are living, And that includes your church leaders – check what is been said. Test it challenge it if you believe that it is not in accordance with the word of God.
3. Matthew 7:21-23 
‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?”  Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”
This is a scary one isn’t it – those who think they are in who all the marks of being a true Christian – they know who Jesus is, they are involved in his service – they are enthusiastic in their proclaiming who Jesus is, they seem to have the gifts of the Spirit. BUT despite this, Jesus says ‘I never knew you.’ These are those who to all appearances appear to be our brothers and sisters in Christ – but Jesus says they are not. What is missing? Maybe it is self-examination. Although we say Jesus is Lord, is he really? Have we really surrendered to his will, and live in obedience to him? NOT perfection, not someone who seems to live the moral life, but the person who is teachable, the person who knows that Jesus is the only way, and that salvation has nothing to do with what that person can do to earn it, but an acknowledgement that Jesus has done it all – we cannot save our selves, Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast”. Look out for pride and conceit – look for humility and teachability. Those who know Jesus has demonstrated his love and grace for them – and their life is one of thankfulness for that truth. It’s not where people are at, it is where people have come from and the change in them and the knowledge God is continuing to change them. And an active pursuit to build that life with Jesus
Have you felt troubled or are you trouble about where you stand? Here are some verses to rely on – I’ve mentioned on, Ephesians 2:8-9, but hold on to these truths too – John 10:27-28 ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:I give them (you)  eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand’ Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’ Acts 2:21 “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” John 3:16-18 (a)  ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, …’ 1 John1:9 “ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”
 
You are dearly loved – you are valuable to God, he gave his Son to die for you and when you “ you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
Friends keep working at your relationship with Jesus – read the Bible, pray, listen, take time to be quiet and press into him.
God  has promised he will never leave you or forsake you.  Deuteronomy 31:6

God is patient

God is patient. That sounds a bit silly, we know he’s patient. But do we know what that patience means?

Do we realise that God demonstrates his love through his patience?

God is patient with us. We who make so many mistakes. Either because we are excited, or because we are inexperienced, or because we are careless or indifferent.

On Sunday we looked at fishing, and how someone fishing can get themselves into a reel tangle (pun intended) with excitement of inexperience. A fishing line, a tangled one specially, is a frustration. And those who are excited or inexperienced will get themselves more tangled than others and can make a mess. In church the same thing can happen, and we need to be patient. We dont want to put people off fishing,  we want them to love it, the whole experience of it and to keep coming back to it. And it means dealing with and coping with the mess.

In  we read these words: 1 Peter 3:20 ‘God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was built.’
Here’s Noah who has been told to build an ark – and does so over years and years and years. Was God patient with Noah? I think the patience is with those who were rebelling against God and refusing to see what was coming – the flood – God gave them years and years and opportunity after opportunity to turn to him.

And he shows that same patience to us – he doesn’t just destroy us. He gives us time and opportunity to turn to him – that’s patience that’s love. God allows us freedom to be who we want to be, but longing for us to be the people he has created us to be, and the true freedom that comes with that.

His patient isn’t inactivity. God in his patience sent his Son Jesus to die for us so that we would be saved. Like the ark that was built, Jesus is an expression of God’s loving patience for us to turn to him.

The question isn’t, is God patient? The question is, how will you respond to his patience?

Follow me

“The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” John 1:43

‘Follow me’, simple words. Nothing complicated. Short and sweet. No explanation as to why. No golden promises of wealth, comfort and fame. It sounds like a command, but in reality more an invitation. This is Jesus coming and standing and asking. We can be so busy pursuing what we think will give us meaning and purpose and happiness. What ever that might be – the perfect job, the perfect income, the perfect girlfriend or boyfriend. The fitness, the lifestyle . Chasing it, looking for it, desiring it – we can spend times searching for God or God’s . For a spiritual experience, a cosmic reality that will some how define for us what we are meant to be. 

But here as we read it, there is a deep truth. God finds us – the gospel is about God’s pursuit of us. Jesus came and said – follow me. The question is not are we looking in the right places, it’s are we paying attention. Are we listening, do we hear that call – follow me.

Do we understand what it means? It’s a call to a change of priority. A radical call to life transformation. To follow Jesus means to be fully committed to him. It’s not a half way and that’s ok. It’s to be heart and soul devoted to him.

Jesus calls us where we are.  He isn’t looking for us to get our lives in order. If you look at the disciples, they had some serious issues to work through. But that’s ok – he just wants us – he wants us to be with him and for him.

He wants us to be a part of his life, and he wants us to be a part of his. It’s profound. His call, and the change in us should be too. It looks different for everyone, but there are things we share in common. We love Jesus and we love others. Our love for him and for others is so deep that we can’t help but tell others about him.

When that is what motivates you more than anything else, your love for him, your love for others, your desire to share what he has done, then you know you’ve met the real Jesus.

Follow him. That’s all he asks of you. What that will look like? We’ll that’s his business – but you will alway know you are loved, and the questions of life, the where did I come from, the why am I here, , the how am I supposed to live, and where and I going – over time that will become clearer too.

Good teacher

‘Good teacher’, he asked, ‘What should I do to inherit the life of the Age to Come?’ (Mark 10:17b)
A young, rich, influential man asks Jesus, how do I get eternal life? Not what he doesn’t ask. He doesn’t ask how he can get wealthy, how he can get powerful, how he can get healthy. All of this he has – and he’s desperate to retain them.
Jesus tells him what he has to do – ‘don’t kill, dont commit adultery, dont steal honour your mother and father’,  and the young man says,’ I’ve done all of that’ But Jesus says, ‘one more thing -sell everything that you have and give it to the poor’.
This the young man couldn’t do. He turned and walked away. What he wanted was eternal life, but what he didn’t want was to pay the price for it. As far as he was concerned he had done all he needed. He had been good and respectable.
Jesus says, ‘listen only God is good’. Dont kid yourself, Jesus says, no one is good enough, or respectable enough to get to heaven, to earn eternal life.
It can’t be earned he says, it’s a gift from God. Jesus says in effect, ‘if you want eternal life, here’s what you have to do –  you have to live a life of radical sacrificial generosity. You might have done all the have not’s but there’s this big you must do that you haven’t done’, what is it? You haven’t followed the first commandment – ‘there shall be no other God’s before me’.
This rich young man hadn’t put God first in his life. He wanted his life to go on as it was without interruption. When he was confronted with a cost, evidence that he could put God first, he couldn’t do it.
Can we? What are we holding on to tightly that we will not give up? What is it that we couldn’t bear to lose to follow Jesus? What is it that demonstrates God isn’t first and foremost in our lives?
Are we focussed on money? Enjoying it and what it can buy, and wanting to hold on to it? Do we have attitudes that we know aren’t right, but we enjoy them. Are we envious, or proud. Have we got habits that we don’t want to give up? Are we harbouring unforgiveness and enjoying it? Struggling with anger?
Are there aspects of our world view, or ethics, our morality that this story challenges?
The problem for us if that’s true (and hey we all struggle somewhere) is that it indicates our comfort, our security, our trust lies somewhere other than with Jesus. We can’t get it into our minds that nothing compares to what Jesus has in-store for us, so we hold tightly to things that will no last.

‘Human eyes have never seen, human ears have never heard, it’s never entered into human hearts: all that God has prepared for those who truly love him.’ 1 Corinthians 2:9

This week, if you have to, get on your knees, seek Jesus and say Lord help me to put you first, show me what I need to change, and give me the grace to change it.

Redemption

Joshua 6:22-23 “Keep your promise. Go to the prostitute’s house and bring her out, along with all her family.”

We were really blessed this morning with the service taken by our university and young professional home group. Focussing on the story of Rahab out of the book of Joshua we were reminded of God’s amazing love and the power of faith.

God sees what we don’t see, and he sees who often we don’t want to see. The service brought this home to us; as a church who would we welcome to be among us? Who might find it difficult to come into our service and be a part of who we are?

Kezia pointed out the wonderful story how God used Rahab, a woman on the outside – her occupation (prostitute) and we are reminded often of what she did, her gender, her location for living on the very outside of the city. And yet how she is named as a hero of the faith in the book of Hebrews, and named in the genealogy of Jesus.

The story focussed on Rahab hiding and saving Israelite spies sent to check out the city of Jericho. She asked in turn for the Israelites to save her and all her family. The said they would, as long as she had a scarlet cord hanging from her window when they came to the city. Rahab did and she and her family were saved.

Here is what Kezia had to say:

“Rahab didn’t know very much about God but her act of faith not only saved her but saved her family too. Isn’t that encouraging? It shows that we shouldn’t discount people because of their social status, their actions or their past.

Loving someone doesn’t mean that you have to support and agree with everything they do. It means that you won’t give up on them no matter how often they make mistakes.

So I want to leave you with a final thought. What is your lifeline? And who are you saving with it?”

Isn’t that a confronting and challenging thought to take into this week. Who is God calling you to love? How well are you doing it?

And for us as church, who are we inviting in and allowing to be with us while God does his work in their lives?

The Wonder of The Resurrection

While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright, the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!

Women go to the tomb, expecting to find a corpse. They had seen the tomb being sealed, a large rock covering the entrance. But when they arrive the has gone.  It’s not where it is meant to be. There doesn’t seem to be any explanation as to what has happened. The tomb of death had been closed and sealed. It was over, finished, death had its final say. But the rock speaks – Jesus had said so hadn’t he, on the road into Jerusalem, even the stones will cry out – and here is this stone saying something has happened. Death has had its door opened. Come in and see, things have changed.

 And that is the wonder of the resurrection. Things have changed. Everything has changed.

The resurrected Christ changes everything!!  It proves we are not the centre of the universe. That there is a God who truly is in control of all things.

It proves that the promise of life after death is true, the promises that for us there is an eternal life is true.

It declares that there is hope – that this life is not all that there is. Can you imagine that for those who cry for justice, for those whose life is in this world has been unbearable, this isn’t the end, death here is the beginning of a new and wonderful eternity.

It says creation can be and will be remade and reordered to what it was always intended to be.

It confirms that the God who promises to never leave you or forsake you is true to his promise. You will never ever be left alone.

It proves that God has entered our world, experienced our pain, knows our doubts, understands us and walks beside us. That this God is a God who has made himself known and wants us to know him again.

This reality filled these women with wonder and amazement, and the story had to be told. The story continues to need to be told. BUT are we amazed, do we wonder at the power of the resurrection and what it means? Are we telling the story of Jesus?

This week pray for opportunities to be a witness to the resurrected Christ and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to someone who will be open to what you say.

Palm Sunday – Luke 19:22-44

Vincent Van Gogh committed suicide at the age of 37. Depressed by his lack of success. A prolific artist who only sold two paintings in his lifetime. Plenty of people looked at his art., He did his best to get people to buy his art, to enjoy his art, but people couldn’t see his art for what it was. People would look at his art, study his art, but the could not recognise the beauty and the genius and the value of his art. They simply misunderstood what it was that they were seeing.

On what is now called Palm Sunday as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey – people cheered and celebrated the King they thought he would be. Here is our King. And he will bring peace. Here is Jesus the one we follow, the one we trust, the one we have seen working miracles, healing the sick, raising the dead.

Finally for these people who have been locked in wars, a defeated nation, in their own land but not the masters of it, a land occupied by a foreign power, here comes their saviour. He will defeat the Romans, he will throw them out of Israel, they won’t be paying taxes to them again. They will be the masters of their own country and their own destiny. They will have peace, and with peace will come prosperity. Imagine the opportunities.

But very shortly Jesus would be killed by the Romans. left hanging battered and scared on a cross. He wasn’t the saviour they were looking for. He didn’t come up to their expectations. The Jesus they were looking for was the one who would do what they wanted.

Sadly today we are no different. We want a Jesus who fits in with our lives. We want a Jesus who does what we want. We want a Jesus who defeats the problems in our lives. Who meets our needs, affirms our lifestyles, fulfils our needs. We want a Jesus who will bless us. Peace and prosperity, comfort and tranquillity. We want a Jesus who comes to us on our terms.

Jesus was in front of them, but they misunderstood him and his purpose. His purpose wasn’t to defeat the Romans, his purpose was to defeat the devastating consequences of sin and its hold on them. He wasn’t coming to deal with the military and political situation, he was coming to deal with them personally. To challenge them, to show them the way to God.

Jesus came to die not for his sake but for their sake and for our sake.

This time of celebration was mixed with Jesus’ sobbing wailing for what the people could not see.

His tears are for those who do not recognise him and respond to him.

Here, Jesus says, is an opportunity for you to see me and to understand what I am doing. I going to die for you. As a humble servant King – but a King no less, and despite what it looks like I am in control of what I am doing.

Jesus gave a foretaste in words of a judgement that was to come. An awful frightening judgement.  He says, here is an opportunity to recognise me and what I am doing. To value the gift  I am to you.

He says unless you see me and respond to me, obey me and follow me, then your opportunity is lost. You are free to make a choice, but if you choose not to follow me then the consequences of that choice are frightening, dreadful and eternal – why? Because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.

How seriously do you take the Kingship of Jesus? Where are you putting your trust? Who is the Jesus you want to follow? The servant king of the universe or a puppet Jesus who fits in with your life?

Pray this week for a fresh understanding of Jesus as to who he is and his amazing love for you. Live the life he has planned for you.

Do you see this woman?

This question is posed by Jesus to Simon the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to his place for dinner. Simon, the righteous, pious host of Jesus – Simon the one that his community would have looked upon as the holy one.

Who was he asked to look at? A woman who had intruded into this dinner. Uninvited, unnamed, unwelcome. Acting scandalously as she unfurls her hair and dries and kisses Jesus’ feet and anointing them with rich perfume. A sinner is her description, known as such by Simon. Her sin must have been great, giving her actions. And it’s speculated that she was a prostitute.

It’s difficult to communicate how scandalous her actions were. One commentator opines it would be like seeing the Queen doing a pole dance.

This is outrageous behaviour. By someone who ignores the boundaries of propriety (right and honourable behaviour).

And yet it is she, and not Simon, who is approved by Jesus. Simon had not shown to Jesus the honour due to him as a guest, but the woman had. By her actions, she demonstrated her devotion to Jesus. And yes Simon saw this woman – he watched with eyes of criticism and disdain.

But Jesus saw her as a woman who was conscious of her sin, and who responded out of love to the one who forgave her, healed her, restored her and set her free.

As church are we aware of what Jesus has done for us? Are we honouring him with all that we have because of the gift of his forgiveness?

Are we looking at those who don’t understand the boundaries in church with criticism and disdain? Are we acting like the Pharisee, or like the woman? Are we reaching out to Jesus with intimacy, with courage, with humility with generosity?

Are we living lives that reflect a knowledge of what Jesus has done for us, and acting desperately to get close to him?

Are we living life in the knowledge that forgiveness is there waiting for us? Do you know the power of Jesus forgiveness? How are we going to respond to Jesus and his love this week?

Seeking God’s face

On Sunday we looked at the church as being a place of transformation – mysterious transformation – We don’t understand all that happens, we often don’t even see what is taking place – but being part of the church see a transformation taking place. Strangers become family, enemies become brothers and sisters, the rich and powerful become servants the broken are healed, the lonely are loved!!

While there is a transformation that occurs at an individual level, God has called a people to be his who will be a transformed community.

That is the message of Christianity, that what was is not what is. That who we were is not who we are. This is absolutely fundamental. We cannot enter into a relationship with the creator God and not be changed, not be transformed.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

John 8:12
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

Ephesians 2:4
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.

Here are the examples of change old to new, darkness to light, death to life.  This is not minor adjustments, this isn’t a small correction of an annoying fault this isn’t a slight change this is a transformation. This transformation comes about not because of who we are but because of What God has done. In Ephesians 2 Paul writes this:

remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

Alienated
Strangers
Without hope
Without God

Do you hear the negativity associated with all these words – this sense of lostness.

And here we are told that that is no longer the case our situation has been radically changed – it’s not a circumstantial change but a change within us and for us. Don’t forget how it was, Paul says, and realise that what was is not what is.

Paul uses the metaphor of a dividing wall, a barrier. And he says that it has been broken down. We easily create our own barriers.

The comparisons that we will make to elevate us above another – we are culturally superior, financially superior, racially superior, physically superior.

There is that more tragic barrier between us and God – a barrier that has eternal consequences and a barrier no one could break down but God and he did it through Jesus Christ.

And friends, this is where the hard word and work for us as a church is. A wonderful relationship with Jesus is incompatible with a lukewarm relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are not to have dividing walls between us.

We are not an example to the world because we meet on Sundays, we are an example to the world when we show them that the barriers do not exist. We must live to show that we belong to Jesus Christ – we live a life of sacrificial obedience to him, and we live as if we belong to each other.

How do we do that? By caring for each other. By connecting with each other. By being hospitable, inviting folk into our homes. By being generous sharing what God has given to us.

We are not a club – we are a Spirit-filled community loved by God, his special possession. We must be a witness to the world that God who we confess we follow has transformed us. Our lifestyles, our habits, our ambitions our values are evidence that we belong to Jesus

Here is a prayer from the book Seeking God’s face,

Brother Jesus, out of the entire human race, from beginning of time to this worlds dying seconds, you gather together the most unlikely of people as family. Politically left and right, rich and poor, crooks and commoners, adolescents and aged, skeptics and scholars, all united together as a family of faith in Jesus. In a world that struggles to live together with all our differences, make your church a beautiful display of created diversity and gospel unity. Amen