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.
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.
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:
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.”
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.
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.
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.
So often what we do with our Christian walk is that we scratch the surface when it comes to knowing God and his church – we get dirt and grit under our finger nails – and we stop. We don’t want to be satisfied with scratch marks, we want to go deeper.
We want to discover more of what God has for us. We want to have an attitude of curiosity, and risk, and perseverance and determination. We don’t want to stay at the surface – we want to go deep, we want to be taken further and further in to what it is God as for us. To uncover the riches of what he has for us – to find the treasure
This is what had happened to the people here. They had been given a task to do. They were initially really enthusiastic, they had the best of intentions. But life got in the way – they became distracted. They had other things that they had to attend to, they had to focus on their own families, they had to build up their own careers, they had to consolidate and build up their retirement funds, they had their own houses that they needed to put in order. They had taken their eyes of the temple. Life happened and they got used to it without the temple.
Does that sound familiar? It does to me. You’ve had a life changing encounter with Jesus. You’re full of enthusiasm and passion. You’re reading the Bible daily, you want to know more and more about this Jesus. Your prayer life is alive and exciting. Your generous with your time and your money with church – you want to serve, you want to be involved you want to see things happen, you want others to know about this Jesus.
But life happens. Maybe the prayer life isn’t as exciting as it used to be. Times get tough and you wonder where Jesus is. You become disillusioned. Jobs come alone, children come along, mortgages and debt. You just don’t have the time anymore – and you’re busy attending to your own house and neglect God’s. Oh there are good reasons for it – it’s not that we want to ignore God, but you know, we don’t have time.
Into this context the Prophet Haggai steps and he says, you’ve got to get your priorities right. (Haggai 1 ) You’ve got put the first things first. He isn’t speaking about what is going to happen in the future, he isn’t saying this is what you you need to do later, he says right now, you’ve got to put God first.
Consider your ways (vvs 5,7) the prophet says. Think about what you are saying, but not doing. Jesus in Matthew 15:8 quoted the prophet Isaiah, ‘these people honour me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.’
When you hear those words, do you also hear the cry of a parent wanting their children to love them not with words but with action. Instead the actions show that their love isn’t deep. It’s just scratching the surface.
This year are going to go deeper. We are going to spend time understanding the amazing love of God for his church, his people, us. We are wanting to be a radical people. Radical because we know Jesus. and we want to see that knowledge of Jesus transform us, equip us, empower us – and to do that, we have to put Jesus first. Not having head knowledge, not having and intellectual approval of Jesus but a heart transformed, mind renewed relationship with him.
Let’s focus on God and his house and get our priorities right.
Are you excited about the journey? I am
Yesterday we looked at the topic of prayer. How we pray and the power of our prayers are often determined by our understanding of who God is. Remembering that there is nothing magic in our prayers – it is always God who acts.
The question for us is, do we pray to God believing that he cares for us and will act?
In Mark 10 we read about the story of blind Bartimaeus. He was sitting on the side of the road as the crowds streamed by on their way to Jerusalem for the Passover. Among the crowd was Jesus on his way to Golgotha and the Cross. Jesus know this, no one else did.
When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was close by he used what he had, his voice to get his attention. “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.’
The phrase that Bartimaeus used was one the Old Testament prophets used for the coming Messiah. This blind man, who had never seen Jesus’s miracles but had heard about them, believed he was the Messiah. Those who had sight and had seen Jesus works, didn’t. Are we blind too to the reality of Jesus?
This cry of Bartimaeus was passionate and urgent. Have mercy on me. He recognised that his most urgent need was for God to deal with him as he was. Dealing with him on the inside before he asked anything for his needs. Do we come to God so humbly, God I want you to sort me out, from the inside out.
The wonder is that as Jesus walked in the crowd, with all that must have been on his mind, he heard this cry, he stopped and he called Bartimaeus to him.
That is the God that Jesus came to reveal. A God who hears us, a God who will not pass us by, a God who longs for us to come to him with passion and urgency, a God who longs for us to communicate with him and a God who longs to draw us near.
‘What do you want me to do?’, Jesus asks. Are you putting your heart felt needs before Jesus? Are you praying specific requests, trusting he will listen and act? Are you giving yourself time to listen to what God has to ay to you? Are you giving space in you day for Jesus to love you?
Are you listening to God asking you, ‘what do you want me to do?’ And are you allowing hims to shape those wants. He will give to you what is best for you.
Bartimaeus threw his cloak on the ground as he approached Jesus. Can you do that? Can you leave behind what is unhealthily identifying you and let God love you and transform you?
God is the God of transformation – let him transform you. He will stop and listen, he won’t pass you by. Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you . (1 Peter 5:7)
‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
So Jesus lets the religious leaders of the day know what he has come to do. They will see with their own eyes, the will be told of the works he will do where healing comes. Jesus came not only to tell people the good news, but to live it out.
He was anointed, that means set apart, to do it. It was a task he was sent to do. And the task, the work he came to do, he asks us to carry on.
When we become followers of Jesus, we are also anointed, we are set apart, to do what Jesus has asked us to do. To continue his work. To reach those who are blind, poor. in prison and oppressed. Who are they? It is everyone who has not yet heard about Jesus, and it is those who truly are poor and in prison.
If we are followers of Jesus we have work to do. The most important task of all. To share the love of Jesus with a dying world. Can we do it? No on our own, but we are no on our own. The Holy Spirit is with us. As we spend time in prayer with Jesus, as we learn more about him, we become better equipped to do what he has asked.
What does it look like? I might be a gentle discussion, a friendly smile. a word of comfort, a lending hand. The courage to say who it is that has changed your life, the courage to say that Jesus calls us to love. To do the best you can, and to leave the rest to Jesus.
See this week if you get an opportunity to share God’s love. Ask for it, and it will be there.
The letter to the church at Laodicea in Revelation chapter 3 is a tough one. We have this image of Jesus that we construct in our mind that says he’s easy going, loving and will accomodate what ever I want him to accomodate.
This letter blows that idea apart. Here he is writing to a church that is in a city that is prosperous and self sufficient. The church seems to have taken on that culture.
Nestled in a valley where it didn’t have it’s own water supply, it relied on a water source from a town some distance away that was carried into Laodicea by an aqueduct system. From it’s source of boiling it arrives in Laodicea just warm and awful to drink.
This water is so bad it is spat out – it isn’t hot healing water, it isn’t cold refreshing water. It’s water that is useless. Applying this metaphor to the church, Jesus says because you are neither hot nor cold but lukewarm (just warm) you make me want to vomit.
He goes on though and says i don’t want you to be like this, I want you to be a church that is on fire, a church that is passionate for me. Look, he says, don’t you see how I love you? Here i am i’m standing at the door of your church wanting to come in and transform you – please open the door lets do life together.
As much as he says that to the church he says it to us as individual too. You have to out me first. What is getting in the way? Are you getting your priorities right? Is jJesus really first in your life? Are you living the way he calls you too? Or are you wanting to be comfortable? Comfort first not Jesus first. Yes I’lll follow Jesus as long as he doesnt want me to change, as long as he doesn’t challenge my choices, as long as I can do what I want.
How are your relationships? Is Jesus first? How are you spending your money? Is Jesus first? How are you spending your time? Is Jesus first?
This letter says how much Jesus is passionate about his church, and about you, me us!! True transformative life happens when we put Jesus first.
What are you passionate about? Are you passionate about Jesus? Are you wanting to see people come to know him? Are you wanting to see peoples lives transformed? Are you ready to lay your wants down and say Jesus, I want to do what you want me to do.
We want ABC to be a church that is on fire for Jesus. As in life the first step is repenting, saying sorry for not doing that and determining make Jesus first.
We are journeying on this, and here is our Prayer Action Plan to this end that as leaders we are asking the whole church to join in. Lets be transformative!!
Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity. (JB Phillips)
Last week we looked at the thought of what is required of us by God – he wants us, not just what we do, but us. To be his living sacrifices, our bodies are his.
This week we recognised that the body and the mind are connected – God wants the whole of us. We are told this time and agains; Jesus told his disciples that we are to love God with all our heart all our soul and all our mind.
There are only two options love the world or love God. We either conform, being shaped by the values, the expectations, the pressures of the world around us, or we are to be transformed. Changed made new.
That’s the choice, God and relationship wth him, or the world, the systems around us that change and fade, that come and go.
The two are on a collision course, the Kingdom of God, and the systems that are against God. The battle goes on, but the final outcome is certain.
We aren’t left on our own – we can be transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit, we can take responsibility for what we will do, what we will listen to, time spent in the world of God and time spent talking with God.
We can be transformed – how cool is that!! Do you know what that means? That almighty God is so passionate about you, that he will equip you to be the person you are designed to be – not what the world says you should be, but what God says you are to be
“But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year.”
It’s hard to imagine the scene. For 40 years the Israelites have been wandering through the desert. One step forward and two back it seems. They had left the enslavement and harsh treatment of Egypt behind, going off to a land of their own a land flowing with milk and honey. But for years that land seemed far off, they moved but no closer to it. The grumbling had begun, the past for all it’s horrors and harsh treatment seemed better than an uncertain future.
But now here it is, the promised and longed for land was before them they are about to go into it and make theirs.
2017 has begun, the corner has been turned 2016 is in the past. What is it you are hoping for as you enter into this year. What fears are you facing? What longings do you have? Are their uncertainties that make the past, despite it’s discomfort, more pleasant than the unknown tomorrow?
Are you excited? Full of enthusiasm, looking forward to what is ahead? Stepping into the unknown but full of joyful expectation?
Whatever your situation may be, these verses from deuteronomy bring us great comfort.
Eyes – God’s eyes are on you. Not as a distant observer, but as a loving, tender companion. He looks on you with love – you are valuable to him. He wants what is best for you.
Whose eyes? God’s eyes – he is personally invested in your future. He hasn’t delegated responsibility to anyone else. He cares for you . He’s the one who walks with you, it’s his arms that were outstretched for you and stretch out to you.
Always – he is always looking out for you 24/7. He doesn’t nod off on the job. He is the careful God not the careless God. You are never alone or abandoned. He is with you always.
May this year be one where you claim that promise of God to be near you. That you build on your relationship with him, and that you experience his love, his compassion, his joy in you and his desire for you to live life and have it to the full.
What a frantic season Christmas can be. Busy days, every day. Stress brought about by many factors; financial worries, inter family conflict, for others memories of days gone by that cannot be repeated because some someone loved is no longer there.
It can be a microcosm of the balance of the year. A life that is anything but at peace. Expectations and hopes have not been met. The fear of uncertain days haunt us – sleep, peaceful sleep anyway, eludes us. And peace of mind seems unobtainable. Try as might at night we toss and turn our minds are over busy and anxious.
The Bible says though that peace is obtainable, that it is available it isn’t elusive. Pau writing to the church at Philippi writes, ‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hears and your minds in Christ Jesus.’
Peace is available. Not an ordinary peace but a supernatural peace. A peace that boggles our mind a peace that we can’t understand but a pace that can experience. A peace that is not dependent upon our circumstances, but a peace that is available and promised to us despite our circumstances.
God cares for you. His concern is for you much more than for your circumstances.
What are we asked to do. We are asked to pray. Come face to face with God – worship and adore him, he deserves it. Come to him with an attitude of thankfulness – don’t come to him straight away with your request spend time with him first. Honouring him worshipping him being grateful for what he has done.
Then bring every problem to him. Take them to him, you are invited to. Lay them before God, be specific , let him know eery details. Then wait and expect God to act. And he will – not necessarily by changing your circumstances but by changing you in your circumstances. He will bring you peace, and as he does what a witness to him you will be.
This week expect God’s peace , ask for it and live peacefully
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!
Yesterday was the second Sunday in Advent and we looked at the price, the power and the promise of love/.
The price of love that Jesus paid was humility and obedience. A humility and obedience that saw him die so that we can live. We need to stop and think about how great this is; the creator God humbling himself to the point of dying for me and you. It’s this humility that God asks of us – not that we think less of ourselves, but that we think of ourselves less – looking to serve others, selflessly.
The power of love is one that transforms lives. For Jesus the power of his love for us took him to the cross when he could have said ‘no’. He chose to go where he didn’t have to go for our sake not his. HIs love transformed the lies of his disciples, and throughout the centuries his love as when accepted and understood has transformed the lives of millions.
The promise of his love is forever – nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death. It endures forever.
As we go into this week, are we prepared to pay the price of love? Are we willing to live humbly and obediently for Jesus? Are we willing to live selflessly for others as he did for us?
Are we loving others in such a way that their lives are been transformed? Are we demonstrating and showing love that reaches out and touches others?
Are we secure in the knowledge that God loves us? Are we living as a people who know we are loved by the creator God? Is that ‘knowing’ been evidenced by our ‘doing’?
We will not have the ability to love others well until we know how well how completely we are loved. We are loved totally and unconditionally by the God who knows us better than we know ourselves.
If you are struggling with the knowledge of God’s love, then spend time with him. If he died for you as he did, then don’t you think he wants you to know the depth of his love? Ask him today to remind you of his love -ask him to show up and surprise you.
Ask yourself today how am I loving others – how am I being obedient as God asks me to be.