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 exceptthrough 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 claim 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.

Ascension Sunday

‘Let not your heart be troubled..’

When we looked at this verse on Sunday, we asked the question, ‘Why did Jesus say this?’. To find out why we went back a chapter to chapter 13 of John’s Gospel and found that the context was Jesus telling his disciples that he was leaving them.

In their confusion and fear, summarised by Peter’s, ‘Where are you going?’ Jesus comforts them with these words – ‘don’t worry, I’m going away to do what I need to do, but I’ll be coming back.’

Like many of us though, in the heat of the moment, when emotions are raw and close to the surface these words probably weren’t heard, and, if they were, not understood.  The only reality they heard was that Jesus was leaving them. Imagine the betrayal. These men had grown close to Jesus over a long period of intimate companionship. They had learned to trust him, had seen what he could do, drew a sense of comfort and security from him. They had left comfort and security to follow him as he had asked them too, and now he’s going away.

I guess we can relate to their initial feelings. Those moments of confusion when news we have heard, circumstances we have encountered have left us speechless – the questions that we are left with. What am I going to do? What happens now? How will I cope? Why me?

Not too many weeks pass, and we have Jesus leaving his followers again. This time he is taken up to heaven before their eyes – what we call the ascension – and the response this time is radically different. Luke records it like this:

Luke 24:50-53 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.  And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Sorrow and confusion is turned into joy. The reality of what Jesus has said sinks home. The bodily resurrection of Jesus is consummated by his return to his kingdom, his throne, the place of his glory. His humiliation is over, his glorious reign continues in new and powerful and wonderful ways.

He is now the resurrected and the ascended King of Kings – his role as ruler of all creation has been made clear to his followers. The reality of heaven and life eternal is beyond doubt, his promise has been made clear. He is at work preparing a place for his followers, and the beauty of that place is to enjoy his eternal company.

He hasn’t left his followers alone – he has sent the Holy Spirit to be with us wherever we are. Jesus is not limited by space and time. History isn’t his captive.

That’s the joy – have you experienced it? He longs for you to know him and enjoy him and to take comfort from him that no matter what you are going through, ‘Let not your heart be troubled’.

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 Presence of God

Psalm 139:7
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

We spent time on Sunday looking at verses 1-12 in this wonderful Psalm (Psalm 139).  These verses indicate that with God we can run but we can’t hide.  God is wanting to be intimately engaged with our world, our lives, our concerns, our joy.

 We often feel that God is far from us. That somehow he isn’t interested in us, but this Psalm says He is. We cannot get away from the presence of God. The term used to describe this is that God is omnipresent, He is everywhere. It reminds us that the world, the whole of creation is His.

There are times though when we want to hide from God. Adam and Eve did it. Having had the most intimate of relationships with God, they acted in such a way that they spoiled that relationship. BUT God didn’t give up on them. He looked for them. He took the initiative to find them. God always takes the initiative. We don’t make friends with God, He makes friends with us – He has acted first.

The Gospel story is again of God taking the initiative to bring us back into His presence. He did it by sending Jesus. He did it again by sending his Holy Spirit.

We can run but we can’t hide. BUT we can choose to be in relationship with God and enjoy His presence.

As you go further through Psalm 139 we are reminded that despite what we think of ourselves, and why we might think of ourselves the way we do, God loves us, He knows us.

Will we take time to build that relationship with God that is for our good?

This week take time to read the Bible and meditate on it. Read a passage slowly, look for words or phrases that stand out to you. Put yourself in the passage, make yourself the object of what is being said, and allow God to speak to you.

He loves you and wants what is best for you.

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.

John 1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him, nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. … The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us…

Here in the prologue to the Gospel of John, we are told something essential to us as Christians. Jesus is God!! Jesus is the eternal, creating, sustaining God. Not a created being but the always existent God.

And, John says, do you want to know God? Here he is, God lived among us. He became flesh and dwelt with us – Jesus is God incarnate – Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus is God flesh and blood, skin and bone, muscle and sinew. Living breathing, walking talking God!! Not distant, not cosmic, here present with us!!

Here he is eternal, creating, all knowing, all powerful, life-giving, life-sustaining God – in a body. Touch him, speak with him, walk with him.

This bodily contained God came to earth with a purpose. I have come, He says, to tell you really good news. I’ve got to speak it directly to you, I’ve got to act it out. It can’t be done from a distance – I’ve got to come close – I’ve got to walk among you, and tell it to you and show it to you. You just won’t get it otherwise. I’ve got to come down to your level – I really want you to grasp it. But unless I’m here with you, you just won’t get it.

He so embraced us that he walked where people walked.

He got jostled and bumped, he walked down crowded streets – he didn’t hide himself away – he let his feet do the walking. He travelled the worn pathways – he encountered people – he chatted, he joked, he lived and laughed – and there was something about him that drew people to him.

But there is more to it than the people can see.

Jesus came to do what we could not do – he came to give himself for us. He came to call people back to a relationship with Him – he came to save people from the lives of destruction. He came to build a church !!

A people set apart and called to follow him with purpose.

Jesus came as God embodied and look at what he did with that body!!! We are to be Christ embodied – as Jesus came and lived among us with purpose so are we. As Jesus lived with people walked with people shared with people so must we. We are not to hide ourselves away.

We are to be selfless – we are to be spending time with those in need, we are to be looking for those who are in need. We have a message of good news, freedom and life and light that we are given to share.

We are to be so committed to that task that nothing will stop us – not our comfort, not our pride, not our lives. We are the agents of Jesus Christ – we are so connected to him – that when people see us, spend time with us, hear us they see Jesus.

This week, ask Jesus to show you want he wants you to see. Go and speak and make a difference in the lives of others.