Sep 2, 2014

POD - Psalm 42

Psalm 42


1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,
so my soul pants after you, God.



2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?



3 My tears have been my food day and night,
while they continually ask me, “Where is your God?”



4 These things I remember, and pour out my soul within me,
how I used to go with the crowd, and led them to God’s house,
with the voice of joy and praise,
a multitude keeping a holy day.



5 Why are you in despair, my soul?
Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God!
For I shall still praise him for the saving help of his presence.



6 My God, my soul is in despair within me.
Therefore I remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon, from the hill Mizar.



7 Deep calls to deep at the noise of your waterfalls.
All your waves and your billows have swept over me.



8 Yahweh will command his loving kindness in the daytime.
In the night his song shall be with me: a prayer to the God of my life.



9 I will ask God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”



10 As with a sword in my bones, my adversaries reproach me,
while they continually ask me, “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you in despair, my soul?
Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God!
For I shall still praise him, the saving help of my countenance, and my God.

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Sep 1, 2014

Treasuring Christ 01

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His Glory! Our Satisfaction!


Psalms 42:1 ~ "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God."

Many of us have experienced the dry and empty barren lands of our souls. Deadness in thought and numbness in feeling. This has been certainly my testimony. I remember the rare moments in my life when I would cry and prize it as a rare feeling and thinking moment. I cherished those moments because it reminded me Of my humanity and not some sort of cold machine.

It's been over a year since God led me into repentance and entrusting my life into him. Through trusting him, I have embraced a philosophical term called 'Christian hedonism'. I have found it to be a biblically safe haven, in which healing of my mind and body has been calmly and progressively paced out, whilst it being deep and cleansing.

It has awakened thoughts and emotions that have been dormant, only to now have them delight in Christ. I began slowly (but now with convictions) pursuing my joys and pleasure in Christ. If we know God as the 'real joy giver' it makes sense to pursue him who is infinite.

This is not some new strange teaching. On the contrary it's one of old if not the original. I think the name Christian hedonism is used as a mere tool of distinction in avoiding THE strange new teaching. By preserving the purity of the TRUTH and GOODNESS of the gospel. It avoids I.e. Prosperity gospel, New Apostolic age, word of faith, universalism etc. The fruit of this biblical philosophy is treasuring Christ as more valuable than anything else, to the end. I now love delighting in him, thinking about him, living for him, learning and obeying his revealed word, and joyfully waiting for the day to be with him for ever in heaven. Amen!

This may sound so common! I think there have been millions of 'Christian Hedonists' in our history. Distinctly I.e. Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, C.S.Lewis, Martin. Loyd. Jones. Alive today, John Piper, R.T. Kendall, David Pawson, John Macarthur etc.

So why am I risking to say this? Because, 'Loving your neighbour' does not come from a '100% selfless act.' It comes by lovingly longing to have your neighbour share in the same joy and satisfaction you have in Christ! Thereby intensifying the delight in God. I.e. "Isn't he amazing?" "Yes he is brother let's worship and enjoy him together more."

I want many to know their life, joy and pleasures in God. Why? Because he is the only one who truly can bring satisfaction! God is not glorified by stoney hearted, dutiful forms of worship. It's by hearts that are satisfied in him only. Its a miracle When some one says "I didn't deserve such a priceless free gift. Jesus offered me living water. I trusted and accepted. He was right! I am alive! There is nothing more precious than Christ! I will follow and camp by him for the rest of my life" So in closing, Christian hedonism is NOT the way the truth and life My inspiration comes from the idea that hasn't been found as an unbiblical principle, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied him.

If Christians are concerned with Gods glory, how might one proceed? Is God glorified by dry lips and dutiful stoney hearts? Or by those who put all their hopes and joys in him?... The ones who trusted and are now satisfied In him, can daily live in sweet honesty and heart felt delight in God. Trust him, he will not disappoint.

DK.
"We praise because we delight."

(*Disclaimer - The opinions expressed are those of the author of this article and do not necessarily state or reflect the views of Partakers Ministries...)

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Aug 31, 2014

Sermon - Fly! Be Free!

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Fly! Be Free!

Romans 6:1-23

Introduction

These Roman Christians were united with Jesus Christ, united in Jesus Christ and all because of Jesus Christ alone. How could this be? Entirely due to the twin wellsprings of God’s grace and mercy.

And so do we, as all Christians do down through time! In these three chapters, Romans 5-8, Paul is explaining about life under grace – life for all those who claim Jesus to be their Master, their Lord and their God – having responded to God’s free offer!

Here in Romans 5-8, Paul shows from 8 different angles or lenses about life for all those who claim to be a Christian disciple – somebody who has decided to follow Jesus. It’s like he is creating this fabulous stained glass window or a tapestry about life for the Christian believer who is now under grace and has Jesus as their master and Lord.

What’s going on?

What was happening here in Chapter 6? In this section of Romans, Paul wants the believers in Rome to know, understand, recognize and comprehend all that living under grace encompasses. Paul knows that right thinking leads to right living.

Paul is writing basic doctrine to this group of believers in Rome. There are 3 possible scenarios in Paul’s thinking – 2 here in Romans 6 and another in Romans 7! Paul had obviously encountered this thinking before – perhaps even in his own life!

So let’s look at these scenarios together… As Paul writes, he informs the readers

Exodus 21:1-6 – Freedom from slavery or continue being a slave…

Two Scenarios!

Scenario 1 (v1)
  1. Informing them of what they were in the past!
  2. Informing them of what they are now!
  3. Informing them of what they are to do in the future!
  4. And why all this, Paul? Informing them about Jesus! 

Scenario 2 (v15)

  1. Informing them of what they were in the past!
  2. Informing them of what they are now!
  3. Informing them of what they are to do in the future!
  4. And why all this, Paul? Informing them about Jesus!

Recapitulation

Conclusion

Application - What about us?


Romans 6:1-23 - What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase?  By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.~

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin –  because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.~

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.  The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.~

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.  Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.  For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.~

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!  Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.  You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.~

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.  When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.  What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.~

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Aug 30, 2014

WOW Disciple

Partakers WOWDisciple - an interactive seminar designed to ignite your imagination, creativity and passion for God! We would love to bring this to your church or christian group! Play the video excerpt to find out more.

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Aug 29, 2014

Friday Prayers 29 August 2014

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

29th August 2014


We pray together and when Christians pray together, from different nations, different churches and different denominations - that reveals Church unity! Come! Let us pray together!


Lord, enable me to love You
with all my soul,
my mind and my heart;
and to love my neighbours,
friends and enemies as myself.
~~~~~
Lord, protect me
from evil people and demons,
from impure passions
and all unseemly things.
~~~~~
Lord, You know all things;
Lord, I desire Your goodness;
Lord, let Your will be done, not mine, be done
for You are blessed forever.
~~~~~
For I ask this O Father
in the name of your Son Jesus
and in the power of the ever indwelling Holy Spirit. Amen.

~~~~~


A prayer of John Chrysostom c347 – 407, Archbishop of Constantinople

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Aug 28, 2014

God Loves You 08

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God Loves You 08

How Can You Know That God Loves You?

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For God so loved the world, that He gave is one and only Son, so that who ever believed in Him would have everlasting life. John 3:16.

Let me know what you think if you view or download the video! If you want to know more about becoming a Christian or being a Christian, make a comment and we will get in touch with you!


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Aug 27, 2014

Issues - Guidance

 Partake - Issues

Guidance



G'day and welcome to Partake and our continuing series "Issues". Today we are going to look together at the issue of guidance.



Solomon writing in Proverbs 3v5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take."

The Prophet Isaiah speaking in Isaiah 6v8: "Then I heard the Lord asking, "Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?" I said, "Here I am. Send me."



When Jesus Christ called you personally and said: "Follow Me!" and you responded "YES, Lord!" that was the start of a beautiful relationship between the Living God and yourself.   Perhaps the most common question all Christian Disciples ask is "How can I know God's will and His guidance?" 

Now of course, being active in prayer and studying the Bible play major roles, in this and they are assured ways of building the relationship between God and yourself.  We will discover that are other aspects to be considered about being guided, and discerning what is God's will for you and I.  These involve being controlled by the Holy Spirit, through counsel and circumstances and through making wise decisions.



1. Controlled by the Holy Spirit



So firstly, the Christian Disciple is guided by being controlled by the Holy Spirit. Another way to say this is by submitting to the Spirit's leading.  Fundamental to being guided by the Spirit, is for you and I to be filled with the Spirit and to keep on being filled with the Spirit, or controlled by the Spirit.  When the Spirit is quenched (1 Thessalonians 5v19) or grieved (Ephesians 4v30), then the Spirit no long has control of you and I.  In order to allow the Spirit control of us, we need to resubmit ourselves to God!

It is a good daily practice for you and I to do the following on a daily basis.

  • Confess all known sin (1 John 1v9) and accept unreservedly the certain assurance of being forgiven for your sins including the sin of quenching or grieving the Holy Spirit. Sin is sin and there are no degrees of sin, big or small, it just is... Any sin creates a barrier whether (in our earthly terminology) it is a big sin like murder or a small sin like lying... Homosexuality and pornography are just as bad as lusting after that girl who just walked by - all are adultery.... That's one of the reasons the Pharisees got it so mixed up and why Jesus Christ was indignant with scorn towards them misleading people.
  • Devote to being a living sacrifice for Jesus Christ (Romans 12v1-2)
  • Enable the Holy Spirit to convict you of anything wrong and sinful in your life (Psalm 139v23-24)
  • Seeks the Holy Spirit's divine power in order to serve Jesus Christ (Galatians 5v16; Ephesians 3v16) and to do all things for glory of Jesus Christ, for this is one of the prime roles of the Holy Spirit, and sadly, often a neglected part of the Holy Spirit's role in the life of the believer.

Additionally, part of being controlled by the Holy Spirit, the Christian Disciple is to yield to Him.  Romans 6v13 and James 4v7 command this.  In yielding to the Holy Spirit, the body (1 Corinthians 6v20) and mind (Romans 12v1-2) are given to Him sacrificially for the glory of Jesus Christ.  Both the body and the mind are yielded, because the body activates what is conceived in the mind.  It is a total dedication of all thoughts, plans and actions into God's hands and the seeking of His divine wisdom.



Being guided by the Holy Spirit is illustrated in Acts 16v6-10 where Paul and his group of people acted quickly!  "Paul and his companions went to Phrygia, and then on through the region of Galatia. Their plan was to turn west into Asia province, but the Holy Spirit blocked that route. So they went to Mysia and tried to go north to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus woul...dn't let them go there either. Proceeding on through Mysia, they went down to the seaport Troas. That night Paul had a dream: A Macedonian stood on the far shore and called across the sea, "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" The dream gave Paul his map. We went to work at once getting things ready to cross over to Macedonia. All the pieces had come together. We knew now for sure that God had called us to preach the good news to the Europeans."


2. Counsel and Circumstances



Additionally to submitting to the Holy Spirit, other people and circumstances are also great helps in regards to guidance.  Proverbs 24 reminds us that: "The wise are mightier than the strong, and those with knowledge grow stronger and stronger.  So don't go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers.  Wisdom is too lofty for fools. Among leaders at the city gate, they have nothing to say."


We may not be going into physical war, but seeking the advice of others in trying to understand God's guidance, plays an important role in deciding God's will in the life of the Christian Disciple.  When seeking the advice of others, we should bear in mind that the person should be a reliable, godly and faithful servant of God - and know us well. 

As Proverbs 25v19 says "Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot". However, as Christian s we must also be aware that even the godliest of people make mistakes, such as Nathan the prophet when he exhorted David to build the temple in 2 Samuel 7.  In the end, each of us alone, is responsible for our own actions and for discerning God's guidance for themselves.

Then we also have circumstances, which are a great learning tool.  Circumstances surround us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

However, as Christians we are to live above all circumstances, while being mindful of them.  Through circumstances, God often disclosed his perfect will.  As Paul writes in Romans 8v28: "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."



Some examples of where God's will was discovered through circumstances include:

  • Abraham being asked to substitute a ram caught in a thicket for his son, Isaac (Genesis 22).
  • God arranging for Pharaoh's daughter to be bathing in the River Nile as the baby Moses floated by (Exodus 2).
  • Paul's nephew over hearing a plot to murder Paul, and then reporting it to the authorities and therefore saving Paul's life (Acts 23).

Now some may sceptically claim that these are purely coincidental, but if they are, and all others like these are, its an awful lot of coincidence!



3.  Wise Decisions:

Now, its all very well to say that we are to make wise decisions. That would seem obvious!  But how do we go about it? A great way is by endeavouring to maintain a right attitude, and asking ourselves the following questions:

  • Have I prayed and meditated on God's Word regarding the decision?
  • Have I given every area of my life to Jesus Christ?
  • Am I prepared to be obedient to God? (Proverbs 3v5-7)
  • Am I willing to sacrifice my desires for God's Will?
  • Do I truly love and acting lovingly towards other people?
  • It should not control me habitually (1 Corinthians 6v12)
  • Will it cause another person to sin/stumble? (1 Corinthians 8v9-13)
  • Does it build Christian character? (1 Corinthians 10v23)
  • Does it bring glory to God? (1 Corinthians 10v31)
  • Can I thank God for this activity - could Jesus accompany me?
  • If in doubt, throw it out! (Romans 14v22-23)
  • Abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5v22)

For more to think about please do read Isaiah 6. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them.  Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.



Q1. Am I willing to do whatever God commands me to do?


Q2. Am I willing to be humble enough to ask other people's advice?


Q3. Am I willing to sacrifice my desires so that God's Will is achieved and His glory acclaimed? 

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Aug 26, 2014

Issues - Universalism

 Partake - Issues

Universalism

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John writes in John 1v1-5, talking about Jesus "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 men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."

Jesus talking about Himself John 14v2, 6: "Trust in God; trust also in me. I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 17v1-2 "O God, Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him."

Most modern societies, particularly in the West, are pluralistic with many cultures evident within any city and country. With the advent of pluralism, comes the widely held belief that all religions, creeds, beliefs and non-beliefs are equal, which all ultimately lead to God and that after death, every person will enter heaven and have everlasting life with God.  That is universalism, and sadly, some Christian churches hold this belief.  However, that is contradictory to what Jesus said in the bible passages I read earlier.  That is not to say that each religion does not have an element of truth within it.  But only one religion is ultimate and absolute truth and that is Christianity. As Christians in the twenty first century we are often informed that Christianity is wrong, and that Jesus Christ can't possibly be the only way to God, even if a God or Gods exist.

Just a scant look at each religion throws up the incompatibility between them. For instance the great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam all profess that there is only one God.  Contrast this against the religion of Hinduism, which has millions of God, or Buddhism where there may well be no God at all! So Universalism could really be just a form of functional religious atheism.

If we were all going to be with God anyway, why would God bother having a plan of salvation as revealed in the Bible? If Universalism is true, why bother with morals or ethics now during this life as each religion has differing codes of morality and behaviour.  Now as soon as a Universalist says that morality is what defines the human (as some do), we can then say well which God, and therefore religion, decides what morality as different religions have different rules of morality!!  Taking it even further we could say why would God bother interacting with His creation at all, if humanity is going to be spending eternity with Him anyway! Why would there even be a thing called death at all, if universalism is true! So why is Universalism wrong? Lets have a look very briefly together, how superior Christianity is to Universalism.

Universalism Denies Salvation by Grace

Universalists inevitably proclaim that it is due to God's nature of love and mercy that everyone will have everlasting life with God. Surely a merciful God will allow all to live with Him, regardless of the path they took in this early life!   However the Bible states that while God is a God of love and mercy, He is also a God of justice and the sins of people need to be dealt with.  That is where God's grace comes in. How does God promise salvation to those reaching out for it? Through His unfailing love, kindness and tender mercy, which is enacted through Grace!  Salvation can be attained by no other means, but only through the combination of God's mercy and grace - God's twin actions working in unison.  Grace is easily defined as: God's Riches At Christ's Expense.  So what about Jesus Christ?

Universalism Denies Jesus' uniqueness being human & divine

That Jesus was a man is not really disputed.  But why did Jesus need to fully human? Firstly, so Jesus death could appease God's anger with us. Secondly so that Jesus can empathize and pray for us.  Thirdly, Jesus exhibited true and perfect humanity.  Fourthly, due to his perfect humanity, Jesus is to be our example to follow.  Fifthly, true human nature is good.  Lastly, while God is both above and beyond, He is not so far removed from us, that He cannot interact with his creation.

But he was more than human, He was also fully God - He was fully divine!  God's salvation plan for humans involved triumphant victory over sin, death and the grave.  However no person could be found that was eligible or capable to do this.  Because of this, God stepped into human history, so that this victory could be achieved.  This God-man would be fully human, so as to live every feature of humanity, including suffering and death.  This God-man would also need to remain fully God, so as to defeat sin, death and the grave.  Jesus, being sinless, was this God-man, consisting as he did of two complete natures, the God nature and the human nature. That Jesus is both human and divine is what makes Christianity truly unique amongst the world's religions.  It is why Jesus' claims to be the only way to God are true and make sense.  It is why universalism is shown to be a fallacy. Universalism is wrong because it makes Jesus Christ out to be either a liar or a lunatic or worse - both.

Universalism Denies Jesus' cross

As all paths under universalism lead to God, why would God have to send Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of the world?  Surely, if all paths lead ultimately to God, then there would be no need for Jesus to suffer the agony of the cross.  On the cross, Jesus died so that all sins - past, present and future sins - can be forgiven.  Salvation is to be found only through God's grace and mercy exhibited by God the Son on the cross.  Moreover, it is only to those who acknowledge Him as Saviour in this earthly life that He will acknowledge before God the Father.

Universalism Denies Jesus' resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus Christ provided the central theme for the sermons and teaching in the early church (Acts 1v22; Acts 4v33, Acts 17v18). But what significance is there in Jesus' resurrection? The resurrection proved and vindicated all Jesus' teaching and claims as the suffering Servant and attested to his being fully God and the last Judge of all mankind (Isaiah 53v10-12; Acts 2v36; Acts 3v13-15; Romans 1v4). The resurrection declared God's approval of Jesus' obedient service and the fulfilment of all the Old Testament promises, resulting in forgiveness of sins and salvation being only found in and through Jesus Christ, Jesus' resurrection is a sign of the bodily resurrection for all believers in him, giving a new attitude to death and transforming hopes (1 Corinthians 15v12-58, Romans 8v10, 2 Corinthians 4v14; 1 Peter 1v3 & 21) As the resurrected King, Jesus now intercedes for us and has perfected the redemption of all those who choose to follow him (Romans 5v10; Hebrews 6v20, 1 Peter 1v21).

Universalism Denies Jesus' authority

Jesus has authority (Matthew 28v18) over all things, all people, all circumstances and happenings. has authority over all spiritual beings, whether angels or demons. Jesus has authority over all nations, governments and rulers. Jesus has authority over all earthly and spiritual authorities. Jesus has the authority. Over all religions, leaders and people - Jesus has the authority and supremacy. This means regardless of what ever the Christian Disciple faces, Jesus is in control. Therefore, as Christian Disciples, we can obey him without fear of retribution from those who would seek to harm us. We have been given a free will, but as his Disciples, we should choose to exercise our free will to obey him and live a life worthy of him. As we grow to rely and depend on Jesus' authority, we continually gain wisdom, guidance, and power.  Because of His authority, Jesus has authority and supremacy over all things - created, non-created, religious and non- religious.

Either Jesus was who he said he was - God - or he was a liar and a lunatic not to be trusted.  Universalism and Christianity are non-compatible - the Jesus of the Bible and therefore Christianity, is uniquely superior to all other religions and beliefs encompassed in Universalism.

For more to think about please do read John 14v1-6. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1.  How does my life of worship to Christ denounce Universalism?

Q2.  How does the call for me to be a witness for Jesus affect views of Universalism?

Q3.  How have I witnessed universalism in my community or country?

Thank you.

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Aug 25, 2014

Issues - Community

Way of the Cross

Community

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The Apostle Paul writing in Philippians 2v3-4 "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."



And finally, the Apostle Peter writing in 1 Peter 5v5-6 "All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."

Individualism

Contrast those values to those of the twenty first century society, where morality can be summed up in this kind of attitude: "The more you care for others, the more they will care for you." So look after the interests of others and you will also be looked after. In other words everyone is on level parity and there is total equality within society. In some of the more narcissistic and cynical parts of society, there is no other, the order is "me, me and more me and I am far more important and higher than anyone else". Individualism is where the individual's importance is placed higher than all others and is imbued with self-reliance and personal independence. Even when help and compassion are offered, so often there are strings attached and hoops to be jumped through.

If you do this, we will do this for you. And sadly, it is not just within society that this exists, but also within the church and amongst Christians.

It is as if we are denying the basic rule of compassion and mercy, which dictates that we are to be serving others, because they are also humans created in the image of God, loved by God and so should be loved unconditionally by those who proclaim to be God's people - the Church. Denying that basic need to others is pure unadulterated selfishness and places others below our own selves. Individualism within the church, lends itself to hypocritical behaviour and attitudes, which are inconsistent with Scripture and behaviour. Individualism, where you as an individual are placed at the front of the queue, is not loving others and not considering others higher than yourself. It certainly could not be construed as serving other people to always place your own desires above all others. There is an old acronym JOY - Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.

Relationship

The basic aspect of love is that it involves relationship, so therefore there must be more than one person involved. God is love, and is a trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If God were not Trinity then God could not also be love. The church community is meant to be a radical community of service and love, which is a reflection of the Trinitarian God. Being part of a radical community of service and love would mean the Church going back to basics. The Church needs individuals to be living radical lifestyles of devotion to Jesus Christ, engaging with the culture, counting the cost of discipleship and reflecting true humanity. But being an individual in community involves much more than merely being an individual in isolation. Christians are to be involved within communities, and not as isolationists. So what does a radical Christian community of individuals look like?

Creative Community

Firstly, the church needs to be a community that is seen to be radical by the surrounding society. At Pentecost, the church began when the Holy Spirit filled the Disciples (Acts 2v4). This momentous occasion started the Discipleship process of how Christians were to live as God's people. The hallmarks of this community were commitment and transformation. This community was radical. It was where people's lives were being changed as the Holy Spirit filled them. Instead of being a withdrawn people filled with fear of retribution from the Roman government and Jewish leaders, they became a people filled with boldness and joy. The New Testament church grew by being a radical community imbued with radical individuals engaging with others. The very existence of the church today is proof that Jesus Christ really did rise from the dead, for if He did not, those who were His disciples would have disbanded and gone back to their old lifestyle and the Holy Spirit would not have come.

Creatively Radical

If we want the church of today to grow then we need to be building a strong community of faith. A community, which involves joining together isolated and solitary individuals and where people are imbued with love, valued and are showing care to each other, in particular the frail, elderly and young, with what the theologian Jürgen Moltmann calls a "creative passion for the impossible." An inherent human need is the need to belong, and by fulfilling relational needs, the radical Church community will become relevant to the people within it. It will then also become relevant to those who are on the outside and looking in. For example, by using virtual reality, digital space and social networks, the housebound and geographically isolated peoples can also be included and cared for.

This involves improving present societal conditions, rather than remaining a conservative community, which merely repairs the status quo. In doing this, today's church will be emulating characteristics of the early church (Acts 2v44-45). As individuals Christians were added to the church, discipline helped ensure that the community was being seen as a holy community. We see in the early church as recorded in the Book of Acts, that to be excommunicated from the community for gross sin, was a severe punishment. However church discipline is not primarily about punishment, but rather a formative and corrective service as part of Discipleship. Church community discipline is foundational to the making of Christian Disciples, because it concerns the community's spiritual health, and strengthens the bonds with the local community.

Committed Community

The church must be a community of committed individual Christians, willing to radically follow God in lifestyle and behaviour. Being holy for the Christian means radically exhibiting love for God and others. It is by being seen as different from the surrounding society, that the church community will grow. Often when prayers are said, it is within the perception of the individual pray-er of what the answer to that prayer will be! It is as if the answer is there, we are just waiting for God to confirm our presupposition. When, in fact, prayer is to be where God is answering the prayers in His own way and timing - often unexpectantly! By the church community and Christian individuals thinking and acting creatively, many more people would be seeing God in action. Instead of independence, one of the prime hallmarks of being a follower of Jesus Christ is the need to be dependent on others as well as being dependable. This is imbued within the story of Jesus Christ washing His disciples feet.

Transformed Community

The Church community is to be actively engaged in radically helping people to be transformed and not merely happy. Transformation is a powerful witness to the power of God and shows the relevancy of God and His people. The best way to show this transformation is for the Church leadership to set the example, and show a way forward. Good leadership has good accountability to each other and to the whole Church community.

If the church leaders are displaying a transparent life of creatively loving God and others, then the individual Christians within those churches will also seek to be transparently loving God and other people. The media love to report when a Church and/or Church leader has done something inherently wrong

Finally, Jesus recommends that those who follow Him be wise like serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10v16b). This means that we are to be skilful and shrewd in making decisions that are characterised by intelligence, patience and shrewdness. Additionally, we are to be gentle and harmless, like doves. This would make our church leaders and us accountable to live a life of integrity worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1v27). This is a life, which is seen to be as holy and blameless.

In order to do this, we need to depend on the Holy Spirit for strength and caring for others is a vital necessity for you and I. By relying on the Holy Spirit who indwells us, we are therefore perpetually connected to Jesus Christ, who is after all, the Head of the church community who are His bride.

The antidote to individualism is the continual creation of radical communities of transformed individual Christians, willing to be totally devoted to God, and each other and being sustained by the Holy Spirit who indwells, empowers, comforts, transforms, sustains and guides! By being radical communities thinking and acting creatively, we will be reflecting a creative Trinitarian God, and the Church will fulfil her bridal mandate of faithfully serving Jesus Christ, in submission to God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus in Matthew 5v43-45 gloriously explains how to do this: "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." And then to verse 48 "In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you."

Now that is the key to radically transformed communities and the antidote to individualism!

For more to think about please do ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. What in my life could I change, so that the focus is away from myself and onto helping others?

Q2. How can my church and I reflect the Trinitarian God by being creatively loving, transforming and serving?

Q3. How can I help my church be more relevant in the community where it is located?

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Aug 23, 2014

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Partakers WOWDisciple - an interactive seminar designed to ignite your imagination, creativity and passion for God!

This is an video excerpt from a recent morning, and it is the teaching session on Sin.



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