Archive for February 2016

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Think Spot - 29 February 2016

How is your Christian life going? As you look back on your life, can you see how you have changed and been transformed from the time you came to acknowledge that God was God and entered into a relationship with Him? You can? Good! Let God WOW you with Himself as He transforms you in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within you, into the image of Jesus, the Son of God.

Your transformation, however quickly or slowly, is evidence of your relationship with God. Are you aware of that? WOW! As you put into practise what you learn about Him, your life has that God WOW factor about it. As you let God take control of your life, bit by bit, you become less self-absorbed and more God-absorbed and caring about others people. Get God's WOW in your life. Let Him change and transform you.

Are you in situations where change is needed? Then instead of wanting to change the situation, change yourself, change your attitude and grasp hold of the God you claim to be your - Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Go into this new week, this new month, knowing you are God's child, that He loves you and wants to transform you greatly. Let your life be a WOW about God- a WOW about God to those that know Him and a WOW about God to those who don't know Him yet.

If you need help, ask us at Partakers.co.uk or buy our books at  http://www.pulptheology.co.uk and on Amazon sites, which will help your thinking.

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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 22: John 5:22
The Royal Agent



There is an idea that can be used to explain what Jesus is meaning when he says, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honour the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” It is the idea of agency. They, in those days, had a rather stronger idea of what the implications of being an agent were than most of us will have.

If we talk to a salesman in a car showroom about buying a car, which of course means much argument about how much it is going to cost us, our discussion will come to the point where the salesman will say something like: ‘I must check that out with my boss’ and go off to do so. He is acting as an agent for the head salesman. If he is doing something more significant than buying a car, perhaps as an ambassador making an agreement about how two countries are to interact, and he is overseas, then he may still say ‘I must check that out with my boss’, who might now be the president or prime minister of his country. He can do that quickly and easily through his mobile phone etc.

100 years ago he could have done much the same thing but more clumsily and much more slowly by sending a telegram down the wires connecting him back to his own country.

200 years ago things would have been very different. He could only communicate with his home country by sending a message by horseman or sailing ship. He would get the answer only weeks later by which time the situation might well have changed beyond recognition. Consequently he would have had to act without that sort of reference back to base. He would have been a true agent acting on his own initiative on behalf of his firm or his country. That is the sort of agent we read about in the Bible. They might say ‘a person’s agent is as himself’. The agent had to take decisions that would need to be supported in full by his boss when he eventually got to hear what they were. If the boss did not support the agent’s decisions he would be a very bad and difficult person and not a good manager. Also any slight to the agent would be considered a slight to the boss.

We see this in the episode in Mark 12 where we read, “A man planted a vineyard … He rented the vineyard to some farmers … At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit. But they sent him away empty- handed … He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed … He sent his son (the usual full agent) last of all, saying, ‘they will respect my son.’ But the tenants said to one another … let’s kill him … What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”

Coming back to John’s gospel we see that Jesus is given full authority as the agent of the Father over the judgements that are to come at the end of the age.

Later Jesus talks about, “a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him.” The messenger there is an ‘apostolos’ – the word that we translate as ‘apostle’ which essentially means ‘sent one’ or ‘ambassador’, or we might say: ‘agent’.

Jesus was the apostle sent by Father God. We are apostles sent by the Lord to the world around us. What a huge privilege that is, and what a responsibility. How good an agent are you?

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~

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

26 February 2016


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!



May God the Father,
And the eternal High Priest Jesus Christ,
And the indwelling Holy Spirit
Build us up in faith and truth and love,
And grant us our portion among the saints
With all those who believe on our Lord Jesus Christ.

We pray for all saints,
for kings and rulers,
for the enemies of the cross of Christ,
And for ourselves
we pray that our fruit may abound
and we may be made perfect
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Amen

Based on a prayer of Polycarp (AD 80 – 167)

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John's Story

"Feeling on the path to nowhere but there is a light at the end."

Today our testimony is from John... John is 32 years old, lives in the UK with his wife Nicole and has learning difficulties and epilepsy due to Tuberous Sclerosis...

Play or download the mp3 file to hear how John came into a dynamic relationship with God because of Jesus Christ. John - a 21st century Christian because of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Why not make a comment below to encourage John?

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Think Spot - 22 February 2016

As a Christian for over 30 years, I am still taking baby steps in learning about the God we as Christians worship. What a Christian believes about God matters because what you believe about God, ultimately affects how you will behave.

I have discovered that as the mind is renewed and transformed, what the mind learns is put into practice, and life is being transformed. Life transformation is a great hope. This hope is an unending hope, which will enable us to endure to the end and run the race of life with God.

Learning about what you believe and why, is important is so that you will be able to discern true teaching from the false teaching of heretics and those who want to lead you astray from the truth. Experiences and miracles are important, but to base Christian life upon them, and not on solid biblical doctrine, produces a rollercoaster effect and not the constant reliance on the indwelling Holy Spirit for direction, guidance and trust.

As a starting point check out my own books at http://www.pulptheology.co.uk and on Amazon sites, which will help your thinking.


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Sermon - Romans 1-3

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A God of Salvation

Romans 1:16-17

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed-a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." 


Romans 3:21-24

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Introduction

Paul in this letter is writing to Roman believers a synopsis of his beliefs, and to church leaders in Jerusalem where he would have to make an adequate explanation of himself.  The language and concepts shared in these passages are that the Gospel of God is that salvation is for all who believe; righteousness of God; universality of both salvation and judgment; and that salvation and righteousness are available through faith.  The adversative "But" in Romans 3:21 heralds the solution, but the text in between these verses highlights humanity's unrighteousness and need of God's righteousness.


1. The Problem

"All have sinned" (Romans.3:23).  Our inherent sinful nature of unrighteousness comes to all mankind from the first rebellion against God by Adam.  To be with God eternally we need to be declared righteous, for unrighteousness cannot enter the holy and righteous presence of God.  So for humanity, created in God's image (Genesis.1:26) to re-enter God's presence, each person needs to be declared righteous and thereby justified. 

Justification is the transformation from a condemned criminal to that of an heir awaiting a majestic legacy.  If God doesn't punish unrighteousness, then God would have to destroy not only us, but also Himself.  Holiness is an absolute attribute of God, which requires the punishment of any impurity or unrighteousness (that is sin), and if unrighteousness remained unpunished, God would cease to be God and we would cease to be human.  Ergo, since the first rebellion God has had a Gospel plan to restore righteousness to man.

2. Initial Questions

2a. What is the Gospel plan?



The Gospel is one, which Paul is separated to according to his own words in Romans.1:1.  Paul announces it is the power of God for the salvation of all in Romans 1:16.   The Gospel is the good news that God has provided the means for rebellious humanity to be rescued from His wrath and judgment.

The Gospel is a two-fold message: it is deliverance from the final judgment resulting from God's anger against sin and a crediting of righteousness upon sinful man.  Not only will humanity be saved, but has been saved.This Gospel creates faith (Romans.1:16-17); brings life (Romans.1:16) and judgment (Romans.2:16)



2b. What is wrath?

When we think of wrath, it is usually of an uncontrollable rage or temper tantrum.  God's wrath does not portray the human weaknesses of vindictiveness, or an uncontrolled pique.  We can dismiss such ideas, since due to His forbearance, God's anger and judgment has been smouldering since the first rebellion of Adam and Eve.  God's wrath invokes justice (Romans.2:5).

2c. What is righteousness?

There are three meanings to this key phrase of Paul's: "righteousness of God".  Firstly, righteousness is an immutable characteristic of God, in that whether it is a righteousness that judges or a righteousness that saves, it is still God's righteousness.  Secondly, that His righteousness demands God actively keeps the promises He has made.  Thirdly, that His righteousness makes us righteous. So, who needs this righteousness?

3. God's Judgment

When we describe God's judgment, similarly there are three aspects to it, all of which give a total and clear picture. For God's judgment to only have one or two of these characteristics, would mean it was not the judgment of a holy God. God's judgment is inescapable, righteous and impartial.



3a. Inescapable

We are inherently self-righteously hypercritical of others.  Paul tells us that this makes us hypocritical and we have no right to stand in condemnation over people, as what is common in all humanity is a universal sinfulness or separation from God (Romans.2:1).  We set unachievable high standards for others and yet remarkably low standard for ourselves.



3b. Righteous

God will judge according to what each person has done (Romans.2:6).  While we may be justified and declared righteous by faith, we will be judged based on the works we do, to earn rewards.  Our faith is to be supported by good works (Galatians.5:6; James.2:18).  Paul here shows two destinies.  Eternal life, glory, honour, peace and immortality for those who enduringly desire to perform good works (Romans.2:7,10).  Juxtaposed to this are the self-indulgent and disobedient who shall incur God's indignation, wrath and righteous judgment (Romans.2:8-9).



3c. Impartial

God shows no favouritism (Romans.2:11), so whether Jew or Gentile, both can be saved and be declared righteous.  God is eternally just and righteous.  It is a reflection of His mercy, that nobody can claim God is unfair.

4. All have sinned and need God's righteousness

4a. The Gentile is in need

Gentiles, non-Jews, require this righteousness of God.  Unrighteousness is universally endemic as all humankind has rebelled, "fallen short of God's glory" (Romans.3:23) which has been passed down since the original sin in Genesis.  Whilst God has given the Jew the Law, how has God revealed Himself to the Gentile? He has revealed Himself and His invisible attributes, fully to all humanity through their individual conscience (Romans.1:19) and His creation (Romans.1:20).  In Christ, God has now revealed Himself fully in visible form (Colossians.1:15-17) so that humanity has even less of an excuse not to worship God, follow Him and be obedient to Him.  Whether it is through ignorance they did not glorify Him (Romans.1:21); through foolish wisdom (Romans.1:22) or self-indulgence (Romans.1:25); God allowed man free will and gave them over to their desires (Romans.1:26, 28).  This is viewed in non-heterosexual practices (Romans.1:26-27) being viewed as an abasement and denial of God.    It is noticeable also through idolatrous attitudes and actions.  Humanity began as creations' pinnacle but ended up beneath creation when man started worshipping creation instead of the Creator (Romans.1:23).  Gentiles are without excuse (Romans.1:20) and their actions decree their eternal destiny.  Having suppressed God, God thereby debased man's mind to all kinds of wickedness (Romans.1:28) so that humankinds temporal pleasure may be appeased, and of which, are still in evidence today.



4b. The Jew is in need

Jews had the Law and boasted in it (Romans.2:23).  However, possession of the Law was of no consequence to God and Paul claims it is practicing the Law, which matters.  Their religion was an external action but not an internal attitude.  Jesus' regular denunciation of the Pharisees reflects this.  Adultery, robbery and idolatry (Romans.2:21) were perfectly possible for a Jew to commit secretly according to the Sermon on the Mount.  Instead of being God's light to the nations, Jews were dishonouring God (Romans.2:24; Isaiah.52:5).  Packer in his book "Knowing God" reflects: "The Law cannot save us, for its only effect is to stimulate sin and shows us how far short we fall from God's righteousness."

If not the Law, then surely through circumcision a Jew will be declared righteous!  After all, the circumcision is the mark of God's covenant with Israel (Genesis.17).  Again, Paul says no.  Circumcision avails nothing if the Law is not kept (Romans.2:25).  An uncircumcised Gentile who keeps the law is more acceptable to God than a circumcised Jew who breaks the Law.  A Jew is one who inwardly experiences God, not one who exhibits external worship alone (Romans.2:28-29).

Paul continues. All humanity has rebelled against God, both Jew and Gentile.  Paul cites Old Testament verses to back his claims that all men are unrighteous before God's wrath (Romans.3:10-18).  There are no excuses.  Just like the excuses we come up for when caught speeding in our cars.

5. Salvation for all

5a. Revealed for all who believe by faith

All people are under God's wrath and are therefore condemned. This wrath, Carson writes is brough forth by universal human wickedness".  We are in need both of rescue and to be justified before God.  Paul, continuing with the adversative "But now" (Romans.3:21), explains that God has also provided us with a righteousness that is available immediately so that we may be saved from His wrath.  The Law as we have seen condemns any who do not keep it. Yet combined with the Prophets, the Law bears witness to this righteousness.  How do we achieve this justification?  Faith, succinctly described by JI Packer in "Knowing God", reminds us, "is a self-abandoning trust in the person and work of Jesus."  By exhibiting faith in Jesus, as it is due to him, we have been declared righteous and have a legal status of being justified, if we choose it.  Can we earn it? We have seen how both Gentile and Jew have failed in trying to achieve salvation (Romans.3:23).  Nevertheless, we need to believe in order to receive the righteousness we have asked for.  This grace (Romans.3:24) declares believers "righteous at the beginning of their course, not at the end of it".  This gift, which is free, enables believers to be justified through the act of redemption (Romans.3:24).

5b. God's Wrath Propitiated through Redemption.

Redemption implies ransom.  It is the purchase of a slave, simply to set that slave free.  It involves a ransom payment.  God's grace pays God's justice on our behalf so that righteousness can be declared.  God's grace is the origin of our justification.  This redemption, results from God the Father presenting Jesus Christ as a sacrifice to appease His wrath.   Our redemption involved the death of Jesus as our payment.  God's righteous wrath now averted and appeased through this act of propitiation, means we are therefore liberated as a demonstration of His righteousness (Romans.3:25-26).  All humanity are slaves or prisoners to sin (Romans.3:9), and it is from this slavery the Gospel declares we have been delivered.   The full consequences of this redemption will not be experienced until we have overcome and persevered to gain our eternal inheritance (Romans.8:23-25).



Conclusion


Is there any difference today?  People are still blasé and ignorant of God, having suppressed the truth.  People still declare that the existance of God cannot be proven by rational science and advanced knowledge.  People are still both hypercritical of others and therefore hypocrites.  It is to this world, we are to apply our theology.  This gospel of salvation, which justifies us in order to declare us righteous, thus sparing us from God's condemnatory wrath, is the one we are to use to spread the good news, that God's righteousness is free by faith, to all who humble themselves, admit their guilt and ‘lost-ness' and ask God for forgiveness.



For those who would already call themselves a Christian, you are to tell others about this salvation and you are to serve Him, where ever you are and where ever you go! Jesus is the one you are following and its on His terms alone that you are His disciple.  If you view Him as a superhero, somebody who you call upon only when you need something or even as your boyfriend, then beware: Jesus will not be mocked - He wants all aspects of your life to be submitted to Him!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who defied Hitler, wrote these words "When Jesus Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. Discipleship is not an offer that man makes to Jesus Christ, nor is it hero worship, but intimacy with Christ."

Want to be intimate with Jesus Christ? Worship him alone and exhibit your faith to all you come into contact with! Too often Christians and churches side with the rights of the powerful and elite, while forgetting the poor, oppressed and marginalised. Too often Christians and churches neglect to feed the hungry, seek justice for the oppressed and help the poor.

There are enough Christians and churches in the UK to make significant positive change to their local communities. Too often Christians sit around on their backsides discussing good theology while in that same community people die of loneliness & neglect.

You say you have faith in Jesus Christ and are dedicated to Him! Good! Then show it and this community will be transformed to the glory and praise of Jesus Christ! Go tell somebody this good news of Jesus Christ.  Won't you go tell somebody this very day, this week, this message of salvation?  Salvation, as a free gift and available to all who ask, because nobody can earn it or buy it. The price has already been paid - by Jesus Christ alone on a Roman cross two thousand years ago.  If you ever hear people say that I have died, tell them that is false.  Tell them I am now more alive than ever before.



For those who would not yet call themselves Christian, you need to bow your knee before Almighty God. If you want to turn to God there is no need for delay. He is ready and willing to take you as His own right now.  You only have to ask Him to forgive you and to give you help on the journey ahead.  It is a partnership between God and yourself. When you place your faith in Jesus, becoming utterly dependent upon Him, you turn to God.  You don't need to do or change anything to become a follower of Jesus!

However once you have made that decision, you leave behind your spiritual isolation and rebellion against Him. As you live each day, becoming more involved with Jesus day by day, you will find yourself changing. You will stop doing those things that separated you from Him. You will find yourself doing things that please Jesus and develop your relationship with Him.  God asks that you accept his guidance and management of your life.  His point of view and His strength become your point of view and your source of strength.  You turn your mind, will and heart to Him for all you do.

If you want to become a Christian there are three simple steps to follow.  Firstly, admit that you have done wrong against God and His ways.  Secondly, believe and trust in Jesus.  Call on Him, receive, trust, obey and worship Him, recognizing Him for who He is and what He has done.  Lastly, confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.   Once sin has been confessed, and Jesus is believed in and trusted as Saviour, then you are a Christian. Now you are ready as Peter writes in the Bible, "to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." 7 Welcome to the family of God. God has chosen you; Jesus has paid for you and has put His mark within you through His Spirit. Come and talk to one of us after our final hymn! Lets pray.

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