Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Holding Together

My sermon notes from Sunday night.

Last week at the GV Communion service – I shared a few thoughts from Eph
n  I was thinking particularly of the theme of UNITY – that runs through the letter
n  It is a focus on Unity – that starts in ch 1:9-10
n  We see that God’s great Gospel plan – is to bring all things together in Christ
n  That at the end of all things – the whole universe will be unified under Jesus

It’s an amazing thought – an amazing hope
n  That our divided world – with all its conflicts – will one day be united
n  No more segregation / competition / rivalry – but cooperation & peace
n  Because – everything & everyone will be under one King / one Head – Jesus

So at the heart of the Gospel – is bringing people together
n  The book of Ephesians – is concerned that, as Christians, we don’t forget that
n  In ch.2 P reminds the Eph’ Christians – of how they have been brought together
n  Eph church was made up of people from a Jewish background – along with those from pagan / Gentile backgrounds
n  So in the Church - you have this coming together – of very different people

A coming together of people – who humanly might have very little in common
n  People who previously - may have distrusted & looked down on each other
n  But P reminds them – that in J those barriers have been taken away

Ch.2:14-22: J allows people to make peace, be reconciled & be joined together
n  Because their identity now – is not being Jewish or Gentile or any such thing
  – but being a follower of Jesus Christ – a Christian

And this idea – of Christians being ‘TOGETHER’ – comes up time & time again
n  Ch.2v21 – ‘joined together’ / v22 –built together’ / ch.3v6 ‘heirs together’; ‘members together’; ‘sharers together’ / ch.3v18 power together’ / ch.4:16 ‘held together’
n  The Bible is very clear – that being a Christian is to be joined with other Christians – Together!

But of course there are challenges to that
After all - it’s not just religious backgrounds that can divide people
n  In early church – people became Christians who were rich, poor, rough, refined
n  Christian slave-owners found themselves in fellowship with slaves
n  Rich Christian members found themselves - being taught by poor Christian elders

Jews & Gentiles – didn’t just have different faiths – but different ways of life
n  Jewish Christians – might expect to worship in a way they were used to
n  After-all Jesus was Jewish – their Messiah – the Old Testament still the Bible

n  So they might expect people to dress in a Jewish way – or men to have a beard
n  They might expect a certain type of music – that they felt was ‘appropriate’
n  And when it came to the fellowship meal – the thought of eating pork might have made them feel physically sick

The Christians from a Gentile background – on the other hand
n  Might have been very relaxed about what they wore to church
n  They might have started making up hymns to old pagan tunes
n  They might have suggested having a BBQ on the old Sabbath day

Very easily the tensions & emotions between these two groups could rise
n  People could get upset / angry – start to feel offended
n  There was a situation like this in the church at Rome – over food
n  Paul wrote to the Christians there about it - in Romans ch.14

He could have said – rather than risk getting upset or being offended...
n  You should split – have a Jewish Church & a separate Gentile Church
n  Then everyone can have the music they like / the food they like / the church they like – even the leaders they like
n  But of course, he doesn’t – he urges them to stay ‘together’ – to hold together

Why? Why ask people to put-up with things and people – they find so difficult?
n  Because – God’s plan is to bring people together – not to divide them up
n  The Gospel – is a plan to bring unity among people – all types of people
n  Jesus very clear in desiring not just theoretical unity – i.e. the kind of unity that we speak about but never put into practise

But Jn 17:21: J wants people to see this unity – that they might believe in Him
n  Because when Christians hold together despite their differences – it’s a powerful way of showing that we believe the Gospel & that the Gospel works!
n  That we really believe – that we are going to be united in Christ forever 
n  That we really believe – that as Christians we are all part of one body & share the same Spirit, hope, Lord, Faith, and God & Father of all (4:4)

Because there’s nothing impressive about holding together with people – just like yourself
n  Non-Christians do that
n  The Gospel is real when it holds people together who are not the same

And when we don’t hold together – it sends an equally powerful message
n  The message - that the Gospel doesn’t really work
n  The message - that Christians think how they do things is more important than who they do them for
n  The message – that the church is just like every other human organisation – it exists to suit people – not to be what Jesus wants it to be

‘The church of Andy Hunter’ – as attractive as that might sound to me
n  Would probably – literally be the church of just ‘Andy Hunter’
n  I might attract a few other socially awkward Winston Churchill fans
n  But the Church of Jesus Christ - is not some glorified Star Trek Convention
n  In contrast the church of Andy Macdonald, Andy Cumming & Andi Watson – that puts up with, and values and includes Andy Hunter – now that’s a powerful thing

But the Bible doesn’t assume that Unity will just happen
Why– we are called to make every effort to achieve it (ch.4v3)
n  4:2 – that effort is involves being – humble, gentle, patient, putting up with others
n  It means – not getting everything your way

Putting up with some things - you personally would do differently
n  Not doing some things that would be ok - because you know - they are likely to upset or cause problems for others – all of which is a '2 Way Street', of course.

It means loving people – who aren’t always easy to get on with
n  Being gentle when you feel annoyed / being patient when others are holding u up

Because only when God’s people are together – do God’s people work
n  Human body works – not because all the parts are the same – but precisely because they’re different
n  It’s the different bits that means the whole thing works - is healthy

In a car a clutch doesn’t have much in common with a steering wheel 
n  But you’re not going to getting very far – sitting on a clutch
n  So not holding together – actually weakens us – even if it might feel easier at the time

So in our fellowships – and together as fellowships
n  We need each other – we are stronger together – we live and demonstrate the Gospel better – when we stay together

Jesus – prayed that His people might be One
And He paid the greatest price of all – to make that possible
n  Laying down His life – for people who weren’t like Him –
n  People Eph says - were foreigners to God’s Promises – far away from God 
n  So they could be brought together with Him forever

Our call is pursue the same goal – to show the same love & commitment
n  To, as much we’re able, see God’s great plan - to bring all things together under Christ – become true in our churches today.
n  So our churches – can be living examples of what Jesus will do completely – when He comes again.  
n  ‘to bring all things together under one head, even Christ’ (1:10)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

remember the poor

Had a great day at the Christians Against Poverty Pastor's Conference in sunny Bradford (it was actually sunny!). To hear of the work CAP is doing nationally was truly humbling and inspiring. 
  • £2.25million of debt is being paid back or written off every month through CAP;
  • Every 23mins - a new client (family, single parent, student...) is registering with CAP.
  • 54 new CAP centres were opened in the UK in the past year - there are now 190 in total. 
  • The vision is to see 500 opened covering the whole country. 
John Kirby (Founder) giving the tour of the CAP offices 

We heard from a single mum who now doesn't need to eat her children's leftovers to feed herself, and who doesn't have to make excuses as to why her kids can't go to friend's birthday parties - because she couldn't afford to buy them a present to take.
We heard of the amazing transformation in people's lives as they have come to faith in Christ through contact with CAP.
We even heard from Prince Charles (ok, it was a DVD) praising the wonderful work CAP is doing throughout the UK.

What a privilege to have a CAP Centre operating from Greenview and to be part of this amazing work of God.

putting your finger on it

Great perceptive piece from Kevin De Young which brings some light to that feeling that you just couldn't put your finger on!

If We Believe All the Same Things, Why Do Our Churches Seem So Different?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Loving your Neighbour

Thanks to 'Team Greenview' who helped in the local Community Clean-up today - making one corner of Eastwood a nicer place to live.