home > Pastor’s Desk > 2016 > September 2nd> Devils Divide!

THE MOST CONVINCING EVIDENCE WE CAN OFFER THE WORLD

One of the things which gripped me as a new Christian was just how short life on earth was compared with eternity. As I read through the Gospels I was struck by how often Christ made this contrast to put this life into its proper perspective. Even if, as the Psalmist declared, man lives to a ripe old age, his life is but “a breath” –  a mere “blade of grass” which sprouts in the morning and withers by the end of the day. This life is no mere dress rehearsal for next. It is of infinite and eternal consequences. The apostle told the Colossians that not a minute of it should be wasted. When it comes to the after-life, despite the teaching of those who identify as liberal Christians, the eternal Gate of Heaven into Paradise is not merely opened for the “religious”, but for the redeemed in Christ. And if we have any compassion for our fellow man we will do all we can to persuade them to repent from their rebellion and to humbly turn to the Saviour to accept His offer of salvation. Yet many will not do this because they are yet to see what Jesus described as the most convincing proof of all.

 

WHY MANY WILL NOT BELIEVE

 Even though I hold to Reformed Theology (“Sovereign Grace”), I have good reasons to passionately believe that the Sovereign God who elects and foreordains also has elected the means by which unbelievers will open their hearts to receive the truth about Christ. This means is quite simple: Gospel proclamation. But Jesus reveals something both powerful and profound in His last prayer before He was executed.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.
John 17:20-21

As much as I believe in Apologetics the giving of good reasons to believe in the God of the Bible, without an application of what Christ described in John 17:21, every apologetic argument is basically rendered useless! This is why the local church is so incredibly important to the salvation of individuals within a community. When a local church is led by humble, God-honouring, called, competent, gifted leaders, who courageously work to maintain the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:2) the result is a caring, compassionate, servant-hearted, spiritual community which balances beautifully the two aspects of Christ’s identity: Truth and Grace.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth . . . For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John 1:14, 17

A recent survey of Australians found that 60% of Australians do not have a close friend who is a Christian.

It’s one thing to enter a Christian church and take a look. It’s another all together to enter into a Christian’s life and take a look! And based on what Christ prayed in John 17:21, it is another thing completely to enter into a Christian community and observe/experience authentic unity where there is forgiveness, tolerance, compassion, practical care, a willingness to listen to one another, and respect for leaders. Jesus said this kind of devotion to Him and the resultant unity would be a cause whereby the world may believe You have sent Me. I wonder how many members of the world enter our church on a Sunday and are initially shocked by and strangely moved by this unity of the Spirit? Without it, even the best apologetics by all the best apologists is of little to no value!

 

IF ONLY WE KNEW

I wonder how many Christian parents with young children realise the tremendous power in what Jesus prayed in John 17:21? I wonder if they realise what the spiritual consequences are for their young children when they choose to be somewhere else other than in the gathering of their assembling church family? I wonder how many young parents appreciate that when Christ spoke about His Church being “one” as He and the Father are one, He was recasting the community of His followers in the language of family. Time with your church community in worship is not time away from your family – it is time which Christ says that your family needs with your spiritual family. Parents help their children to gain a much broader, richer, deeper, understanding of ‘family’ when they demonstrate to their children that attending church is family-time.

So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.
Ephesians 2:19

Christ seeks to gather, to unite, to knit people together (John 17:21). His plan for the world is to build His Church (Matt. 16:18). Thus, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians at a time when there was bickering and bitterness toward each other with a pastoral rebuke. When believers divide and isolate themselves they render the witness of Christ in the world as impotent. This, the Apostle says, was a devilish tactic. Believers were not ignorant of these devilish schemes (“Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christso that we may not be exploited by Satan (for we are not ignorant of his schemes)” – 2Cor. 2:10-11). But little wonder then that the devil’s primary scheme to undermine God’s plan of redeeming the world is to isolate, to divide, to individualise believers – because he knows that if the world actually sees a united, devoted, forgiving, self-sacrificing community of Christ-followers, they stand the best chance of becoming believers in the Christ. And the devil does all he can to prevent people coming to believe in Christ. 

 

THE MEANS OF FULFILLING JESUS’ PRAYER

In a world that is now more indifferent toward Christianity than any other time in history, the need for apologetics to advance the Gospel is desperately urgent. But without a network of strong, healthy, vibrant local churches led by caring, unifying shepherds (pastors and elders, officers and deacons, small-groups leaders) who do all they can to assemble their flocks weekly to feed their sheep and tend their lambs, apologetics can only do so much. Because when a local church becomes a model of a loving, accepting, forgiving and a well-disciplined community of passionate fully-devoted followers of Christ, the work of Gospel proclamation, and even apologetics, is made all that much easier. It is my hope that we will be willingly led by the Holy Spirit to be such a church!

Amen.

Your Pastor,

Andrew

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PENTECOSTALISM, THE TWO SIDES OF REVIVAL

home > Pastor's Desk > 2024 >June 21st > PENTECOSTALISM, THE SIDES OF REVIVAL Pentecostalism began with a move of God - a revival. This happened on a Jewish Festival called the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1). This was when the Holy Spirit was given and poured...

MY BIGGEST BURDENS

A burden is something that weighs on you. You could be burdened emotionally because a relationship that is weighing on you. You could be burdened psychologically because of the weight of a looming deadline. You could be burdened spiritually because of the weight of guilt you are carrying. You could be burdened physically because of your weight and depleted strength. We all carry burdens. There are seasons in our lives where some burdens a big and you do not feel that you will be able to bear up under the enormous pressure you are under. Those seasons will pass. For those in leadership there is the constant burden of the weight of responsibility that must be carried. (Have you ever noticed what this kind burden bearing does physically to a President or Prime Minister over their term in office?) In the Bible we read that GOD actually gives people burdens so that they become stronger, wealthier, happier, and more productive. These types of burdens always involve caring for others. (Have you ever considered why Jesus was sweating great drops of blood as He was praying just before He went to the Cross via His hours of humiliating pummelling, beating, scourging, hair-pulling, and mockery?) I want to share you with you why I am now carrying an enormous burden that I would consider that biggest burden I have ever had to carry. I do so in the hope that this might help you to bear your burdens with greatest expertise and joy. Yes, joy.

HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR RELATIONSHIP SKILLS

This year we have been laying a foundation for knowing God and then each Sunday building upon it. Throughout June we are focusing on how knowing God enables us to find our joy in Him and consequently to discover that He enables us to find joy in our relationships with others. But sadly, for many people who have vowed to love, serve, and follow Jesus, this has not always been easy to do. This is why the current sub-theme of humility is critically important if someone desires to truly experience joy in each of their various relationships with others. 

KNOWING GOD

In the past few months, we have been hearing in Church and also by reading the Pastor’s Desks that through the Psalms and by the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, we can know God more. The Psalms show God as our Shepherd, God’s character is unchanging, we can be still and know Him, and that He is poetic. The Fruit of the Spirit reminds us that God is faithful, gentle and kind, and that we need to stay close to Him in the same way a baby gets nutrients from its mother through the umbilical cord. Knowing these things, we can become more like God as He helps us outwork His character in our lives. Philippians 3:10 challenged me in this regard some time ago.

RULES RULES AND MORE RULES

What comes to mind when you hear the word Rules? For some, it is a welcome relief to all the chaos surrounding us. Rules can provide comfort, safety, stability, predictability and protection. But for many others, as soon as you hear the word rules, it causes you to sigh loudly, followed by the instant urge to do the opposite. It can cause an immense sense of frustration along with that feeling of being boxed or caged in. Then some rules are plain silly as they make no sense, or there appears to be no apparent reason for why the rule/s exists in the first place. 

The Vine and the Umbilical Cord: Life, Abiding and Bearing FruitThe Vine and the Umbilical Cord: Life, Abiding and Bearing Fruit

Jesus’ allegory in John 15:1-17 of the vine and the branches provides a beautiful picture of the intimate and living relationship available to those who would abide in Him, the true Vine; and it illustrates how naturally the Holy Spirit is able to produce fruit in the lives of those who are willing to be branches abiding in the vine.

Knowing God Through The Fruit Of The Spirit

I’m sure you can picture an occasion where food delicacies are served and someone is there who has lost all sense of decorum to the point of being rude to get to the food before others and is unable or unwilling to engage in any level of conversation for the sake of finding the choicest of foods. Maybe that was you or me on occasions. Or an All You Can Eat challenge restaurant. It is a picture of complete lack of self-restraint (especially if Homer Simpson is involved). Whilst we are away, I am looking forward to visiting a town (Kenilworth) with a bakery tourist attraction that sells 1kg doughnuts. I’m not sure what will happen there, but I can imagine many have risen to a challenge.

WHAT CHARMING BETRAYERS DESERVE ACCORDING TO THE PSALM OF KING DAVID, NUMBER 55

Australia is now grappling with a national crisis — the violent abuse of women by men. Every four days in Australia a woman is being murdered [Source]. The sad probability is that she was murdered by “a current or former intimate partner” [Source]. But added to this alarming statistic is the even greater and more horrifying statistic of number of women who are experiencing abuse – physical; sexual; verbal; financial; psychological – daily. In fact, it is so prevalent that most people working in this arena know that most domestic abuse incidents in Australia are not reported. Abuse is oppression. And since the Bible is so clear and consistent in its condemnation of oppression of the vulnerable you would naturally assume that this national crisis was being thundered and denounced as a great evil from the majority of pulpits around our country at the moment. This assumption is further reinforced by the guesstimate that one-in-four women in every Australian church is regularly abused in some way by a man. But I suspect that it is not.

KNOWING GOD THROUGH PSALM 23

My cat, Lola, had a beautiful, fluffy, soft coat. I had her for 13 years so I knew her very well. She loved a cuddle and snuggling at night sleeping in the crook of my arm. She loved me but with others she could be a rascal, hissing or swiping her claws. She never scoffed her food but was a grazer. It was common to hear her crunching her biscuits for a midnight snack and she loved ice cream. She loved hiding in cardboard boxes or in the pantry. She particularly hated the car evidenced by her continual mournful meowing til she got out. As I knew her, she also knew me. She knew I would feed her and give her pats or cuddles. When I called her she knew my soft voice, my touch, my smell. She knew my growly voice when she had done the wrong thing. When I’d take her to the vet she would be still in my arms as the vet examined her and vaccinated her. If she was injured or sick I would look after her.

KNOWING GOD THROUGH PSALM 22

The Bible is an amazing book. As we look through the book of Psalms we can so unbelievably clearly see God at work. And also most poignantly, this Psalm – Psalm 22 – prophetically points to, and closely mirrors Jesus and the events of the cross mentioned in the New Testament. This Psalm is well over 1000 years prior to Jesus.There are some well known passages of Scripture that stand out as being prophetic promises of the Messiah. These prophetic words show us that God is Omniscient; He knows everything. The first Messianic prophecy shows that the seed of the woman would eventually defeat the devil.