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DEEPER SPIRITUALITY

I don’t normally share like this so please excuse me for being a bit more personal than I am normally in these Pastor’s Desks. Last Sunday morning I awoke with a strong sense that I needed to incorporate the vision of Ezekiel’s Temple as a framework for us to think about our year ahead in my sermon for that day. I had to re-jig my presentation (which as you might be aware involves a bit more work than they way most other preachers do their slides). This is why I arrived at church a little later than I normally comfortable in doing. I was particularly gripped by this divine vision given to Ezekiel of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring in the New Covenant with Christ Himself being the Temple-Source (John 2:19-21). While I was preaching to our church community (in-person and online) I was also preaching to myself. As a result, Kim and I continued  in prayer and fasting for the rest of our Sunday. I now want to invite you to consider again Ezekiel’s picture of the Spirit-filled Christian life as the map for going deeper with God.

“FORMAL” CHRISTIANITY IS LIFELESS, POWERLESS, AND BORING

It’s my guess that most people regard Christianity as an outdated institution that is largely irrelevant. Sadly, I suspect that too many people who would consider themselves Christians regard Christianity as merely about them and their particular religious observances such as: attending church services, participating in the Eucharist (also referred to as Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper), and performing other religious observances such as lighting prayer candles or contributing to the church’s weekly collection. In the words of the apostle Paul, these people might have a “form” of Christianity but they do not know God or His power in their lives (2Tim. 3:5). Having a form of Christianity like this, but never having experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in transforming your soul into the image and likeness of Christ is a rather lifeless form of Christianity. If that’s where you’re at, I invite you to go deeper into the water of God and seek to experience more of the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 3:19). 

And do not get drunk with wine,
for that is debauchery,
but be filled with the Spirit
Ephesians 5:18

In Ezekiel’s vision of the New Covenant which Yahweh revealed to him, he saw it as a ‘Temple’ twice the size of Solomon’s Temple with a headwater of the Holy Spirit’s life-giving, soul-transforming, miracle-working ‘water’ flowing out from under the Temple’s east door’s threshold Ezek. 47:1). The further that water traveled east, the deeper it got, and in the vision, Ezekiel was invited to walk further and deeper into it. This was a picture of what it’s like to walk with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13, 19; 1Cor. 2:4; Eph. 3:16). Coincidentally, the eastward direction from the Jerusalem Temple is largely dry wilderness, then desert. But Ezekiel is shown that wherever the water of the Holy Spirit goes, what was once barren becomes lush and fertile (Ezek. 47-8-9). This is a challenging picture that reveals that the purpose of the Spirit-filled life is not for the believer’s amusement, but for the empowering of the believer’s response to Christ’s summons to take the hope of rescue and soul-healing to a people lost a harsh world of barren spiritual darkness (Acts 26:18).

GO DEEPER IN YOUR CHRISTIANITY

How does Ezekiel’s vision of the New Covenant (Christianity) expect the faithful to go deeper? It begins with surrender and living to make God, His Word, and His will our highest priority (Matt. 6:33; Rom. 12:1-3). While formal Christianity is all about external appearance, real Christianity is a matter of the inner-life of the believer. The true believer is being transformed by the Holy Spirit who abides in them (Jn. 14:17). The Holy Spirit takes us deeper by transforming our priorities, our passions, our past-times, our praying, and especially our concern for people. The Spirit-filled life is a life walking daily with Christ with our spiritual ears attentive to His voice and leading.

It is no mere coincidence that both the Holy Spirit (Jn. 7:38-39) and the Word of God (Eph. 5:26) are depicted as water. Both are indispensable for going deeper with God (Jn. 3:5). Both relate to how we pray. The Spirit leads the faithful to pray (Eph. 6:18). When a new believer starts out in their new life with Christ they learn that they can talk with God (Gal. 4:6). The Spirit invites the child of God into the Father’s presence to talk freely with Him (Heb. 4:16). As this new believer becomes a seasoned believer they discover while we continue to talk freely with our heavenly Father, we must also appreciate that our Father is the King, the King of the Universe, the All-Mighty King and Judge (Mat. 25:31-46; Rev. 20:12). The Spirit opens our eyes to this awareness of the magnitude of God. The growing awareness of the Father’s greatness increasingly transforms our prayers into petitions for the eternal destiny of people (Rom. 8:26; Col. 1:29) because we walk deeper into the eastward flowing water of the Holy Spirit. 

Don’t wait for a prayer meeting to begin praying. Don’t wait for your next Bible Study to take up God’s Word and feed your soul. The deeper life begins now. Pray now. Take up God’s Word now. Be a witness now. May God the Father grant us a greater revelation of God the Son by the power of God the Holy Spirit.

¶ The Spirit and the Bride say,“Come.”
And let the one who hears say, “Come.”
And let the one who is thirsty come;
let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
Revelation 22:17

Amen.

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

4 Comments

  1. Julie Davis

    Love the Ezekiel passage that relates to us ‘going deeper’ in Christ.
    Thanks Andrew for reminding me of that, and the importance of it.
    Makes me also think about the Samaritan woman at the well, who needed Jesus (the living water) . Jesus being the ‘complete no 7’ man in her life, to fulfil everything she needed.

    Reply
  2. Gladys Parry

    Thank you Andrew your written words touched me Thank you

    Reply

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THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.