Sermon Theme for coming weeks – How God changes us for the better

butterfly

My overall theme in this month’s sermon series is ‘How God changes us for the better."

Last week we looked at the life of Jacob and this week I want to talk about a rather ignominious character from the New Testament, Zacchaeus. Most of us learned about what Zacchaeus did in Sunday School. He climbed a Sycamore tree to see Jesus over the heads of the crowd. My interest is what was going on inside Zacchaeus that caused Jesus to signal him out for special love and attention. The deepest expression of love is to give another person our undivided attention and because God loves us perfectly we always have His attention.

See you on Sunday!

Coming and Going

Matthew 16:13-27.                                                                                             

9 September 07

tracks in the sand

Before I begin I want to thank you for your very warm welcome and support and hospitality. Thank you for opening your hearts and even your homes to us.

Now every preacher has a different style and it’s my conviction that you are going to retain more of the weekly message if you not only hear it but can also see it and review it. Researchers have discovered that we forget 90% of what we hear within 72 hours. So I hope you will use these notes but if you don’t want to that’s okay too.

Now as you can imagine the last few months have been a time of great transition and change for us. After almost twenty six years in my previous Church coming to
St Andrews is a very big change. And as we know change isn’t always a comfortable experience. And yet to live is to experience change.

But no matter how great life’s challenges and changes are there are two things we can always rely on and these are the unchanging love of God and the fellowship of His Church. Frances and I have lived in several countries around the world but we have always felt at home because of the fellowship of God’s people. Christian fellowship is a wonderful thing and I hope that we at
St Andrews will always be good at it..

Now God also calls us to change, to make changes in our lives.And I want to talk to you this morning about two of the greatest changes we have to make if we want to follow Jesus. And they can be summed up in just two words, which I have used in my title – the words are to come and to go.

Jesus began his earthly ministry with an invitation to come and he ends with a command to go.

‘Come to me’ and ‘Go and make disciples’,- words that help sum up of our response to the Gospel. And this is what I want to talk about this morning.

Let’s have a closer look at them.

I. COME TO ME

The first people that Jesus invited to ‘come and follow him’ were two brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew his first two disciples,

“Come follow me”, and I will make you fishers of men.” And we read that, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” Mark 1:17 & 18

On another occasion Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28

And everywhere Jesus went he extended this invitation to people and others picked up on it and repeat it again and again throughout the New Testament in one form or another. In Jn chapter 4 we read about a Samaritan woman who was so excited by her meeting with Jesus that she ran back to her village and urged everyone to come and see this amazing man.

“Come and see the man who told me everything I ever did.” John 4:29

So Jesus invites us to come and follow him and it’s been my very great privilege to be a follower of Jesus for most of my life and I can honestly say have never regretted it. Jesus has always been faithful he has never let me down.

But it is a journey of faith and obedience. (Trust and Obey)

One of the reasons that I love the story of Simon Peter’s life, and remember he was the first to accept Jesus invitation to follow Jesus, is because his story of discipleship is about someone on a journey. Simon had moments of great insight and courage but also moments of blindness and failure and sometimes they came very close together. 

Peter had to learn what it meant to follow Jesus just like we do. It’s a life long commitment.

In 1998 Frances and Matt and I went in
Israel and in the north of
Israel we visited a place at the foot of Mt Hermon near a town called Banias. And its there that Jesus took his disciples one day and he said to them “I want to ask you a question”, “Who do people say that I am?”  (Context –background history)

And they replied ‘people say that you are a very great man some say John the Baptist even Elijah, or Jeremiah or one of the prophets’.

But what about you, “Who do you say that I am?”

And a big fisherman, yes Simon Peter gave him the answer that he had been waiting for. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matt.16: 16.

And Jesus said “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to by man, but by my Father in heaven.” vs. 17

That was the first time someone other than Jesus recognised who he was. And Jesus said ‘Now I can build my Church.”

And Peter must have felt ten feet tall, on top of the mountain but it made him somewhat presumptuous because look what happens next.

Jesus goes on to talk about his death vs. 21 “that he must go to
Jerusalem and suffer many things.and that he must be killed.” 

“And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” vs. 22

“Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men.” vs. 23

Poor Peter only minutes before he had clearly heard God and was able to make this great confession of faith only now to find that he way off track. How could he get it so wrong? 

I think Peter’s success the first time made him a little presumptuous

Q. When does faith become presumption? It’s a very interesting question. 

I think it’s whenever use our faith to protect and promote our self-interest. Peter’s plans didn’t include Jesus death on a cross. He wanted Jesus for himself and whenever our faith makes demands of God we can be sure we have moved into the realms of presumption. God owes me or if I have enough faith God will heal me.

Q. Was Peter presumptuous in rebuking Jesus and telling him not to talk of dieing?

We know that he was and a second time Peter shows that he still didn’t understand on the Mt of Transfiguration, which was the very next thing that happened (Matt. 17) Expand. Peter wants to prolong the experience of being with Moses and Elijah and Jesus by building shelters. 

And Jesus said to Peter, “You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men.”  And there is our clue about Peter’s lack of spiritual maturity.

Peter had not yet learned, what every believer needs to learn, that coming to Jesus means coming without any conditions. “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.’

It’s about being Christ centred and as soon as we put something else at the centre of our faith, even good things like the church or the Bible or people we admire we are likely to move from faith to presumption.

Q. Has that ever happened to you I wonder, has your faith ever turned to presumption?  It has certainly happened to me. 

Example. When the Church is going well we going well and when it’s not going well we not going well – that’s presumption. Christ is Lord of the Church, it belongs to him, it’s not my job or yours to make the church successful, our job is to be faithful. 

But the encouraging thing about Peter’s life is that Jesus loved him and used him in a wonderful way in spite of his human frailty. Peter often stumbled when he was with Jesus. Who can remember the next time? (Peter’s denial –expand)

But by the end of his life a much wiser Peter wrote his letters to the scattered church of
Europe and
Asia he is careful to instruct the young the believers in the faith in this simple truth;

Come to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but precious to God who chose him. And now God is building you, as living stones, into his spiritual temple. ” 1 Peter 2:4 NLT

If you are a Christian it’s because YOU HAVE Accepted God’s invitation to ‘come’ to Him through Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the way and the truth and the life’. He is not the bearer of some marvellous truth about God. He is the way, and the truth and the life.Holding a Christian philosophy or going to Church won’t save us if we don’t first  “Come to him.” (Story of explorer) 

Jesus bids us come but he also commands us to go.

II. Go And Make Disciples.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..” Matt. 28: 18 -19

The invitation to come is irrevocably linked with the command to go we can’t have one without the other. 

We come to Jesus in order to make sense of our lives – to discover who we are and whose we are. And as a result we learn that we have a heavenly Father who loves us and who has made a way for us to spend eternity with Him. Who no longer calls us servants but His children.

He has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of His commitment to us and the Holy Spirit is the One who brings God’s love into our hearts. 

“God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Rom. 5:5

And if its God’s love we won’t be able to keep it to ourselves. Remember Jn 3:16

Just like the Samaritan women who forgot about her shame and ran back to her village we too will feel compelled to go and share the good news where ever God calls to go. Frances and I here in KL because we are convinced that this is where God wants us to be and this is a very exciting adventure for us. Because the best place on earth is where ever God calls you to be.

In Matthew 28: 16-20 Jesus affirms three things,

i. He assures them of his power

“All authority (power) in heaven and on earth has been given to me” vs. 18

They had ultimately nothing to fear in this life and the next.

ii. He commissions them to make disciples.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..” vs. 19

iii. He promises them His presence.

“And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” vs. 20

We have been sent on the greatest task in the world but we have with us the greatest gift which is the presence of God.

Most of us are not evangelists or pastors but the way most people come to Jesus is not through evangelists it’s through the experienced of being loved by someone they meet in their everyday life.

80 to 90% of people are converted through the influence of a friend, someone who loved them. Jesus said ‘come’ I want to know you and be known by you and at the same time I want to share God’s love, so ‘go’ and help others to find and follow me.

“Eve’s Revenge” A Review

Eve’s RevengeNever judge a book by its cover. That is one of the first, and for some of us continual, lessons we human beings learn about knowing others. With a slightly confrontational title like Eve’s Revenge, we’d do well to apply this lesson to books too. In her debut book by that title, Lilian Calles Barger explores what, if any, meaning the body has for us and how, as committed Christians, we should live in light of that. But beware – this is no self-help book, nor is it an instruction manual. Barger has been on a journey and she invites us to journey alongside her and make our own assessment which is one of the things I really appreciate about this book.

As I read the early chapters of this book, I felt an increasing heaviness over the ways in which women try to measure up to false standards of beauty, value, and success fed to us by incessant media broadcasts and advertisements. We are all born into imperfect bodies with imperfect souls but there’s an endless range of products and services available to help us in our quest to measure up. Religious and non-religious women alike are lured to either renounce the body as having nothing to do with the true self; or use their resources to take control over their body – even alter it, to create a culturally acceptable identity for themselves. But those diverging paths do not lead to integrated lives. We need lives that have meaning where our embodied experience points us to greater realities beyond ourselves.

There is one who we can look to as we seek, in Barger’s words, “a spirituality that allows us to remain in the body as we reach for something greater and outside ourselves, along with a social vision that redeems the whole person in community and in place.” It is none other than Jesus of Nazareth who came to give us abundant life. In his ministry on earth, Jesus treated women inclusively as able-bodied participants in ushering in the

Kingdom of
God among us. In a culture where women’s bodies were often seen as unclean, he was not afraid to extend his healing touch, welcoming all who would come to him into God’s peace and freeing them from a life of exclusion. He teaches us by his example to live lives of congruence between body and spirit in the places where we find ourselves today. Reading this book has reinforced my love for Jesus and it has awakened in me a desire to see other women know him and live lives of wholeness in Christ-centred community.

For those of us within the church this book is a wake-up call to begin thinking about our bodies as God’s good creation, bearing His image. We must realize that the things we do to our individual bodies have a communal significance. As the body of Christ on earth, our uniqueness is not something that we should harbour to ourselves but like our Lord we are to work towards reconciling a lost world to the transforming love of God. If you want to know where a lot of searching women are, and you doubt that the church has anything to offer them, may I suggest you read this book?

A new photo gallery

I migrated the church photos from Flickr to our very own photo gallery.

Why ?

1. Flickr costs money

    There is a free option but there are limitations and the long term option costs money

2. Flickr is an external host

    That means less flexibility in managing the photos.

    Being on flickr also means that there is a wider audience which is not the intention of the church photo gallery. It’s not written, but my intention for the photo gallery is for church members and other visitors to the church website.

3. Cost

    When I initially put up the gallery on Yahoo Photos, I did so to save costs. Yahoo Photos was free and offered unlimited storage. Yahoo Photos subsequently closed and offered migration to Flickr which I accepted. As mentioned above, Flickr is not free. The other cost was bandwidth. I had initial fears that members’ enthusiastic viewing of the gallery would use a lot of bandwidth. My fears are unfounded – our current hosting plan has more than sufficient bandwidth, I don’t remember how much but I have never once received warning that the website is consuming too much bandwidth.

The new gallery has almost the same great essential features for a photo sharing site:

1. comments – you can share your comments about the pictures

2. view as slideshow – if you are just browsing for yourself

3. easy upload (not relevant to most, but very relevant to the web administrator)

So head along to photo gallery and check it out.

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