Archive for September, 2016

Doing from being!

September 21, 2016 Leave a comment

These are the notes of the sermon I preached at my Dad’s funeral. I kind of had the privilege of preaching what I wanted to but something had been on my mind for months, and I just want to share that here. 

I had become increasingly disturbed by the picture of who we are in the latter half of Romans 7. Here Paul paints a picture of a person who rarely does the good and often loses the fight against doing the bad. I thought I’d resolved the issue when I read in Eerdmans commentary that ‘most commentators now agree Paul was talking of his pre Christian experience’ and that a large part of the Greek is in the past tense. However, I then read that a number of commentators, including John Piper(for whom I have a great deal of respect), do believe this is part of normal Christian experience. You can look up this (good humoured) debate on Google, just type ‘Romans 7 John Piper’. That did help me a bit and I guess that I arrived at a view that says Paul was describing the pointlessness of struggling in our own strength, especially as at the end of Romans 7 when there is the huge sigh of relief when Paul says thank goodness we have Jesus Christ! Then he goes on to all the great stuff in Romans 8 ‘no condemnation’ ‘adopted children’ ‘no longer slaves of fear’, ‘God works all things together for the good’. We find a parallel in Galatians where Paul says, ‘O foolish Galatians’ in reference to their returning to living life in their own strength according to moral laws. Paul urges them to walk in the power of the spirit.
I was wondering whether there was anything else in scriptures that would help when I came across the wonderful hymn or saying, summarising the Christian life, in Titus 3. Paul instructs Titus, ‘ This saying is trustworthy and I want you to insist (repeatedly stress) these things so that believers in God will do good works’. In the preceding verses Paul talks of ‘the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit’. And I was like yes! There it is in no uncertain terms and Paul is instructing Titus to insist on it (repeatedly stress it)! So we are transformed at the core and we must be continually transformed by the renewal of the Holy Spirit. This way we can live powerful lives and begin to see happen the things of God we can’t even imagine! (Ephesians). That is a summary so please read on if you wish 😀
(The reading was John 1:1-14)

I want to concentrate on the two verses that describe our believing in his name and of our being reborn of God, that is John 1 verses 12 and 13

‘12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.’

In the notes of the Passion Translation for verse twelve, Brian Simmons writes that believe in his name, or lay hold of his name or ‘those who are putting faith into his name’ ‘means to believe all that he represents and put into practice what he taught, all in the power of his name’. Now this belief in practice is intimately linked to who we are because John immediately goes on to describe in verse 13, that we both have the right to become children of God and that we undergo a process of rebirth, we become children born of God! Now I’m going to switch these two points around, faith in Jesus name in practice and our being reborn of God, because I want us to see the importance of who we are being the place from which flows belief in practice through the power of his name. Our doing flows from our being . .
Who we are:

In Titus 3:8 we read, ‘The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works’. Paul wants Titus to insist on these things so that believers will do good works, what things? Well we have to look to the verses before . . ‘4But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.’ We have a wonderful description of the Light coming into the world as the goodness and kindness of God appearing, then the fact that we are not saved by works but according to mercy and then, and this is what I really want you to take note of, we are saved ‘by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit’ And Paul in instructing Titus is saying ‘I want you to insist on these things so that believers will do good works’. Do you see the link here, who we are by regeneration or rebirth as children of God leads us to do good works! John talks of being born of God, Paul talks of regeneration, this is no mere accounting thing, not merely transactional explain. Paul says we must constantly stress these things, why? There is a danger sometimes that we think God looks at us with a special pair of glasses, with them on he sees us as pure holy and blameless, with them off he sees us as we are actually are, a bit messed up. When in Colossians 1:22 it says Christ presents us to God as pure, holy and flawless, in God’s presence. Is that just in the future? There is no tense here, it’s now and in the future, there is a definite sense here of who we are! 
Does that mean we are perfect, of course not! We are a work in progress and we know we struggle with sin often. But its too easy to conflate our mistakes with who we are and the devil would love to steal away our true identity by tempting us to think badly of our true being, trapping us in a cycle where we do sin he whispers in our ear, ‘see, that’s who you really are’. In Corinthians it says our spirit is united with Christ, also in Corinthians we are described as new creatures, something fundamental has happened to us! I like to think we have been transformed at the core, like molten metal, pure at the core, with the dross gradually being pushed to the surface to be cleaned away. And our washing by regeneration through the holy spirit is a continuing process! And an amazing one, because as we begin to realise who we truly are, transformed at the core, we start to live the powerful Christian lives God had/has in mind for us.
So when we operate in the name of Jesus Christ it’s not just a magic name. After all the priest of Sciva in Acts tried that and the evil spirits made the possessed man beat them up. The evil spirits could not see the spirit of a man united with Christ, so the use of Christ’s name was ineffective. As reborn Christians, united with Christ, we have real spiritual authority and power to bring the transforming gospel into people’s lives to save and to heal. It’s a wonderful thing to partner with God and see lives transformed, in our south Yorkshire days we saw people’s lives amazingly transformed as they believed in Jesus name, were washed and renewed through the power of the Holy Spirit. New believers immediately began to tell their neighbours and friends and within just a few years the church had grown by several hundred! My Dad wasn’t a charismatic at the time, but the Holy Spirit broke out delivering people from the power of the occult, bursts of creativity as people wrote songs, prophesy and speaking in tongues. My Dad was not offended, he did not resist the spirit and was humble enough to call on the help of the local Pentecostal minister on occasion. So scripture tells us we are transformed and experience tells us as well and I could tell you numerous stories of people from this church and elsewhere who have experienced transformation and healing and then gone on to be a powerful transforming influence in their communities and workplaces.
One other thing about my Dad, he had courage, he did it scared. If you’re waiting till its no longer scary, get over it! We can only learn this stuff by experience (are we over taught and under experienced?) and we have to do it scared, embarrassed, cringing and so on? What do I mean? Well when we look for opportunities and are prepared to behave differently, there comes a scary moment. For example, a year ago or so I offered to pray with a supervisor at Morrisons who had been telling the cashier about her bad back, we chatted I offered to pray, there was a horrible, scary moment and I nearly bottled it. Part way through the Holy Spirit broke in and we both became silent in wonderment. I spoke to her recently and she confirmed her back had been healed. So next time someone in church or someone at work or wherever tells you about a distressing situation, offer to pray with them! A simple prayer addressing the situation in Jesus name is all that is required. For example, ‘I command all pain to go in Jesus name’ We can all tell our personal story, practice it, so you are ready. We can all pray for healing and wholeness and we can all bless people with kindness. Because of who we are and the name of Jesus we can see powerful results when we are obedient and allow the Holy Spirit to move.
I want to throw out a challenge to us evangelicals and say that all the theology that applies to saving also applies to healing. We wrongly step into the sovereignty of God if we tell someone, ‘you will be healed today’. Similarly if we say that someone will only be healed in heaven, we wrongly step into Gods sovereignty. As evangelicals the battle was fought to evangelise against those that said we didn’t need to because God was sovereign and he would just save if he wanted to . . apply that to healing! So we are left with two things, one we have to be obedient to the commissions, ‘heal the sick and tell the kingdom of God is at hand’ (it can be grasped) and even the great commission says and teach them all the things I have taught you. Second the scriptures are very firm in stating God’s goodness, hold onto the fact that he is good and his intentions are always the best they can be at all times . . . yes when we look around we have questions, but we not called upon to build theology on such questions or observations. So when you offer to pray for someone, believe that God is good and be obedient.
So, you are a new creation (for a new Kingdom)

God is good

Do it scared

Imagine and pray yourself into situations

Like Jesus you can be obedient to Father God and like Jesus you can operate in the power of the Holy Spirit and do the things Jesus did and greater things as John says in his gospel, Jesus also says in John, ‘as the father sent me, so I am sending you’

Finally, like Ephesians says we just can’t imagine what God has in store for us, it’s so exciting, we are on the brink of a new season – God’s on the move, get on board!

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