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Archive for December, 2007

Covenants 2

60. Partake – The Christian Disciple and Bible Covenants 2

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 2 Corinthians 3v6-8

 

Following on from the Edenic, Adamic, Noahic and Abrahamic Covenants, comes the Covenant given to Moses. But before we continue our journey in Old Testament Covenants, first an explanation regarding some nuances about them.

 

Covenants were common in all kinds of life, and not just between God and humanity. For instance where a powerful nation had taken over a weaker nation, a covenant was in place to give benefits from the powerful nation to the weaker nation, such as protection as well as sanctions if the weaker nation rebelled. There were covenants between equal partners in deals similar to contracts of law today. The Covenant of the Old Testament had several things about them regarding the relationship between God and humanity.

 

Firstly, God always took the initiative – sometimes by surprise as in with Abraham or in Noah’s case, through his obedience.

Secondly, God has promised certain commitments and has given His solemn promise to fulfil His end of the bargain.

Thirdly, God waits for a response from humanity. God does not coerce or force but waits for humanity to take the responsibility of replying and acquiescing to God’s covenantal promises.

 

 

1. The Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 19v5-8)

 

 

This is the fifth covenant between God and humanity and also the second theocratic. It commences with the stipulation “Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me.” (Exodus 19v5). This covenant was to Israel in order that those who believed God’s promise to Abraham, could know how to live righteously.

 

This Mosaic covenant covered the three areas of life:

 

The commandments were given so they would know how to correctly relate socially to God (Exodus 20v1-6)

The judgements were given in order that they could relate socially to each other properly (Exodus 21v1 – 24v11)

The decrees dictate their religious life so that God could be approaced by humanity on His terms (Exodus 24v12 – 31v18).

 

This Mosaic covenant however, does not replacethe Abrahamic Covenant, but rather as an addition (Galatians 3v19) to it until the Messiah Christ came and made the perfect sacrifice (Galatians 3v17-19). The Covenants pointed towards this momentous event. The Mosaic Covenant was never meant as a means towards salvation. It was given that they could realize their helplessness of their own efforts, and their need of God’s help. Galatians 3v22-24 Explains that the Law was only a protective fence until through the promised Messiah, humanity “could be made right with God through faith.“

 

6. The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7v4-17)

 

This covenant is the sixth covenant and third theocratic covenant.

 

The Davidic Covenant promises three things :

 

* A land forever (2 Samuel 7v10);

* A dynasty without end (2 Samuel 7v11, 16)

* A perpetual kingdom (2 Samuel 7v13, 16)

 

2 Samuel 7v12 predicts the birth of Solomon as David’s successor to the throne with his role being to establish David’s throne forever (2 Samuel 7v13). We see this link to Jesus Christ, though the genealogies to both Joseph: a legal right to David’s throne (Matthew 1v1-17) and to Mary: a blood right to David’s throne (Luke 3v23-38).

 

7. The New Covenant (Jeremiah 31v31-34)

 

This covenant is the seventh covenant between God and humanity, and the fourth theocratic covenant.

 

Four features of this covenant are:

 

* Regeneration – On the hearts of people, God will write His law (Jeremiah 31v33)

* Restoration – God will be their God, and they will be God’s people. (Jeremiah 31v33)

* Promised Holy Spirit – God will indwell people and they will be led by Him (Jeremiah 31v 34)

* Justification – Sins will be forgiven and removed eternally (Jeremiah 31v34)

 

This new covenant is sealed only through the perfect sacrifice of the God-Man Jesus on the cross. His blood ensures the truth of this New Covenant. His death pays the penalty for the sins of all people who say yes to God and His New Covenant. This New Covenant is contrasted with the Old Covenant or the Mosaic covenant (Jeremiah 31v32; Hebrews 8v6-13) because this New Covenant finalizes what the Mosaic Covenant could only point to: the follower of God living in a righteous life conforming to God’s holy character.

 

Through all these Covenants we see a God who is willing to interact with His creation and bless it. When first century Christians such as Paul, Peter and John checked all the events surrounding the life of Jesus, they searched their Scriptures (our Old Testament). It was as the Holy Spirit illuminated their minds, that they wrote down and passed on the whole gamut of Old Testament promise which was fulfilled in God’s Messiah and the world’s hope: Jesus Christ and Him alone. That is why it is important for us as twenty-first century Christian Disciples to read our Old Testament as well as the new. For by reading the Old Testament, new light may be shed on our own understanding of the New Testament.

 

For more to think about please do read for yourself: Hebrews 9v24 to Hebrews 10v25. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

 

Q1. What does Jesus Christ’s death and the New Covenant, mean to me as a Christian Disciple?

Q2. Why and how can I, as a Christian Disciple, draw near to God?

Q3. As a Christian Disciple, what and how can I encourage those I meet?

 

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. Thank you.

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Covenants 1

59. Partake – The Christian Disciple and Bible Covenants 1

 

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9v14-15

 

If we as Christian Disciples are now under what the writer to Hebrews calls the “New Covenant”, what were the Old Covenants that preceded it? Over the next two Podcasts we shall look briefly at these Old Covenants and also the New Covenant.

Old Testament Covenants

1. The Edenic Covenant (Genesis 2v15-17)

This was the first covenant between God and man. Adam is commanded in the Edenic Covenant to

* Populate the earth (Genesis 1v28)

* Subjugate the earth (Genesis 1v28)

* Exercise dominion over animals (Genesis 1v28)

* Tend and enjoy the garden of Eden (Genesis 1v29; 2v15)

* Refrain from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2v16-17).

When Adam & Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the Covenant was terminated and the consequence was their spiritual and physical deaths. This failure required God to make a new covenant with Adam.

 

2. The Adamic Covenant (Genesis 3v14-21)

This second covenant between God and humanity, is also titled the covenant with all of mankind, as it lay down the terms and conditions which hold until sin’s curse is lifted (Isaiah 11v6-10; Romans 8v18-23). Because of Adam’s sin, we are all born under the curse of sin.

The terms and conditions of this covenant include:

* Satan is judged although- he will enjoy limited & temporal success (Genesis 3v15), but ultimately he will be judged (Genesis 3v15).

* The first Messianic prophecy is given (Genesis 3v15)

* Childbirth now involves pain and the woman is made subject to her husband (Genesis 3v16)

* The ground is cursed and weeds will grow amongst man’s food (Genesis 3vv17 – 19)

* Physical changes occur and now people sweat when they work all their life (Genesis 3v19)

* Because of the sin and disobedience, people die spiritually, and inevitably physically. (Genesis 3v19).

 

3. The Noahic Covenant (Genesis 9v1-19)

This is the third covenant between God and man given after the flood had wiped out earth’s population, apart from Noah and his family.

The terms of the Noahic covenant are

* Populate the earth is reaffirmed (Genesis 9v1).

* Subjection of the animals to humans is reaffirmed (Genesis 9v2).

* Humans are allowed to eat animal flesh but are to refrain from drinking/eating the blood (Genesis 9vv3, 4)

* Human life’s sanctity is established. (Genesis 9vv5, 6).

* God promises to never to destroy the earth again by flood (Genesis 9v11). But as 2 Peter 3v10 tells us, God will destroy it by fire!

* The rainbow is given as a symbol of this covenant and its existence (Genesis 9v12-17)

 

4. The Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12v1-3)

Whilst the Edenic, Adamic and Noahic Covenants were universal covenants, the fourth Covenant is the first covenant which is theocratic or relating to the rule of God. It is dependent on God alone, who by means of grace in the “I will,”. to bestow promised blessings.

This Abrahamic Covenant is also the basis for the theocratic covenants which follow and provides blessings in three levels:

* Personal level: “I will make your name great; and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12v2)

* National level: “I will make you into a great nation” (Genesis 12v2)

* Universal level: “all peoples on the earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12v3)

 

Initially this covenant was in broad outline, but God later confirmed it to Abraham in greater depth (Genesis 13v14-7; 15v1-7, 18-21; 17v1-8). The Abrahamic covenant is a link to all of God’s activities and programs until the end of time, when Jesus returns to gather His people to Himself.

 

The personal aspects of the Covenant, particular to Abraham are:

 

* father of a great nation (Genesis 12v1)

* receive personal blessing (Genesis 12v2)

* receive personal honour and reputation (Genesis 12v2)

* He will be a source of blessing to others. (Genesis 12v3)

 

The aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant, pertinent universally are:

 

* blessings on those who bless Abraham and the nation of Israel which comes from him (Genesis 12v3)

* curses on those who curse Abraham and Israel (Genesis 12v3)

* blessings on all the earth through the God’s coming Messiah, who is Abraham’s son and brings universal salvation. (Genesis 12v1-3 and Galatians 3v8)

 

The Adamic, Noahic and Abrahamic Covenants all look forward to the coming of the Messiah, as do the Mosaic and Davidic Covenants. All of history points to His coming. This was all part of Paul’s reasoning from Scripture with the Jews he came in contact with. Of course for Paul, as for us, the Messiah is Jesus Christ.

 

For more to think about please do read 2 Corinthians 3, ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

 

Q1. As a Christian Disciple, how do the Old Testament Covenants fit together and apply to me?

Q2. As a Christian Disciple, how does God make me competent, and for what purpose?

Q3. As a Christian Disciple, what affect does the ministry of the Holy Spirit have on me?

 

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. Thank you

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Evangelism 3 – MessageMethod

58. Partake – The Christian Disciple and Evangelism 3 – Method & Message

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10v45

Jesus Christ was the man born to die – this is what we celebrate at Christmas – when God who is outside of both time and space, entered history in the form of a human baby. His purpose as explained in Mark 10v45 was “to give his life as a ransom for many.” The Apostle Paul also preached this, but what was his methods and his message in full?

Paul’s Method

Reasoned from the Scriptures (Acts 18v3, 11)

Paul knew that Scripture had been revealed, inspired and illuminated by God

Paul knew that Scripture equipped for service

Paul knew that Scripture helped get to know God more

Paul knew that Scripture revealed God’s programme

Paul knew that getting to know Scripture was vital in order to be used in Evangelism.

Meet where people are

Synagogue (Acts 18v4, 6)

Market place / work (Acts 18v3)

Invited people to home (Acts 18v7)

Forged relationships (Acts 18v2, 8, 17)

Prepared to change strategy (Acts 18v6)

Paul overcame his own fears and limitations of his own weaknesses and relied totally on God’s power when witnessing

Why is the cross so central to the Gospel?

Paul’s Gospel was “Jesus and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2v2). The Gospel is the cross! As important as the incarnation, resurrection and ascension are, without Jesus’ death on the cross there would be no Christianity, and subsequently no hope for the world! Therefore, the interpretation that we place on Jesus’ death is paramount! That He died is without doubt, but why did He have to die and what gain do we have as His Disciples?

The Gospel Message!

By His very nature, God is loving and compassionate, forgiving, faithful and slow to anger (Exodus 34v6-7). This is the part, if we are being honest all of us are most comfortable with!! Yet God is holy, righteous and just and must punish sin because of this very same nature. That is the part we as 21st century people are uncomfortable with! We love to think of God as being all love and gentleness, but don’t like to think of Him as a Judge who must punish disobedience.

But remember that God loves righteousness and hates wickedness (Psalm 45v7). Therefore sin & disobedience must be dealt with and it cannot simply be ignored. Sin is humanity’s problem.

The Problem – Humanity’s sin

Sin is what separates humans from God and as a consequence leads to both a spiritual and physical death (Romans 6v23, Isaiah 59v2). Nobody escapes as all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3v23). In the Old Testament, sins were dealt with by blood sacrifices of atonement as coverings for sin (Leviticus 17v11), for without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin (Hebrews 9v22).

The Solution – God to the rescue!

The solution lies not in continual animal sacrifice of the Old Testament because Hebrews 10v4 reminds us that the blood of animals cannot take away sin but was only a veneer or covering. That was why it was necessary to repeat time and time again! It is only through the death of Jesus, that sin is taken away (Hebrews 9:v11-15, 26-28), and that was only needed once! Therefore Jesus is our permanent sacrificial substitute! That is why the elements of bread and wine in Communion or Breaking of Bread are symbolic, and not somehow changed into actual flesh and blood, as some would have us believe.

Substitution

Jesus died for our sin, the just for the unjust (1 Peter 3v18). That is how God is both just and the Justifier of sinners and that is why Jesus needed to be both fully God and fully human! If he lacked either, it would not be the full substitutionary sacrifice that was necessary to bear the permanent consequences of sin! This substitution was the sacrifice, required in order that Jesus as the Lamb of God could take away the sins of the world (John 1v29). He was the propitiation for all sin!

Propitiation

Propitiation is the turning aside of God’s anger by the offering of the sacrifice of Christ. Towards sin and sinful behaviour God necessarily has great fury, anger and wrath (Jeremiah 21v5). Hebrews 10v30-31 reminds us, “It is dreadful to fall into the hands of the living God.” Yet as Micah 7v18 “He is slow to anger and quick to forgive”. God’s anger and judgment of sin falls on Christ, instead of us. We need to approach God to appease His anger, in order to accept it (Romans 3:25; Isaiah 53:5; John 2:2, 5:6).

1 John 4v10: This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice (or propitiation) to take away our sins.

To some people, even some in the church, this is abhorrent! The very thought that God could willing send His son to be a blood sacrifice for sin is tantamount to child abuse! Richard Dawkins calls Jesus’ crucifixion an act of sado-masochism! Neither of these opinions is valid or true. God’s requirements are very clear as John 3v16 says it all in response to this “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”. If there were any other way, would not God have done it that way?

Redemption (Ransom) Mark 10:45

Not only was it propitiation, but also an act of redemption! In the time of the New Testament, this word was used to refer to the buying back of a slave – the price paid to buy the slave’s freedom. God paid redemption so that humans can be freed from the slavery to sin (John 8:35 Romans 7:14). The price was paid (1 Peter 1:18-19) and so we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). As Christian Disciples, we are bought at a price, and we have a new position before God! We are bought out of slavery to sin, into glorious freedom where we are now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:19); slaves to Christ (Romans 6:22). We are also Jesus Christ’s personal possession. But it is our responsibility to choose that way! God does not coerce forcefully – He leaves it as a choice for humans to make as individuals.

What is our response to this to be? Sacrifice, substitution, propitiation and redemption can be summed up in one word: love. For 1 John 3v16 states: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Jesus told us to take up our cross if we are to follow Him as His Disciple (Luke 9v23). Are you as a Christian Disciple willing to take up your cross and do all you can do to love others?

For more to think about please do read XXXX, ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. When I evangelise, what is the message I proclaim?

Q2. What can I adapt from Paul’s methods in order to help my evangelise?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. Thank you

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Evangelism 2

57. Partake – The Christian Disciple and Evangelism 2 – Endure

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4v5

Dealing with Evangelism

All Christian Disciples are called to do the work of evangelism. Not everyone will be an evangelist, yet we are called to tell and show others about Jesus – that is evangelism.

a. Overcoming barriers. There are at least six main reasons why Christian Disciples do not evangelise:

  • Do not know the bible well enough to answer questions
  • Entire friends are already Christian Disciples
  • Testimony is perceived to be dull and tedious
  • Others will wonder what took you so long, if you evangelise them now
  • Don’t know if my friends are true Christian Disciples or not
  • There is no easy way to tell the Gospel

Christian Disciples overcoming these hindrances, are then liberated to evangelise their local community.

b. Early starters! New believers were actively encouraged to evangelise from the time of their conversion. There seems as if there was not a two step process of conversion and then later undergoing evangelism training. More likely, that they gained perceptions about evangelism, whilst they were being evangelised. Evangelism is to be what a Christian Disciple is, rather than an activity that a Christian Disciple engages in.

c. Changing perceptions! The approach to evangelism has changed over the last few years. As Christian Disciples, it is the job of all Christian Disciples to evangelise and witness about Jesus, using the skills and perceptions they inherently hold. We are not to leave it up the Billy Graham’s and Luis Palau’s of this world. There is not just one style of evangelism. Interpersonal, invitational, serving, testimonial intellectual or confrontational styles are available for churches and Christian Disciples to use. An Christian Disciple’s use of any or all of these styles would be dependent on their own personality, talents and skills.

d. Lead by example! New Testament church leaders led by example, and actively persuaded others to do as they did. Paul commanded that the Corinthian church follow him as he imitated Jesus (1 Corinthians 11v1) This is a model imbued with dynamism, by which others can go on doing the work in their own way, without relying upon the church leaders!

e. Lead by teaching! As evangelism is prayed about, activated upon, discussed and enacted, Christian Disciples undergo evangelism training, even if they aren’t aware of it at the time. A good method is for training to be given, not just as a one off exercise but throughout the year. The reason for this, is so that every member has an opportunity to undergo some formal training when it is convenient for them as they see the leadership committed to evangelistic training! This training needs to be promoted from the front, so that every member can see the seriousness that the leadership think about evangelism. Bill Hybels recommends that every member of his church undergo evangelism training every two years!.

f. Neither powerless or alone! The main lesson for Christian Disciples to learn, is that evangelism can only truly be effective when undertaken under an umbrella of prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit’s power and authority, which allows the skills and talents of all people to be used as effective Gospel messengers. As Christian Disciples we need to continue reminding ourselves that it is Jesus Christ who is building the church, and that with the Holy Spirit’s power, we are neither alone nor powerless! After all, He is a Holy Spirit of evangelism. That is why as Christian Disciples, we need not fear the supposed rise of fundamental atheism or any other religion or -“ism”. We have the power of the Living God within us, to equip and use us for His glory and mission. People may be able to remove the supposed ‘spirit of Christmas’ from schools and other government buildings, but they can never take away the Spirit of Christ that indwells all Christian disciples.

g. Innovative evangelism! Not only would this make it new for the congregation, but possibly add an element of excitement, particularly if old evangelistic methods are being employed, and seemingly ineffective. Some ideas such as, having a prayer stall at the local market, or taking over a vacant shop on the high street for the explicit purpose of praying for people. The church could offer the use of its website as a local community forum, or ‘virtual local community hall, for community notices. Another way would be to hold internet-based events and/or forums, so that those who are housebound or are part of what some call the Internet Generation, have a platform to converse and discover about Christianity, particular for their youth and student work. Rightly or wrongly, the truth is that people are gathering like that, and discussing Christian issues. New methods also can be seen as making use of every opportunity, or as Michael Green puts it “godly opportunism”.

When in Corinth, despite his nervousness and worries, Paul knew God was in control (Acts18v10) and that’s why he stayed a further 18 months following his vision where God promised protection, security and companionship (Acts18v11). Paul endured in the face of opposition (Acts18v12-16). The Jews went to the Roman proconsul Gallio, complaining that Paul had started a new religion, for starting new religions was forbidden under Roman law. Anything that was a religion before the Romans assimilated was seen as a legitimate religion ie Judaism. Gallio however dismissed the Jewish case as mere internal bickering about minor details, and kicked the case out of court as it were. In doing so, Gallio had now made Christianity a legitimate religion within the Roman Empire, and this is why Paul stayed in Corinth a good deal longer (Acts18v18). Paul did not succumb to the temptations around him, because he only sought one thing – to declare “Jesus and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2v2). Perhaps that is how Paul won Sosthenes for Jesus Christ, as we read in 1 Corinthians 1v1, how he was travelling with Paul at the time of writing.

The world around likes to play clever tricks with us, just as the Jews did with Paul in Corinth. But we are to be, as Jesus commanded in Matthew 10v16, “shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.” We are to stay faithful to Jesus and sometimes it is difficult! It means staying faithful to Jesus and His will, regardless of opposition and alternatives. By doing this we endure and remain faithful to Him.

For more to think about please do read 1 Thessalonians 1v3-10, ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. What are the barriers that you need to overcome in order for you to evangelise?

Q2. Are you enduring and being persistent in your Christian lifestyle and evangelism?

Q3. How am I as a Christian Disciple, living a life that is shrewd like a snake and harmless as a dove?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. Thank you.

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Evangelism 1

56. Partake – The Christian Disciple and Evangelism 1

Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 2v1-5 regarding his first contact with the city of Corinth: “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

When he was going the 50 miles or so from Athens to Corinth, Paul was alone. He had left the intellectual centre of the ancient world, Athens, and entered Corinth, the cultural capital of the ancient world. Do you sometimes think that Paul was like a superman, always brash and utterly confident when engaged in evangelism? According to that passage, he entered with great nervousness, weakness and fear. He was not confident in his own ability or the way that he spoke and reasoned. But why should Paul have been this way with the city of Corinth?

Corinth

The city of Corinth is located on the narrow isthmus linking northern and southern Greece. It had two ports on either side, where small ships and boats could be dragged on greased planks the 3-mile journey across the isthmus, thus saving themselves a 200-mile journey through dangerous waters. It was therefore a natural place for fantastic links for commerce and culture across the known world. The world famous Isthmian games were held there. Paul’s reasoning for deciding to go there was probably along the lines of “If its good enough for commerce and culture to be spread from Corinth, even better for the Gospel to travel far and wide from that hub.” So he enters Corinth. But alas, with culture and commerce came its evil triplet – immorality. The temple, which overlooked Corinth, was dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite and had 1,000 prostitutes. Aphrodite was the goddess of love and sex. In those days to go “corinthianizing”, meant to go actively seeking immorality. These reasons are why Paul entered Corinth nervously – the proud and cultural intelligentsia, endemic immorality and the many temples to many gods including Aphrodite and Poseidon. The Corinthians were post-modern people, even before post-modernity! Their motto – “If it feels good, do it!”

Paul

Paul was nervous and weak in his own strength, but he was supremely confident in the Lord and the power of the Spirit to use him. What can we learn from Paul’s visit to Corinth and how do we apply them to our lives today in the 21st century? After all our modern cities and towns are no different from ancient Corinth!

Evangelism

Paul’s Message – The Gospel

The Gospel is Trinitarian – The Gospel is The Father’s mysterious revelation through the Son’s work on the cross in the power of the Spirit

The Gospel is Three Dimensional

Breadth of the Bible – all of Scripture is about God’s plan of Salvation.

Depth of the cross

Length of God’s mission

The Gospel is anathema and unpopular. The Gospel is never popular, and if it is, then it is not a truly Biblically Gospel. We have a false Gospel being preached where financial prosperity is the central claim. We have a false Gospel where Jesus is a cure all being the central claim. For Paul, and for all true Christian Disciples, “Jesus and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2v2) is the true Gospel.

Paul faced Jewish opposition

  • To the Jewish mindset, it was unthinkable that the Messiah would be crucified on a pagan Gentile cross (Acts18v6, 12-17).

Paul faced Gentile opposition

  • Jesus’ exclusive claim to be the only way, the only truth and only life challenged Corinthian pluralism & universalism! The Corinthians lived a life filled with many gods, why would they want to settle for just the One – particularly one who had died?
  • A life of holiness challenged Corinthian immorality! Exercise self-control? You are having a laugh, Paul. Ha ha.
  • God’s power challenged Corinthian cultured intellect! Some of the Athenians told Paul he was a babbler, and so would have the cultured and refined Corinthian intelligentsia.
  • Humility challenged Corinthian pride. To kneel at the cross, takes great humility. The Corinthians were a proud and cultured people, to whom the thought of humbly kneeling before a God was anathema. Much better to be devoting yourself to a goddess of sex. What more could a young Corinthian want than the mixture of religion and sex?

The same applies today. We are shouted down if we dare exclaim that Jesus is the only acceptable path to God. We are told there are no such thing as moral absolutes any more, and what’s right for you may not be right for me and providing I am not hurting anyone, stay out of my private business. Sex and sexuality are worshipped and adored as if they were gods in themselves. In an age of Scientific materialism and hyper-rationalism, people cynically laugh at us and say that we worship a dead man. We are often called fools for believing in Original Sin and deluded for believing in a God. Have you been called those things? I know I have. Humility is not looked upon as a strength today, its frowned upon as a weakness. The world says that if you want to get ahead in life, you need to be strong, show some backbone and don’t ever back down to anybody or anything. Certainly never admit you were wrong and had made mistakes! The way of the Gospel is to kneel before the Cross, admit your mistakes and sins and be prepared to serve and take up your own cross.

The world is quite willing to accept a harmless baby at Christmas, but not the violence of the cross that followed. That is why even atheists like Richard Dawkins like to sing Christmas Carols! The danger of Christmas is when the glorious incarnation of Jesus Christ, being both fully God and fully human, is diluted into fantasy along with Santa and his elves.

For more to think about please do read Acts 18v1-17, ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. Am I using all opportunities to build relationships and tell others a truly biblical cross-centred Gospel?

Q2. Am I growing and changing into the very likeness of Jesus?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. Thank you

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4 Questions

55. Partake – The Christian Disciple and Answering 4 Questions about Jesus

1. What’s in a name?

I wonder what your name means. People generally name their children for the hopes and aspirations about what their child will grow to become. For example, the name John, means “the gift of God”. I know somebody called Grace, and her nature is that of somebody full of grace. Nigel means “the champion”. My wife’s name means “Forever Beautiful” and she is! Some remote tribes in New Guinea, who knew no English, called their children after some English words they had heard, and liked the sound of, without knowing the meaning. One name was “Tinned Fish”. Somebody else was called “Second Gear”,

My name of David means “beloved” and when my parents named me, it was meant to symbolize the love they had for me. Although when I put the cricket ball through the kitchen window or the time I crushed the vegetable patch whilst running after a football, I did not feel very beloved afterwards!

When Jesus was born, his name imbued the very reason he was born. His conception and birth, were extraordinary at every level. So important is our understanding of the birth of Jesus, that no fewer than 4 angels come to give us a full picture of the event. Do you think that his parents, Joseph & Mary, or God, ever gazed upon him wistfully, and thought “How misnamed He is!” They did not, because they knew the very purpose for which He was born. His name means “one who saves” or a rescuer. His entire birth, life and death were centered around this very role. His role was to save all those who would follow Him.

He is the most talked about person in history. Almost everyone has an opinion about Him. He was born to confirm God’s promises and to reveal God as a Father, and to be our representative before Him. In doing this, He gave us an example of how to live a holy life to the full. He was not merely a man who received some special power, as some think. He was not some strange creation that was half man and half God, with his human nature somehow absorbed into the divine.

2. Good moral teacher?

The ancient Grecian philosopher Socrates offered “how we ought to live”, as a working definition of ‘moral‘. Did Jesus teaching reflect a good way to live, and if he did, what did he teach? Jesus’ moral code, revolving as it would have done around the part of the Bible we call the Old Testament, can be seen in “do to others, what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Some people refer to this as the “Golden Rule”. However, Jesus, as ever goes further than anybody else and says that it is not only the outward actions of a person that makes them morally good, it is also the internal attitude behind it.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, people such as Gandhi hold it as a paragon of virtuous teaching and regard Jesus as a great teacher. Although, this is the best-known teaching of Jesus, it is also the least understood, and certainly the least obeyed. Whilst Gandhi and his ilk see The Sermon on the Mount as a call to peaceful demonstration against provocation, this was never Jesus intention regarding this teaching. It is as somebody once said “a picture of God’s alternative society… containing the standards, the values and priorities of God’s Kingdom”. It was this that Jesus spoke in the Sermon, not as a general guideline for a pagan twentieth century pacifist to wallow in comfort and boundless joy. Jesus was a good moral teacher, certainly at least to his followers, but was he more than this?

To claim he was merely a good moral teacher is a foolish thing to say. Nobody could do or say the things that Jesus did, and not be God. He would in fact have to be who he said he was, or he is either a liar and/or a lunatic.

3. Jesus – fully human?

That Jesus was a man is not really disputed. The primary documents about Him, found in the Bible, says that he was born of a woman which in itself tells us that at least in a prenatal state he was nurtured and formed as any other male baby was and is. His genealogical line is given and He grew into maturity as any young Jewish boy did. With his humanity, he exhibited normal human emotions such as love, weeping, sadness, anger and anguish. Jesus ate and drank. He had a body and a soul. Jesus grew tired, he slept & perspired. Jesus died just as all mortal people do. Religiously, he worshipped as a Jew. Not only these facts, but the 4 ‘biographies’ or gospels written about him acknowledge his humanity. He was human in every way that we are – physically, mentally and emotionally.

The only exception to this, is that he was sinless, and yet we must ask could Jesus have sinned? Yes he was tempted just as we are, but could Jesus really have succumbed to temptation? We must conclude that while he could have sinned, it was certain he would not and did not.

But why did Jesus need to fully human? Firstly, so Jesus death could appease God’s anger with us. Secondly so that Jesus can empathize and pray for us. Thirdly, Jesus exhibited true and perfect humanity. Fourthly, due to his perfect humanity, Jesus is to be our example to follow. Fifthly, true human nature is good. Lastly, while God is both above and beyond, He is not so far removed from us, that He cannot interact with his creation.

4. Jesus – fully God?

This is what we celebrate at Christmas. One of the church father’s, Anselm, wrote that God’s salvation plan for humans involved triumphant victory over sin, death and the grave. However no person could be found that was eligible or capable to do this. Because of this, God stepped into the human history, so that this victory could be achieved. This God-man would be fully human, so as to live every feature of humanity, including suffering and death. This God-man would also need to remain fully God, so as to defeat sin, death and the grave. Jesus, being sinless, was this God-man, consisting as he did of two complete natures, the God nature and the human nature.

How is it possible, you may well ask. If you take a pint of milk, and you pour the milk into a milk jug, the milk remains milk, although it is now in another container. In the same way, God inhabited a human body, thereby still being God, but also being human.

Throughout the Bible, Jesus is acknowledged as God. The apostle John expressly calls Jesus, the Word or God. Later on in his life, John expressly stated that Jesus was “the true God and eternal life”. Jesus himself claimed equality with God and when He stated “your sins are forgiven”, some of the Jewish rulers attributed this as a God alone thing and thereby accused Him, at least in their minds, of blasphemy against God! During the questioning when He was on trial for blasphemy, again Jesus equated himself with being God.

That Jesus is both human and divine, is what makes Christianity unique amongst the world’s religions. It is why Jesus’ claims to be the only way to God are true and make sense, and it is why millions of people today worship Him and acknowledge Him as their Lord and their God.

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Dawkins: I’m a cultural Christian

Scientist Richard Dawkins, an atheist known worldwide for arguing against the existence of God, has described himself as a “cultural Christian”. He told the BBC’s Have Your Say that he did not want to “purge” the UK of its Christian heritage. The comments came after Tory MP Mark Pritchard accused “politically correct” people of undermining Christmas. Professor Dawkins, author of the God Delusion, added that he liked “singing Carols along with everybody else”.

On Have Your Say, Mr Pritchard told Prof Dawkins there was an “increasing feeling” that “many of the main Christian festivals are being sidelined and marginalised, sometimes by stealth, sometimes openly”. This, he argued, would allow groups such as the British National Party, to utilise Christian imagery for their own ends.

Prof Dawkins, who has frequently spoken out against creationism and religious fundamentalism, replied: “I’m not one of those who wants to stop Christian traditions. This is historically a Christian country. I’m a cultural Christian in the same way many of my friends call themselves cultural Jews or cultural Muslims. So, yes, I like singing carols along with everybody else. I’m not one of those who wants to purge our society of our Christian history. If there’s any threat these sorts of things, I think you will find it comes from rival religions and not from atheists.”

Last week, Mr Pritchard called a parliamentary debate on “Christianophobia”. The MP for The Wrekin, Shropshire, complained that Christian heritage was being undermined by secular officials and public figures. During that debate, community cohesion minister Parmjit Dhanda told MPs that Christianity had had a “significant impact” in securing people’s rights and freedoms. He added: “I fully recognise the full historical and cultural significance [of Christianity] in our country.

And the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips, said schools were wrong if they thought celebrating Christmas excluded children who were not Christian. He said: “Christmas and the celebration of Christmas in this country, though it is a religious festival, is one in which people who are of no religion – or other religions – can share.”

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