Monthly Archives: June 2012

Sunday sermon 24 June – Giants and storms

Readings: 1 Samuel 17:1, 4-11, 32-49 and Mark 4:35-41

Giants and Storms

What a choice today!

A story about a giant who had his head chopped off, and the power of a man to calm the wind and the waves in a storm. Not bad for a winter tale sitting at the fireside.

How big is your problem then? How does it match up to these two tales today?

In both incidents people were not alone. They had community and unity. The soldiers had each other, their discipline and their training. They must have had some kind of uniforms – how else would you know who to kill in battle? And they had a king given to them by God.

The disciples were in the Jesus’ bible school – in training, and they had a couple of pretty decent fishermen with them who knew a thing or two about boats and fishing – and storms too.

And they had seen Jesus do stuff! Things that were indicative of power and authority.

In both cases the problem was just too big. In both cases there was fear. In both stories they needed a major injection in faith.

1. Too big a problem

Most of the things that worry us are in fact too big for us to solve or handle alone. In the case of the giant Goliath, it wasn’t just his physical size. It was also the way he taunted them! Much like modern cricket it’s more than expertise that wins the day – it’s also the sledging that goes on!

In our world we also get lots of words of discouragement from people – criticism, and words of doubt that make us question ourselves.

The source of this is Satan – who has various names. The name “Satan” means accuser. He causes us to doubt ourselves and also sidetracks us so that we focus on the wrong things.

The real issue with Goliath was that he opposed the God of Israel! The words of David put it into perspective really:

45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.”

We shouldn’t get squeamish of course. These were real soldiers and real wars. Admittedly it doesn’t make easy bed time reading for small children.

On Alpha this week we heard this story which puts it into perspective. It’s about Monty – General Montgomery:

A small precocious British boy was walking home from school and Monty picked him up in his jeep. The boy was quite chatty and asked him: “so what do you do?” Montgomery replied “I’m a  Field-Marshall”. “Oh that’s nice” said the boy. “My dad also works in a field. He’s a farmer. What do you do in the fields?”. “Oh”, said Monty, “I kill people.”.

“Can I get out now please?” said the boy.

No one doubts that the 2nd World war was way too big! The German army was way too big, as was their air force. The war in the Pacific was way too big. They were all giant problems. Had people known, they too would have been terrified – it’s just as well that they couldn’t see the world the way we do today with the internet and TV – all that instant stuff.

The storm too was just huge! The boat very small.

We feel quite insignificant at times too. As people. As a church. Even as a nation.

Luther put it well in his hymn:

A SAFE stronghold our God is still,
A trusty shield and weapon;
He’ll help us clear from all the ill
That hath us now o’ertaken.

The hymn also appears in this translation from the German:

A MIGHTY fortress is our God,   

A bulwark never failing;

Our helper he, amid the flood   

Of mortal ills prevailing.

2. Fear

A word about fear. In both passages today fear is predominant. In verse 24 of 1 Samuel 17 we read:  When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear.

Likewise the disciples have the same issues: Mark tells us in verse 38: The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

In both cases it would have been unhelpful to say “well actually there’s no need to fear really”. That’s the kind of things a parent, for example, does not say in the face of danger. The danger is real. The challenge is how to manage the situation. The parent should say – it is scary but I am here, so don’t be afraid!

In David’s case he used his tried and tested skills honed over years to deal with the problem. It helps to have people around who have been through it all and have the wisdom of years and practice.

Sadly because he was younger than his brothers they were not very supportive or enthusiastic. They had issues of course, and probably always would. Families are complicated and the people closest to you are not necessarily on the same page when it comes to believing in you. Or God! David did not listen to his brothers’ doubts. He was God’s man and God used him. And of course he was passionate about the honour of God’s name!

In the case of the storm the dynamics are different.  Going back to verse 38: The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

I’m interested in the next verses really – Jesus’ reaction is fascinating! 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Jesus acts decisively – and is very direct with the fearful followers.  I wonder what he wants to say to us about our fears?

3. A major injection of faith

I think our real need is a major injection of faith!

Perhaps Jesus’ response is about this – faith means trust. Don’t you trust me?

Maybe you should trust me, people! Maybe he is saying that to his whole church here!

Of course both David and Jesus silenced their critics! The disciples were actually terrified – if the storm made them afraid, then the calming of the storm really spooked them!

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

It’s a lovely phrase – “and they feared a great fear!” They were terrified by the whole event – and asked the key question: “who is this?”

This is Jesus – without whom nothing was made that has been made (John 1) – Jesus the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is king of the created order!

Stick around Peter and your mates. You will see greater things yet! For the disciples at that time, this was all new! They did not really know who Jesus was. In Mark’s gospel it is quite a bit later that Peter becomes the first to recognise Jesus as the Christ.

BOOSTING OUR FAITH

I wish there was a simple winter faith booster – like an injection! When things are bad – what is it that will increase our resistance to fear – to all those negative emotions that can overcome us? There are some resources we have though.

Worship, fellowship, prayer, the Bible, and the promises of God are vast and amazing.

And God keeps speaking to us.

Trust me! That’s probably the simplest summary!

Some problems seem so big that we can’t see the wood for the trees. I know that feeling all too well!

And I know that God is still saying to me – trust me.

Sometimes the problems are so big that it makes it simple to solve. In the case of Goliath – the good news was that he was so big that David couldn’t miss! Sometimes radical solutions are needed! David finished the giant off with his sword!

SO WHAT TO DO THEN?

THE STORM remains the best picture for us. When we feel that Jesus appears to be asleep in our boat, then we too tend to get anxious and panicky.

James Brooks, a commentator, put it this way:

Although Jesus may not always appear to be present or to care, he will deliver his people who are in various kinds of trouble.  Therefore his disciples should never doubt”.

SO HOW MUCH BOOSTING DOES YOUR FAITH NEED?

  • Let’s commit ourselves to depend more on the Lord each day!
  • Let’s open our hearts to His amazing love!
  • Let’s believe his promises!
  • Let us pray more

Let us pray now and ask him to take down our giants, and calm our storms.

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Sunday sermon 17 June – Cast your burdens unto Jesus

Readings: Philippians 4:4-8;  John 13:1-5; I Peter 5:7

We are so very connected in this generation. The trouble is that we get so much bad news so quickly. By text, phone, email, skype, facebook, twitter and plane old TV it comes our way. Too much bad news is discouraging and can be depressing as well. Think about the news that we do get. Here are some examples.

PERSONAL NEWS  – one man put a bumper sticker on his car that said: “Eat Right, Exercise, Die Anyway.” The Bible seems to back this up as  Proverbs 5:11 says, “At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent.”  A body that doesn’t cooperate is certainly depressing. A lot of personal news we receive is about people who are suffering in various ways.

INCOME TAXES for some people are depressing. I read that in a survey that most Americans would rather be mugged than audited by the IRS.  Jesus did say of course, “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21).

A story about taxes:  A little boy wanted $100 badly for a new toy and prayed to the Lord for two weeks but nothing happened. Then he decided to write a letter to the Lord requesting the $100. When the postal authorities received the letter addressed to the Lord they decided to send it to President Bush. The President was so impressed, touched, and amused that he instructed his secretary to send the little boy a $5.00 bill. President Bush thought this would appear to be a lot of money to a little boy. The little boy was delighted with the $5.00 and sat down to write a thank‑you note to the Lord. It said: Dear Lord, Thank you very much for sending me the money. However, I noticed that for some reason you had to send it through Washington, DC and as usual, those jerks deducted $95.

FINANCIAL PROBLEMS create stress too. I often hear voice mails that go like this: “you know what to do”…   One man  put this message on his answering machine. “Hi. This is John: If you are the phone company, I already sent the money. If you are my parents, please send money. If you are my financial aid institution, you didn’t lend me enough money. If you are my friends, you owe me money. If you are a female, don’t worry I have plenty of money.”

Again the bible seems sympathetic. Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” It is depressing be enslaved by debt.  One man commented, “If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.”

The list goes on. And most of these things have been around for a long long time. Add to this PERSONAL FAILURE and BAD RELATIONSHIPS.

There are some challenges that are really disconcerting however in this generation. A LACK OF PURPOSE is a big one. In the movie Fight Club, Tyler Durden one of the characters played by Brad Pitt says this:

“We are the middle children of history, with no purpose or place. Our generation has had no Great Depression, no Great War. Our war is spiritual. Our depression is our lives.”

No purpose leads to depression. Purposeless in life is endemic. It’s a huge problem amongst our teenagers – New Zealand at present has the highest suicide rate amongst young men in the OECD countries. It’s no wonder we really area concerned about building good things into the lives of young men in this community.

The Bible reveals this kind of attitude too, as Solomon wrote, “Everything under the sun is meaningless, like chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). That’s a good reason not to use the bible as a kind of game of chance – opening it up randomly for help – you might land up at that verse! The truth is many Christians feel like life is like chasing the wind.

Strangely PERSONAL SUCCESS can be depressing. Elijah the prophet as an example  had the greatest victory in his prophetic ministry, but a few days later was fleeing for his life. He then says: “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, I am no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kings 19:4)

Legend has it that Alexander the Great wept after he had conquered the world, saying, “There are no more worlds to conquer.” When you finally reach your goal after working hard, you can experience depression. We are not as famous as Alexander the Great! But if the project or job we do becomes more important than who we are in Christ, we will be in trouble.

PESONAL SIN – of course also causes stress and anxiety. A personal struggle with SIN can be depressing. The Bible soberly reminds us in Titus 3:3 – “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.”

Perhaps you are enslaved by an addiction and the struggle never seems to end and its discouraging to battle the same old behaviours. No need to list those – we are all familiar with them!

Here’s a story to lighten things up a bit: A little boy’s mother had just baked some fresh cookies and placed them on the counter to cool. The little boy made the comment to his mother about how good the cookies smelled. The mother told him he was not to eat any of the cookies. A few minutes passed and the mother walked back into the kitchen and caught the little boy eating one of the cookies. She asked for an explanation to which the little boy replied. ” I climbed up on the counter to smell the cookies and my teeth got caught on one.”

If you find yourself constantly sinking your teeth into sin don’t be surprised if you are feeling down or even depressed. The Bible again reflects this reality in the life of David in Psalm 38, “I am troubled by my sin. O Lord do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God.” David’s sin had caused him to be depressed.

DEALING WITH DISCOURAGEMENT AND DEPRESSION

So what is to be done? So many people struggle with an overwhelming sense of discouragement and even depression. Here are some ways through it:

1. Remember who God is.

PRAYER, PRAISE AND WORSHIP IS THE KEY

We’ve seen already that Bible people got depressed: Even Jesus sounded pretty bad in the Garden of Gethsemane:  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” (Mark 14:34). He prayed the most intense prayer and of course his disciples fell asleep!

David! Listen to him:  Psalm 42:5. “Why so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him my Saviour and my God.” David knew that the way out of his depths was to worship. Most people think being on their own helps and they isolate themselves. We know that being together with Christians is a better plan! Pray and worship!

Of course a greater example is Paul and Silas singing Hymns at midnight in jail! There is power in praise!

Prayer, praise and worship put things into context, reminding us to see things from God’s perspective. And of course Paul in our reading from Phillipans 4 tells us:  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (v6)

2. Remember what God says!

SOAKING UP SCRIPTURE filling your life with the Bible is a brilliant solution. The Scripture are HUGELY encouraging as they affirm the faithfulness of God in the darkest situation. Even the most well known passages like Psalm 23 have secret keys that unlock our struggles:

23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. The valley of DEEP DARKNESS! Even in the darkness God has promised to be with me!

Soaking up scripture TRANSFORMS our thinking – as we see how faithful God is!

JUST THINK OF JESUS: The ultimate example is Jesus! Success is not necessarily a sign of being on the right track in life! Being on the CROSS in those days was the sign of a curse! The Bible reminds us: Heb 12:2  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

But Jesus was on the right track. He was in the right place at the right time. Gethsemane. Before Pilate and Herod. Humiliation and rejection. All exactly right. Dying on the cross – crying out MY GOD WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME. All perfect obedience.

Again read Philippians and 1 Peter 5:7 to put things into perspective. The Peace of God is promised in Scripture, and also Peter tells us to “cast all our anxiety upon him” for he cares for us!

3. Remember who you are!

Our identity and destiny is in our being children of God and co-heirs with Christ.  As children of God we are heirs of his promises.  That makes us secure just as Jesus was secure as he faced his crucifixion. He  knew exactly who he was and what he was about. Today’s gospel reading helps us to see this. Listen to John 13:1-4

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.

4. Remember what He has done!

GET CONNECTED WITH THE PAST. Why do I say this? I have often been branded as a modernist, charismatic, anti-establishment kind of person! People love to brand you of course. I am a traditional person actually. I value the TRADITION handed down to us!

I value the so called “main line” church – which includes the Roman Catholic tradition. What Bible would we have today without the meticulous care of the church through the centuries preserving these sacred pages. I value the reformed tradition.  That same mother church needed correction – and the Luthers, Calvins, and other great men of God heard God and spoke a corrective word pertinent for their generation. The Bible! Faith! Grace! These are our foundations! I value the Presbyterian tradition! It is a tradition which has ELDERS govern the church. It’s in joint discernment as a community of overseers that we discern The Lord’s will – it prevents us from being mislead by any one individual.

I value especially what Paul tells us about the tradition – that which he passed down to us: I Corinthians 11 tells us:

(v23) For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, (11:24) and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

The Communion service is the one connection we have with the past! It’s through his death – his blood shed – that we find cleansing, healing, restoration and healing.

More than that we meet with Him and he with us in this special communion. Let’s do that now! We do it together – because we are strengthened by one another – by our joint commitment to each other in community. There is one loaf – one body! We belong – and that gives us courage when we are struggling!

And as you take the bread – hand over to God whatever it is that you need to give to him today. The verse we need to focus on is this one – Phillipians 4:6-7 again:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

May you be free from anxiety and discouragement and may the peace of God guard your hearts and minds!

Amen.

Sunday 10 June – Mission Support Sunday

Readings:  Mark 3:20-35

Today our focus is on the task of the church to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Over the past weeks as we have celebrated Easter, Ascension and Pentecost it has been very clear that while Jesus left physically – he promised to be with us through the Holy Spirit – so that we could continue his work on earth.

There’s a great song by Melody Green called “There is a redeemer” which sums this up so well.

There is a redeemer,
Jesus, God’s own Son,
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah,
Holy One

Thank you oh my father,
For giving us Your Son,
And leaving Your Spirit,
‘Til the work on Earth is done.

Jesus my redeemer,
Name above all names,
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah,
Oh, for sinners slain.

When I stand in Glory,
I will see His face,
And there I’ll serve my King forever,
In that Holy Place.

Thank you oh my father,
For giving us Your Son,
And leaving Your Spirit,
‘Til the work on Earth is done.

Leaving your Spirit till the work on Earth is done!

WHAT IS THAT WORK?

Making disciples – proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom – sharing the Good News – and equipping people to be missionaries where they are!

We’ve been studying Mission Church concepts. The beauty of the idea (and it’s a bible based idea not a new and modern fashion) is that God has sent us into the world on His behalf!

Missio – means being sent. And for many of us where we are NOW is where he has sent us.

Others are sent further away as part of God’s plan.

Jesus in John’s gospel put it this way:

John 20:21  Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

And John goes on to record:

Joh 20:22  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

THE GOSPEL READING TODAY:

The reading from the lectionary today is really interesting. There is something I want to observe about this passage that relates to Mission:

The opposition

1. Jesus’ opposition make accusations against him. They say that he is possessed by Beelzebub! “By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” – is what the Jewish teachers of the law who have some down from Jerusalem say!

2. Jesus’ family allege that he is mad! Insane!

We read: 20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Not much fun when the religious heavy-weights AND your family oppose you!

Jesus response is to be faithful and teach them! And in teaching them he gives this warning:

I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. 29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”

John reports: (v30) He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.”

Here’s what this seems to tell us: Don’t say that what God is doing (in this case the work of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit) is the work of Satan! That’s the warning. That is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. (It helps to read Matthew 12:22-32 for the expanded passage on this theme.)

ON THE POSITIVE SIDE

I’m very aware that people give up family ties and support when they serve God. We have spent almost all our married life away from family as we have responded to God’s call to go far away. So I am very aware of the sacrifices Missionaries pay to go to the ends of the earth!

Our Mission support offering for this month is for Simon and Sarah Krige who work with YWAM in Bali. I know Simon Krige. We shared our journey when he was a youth pastor. And he and his wife are now about to have their first baby in Bali. The baby is due next month.

Like many Missionary folk they have left behind their family to go where God has called them.

This passage is very encouraging. Who are the real family of Jesus?

Listen again:

33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!

35   Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

The Trinity – we heard last week – is the ultimate example of unity and love!

People who do God’s will – like Simon and Sarah – are drawn into Jesus’ family!

Jesus experienced opposition. Those who respond to His call also face challenges as they cross borders and travel to places a long way from home.

THAT’S WHY

  1. We need to support them in prayer! They too will have opposition just as Jesus did!
  2.  That’s why we are choosing to support them with our Mission appeal for this quarter! We can support them financially. It would be great if God’s leads some of us to support them regularly! AND
  3. Most exciting – it would be great if some of us could do a short term mission trip and visit them to encourage them and the community they serve – building an Indonesian-Kiwi partnership.

By the way – if you get opposition for being a Christian witness where you are – you are in good company!

Perhaps be sure that you are doing the will of God in your life!

And then stand firm!

Amen!

Sunday sermon 3 June – Trinity Sunday

Readings: Romans 8:12-17 and John 3:1-17

SUNDAY MESSAGE
I read this week of a nine year old girl who came crying to her mum: “mummy I wish I was adopted like my cousins!” We might find this strange, but it’s about a child wanting to belong – wanting to fit in with the group.

It’s the curse of peer pressure. It’s the fundamental cause of the demise of our bank balances when we have children who want to have what their friends have and wear what their friends wear. We had friends in our old church who chose a different lifestyle – not being dependent on stuff – and living in the same way as the refugee people that they lived with. So one day one of the kids asked: “What kind of an op shop is Briscoes?”

Fashion. Upgrades. The latest and greatest model and version. They’re all consumer traps which feed on IDENTITY – that sense that we should be part of the group that has the best. I confess that I struggle with these things too. I like gadgets! That’s why the 40 hour Techno famine for World Vision was good for me!

OUR SPIRITUAL IDENTITY
Today’s readings give us an insight into our most significant and valuable identity.  Our most important source of security. OUR SONSHIP – our belonging to the Jesus’ family.

Nicodemus – in the gospel reading – is said to have been struggling with this too. John Calvin – one of our greatest commentators and a key reformer with Martin Luther – seems to have thought that Nicodemus had some identity issues – as he came to Jesus at night out of concern for what his peer group would say about him.

In fact Calvin coined the term “Nicodemites” for secret disciples like those evangelicals in France who were Roman Catholics in practice. To use a modern term – they never “came out of the closet”. They were secret disciples who acted that way out of fear.

In Nicodemus’ favour he did stick up for Jesus by telling the Sanhedrin that Jesus had not been given a fair hearing (7:50-51) and in John 19:39 he was the one who brought spices for Jesus’ funeral. Maybe Calvin was not being kind to Nicodemus – maybe be was more like us – a work in progress.

The truth is we can be Nicodemites too – not really declaring our allegiance to Jesus publicly. We’re not really that different from the rest. Statistics indicate in some countries that Christians are fundamentally not that different from anyone else when it comes to their priorities and values – their morals and ethics.

Remember that Jesus said this to Nicodemus:
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (vs3)

Being born again is literally being born “from above” – becoming a child of the One who is above – a child of God. There’s the identity!

Human children are born of human parents. We use the term “chip off the old block” – or “like father like son” to describe the similarity between the children and their dads. We can be “identified” from those similarities. For example I have my dad’s name and nature. I know from what people told me about him (he died when I was 12 so I don’t remember that much) that I have his sense of compassion and justice. But when he died – I prayed my first prayer asking God to be my father. And he (God) adopted me into his family!

We’ve changed pictures now from being “born again” of the spirit (Jesus’ teaching) to Paul’s teaching on adoption.

Listen again to what Paul writes in Romans 8:
(v15) For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (v16) The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children…

Sonship in verse 15 is also translated as adoption. (υἱοθεσία) – which is a compound word kind of like being placed or positioned as a son (of God).

Logically:
•    The spirit is a spirit of sonship. The Trinity is all about relationship.

•    The spirit (we receive) does not make you a slave again to fear! (Why? Silly question –  this is the spirit of God and GOD IS LOVE!).

•    By him (the spirit – the personal pronoun we learned about last week! Remember Presence, Power, Person and Parakletos!) – by him we cry ABBA, meaning FATHER. We enter into the relational life of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit (hello people – this is Trinity Sunday!).

•    Verse 16 continues – the spirit HIMSELF testifies (bears witness) with our spirit (individually) that we are God’s children!

•    And of course it continues in verse 17: Now if we are children, then we are heirs —heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

We inherit! Isn’t that the point? Adopted children have the same rights and privileges as those born into the family!

And how many are naturally born into God’s family? Trick question? Yes and no. Only Jesus.He is the first born and the “one and only” son. Listen to Paul on this one: Romans 8:29  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And John 3:16 reminds us that he is the only “begotton” son (the NIV translates this as “one and only son”).

And the writer to the Hebrews says this about sons:
Heb 2:9  But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Heb 2:10  In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Heb 2:11  Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.

SO WHAT DO WE DO THEN?

The test! There is always a test! How do you know that you are a child of God?

The question is this: “Have you received Christ?”

Through faith in Jesus Christ, by believing in him and receiving him, we become children of God! This is spelled out at the very beginning of John’s gospel:

Joh 1:10  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
Joh 1:11  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
Joh 1:12  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
Joh 1:13  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

We are born from above – we receive a new identity and family – we are adopted and made to stand alongside Jesus as sons of God!

You can change that to sons and daughters if you like. But the concept of sonship applies to men and women, boys and girls, and anyone in between the genders.

Audrey West, Associate Professor of New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago – put it like this:
The good news of our pericope is that all God’s children, adopted into the family of God, share together as common heirs of God. Further, the identity we share with one another as children of God is shared also with God’s own Son. This is more obvious in the Greek of Romans 8:14, where “children” derives from the Greek huioi (“sons”).
Christ is a joint heir with us; he suffers and is glorified, and we suffer and are glorified right along with him. What happens to Christ (resurrection life), happens to us; the glory that is Christ’s (God’s son), belongs to us as well (God’s children).

Our core Identity –as Christ followers – is in being Christian – in Christ!

We find ourselves! The quest is over! The seeking ends! The thirst is quenched. The hunger is satisfied! The desire to love and to be loved in a dependable relationship is met in the desire of Ages – even Jesus Christ our Lord!

This new identity makes us truly human! We are siblings of the second Adam – the perfect man of faith, courage, and obedience – JESUS!
When we, through Jesus, go on this amazing Journey INTO the Trinity – rebirthed – born by the spirit, loved by the father whom we call daddy, and made bold by the Son through His example of faith, and changed by his resurrection power – overwhelmed by that sense of fulfillment – why should we need the stuff that the economy or the world insists will bring us happiness?

Why should we have to look like anyone else in fashion or class? Having the right phone or car or getting hair implants when we look shiny on top?
How silly these exploits are. They are Unitarian – they are all about me and my pride.

In the loving relationships of the trinity we are made new. Paul again:

2Co 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Praise God for our new identity as members of God’s family!
Amen!