Monthly Archives: March 2017
Readings: Philippians 2:1-11; Acts 4:23-37
MESSAGE (What’s in a name then?)
Names are interesting. They reveal culture and the generation in which people were born. My aunts and uncles were from the generation of Enid, Eunice, Phyllis, Eileen and Violet, with Bertram, Herbert, and a couple of Stanleys. In many cultures names have clear meanings and are chosen specifically because of the circumstances of the child’s birth.
The names and titles of Jesus are also interesting and loaded with meaning. Jesus (Joshua/Jeshua), Christ (Messiah), Emmanuel (God with us), Son of God and Son of Man are the most obvious. So when we pray, his names and titles feature.
- In the name of Jesus or In Jesus’ name.
- Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
- In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
We hear so many variants of this in people’s prayers and in prayers especially for others who are sick. Clearly the New Testament church prayed for people in the name of Jesus.
We sang that powerful song today – what a beautiful name it is, what a powerful name it is.
The reading from Philippians makes it clear that this is about a name that requires bowing down in worship, in acknowledgement of his kingship.
Paul writes about Jesus’ humility and his kenosis (a self-emptying), that as a consequence (look out for the “therefores” in Scripture):
Php 2:9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, Php 2:10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, Php 2:11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
This is not just Jesus aka Joshua – meaning God saves.
Not Just Jesus the Christ – the anointed one (not necessarily a divine character but set apart to rescue and save God’s people)
This is Jesus who is LORD meaning GOD.
- He has the name above every other name!
- At his name all bow
- At his name all confess – agree – declare out loud – that he is LORD to the glory of God the Father.
“All hail King Jesus!” We used to sing that in the song “Majesty”.
This name – when used in prayer – was not and is not a magic formula, but a statement of authority – so that the ones sent in His name carry with that name all the powers of the Kingdom it represents.
That’s why we pray as Jesus tells us to in the Lord’s prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done” – here on earth as in heaven.
“Heaven” here represents alignment with the will of God – not in a slavish autocratic sense, but in terms of a release of wholeness seen in the healings, the signs and wonders – and the values of love, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit that come with ministry in His name.
So we need to learn more about how we pray the kingdom in – in our prayers of “intercession” – as we stand in the gap and pray for others and various human situations.
And we pray this kingdom in in the face of another kingdom.
Col 1:9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
Col 1:12 … giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Col 1:13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,
The dominion of darkeness is dominated by the enemy, who is described as the “god of this age” – remember – who blinds unbelievers. (2Co 4:4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God)
IN OUR PRAYING –
We are not merely to ask for things. We are the little flock to whom he gives the kingdom:
Luk 12:31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Luk 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
INTERCESSION means standing in the gap between this King Jesus and the people whom we really want to experience the wholeness and restoration of the Kingdom. We seek the Kingdom in our life goals, in our praying, and trust God to meet our other practical needs.
FIRSTLY JESUS STANDS IN THE GAP
Jesus stands in the gap in more than one way:
- Just as Jesus intercedes before the father on our behalf, He “owns us” before the father and we are to “own him” before people. (Note the warning if we disown him – Mat 10:32 “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. Mat 10:33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.)
He acknowledges us as his – working for the coming Kingdom. How is this possible? Because of his position of importance and authority. Listen to Hebrews 1:
- After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Paul says something similar: Col 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
We are to set our hearts on things above. Not that we are thinking about heaven all the time – like an escape route. Rather that we align our thinking to God’s will. As in heaven – so we desire things on the earth.
And he stands in the gap as he intercedes for us as we find more specifically in Hebrews 7:
- Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER BIBLE PEOPLE STANDING IN THE GAP?
- Moses is an example – in Exodus 32. He is remembered by the Psalmist here:
Psalm 106:23 So he said he would destroy them— had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to keep his wrath from destroying them.
- Daniel in Daniel 9 – comes before God on behalf of the nation with identificational repentance and confession.
Dan 9:4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed: “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, Dan 9:5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. Dan 9:6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. Dan 9:19 O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST – the prayers of the early church in the New Testament.
The example today draws things together.
After Pentecost, the church grew as people ministered in the power of the name of Jesus.
The account we picked up is a continuation of Acts 3. If you think of your Sunday school days, I’m sure you may have known the story and the song that went with it. It went something like this:
” Peter and John went to pray, they met a lamb man on the way, la la la la la la la la (I have forgotten this bit of the song) and this is what they had to say: “silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I you in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. (From Acts 3:6)”
The song continues: “He went walking and leaping and praising God…”
There’s a commotion of course. The people realize that this was the beggar who sat at the gate called Beautiful. (Acts 3:10) Leaping and jumping and praising God! Walking! A man disabled from birth.
Peter preaches in Solomon’s Portico. It does not go down well. In Acts 4 they are thrown into jail. But people still believe because of the message. (v4) 3000 increases to 5000.
And the elders and chief priests gather. And they don’t rejoice in the miracle of jumping Jack. The “big guns” gather: Act 4:6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family. Act 4:7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them:
And what do they ask: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
Peter’s reply is direct: Act 4:10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.
When we pick up the story in our reading today – Peter and John have been released. AND when you read the response in prayer – it’s not about them!
- It’s all about this bigger picture.
- The nations
- The kings of the earth taking their stand against the Lod and his anointed one! Who IS that? Jesus – Jeshua – Messiah.
- Herod is mentioned – Pontius Pilate – all these powerful people who react against this Carpenter from Nazareth. Because of who He is.
Act 4:24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. Act 4:25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? Act 4:26 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.’ Act 4:27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. Act 4:28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
They have a clear picture of what goes on behind the scenes.
There’s a conflict of Kingdoms.
And they end with another great prayer of intercession:
- Lord – they are a threat to what you are doing!
- Act Lord!
- Do something!
Empower us more to do these things THROUGH THE NAME OF YOUR HOLY SERVANT JESUS. (Act 4:29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Act 4:30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”)
And what happens?
Act 4:31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
We used to sing “in the name of Jesus…. We have the victory!” Because we do! There are some things we need to learn I think about praying in this name of Jesus – and standing in the gap in intercession.
The final questions to consider are these:
- Are we fully aware of the power and authority of the name of Jesus?
- Would we like to grow in intercession and stand in the gap for others?
- Not just for a few – we can learn to be intercessors
- Perhaps we need to grow in discernment as we see the bigger picture as a conflict of two Kingdoms
Sunday’s PowerPoint is available below:
Readings: Psalm 95:-17; John 4:5-24
I hope you enjoyed the Star Wars video. It was a suitable contrast I imagine to the “total devotion” of the song from Grease a couple of weeks ago. Even Darth Vader can fall in love. There is hope for all. The truth is that Rob kindly edited out the sad bits of course. It turns out that the lovely lady in pink already had a boyfriend called Chris.
A bit like our lady in John 4 – the woman at the well – relationships are not always simple.
She had been through a series of husbands – and Jesus knows about them all. And the current partner she is living with who is not her husband. It explains why she is fetching water at midday – no one else would normally be there. She might have been a social pariah – an exile.
Jesus has a way of getting people’s attention.
And it’s not surprising that the conversation turns to worship.
After all Jesus is really after her heart.
Did you notice that the Psalm today neatly covers all the aspects of this relationship with God we call worship.
The Psalmist calls us to
- sing for joy
- shout aloud (v1)
come before him with thanksgiving
- extol him with music and song (v2)
- bow down in worship,
- kneel before the LORD our Maker (v6)
It’s all there.
We call it praise and worship.
It’s all part of a relationship of worship – living our lives daily in the realisation that he is WORTHY of recognition for all He is and all he does.
CS Lewis put it like this:
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. If it were possible for a created soul fully to ‘appreciate,’ that is, to love and delight in, the worthiest object of all, and simultaneously at every moment to give this delight perfect expression, then that soul would be in supreme blessedness. To praise God fully we must suppose ourselves to be in perfect love with God, drowned in, dissolved by that delight which, far from remaining pent up within ourselves as incommunicable bliss, flows out from us incessantly again in effortless and perfect expression. Our joy is no more separable from the praise in which it liberates and utters itself than the brightness a mirror receives is separable from the brightness it sheds.
The woman at the well discusses theory – that kind of conversation is theological. We study and discuss how our lives intersect with God, and look at what is acceptable and what is not.
After his surprising revelation that he knows all about her, she puts out a theological proposition which should have stimulated theological discussion:
Joh 4:19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Joh 4:20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
His response is to the point:
Joh 4:21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. Joh 4:22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Joh 4:23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. Joh 4:24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Listen again: the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
So often we read in scripture that we are the seekers.
For example these well known passages:
- Deu 4:29 But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Or David’s song in 2 Chronicles:
- 1Ch 16:8 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 1Ch 16:9 Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. 1Ch 16:10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Or the beautiful Isaiah 55:
- Isa 55:6 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Isa 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
Or the rich imagery of Hosea 10:
- Hos 10:12 Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.
Or Jeremiah’s promise to the exiles that God has plans for them – not to prosper them or harm them, but to give them a hope and a future. He goes on to say:
- Jer 29:12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. Jer 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
We seek Him – and he seeks worshippers. The two must intersect. They do – in the person of Jesus Christ.
It’s not about the place – says Jesus to the bucket lady at the well. It’s about me. This is Jesus the way, the truth and the life. Worship is in spirit – in God who is spirit – and in truth – in Messiah Jesus.
Read the rest of John 4 at home. It’s a remarkable meeting and transformation. Would be great to know what happens at home as she talks to the man who is not her husband about Jesus.
There would have been a conversation about the man who “… told me everything I ever did.” (verse 39).
And about living water:
Joh 4:13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, Joh 4:14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
There must have been a conversation about what it means to have your thirst for love and life really quenched. Real satisfaction.
And about this God who seeks our hearts and devotion.
Who changes our hearts.
Whom we love with all our hearts… and everything else we are.