Saturday, 10 December 2016

Numb Hurts More

Chances are, you will meet a difficult person. You will have no trouble identifying them. They can be charming and nice, but then snap. When they snap, they lash out – and they hurt. These moments reveal just how underlyingly angry they are. But these moments also reveal just how hurt they are. Anger is always a symptom of hurt. And sometimes this hurt can hurt so bad that it numbs (or seeks to be numbed by) its host. 
When I was involved in a motorcycle accident (after I was hit from behind by a car) I was knocked unconscious for over six hours. Oddly, I’m rather grateful that this happened. I had clean broken my shoulder in two places, suffered concussion, bruised my entire right side, and, as it turns out, possibly broken my back. It seems that when our bodies experience intolerable pain, they shut down. What I have come to observe is that it’s not just our bodies which shut down, but our hearts can as well! 
  •  Troubles and difficulties can sometimes be overwhelmingA teenage girl’s parents divorce. She begins drinking and experimenting. Before too long she has a reputation and she doesn’t care. She’s now hurting so much she’s numb.
  • Growing up he was always lonely. He wasn’t born blessed with attractive features and always felt ugly. Ugly is as ugly does which led him to wear odd clothes and even to begin wearing Goth make-up. Girls shunned him but predators noticed him. He became a piece of meat and mistakenly thought this must be what love is. He was being abused by several men, but he didn’t care. He was now numb.
  • They never felt like they belonged anywhere. Perhaps this is why they were always looking for somewhere. Staying in a place just long enough to begin to feel settled which then triggered the childhood words of their step-parent that they were ‘a nuisance’ and ‘always in the way’. Sleeping wherever they could, often in their car, they now drifted. No friends. No family. No body. They had become numb.
Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief.
Proverbs 14:13
Everything is going wrong!Those who are blessed to grow up in a loving home where they take for granted that they are wanted and accepted may never truly appreciate what it is like to grow up without these rich blessings. This is why encountering a numb person can be so confusing. At first they appear to be nice but this superficial varnish quickly thins to nothing when their hurt triggers are activated. When this happens they can become moody, unreasonable, aggressive or even immediately withdrawn (all are symptoms of anger). This is a part of their ‘defence’ mechanism. By hurting the one they think is about to hurt them, they incorrectly think this will prevent them from being hurt. Hurt people hurt people. Normal human empathy recoils at the possibility of hurting someone else. But often these people are so hurt their empathy is now numb
… but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
Proverbs 15:13b
emotionsWe all need love, acceptance, understanding and forgiveness. This is why a home is much more than a house. This is why a home is made of people, not of materials. The best chance we have of solving all of society’s ills is to ensure that we can build a generation of home-makers. The home should be a sacred place. It is the place where disputes are resolved, differences are understood, opinions matter, touch is appropriate, words are kind, rules are clear, values are instilled, generosity is modelled, hospitality is trained, respect is required, discipline teaches, and hugs comfort. The home is to be a secure place, a safe place, a sacred place. 
In the meantime, we now have a crisis on our hands as a society. Due to the large-scale absence of the above, we now have the worst drug crisis in human history, the highest crimes-rates in human history, more people being trafficked into slavery than at any other time in human history, the highest divorce-rate ever, the worst rates of depression and mental-illness, more single-moms than at any other time in our history, and the highest suicide-rate we have ever had! What can we do? 
¶ The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; He awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.
Isaiah 50:4
What can we do? That’s the primary question because the solution is mega-micro (lots of smaller efforts). We who are blessed with the privilege of living or being raised in a home are to play our role. We above all people have learned to forgive. Rather than judging/condemning your difficult person, try to see them.
Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
Luke 7:44
If we can see, not merely a difficult person, but, a hurting person who is gripped by fears of rejection and being hurt yet again, we may see them differently. In doing this, we are not excusing their lack of empathy for others or even their inappropriate words and ways. But we can at least begin to understand them. And in my experience, the one thing that those who are so hurt they are now numb toward others most desperately need is someone who can at least understand them.
Perhaps it is you who is now numb from so much hurt? Maybe you have even said, “I just don’t care anymore.” You don’t have to go on like this. Jesus Christ can heal your heart, but it will necessarily be a process rather than a point.  
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147:3
 The pathway to your healed heart is paved in trust. Firstly, trust Christ as your Saviour. Then, trust Christ to transform you and help you to learn how (and who) to trust again. Thirdly, don’t expect miracles from people – especially the miracle of mind-reading! Start by sharing some of your story with someone you can have some trust in. At least let them begin to understand you. As you do, you will begin to experience increasing feeling coming back into your heart.
It is my prayer that Sunday by Sunday the hurting, broken, lonely, confused and lost will come into our church service and begin to experience the very things they long so desperately for – love, acceptance, understanding and forgiveness. This is what happened in the early church, as the Apostle Paul describes below, and we should pray and then not surprised that it will happen again in our church – 
¶ Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
First Corinthians 6:9-11
May God’s loving, accepting, understanding, and forgiving grace flow through each one of us this Sunday to those looking to be healed and delivered from their numbness.
Pastor Andrew

Friday, 2 December 2016

What To Do When Faced With Those Difficulties You Keep Putting Off


more-difficult-less-difficultWhat is the most difficult thing for you to do? If you are not sure you might try asking the same question in a different way. What is it that you really don’t want to ever have to do? What is it that you would much rather have someone else do, than do it yourself? This question is also answered by looking at how we spend our time. Those things which are really difficult for us to do tend to get put down our priority list even though they belong at the top of our priority list. When something is too difficult for me to do I tend to procrastinate attempting it and then treat my lower priorities as more urgent. My procrastinations are an indication of what I find most difficult. This year, I have had to come to terms with my propensity for avoiding the difficult. I needed to learn some things and for this to happen I have had to be taught.
Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
Psalm 86:11

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
Teenager with help sign.  Needing help.God has designed for us to deal with difficulties. God has also designed for us to be taught howto deal with difficulties. During Old Testament times God ordained for leaders to teach. This included priests, elders, kings and parents. In our New Testament times, even with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit – Whom Jesus said would teach, lead, and guide the believer – God has particularly gifted certain people with the primary responsibility of teaching others.
And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers…
First Corinthians 12:28
If I was prone to digressing, I would at this point point out that not all those who want to teach, can teach well. I would also point out that just because someone is able to teach about a particular subject, does not mean that they can teach all subjects. But I have been taught not to digress so I will make neither of these points.

The prayer God delights to hear and to answer.
The prayer, “Teach me!” occurs most frequently in the Psalms. Generally the psalmist was seeking to learn the ways of God and to learn how to follow those ways. We might join with the psalmists and pray the same prayer for the same reasons so that we too can know what God’s will for us is and how we can fulfil it. But we might also learn from the psalmists and apply this principle more particularly. There are times in each of our lives where we do not really know what, or more precisely, how to do what needs to be done. My experience and observations inform me that God most usually answers such prayers by sending us a teacher. You should be careful when this happens because sometimes they do not look like a teacher. They might not even be present in the flesh. They might be within the pages of a book, or the screen of a computer, or the voice on a radio or podcast. They may also be right in front of us.
While God has ordained for pastors to teach His unfathomable Word to His people, which may have a lifetime duration, more commonly, the teachers whom God will answer our “Teach me!” prayers are present for a moment, a season, a time. They may teach us directly, or God may even use them inadvertently to teach us indirectly when their mistakes and failings become instructive warnings for us, or perhaps more positively, their lives become a silent example for us. 
I think the most beautiful prayer that ascends into the Throne-Room of Heaven is a “Teach me!” prayer that has been reduced to a one word prayer: “Help!” (At least I hope it is one of the more beautiful prayers to God because I tend to pray that prayer a lot.) Some even pray this one word prayer expecting God to solve all their difficulties without realising that God is answering this prayer differently – as if it was the prayer He delights to answer: “Teach me Oh God.
¶ Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path…
Psalm 27:11
The most difficult things you will have to do will involve your interactions with others. Conflicts, disagreements, misunderstandings, confession, seeking forgiveness, rebuking, managing, and leading difficult people, are chief among the most difficult things you will ever do. Rather than despair; rather than procrastinate; rather than get frustrated; pray the prayer that God delights to hear and then watch carefully how He answers it. 
Ps. Andrew

Friday, 25 November 2016

Who Does God Think He Is?

I’m fascinated with Roman history. Understanding this period helps me to understand both how the Western world has been shaped and what the conditions were like for the birth and expansion of Christianity. Nearly every Emperor of Rome demanded god-like devotion. “Kaiser Ho Kurios!” (Caesar is Lord!) was a statement of Emperor devotion demanded from the citizens and non-citizens at the time. Non-compliance could have resulted in swift execution. Roman Emperors were not the only ones to self-deify themselves. In the Book of Daniel we read that Nebuchadnezzar then Darius did the same. Of course the Romans believed in a Pantheon of gods – Zeus, Hermes, Mars, Jupiter, Hercules, and so on (note Acts 14:12-13). Not surprisingly, most the Caesars who self-deified themselves were either assassinated by someone close to them, or (as in the case of Nero) invited to commit suicide. Apparently claiming to be a god, when you are not, tends to infuriate those around you. Which is why Jesus stands out as unique among those who claimed to be God. His crucifixion reveals that He certainly infuriated some who did not know Him, but among those who did know Him, their response to His claim to Deity was worship and devotion – even from His brothers! So just who does God think He is?
To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him.
Deuteronomy 4:35
¶ Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.”
First Corinthians 8:4


If, for some impossible reason, the position for “God” became vacant, what might the job description look like? Being a Judge would definitely be listed. Judging is a god-like activity, and the God of the Universe would have to be the Ultimate Judge of that Universe.
In sustaining the Universe and the required justice that this involves, it can be seen from the Bible that God appoints some human beings to serve as His deputies – as judges. This is why the Psalmist could say-
¶ God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
Psalm 82:1
¶ I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”
Psalm 82:6-7
We note that the Psalmist contrasts god-like deputies with God, for, unlike God, these human deputies who perform a God-like function (judging) will themselves be judged and eventually die. Jesus cited this passage in John 10:34. His point is similar, sometimes human beings deputise for God and identified as fulfilling the God-role of ‘judge’, but His claim to deity goes further because He claimed that He would not be subject to the finality of death like mere mortals. 
God is the only person truly qualified to perfectly judge each person. Each one of us will stand before this perfect Judge and give an account of our lives.
¶ Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From His presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
Revelation 20:11-12
God’s authority to judge is grounded in His claim to be Creator. Since this world is His, He alone has the right to decree how people should conduct themselves. 


The Bible also refers to those who serve God as being His “sons”. In this light, many scholars believe that the ‘sons of God’ referred to in Genesis 6:2-4 is describing fallen angels who were created to serve God. While angels do not ordinarily have corporeal (physical) bodies like humans, the Scriptures leave room for the possibility that it is at least possible for an angel to take on a human form and carry out human functions such as eating and therefore (possibly) sexual activity (note Hebrews 13:2). This might explain why the offspring of this activity mentioned in Genesis 6 were born as giants
The designation of ‘sons of God’ is to be distinguished from the Son of God. Even under the Old Covenant period there was a growing knowledge that God had a Son (Proverbs 30:4) and by the time of the New Covenant this revelation is stated clearly in John 3:16 when it describes Him as God’s only Son. It was during the proceedings of the Nicene Church Council around 325AD when Athanasius identified Christ as the eternal (no beginning, no end) Son of God, since God the Father is described as the Eternal Father (did not begin to be a Father and will never cease being a Father). Thus, since God is the Eternal Father, He must have always had an Eternal Son. Therefore, the Council reasoned, Jesus is the Co-Eternal, Co-Equal, Co-Immutable, Son of God.
The New Testament reveals that God adopts each one who turns to Him for salvation. Jesus described the love of His Father in the story of the Prodigal Son. The father not only forgives the humble seeker of his forgiveness, he celebrates his return and declares him to be his son with full inheritance rights! 
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
Ephesians 1:4-5
Who does God think He is? He declares Himself to be Creator, the Law-giver, Judge, Father, and Saviour. He has founded the Church as His agency for declaring to the world who He is, what His will is, to warn them of His certain judgment, to invite them to return to Him as their Father and Saviour. For those who have the eyes of their hearts opened to this amazing grace, their hearts begin to crave His holiness and their lives begin to reflect His godliness. 
We love because He first loved us.
First John 4:19

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Which Is Better?


lazy-catAs President Abraham Lincoln said, “You can’t trust everything you read on the internet!” Therefore, I’m not sure whether Bill Gates actually did say it or not, but the claim is made that he once said, “I always choose for a lazy person to do a difficult job. Because he will find an easy way to do it!” This contrasts with the different approach, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it!” The question therefore is: Which is better?The lazy approach or the busy approach?
 ¶  Lazy people consider themselves smarter than seven wise counselors.
Prov. 26:16
lazy-frogWhile Bill Gates may assume that lazy people are incredibly smart people, I think they also deserve another compliment. Lazy people are often energetic people as well. In fact, many lazy people are so energetic, they can look downright busy
I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.
Ecclesiastes 3:10
It is wrong to assume that all lazy people are inactive people. They can be very energetic. Laziness is thus not necessarily about the amount effort or activity involved. For example, riding a horse requires effort and can be a very effective means of transport. But not if the horse is a rocking horse! This is despite the effort involved to ride a rocking horse possibly being even more intense than riding an actual horse! Some very active and energetic people get quite offended if they are accused of being lazy.
Conversely though, we shouldn’t assume that the person doing nothing is necessarily a lazy person either.
Feel it no shame, at proper times, to be doing nothing.
F. W. Boreham, DRUMS OF DAWN
work-out-catLaziness has more to do with a lack of effectiveness and appropriateness. Someone may be busy trying to scale a wall using a ladder. They may build a ladder, move it into position, test it, and vigorously go up and down it. But if it is the wrong type of ladder, or the wrong size ladder, or worse still, the wrong wall – they are being lazy, despite their hard work and busyness! Diligence, not busyness, is the opposite of laziness. Diligence strives for effectiveness and appropriateness. This requires self-discipline and persistence. It does what must be done – what has to be done – even when we are tired, afraid, uncomfortable, or uninformed.  Laziness is rarely prepared to make sacrifices in order to be effective. Diligence nearly always, if not always, involves having to make sacrifices.  
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
Proverbs 13:4
I know many good people who all work very hard, but don’t seem to be very effective. They always seem to be running out of time. They are forever misplacing things. Their solution would be to relearn how they do everything. Diligence is therefore not merely a matter of working as long and as hard as they can. Rather, it is finding out the best way to do something then working as hard as possible to do that. 
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
Proverbs 21:5
So which is better: lazy or busy? If someone is considered ‘lazy’ simply because they are not busy, when in fact it is merely because they are efficient and effective (and consequently have time to do nothing), this type of lazy would be better. But if someone was ‘busy’ (and also efficient and effective), it may simply be that they are in a season of demand whereby they are helping many others. In such circumstances, busy is better. 
SAMSUNG CSCAnd translating this stand-off into the spiritual arena we can soon see that spiritual depth comes from resting in the finished work of Christ for our salvation. In this sense, we are saved by works – it’s just that it’s not our own, but Christ’s. Yet diligence and hard-work is also required for spiritual depth. The Apostle Peter told believers that they needed to be diligent to be found in Christ (refer to 1Peter 1:10), and the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that they needed to work diligently to continually be beholding Christ (2Cor. 3:18).
¶ Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
Second Peter 3:14
This kind of diligence is the same as other forms of diligence. It strives for effectiveness (Philemon 6) and giving appropriate glory to God. It’s the kind of diligence which makes sacrifices in order to practice the spiritual disciplines which are deepening for a soul and glorifying to God (daily Bible reading, prayer journaling, witnessing, Sunday worship, fasting, giving, and contemplation). This is better.
Pastor Andrew Corbett

Saturday, 12 November 2016

LIFE IN THE SPIRIT - Why Christianity Is Not A Mere Religion

Andrew worshipingIt has been said that the thing which makes Christianity unique in comparison with other faiths is that it is a relationship rather than a religion. This is at least true. It is indeed a relationship between the redeemed and the Redeemer. But its beauty goes still deeper. This depth is wrought by the Holy Spirit in, on, through and around the redeemed. His redeeming work of captivating, convicting, converting, transforming, and commissioning the ransomed-redeemed of the Lord begins before it is too late. The Holy Spirit Himself, who (along with the Father and Son) uniquely possesses omnipresence, is mysteriously able to draw alongside an individual rebel and patiently woo their rebellious heart away from religion toward a relationship with the Jesus – and then take them deeper into the beauty of Christ. 
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 14:26
007CS-LewisWhen this wooing was felt by C.S. Lewis in the Trinity Semester of 1931, he described himself as, “The most dejected, reluctant convert in all England!” However, not everyone experiences such a spiritual conquering. F.W. Boreham for example, was raised in a church-going family, but had not experienced the Holy Spirit’s redeeming transformation until around 1890. Like Lewis, he came to the realisation that his religious efforts were grossly inadequate to qualify his soul for acceptance by God. He turned to the Saviour, was baptised, then received the laying-on-of-hands with the prayerful injunction to receive the Holy Spirit. F.W. Boreham suddenly experienced an infilling with the Holy Spirit which he said resulted in his inability to feel the ground beneath his feet for the next week or two! It appears that he was baptised with the Holy Spirit subsequent to his conversion to Christ. He, of course, is not the only one who has experienced the promised baptism with the Holy Spirit subsequent to their conversion from rebellion to redemption. Millions of the Christ-redeemed have then also experienced an overwhelming of spiritual awareness and presence which has opened them up to a realm of supernatural gifts, phenomena, and intimacy with Christ. This has then introduced these followers of Christ to a deeper, richer, closer, sweeter walk with their Lord. Have you experienced this in your relationship with Jesus?
¶ “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
John 15:26
The Spirit’s work of conversion in the rebel begins with conviction of sin (John 16:8). A lingering sense of guilt and shame is a sure sign that the Holy Spirit is active in a soul. By His persistent grace He woos and drives the rebel to accept God’s gracious offer of forgiveness, soul-cleansing, and adoption. Upon acceptance of God’s love and grace, the Holy Spirit converts the rebel into a born-again follower of Christ.
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
John 3:5
Too many people have been lulled – nay, duped – by certain socialising pressures (perhaps family upbringing and church tradition) into thinking that Christianity is merely about behaving like a Christian – attending church, owning a Bible, giving to charity. But unless a person has experienced the inner work of conversion by the Holy Spirit, they are not yet a Christian. It is at this point that the converted rebel realises that Christ substituted Himself for them and bore their penalty of their divine rebellion. Have you been born-again by the Holy Spirit?
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
Romans 8:11

doubleminded2‘Sanctification’ means to make holy, separate from the ordinary. The work of the Holy Spirit does not cease upon the conversion of the rebel into the redeemed. Although, in the eyes of God, the redeemed rebel is perfectly sanctified upon their conversion, there is still an earthly process of sanctification. This process puts to death those rebel-qualities of self-centredness and brings to life those Christlike traits of service to others
I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
Romans 6:19, 22
The external fruit of sanctification is seen in how we speak, use our time, money and talent, relate to others, and is rooted in the innerwork of the Holy Spirit transforming the rebel into the redeemed. How has the Holy Spirit sanctified you since your conversion?

We are all religiousAfter Christ had atoned for sin, He breathed on His disciples and commanded them to receive the Holy Spirit (Jn. 20:22) and then told them to wait for this Promised infilling with the Spirit (Acts 1:4). When the Promised baptism with the Holy Spirit began on the Day of Pentecost, the believers began to prophesy and/or speak in tongues (Acts 2:6). The Apostle Paul would later write that speaking and praying in tongues served different purposes. Speaking in tongues, with associated gift of interpretation, was equivalent to prophecy (1Cor. 14:3), whereas praying in tongues required no interpretation because it was speaking to God (not people) (1Cor. 14:2). The Apostle also revealed that tongues (unlearned languages) could be a language of men or a language of angels (1Cor. 13:1). When speaking to God in tongues, this form of praying is able to edify the believer (1Cor. 14:4) and build them up. One of the nine mentioned gifts of the Holy Spirit is also a type of tongues. It appears that this type of tongue is the aforementioned equivalent to prophesying
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:13
The Baptism With The Holy Spirit.
prophetic-feasts4pentecostJesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit to comfort, counsel, guide, strengthen, and empower. He said that when His followers would be baptised with the Holy Spirit, they would be empowered to witness about and proclaim Christ and His Gospel. We see on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), that the previously timid, awkward, inarticulate, Apostle Peter was transformed into a bold, courageous, passionate, persuasive and articulate herald of the Gospel of Christ’s Kingdom (Acts 2:14). 
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Acts 2:4
In closing his ‘second’ epistle to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul sketches the believer’s interaction with each member of the Godhead, and he shines a warm light on the role that the redeemed can enjoy with the Holy Spirit-
¶ The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Second Corinthians 13:14
Our fellowship with the Holy Spirit distinguishes Christianity from mere religion. The redeemed’ fellowship with the Holy Spirit is what makes Christianity a living, vibrant, relationship with Christ. It involves the illumination of God’s Word, the reception of God’s voice in the hearts of the redeemed, the leading of the Spirit into wise choices, supernatural empowering to speak and bear witness to Christ’s Lordship, and a continual sense of God’s loving overshadowing presence. 
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
Ephesians 5:18
Don’t treat your Christianity as a mere religion. Instead, let us realise what it actually is – the Spirit-filled life! Let us grow in our life in the Holy Spirit, and continue to go deeper and sweeter with Christ in our knowledge, character and choices.
Ps. Andrew Corbett

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Trifling Is Not Trifling

In the West, unlike the East, we suffer the enormous disadvantage of living in a culture largely unfamiliar with the sacred. Added to this, there has arisen an understanding among contemporary Christians that there is no warrant for making any distinction between ‘the holy’ and ‘secular’. But rather than regarding everything as holy it has tended to mean that everything which was once holy is now regarded as ordinary (‘secular’). This then leads to certain sacred rituals of Christianity being trifled with (treated as less important than they are).  When this happens, the Christ-instituted rituals of Christianity are misrepresented and therefore misunderstood, which in turn, diminishes people’s vision of God’s glory. Let’s rethink rituals.
¶ And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the LORD.” And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar. And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the LORD of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day.
Zechariah 14:20-21


Rituals can be lifeless. Especially when they are not understood. All of the rituals of Christianity are opulently rich in meaning. Some traditions of the Church refer to these rituals as sacraments. The word ‘sacrament’ comes from the Latin word for mystery, “sacer”. It has generally come to mean the outward expression of an inner grace. That is, by performing the ritual, God’s grace is mediated to its participants. The traditions of the Church which have regarded certain Christian rituals as sacraments have necessarily required that those who minister them are consecrated to do so. These people are known as priests. The belief that some people can be consecrated as priests and then minister the sacraments is known as sacerdotalism. 
lutherThe Reformers, beginning with Martin Luther (1483-1546) in 1517, began to raise objections to the idea of sacerdotalism. Initially, these Reformers merely de-classified some of the 7 sacraments (BaptismConfirmation or ChrismationEucharistPenanceAnointing of the SickHoly Orders, and Matrimony) down to just 4 (Baptism, Communion, Holy Orders, and Matrimony). Then these 4 were reduced to 3 (Baptism, Communion, and Matrimony), and ultimately to just two (Baptism, and, Matrimony). From this point, Communion became regarded as as Ordinance rather than as a Sacrament by most Protestants. 
zwingliIt was the Swiss Reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, who first challenged the notion of Communion (“the Eucharist“) as a sacrament. He argued that it was not a sacrament because the elements were merely representationsof the Lord’s body and blood. This was different to the Roman Catholic position which taught that the elements (which they call accidents) are mystically transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ. This view is known as Transubstantiation. It also disagreed with Martin Luther’s modified position about Communion. Luther also disagreed with the Roman Catholic position but taught that Christ was with the elements of Communion. This Lutheran view is known as Consubstantiation. John Calvin disagreed with Zwingli and argued that the Communion elements were more than mere representation of Christ’s body and blood, but he too disagreed with the Roman Catholic and views. He coined the expression Ordinanceand taught that the Communion should only be administered by an authorised  (‘ordained’) minister.
Many Protestants now hold to a Neo-Zwinglian view of Communion. They regard the elements of Communion as typifying the body and blood of Christ but having deep significance for all who partake. While not considering it to be a ‘Sacrament’ (which in itself imparts some grace to the participant) they do consider it to be mysterious. They argue that the emblems (or “elements”) of the Holy Communion were consecrated by Christ. The act of sharing and then consuming these elements was also consecrated by Christ. The  significance of both the nature of the elements (unleavened bread typifying the sinless body of Christ, and the unfermented wine typifying the uncorrupted life of Christ) and how they are shared and consumed (the pieces of bread being broken from one unleavened loaf typifying that the participants are one in Christ, and the wine coming from one source typifying that there is only one Saviour). The mystery of this rite (or, ritual) is that if it is done in an unappreciative manner, there can be grave consequences (note the Apostle’s reminder to the Corinthians about this in First Corinthians 11). The celebration of Holy Communion is therefore a sacred moment.
¶ Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.
First Corinthians 11:2
The word ‘sacred’ means set apart from the ordinary. It is distinct from ‘secular’ which means ordinary, common (even though most understand ‘secular’ to mean irreligious or non-religious). In this sense, Holy Communion is sacred. Its occasion, its elements, its means of sharing together, and what it typifies, are not to be trifled with. Dr. Sproul’s rebuke to his young theological student was therefore not the rankings of some out-of-touch theological dinosaur. The mystery 0f Holy Communion transcends time and culture. When Jesus said, “take eat” He was intersecting the present. When He said “in remembrance of Me” He was intersecting the past. Then when He said, “until I come”, He was intersecting the future. Thus, the practice of Holy Communion has past, present, and future implications. It speaks of what the Lord Jesus has done (by saving us), is doing among us (by knitting us together into a body of believers who experience supernatural unity in Christ with our fellow brothers and sisters, which requires “discerning” each time we partake, refer to 1Cor. 11:27) and will do when we all experience the fullness of our salvation in the eternal state which the Book of Revelation described as a glorious ‘supper’ together in Heaven. This is why it is extremely inappropriate for non-believers or non-covenantal-believers (those who believe in Christ and the Gospel, but have not sealed their covenantal relationship with Christ through the waters of believers’ baptism). This is why none of my children were permitted to partake in Holy Communion until they had entered into the covenantal waters of baptism. It’s also the reason we take Holy Communion out of our monthly Guest Service.
 ¶ For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 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.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
First Corinthians 11:23-26
Water Baptism or Holy Communion does not save its participants from eternal damnation. But both of them typify aspects of the work of Christ with great precision. This is why neither should be trivialized or trifled with. Time prevents me from elaborating on the third of ordinances, Holy Matrimony, and discussing its rich typifying of what it means to follow Christ and become one with Him.  But if more believers did understand this, they might appreciate why the Enemy is so keen to undermine it in the eyes of the world.
Pastor Andrew Corbett