Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Learning To Discern

Why we need to learn to discern
Ever hear something that didn't quite sound right? Chances are that you discerned something. To discern means to judge, evaluate and distinguish. When you discern something you are potentially protecting both yourself and others from spiritual peril. So important is the ability to discern that Christ has specifically gifted the Church with a very special gift to ensure that it happens (1Corinthians 12:10). Yet, those who are gifted with discernment are often seen as judgmental, critical and therefore: unloving. What other gift of the Holy Spirit results in such rejection and dismissal as that of discernment? But what other gift of the Holy Spirit is needed more now than ever before? Here's why...[read this article]

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The Marks of a True Believer...

Dr Andrew Corbett
Jesus described the difference between true conversion and false conversion when He told the Parable of the Sower. Jesus said that some people hear the Gospel but never receive it - they just don't get it! But in this parable He also describes those who think they have received the Gospel because they "received it with joy". Yet He goes on to say that these people are soon exposed as false converts because when the heat of the day comes they wither away. Other people also look like they have been converted but they haven't really been. They are more concerned about "the cares of the world" and Jesus said - "the desires for other things enter in" (Mark 4:19).

Mark 4:18-19 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

The key to understanding Christ's disappointment is the result of such a false conversion: it proves unfruitful. Here we are given our first clue to identifying a true believer (convert): fruitfulness. Of course Christ not only distnguishes the results of true conversion (fruitfulness) with the results of false conversion (unfruitfulness), but He also identifies the cause: the false convert cares more about this life and this world.

Mark 4:20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

The marks of true converts are therefore-

(i) Planted in good soil

(ii) Free from choking weeds

(iii) Cleared of rocky sods

(iv) Well watered

(v) Shaded

But most importantly,
(vi) Fruitful.

We want to be a Church (def'n. the organised community of God's people who are led, and ministered to, by God's authorised, Spirit filled and gifted, servants who are charged to both disciple and discipline the members of the fellowship and administer the sacraments of baptism, Holy Communion and marriage so that cause and honour of Christ are outworked through: individual and collective witness; the proclaimation of the Word; corporate worship of God; with the aim of reproducing more autonomous yet co-operative churches) that is good soil, is free from choking weeds, has been cleared of rocks and hard sods, is well-watered and protected against the opposing elements. We can only be this kind of church on the basis of people being truly converted to Christ.

This is why true believers love their church. They treat their church as their home not their hotel. (It's worth considering the difference.) This is yet another mark of a true believer: they are committed to their local church. A true believer is also commited to being fruitful. We want our church to be fruitful. This is pleasing to our God: Jesus Christ. I pray that we can be fruitful together in seeing the people of our city come to know Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord. I think we should both pray that God blesses us with the fruit of true conversions.

Philemon 6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.


Friday, 20 March 2009

Christianity Converts

"You're just trying to convert me!" someone said to me once. I can't quite remember how I responded to such a claim at the time, but like most things, given the benefit of time I've thought of how I can respond if someone accuses me of this again. It goes something like this- "YES I AM!"

As a Church we love our city, we love our valley and we love our neighbourhoods. We are truly blessed to live in such a wonderful place with such fantastic people. We are blessed that God has knitted us into a growing church of growing people. But we want to see more! We want to see converts! We want to see our family, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues being converted to followers of the Christ.
Tamar River, Legana, Tasmania
Romans 16:5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was tthe first convert to Christ in Asia.

Paul could write with a great deal of fondness about his first convert in Asia: Epaenetus. Paul, the great teacher of doctrine, lived to make converts to Christ.

1Corinthians 16:15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints—

Later he wrote to the Corinthians with great fondness about his first converts in Achaia: the household of Stephanas. It seems that when we have the privilege of sharing Christ's love and message with those who accept it - and they become converts - we experience a joy beyond compare!

Acts 15:3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.

Acts 8:8 And there was great joy in that city.

God can use you to play a part of converting someone to Christ.

Philemon 6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.


Thursday, 12 March 2009

Who Do We Put First?

A few years after my conversion to Christ it dawned on me. I'd never heard anybody preach it. I'd never read where anybody had written it. I'd never discussed it with anyone. Yet, a powerful and revolutionary thought entered my thinking. It has since transformed me and become intrinsic to the way I think. I don't expect that everyone will get it. I rather expect that even after explaining it, some will still not see it. But I had a thought that when someone becomes a Christian they receive a new identity. And this new identity becomes their primary identity.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This was a radical idea to me. It meant that the classifications and even allegiances that people have such as nationality, status, job, were not the primary definers of a Believer. It meant that a person was primarily indentified as a Christian and a member of the Kingdom of God. This membership with the Kingdom transcends race, ethnicity, skin-colour or nationality. Thus, the believer's view of the world is not prioritised by the immediate but the eternal. Neither is it prioritised with the 'my own backyard comes first' view of the world but rather a new view of the whole earth belonging to the Lord who cares about more situations (and probably more important situations) than those in our immediate geography.

Romans 3:29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also...

Understanding our new identity helps us to begin to begin to see the world the way God sees it. We are a part of what the King of Kings is doing in the whole earth, not just our city. We are joined with brothers and sisters in Christ whom we have never even met or heard of! Just as in New Testament times when Gentile believers helped Jewish believers, we have opportunity to do similar today. These early Christians regarded Christ as their new identity and realised that this identity was shared by people of different nationalities, languages, and cultures.

If every Christian on the planet "got" this truth that Christ unites us despite our cultures, race, language, colour, then we would go a long way to erradicating racism!

But even though I discovered this truth around two decades ago, I have lived most of my life with a "If it's in my backyard then I care" mentality. But I suspect I'm not the only one. Indeed, so common is this thinking that we often fail to recognise it - especially in our Media reporting. For example, a few years ago (1999) several Indian Christian workers were killed in Northern India by hostile Hindus and there was little to no mention of it in the media. Within a week or so of this massacre, Graham Stains (an Australian missionary) and two of his children were similarly killed and yet their deaths were the subject of worldwide media attention. We all tend to put our own 'kind' first.

This doesn't mean that we don't care about our own city. We do. We love our city. We love the people of our city. We want to see our city saved. We want to see lost people coming to know Christ and we want to be able to glorify Christ by building a growing church for His glory. We want to leave a legacy of many, many, new Christians and on-fire mature Christians for God's glory. Along the way we want to reach out to our city with events that you can invite them to so that they will hear the Gospel and come to know that Christianity is worth thinking about. As we go we want to demonstrate the truth of the life-changing Gospel by living pure, holy, changing, God-glorifying lives. For some people though, all of this must happen before we get involved in reaching out to people beyond our own borders. But if we understand God's heart for all people and the nature of His Kingdom (which transcends nationality, race, religion, skin colour) then our new nature causes us to feel compassion for the Gospel-poor people of the whole world without neglecting those in our own household, neighbourhood or city.

Jossy Chacko's book- MADNESS
Yesterday I sat down and read a book which discusses some of these things. It is the story of Jossy Chacko. I would strongly enourage everyone to order their own copy of this book. It is one of the most inspiring books I've ever read. It will stir your faith, encourage your heart, and amaze you. By the way, it's all based on true stories. Do yourself and your walk with Christ a favour and read this book.
It will cost you $17.95 (plus postage?)and is available from his website. If you can not afford to buy this excellent book, then I'll buy it for you (please just let me know). I would really like everyone in our church to read this book.

May God help us to be passionate about first things: (i) Preaching the Gospel - 1Cor. 15:3; (ii) Seeking His Kingdom - Matt. 6:33; and (iii) Loving God and others - Matt. 22:38. May all of this be done without getting the world's firsts confused with God's.

Luke 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.


Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Being Friends

One of the main reasons for going to the USA when I did was so that I could attend a Conference in Virginia Beach called Global Friends. This was an invitation-only gathering of friends. I was invited by Mike Berry. Mike and I have been friends for nearly 20 years. In many ways we are quite different. We have different personalities. We differ on some points of doctrine. We have a different approach to involvementin sport. At times, I find Mike too abrupt and almost offensive. He can be too way too impatient. But I really really like Mike. He's a good friend. On my last trip I got to know Mike even better. I literally shared times of tears and laughter with Mike. Because of Mike's ministry gift, he scares most people. He is, as you've heard me say many times, one of the wierdest guys I know.

Mike has taught me a lot. He knows a lot things and a lot of people. In fact, Mike knows so many people it's almost unbelievable - literally! Many people have thought that Mike was just wishfully name-dropping. But the Global Friends Conference in Virginia Beach changed all that for many people. Some of the biggest names in American Christianity, who Mike has often referred to as friends, were present at this Conference as his friends. Mike really does know how to make friends - and keep friends.
When I was being shown his church's facilities and his God-given vision for it, he shared some of the most amazing plans with me. These plans will have global impact because Mike is looking at making new friends with political leaders in nations right now hostile to America and Christianity. Mike literally wants to help world leaders to become friends, bring international wars to an end, and facilitate world peace between hostile nations. He sees friendship as the key.

Mike has spent the last few decades learning how to do this. He knows that real friendship must endure offences and misunderstandings. He knows that friendship is maintained by consistent communication. Mike knows what makes his friends tick. He knows how to help them. I'm living proof of this. He has taken the time to find this out. But he expects nothing in return. In fact, Mike tells his friends that he's not interested in "transactional" friendship. He's not just a friend because you can do something for him (that would be a "transactional friendship".) He will put his hand deeper into his pocket than anybody I know in order to help a friend.

When Mike came to our church last year, he brought a friend (Luc). Luc is now my friend. When Mike spoke to us, he spoke on friendship.

I wonder if we can learn to be better friends? The principles of good frienship are found in Romans 12:9-21. This is our emphasis in the Bible Study Groups and our Sunday nights. May God help us to not only be a friendly church but a church of friends.
Rom. 15:7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.