The Student’s Desk

That we may know Christ

The ‘Great Commision’: The ins and outs of making disciples

Based on Matthew 28:16-20

This messaged was preached at the ‘Jesus Club’ supporters night, 22nd October, 2012.

Well, how are we going with the ‘Great Commission’? Sharing our faith is a walk in the park, right? Perhaps not. The notion of sharing any part of our faith can lead to a feeling of unease. Perhaps we feel inadequate for the task. Maybe I lost my patience the other day, and some naughty words slipped out. Or I wasn’t kind to that person I bumped into last week. What kind of a witness is that?? Or maybe I’m not up on the latest evangelism techniques, and the most effective way of talking about Jesus. Or I really don’t know enough about the person. Perhaps we struggle with who we are – who am I to tell people they need to repent and put their trust in Jesus? Either way, sharing our faith can be a daunting experience.

As we look at the ‘Great Commission’, we discover that Jesus spoke these words who stumbled and slipped in their faith. That sharing our faith isn’t about evangelism techniques, or knowing about people (although they can help. The ‘Great Commission’ is about Jesus authority, and his task in calling together the people of God.

So, what do we need to carry out the ‘Great Commission’ and make disciples? Firstly, we need to be disciples ourselves. This may sound it goes without saying, but we need to think about what it means to be a disciple. Being a disciples means enjoying a right relationship with Jesus. After Jesus had been raised from the dead, he appeared to his disciples at Galilee – where Jesus’ ministry had started. In response, the disciples worshipped him (v17). Well, most of them. Some doubted. Why were some in doubt? Did they doubt it was Jesus? This is possible. But I suspect the kind of doubt the disciples had was one where you’re not sure of yourself. You’re not sure where you stand, or what you can expect. So you hesitate about what you should do. You’re in doubt! After all, the disciples had abandoned Jesus during his arrest. A relationship had been broken. What kind of a reception would Jesus give his disciples? You can just sense the tension in the room as the disciples and Jesus eyed off one another. Yet Jesus’ approach to them is one of hospitality. It’s one of restoration as Jesus comes toward them and speaks to them as his disciples. So we see that making disciples is about enjoying a right relationship with Jesus.

Do you believe in Jesus? Are you enjoying spending time with him, reading his word, praying to him? I’m not asking are you doing these things. I’m asking, are you enjoying them? Have you ponded the depths of his grace for you? Are you just overwhelmed that God would have you as part of his family? That God’s sinless Son would choose condemnation of life, and assume your place on they cross. If that is your joy, you are able to share your faith. Sharing your faith begins with enjoying the relationship we have with Jesus.

Secondly, what authority do we have to make disciples? Our authority is Jesus’ authority, and that authority finds its expression through the church, God’s people (v18). What kind of authority are we talking about? An authority for what? The answer is basically, everything. We’re talking about an all encompassing authority. And authority that sees a kingly realm that covers the whole earth. Even death itself comes under this authority, since Jesus has just defeated it. It’s an authority that makes all people answerable to Jesus. This is why Jesus instructs has disciples to go to all the nations making disciples.

Now, if that sounds unnerving, it’s probably because it is. Imagine being a disciple during this discussion. You’re a Jew. As you were growing up, you were taught ‘Jew, good. Gentile bad.’ You did not associate with Gentiles. You had nothing to do with Gentiles. Gentiles were filthy, God-forsaken people. You knew this because God picked the Jews to be his chosen nation, which meant ever other nation must be condemned, right? Now you have Jesus saying to go to all the nations and make disciples. Guess what that meant? Talking to Gentiles! Oh, boy!!

The ‘good / bad’ dichotomy is still around. There are plenty of instances today. I believe one of them in our culture is disability. We’re taught, ‘ability good. Disability bad’. It’s all over our media. People do not want to be associated with disability. Against this, Jesus says, “On the basis of my authority, go and make disciples of all nations…” Now, I know at this point, I’m preaching to the converted. But I want you to see that what you do here at ‘WeBelong’, and ‘Jesus Club’ is very much part of the ‘Great Commission’. It involves pursuing those who society has deemed ‘unworthy’, and telling them about Jesus, as well as those who society has deemed ‘worthy’. Jesus’ authority is all encompassing.

Thridly, when are we to ‘make disciples’? Us modern metro people like having a box for everything, don’t we? We have a box for our work life, a box for our family life, a box for our hobbies, a box for our sporting life, a box for our Christian life. Within our Christian box, we might have our evangelism box. We just love our boxes, don’t we? The more boxes the better! Except, Jesus knows nothing about boxes. When we read v19, we get the idea that we need to drop all our other boxes, and pick up our evangelism box, and run with that. But that’s not what Jesus is saying. Jesus is saying, as you are going, as you are going about you’re everyday life, picking the kids up, doing the shopping, working your job, paying the bills, kicking the ball… make disciples. Making disciples is just an organic part of our lives. If we are enjoying our relationship with Jesus, it can’t be anything else. Jesus will just come up in conversation, wont he?

Fourthly, how are we to make disciples? Through baptism and teaching. What? Why baptism? Isn’t baptism just a sign? Baptism never converted anyone. Why is Jesus talking about baptism? Both those things are true, and at this point, I’m going to show my true Presbyterian colours, and say, what is significant here is not so much baptism, but what baptism represents. Baptism is a declaration of a person being a member of the community of God. Behind Jesus’ instruction for baptism is a concern to see people included in the church. So if talking about Jesus just isn’t your thing, inviting them to church, seeing them included, is still very much part of the ‘Great Commission’. We may also note that sharing our faith is not simply an individual effort, but it is a communal effort. We are in this together to make disciples.

This makes sense when you think about where do you hear Jesus teaching. The church. And in teaching people about Jesus, what are we teaching them? I hope we are teaching them how to respond to grace. Let’s be clear, Jesus is not advocating some kind of legalistic righteousness. It’s very easy to grab hold of something like the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, and turn it into a stack of rules. But that’s not what Jesus is on about at all. The issue is, we have experienced grace. We have God’s blessing. How are we to respond?

Fifthly, how are we enabled to make disciples? Jesus has not left us to our own devices. Jesus has promised us his presence will be with us until the end of the age (v20). I believe this is especially true, when we make room in the church for people’s brokenness, and be constantly reminding each other of the grace God has lavished upon us.

Making disciples is based on Jesus’ faithfulness in preserving the relationship we have with him, even when we’re unfaithful. Making disciples is not dependent on our cleverness, or the latest evangelism techniques. Making disciples begins when we enjoy the relationship with have with Jesus, and worship him. It’s only in relationship with Jesus that we can go beyond our comfort zones, and pursue those that society would rather forget. We must also remember making disciples is not meant to be a solo effort. Jesus presence is with us, and that presence is made manifest in his church.

As you go, make disciples. Include them in the church, teach them his grace.

(c) The Student’s Desk, 2012

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October 23, 2012 Posted by | Bible Exposition | , , , | Leave a comment

Who are God’s people?

Matthew 5:1-16 

Who are God’s people? Who are the one’s that enjoy God’s blessing? Who are the ones that can really have an impact for God, and change people’s lives? We might first think of religious leaders. People like Ghandi, or Mother Theresa. Perhaps even the Pope. Or we might think of people who can do lot’s of stuff for others. People who work for charities like Red Cross, or the Smith Family. Or help with food and disaster relief. Or, people like politicians or business people. People who use their money and power to do good in society. Well, if we take Jesus’s words seriously, we have to say that the people who have the most impact for God is us. It’s those who have their faith and trust in Jesus that can have a monumental impact. Maybe not on a world scale, but you have an impact for God, one person at a time.

Well, how is that possible? People in Jesus’ day were allot like us in the way they thought about these questions. Like us, they would’ve thought God’s people are the religious leaders, the wealthy, the do-gooders, and the well-to-do. Jesus takes this whole way of thinking, and flips it upside-down. God’s people, Jesus says, are the down and outers. The ones who have the power to have an impact, have no power at all. Let me explain.

Jesus says, those who feel they are not good enough for God, they’re the ones who know what it is to repent. They’re the ones who know their thoughts, their attitudes, and what they’ve done are not what God wants. And they are sorry for that, and they ask forgiveness. These are the one’s that enjoy God’s blessing.

Jesus says, those who have no joy, those who grieve over their own sin, and the sin of the world, they’re the ones who have God’s blessing. These are that find comfort. The kind of comfort that can only be found in God’s grace. It’s only in God’s grace in sending Jesus to die for our sins that our sins are dealt with and finished. We can enjoy the comfort of knowing when we approach God, he will accept us. If you’re not aware of your own sin and the sin of the word, why would you seek forgiveness? If you don’t seek forgiveness, how will you ever find God’s grace. It’s awareness of our sin that causes us to learn on his grace, his blessing.

Jesus says, those who are gentle, who control their desires and seek the benefit of others, the ones who aren’t grabbing everything for themselves, they are the ones who will have everything. Because they know everything belongs to God anyway. There’s no point squabbling over it!

Jesus say, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who really want to do what God wants, and not just pretend they do, they’re the one’s who’ll find satisfaction. They are the one’s who will enjoy God’s blessing. They’re the one’s who will be fulfilled. Because they will know God! Not know about God, like I know about the Queen. But they will know God in a personal relationship.

Jesus says those who show mercy, not strength, they’re the ones who’ll get mercy. It’s those who feel unworthy, who grieve over sin, who are gentle, who want to do God’s will, who aren’t worried about rights, and justifying themselves. They know mercy is needed, and they show it.

Jesus says those who really want to be friends with God, and have set their hearts on eternity, and nothing else, they’re the one’s who will be friends with God.

Jesus says those who seek to make peace, and not trouble and division, they’re the ones who are called the Sons of God. Don’t worry, that includes girls too. It’s those who look to lessen tensions, not add to them. Who seek solutions, and make sure everyone has understood them. They’re the ones who really reflect what God is like. Like father, like son.

Jesus says those who get picked on and made fun of because of their faith, they’re the one’s who really have eternal life. They know how good it is, and they hang on to it, no matter what!

That’s a long list, but what it boils down to is this. If you are fairdinkum about believing and trusting in Jesus, it doesn’t matter who you are, or what you’ve done, or what you can or can’t do. The issue is, what is you’re heart set on. Is your heart set on the stuff of world, and you’re only pretending to follow Jesus. Or is your heart really set on the stuff of God?

If your heart is set on the stuff of God, rest assured, you are one of God’s people. You have been given forgiveness, comfort, everything in Christ. You’ve been given knowledge of God, mercy, friendship, and are able to reflect what God is like in the way you live.

Because of this we are able to have an impact for God and change the lives of the people around us. This is what Jesus meant when he said we are ‘salt’ and ‘light’. By living out our faith, by being obedient to Jesus – providing wisdom, making peace, reflecting God’s character. We don’t do this to be saved! Jesus has already saved us!! We do this so others might worship God as well.

God’s people are those who have the hearts set on the stuff of God, and live out there faith in such a way, others can’t possibly miss it. Let’s respond to what God has given us in Jesus by set our hearts on the stuff of God, and living out our faith before others.

(c) The Student’s Desk, 2012

September 28, 2012 Posted by | Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Sermon on the Mount | , , , , | Leave a comment

Introducing ‘Worship’

Genesis 4:1-16

What is worship? I suspect when we think of worship, we tend to think of giving thanks, praise and adoration to God, and praying to God. This is absolutely right, worship is all these things. But here’s the thing: we can so easily distort worship, and twist it into something else as we give thanks and praise and pray to God. For us, worshipping God can become a means of scoring brownie points with God. Doing things to make God happy so he will bless us, or give us what we want. Ultimately, this kind of worship becomes about us trying to manipulate God. This kind of worship is a major problem, because it doesn’t reflect God’s character. God is a God who blesses. Who provides. Who is gracious. God doesn’t sit back and wait for us to do the right thing, and then he blesses us. God has blessed us. God has provided for us. Abundantly! When we worship God, and pray to him, his blessing and his provision need to be reflected in our worship.And this is where a man by the name of Cain came undone.

Cain was the son of Adam and Eve, and he had a younger brother named Abel. One day, both Cain and Abel worshipped God. God accepted Abel’s worship, but not Cain’s. And it’s not immediately obvious why it was so. But I think it’s got to do with their motives. It’s an issue of the heart. You see, when Abel worshipped God, he was whole-hearted. Abel recognised how much God had blessed him, and he gave the best thing he had to God. He didn’t want anything back. He just wanted to acknowledge God’s blessing on his life.

Cain on the other hand, he was half-hearted. Cain gave some of what he had. It wasn’t the best. Actually, to me, it sounds like Cain gave God his leftovers. Does God give us his leftovers? No! He gives us what’s best for us. So Cain’s worship of God didn’t reflect God’s character, and how much God had given him. Cain wasn’t truly thankful for how much God had given him. The problem with half-hearted worship is we’re not really focused on God. We’re actually focused on what we want. And that’s what sin is, wanting what we want, and not wanting what God’s wants.

Because we’re not really focussed on God, we end up trying to manipulate God to get what we want, and we become frustrated when God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want. Then we are tempted to take matters into our own hands. This can have terrible consequences.

Cain took matters into his own hands, this led to the murder of his brother, Abel. Cain was envious of Abel because God accepted Abel’s worship, and not his. Cain was so angry about his brother, he actually planned his murder. Cain had it all figured out – when and how to murder him, and how to get rid of the evidence. Perhaps Cain thought if he bumped off his brother, God would have no choice but to accept his half-hearted worship, and bless him with what he wanted.

The thing is, God won’t be manipulated. God won’t let himself be accountable to us. God is God, and we are accountable to him. He can see straight through us. Cain was a worker of the ground. He knew how to dig a hole and make a body disappear. He could con his parents into thinking Abel was alive and well, but not God. Cain relied on his expertise as a man of the land to cover up his sin. No one could ever tell what happen, except God. God saw straight through it. By burying his brother’s body, he thought that would cover his sin. Instead, the act actually convicted him. And the question was never about how well Cain could cover his sin. It was a question of the state of his heart. When God questions Cain about where Abel was, a very cold and hard heart is revealed. Cain couldn’t have cared less about Abel. All he could care about was himself, and what he wanted. Cain’s worship was half-hearted from the beginning, and that’s why God didn’t accept his worship.

What about our worship? Is our worship whole-hearted like Abel? Is our focus on God? Are we thankful for everything God has given us? Or has something else got our attention, so we end up trying to manipulate God like Cain to get what we really want. Because the thing is, God has given us so much more than what he gave Abel. God has given us Jesus so we could have a personal relationship with him. Jesus worshipped God the way God deserves. Jesus didn’t just give his best to God. He gave everything to God. Even his life. And Jesus did it with us in mind. Jesus worshipped God for us, and God accepted his worship. That’s how we can have a personal relationship with God now. That personal relationship needs to be reflected in how we worship God. Our worship of God doesn’t just involve praising God and praying to him. It involves our whole life – how we treat people, and what we do. It’s worth asking the question, “How does your personal relationship with God affect what you do?” This is your worship as well!

Worship is not about earning brownie points with God, to manipulate him and get what we want. We can’t be half-hearted about it, wanting something else as well. Neither is worship about us, and what we want. Worship is a whole-hearted response to what God has given us. Especially as Christians who know that God has also given us Jesus. Worship is recognising God’s character – that God is a God who loves us and has blessed us. He has already provided what we need. Finally, worship is made possible by Jesus. Jesus alone has worshipped God as he deserves. True worship begins when we put our faith and trust in Jesus.

(c) The Student’s Desk, 2012


June 1, 2012 Posted by | Bible, Devotionals, Genesis | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus, our Advocate (Easter 2012)

Luke 24:36-53

I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve had a disagreement or an argument with someone that’s seriously affected our relationship with the other person. We’ve either lost our temper or offended them in some way, and we feel as though we’ve burned our bridges with that person. There’s nothing we can do ourselves to mend the broken relationship. In such cases, we need an advocate. Someone who can represent us and our cause to the other person in the hope of undoing what we’ve done to offend them, and mending the broken relationship.

When it comes to God, we have all done things to offend God – whether deliberately, or accidentally. This is what the Bible calls sin. This has seriously affected our relationship with God, and all of us have burned our bridges with God. There is nothing any of us can do ourselves to mend that broken relationship with God. We need an advocate. We need some who can represent us before God. We need someone who can undo the sin we’ve done to cause God offence. We need someone who can mend our broken relationship with God.

But our advocate can’t be just anyone. I can’t represent you before God. I’m a sinner as well! I’ve caused God offence also, and need an advocate myself! Our advocate needs to be someone who has never sinned. Someone who can meet God on his terms. Someone who pleases God. There’s only been one person to match this description – Jesus. The whole point of Jesus’ life was to represent us before God, undo the sin that we have done to offend God, and mend our relationship with God. Jesus came to be our advocate.

But how can we be sure? How can we know Jesus was able to do all this? Any crackpot can stand up and say they are our advocate before God, and be mistaken. We can be sure that Jesus is our advocate before God because of the resurrection. When Jesus died, he was properly, properly dead. Crucifixion was designed only to have one outcome – death. People who were crucified did not survive, it’s that simple. After this, Jesus’ body was wrapped up, and placed in a tomb for three days. Any prospect of Jesus coming back to life was the furthest thing from the disciple’s minds, as we can see from the part of the Bible we read.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples, they were frightened. This was a completely unexpected event, and their minds went in search of other explanations. Perhaps they were seeing a ghost! But Jesus had a body like we have a body. The disciples could actually reach out and touch him. Ghosts don’t have a body like ours, so maybe this really was the same Jesus. But they still weren’t to sure. They really didn’t expect Jesus to come back from the dead, and it just seemed too good to be true! So Jesus ate a piece of roasted fish. Now, think about it. If a ghost were to eat a piece of fish, what would happen? The piece of fish would drop to the ground, right? But that didn’t happen with Jesus. It was the same Jesus with the same body eating a piece of fish as he had probably done countless times before. Jesus had indeed come back from the dead.

So, how do we make sense of all this? Why did Jesus come back from the dead? In a sense they should have known, because it was talked about all through the Old Testament. But, the thing is, we can’t understand the Bible without God’s help. When Jesus opened their eyes to help them understand the Bible, he was able to explain to his disciples that he came back from the dead so that people would be able to repent and have their sins forgiven. In other words, Jesus came back from the dead to be our advocate. To represent us before God, to undo the sin we’ve done that offends God, and to mend our broken relationship with God.

We know that because of Jesus, we can repent and have our sins forgiven because Jesus was carried up into heaven – body and all. This shows that God accepted what Jesus did on our behalf. That Jesus’ death was sufficient to pay for our sins, and Jesus is the one who can be our advocate before God. Jesus is the one who can represent us before God, undo the sin we’ve done that offends God, and mend our broken relationship with God.

We can be certain that Jesus did come back from the dead because he had a real body. We no longer have a problem in our relationship with God because Jesus’ resurrection allows for repentance, and forgiveness of our sins. In Jesus, we do have an advocate who has dealt with the problems between us and God, and the only right response is to worship him. Jesus has made the impossibility of us being God’s friend possible for all eternity.

Easter is a wonderful opportunity for us to remember how Jesus became our advocate before God, even though we had burned our bridges with God, and we who follow Jesus now have peace with God.

(C) The Student’s Desk, 2012

April 6, 2012 Posted by | Bible, Bible Exposition, Devotionals | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Jesus Wants…

John 17

What Jesus wants…

What Jesus wants. It seems a straight-forward question to ask, “What does Jesus want?” The answers that might come to mind are, Jesus wants us to be good; be kind; pray; read the Bible; go to church. I put the question on the internet to see how others would answer. One said Jesus wants our life. Another said our money. Another said peace.

All of these are certainly part of what Jesus wants. But there’s something deeper than all of these. Something more important than anything else. Something that Jesus wants more than anything else. The problem is, we can become so busy, or become so focus on these things, we actually miss what Jesus really wants. We become focused on doing these things to get what we want as Christians – God’s blessing. So the Christian life becomes all about us, and what we’re doing to get into God’s good books. The fact of the matter is, we, as Christians, already have God’s blessing. We’re already in God’s good books because of Jesus. The Christian life is about Jesus, and what he is doing in us and through us. If that is true, we need to go back and ask, “What does Jesus really want?” To do this, we need to read the Bible, and understand what Jesus really wants. Once we understand that, we learn what it is to follow and obey Jesus.

In John 17, we have one of the last prayers of Jesus before he dies, and the longest prayer. There’s nothing like imminent death to prompt someone to sort out what they really want. Jesus reveals what he really wants in this prayer, and 3 things come out in Jesus’ prayer. Firstly, Jesus wants to be glorified (v5). Secondly, Jesus wants his followers to be one (v11). Thirdly, Jesus wants the world to know that he was sent to earth and did what he did by God. But, what’s really interesting is how Jesus’ wants are fulfilled. Jesus’ wants are fulfilled through his followers, and they are given what they need to fulfil Jesus’ wants. Jesus never leaves his followers to their own devices to do what he wants.

Firstly, Jesus wants to be glorified, and the other 2 wants feed into this. But what does it mean to glorify someone? It means to give recognition to someone for who they are and what they have done. It means to elevate them, to see them as being more important than other people and other things. Often when we glorify someone, we give them more recognition than they really deserve. But in the case of Jesus, he deserves all the recognition we give him, and a whole lot more! The reason is, God the Father has given Jesus authority over all things, to give eternal life (so people can go to heaven), and has done all the work God the Father gave him to do. What’s interesting is Jesus asks God the Father to give him the recognition through Jesus followers. It’s through us that God glorifies Jesus. Have you ever thought of that? That we are caught up in a heavenly act of worship of Jesus. How is this possible? By God keeping us. By guarding us, protecting us, watching over us. There are a million and one ways for us to be distracted from giving Jesus recognition in this world. But God is continually teaching us and providing for us so we can give Jesus the recognition he deserves.

Secondly, Jesus wants his followers to be one. It’s important that Jesus’ followers are one because Jesus is one with the Father. Jesus doesn’t do anything to oppose the Father, and the Father doesn’t oppose Jesus. They work as one, and are one. Now, looking around at the modern church, you’d might think Jesus’ followers are anything but! There’s a difference of opinion on every point of doctrine, and I’m another person with their own set of opinions. But we need to understand what Jesus meant for his followers to be one. Our oneness does not depend anything we do. Again, it’s about what God is doing through us. God is sanctifying us. What this means is we have been set aside for God’s purpose. We’re all here for God’s work. It’s not just the guys with theological degree and whatever else that are involved in God’s work. It’s all of us. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have been set aside for God’s work. That is how we are one. We might have differences, and that’s fine. We are one for the work of God.

Thirdly, Jesus wants the world to know that God sent him, so they might believe in him. This would be done by his followers being one in being set aside for God’s work. Jesus’ followers are empowered for God’s work by sharing in Jesus’ glory. This means receiving God’s revelation. That God has revealed himself to us in Jesus. Do you realise that we can know God, personally; and we can tell other people about God. That we are in relationship with God the Father, and show people what God is like? Only Christians can do that! No one else. As I’ve already said, we have been set aside for God’s work, and this is also part of sharing in Jesus’ glory. Jesus desire for the world to know that God has sent him is met through us! And God gives us what we need to make that possible.

We need to recognise that the Christian life is not individualistic. It’s not something you keep private between you and God. It’s communal. It involves the people around us. What dos Jesus want? Jesus want to be glorified, in the way we relate to people, and treat them; in the way we speak – what we say, and how we say it; in the way we conduct ourselves – what we do and how we do. This is what Jesus wants. So the world will know he is sent by God.

(C) The Student’s Desk, 2012

March 10, 2012 Posted by | Bible, Bible Exposition, Devotionals, John's Gospel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Expect the Unexpected

I’ve been really SLACK! I do apologise. I haven’t even finished the Sermon on the Mount series. I’ll have to just post what I’ve done some time.

I started a series on Jesus’ miracles which makes for a very interesting study. I think most modern westerners are so overcome with the occurance of a miracle, we don’t go the extra step and ask, “what does this mean?”, “what does this teach us?”, “How  does this inform the way we relate to Jesus?” Yet, these are the precise reasons why Jesus wrked miracles. So in this series, I’m assuming the authenticity of Jesus’ miracles and their heavenly origin. What I went to ask the question, “what do these miracles reveal about Jesus, and, how are we to respond to him”.

I have also decided to include the NIV traslation of the Bible in a bid to make life easier for readers.

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The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion

Psalm 4

Answer me when I call to you,

O my righteous God.

Give me relief from my distress;

be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?

How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Selah

Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;

the Lord will hear when I call to him.

In your anger do not sin;

when you are on your beds,

search your hearts and be silent. Selah

Offer right sacrifices

and trust in the Lord.

Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?”

Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.

You have filled my heart with greater joy

than when their grain and new wine abound.

I will lie down and sleep in peace,

for you alone, O Lord,

make me dwell in safety.

Prayer

Lord, we can often find ourselves in circumstances that are hard to overcome. Particular when we endure insult upon insult, injury upon injury, pain upon pain. So we ask you, gracious Lord, to show us your goodness. May our hearts abound with the joy of knowing you, and may we have peace and refuge in what you have surely promised. As we come to look at Jesus’ miracle at the wedding, may you bless us with a fresh understanding of who your Son Jesus is.

In Jesus name we pray, Amen!


John 2:1-11

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

Expect the unexpected

What do we expect from Jesus? I reckon most people expect on of two things from Jesus. Either people expect Jesus to give them a whole bunch of rules to follow to make God happy; or they expect Jesus to run around and fix every problem they have in life. Kind of like a ‘pocket Jesus’ they can whip out when things aren’t going right. In this miracle Jesus shows he’s not about either. Instead, Jesus shows he’s about something much, much bigger.

I think most of us have been to a wedding, and it’s normal to have wine or beer or some sort of alcohol. Can you imagine being at a wedding and running out of wine. How embarrassing would that be? Well, that’s the situation we find Mary, the mother of Jesus, in. It’s likely that Mary was on the catering team, and in an effort to avoid severe embarrassment, she turns to her eldest son to provide for her. That’s what they did in those days! It just so happened that her eldest son was Jesus.

Now you might think that having Jesus for a son would solve every problem you would every have. Think again. Mary is in for a rude shock as Jesus does something no respecting son would ever do. He denies Mary any motherly claim she has over him. Mary’s expectations of Jesus were offbeat, and she had to approach her own son differently from what her  culture determined. Mary had to shift from seeing her son as someone who had obligations, to someone she had to trust in the most trying of circumstances. Why? Because Jesus was obliged to God the Father. God the Father had determined what Jesus was to do, and everything else had to conform to what God the Father had determined. All Mary could do was trust Jesus, and let him call the shots with out any obligation. There’s a sense that Mary leaves the situation in the hands of her son, not expecting any particular outcome as she turns to the servants and says, “Do whatever he tells you.”

The thing is, it’s not that Jesus didn’t want to help his mother. He did! But it was crucial that his mother, and everyone else with him, had the right kind of relationship with him. Jesus did provide more wine for the wedding, not just any old wine that you give to people when they’re already drunk, but the best wine! And he did it in a way that showed people what he was about.

In Jesus time, people had this funny idea that they could make God happy by washing their hands. They got this idea from the Old Testament law. Jesus uses the jars that were used for washing hands by getting the servants to fill the jars with water. Plain, ordinary water. But when they took some of this water to the head organiser of the wedding, the water had miraculously turned into wine. By doing this, Jesus showed that he was replacing the task of following cold hard rules with the enjoyment of being in fellowship with him. And this new fellowship involved trusting Jesus. This was a profound moment for Jesus mates who struggled to understand who this man was that said to them, “follow me.” Jesus shows himself as the one who would change the way people approached God.

As I have thought about this passage, I have been struck by the severe embarrassment that Mary was facing, and Jesus’ audacity to strip Mary of all motherly claims over him right at the moment of her agony. But I think this parallels much of our Christian experience. We’re struck by one crisis, and when we’re trying to deal with that crisis, something else hits us. And in our hearts we say, “Oh Jesus! What are you doing!?” We ask him to do one thing, and something else happens. In effect, Jesus was saying to his own mother, “Trust me! Believe in who I am.” Jesus says the same thing to us today, “Trust me! What I have to offer in fellowship is far better then whatever you are worrying about.”

What can we expect from Jesus? We can expect Jesus to bring us into a right relationship with himself where we trust him and submit to him as our Lord. And he will do whatever it takes to get us there, even if it hurts. Trust him! It’s worth it!

© The Student’s Desk, 2008

August 15, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Miracles of Jesus | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easter 2009 – The purpose of the Christian life…

Read: Psalm 16

Prayer:

Who is like you, O God, who provides for all our needs before we ask? You have given each us our tasks in life, and made our lives secure. We thank you that you are a God who speaks, and you counsel us in all matters. We thank you for Jesus, that in dying you did not leave him, nor let him see decay. But he became the path of life for us that we may know your eternal pleasures. As we consider what resurrection is, may we understand afresh what Jesus has done for us, and help us grasp hold of that wonderful promise we have in Jesus.

Read: 1 Corinthians 15:35-58

It’s Easter! A time when we stuff ourselves silly with chocolate and get incredibly fat. Is this really why we have Easter? Easter is the time when we remember and celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Hold on a sec! Did anyone notice what I just said? I just mentioned Jesus’ death and resurrection. How do we think about that? How do we conceptualise that? I think most of us have been to a funeral. Either the curtain closes, or the coffin is lowered down, and that’s the last we see of the person. We’ve got the death bit figured out. But the resurrection bit… what does that look like?

The Bible gives us some clues. One of those clues is from the created order. When we look around the world, we can see different things have different sorts of bodies. Think of a tree, for example. A tree begins is life as a seed. Yet the tree and the seed look nothing like each other. In fact, the seed needs to be buried before a tree can grow. And we know that there are different kinds of bodies. A person looks nothing like a dog, and a dog looks nothing like a bird, and a bird looks nothing like a fish. So it is with a resurrected body. It’s different to the body we have now.

How is the resurrection body different? The bodies we have now a weak and frail, and will eventually die. They are also shameful. We know we do things that displease God, and we can often feel ashamed of our sin. It’s just natural for us to do things that God does not want us to do. But the resurrection body is different. The resurrection body is imperishable; it won’t become weak, frail, and eventually die. It will be honourable, and will be able to do the things that God wants. It won’t be attracted to sin like the body we have now. The bodies we have now, the Bible calls ‘natural’. The resurrection body the Bible calls ‘spirit’.

Well, where do these bodies come from? The first man that was made was Adam, so we’re all descendants of Adam. We’re all born of Adam. And this is where our natural bodies come from. But more importantly where do our spiritual bodies come from? Jesus! Jesus is the one who came from heaven, so he has a spiritual body. But how are we born of Jesus? By believing in him!

Why is this so important? Because our natural bodies can not handle heaven any more then a fish can walk on dry land. We must have a body that is fit for heaven. Our mortal, perishable bodies must be replaced by immortal, imperishable bodies.

Well, how does that happen? God gives us these new spiritual bodies in Jesus. Jesus is the one who took death head on and defeated death. Jesus has made it possible for us to receive new, spiritual bodies that are fit for heaven. It is by believing in Jesus that we receive new bodies when our current bodies die. And these new bodies will be imperishable, strong, and glorious.

Now let me speak personally for a moment. I’m 34 years old. And I’m finding the older I get, the more aware I become of my limitations. And the more aware I become, the more frustrated I become. Sometimes I’m not even aware of why I’m frustrated. I just am. Yet when I recall this passage, I am reminded of the tremendous hope we have in Jesus. That our frustrations aren’t all there is to life. There will be victory, and the victory has been won by Jesus by rising from the dead.

How are we to respond to such a promise of victory in Jesus? By standing firm, remaining faithful to Jesus. Nothing we do for Jesus, no effort we make, will be wasted. It may feel like it! I feel that quite allot. But it’s not true! Here it is in the Bible, “know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Wow! What a promise!!

The idea of resurrection may be difficult for us to understand. Nonetheless, there is a new, spiritual body made available to us. Jesus has made this body available to us in his own resurrection, so we can have bodies that are fit for heaven. Our task is to remain faithful to Jesus.

© The Student’s Desk, 2009

April 10, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Religious | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sermon on the Mount: Jesus shows off ‘showing off’…

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Psalm 147:7-11

Lord, we thanks and praise you for the great love you have for each one for us, and you bless us day after day, not only with the things that we need, but with things to enjoy. Lord, your word teaches us that you are not impressed by what people can do. Instead, you take great delight in those who put their hope in you. Lord, in the light of this, we confess that there have been times when we’ve showed off. When we’ve tried to impress others and you, and make ourselves out to be better than what we are. Lord, as we look at what Jesus taught, humble our hearts, and help us understand. Enable us to do things not to show off, but to honour you.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Sermon on the Mount: Jesus shows off ‘showing off’…

Read Matthew 6:1-8

We’ve all seen show offs haven’t we? Perhaps we’ve showed off ourselves. I’ve been called a show off a number of times, and probably not without reason. Why do people show off? To draw attention to themselves. To be noticed. To make themselves out to be better then what they are. Jesus reckoned people showed off so people would say how good they were. They might give a whole lot of money so someone might say “Fred, you’re the most generous man I know!” Or they might pray in public so someone might say, “Wow, he must be so holy to pray like that!!”

But this doesn’t impress Jesus at all. Jesus says if all you want is for people to tell you how good you are, then that’s all you’re going to get. You have nothing more coming from God. You have received your reward in full. Because the faith of such a person is not sincere. They aren’t focussed on God. They’re just looking to show off.

So what does a since faith look like? When it comes to giving, not just money, but anything – even our time – we’re to do so with our left hand not knowing what our right hand is doing. In other words, we’re to give without expecting anything in return. In this way our concern is the other person, and not scoring points with other people or God.

It’s the same with prayer. We ought not use prayer as a way to impress others. Instead we ought to pray in private. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray publically. The Bible often speaks of people getting together to pray. But when we pray publically, there might be part of us trying to impress the others. When we pray in private, there’s no risk of that happening. Even still, we need to be careful with our private prayers that we don’t end up trying to impress God. When we do pray, we shouldn’t feel we need to use big, fancy words to get God’s attention. Or say the same prayer over and over and over again to score points with God. God knows what we need! He doesn’t need us to tell him. And we pray in Jesus’ name who made us right with God, so there’s no sense in trying to score points with him. Instead we should simply ask God for what we need.

Living Christian lives is not a matter of showing off. Following Jesus is about having concern for others and having a sincere faith in God knowing that you have been made right with him by Jesus.

© The Student’s Desk, 2008.

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Religious, Sermon on the Mount | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sermon on the Mount: Going the extra mile, and beyond…

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Psalm 18:20-30

Lord, as we have been looking as the message Jesus preached so many years ago, we have come to see that living Christian lives is very different to the world. For you do not judge as the world judges, nor value what the world values. Often you despise the things the world values, and we think little of what you ask of us. Help us see the wisdom in Jesus’ words this morning that we may live different lives, radical lives, so people know that we belong to you.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. 

Going the extra mile, and beyond…

Read Matthew 5:20, 38-48

This is perhaps one of the hardest teachings of Jesus. And we’ve heard it that many times, it’s become a cliché – “turn the other check”. Yet it still makes us uncomfortable. Jesus seems to be asking the impossible here. Are we suppose to get around butt-naked for the sake of others and literally give the shirt off our back?

Well you don’t need to look too far today to find people interpreting the Bible for their own gain. In Jesus’ day, it was exactly the same. Way back in the Old Testament when God made his people into a nation, he gave them a law that said if someone deliberately injures another, then they should have the same done to them. So if I broke your leg, you would have the right to break my leg. The whole point of the law was to limit payback. I have heard in some indigenous cultures there’s a system of payback. One person does something to another, then the other person does something worse to get back at them. It goes on and on, and there’s no end to it. This law was given to stop all that nonsense, and to give respect to people, even nasty people.

Some people in Jesus day had a different take on that law. They used this law to justify payback. They didn’t respect people. They weren’t concerned for there welfare. They just used God’s law to justify their own selfishness. It was pathetic! It is against this abuse of God’s law that we need to understand Jesus’ teaching.

By teaching what he does Jesus places the emphasis back on respect for the other person. This doesn’t mean we need to strip naked every time someone demands something of us. Jesus is using exaggerated language here. He is actually saying to go beyond the minimum standard, and actually do something positive for the other person, even if they’ve cost us or offended us.

In Jesus’ day, a person’s cloak was very important, particularly if the person was poor. It may have been the only thing they had to keep them warm at night. So to give away your cloak was no small thing. Why would Jesus make such a wild statement? Living life upside down and following Jesus is about thinking about the other person and not to be so selfish. When we start jumping up and down demanding our rights, who are we really concerned about? Ourselves! Are we thinking of the other person? Hardly!

So this teaching of Jesus isn’t about going around butt-naked. Jesus is using exaggerated language to show what it is do deny ourselves and put others first. After all, it was Jesus who denied his very life to put us ahead of him so that we would enjoy eternity. 

Jesus presses the issue again we he tells people to walk the extra mile. Have you ever been asked to do something, and you do it only because you had to? I have. I drag my feet and don’t do any more then what I have to. Jesus isn’t impressed with that. Jesus says to think about the other person, and to do the extra work. Again it was Jesus who did the extra work for us, work that we could not do, in obeying God perfectly. It’s in Jesus that we can experience God’s blessings.

We have been blessed so much as Christians. May we show others how blessed we are and bless them by thinking of them. Even if it means putting them first.

© The Student’s Desk, 2008.

September 7, 2008 Posted by | Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Religious, Sermon on the Mount | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sermon on the Mount: Jesus take on anger management – How do we do it?

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Psalm 51:10-17

Lord, living the way you want in this life is hard work. It seems temptation is around every corner, and we are always seeing and hearing examples of behaviour that you don’t want us to do. Like the Psalm Lord, we pray you would create in us a new heart, one that rejoices in your ways so people may learn about your great love from us. Lord, teach us to be humble when things don’t go our way. May we even seek the needs of others, even when they’re against us. As we look at what Jesus taught, help us to understand what is taught, and help us to respond.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Jesus take on anger management – How do we do it?

Read Matthew 5:20-26

We’ve been talking about living life upside-down, living differently to the rest of the world. So far we’ve said the unlucky people by worldly standards are actually the lucky people by God’s standards – they have God’s blessing. We’ve also talked about what we can expect from living lives differently to other people. We said that we might cop a bit of flak from others, but we can also expect people to turn and praise God for what the see in us.
But how do we live life upside-down? What does an upside down life look like day in and day out? That’s what we’ll be talking about the next few times we meet, starting today.

There are plenty of people around today that think being Christian is about observing a minimum standard of behaviour. That so long as you don’t commit any big sins like murder, and live a good life, you’ll be right. And they’re partly right. Responding to the gospel and following Jesus demands a change in behavioural standards. But their mostly wrong. Because Jesus takes that standard of behaviour, and takes it to a whole new level. Jesus raises the bar.

How far does Jesus raise the bar? There were a number of religious groups in Jesus’ day and one of them was called the Pharisees. These people knew the law of God really, really well. They were religious nutters! When it came to being devoted to God, they were pedantic! There was not an area of their life that their devotion to God affected. Anyone could spot a Pharisee from 100m away. Their devotion to God was that obvious! And to all this religious devotion and activity Jesus says NOT GOOD ENOUGH! “… unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Now that is a shocking thing to say. Anyone would’ve thought if anyone was going to go to heaven, it would be a Pharisee. Jesus says, no chance!

What’s the problem with the Pharisees? The problem with the Pharisees is the same problem we can have today – that living life the way God wants is about ticking boxes, like on a check list. We can start thinking that so long as we’ve done our Christian quota – gone to church, said our prayers, read our Bible – God will be happy with that. Jesus says no! It’s a lot more than that. And if you haven’t understood anything I’ve been saying, I want you to understand this, and keep this in mind: Living Christian lives is not about keeping a check list of a behaviour standard. The Christian life is about doing the most you can in service to God, and in service to others. After all, Jesus gave everything he had for us, by dying on a cross for our sins so we can be friends with God. The only appropriate response is to give everything we have, and give the most that we can. Even to the point we ask ‘how can I do more?’ when we’ve done everything. Some will be able to do more than others. That’s ok. God doesn’t expect us to all be the same. But he does expect us to do what we can.

Jesus puts this in very concrete terms for us by talking about murder and anger. Now, I take it there aren’t any murderers amongst us. Just in case there is, and I’ve offended you, I am really, really sorry, and there’s no need to meet me in the back ally afterwards. But we do get angry with people, don’t we? We might start calling them nasty names and holding grudges against them. Has anyone done that? I have. And we might start thinking, “I haven’t done anything wrong. I haven’t actually murdered them… yet!” Well, Jesus says you have done something wrong. God isn’t happy with your behaviour. You need to do something about it. You need to stop bearing a grudge and say to the person, “look, I’m sorry. Can we talk about what happened?” That’s what living life upside-down looks like. That’s what living Christian lives and following Jesus involves. It’s not easy. But it is worthwhile.

Again, living Christian lives is not about keeping a check list of a behaviour standard. The Christian life is about doing the most you can in service to God, and in service to others in response to the love Jesus has shown to each of us.

 

 

© The Student’s Desk, 2008.

August 23, 2008 Posted by | Bible, Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Religious, Sermon on the Mount | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment