Archive for December, 2008

New Years Encouragement

 Here are Paul Blackham’s wonderful new year’s sermons from All Souls, Langham Place.

Galatians 4:9

Matthew 11:25-30

2 Corinthians 5

1 Corinthians 15:20-26

John 3:1-21

His Matthew 11 is a personal favourite (surprise surprise).


And here’s my new year’s encouragement to our Wednesday communion service this morning.  A little ten minute sermon.  It’s David and Goliath again.  Here’s my conclusion…

We are the fearful and faithless Israelites, standing behind our brave Champion.  But friends, He has won!  And we have not contributed a calorie of effort – all we’ve done is flee from Goliath and deride our King.  Even so – His victory is our victory.

And so, as in 1 Samuel 17, we LOOK, we SHOUT and we ADVANCE.  Of course we don’t advance killing Philistines, but we do make in-roads into enemy territory as we spread the gospel.  That’s a wonderful consequence of Christ’s victory.  We LOOK, we SHOUT and we ADVANCE.

 But perhaps you don’t feel like shouting this morning.  Perhaps you’re not looking forward to advancing into 2009.  Well what would you say to an Israelite at this battle who remained unmoved by David’s victory?  Clearly they haven’t seen it properly.  Or they don’t realise how it affects them.  What would you tell them?  You’d say LOOK – LOOK to your Champion.  Don’t grit your teeth and advance anyway.  Don’t look to your own strength and convince yourself you can take on Goliath.  LOOK at Christ.  Your champion has won the battle for you.  And He won it for you when you were weak, faithless, sinful and cowering in fear.  Doesn’t matter.  He has done it.  You might still be weak, sinful, cowering, faithless.  Doesn’t matter.  He has won for you salvation, forgiveness and new life. 

So LOOK, SHOUT and ADVANCE into 2009.



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Summing up

Let me take this end-of-year opportunity to sum up what this blog has been about…


Christ the Truth means Jesus is not just the one Way or one Life, but the one Truth of God.  Truth – all truth – is in Jesus. This means all our thinking about God must begin with HimNot some Christ-principle but Jesus of NazarethNot some divinized ideal but the actual Jesus of the Gospels.

When we do this we realize the cruciformity of the Christian GodThe Lamb is at the very centre of the throneHis glory is the glory of self-giving and not the glory of self-centredness

How can this be?  Our God is trinity.  He is One and ThreeGod’s One-ness and Three-ness are not un-coordinated perspectives.  Rather the Oneness of God simply is the communion of these concrete and particular Persons.  To approach God’s oneness in this way guards against many errors and brings many benefits.

Of course this christocentric, trinitarian approach is not a New Testament novelty.  Christ has always been the object of faith and hope for Old Testament believersRevelation has always been on a trinitarian dynamic.  The Hebrew Scriptures themselves give us a trinitarian witness on their own terms and in their own context

From this it becomes obvious that there are no true understandings of God that are not Christ-centred, trinitarian revelations.  Neither reason, nor creation, nor religion (be it biblical or unbiblical) can offer us stepping stones towards true knowledge.  We either begin with the Christ, the Son of God or we don’t begin at all.  Yet from Christ we can reason truly and understand the wealth of God’s revelation in all the universe.  This is faith seeking understanding and is the proper method for all enquiry.

All of this is to say that the God with Whom we have to deal is never an abstract deity but always the very concrete Jesus with His Father and Spirit – He is always and at all times irreducibly the God of the Gospel.  And His being is unfolded and expressed precisely in the gospel economy.

From the Father has come His Son to lay hold of our humanity in incarnation, and to die our death in crucifixion.  This has always been the way of the LORDHe rose again as Head over creation and ascended to the Father’s right hand in glory

Humanity is not free to choose participation in this life.  Rather we are freed by the Son to enjoy His status.  We find ourselves as those already embraced by this triune God.  We find ourselves participating in this divine nature – loved with the eternal love of the trinity.  

Faith is not a thing we contribute to this salvation. It is a looking unto Jesusthe very opposite of self-regard

In this we find our identity – not in personality types but in Jesus.  We find our assurance – not in personal piety but in our perfect Priest.  We find our encouragement – far above and beyond ourselves, in Christ who is our righteousness. Since this is so, sinning really isn’t the worst thing – refusing His forgiveness is.   We respond to sin by looking away from self to our Champion.  This is not cheap grace, but the true grace of God

Such a gospel overflows in our hearts with singing.  And with proclamationwe believe therefore we speak.  Preaching is basically the heralding of our Champion’s victoryThis proclamation is itself the Word of God.   And it is our sole task as we await the return of Jesus – not the moral, social or political reformation of society (or even ourselves), but the proclamation of King Jesus.  And its point (it’s application if you will) is not moralism but always to look to Him.

That’s basically what I’m on about. 


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You’ve gotta read this!

…Ted [Haggard], gentle readers, is now living proof that “it” doesn’t work the way “it” is supposed to work. Ted is now a living demonstration that, darn it, we aren’t fixable. A good church with a kickin’ band? Great shoes and suits? Sermons researched by assistants and delivered with the proper film clips and jokes? Nope. Tear filled illustrations? Prayer groups? Sermon series on mp3? Book? Seventeen verses of the latest “I love you Jesus” song? A big smile?

All worthless for real sinners like Ted and yours truly.

No Ted, it’s resurrection or nothing. It’s Jesus does the whole deal or there is no deal.


Read the whole thing.


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Thinking about the last post

Why does Matthew Parris see God as the hope for Africa but not for Europe?

Well his diagnosis of Africa’s problems boils down to this: too much crushing passivity and collectivism.  And so…

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I’ve just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

While he makes excellent points about the need for Christian evangelism in Africa, we must ask: Is Africa the only place that needs ‘liberation’?   Surely to avoid an awful colonial condescension, we’d want to answer no!  But the alternative is to say that the Christian God needs to liberate both the African animist and the Western atheist.  Wouldn’t it?  But Parris is a western atheist.  So what’s going on?

Effectively Parris wants Christianity to convert Africa to the Enlightenment!  You see Parris has his own gospel of fearless individualism that will transform Africa’s fear-bound collectivism.  The great trouble for Parris (and for all secularists) is that he has no basis for bringing this philosophy to Africa.  He’s not allowed to proselytise.  The very autonomy that he prizes is incapable of crossing cultures.  How can the individualist enforce individualism?  Simply modelling it will not be enough as he himself admits.  The group-think, the tribalism, the spiritual bondage to fear is too great.  So what does he need?  He needs a stronger spiritual power that can proclaim freedom for the captives.  But what he also needs (yet doesn’t own up to) is the warrant to cross cultures with such universal truth claims. 

He’s wants to piggy-back on Christian evangelism to bring one aspect of the gospel’s fruit to Africa.  This really shouldn’t surprise us.  The Enlightenment itself had to come via this route.  It didn’t have the power of its own rational cogency to birth itself!  It flowed out of a distorted Christian gospel, and could only have done so. 

You see, Parris’s fearless individualism based on unmediated access to God isn’t the Christian gospel.   What’s it missing?  Well, notably – the Mediator and the community – Christ and His church.

Why has Parris missed such obvious elements of the gospel?  Because this is precisely what the west collectively misses.  If Africa’s problem is ‘fear-bound collectivism’ who could deny that the west has an equally dire problem: ‘me-first individualism’?

And from this problem the west, equally, needs liberation.  And for this problem there is only one solution – the Christian Gospel.


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It’s been a busy week.  I’ve only just read this from the the Saturday papers and now realise it’s all over the blogosphere anyway – nonetheless…

Whenever evangelicals lose their nerve, Matthew Parris (columnist for the Times) can be counted on to set us straight – atheist though he is.

There was this famous piece in 2003, declaring that Evangelical Anglicans were right to oppose gay bishops.

As it happens I do not believe in the mind of God. But Christians do and must strive to know more of it. Nothing they read in the Old and New Testaments gives a scintilla of support to the view that the God of Israel was an inclusive God, or inclined to go with the grain of human nature; much they read suggests a righteous going against the grain…

Revelation, therefore, not logic, must lie at the core of the Church’s message. You cannot pick and choose from revealed truth.

Or there was this brilliant aside here when comparing climate change advocates with Christians:

British ministers talk about climate change in the way many Christians talk about their faith. If they believed only half of what they profess, then the knowledge would surely have galvanised them, shaken them rigid; they would be grabbing us by our lapels and begging us, imploring us, commanding us, to repent.

But his Saturday piece on Christian evangelism as the hope for Africa was just excellent:

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good…

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I’ve just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

And I’m afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.


Of course in among all those “M” words there’s a glaring omission – but the point is well made no?


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David and Goliath sermons



Preached on 1 Samuel 17 twice today.  I tried to make them fairly different (for all the twicers).

The morning was a more detailed look at the text (audio).

The evening was a bit more drawing out some implications (audio).

A lot of this first saw light of day in this series: Five Smooth Stones.


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ok the Christmas clock is against me.

So let me just say that for all the talk about incarnation manifesting the triune glory and incarnation giving coherence and consummation to creation, the biblical emphasis falls overwhelmingly on salvation as the reason for incarnation.  (Though of course the interconnectedness of God’s outgoing being, creation and salvation ought to give us much to chew on!)

But let’s realize that Jesus comes as Saviour.  And Saviour from sin.

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 

1 Timothy 1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.

 1 John 3:8 The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

How’s it all work?  Well due to time constraints, let me simply link to a sermon I preached last year from Hebrews 2Audio here

Christ as the Seed of Abraham (singular) lays hold of us, the seed of Abraham, (plural).  He sums us up so as to be our substitutionary Lamb and merciful High Priest.  He lives our life, dies our death and now presents us to the Father in Himself.  Therefore…

“As you look into the manger this Christmas, look with irrepressible hope.  There, in the face of Christ, you see not only the Father’s self-giving love.  There also you see yourself.  There in the manger is your humanity laid hold of by Immanuel.  There is your life, hidden with Christ.  And His victory is your victory, His future is your future, His righteousness is your righteousness, His joy is your joy.  God has gotten hold of you, permanently, irreversibly.  Christmas guarantees it.”

I wish you all God’s blessings in His Son.  Rejoice that they flow to you because today He became our Brother.  Happy Christmas.


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Yesterday we looked at incarnation and trinity.  Today I’ll just make some observations about incarnation and creation.

Christ is “The Beginning”, “The Alpha”, “The First”.  His Person is itself the basis for creation.  He is the One who is eternally Other from the Father and the foundation for all else that is other than Him.  Because of Him, through Him and for Him flows a creation. 

Christ is by nature and eternally from the Father in the Spirit. 

Creation is by grace and in time from the Father through the Son and in the Spirit. 

This shows us

a) the spreading goodness of the triune God, Whose being is outwardly curved.  Creation is not necessary to God.  But God’s being, like a fountain, by nature overflows.  It is a being going out towards the other.

b) creation is not a free floating reality but something beginning in the Son, crafted by Him, cohering in Him and headed towards Him as His inheritance.  While God’s being reaches out towards the other it is simultaneously a being that draws the other in bonds of love. 

These twin tendencies – the going out and the drawing in – find fulfilment in creation and incarnation.

Let’s think about Genesis 1.  The heavens (masculine) and the earth (feminine) – like head and body, husband and wife – set the scene for this theatre of God’s glory.  And centre stage is man – Adam made from the Adamah (the ground).  He is not spoken into being.  This man of dust (Gen 2:7) is made of the very stuff of the earth – drawn up, pinched off like clay and breathed into.  The earth-man is strongly united to the earth over which he is placed as head. 

Adam means 

a) that particular bloke;

b) ‘a man’ (a true human being) and

c) ‘humanity’ (as a whole).   

This central actor – man – is king.  He is God’s ruler, through whom He exercises dominion.  From the outset God’s rule is a mediated rule – through man.

Now when man is disobedient you may have thought that God would renege on His determination to rule through man.  But no.  He takes this mediation through man very seriously.  It is because of the cosmic kingship of man that man’s fall entails the fall of all creation.  The ground (adamah) is cursed because of man (adam).  Man remains king.  But while man is perverse, so is his world.

But all of this looks towards the Man of Heaven (1 Cor 15:47-49).  Flesh and blood could never inherit the kingdom of God.  Men of dust were never the intention.  The intention was always the union of heavenly Man and earthly man.  The intention was always for the Logos to take this flesh and as Man to rule as God’s true king.  This rule was not to be a divine rule over and against man.  It was to be a heavenly rule in and through man.

And so came the eschatological Adam (1 Cor 15:45).  He is

a) that particular bloke, Jesus;

b) ‘a man’ (a true human being) and

c) ‘humanity’ (an eschatological humanity to answer Adam’s)

He sums up the man of dust, his being and life.  He retraces the steps of his disobedience and hammers out instead a being and life of perfect faithfulness.  And then, exalted as the pinnacle of all creation, this eschatological Adam is lifted up between heaven and earth – absorbing the curse of both and reconciling one to the other.  As Priest He ministers by the Spirit, offering to God the true worship of earth (Heb 9:14).  As Lamb He receives the curse of God on behalf of man (Gal 3:13).  As King, He reigns from the tree, manifesting God’s righteous rule to the ends of the earth.

Ascending as Priest, Lamb and King to the Father’s right hand, Jesus has lead captives in His train and sat down as Head over all things for the church.  The True Man, our Brother, sits in heaven as ruler of earth, not over against earth.  Rather, having taken Adam (and in him, adamah!) to Himself, He rules as and for man for all eternity.  When the heavenly Husband (masculine) moves house with His Father to earth (feminine) there will be the Marriage to end all marriages.  The manifested union of Bridegroom and bride will be at the same time the manifested union of heaven and earth.  Christ and creation will be consummated that day.

As Alpha, Christ has crafted a creation and granted it a gracious otherness.

As Omega, He has entered in and drawn back that creation to a gracious oneness.  


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Here’s the first of three sketches of posts:

Incarnation and trinity

Incarnation and creation

Incarnation and salvation.

I’ll try to be brief.

Have you ever heard the history of trinitarian thought taught like this:

Once upon a time everyone was a strict monotheist.  And then the incarnation happened.  And it messed with our heads for the first 4 centuries of the church.  But eventually, through some philosophical sleights of hand, we managed to slip Jesus into our assumed monotheism.  Phew. 

Ok that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  But perhaps you’ll recognize that order of explanation – i.e. the incarnation forces us to do trinitarian theology.

Now – as you’ll probably know – I firmly believe that Christ is the foundation for all knowledge of God.  Christ, as He introduces us to His Father and Spirit, is indeed the starting point for trinitarian theology.  But – as you’ll also probably know – I think Christ is revealed long before the incarnation!   And therefore it is not ‘incarnation’ that makes us think ‘trinity’.  It’s ‘trinity, revealed in the eternal Son’ that then helps us think through ‘incarnation.’

And here’s the pay off:  Attributing divine honours to the One Sent from God is not a New Testament novelty.  To give one example – Christ appears often in the OT as the Angel of the LORD.  As such He is One in Whom God’s Name dwells (Ex 23:20ff), One Who is Himself called LORD (everywhere!) and Who, as God of Abraham, is the Object of prayer and Source of blessing (Gen 48:15,16).  A proper Hebrew doctrine of God is already comfortable with the One Sent from God being distinct from God and yet Himself God. 

Now fast forward to the New Testament and let’s confront those questions that the incarnation naturally throws up:

  • Why doesn’t Jesus just say ‘I am God’?  Why all this ‘I am sent…’ stuff?
  • Why does Jesus keep saying things like: ‘I can do nothing by myself’? (e.g John 5:19,30)
  • How come Jesus sleeps?
  • How come Jesus doesn’t know when He’s returning?

Typically such questions make people question His divinity.  ‘How can He be other than God and yet be God?  How can He be divine when He defines Himself as the ultimate servant?’  Yet if we’d properly understood the OT doctrine of God, such considerations might well make us affirm His divinity!

You see it’s a revelation of His divine nature (and not a concealment) that we see in Jesus such dependence on the Father.  When He says ‘I am sent’ it reveals His divine nature as the eternal Son of the Father – THE Angel.  When He says ‘I can do nothing’ it reveals His divine nature as the eternal Servant of the LORD.  When He sleeps it reveals His divine nature as One dependent upon the ever-wakeful Father.  When He says He doesn’t know when He’s returning He reveals His divine nature as One sent from God.  He waits on the Father’s command and does not initiate His first or second coming.

All of this means we can take His humanity with the utmost seriousness.  He really can’t do anything by Himself.  He really does sleep (He really does die even!)  He really doesn’t know when He’s returning.  He says He doesn’t, let’s just go with the Word on this one.

We don’t need to assign these differences in Jesus to some ‘human nature’ locked off from a special sphere of uncorrupted deity.  Jesus’ deity is not insulated from these differences, it includes them.  It is the Man Jesus who says ‘If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.’  It is the Man Jesus who says ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’  In His differences, in His complete humanity, He is the living God. 

So for all of this He is no less divine.   In fact all this is the very expression of His triune Godness – a Godness that has always included distinction and servitude.  Jesus is God precisely because He is the Spirit Anointed Servant of the LORD – in other words, the Christ, the Son of God.  This divinity is not at odds with His humanity but fully expressed within it.  (For more on this see Nicea comes before Chalcedon.)

In this way the incarnation is not a departure or a nuance but a true expression of God’s nature.

And this is where I’d like to end for now – to see Jesus of Nazareth is to see into the deepest depths of the divine life.  Jesus is not like diluted orange squash – His humanity watering down a divinity that would otherwise be too strong for us.  The Man Jesus reveals the eternal life of God at full strength and in its true nature.  Because the life of God is a life of Offer and Receipt, Command and Obedience.  It has ever been outwardly curved.  It has ever been a being towards incarnation.

Christmas is not our best shot at getting an angle on God.  Christmas is looking into the manger and staring the trinitarian God full in the face.


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Adjectives for God

Often when we use adjectives for God we reach for the big guns but find that they don’t quite pack the punch we’d hoped.  We say ‘Holy’ and ‘Glorious’, ‘Supreme’ and ‘Majestic’ but the more we Capitalize the Words, The More People Just File Them Away In SPECIAL GOD-SPEAK files, never to consider them again.

I’ve been thinking – it’s the little words, the more ordinary words that can slip under the radar and cause the most surprise.  Here are some I’ve been thinking of lately that have awoken in me genuine worship for a God who is always surprising.  














What are your favourite adjectives for God?


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Kids Songs

I sometimes post up kids songs.  Here’s a collection I’ve put together for my nephews and neices for Christmas.

(If you’ve downloaded my other songs, notice an old song not seen on the blog before – the Poison Cup.  I’ve also re-recorded Power and have done the Christmas round in a lower key at the end).

Anyway, here are:

Uncle Glen’s Silly Songs

1.  Christmas Round – Good News of Great Joy

2.  The Jonah Song

3.  Moving – The Egypt Song

4.  John 3:16

5.  Shipwrecked (from the Holiday Club of the same name)

6.  Power – Romans 1:16-17

7.  The Secret Song – Philippians 4:13

8.  The Poison Cup (part of a Garden of Gethsemane assembly)

9.  Fake Plastic Trees – Country Hoedown

10.  Christmas Round (remix – in lower key)

11.  Christmas salutation


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Preached this last night at Carols by Candlelight.  (audio here)

Lots of kids (there was a nativity).  Readings were Matthew 2:1-12 (the Magi) and Philippians 2:5-11.

I think I managed to say at one point “There was never a time when Jesus and His Father existed.”  Be assured I’m not a oneness Pentecostal.  I meant to say there was never a time when they didn’t exist.  Hope people understood!


Christmas is weird.  Do you ever think how weird Christmas is?

Wise men come from the east to see the Baby Jesus.  And what do you do when you see a baby? 


You say “A-wooga-booga-booga-booga, who’s a beautiful brown eyed boy?”  That’s what you do when you see a newborn baby.  But these wise men – you know what they did?  They got flat on their faces in the middle of a stable and worshipped a baby!


Wise men worshipping a baby.  WISE men. Dignified men.  Important men.  Intelligent men.  Bowing down to a baby who was wriggling around in a feeding trough.  Did you know that’s what a manger is? 


A manger is a feeding trough that cows and sheep eat out of.  I’m sure they cleaned it up as best they could but nonetheless – a tiny baby, wriggling around in a feeding trough, and WISE MEN worshipped!


If you saw me worshipping a newborn baby you would not think that I was wise.  You would think that I’d been mulling a little too much wine.  And if you lived in bible times you would be shocked.  Because in the bible you worship nothing and noone except God Almighty.  And these WISE MEN worshipped the baby Jesus. 

That’s weird right?

Well it get’s weirder. 

Do you remember in our reading the wise men were coming from the east to find Jesus?  And King Herod was worried because they were talking about Jesus as a King.  And Herod wanted to find out where Jesus would be born.  So they consult the Bible – they go straight to the Old Testament.  And, clear as day, the Old Testament prophet Micah said the promised King would be born in Bethlehem.

Here’s what the verse said:

2 “But you, Bethlehem… though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me One who will be Ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

So that’s how Herod knew God’s King would be born in Bethlehem. 

But do you notice how the verse ends?  “His origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

Micah says that God’s promised King is very old.  In fact the word there for ancient times is the word for eternity.  So the verse is saying, God’s promised King who’s going to be born in Bethlehem, He is God’s eternal King.  God and His King Jesus go WAY BACK.  And I mean WAY WAY WAY back.  Before there were any people or planets or protons – God and His eternal King Jesus existed.  And then 700 years after Micah, that Eternal King is born in the little town of Bethlehem.  So the Baby in the manger is Ancient – He’s from eternity!!!  The Baby is ancient!


Is that weird or is that weird?  The Baby is ancient!  Jesus Christ is not 2000 years old.  He is MUCH more ancient than that.  He is God’s Eternal King.  There has never been a time when Jesus did not exist with His Father. 

So on that first Christmas, the Baby wriggling in the manger is ancient – an eternal King.

I told you this was weird.  But if that’s twisted your melon, now I’m going to turn up the weird factor to nuclear.

Because in our second reading for tonight we heard something so weird that it actually makes all of that seem perfectly natural.

In Philippians 2 we get to see the thought-life of the Ancient King Jesus.  In Philippians 2 we get to hear what Jesus was thinking long long before Christmas. 

Look with me at Philippians 2 from verse 5. The apostle Paul writes:

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!

So this is an insight into the attitude of Christ.  Do you see that’s how it begins in v5 – your attitude should be the same as Christ’s attitude.  Well what’s Christ’s attitude?  From v6 it tells us.  Jesus is in very nature God.  He is completely equal to God His Father.  But, v6,  Jesus makes a consideration.  He thinks to Himself.   And He thinks – “Just because I’m equal with God, I’m not going to use that to serve myself.  I’m going to use that to serve others.  And so He chooses to get born.  Isn’t that amazing?


Who here chose to get born??  You didn’t decide to get born.  I’m guessing if you had been offered the chance to get born, you’d have taken it.  But Jesus is the Ancient Ruler, God’s Eternal King – He’s been around forever.  If He get’s born into the human race it’s only because He chooses to get born into the human race.  And that’s what He did – He chose to get born.

But I promise you, if you were in His shoes, you’d never have chosen what He chose.  If you were in very nature God, if you were the Eternal King, surrounded by the worship of heaven, in the direct presence of Your Father who you adored with all your heart and had done forever – if you were in Jesus’ shoes you would not have chosen what Jesus chose.  Because this is how Jesus considered things:  Being in very nature God, He chose not to grasp at His privileges or to exploit them.  Instead He chose total self-emptying.

Do you see that in v7?  It says ‘He made Himself nothing’.  Literally it says ‘He emptied Himself’.

Imagine the most enormous dam you can think of. 


Trillions and trillions and trillions of gallons of water, full to overflowing.  And then…


… that water pouring down, completely emptying itself. 

Jesus chose to completely pour Himself out for the world.

And He poured Himself out in service.  He took the very nature of a servant.

So Jesus the Eternal King, chose to be born.  Chose to empty Himself in service, He chose to take the form of a servant.  And verse 8 says ‘He humbled Himself’.

He humbled Himself alright.  He left the riches of heaven to become poor.  He left the throne to become a servant.  He exchanged being Commander in Chief for, v8 becoming obedient – even to death on the cross. 

[SLIDE – cross]

You know when you see Jesus in the manger, it’s like watching a man falling.  Because He’s come from the highest heights.  And on Christmas morning you see Him heading down.  …..  Down, down, down all the way to death. 

And all of this happens – the crib and the cross happens – because, v6, Jesus made a decision.  He considered His options.  He weighed it up.  On the one hand He could stay in heaven and hold onto His divine privileges.  But Jesus thought No.  Because that would not show us the true nature of God.  Let me say that again because I think it’s quite shocking – Staying on the throne would not show us the true nature of God.  The true nature of God is shown by climbing down off the throne, pouring Himself out as a servant, wriggling in the manger and writhing on the cross.  That’s what shows us the very nature of God!  Not grasping but giving.  Not exploiting but emptying.  Not being served but serving.  Not domination but humility.

In the Times yesterday the front page has Robert Mugabe saying “I will never, never surrender.  Zimbabwe is mine.”  The very opposite of how Jesus considered His power.  When we think about people in power, they never want to let go of their power.  The worst leaders don’t – even the best leaders find it very difficult to let go of power.  We grasp at it.  We cling on. Jesus emptied Himself.  They say absolute power corrupts.  Well it might corrupt us, but it didn’t corrupt Jesus.  He used His absolute power to serve.  Isn’t that incredible?

Neil told a story this morning that I’m going to steal.  Imagine if you’re slobbing around at home, the place is a tip and you get a knock at the door.  You answer the door in your dressing gown and it’s only the Queen.  Your jaw is on the floor and she walks past you into your home and says, don’t get up – I’ve come to do a spot of cleaning.  She takes off her pristine white gloves, puts on the marigolds and starts doing the housework.  What would you think?

Well friends, Jesus has come from far greater heights, and He’s stooped down to far greater depths.  He has served you and me in the most incredible way.  That baby in the manger is the Lord of heaven stooping down to serve you.

Which shows us something very important.  It shows us that Jesus thinks we’re in trouble.  He mounts a cosmic rescue mission – because He thinks we need it.  Jesus does not stay in heaven and simply call us up.  He knows that we can’t do it.  He knows that we can’t go up – He must come down.  So that’s what Jesus does.  He comes from the heights and swoops down to meet us where we are – in the depths.  That’s how Jesus uses His power, to stoop, to serve, to save.

Isn’t that the most wonderful thing in the world, that He would do that for us?  God the Father thinks it’s the greatest thing ever.


 Verse 9, when God the Father sees His Son pouring Himself out in service …

9 Therefore God exalted [Jesus] to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father.

When God the Father sees His Son poured out as a humble servant and dying a hellish death – THEREFORE He exalts Jesus.  Because of the crib and the cross, the Father says “Have the crown.”  Because the crib and the cross are the true expressions of God’s crown. 


One day everyone will bow the knee to Jesus, the LORD, and they will do so because He poured out His life to death.  And when the Father sees that He says “YES!  That IS what it means to be LORD.  And He exalts Jesus to His right hand to tell the universe:  This Servant is LORD.  This is what it means to be in very nature God. 

And one day every person who has ever lived will bow before Jesus, the Divine Servant.  Whether they love Him or hate Him, EVERYONE will be flattened by the glory of the Servant King.

When He returns one day, still bearing the scars of His crucifixion, we will be overwhelmed.  Everyone in this room will bow to Jesus.  Whether gladly or reluctantly.  Everyone outside this room will bow to Jesus.  We won’t be able to help ourselves.  The power of His Self-Emptying Majesty will force us down on our faces to confess that this – the Most Humble Servant there’s ever been – is LORD of all. 

Well what do you think of the Wise Men now?  Do you understand their worship?  Or is it still weird to you?  Have you also looked inside the manger and seen the Glory of God?


Maybe even as I’ve been speaking you have begun to look differently at that Baby.  Maybe now for the first time you realise who He is.  You realise that He chose to come, chose to serve, chose even to die – and He did it for you.  Can you see what the Wise Men saw?

Maybe you’ve never worshipped Christ the LORD before.  That’s what a Christian is – someone who worships Christ the LORD.  You might have always considered yourself a Christian but you’ve never worshipped Christ.  You’ve always thought the Wise Men were a bit over the top.  You’ve never, yourself, bent the knee to Jesus.  You’ve never confessed that He is the LORD, He is the One it’s all about.

Well maybe tonight you realise: life’s not about you, it’s about Him.  He is worthy of worship.  And maybe you’ve realised God’s not aloof.  He draws near.  And maybe you’re feeling Him drawing near.  Perhaps in your heart right now you’re beginning to worship Jesus.  If you are – you’re becoming a Christian.  Come and talk to me or Neil afterwards, we’d love to help you in you’re your first steps as a Christian.

But for all of us – do we see the divine humility of Jesus?  This Christmas – rejoice that God really is that good.  Don’t think dark thoughts about God.  Don’t wonder whether He loves, whether He cares, whether He’s interested.  Christmas tells you He loves, He cares, He hears and He comes.  This Christmas let us worship Christ the LORD.


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What’s your least favourite Christmas Carol line?

“The little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes” gives me heartburn.

But ironically my least favourite line comes from my favourite carol – Hark the Herald:

“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see.”

Doesn’t this communicate the terrible error that ‘becoming flesh’ obscures the divine glory rather than expresses it?  It seems to say that Christ’s glory exists behind and apart from His flesh.  As though His humanity hides his divinity.

Or can we salvage the line?  Perhaps it’s just like Luther’s ‘revealed in His hiddenness / hidden in His revealedness’ type paradox?  Does the following line cover the error – “Hail the Incarnate Deity”?

What think you?

And are there other lines that bug you at Christmas?


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When were you saved?

Good question.  What’s the best answer?


A.  …when I was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world


B.  …when Jesus, my Lamb and Priest, ascended to the right hand of the Father.


C.  …when I called on the name of Jesus x years ago.


D. … something else?


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6 Christ Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father.  (Phil 2:6-11)


Divine humility.  Sounds contradictory?  You don’t understand Christmas.

Jesus Christ, existing in the form of God, made a judgement.  That’s right.  Before Christmas morning, Jesus took a decision.  (btw, v6 is proof that it’s ok to call the pre-incarnate Son ‘Jesus’ – but that’s for another time…)

Now you didn’t decide to get born.  I’m guessing if you had been offered the chance to get born, you’d have taken it.  But Jesus had to choose to get born.  And I promise you, if you were in His shoes, you’d never have chosen what He chose.  If you were in very nature God, surrounded by the worship of heaven, able to do whatever you pleased, you would not have chosen what Jesus chose.  Because this is how Jesus considered things:  Being in very nature God, He chose not to grasp at His power or to exploit it.  Instead He chose total self-emptying.  He chose servanthood.  He chose to humble Himself.  He chose obedience.  He chose death.  He even chose the death of the cross – lifted up as an accursed thing.  That was Jesus’ consideration – being the God that He was.

Question:  Would you have chosen that?

Answer:  No.  Every day I fail to give up even the smallest of comforts.  Let alone to give up my very life!  Let alone to suffer godforsaken hell – and that for enemies!  Would I have chosen this path?  No!

Question:  Well if Jesus did make this choice, did that stop Him from being in very nature God?

Answer:  By no means!  He is ongoingly, continually ‘in very nature God’.

Question:  Well then, is Jesus’ self-emptying a major detour from His glory in the form of God?

Answer:  No this is what equality with God actually looks like!  This is the very expression of the Father’s glory – not exploiting but emptying.

Since He is in the form of God so He took to Himself the form of a slave!  And in this self-emptying He shows what true equality with God looks like.  It looks like the crib and the cross!

Christmas morning and Good Friday are not detours from the glory of God.  They show us that divine glory at full strength.  In eternity Jesus made this consideration.  He chose His history as the incarnate Servant to be that which truly expresses His equality with God.  And the Father affirms this choice – hyper-exalting He who hyper-humbled Himself.  And into all eternity we will gladly serve the Servant.  (And don’t forget, He will serve us! Luke 12:37!)

Implication:  The baby in the manger, the victim on the cross – this is what it means to be in very nature God.

What is God’s nature?  Don’t simply look to the crown.  Look to the crib and to the cross.  God’s nature is disclosed as one of utter self-giving.  Divine humility.



 A sermon by Darrell Johnson on this passage (one of my favourite sermons ever!)






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Trinity and unity

Have you ever heard someone say:

“Ah yes you’re emphasising the trinity.  That’s well and good.  But let’s not forget the unity of God.”

And I say…. huh!?

The trinity is the unity of God!!  Trinity means tri-unity.  In that one word (that one doctrine) we have both the oneness and the threeness of God.  God is three Persons united.  That’s what trinity means.  Trinity gives us everything we need to articulate the One and the Three.

But so often people say things like:

“Let’s hold the trinity in tension with the one God.”

The One God is the trinity.  The oneness of God is fully and without remainder the Three Persons in their mutually constituting relations.  Where else are you going to look to see God’s oneness?  When you see the Persons so united in love that they are in One Another – there you see God’s unity.  But to see that – what you’re doing is studying the trinity.

I always feel cheated when people say they want to talk about unity as well as trinity.  In saying this they claim to honour the ‘equal ultimacy of the One and the Three.’  Of course they are not honouring an equal ultimacy at all.  They are basically saying:

“Let’s consider the tri-unity and the unity.  The three-in-one and the one.”

No fair!  They get a double grab at the oneness bag!   But on the second grab they lay hold of a oneness that is not constituted by mutual relations.  This other oneness has not been defined in relational terms and all sorts of nonsense flows from this other unity of God.

For this point at greater length go here or here.



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I’ll get round to responding to comments soon.  Here’s the second part of yesterday’s trinity sermon


Trinity Sermon part 2:  Galatians 4:4-6 (audio here)

…The trinity is the good news that God is love. 




On the other hand: – the imaginary, solitary, self-centred god is nothing but bad news. 




The difference between these two ideas of God comes out very clearly when we ask ourselves – how would I go about serving these gods? 

Let’s think about the false, self-centred god first.  How would you serve such a god? 

Well if God was just one person and if he desires any kind of service, who’s going to have to give it to him?  Well it has to be us.  There’s no-one else to do it.




So in terms of serving God, it’s all about what I can offer God. 

This god might demand obedience and religious service and sacrifice and prayer and elaborate worship. But with this god, the only sacrifice is our sacrifice, the only obedience is our obedience, the only prayers are our prayers.  This is the way of all human religion.  There is some kind of deity who requires some kind of payment because ‘they’re worth it’ – and religion is about us paying it to God.  Horrible!

But the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit has other ways of getting the job done.  Look with me at chapter 4, verse 4:

4 But when the time had fully come, God [the Father] sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

 At just the right time, Christmas time to be precise, the Father sends His Son and v4 says He is born of a woman. The eternal Son of God joins the human race.  He enters into our family tree and becomes our brother, one of us.

And as our strong older brother, Jesus sticks up for us.  He steps into our shoes and He does for us what we could never do.  V4 says He is ‘born under law’.  That means that He put Himself under the obligations of God’s commandments. So whatever God wants from human beings, the Son of God gives.   Jesus paid to His Father the debt that we owe

All the worship, obedience, devotion, prayer, love and sacrifice which the Father demands, the Son performs.  God wants human obedience.  But our human obedience is paltry, pathetic, perverted.  So the Son comes born of a woman to do in our place what we should have done. 

And then v5 tells us He does this that we might receive the full rights of sons. Now we don’t have any right to be treated as sons.  We don’t have any rights to inherit the blessings of God.  But THE Son of God has that right.  And so He works His perfect obedience in our place and then gives us all the rights that belong to Him. 




In the diagram you’re meant to get the sense that the Son overshadows us.  We are in Him. (It worked better in Powerpoint).

Imagine today a champion runner, entering the London marathon under your name and running in your place.  And they win and suddenly all newspapers tomorrow go with ‘Glen Scrivener wins marathon.’  And I receive a gigantic cheque and am hailed as a star athlete.   I’m not a star athlete, brushing my teeth is about as aerobic as I like to get.  But imagine the full rights of the winner are given to me because a champion ran in my place.  That’s what this is like.  Someone has run the race of obedience in your place and then given you all the winnings.  

Chapter 3 verse 29 describes it as belonging to Christ – so that His vast inheritance becomes ours.  I like that image, but I like the image of chapter 3 verse 27 even better: I am clothed with Christ.  I am wrapped up in Jesus while He offers the perfect worship, obedience and sacrifice to the Father.  If you belong to Jesus, the Father looks on you and sees Jesus.  He looks on you as His beloved child and says ‘here, have my fatherly love, have my verdict of ‘holy’, have the whole universe.  It belongs to Jesus and you belong to Him. 

Now if that weren’t good enough, chapter 4 verse 6 tells us we don’t only have the Son of God wrapped up around us, we also have the Spirit of God in us.

6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

The Father sends the Spirit of the Son into any who belong to the Son.  Do you belong to Jesus, do you trust Him, then you have the Eternal Spirit of God living in you.  And the Spirit calls from within us ‘Abba, Father’.  Abba is a very intimate term, it means something like ‘daddy’ or ‘father dearest’.  It’s something so intimate that only the Son of God could ever get to call the Father Almighty ‘daddy’.  But now, if we belong to Jesus, we get to do what Jesus did and call the Most High God – Abba – Daddy. 

The Spirit sweeps us up into the Son’s relationship with the Father.  If you’re a Christian, the Spirit has swept you up into the Son’s relationship with the Father.  Everything that the Son has by rights, you now have through Him.  Everything that the Father feels towards His Son, He feels towards you who are clothed in Him.  If you’re a Christian, the Spirit has gathered you into the circle of divine love.  By the Holy Spirit, you know Jesus as your Brother and the Almighty Father as your ‘Daddy’.  You now belong to Jesus, and He belongs to the very life of the Trinity.  Our privileges in Jesus couldn’t be greater.  As 2 Peter chapter 1 says, we ‘participate in the divine nature.’

I started with a mental test, let me give you one more.  Christians here, if I were to ask you ‘how is your prayer life going?’ How would you respond?  If you belong to Jesus, you can look me in the eye and tell me ‘my prayer life is unimprovable’.  How’s your prayer life? ‘My prayer life is divine.’

I am clothed in the Son of God and His prayer-life is pretty darned good.  What’s more, chapter 4 verse 6 tells me that His prayer to the Father is a prayer that is placed in me by the Spirit. The Spirit prays the perfect prayer of the Son in me and through me. I’m not just invited to pray, I am already caught up in the prayer life of God.

All our little prayers are the ‘Amen’ to Jesus’ perfect prayer.  He’s prayed the perfect prayer and we say ‘Amen, Father.  What He said, Father.  My Brother Jesus couldn’t have prayed it better. Amen, Father’  And as we go on in the Christian life, the Spirit of the Son will help our little prayers to become more child-like, so that we call out “Daddy” in reverent love.  That’s so important because nothing kills a prayer life better than praying to God like you’re a slave and He’s a slave-master, like you’re a soldier and He’s a commanding officer.  Jesus didn’t teach us to pray ‘Our Sergeant-Major in Heaven’ or ‘Our Line Manager in Heaven’  – instead: Our Father in Heaven.  We need to be little children in prayer and thankfully the Spirit of the Son makes us exactly that and helps us to pray child-like prayers where we depend on our heavenly Dad.  Our own attempts at praying won’t be very good but, wonderfully, the Spirit takes even our most rubbish efforts at prayer and wraps them up in the Son’s perfect prayer and lifts them the to the Father.  

I hope you can see that the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit is unlike any god ever imagined.  He is the living, loving, working, worshipping God who invites us into His life of other-centred love. 

But, finally, if you don’t belong to Jesus, you are shut out of this life.  And you cannot get in.  No amount of your own religious works and moral deeds will earn your acceptance into this divine family.  The only way in is through Jesus, who offers to be your older brother, who offers to clothe you in His righteousness, who offers to give you His inheritance.  Maybe today you need to say Yes to Jesus – to say ‘I want in.  I don’t want to live my solitary, self-centred life any more, I want in on your life Jesus.’  Maybe for some of us, today is the day we join the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in their life of love.


Let’s pray.

 Heavenly Father, thank You that we can call you Father.  Thank You that Your Son has become our Brother and so You have become our Father.  Thank You for inviting us into Your family.  Thank You for sending Your Spirit into our hearts. If we are Christians here, may each one of us know that we are clothed in Your Son and loved with an everlasting love.  For those who don’t yet belong to Jesus, would you draw them, would you woo them, would you claim them as your own.  May we all live in your love, Generous Father, Gracious Son and Powerful Spirit.  Now and always, Amen.



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Trinity sermon

Sermon Audio

Sermon Text

Sermon Slides


Trinity Sermon: Galatians 4:4-6

Let me ask you a question and let’s see where your mind goes. ‘What was God doing before the creation of the world?’  What do you think God was up to when there was no universe to run, no people to care for.  Just God, nothing else. What was that like?

Well the wrong answer to that question is basically to think about one solitary god.

God was not lonely before creation, He wasn’t bored, He wasn’t just itching to get on and create since He had only His thoughts for company!

No, what was God doing before creation?

They were enjoying one another. Who’s they?

The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Is that who you were thinking about when I asked my question? Or were you thinking about some other god – a god who is not Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

This morning we will learn that God is not, and never has been, lonely or aloof or self-centred or brooding or solitary or bored.  God is and always has been, loving and giving and other-centred and relational and sociable, companionable, friendly.  Because the real God is the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Christians call this relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit the trinity (and I’ll tell you why in a second).  And this God, the trinity, is the living and true God.

But that other, solitary, self-centred god is not really God at all.

That god is simply an imaginary idea that reflects our own culture and times.  Other people in other times have imagined – perhaps – lots of different gods and warring people have imagined warring gods. Sensual people have imagined sensual gods.  Intellectual people have imagined that God is ‘an eternal mind’.  And touchy feely people have imagined God as ‘pure energy which we tap into’.  None of this tells you about the real God – instead it tells you a lot about the people who offer their opinion.  It’s like the heavens are a gigantic mirror, we look up but all we really see is ourselves.  God has to tell us about God.  And we just have to listen and discard all our own opinions on the matter.

I’m convinced that most of the problems people claim to have with the trinity, are because they want to have the trinity AND the god of philosophy, or the god of our popular imagination.  For most of us it’s an attempt to MIX the trinity with the solitary, self-centred god.  And you just can’t do it.

So let’s allow God’s Word – the Bible – to tell us who He really is.  And let’s be prepared to let go of your own dearest ideas of god.  And be shaped again by God’s Word…

Read the whole sermon here..

Read my brief Trinity article here.

Here’s another sermon on Trinity to mark the Queen’s Jubilee, 2012.

And here’s the wonderful Mike Reeves on Trinity – unmissable!


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