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Archive for March, 2013

Happy Good Friday

Why is it called Good Friday?

This is why:

Worth posting again… Happy Friday all. Thank You Jesus.

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This is my favourite Gethsemane hymn and perhaps even my favourite hymn of all time.

Pity about the singing (and the finger picking). But I made this one because I couldn’t find another version set to “Kelvingrove”. If you can find one, let me know.

When you prayed beneath the trees, it was for me, O Lord;
When you cried upon your knees, how could it be, O Lord?
When in blood and sweat and tears, you dismissed your final fears,
When you faced the soldier’s spears, you stood for me, O Lord.

When their triumph looked complete, it was for me, O Lord,
When it seemed like your defeat, they could not see, O Lord!
When you faced the mob alone, you were silent as a stone,
And a tree became your throne; you came for me, O Lord.

When you stumbled up the road, you walked for me, O Lord,
When you took your deadly load, that heavy tree, O Lord;
When they lifted you on high, and they nailed you up to die,
And when darkness filled the sky, it was for me, O Lord.

When you spoke with kingly power it was for me O Lord
in that dread and destined hour you made me free O Lord
Earth and heaven heard you shout, death and hell were put to rout
For the grave could not hold out; you are for me O Lord.

Words: Christopher Idle
Music: Scottish Traditional melody (Kelvingrove)

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Lazarus not Hercules

Hercules-at-the-CrossroadsThe gospel is not ‘the clever option’ for a discerning religious consumer.  It’s “life unto the dead”.  What does that mean for our evangelism?

Many times I’ve written against ‘Hercules at the cross-roads’ evangelism. Unbelievers are not decision-makers who need to be cajoled or coerced to ‘take a step’.  Unbelievers are ‘Lazarus in the tomb’ – dead in sins and desperately needing the voice of the Son of God.

Well alright, I hear you saying…  But, Glen, at some stage you need to “close the deal”, surely.  At some point the unbeliever needs to make a choice right?  Even if it’s all about ‘receiving Jesus’, fine, there’s still something for the unbeliever to do, isn’t there?  So how do you preach that without falling back into Decision Theology?

Now before I have a stab at an answer, let me distinguish between what must happen in evangelism and what the unbeliever is capable of.  What must happen is that the unbeliever must be born again, they must be forgiven by God, they must be adopted by the Father, they must be united to the Son, they must be sealed with the Spirit, they must be cleansed by the blood of Jesus, they must be pronounced righteous (i.e. justified), they must be made a new creation.  I’m not laying out discrete stages in salvation here – I’m speaking about the same truth from different angles.  The unbeliever must be converted.  But notice this: they must be converted. No-one can get themselves reborn or forgiven, or adopted, or united, or sealed, or cleansed, or justified, or recreated.

What must happen in evangelism is precisely what the unbeliever can’t do.  I know I keep stressing this, but it needs to be stressed: sinners can’t save themselves.  Salvation belongs to the LORD.

But, having said all this, there is a call to repent.  So what does it look like?

Well think of Lazarus called from the tomb.  “Come forth” was the resounding command.  Here’s something very definite for Lazarus to do.  And he did it.  But just think… later that day, as Lazarus had the unusual experience of enjoying his own wake, he could have said: “I heard Jesus’ voice and I decided to obey” (cf John 5:25).  That’s one way of putting it.

But put yourself in the shoes of those would-be mourners, listening to Lazarus.  As he recounts how he beat death, you’d be smiling and nodding, all the while you’d know what had really happened.  You’d seen it all from Christ’s perspective.  It was the voice of the Son of God that raised him and Lazarus found himself unable to do anything but “come forth”.

Lazarus’s story is a conversion story – Jesus set it up like that back in John 5 (see v24-29).  And this story includes the perspective of the listener – a perspective which involves decision.  Every sinner has a “how I beat death” story. There are rational processes that we can reflect upon.  But all this is reflection upon a miracle.  What was actually decisive was the Word raising the dead.

So… and now, finally, I’m going to say something mildly practical… when I call unbelievers to receive Jesus, I try not to frame it as a “decision” they need to weigh up.  I announce Jesus as the Lord.  I paint Him in biblical colours, I tell them what He’s done and along the way I say things like:

“Don’t you just love this Jesus?”,
“Are you finding yourself drawn to this Jesus?”,
“Are you beginning to feel that He really is Lord?”
“Do you want Him?”

Basically I allow the word of Jesus to draw them.  (That’s the point of biblical evangelism – letting the voice of the Son of God be heard).  And then, at certain points, I’ll say “If you are feeling drawn to Jesus, that is God calling you.” Or I’ll say “If you are now sensing in your heart that Jesus really is Lord, you’re becoming a Christian. Because a Christian is someone who looks to Jesus and says “Yes, He’s the One.”  Is that happening to you?”

I’m not so much into telling them “Choose to make Jesus Lord of your life.”  I’m telling them “Jesus is Lord, whatever you feel about the matter.  If you can’t see it you must be blind.  If you can see it, that’s God opening your eyes.  Don’t refuse His Gift – receive Jesus, He’s yours.”

That’s my take anyway.  What’s yours?

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New Podcast

TEP-PodcastCover-1024x1024At Revival, where I work, we’ve just started a new podcast called “The Evangelist’s Podcast”.

DOWNLOAD HERE

SUBSCRIBE HERE

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Luke 22-23 sermon

Dali CrucifixionIt was a privilege to preach at the Crowded House on Sunday where two folks were baptised.

AUDIO

The sermon begins at about 10 minutes. (If you’ve heard me on Christ’s baptism before, you might want to skip to the 19 minute mark).

POWERPOINT

TEXT

Excerpt:

Here we have an artist’s dream. If you’re a film-maker, a writer, a playwright – you would love to depict this scene: Humanity putting its Maker on trial.  What a scenario! All the Gospels tell us about this in some detail – these show trials with trumped up charges. Because the bible makes it clear: the so called judges in these trials are the guilty ones. The one in the dock is the only innocent one. Nonetheless He stoops into the dock, to be tried by His creatures.  This is the Judge of the world, judged.

And what we see in Jesus is the most incredible stillness and poise. He is like a mirror, reflecting back the accusations of His prosecutors. At every stage of His cross-examination, He manages to get confessions out of His prosecutors! Ingenius!

The brilliance of Jesus is to allow their judgements of Him to judge them.  Their accusations only end up accusing them.  This is true any time you try to judge a great one.

If you call Shakespeare hackneyed and cliched, it doesn’t reflect badly on Shakespeare, it reflects badly on you.  If you call the Grand Canyon “a glorified ditch”, or the Great Wall of China “shoddy workmanship”, or Lionel Messi “a Sunday-league amateur” – that tells you nothing about Shakespeare or the Grand Canyon or the Great Wall or Lionel Messi.  It tells you everything about you.  

When we judge the Judge it tells us nothing about Him it tells us everything about ourselves.  Do you want to know what you’re like?  Think about this judgement scene.  The Judge of the world condescends into the dock and submits to these kangaroo courts.  And we – the judges – find Him guilty of a capital offence.  What is His crime?  To be the Son of God.

When our Maker goes on trial we find Him worthy of death?  Why? For being who He is.

In Luke 23 we see everyone making this verdict: the powerful, the weak, the Jews, the non-Jews, the rich, the poor –  everyone deems Him worthy of death.  And what is Jesus’ response?

He goes to the cross.  And as He is hoisted up He prays “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” (v34)

The Judge is judged. He does not protect Himself or justify Himself.  He exposes Himself to every accusation, every insult, every blow – both judicial and physical.  And He retaliates with mercy: “Father, forgive.”  This is the heart of God for you.

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What does John 20:21-23 mean?

Messiah mints

Don’t worry, when Jesus breathes on you, it’s always minty fresh

Many will be preaching on John 20 over the next two Sundays.  Often the question comes: “What does Jesus mean in John 20:23?”  Let me give you the context.

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said,“Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  (John 20:19-21)

How do we understand this?  Can Christ’s followers run out into the street and address passers-by: “Forgiven… forgiven… UNFORGIVEN… forgiven”?  Is Jesus promising a heavenly underwriting of any and every act of forgiveness?

No.  Verse 21 interprets verse 23: the disciples will forgive just as Christ has forgiven.  How has Christ forgiven?  On the basis of His death and to be received by faith.  How should the disciples forgive?  On the basis of Christ’s death and to be received by faith. So as the disciples declare Christ and His forgiveness in the power of the Spirit, the world’s response to their message will be its response to Christ (which, in turn, is its response to the Father).

Jesus has already taught them this in John 14.  When Judas (not Iscariot) asks why Jesus will only appear to the disciples, Jesus essentially answers: “I don’t need to appear to the world.  I don’t need to go on a resurrection roadshow to the nations.  You need to go on the roadshow and take my teaching with you. The world’s response to my teaching will be its response to me. So go in the power of the Spirit and take my words with you…”

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:23-26)

Even before His death, Jesus has taught His disciples how it’s going to unfold.  So in John 20, when He comes and breathes His Spirit on them, He’s saying: “Now’s the time.  Go and testify. And as you go with my message, my forgiveness goes with you.”

So does this verse endorse the willy-nilly preaching of an abstract forgiveness, divorced from the Forgiver?  No. But it does give us great confidence as we share the words of Jesus.  As we offer the apostolic gospel in the Spirit of Christ we are offering divine mercy.

This verse should not so much produce confessionals as confessors of Christ.  But those confessors of Christ (which I hope is all of us) ought to know the power and privilege of offering Jesus.  To confessing Christians and to seeking non-Christian we hold out the Christ in whom is all forgiveness (Col 1:13f).  We don’t just speak about forgiveness, we speak forgiveness itself, because, by the Spirit, the Forgiver Himself is given through the gospel.

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It’s now on Youtube:

Here’s our response to the numbers of thumbs-down given!

I should probably point out that Emma’s is the most thumbed-UP video too. Which is nice. She did great!

 

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