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What is the role of a pastor? This is one of the issues raised by COVID, both sides of the vaccine debate have wanted me to tell the congregation to get vaccinated or not get vaccinated, I can see why. The best of both sides are driven by love and are concerned for the health of our community, I have unapologetically said “I am a pastor, I am not a scientist nor a doctor” I go to my doctor who I trust for my health, I don’t go to my pastor friends.

But behind the question is my failure to teach the difference between Truth and truth. That is the Big 'T' truth concerns special revelations from God in the bible and the Small T truth concerns everything else from science, politics and psychology. Big 'T' truth is timeless and without error the Small 'T' truth is experimental, open to be tested and examined. 

My role as pastor is to speak to what is timeless and revealed, so when I bang on about preaching the gospel as of first importance and love being the most excellent way and that there should be no division in the church of Christ, it's because its revealed truth. I will go to jail for Big T truth not Small T truth. It may not be where you’re itching right now, but my task is to preach what is revealed in season and out of season. 

The history of the church is filled with pastors and priests who have over reached, saying the earth is flat or that political leader is the antichrist or in the 70s we were told bankcard was the mark of the beast. Gresham Machen, awesome bible teacher, protested against traffic lights as a violation of human rights. It didn’t take too long before they were made look foolish and made Jesus look bad. 

Pastors are to teach what is revealed, no more and no less. I'm not saying that there is not a relationship between Big T truth and little T truth but the Bible has a lot to say about government but it doesn’t say whether we should be a constitutional monarchy or a republic. So, when Christians DIVIDE the church on little 'T' truth, like views on vaccine, I want to say 'you’re over reaching'. 

It's not surprising that when it comes to Big 'T' Truth, Timothy guards the deposit that has been entrusted to him. He is charged to avoid godless chatter, this sounds like social media to me, this is the 3rd time that he names false teaching and it's the 3rd time Paul charges Timothy to guard the truth. He is to teach it, guard it, fight for it and take hold of it, verbs like insist, command, refute and silence. The test for big 'T' truth is if it:

… agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching ~1 Timothy 6:3 (NIV)

There is a benchmark of revealed truth. It is Gods Word and not the NEWS nor the INTERNET. Behind false teaching is bad character  

they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words ~1Timothy 6:4 (NIV) 

PRIDE making them unteachable, who stir up trouble, claiming special “knowledge” - but have nothing to say. They start arguments and simulate imagination, their words betray their motives.  

result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth ~1Timothy 6:4b-5 (NIV) 

5 words that result in divisions in the church, you know them by their fruit. How much damage is done by false teaching? One of the truths to be guarded is God's word on GREED 

False teaching motivated by financial greed.  

…who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. ~1Timothy 6:5 (NIV)

Nothing new, nothing shames the gospel more than greedy pastors and evangelists. That is why at MBM all staff wages are set by the Anglican diocese and at MBM we take the minimum. All full time staff members… The money for the books that I write and the conferences we speak at all goes back to church funds. If we teach for you to be content on your salary then we better be content on ours. There is a special word for all of us. As you know there are millions of people who have more than you but there are billions who have much less than you.

A command to those who have less  

But godliness with contentment is great gain. ~1 Timothy 6:6 (NIV)

The real gain or profit is to be found in being godly and thankful for what you have. I took a funeral of Dave from the Parramatta campus and Julie his wife said they made a decision they were not going to chase after possessions. They had a life filled with love and the Lord Jesus, there were 10 eulogies on how much Dave was a blessing to his family, his church and his non Christian friends. I thought that most billionaires wouldn’t know the joy that Dave experienced.

The way to stay content is to take a step back  

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. ~1 Timothy 6:7-8 (NIV) 

You start your life with zero dollars and you end your life with zero dollars. In between we spend a lot of time worrying and a lot of energy chasing stuff. You may say ‘well my kids will get it’ Did you know that most wealth doesn’t survive 3 generations. The 1st generation makes it, by the 2nd generation only 30% hold on to it and by the 3rd generation its down to 9%. The point is to sit tight with Jesus and sit loose with your stuff and teach your kids to as well. God has a low bar for us to be content.  

But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. ~1 Timothy 6:8 (NIV) 

Food and clothing is CODE for basic NEEDS not WANTS. So, when you see a friend with a better car, a new house, the latest phone, a loving spouse and I'm feeling jealous, frustrated, resentful or angry, I am to ask myself - Did I eat today? Yes. Do I have a bed to sleep on? Yes. Have I got a roof over my head? Yes. Am I a child of God who has been blessed in heavenly realms with every special blessing? Yes … that is enough… thank you Jesus. This doesn’t stop people being ENTREPRENEURS it means you won’t panic. 

The question before us is clear are you seeking to be content in COVID? Contentment is a challenge for those who have less or more. A British movie director was on a luxury liner with 4 Billionaires, he asked them “What do you want in life?” They all said at the same time, “MORE”. My ability to give does not hang on what I earn, it hangs on how content I am. I loved what one MBM pensioner said ‘The first two things I do when I get my pension is I put money for Rent and for the Church’ She gives her best not her leftovers because she is content with food and clothing. 

Let me stop and say if you find yourself in desperate financial need then let us know. I’ve had a number of conversations with people who have lost their job because of the economic downturn or no jab no job. I want you to know you are our family. There is a command to be content and a warning if we are not. A warning for those who want to be rich.  

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. ~1 Timothy 6:9 (NIV)

While everyone is sharing in the excitement of a pay rise, investment return or unexpected inheritance, God says, oh be careful, you’re sitting on a ticking time bomb, the wealth will incite twisted desires you never knew you had and can plunge people into nightmares you can’t imagine. 

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. ~1Timothy 6:10 (NIV)

We know that it’s not money but the love of money that is the issue. Jesus already said. You CAN’T LOVE MONEY AND ME! One of us will have to go. I’ve never met a person who said that they love money, we just love what money can buy …lifestyle, status, security, significance, power connections. How many have lost their faith because of EAGERNESS FOR MORE? 

Example 1 The older couple receive an unexpected inheritance, they sell house and buy an expensive RV and spend days on endless travel - lost marriage - lost faith. It would have been better if they had died then got that inheritance. 

Example 2 A young couple buys a house they can’t afford, they over mortgage and now are working 2 jobs with no time for GG, they are too tired for church and off they go slip sliding away.

Example 3 The price for retail therapy or gambling is that they end up drowning in a sea of credit debt and with it, depression. If that is you, there is hope! We can direct you to good financial counsellors.

A command to those who have more.  

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. ~1 Timothy 6:17 (NIV) 

It’s a command from Christ - Don’t be arrogant. Everything you have has been given to you, what a concept! No matter how clever, how hard you worked, no matter what your parents gave you. Everything you have has been given on loan to steward. Which means everything you have can be taken from you. It took just one Global financial crisis and billionaires went bankrupt, just one little BRAIN Aneurism and your personal bank balance is reduced to nothing.

Unlike false teachers, God wants us to enjoy his good gifts, contentment is not about destroying desires, that is Buddhism and Stoicism, I think it was Luther that said, “The problem with greed is it breeds discontent and we end up NOT enjoying what we do have.” Don’t be arrogant be generous  

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. ~1 Timothy 6:18 (NIV)

The King of Kings commands us to be rich in good deeds – in case you missed it, that means, being generous and willing to share. I want to say how much the Sudanese suffering with COVID were thankful for the many who offered help. 

John Grisham the Christian Novelist said “I judge a good year not by how much I get, but by how much I give” He knows you can take it with you after all.  

In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. ~1 Timothy 6:19 (NIV)

Calvin said ‘When you migrate to another country, you send your goods ahead, you know your old country is not home anymore. You make a decision about your possessions knowing you’re going to a new home. We are to lay up treasure not in this age but for the coming age. Lets be very clear, you can’t buy your seat in heaven, that was purchased by Jesus blood alone. But as a citizen of heaven you can invest in it. John Wesley was right. “Make as much as you can… save as much as you can ... so, you can give as much as you can.” 

What helps is knowing that Heaven is for everything I never had time or couldn’t afford on earth. I haven’t missed out, I've just delayed my gratification. You can’t be neutral when it comes to money and greed, friends we are engaged in a war, flee from greed - fight the good fight of the faith. 

2. Fight the good Fight. 

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith… ~1 Timothy 6:11-12  (NIV)

Greed is the hardest sin to diagnose, only one person in 30 years has confessed it as a sin to me. In my prayer diary each Thursday under the topic of confession, I meditate on 2 questions - How much of my treasures am I storing in heaven? and am I excelling in the grace of giving? Greed is a virus more contagious than Ebola or the delta strain of COVID. The only VACCINE TO GREED IS generosity. We are to swim against a current of consumerism.

I don’t mind reality TV shows like the block or fixer-uppers but understand, it is making us discontent not thankful. We love the convenience of Amazon and eBay but they bring the false promise of satisfaction when my package arrives and it never lasts. Today is the day to lay treasure in heaven.

3. Who is this God that commands? 

Who dares challenge me on what I do with my money?  

I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever. Amen. ~1 Timothy 6:14-16 (NIV)

The charge is made in the sight of God who sees everything. It's issued in light of Jesus return who remembers and rewards all those who are generous. The good God who gives us everything to enjoy, the God who alone rules as King of King and Lord of Lord, there is no point trying to outsmart him. He is the God who is truly blessed, He is eternally happy and wants you to be happy, it's why he says It's more blessed to give than receive. The God who alone is immortal - death has no hold on him … but then gives us the gift of immortality, that we may share eternity with him. This God lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see but one day we will see his face. We will see how our generosity will put a big smile on the face of God. As he shows us around the new creation, he will point out how much treasure you laid down in heaven. 

This is Big T Truth, we want to give you the opportunity to lay some treasure in heaven. We are inviting you to fill out your pledge for next year, I thought given we are online and with questions about restrictions. But is that not what contentment is all about? I don’t wait for circumstances to change before I am content and from my contentment, in Christ, I can give. 

Australia has a soft spot for the underdog, we are an egalitarian culture, in the same suburb, we have rich and poor. We aim for equal access to Education and Health, we speak of the Premier as Gladys and our Prime Minister as Scomo. We have a real sense that we are all equal, there is a familiarity that is attractive but in the hands of some it's an excuse for disrespect, we boo our leaders at sporting events. I liked what one African said to Australian missionaries, ‘You Australians are aggressively casual’

Paul already spoke about honouring widows and Paul now speaks about honouring church leaders. I realised that I would tell my Filo brothers and sisters to call me Ray “Yes, Pastor Ray” “No, you can call me Ray” “Yes, Pastor Ray” You see what I was doing? I was undermining their desire to honour my role, I don’t do it anymore.

Paul has 4 ways pastors and elders are to be honoured

1. Honour them by giving them a proper Honorarium.

In other words, pay them for the work they do.

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. ~1 Timothy 5:17 (NIV)

In chapter 3, leaders of the church were called overseers, here they are elders. Elders have a long-standing place in the Bible, they ruled at the town gates in the Old Testament in the church. In the New Testament, they are to direct the affairs of the church. Literally to ‘rule’ or lead, honour them, especially those who teach Gods word well. All elders must be apt to teach, but not every elder will be given over to full time preaching and Respect leads to Remuneration. You can see by what follows

For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” ~1Timothy 5:18 (NIV)

Your income should be used to bless, bless yourself, bless your family, bless the poor, bless the pastors, bless ministry partners who are overseas. 

As we think of pledging for next years church budget, you’re covering 2 out of 5 pastors and missionaries, pray now and plan how you will feed those who feed you the word of God. Paul grounds this in two places

“Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” ~Deuteronomy 25:4 (NIV)

If God wants animals to be nourished from their labour then how much more should pastor elders be nourished from their ministry. When an ox is treading grain God want it unmuzzled and allowed to eat from grain it is crushing. The Aussie version is the person cooking the BBQ can eat some of the sausages while he is cooking

The second quote is from Jesus instruction to the 72

The worker deserves his wage. ~Luke 10:7 (NIV)

We know it's true on the factory floor or the office, just as true in the church and on the mission field. Feed those who feed your faith, when we do, we are partnered with them in the work.

Talking to one of our OMP (Overseas Missionary Partners) in Malta, our giving means we are partnered together in their work, I thank God for how for 30 years at MBM He has inspired so many generous hearts to give to the work of MBM and beyond.

We leaders are to lead from the front, last year the Staff and Deacons covered 13% of the budget

2. Protect them from false accusation

Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. ~1 Timothy 5:19 (NIV)

The Old Testament principle is clear, one testimony is not sufficient to convict a person in court. This principle protects elders from those who slander leaders, they wanted to attack the message by attacking the messenger.

I remember asking one woman to join us on staff and she said

“Thanks, Ray but I don’t want a target on my back.” She knew that when you are in public office you are open to criticism. I remember in the early days of MBM someone going around saying false statements. I realised early on I just had to trust the congregation. It's why this Proverb is on the wall of our office:

In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines. ~Proverbs 18:17 (NIV)

In other words, we don’t take things at face value, the exception is in a situation of abuse where a process is triggered that protects all parties, beginning with the victims

Honour elders

To protect the office of elders from ungodly elders

But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. ~1Timothy 5:20 (NIV)

Elders who sin and don’t repent need to be dealt with publicly. Elders who sin grievously need to step down, their sin is to be named before everyone. This functions as both a warning to other elders and it guards the office of elders, it guards the church and it guards the gospel, otherwise, we have nothing to say to the world.

Imagine turning up one Sunday to be told, from a written statement, that one of the pastors, or youth or kids worker, has committed adultery, and is being stepped down, what is worse is when they are not stepped down. Please pray we will not have to. So, Paul ratchets up the command

I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favouritism. ~1Timothy 5:21 (NIV)

That is one serious warning! Don’t let your friendship or their wealth, power or influence blind you to the sin of an elder for we are to give an account before God himself and Lord Jesus.

Honour the elders by not making a quick decision

Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. ~1 Timothy 5:22 (NIV)

Resist the urge to appoint an elder quickly. We were told something similar in chapter 3, don’t appoint young Christians as elders or they fall into the trap of the devil which is pride. Don’t be impressed by gifts and ignore character, when that happens all the elders share in their sin. Note the wisdom of not being hasty

The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. ~1 Timothy 5:24 (NIV)

Give yourself enough time to watch and wait, let them be tried and tested, faithful in small things before we give them bigger things. As the song goes ‘From little things, big things grow’ 

Time has a way of bringing issues to the surface, the sins of some are already waiting to be used against them on the day of the Lord. But if you wait, the sins of others will follow a person and in time will catch up with them. Discover they are living a double life, abuse in the home, addiction issues or just can’t take feedback and if you wait it may become clear that they are not fit for an elder.

In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever. ~1 Timothy 5:25 (NIV)

We are to do our good works for our Father to see but the reality is, most good works don’t stay hidden. Person x cares for person y, that doesn’t stay a secret for too long, at staff meetings we often celebrate stories and that is good gossip!

And those good works will also be waiting on the Day of the Lord, to be rewarded. In the meantime watch and wait. One person who has been tried and tested is Rahul Dougal, he has been appointed Deacon for the Parramatta campus, it’s a slow process but it’s worth it. 

In the middle of all this after Paul says “Keep yourself pure”

Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. ~1 Timothy 5:23 (NIV)

My guess is that some of the elders were false teachers, claiming that wine was unclean. Paul is saying elders are not to get drunk but they can drink some wine, especially if it helps the stomach. 

Notice that Timothy was often sick. So much for the prosperity doctrine - Come to Jesus and he will give health and wealth. Paul is NOT saying “Tim your often sick because you have sin in your life you need to repent.” He doesn't say “Tim you’re often sick because you don’t have enough faith” “Tim, Jesus is the same yesterday today or tomorrow, He healed then and he can heal now” “You must not have the anointing of the Spirit”

No, he says ‘You’re often sick so take a Panadol’ in this case, drink some wine. He encourages him to use wine medicinally.

Agree or disagree about a particular vaccine. But when I saw that sign “Jesus is my vaccine” in an illegal protest, that is just bad theology. Claiming that faith in Jesus mean you won't have COVID is woeful and makes Jesus look bad. 

But for what it’s worth, if I were to give a REPORT CARD, as one of the elders, MBM you’re doing a great job because we Elders feel honoured by you. We all have a bad day, but I truly thank God for how you journey with us as leaders. It's not easy being a leader, it’s not easy being a member of a church. 

There are hard days before us, the fear of Vaccination Passports is real, the Archbishop has pushed hard with the government for No Vaccination passports, whatever happens, we are pastors for the whole church, both for and against vaccination. I want to stress that the church of God must hold together in the face of these challenges. It’s easy to have churches filled with one side of politics, one side of vaccination, one ethnic group. The world is filled with ‘like-minded’ groups, no miracle there, but what makes the church really different from the world is the blood-bought unity of Christ. Having very different people united by the Spirit of God.

When we look back after we are over the worst of COVID, we will rejoice that we managed to genuinely love each other with different views. For one reason, we share one Father who did not withhold his only Son. Through it all, we pastors count it an honour to lead MBM, and it’s a joy because of your encouragement and prayer and respect. Honour your Widows, Honour your Elders, Honour your Masters.

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves. ~1Timothy 6:1-2 (NIV)

Why didn't Paul dismantle slavery? In lockdown, we are all battling with our rights being infringed but remember, slaves had no rights, Paul calls on slaves to escape NO to obey masters. Worse, if they had masters who are Christians, then serve even better, not worse. Remember, slavery wasn’t tied to one race as in US with only African-Caribbean. In fact, nearly all cultures have enslaved people, the first century there were different kind of slaves, some were enslaved by kidnapping and war, others were enslaved because of owing a debt. Slaves could be teachers and doctors, slaves could be adopted into a family. 30% of Romans empire were slaves, the economy was built on it.

So why doesn’t Paul tell Christian masters to release their slaves? You can see that the seeds of dismantling slavery in the New Testament, 

And yet Paul calls on slaves to obey masters. Why? We rightly apply this to our bosses and we need to be seen as respectful in our workplace. Bagging out your boss is not what Christians do, but we get to leave - slaves don’t. So why wouldn’t Paul immediately dismantle this wicked institution? He is working to a higher principle.

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. ~1Timothy 6:1-2 (NIV)

Reform will come but in the meantime Paul was jealous for God's name and the gospel to save the lost. So, the call to slaves is clear, be a good slave and make Jesus look good, be a good worker and make Jesus look good, be a good manager/boss and make Jesus look good. 

So, I ask you is God's name and the good news of our Lord Jesus being slandered by how you carry yourself in this season of COVID? The real issue is not whether you took the jab or not it's whether you made Jesus look good. 

Over the years we have had people come to Church and they notice someone from their work and awkwardly says, “I would never have thought they were Christian.” Equally, we have visitors come to church because they were so impressed by someone at work who claimed to follow Christ and wanted to know more - they made Jesus look good.

I spoke to a former elder of a large church with a gifted lead pastor, the pastor was asked to be stepped down for multiple

charges of bullying. I said to this elder “How did you guys let it happen for so long” “Ray we fell for the classic mistake. We were so impressed by his gifts we ignored his significant character defects”

It’s a rookie mistake, 101 Christianity, when the gifts of the Spirit outrank the fruit of the Spirit, when that happens the church is in serious trouble and its not as if we were not told.

1 Timothy 3 tells us what God expects of church leaders, be they Elders or Deacons. Whether it's for those who serve in word or deed ministry. God doesn’t allow us to come up with our own list: Smart, good looks and a great sense of humour are not on his agenda. This list tells us a lot about our God and what matters to him. Remember the purpose of the letter.

if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. ~1Timothy 3:15 (NIV)

The church of the living God is NOT built and held up by bricks and concrete but by the truth of God. The church is to hold up and hold out the truth of God. God has placed his Word in the hands of the church to steward. Especially by those whose walk and talk line up

Godly leadership

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. ~1 Timothy 3:1 (NIV)

In the New Testament, a church leader can be called Elder, Overseer, Leader, or Pastor but never a Priest. When the gospel is preached, people are saved, Churches are formed

and Elders are appointed. In a real sense, the appointment of an oversee or elder is the application of the principle in 1Timothy 2. Where teaching and authority over the whole church is reserved for male elders to teach and direct the affairs of the church. The first thing you notice is that its not wrong to want to be a church leader - it’s a good desire

Application

I remember reading this as a young Christian and being surprised. God gives permission to ask him for the opportunity to preach and pastor his people. To be sure, God won't call you without letting others know as well. It's a good desire because it is a good work. What greater privilege is there than to present God's church to Jesus on the last day, holy and blameless.

Now if we are all called to submit to elders - then what kind of elders are we called to submit to. The great relief is that CHARACTER is God's main focus. Before you teach it you have to be it. Leaders are called to watch both their life and not just their doctrine. We are saved by grace but we are appointed based on faithfulness.

There are 11 qualities mentioned, notice: What is required of the leader is what is required of every true Christian

As Don Carson once said, “It's remarkable how unremarkable is this list.”

Don’t get drunk and don’t punch anyone in the face, it’s a checklist for every Christian, male or female. Leadership is about character, even the world starting to wake up to this truth.

Now the overseer is to be above reproach ~1 Timothy 3:2 (NIV)

Above reproach is blameless, not sinless, otherwise only Jesus could apply for the job. Above accusation, ours is a public role with public accountability, the more authority the higher the expectations. You have a right to look at my life.

There are 4 areas of being above reproach

In relation to family

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, ~1 Timothy 3:2 (NIV)

Literally to be a one-woman man, it's not saying everyone else can have 2 wives, the point is that he must be faithful to his bride before he can be entrusted with the bride of Christ. This does not forbid single men from being elders, Timothy and Paul seemed to be single. It is a mystery how the Catholic church still requires priests to be single and celebrate. Presidents and Prime Ministers may keep their job if they have affairs but not Pastors and Evangelists, forgiven, yes but not re-instated.

We are not running a government, it is the church of the living God that Jesus builds - upholding the truth by our teaching and by our life

He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) ~1 Timothy 3:4-5 (NIV)

Fathers are to see to it that children obey them, a father who doesn’t discipline their children doesn’t love them. A Pastor who won't discipline the church of God doesn’t love them. It can be hard when kids get older, I remember when the same Don Carson spoke about bringing up teenagers, our rule was simple

“We never tolerated sass and disrespect but pretty much everything else was negotiable”

Interestingly, they are not to see to it that their wives submit, that is the choice of the wife, between her and God. And Fathers are to behave and be worthy of respect. Before I need to be gentle with the congregation, I need to be gentle with my kids. The principle is clear, if you can't care for your family how can you care for Gods church?

I said to my kids when they were very young “You have the most power at church. If I don’t treat you properly then I have to step down from being a pastor.” That was good for them to hear and me to know.

I remember preaching one Sunday on what God requires of fathers, a new person found out he was sitting next to my daughter, Maddy, his first question was ‘What is Dad like at home?’ Right question…I pay her $50 to give the right answer(Joking).

I was talking to my nephew who had become a suffi Muslim.

He was saying how his Sheik mentor had been divorced 3 times, I said ‘that's interesting, the qualification of an elder in a church is how you conduct your marriage and family. If you can't manage your own family, how can you manage the family of God.’ My other nephew who is not a Christian said 'That makes sense…' Above reproach in relation to family and in relation to oneself. Who is the hardest person to lead? - it's you

…temperate, self-controlled, respectable,… not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money… ~1Timothy 3:2-3 (NIV)

Self-control is the last of the fruit of the Spirit, Self-control so that in your anger you do not sin, in conflict you don’t bully and with your money you are generous. At MBM every Elder and Deacon agrees to at least tithe their income, you can't lead others if you can't lead yourself.

Above reproach, in relation to family, in relation to oneself and in relation to outsiders

…hospitable… ~1 Timothy 3:3 (NIV)

An elder welcomes the stranger, each pastor must have the welcoming face of God to the outsider. More than that he…

He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. ~1Timothy 3:7 (NIV)

I break up this list in 1 Timothy over a week and reflect on the different aspects for my time of confession. Next to this one I put the name of a real estate agent, a lovely muslim man, Azzam, who I had to apologise to for speaking with a demanding tone. I dishonoured my saviour before a watching world, which is exactly what the devil wanted. 

Above reproach with family, with oneself and with outsiders, hence the warning to not give this role to those who have NOT been tried and tested.

He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. ~1Timothy 3:6 (NIV)

It's unfair on newish Christians to give them too much too quickly. Pride is not far from anyone but a new Christian has not had the chance to be tried and tested. The one gift requirement on this list - He apt to teach.

…hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, ~1Timothy 3:2b-3a (NIV)

What I love is that its tucked in there between being hospitable and not getting drunk, Paul's LAST WORDS to Timothy and Elders before he died.

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction ~2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV)

Elders need to teach correctly in the face of false teaching.

You saw me do that last week, many of you thanked me for siding with God. Good shepherds love the sheep by feeding the sheep, the whole counsel of God and not just parts of it. 

People ask who are our elders? Our M pastors serve as elders: Mark, Dan, Rob, Pre, Bruce and myself, together we direct the affairs of the church. We are a church that does team pastoring, its why I always introduce myself as one of the pastors of MBM, I too submit to the collective will of the elders.

If the elders focus on leading, teaching and prayer the deacons serve the church in good works which free up elders to do their work - see Acts 6

In our tradition Deacons watch over finances, building, OHS, as well as release funds to assist with those in need. The work of deaconate is carried on by many who care for the needs of Gods people. I am so glad for the leadership at MBM. Elders and Deacons both, are called to be above reproach, both called to hold to onto the word of God but only the elders are required to be gifted in teaching. Although all our Deacons at MBM run bible studies.

They (Deacons) must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. ~1 Timothy 3:9 (NIV)

We are in the process of interviewing a new deacon for Parramatta, he has been tried and tested and found faithful, he will be interviewed at the next Deacons meeting. If accepted, we will present his name to the church. It appears that deacons are not reserved for just men

In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. ~1Timothy 3:11 (NIV)

Phoebe in Romans 16 is called to be a deacon. We do want women to be part of the Deacon board, let me know if you want to be considered for the roles.

Paul says to Timothy

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. ~1 Timothy 4:16 (NIV)

Friends a lot is at stake, nothing less than the salvation of the world. The way the church of the living God upholds the truth is not just by teaching the truth but by living out the truth. The key to godliness is the good news of our Lord Jesus.

Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:  He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. ~1 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)

While the false teacher wasted everyone's time with myths. Paul is saying the mystery of godliness is no longer a MYSTERY and its never a MYTH. Its all about Jesus, who humbled himself and came in the human flesh, who was raised by the Spirit, proving he was the Son of God. Witnessed by messenger both apostles and angels. Not just preached among the nations, but believed on in the world. Gods word will not return empty.

We may be on lockdown but we had 35 people at Explaining Christianity on Tuesday. For this Jesus may have come in humility but was taken up in of glory. One day he will come to judge the living and the dead, He will come to judge MBM, He will judge its leaders and its people.

What you think of me is one thing, what Jesus thinks of me is another. What do you think is our churches great need?

Robert Murray McCheyne was right “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness”

Oh the damage that is done to the gospel when leaders fall.

That list of fallen leaders is long and getting longer. The list of people who have fallen away because of fallen leaders is longer still. So I plead with you…pray weekly for us pastors, and deacons. Pray for the staff, Growth Group leaders, youth leaders, children's leaders, our overseas ministry partners. Not one leader I know feels they are up to the task. Satans main target for every pastor is his family.

But also pray that God would raise up a new generation of Leaders. Brothers, pray that you would consider this noble task.

Brothers, this is not just a good prayer, it is an urgent need. We have, at the moment, 25 vacant churches in Sydney Anglican diocese alone. We are needing godly men to consider this office, start by taking the next step of serving. By application we constantly are looking for men and women to STEP UP to serve and lead in ministries

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. ~Acts 20:28 (NIV)

Father,

Please Raise up godly elders and deacons from among us who will love the church by loving the truth, proclaiming the truth and live by the truth. 

Thank you for the many men and women who lead at all levels of ministry at MBM.

May we seek to encouraging them so that their work may be a joy for them. In Jesus Name Amen.

As a pastor, you can avoid a lot of heat at church by just skipping this book and this chapter. That is why we preach chapter by chapter to stop us from only teaching the bits we like.

But first a Warning

This passage is not a full-blown summary of women's ministry. Since the passage is drawing boundaries on who can preach and have authority in the church, the tendency is to talk about what woman can’t do. So, I want to intentionally begin where the Bible begins.

In Genesis 1, men and women are both made in God`s image, from the beginning males and females together are to rule this world under God, together. Under the Old Covenant only male Jewish priests were given limited access to the presence of God in the temple. With the coming of Christ

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus ~Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

Peter says we are all co-heirs with Christ

Ministry and Women

One picture of how men and women work side by side in the gospel is seen in Romans 16, you notice there are a lot of women mentioned. Phoebe, Priscilla, Mary, Tryphena and Tryophosa, Persis, Julia (trust me they are women) Paul calls these women fellow workers in the gospel who worked very hard in the Lord at great personal expense.

Women were engaged in teaching and evangelism. Both Priscilla with her husband Aquila instruct the gifted preacher Apollos more adequately in Acts 18. Then there are the ‘one another’ passages with no gender restriction.

…teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, ~Colossians 3:16 (NIV)

Paul speaks of women praying and prophesying in the church. So, it's with that background we pick up this passage, we are all mindful that this is an ancient text to a church in an ancient culture in Ephesus. They lived before feminism, before the

abolition of slavery. So, is this the word of God for us or a temporary instruction to a local church problem? We also can't be blind that we ourselves are shaped by culture as well.

Many years ago, I read 1 Timothy 2 with two groups, I got a sense that both were shaped by their culture. One group read the passage through a Middle Eastern lens and had no problem. The other read the passage through a Middle-class feminism lens and had a big problem. So we must work very hard to make sure what is driving our conclusions. We also need to come clean on our personal preferences.

For me, I wish there were no differences:

But we are people of the book, that book, including this passage is God-breathed. We refuse to think we are wiser than God. Let's first remind ourselves about the purpose of the whole book?

… I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. ~1 Timothy 3:14-15 (NIV)

God's appointed apostle Paul charges Timothy to guard the truth in God's church. This letter focuses on how we conduct ourselves at church.

Chapter 1: to silence false teachers; Chapter 2: to pray for everyone including rulers so that we can have peace. With peace, we can preach Christ, who wants all people to be saved.

For men in the church to pray and not fight. For women to focus on inner beauty not external wealth, not on how they look but how they live, to be known for good works not good looks. Then Paul speaks about the relationship between men and women at church.

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. ~1Timothy 2:11-12 (NIV)

Paul gives women 2 directives, one is about something they are to do, learn quietly and with all submissiveness. And one is about things they are not to do, to teach or exercise authority. 

Don’t skip the wonder: A woman should learn - that was not the expected norm for any women in the ancient world. The equality and education of women is a concept uniquely promoted in the bible. Notice one idea informs the other, to learn is paralleled with to not teach. In full, submission is paralleled not to have authority over men. 

While the word for woman can also be translated to wife, you notice no translation goes down that road because the purpose of the book is not marriage but church. Paul says “I do not permit..” remember its Paul the apostle not Ray the Dragons supporter who does not permit.

And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. ~1 Timothy 2:7 (NIV)

So let it be clear, it is God who does not permit women to teach and to have authority over men in the church of God.

Picture a pyramid with 3 levels of teaching:

1 Timothy 2 is speaking about one aspect of level two. Teaching here is authoritative teaching of sound doctrine to the whole church.

It's important that we don’t under apply or over apply this text. To over apply, stops women from having leadership in work or church it stops women from any teaching and preaching ministry. To under apply explains away any relevance for this passage for today's church. Its important that we don’t go beyond scripture. This principle is applied for us by Paul himself.

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well…especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. The teaching and authority restricted to men is the role of elders who teach and preach ~1Timothy 5:17 (NIV)

Which means:

But this verse appears both limited and emphatic. She is not to be the teacher for the whole congregation nor its pastor elder.

This teaching restricts all women and 95% of men who will never be elders.

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. ~1Timothy 2:11 (NIV)

But not absolute submission-not if it violates God's word 1 Timothy 6:3-4. 

Under Christ we are all called to submit to someone, Children to Parent, Wife to Husband, Congregation to Elders, Citizens to Government. We are all called to submit ultimately to Christ, who himself will submit all things to the Father. By submission we mean “a voluntary and willing acceptance of the leadership and responsibility of another.” [Claire Smith] Gods good design

The verse begins and ends with quietness, that is without a rebellious spirit toward either the teaching or the teacher. What I see at MBM are Godly women who humbly accept God`s order of ministry in the body of Christ. Women who have wide ranging personalities, who graciously serve, and love, gifted women who lead teams, and serve on staff, women who raise children and raise issues, and who respectfully stand their ground for Jesus, women who are marked by modestly, prayer, and a generous heart, whose words are drenched with wisdom, patience, and knowledge, who are able to encourage and rebuke when appropriate. Making us a healthy church.

But are we over reading the text?

Was this a temporary ban for a local problem

But this teaching is consistent with other passages that teach of differences between men and women in the family and family of God (1 Corinthians 14). Paul never makes a blanket statement for a specific problem. (Romans 14) 

Just as Jesus went to Genesis to affirm Marriage, Paul goes to Genesis where Gods plan revealed and rejected. In contrast Paul may encourage Slaves to obey Master but he never argues for slavery in God's purpose for humans in Creation. In fact he says to slaves if you get your freedom, take it. He doesn't say of women if you get the chance to be an elder take it. Paul gives 2 reason why women are not to teach and have authority over a man in the church of God

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. ~1Timothy 2:13 (NIV)

Adam and Eve represent the first couple, the first family and the first church. Adam is given the authority of the first born to lead Eve in ruling the world under God. You see that authority when Adam NAMES Eve or when Adam is held responsible for the Fall. Eve was made from Adam to be his helper and ally, together they would rule this world under God. The second reason-show where God plan is rejected

And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. ~1Timothy 2:14 (NIV)

Adam and Eve both sinned in the garden but in different ways,

Adam sinned by failing to lead Eve by his silence when Eve was tempted, by listening to Eve and taking the fruit, Eve names her sin as deception. She was deceived into listening to the lies of Satan and then leading Adam into sin

Paul is saying this pattern is not to be repeated in the church. God is saying, I want men and women to work together in the family and family of God. Within that I want men to teach and lead the whole church. This is not about women being more gullible or less intelligent or less gifted than men. Women are encouraged to TEACH, women and children prophesy and pray. This is a specific instruction on how women are to use their gifts of teaching in the church of God. Just as WOMEN cant be ELDERS so MEN cant be MOTHERS

The section ends on the note of good works fit for a woman of God which includes motherhood

But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. ~1Timothy 2:15 (NIV)

In case you’re wondering, its not saying you’re going to heaven because you have a baby or you wont feel any pain if you do have a baby. Singleness and Marriage are deemed as gifts from God by the apostle Paul. Here child bearing is part of a long list of good works that marks out women of the Lord who will be saved. She will be saved with a faith marked by godly living. Notice how Paul describes godly widows

well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. ~1Timothy 5:10 (NIV)

Our culture is increasingly anti motherhood

Question: What do you do?
Answer: I am just a mother?

Because in our culture value is only tied to income and not Gods purposes. Just a mother – the Bible views motherhood as more important than that of the Presidency of USA or running a company of 1000 people, hence the grief for women who cant have children

Feminism has rightly pursued equality and justice at multiple levels for women and there is more to be done but it has done two dreadful things.

But Chauvinism under the guise of the bible has done even worse, it has corrupted the beautiful notion of Christ like sacrificial leadership, it has denigrated to hyper headship - an excuse to control, abuse and manipulate women. No wonder that domestic abuse is not lower in churches then in the world.

There is a dance before us in Gods church and in every

Christian family, a dance between men and women who are called to serve together as equal partners. Men and women working together marked by love and respect, not control and fear.

We are missing our chance to show the world how God's order can lead to women flourishing and men leading with sacrificial love. Men who will operate not from fear and insecurity but love and service. At present the elders of MBM are M pastors, each of us work closely with women on staff. Learning together, celebrating each others success, wanting each other to flourish as we all submit to Gods plan.

The pressure of the world is to change God's teaching, the pressure of the flesh is to abuse Gods teaching. Lets stand with God on this issue. Which means we stand with the apostle Paul

But by end of his life Paul says:

At my first defence, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. ~2 Timothy 4.16 (NIV)

On this issue not many want to stand with the apostle. This truth not to be tolerated- like some awful tasting medicine. This is Gods precious loving word for our good and His Glory. Will we be the church of God which is the foundation and pillar of the truth? And yet will we love our brother and sisters who differ on this important issue?

Well, I don’t think Paul had any idea what would be happening in the year 2021 but this passage reads as if it was freshly scripted by God for us this year! It’s a very timely word. 

1 Timothy is a letter that speaks into a whole range of issues that grind against our culture - it’s not anti culture - but trans-cultural - that is - it speaks of how to live as God’s family, in any and every time in history! And generally, that’s going to clash with some aspect of culture! - often has! 

I don’t know how you’ve felt about all the decisions the government have been making over the last couple of years as we’ve journeyed through Covid - but I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all felt the frustrations of restrictions! Loss of jobs, masks on everywhere, weddings cancelled, solo birthday parties. Gyms closed, eating too much, everyone’s hair is growing out - I’m glad I learned to cut my own hair before covid! 

As Christians we’ve definitely felt the restrictions! Church gatherings closed down, singing was taken away from us, home groups were told they couldn’t meet, our Church has had to go digital - gathering online… which we praise God for. 

Now in our tightest version of lockdown … And lots of people are feeling very tense… very restricted… It’s been a really tough time in so many ways but what I’ve found really interesting is seeing how people have been responding to the whole thing online - or on the radio or TV… And it’s not only been interesting but at times it’s been really polarising!! One side against another! Maybe you’ve also felt it? 

As people are feeling the stress of the virus and the lockdowns they’re pushing their views and responding intensely to others' views. Many wanting the government to be doing certain things and being really upset when things haven’t gone the way they expected! or wanted.. The polarisation has been crazy! There are so many sides on so many fronts! From Masks to vaccines to laws to freedoms… 

Last week was a perfect example! There was so much talk about how our premier, Gladys Berejiklian, stuffed up because she didn’t lock NSW down hard and fast… And then when she finally did lock us down - hard and fast - there was a protest from people not wanting to be locked down hard and fast! She couldn’t do anything right! 

It’s been interesting seeing the weight people have been placing on the government to almost be the solution to their life’s problems… “If they’d just do this or that - then my life would be better…” Or if other people would do this or that - stay home, - get vaccinated, - or stop telling me I need to be vaccinated that would affect the government’s decisions and then life would come back to normal for me - I would essentially be - free again! 

Christians haven’t been exempt from those feelings, many have felt like the restrictions have even been a target on the church … a form of persecution… feeling like God’s work is being restricted by the lockdowns… And we get it - as ministers - it can definitely feel like that! And though this isn’t that - it’s not persecution: It can definitely feel like lockdown - restricts God!

But I love what Paul wrote from his prison cell while he sat restricted by physical chains! 

I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. ~2 Timothy 2:9 (NIV)

It’s not bound! It made it out of that prison cell and it has been powering on through history and through Covid! Praise God for phones and internet! I’ve heard story after story of how God has been actively working even while we’ve been physically separated. And Paul shows us here how God continues to work no matter what’s happening in the world around us — whether restricted or not! He shows us what our role is in that work and where ultimate freedom is to be found! And very different from what we feel like we need to do: Paul says - Our role is to Pray!  

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. ~1Timothy 2:1 (NIV) 

Paul encourages various types of prayer here as we reflect on the different people that affect our lives. Notice the focus of the different prayers here are not for our daily needs, not for money, food or clothes, but for people! — All people! He means all kinds of people - people in all kinds of places - and he particularly lists those in authority - in their day kings, Emperors, in our day a Queen and our governments, police and so on… I think it can be really easy for us to generally lean a certain way in our prayers based on our personality differences… either focusing on negative things in others or just all the positive things.

But Paul helpfully draws us out of just praying prayers in line with our own views - to learning to see the world and people through God’s eyes and to bring all their various scenarios to him. So, for me it’s learning to not just pray for all the faults I see in others and praise God for food… but thanking him for our Garbos, who take away our rubbish each week… for those who serve in our healthcare system, and keep our shops going… for our electricity companies who keep our lights going… It’s learning to praise God for bringing the vast range of people from different nationalities into Australia - who live up and down our street… who work in our neighbourhood and praying for opportunities to interact with them… 

It’s praising God for people who hold different views to me, that they can help me understand the world in a different way than I do… and praying for opportunities to open up conversations together… Praising God for our boss’s and co-workers - and praying that God might sustain them and helps us work together well. For opportunities to love them. So many different people to pray for and praise God for in so many different ways! And Especially - at the moment - our Government! I wonder what your response and attitude has been towards our government over this last little while? What have you been feeling towards them?? So many of us have been really appreciative of them in their difficult task! And have been praising God for them… But I’ve also seen so many Christians attacking or complaining about the government publicly on social media recently… and in different conversations… I’ve personally been feeling for them… I haven’t necessarily agreed with everything they’ve done - but have definitely been feeling for them in their roles!

But as I’d been working on this talk I realised, I’ve been praying for the government with different groups, I’ve been trying to help people think positively about them, even defending poor ol’ Gladys to different people… But I realised I hadn’t been personally praying for them on my own! Or praising God for them… I’d praised them to other people - but not to God… I realised I’d been talking about them a lot, but not talking to God about them. So, I spent some time this week bringing them all before God. 

Now I’m not saying you have to be happy with everything they’re saying or even agree with it all - It’s a free country - we have voting rights… but what I will say is what Paul’s telling Timothy and the church in Ephesus! That one of our greatest witnesses to our world that we trust in a Governor that’s greater than any human government is that we pray for our governments - long before we complain about them! 1 Timothy is about God’s family - Christians - Guarding God’s truth by the way we live and speak - so that our world will see and know the glory of the gospel! 

If we let go of the truth in the church - we have nothing to give the world! And friends - even how we interact online is a demonstration of our commitment to God’s cause… Not even the way we interact - but what we go looking for! What we speak about and the way we speak online before a watching world can serve to either repel or compel others towards Jesus. Complaining about our government - as legitimate as your points may be - does not help the cause of the gospel! 

Historical Context: You know, when Paul first issued this command in the 60’s AD, they were living under the Roman emperor Nero, who was an absolute tyrant. There were no voting rights for all and no democracy, but it was more of a dictatorship! Nero hated Christians and viewed them as the scum of the earth. People viewed Christians as enemies of humankind because they held that their Lord Jesus was Lord above all governing bodies, and that even the emperor should submit to Him. Christians were outcasts - they were quite counter cultural - not engaging in the brutal Roman sports or in political offices at all! Eventually Nero falsely accused the church of setting a fire in Rome and he set a mass persecution against them! Listen to how Nero treated Christians in Timothy’s day: 

Its in that context that Paul calls the church to pray - not just for friends and family, for their church and loved ones but for their govt… for people in authority!! Nero and his soldiers… And that’s because the power of prayer is greater than the power of protest - or of any other action we can take - because the God behind our prayers is unrestrictable! He can do far more than we can! 

One wise pastor put it this way: Let’s get more Petitions to God in prayer - than signatures to Government in letters. Let’s get our knees to the floor in humility - before our fingers to the keyboard in hostility! 

This week I saw a Christian friend share what she’d done for the government - she’d sent a letter to Gladys, encouraging her in her role and letting her know she’d prayed for her!

How much more does that serve God’s cause rather than publicly shaming her? 

Imagine she received a heap of letters from MBMers over the next few weeks saying the same thing…? And to what end are we praying? What’s the goal of this prayer?? What are we hoping would happen as we pray and praise God for all these people?  

…that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. ~1 Timothy 2:2 (NIV)

We pray that God might sovereignly handle all the aspects that affect our lives - that we might get out of lockdown??? - NO - That we might have the opportunity to live in a way that demonstrates trust in a God who’s bigger than this world’s issues. Quiet - Peaceful - Holy lives. Not Angry, violent, or civilly disobedient lives. In that way - by prayer and faithfulness - we achieve what God really wants.

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. ~1 Timothy 2:3-4 (NIV) 

What’s the “Good” here? What is it that pleases God? That we pray? Or when our prayers are answered? Is the good thing when people are saved and come to the truth? I think all are on view - it’s good that we entrust ourselves and other people to God and live in a way that honours him and the connection here is that that’s how God brings people to salvation! Through His people’s prayers and their godly witness. And that’s what God wants! He wants more and more of that! 

I put out a post this week on our church Facebook groups asking for people to share how they’ve seen God at work even in the midst of lockdown and it was so encouraging to hear the stories! God has definitely not been restricted! One guy said he was sharing the gospel with the Obrien’s window replacement man who came to fix his car. Another person who lived in a unit block had fresh opportunities to get to know their neighbours who were usually out at work all day. Another started online gaming again and reconnected with some old friends and found that one of them was going through a really tough time and he was able to pray with him and share the gospel with him! 

Friends, God’s word is not bound! He hasn’t stopped working! I wonder how that goal - God’s goal of seeing people saved - might affect the way you rethink what life for you should look like in these restrictions? Lockdowns? Helping people see God’s truth!… Spending quality time at home in prayer is definitely not a waste of time! But possibly an opportunity God has given us! Prayer meeting… 

Well, I don’t know what’s been keeping you busy at home — but one thing that’s been eating up my time is TV and social media! And it can be really tempting at the moment to get online or listen to the news and get caught up in the polarising ideas and issues of the day… As if one of them is going to be the solution to our present issues… We feel like we need to be on a side or choose a team or have a view and an opinion… Whatever the platform is the world is constantly telling us - come to my truth! See the world my way! Think like me! View the government, the vaccines, science, the media, the world a certain way - and then all your issues will be sorted… 

And we can feel like - if we just get this thing sorted… if the government would just allow this or that… if everyone would just vaccinate - if I could just set up my home office in the right way.. If Centrelink would just provide enough supplement… everything will be ok…

We can get fooled into thinking there’s this ultimate solution to our present problems in a worldly scenario. Yes, we should pray that our government do their job well. Yes, we should pray that they come to know Jesus. Yes, we should pray for a greater moral state of our nation and our world — BUT ultimately that will not happen through having the right political party in place! Or through any other social endeavour! Paul says - as you pray for these things remember, Jesus is your only ultimate solution!  

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. ~1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NIV)

Paul here raises our eyes from a worldly solution to a heavenly one! See what this verse is doing in the middle of this little passage about praying for people… especially our governments. There’s one God, there’s one ultimate place of rest and restoration! And freedom! With Him! And there’s one mediator between him and us, one person who can ultimately fix the problem between us, one person who can give us the kind of freedom we need and so desire! 

One person who can move the hearts of people to come together rather than being polarised! Jesus Christ! God himself! Not Scott Morrison, not Donald Trump, not Biden, not Gladys, not even the Queen, nor any other political party or governing system… no business or social endeavour… God wants people to be saved and Jesus is how that comes about! The truth about him is what saves! 

What did Jesus do for us, He gave Himself as a ransom! A ransom is a price paid to free someone from captivity! I wonder how much you’d pay to end this lockdown? What would your freedom be worth? Well, whatever that price, our freedom with God was far more costly - it cost God the life of his only son! He was willing to pay that for us to be freed from our eternal captivity! 

Far more serious than the delta stream of the C-virus, our sin had put us in a state of eternal captivity away from God and we were essentially all heading down a road into an eternal lockdown! Away from God, away from anything good, away from loved ones, away from love, away from any signs of the goodness of life - but locked down in eternal death! But as it says in verse 4 - God wanted people to be saved - and he was even willing to pay the penalty for us! 

So, he came into our world, into our sickness stricken, sinful and broken world, and he took up the cross. He was willing to take up death and in his death he experienced that separation from his father that we deserved - so that we don’t have to! He did that - So that for those who accept what he’s done, those who have put their faith in Jesus - whether we’re in a physical lockdown, whether we have others around us, whatever’s happening in our lives right now, we can know for sure that we’re never separated from our loving God! 

We’ve been given a freedom that far surpasses whatever freedoms we had before covid or whatever’s coming after it! Freedom from judgement, freedom from sin and its reign, freedom from the fear of death, freedom from living in a hopeless state of expecting our government, or any other broken person to be the solution to our greatest needs!

Jesus is the ultimate solution to our need for freedom! This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. Free yourself from the trap of anxiety, fear and outrage, and turn to Jesus - who offers peace and freedom forever. This Jesus and the freedom he offers is what kept Paul praying and testifying as he waited for his chance to speak the gospel to Caesar - he was in jail, restricted under house arrest but confident of the un-chained power of God’s word. 

As I said earlier, it’s like Paul wrote this letter this month, as he immediately applies his call to pray, to the men whose way of dealing with injustice and inaction can often be similar to what we saw in the freedom rally last week, hands raised in rage.. 

I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. ~1 Timothy 2:8  (NIV)

And I think it applies to our women too… My Advice - Take a break from the screens - read the word - watch some Olympics - pray for people - we pray because no matter the restrictions on us, our God is never in chains, He’s always at work!

Father’s day - I didn’t have a great relationship with my dad growing up. One of my Aunties told me when I was like 4 or 5, she would let me sit on her lap in the car and let me help her steer - these are things you could do in the 80’s - and one time when we were coming into the driveway she tells me that I asked if we could run my dad over… I don’t know if that says something about me as a kid or about the relationship my dad and I had even back then. 

Things eventually got so rough between us that I moved out at 19 and there was a time we treated each other as if the other person didn’t exist. As I reflect back, I think it was a case of the two of us being too similar in nature and wanting very different things in life! Creating big clashes! We’d fight over the silliest things, neither of us wanting to budge on the issue. The majority of the time I felt like he didn’t care for the person inside, while he was feeling I didn’t care for him because of the way I acted on the outside. It was a real clash, we went through some hard years, it had a big effect on my life and I know it affected my dad too. 

Fathers play a huge role in the lives of their children, it’s our great and scary privilege and responsibility. Studies have shown the immensely positive and negative affects a present, involved, loving father can be on a child’s formation compared with a distant unloving one. 

Now some of us have outstanding fathers and that’s a great gift! But we live in a broken world and I recognise some of our fathers passed away earlier than they should have. Some of our fathers left us sooner than they should have and some we wished would have left sooner and some of us have not been the kind of father we know we should have been.

Sin and brokenness have affected fatherhood on earth in many ways but today I want to lift our eyes above our earthy fathers, and I want to let the bible encourage our hearts with the reality of our God who has been an ever-present, all-loving, all-wise father to each and every one of us. 

No matter what your relationship has been to your own earthly dad, our relationship with our heavenly dad is the one that ultimately defines and shapes who we are! 

In the classic book - knowing God, Jim Packer lays out what he thinks a Christian is… he writes:  “What is a Christian?” (How would you answer that question?). 

“The richest answer I know is that a Christian is someone who knows God as their father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much they make of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as their father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls their worship and prayers and their whole outlook on life, it means that they do not understand Christianity very well at all.” 

And my hope is that today we’ll see how having God as our father positively affects our lives in every way, especially in these strange times we’re in right now. So, what does it look like? 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? ~Matthew 6:25 (NIV)

Don’t worry! - a phrase every worried person loves to hear. Notice, Jesus starts this section with 'Therefore' He’s just been teaching a big crowd about what it means to have a father in heaven who sees and knows every aspect of their lives and one of the benefits of that he says is not to be consumed with worry. Worry is interesting isn’t it? interesting what worry does to us, it can be helpful at times when it creates helpful action but at other times, it’s just annoying, it can be really frustrating and debilitating! Worry causes us to narrow our vision, to get focused in on a problem, less able to think of the bigger picture, and usually push others away and isolate or we treat others poorly as we try to remove them to focus on our worry. 

It’s not like there aren’t things to worry about! I mean from Covid fears to vaccine decisions to people losing their jobs, wondering where their next meals might come from to mental health issues on the rise. Terrorism tearing through Afghanistan! Worrying about the needs of our families, will our kids make it through the year of homeschooling. Worry seems pretty normal right now. It’s very hard to keep our heads out of the tunnel of worry! 

I don’t know the things worrying you at the moment but Jesus takes us straight to the big things here in verse 25: Don’t worry about your life… what will keep you alive… He names food and drink… he’s not talking about items for a party… food and drink are things that fuel us, things that keep us alive/going… the sources of life… I mean it seems counter-intuitive but he’s saying don’t be consumed with worry over what’s going to keep you living…  then he goes to our bodies - what we’ll clothe them with, again, this isn’t about a decision to shop at the Salvos instead of buying new expensive apparel… a new pair of Nike’s, it’s a question about what we think our bodies are for and what’s really on display for others… Jesus says our bodies are more than, or for more than clothes… so let that worry go…  

We’re going to think about each of those things. Our lives and our bodies… There’s a link here between our lives and bodies, and God’s kingdom and righteousness… See if you can work out the link as we go… Let’s think about it… Where is life found? And…  What are our bodies for? 

If you consult YouTube you’ll find over a million food channels telling you how much food is life and I’m sure they’ve helped a lot of people in lockdown but I’m also sure they won’t have the recipe to life’s bigger questions… what is life and what am I for? In the ancient world and even in many places today - food can be scarce - and the rain falling for the crops to grow relies heavily upon the Lord of the harvest who sends rain. Unlike us with our Uber eats phone apps, they really experience their life’s dependance upon God for their daily food so there often is a contrast between trust and worry. Worry that their father in heaven won’t sustain them. And we can feel a similar thing when we’re stuck in a really tough scenario where we feel like we don’t know if we’ll get through this, we can’t see a way out, no light and no way forward, feeling like God has forgotten us but look at how Jesus encourages us.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? ~Matthew 6:26 (NIV)

Birds aren’t made in the image of God, nor are promised eternal life, yet God provides what they need to live. 

We’ve been reading this book with our kids recently, it’s about some birds who are watching these humans in different scenarios in their life. And the birds are getting amazed and confused at how much these humans are getting stressed in their businesses, or in their lives, and they’re cutting corners, and making all kinds of bad decisions because they don’t know they’ve got a father in heaven who cares for them just like he cares for these birds… they don’t understand… 

And then at the end of the book the birds see a big group of people and they’re all a bit down… and then it shows Jesus in the middle of the group and he says to them all: “Look at these birds… they don’t run businesses or work, but your father feeds them, how much more valuable are you to your father in heaven!? Your life and your bodies are about much more than food and clothes… And then the birds say - HOORAY! They really do have a father in heaven who cares for them! 

If only we’d stop thinking we could find our life, our security, our meaning in something else other than God. And he’s not just talking about food and drink and life’s essentials, it’s not about having enough toilet paper, He’s pressing in to the things we think will give our life significance, worth, meaning and sustenance. What are those things for you? The things you feel like you couldn’t live without?? What would other people notice you couldn’t live without? What is it in your life that you feel if I have this or that I’ll be ok and I’ll get through another day? 

Whatever it might be, Jesus strips worrying about it right out from under our feet! 

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? ~Matthew 6:27 (NIV)

It’s painfully true, what benefit is there to worrying? This really gets to what Jesus is trying to say about life. Where is life truly found? 

When I was a personal trainer we used to go to seminar after seminar on the latest trends in healthy eating and exercise and mind-body relationship stuff and every new guru thought they’d found the key to a longer life! It was all about extending and improving life and I had this line I’d keep saying to people “live well, eat healthy, exercise, die anyway” - it was inevitable! They could try to extend it as long as they like, but it was always coming to an end, an end they couldn’t control! 

It was a reality check for a community who felt like they could control every aspect of their lives to essentially live forever but just as Jesus says, food and drink can never sustain life eternally because the very essence of life is only truly found in God… he holds it in his hands!! Of course, health & fitness have their benefits, but worrying about food or any other earthly thing because we think that’ll secure us in life is ultimately futile. 

Earlier in Matthew when Jesus was being tempted by Satan to forget God and use his power to turn stones into bread to feed his hunger he said “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Our lives are upheld and carried through by God. Worrying just wastes life…  

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. ~Matthew 6:28-29 (NIV)

Solomon was the son of King David around 1000BC, if you want to read about him look at 1 Kings 10. He was by far the richest man who had ever lived up to that point in history and long after him… He had whole towns to store his animals and almost everything in his palace was made of pure gold. In 1 Kings 10:27 it says King Solomon made silver as common as stones, it says he didn’t bother using silver in the palace because it was of little value in Solomon’s day.  

And He would have been dressed up to display the wealth of his kingdom with gold all over him, just dazzling! I’d say, probably more majestic than you or I have or will ever dress in our lifetimes but Jesus says he had nothing on flowers… 

What does he even mean? Look at verse 30

If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? ~Matthew 6:30 (NIV)

Notice what flowers are clothes for, what does God clothe with flowers? grass, which is here today and gone tomorrow. God grows flowers, in all their beauty to brighten up the grass and friends, what Jesus is saying is - God clothes us, to brighten up a dark world, not with clothes, but with the light of Christ! With Righteousness! That’s what our bodies are for, that’s what the more than clothes means.

We are made in the image of God, and called by our Father in heaven to display the glory of Christ to the world around us! Not in the way we dress, but by the way we act!! Just before this little section, Jesus told the crowd - you who come to me.   

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. ~Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

When Jesus went to the cross, he not only stood in our place of punishment and got from his father what we deserved! But he also gave to us his perfect righteousness! It was a complete transfer and substitute! Our sin, for his righteousness. So for us who believe in Jesus, and have accepted him as our Lord and saviour, God clothes us with Jesus. That’s the privilege we have as his children. When God looks at us, he doesn’t look at us with anger, or disappointment, but with full acceptance, with the same love he has for his own perfect son, Jesus Christ. He has clothed us in his righteousness to display His glory to our world as we seek his kingdom above all else!

So Jesus is saying, if that’s what our bodies are for, living out his righteousness, will God not give us all we need to display that beauty, like bright shining stars in a world of darkness! 

Daniel saw this future reality coming when he wrote -  

Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. ~Daniel 12:3 (NIV)

And Paul said: 

for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. ~Philippians 2:13-16 (NIV)

Isn’t that a timely word for us! Unlike worry which isolates and pushes others away as it tunnel visions, seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness displays the bigger picture and draws others in, it brings others along with us! This is a very important word for us as a church at the moment in a world that is continually feeling polarising! 

Did you know that the clothing industry brings in around 2 trillion dollars each year? Jesus is saying, what you can do for the world around you in Jesus name, for your father’s glory is worth far more than trillions of dollars!! And so he says: 

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ~Matthew 6:31-33 (NIV)

The point is, we waste our lives with worry about the wrong things! We seek after earthly security and affirmation while our Heavenly Father knows us completely and knows what we need, and as he calls us to seek his kingdom, he promises to actively provide all we need to do that! Hand over your worries to him! Who is far more able to manage them than us…  

Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. ~1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

The other day while I was sitting working on this talk, I was listening to a Whitney Houston song, yeah, I said Whitney Houston, and there was a line in the song that really got me..

One of the verses goes - If I woke up in world war 3 and I see destruction and poverty and I feel like I want to go home…

And it just really struck me, I think that’s what we’re all feeling at the moment, I just want to go home, I want to go back to when things were normal, when even home felt like home. It’s that feeling of being away from home for a while and just wanting to be back in our comfortable space.

But then I thought, whatever happens, even if we don’t get to get back to that situation, wherever we are, whatever state we’re in, we’re always at home with God! And we can know for sure that our father in heaven is walking with us, holding our hand tightly in his, as we walk together through this messy time. He’s never let us go! And he will lead us all the way into eternal life where we are very safe and sound. 

Worry isn’t something he asks of us but trust. In such a time as this, we need to turn our panic into prayer and entrust ourselves to our capable Dad. 

I’m a dad of 2, Micah is almost 3 and Hazel is 1 and I just absolutely love them! I love watching them, I love teaching them, I love their cheeky grins and their little cuddles. I love when they annoy me and try to type on my computer when I’m trying to write a sermon, I love their confidence to try to pull away from my hand when we cross a road as I’m tightly holding onto them! I have such a strong desire for them, that I want the very best for them in every way possible in life but I know I can’t control that and I know I’ll fail them in many ways as they grow.

But If that’s the desire of an imperfect, flawed man than how much more does our father in heaven have our best interests in mind as he watches us grow through life? 

It’s not that God is going to provide us with a big forcefield that stops every bad thing happening to us. He doesn’t promise us an easy road! The Christian life comes with suffering and hardships just like our Lord Jesus faced, but he assures us he’ll be with us as we travel that road and assures us he’ll carry us home! 

What we’re promised is in every single moment of every single day, there is a loving, gracious father in heaven who’s with us by His Spirit, growing us, shaping us, guiding us, caring for us in ways that we may never see until we meet him face to face in eternity…but because of that reality, we can be sure that worry is not something we need to add to our character traits. 

All those who have put their faith in Jesus, have been adopted as children of God. And as a child of God, you have every privilege our Lord Jesus had! Just as he prayed - Father, thank you that you hear me, I know that you always hear me… and he does… 

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~Matthew 6:34 (NIV)

And so the word for us today is…Trust your Heavenly Father, hold on to the hope of eternal life, and live out His righteousness in the opportunities God has provided for us this day. 

What are some things you could do, even in lockdown that will bring a smile to your father’s face? 

Already I’ve heard of people getting food packages delivered to other people’s places, people calling people who are doing life tough, others doing 1-1 bible studies with people who couldn’t manage zoom, other groups getting together on zoom to pray for our community and the world, families making the most of the time by spending quality time together, even around the word!  

Dad’s, can I encourage you to make sure you use this time to be a light in your families.

Dads we have a huge privilege and responsibility to show our kids how to trust in their heavenly Dad. Your kids may not remember the specific things you say to them, or what you read with them in the bible, but what they will remember is where you sat each morning or night, and what that book was that you were reading. They’ll remember how you treated their mother and their siblings, and what your face looked like as your eyes were closed in prayer to your own heavenly Dad. They’ll remember the focus of your life and what kingdom you spent your time and money building and that will have an everlasting impact in their lives! 

Well, Praise God, some years back, my dad and I had time to talk and understand each other and we’re on really good terms now. But I wonder how much time you’ve spent recently seeking to understand your father in heaven and his care for you? It’s easy in these stressful times to let our feelings dictate how much we think God cares for us but that’s a very unhelpful way of viewing reality as one of God’s children. Instead, we should seek to hear his own voice on the matter and with that in mind, let me finish with Jesus’ comforting words:  

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

John 10:27-29 (NIV)

What a comfort! 

Happy Father’s Day. 

Throughout life, it seems the question that we often get asked is: ‘who do you want to be?’ As a child, it’s always “What do you want to be when you grow up?” An author, A gymnast, A fireman, A footy player. Growing up, I wanted to be a bank manager. Why? Well, I thought as the bank manager I would have access to all the money! Then at the end of high school, we’re confronted with that decision again; a decision that rests on a score out of 100.

As we become adults, the question: ‘what do you want to be?’’ then seems to take a different shape. Rather than people asking us, it tends to be us asking ourselves. Is this what I want to be? I remember in my 2nd-year of university, during the summer break, doing a six-week stint working as an auditor in an accounting firm. Well, that was enough for me to say: “this is not for me.” So off I went and pursued Human Resources. Along the way, it seems we’re forever answering the question. Do I see myself doing this for the rest of my life? Is this what I want to spend my time, my energy pursuing? Or do I chase something else instead?

1 Timothy 4 today is going to put something before us all, something that’s well and truly worth aspiring for.

If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, ~1Timothy 4:6 (NIV)

Not you might be, you will be a good minister! The word minister there, it’s not talking about the paid minister, someone like myself, or any of the other staff here. No, Paul uses a different word here, different from the words: elder, overseer, deacon that he used back in Chapter 3. The word here is ‘servant’. It’s not a particularly impressive word. When was the last time you heard someone say they had ambitions to become a servant? I don’t think I’ve ever said to my kids: “Hey, forget becoming a gymnast when you grow up. Much better off chasing the dream of becoming a servant” What does a servant do? A servant serves. To be a servant, by its very definition, is to be the opposite of someone important; power and position, status, fame and recognition. These are off the table when it comes to being a servant because a servant serves. A servant doesn’t have on their radar questions like: Whether I’m appreciated, my reputation, recognition. No, because a servant serves. In the age we live in where it’s all about pursuing my dreams, my freedom, my rights, why would anyone want to aspire to be a servant!

Well, let’s break down what it means to be a servant of Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus, who as we saw back in the very first sentence of this letter. Christ Jesus who is our hope, our Lord (1Timothy 1:2). The one who came into this world to save sinners. (1Timothy 1:15) The one who gave his life as a ransom for all. (1Timothy 2:6) There is no greater privilege than to be a good servant of Christ Jesus! What does good looks like for a servant of Christ Jesus? According to 1 Timothy 4, a good servant of Christ Jesus is godly! There it is; godliness. What is godliness? It’s code for living out the truth about Jesus.

Specifically, the focus is on what comes out of the lips and whether it’s backed up with one’s lifestyle. Friends, if 1 Timothy has drilled anything into us over these past few weeks, it’s that truth matters. Especially in the household of God. But what matters just as much is HOW we live out the truth. It’s not enough just to speak the truth we also get to show how good the truth is. We get to show how onboard we are with the truth. We do that through our attitudes, our priorities, what things we say ‘Yes’ to and say ‘No’ to. We do that both within the church and before a watching world. That’s what we’re going to see here today in 1 Timothy 4.

Now, let’s go back to 1 Timothy 4:6

If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus. ~1Timothy 4:6 (NIV)

OK, let’s stop there. What comes out of a servant’s mouth are ‘these things’. These things are directed to both men and women. Remember, Paul doesn’t want the women to miss out. He’s jealous they have every opportunity to learn. But what exactly are ‘these things’? The things a good servant points out with their lips are the sort of things we saw back in Chapter 1, things that advance God’s work, things that have love as it’s end point, things that have to do with a purified heart, a clean conscience and a sincere faith, things that involve the trustworthy sayings that are worthy of full acceptance. That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. That there is one mediator between God and humanity, the man Jesus Christ. That pursuing the task of an overseer in God’s church is a worthy task. A good servant puts THESE things before God’s family because they’re well aware of the times we’re living in. 

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. ~1Timothy 4:1 (NIV)

Notice how THESE things are contrasted from THINGS TAUGHT BY DEMONS. One promotes faith and the other causes people to give up on Jesus altogether. Unlike a godly person who’s on about truth, this demonic teaching comes via verse 2... hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. Whereas the godly person has their walk and their talk line up, the hypocritical liars not only don’t speak the truth but they don’t live it out as well. It’s not like they are trying to turn things around either because their consciences have been dull and insensitive, rather than having their conscience pricked they don’t give a stuff about the truth anymore!

Well, come verse 3 - we get a window into the sort of lies they were spreading. 

They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. ~1 Timothy 4:3 (NIV)

Right, so the lie was that you were somehow more spiritual if you stayed single and didn’t marry and if you didn’t eat certain food then that’s what made you holy. Well we know that can’t be right because God’s pro-marriage, He’s the one who invented it in the first place! And second, Jesus has declared all foods clean, so go ahead and eat your bacon, get stuck into

the shellfish! Being godly doesn’t mean pursuing the ascetic lifestyle where we deny and reject the very things God’s given us to enjoy. If you’re not a Christian and you’re tuning in then Number 1 - I’m really glad you’re checking out the things of God.

Number 2 - you may be thinking that there’s no fun in  Christianity, that you’ll have to give up too many things if I want to side with Jesus. Well, you may have to give up some things but think of it from the other angle, at last, you now know who to thank for all the wonderful things you get to enjoy when used on God’s terms.

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. ~1 Timothy 4:4-5  (NIV)

Look I get that during lockdown, it’s become increasingly harder to be thankful. I’ve struggled heaps, more during lockdown 2.0. I’ve learnt to pause and wait for things to bubble up to the surface that I can thank God for. So let me rattle off a few things, I’m thankful for technology that enables us to stay in touch. Last lockdown our oven broke so I’m thankful for an oven that’s enabled home-cooked food, new recipes to try.

I’m thankful for the sunset I saw on THE Rooty Hill, thankful for the bike I can ride, thankful for these strawberries at $2 a punnet! and so sweet too! How good is it to be a Christian - we know who to thank! Gratitude, that’s what falls off the lips of a good servant of Christ Jesus. 

Well, that’s one side of the coin called godliness, what comes out of our lips. The other side has got to do with our lives.

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. ~1 Timothy 4:7 (NIV)

Notice how godliness is contrasted here with the false teaching that was all over Ephesus or modern-day Turkey, that contrast is important because it shows us that godliness has got to do with truth. Often, I’ve made the mistake of thinking that godliness equals goodliness or simply doing the right thing. I reckon we’ve done that because we’ve bought the lie that it’s all about what we DO, the good deeds I present before God , that’s what helps me earn God’s favour, that’s what gets me into heaven. That as long as on the balance of things, the good outweighs the bad then God will accept me. That would be your classic example of a godless myth that Paul says: have nothing to do with WHATSOEVER! Godliness has got to do with truth. In fact, it’s got to do with God.

Take a look back at 1 Timothy 3:16 in your Bible where we were told about the secret of godliness. Godliness has got to do not with myths about God but truths about God and then Paul rattled off six of them. That God appeared, that He walked out of that grave, Risen and Alive with real hands and real feet and real scars. Shortly after that, the Spirit confirmed he was the real deal, seen by angels, that he was to be preached to the ends of the earth so that people would believe in Him. And that now he’s been taken up in glory. Godliness begins and ends with having a grasp of who God truly is!

And so, on that basis, Paul now says “TRAIN YOURSELF”

WOW! That phrase “Train yourself” - if there’s ever a time when those two words took on fresh meaning now would be it, in the middle of a lockdown, train - not just because many of us have got more time on our hands. No train because with the constant changes and the never ending news cycle that makes us feel

Depressed, disheartened, causes anxiety, uncertainty and fear, that messes with our mental health, that throws us into financial panic. Now, more than ever is the time to TRAIN. Make the extra effort with discipline, put in the hard yards, roll up the sleeves, grit the teeth knowing full well, it won’t be easy but it’ll be worth it. 

And not just train, but train YOURSELF. We all know the hardest person to lead is yourself but Paul wants us to feel the weight of responsibility falling on our shoulders, the buck stops with us. Now is the time to step up to be proactive. Of course that doesn’t mean you’re all on your own, yes you’re to take the initiative but there are heaps of ways to - as Paul says in verse 6 - ways to nourish yourself on the truths of the faith. 

What will training yourself to be godly...what will that look like for you this coming week? Well, let me ask you how’d you go last week in nourishing your soul with God’s Word? Well, why not try and do a PB - a personal best - this week. So if it was zero times you opened up your Bible last week, that’s fine, train yourself to open it up at least once this week. If it was three times then why not aim for four. If you’re used to reading a paragraph then why not aim for a chapter. If you typically avoid reading the Old Testament, why not begin with a short book like Ruth, or Judges. Maybe you want to consider going deeper? Enrolling in a course. Maybe even Bible college for next year.

I’m more than happy to chat about some options. Wherever you are on that spectrum, let’s aim for a new PB! Of course training isn’t a solo thing, there’s plenty of others who God’s given us to join in this training program, your small group would be one of them

I remember one small group last year, during lockdown, they would organise a morning Zoom meeting only the cameras were off and it was just them individually spending time with God. But the fact they were all doing it and they knew others

were there doing it too, they all helped each other to prioritise it, but it’s been so encouraging to hear people live out those truths within small groups too. I’ve heard of small groups organising for groceries to be delivered when someone’s doing it tough. I

heard this week how one group, the leaders sent out home-delivered supper, so the group share it together over the study.

Sending a bunch of flowers to a member who’s doing it tough.

I’ve heard of group members phoning one another during the week, that’s godliness in action, word AND deed. Truth AND love, keep it up! So yes - train yourself but train yourself alongside others.

In verse 8 we come across another one of Paul’s trustworthy sayings that’s deserving of full acceptance. 

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. ~1 Timothy 4:8-9 (NIV)

Now I know that for a good number of you, you already fully accept the first half of this saying, up until lockdown, you were heading along to a gym. Maybe you were training for a marathon or a half-marathon. Others were heading out for walks - trying to get your 10,000 steps in. Many of you play competitive sports. Now in lockdown, I know a number of you have jumped on board with the Couch to 5K running app. Or you’ve got your home gym setup. To the notion that there is SOME value in physical activity I can hear many of you say a big AMEN. 

Exercise, one of those wonderful gifts from God as we saw earlier. Nothing like a good sweat to clear the head!

But note - it’s of SOME value. Over my life, I’ve trained for a marathon, I’ve trained for a Spartan Race, I’ve trained for basketball games, I’ve spent lots of time at the gym, watching what I eat. Its involved plenty of physio along the way too.

Dragging myself out of bed early in the morning yes - it was worth it, I don’t regret it but all I’ve got to show for at the end of the day is a headband. Oh, and a sermon illustration. Godliness on the other hand, that’s our future. Godliness is the currency of heaven and so the effort, the strain, the spiritual sweat you put in now, you’re just getting a head start for what awaits in glory! Paul calls that a win-win, a win for this life and a win for the life to come.

That’s why Paul will go on to say two more things about how a good servant of Christ Jesus backs it up with their lifestyle. 

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. ~1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)

We’ve reached a turning point in Chapter 4, so far Timothy’s job has been to expose error, to point out the lies. However, from this verse on, Timothy is to show how good the truth is by living a transformed life. And here in verse 12 specifically, rather than others looking DOWN on Timothy because of his youth, others are going to look UP to Timothy instead, all because of his speech and because of his conduct. 

For Timothy, the way he speaks about Jesus, his God-talk, that’s to be worth copying. The stuff he speaks about, it’s not just head knowledge for him, Jesus is real to him, Jesus

impacts how he conducts himself, the way he goes about relationships. It affects all the stuff we saw last week in Chapter 3. Keeping his anger in check, alcohol, how he related to outsiders. Does the public and private life match up?

Do you remember those spot-the-difference games that were in the Sunday newspapers or in the puzzle book when you were a kid? You’d have two nearly identical pictures side by side and you’d have to try and see what was differences between them. On one there’d be a picture on the wall and in the other one it was missing. One the guy would only be wearing one sock whereas in the other one he was wearing both. 

Well, when it comes to godliness, sure there might be differences between our speech and our conduct. Our walk doesn’t always match up with our talk but being a good servant of Christ Jesus involves naming it, not doing pretend. And then being committed to removing those differences, that’s why good servants of Christ Jesus pay attention to how they live and act because our lives are on display. People are watching, people are copying, everything from how you drive to what you post about on social media. How you treat your spouse, what your home life is like. From how you use your downtime to how you spend your money, how you dress. We have a tremendous opportunity to help one another, to model for each other what godliness looks like.

Have a think about the person who you looked up to, or look up to now as a Christian role model. You got someone in mind?

Chances are you picked that person because their walk and their talk lined up or at least they were self-aware and honest enough to know that was what they needed to train themselves in. They had set an example for you in speech and conduct. Why don’t you, before today is out, get in touch with that person if you’re able to, call them, message them, pray for them, express your thankfulness in some concrete way.

Timothy is to set an example, not just in speech and conduct, he’s to do so in a context of love, faith and purity.

Love is what’s behind everything Timothy says and does. He’s setting an example for their good. And not only that, when it comes to faith he’s contenting, he’s pursuing, he’s fighting the good fight of the faith. Showcasing those things as opposed to what others in this letter are described as doing, people like Hymenaeus and Alexander who we met back in 1:20, two guys who’ve shipwrecked their faith. Those who’ve abandoning the faith as we saw in verse 1 of this chapter. Or the greedy who wander away from the faith in 6:10.

And then when it comes to purity, Timothy, like all good servants of Christ Jesus, are to lead the way. Interestingly the only other time purity gets a mention is in 5:2 where Timothy is to treat the younger women WITH absolute purity. Good servants of Christ Jesus relate to the opposite sex in wholesome, appropriate and God-honouring ways.

Chances are, you won’t remember any of the sermons I have preached or will preach 10 years from now. That’s OK. I’m not offended. I don’t think I’ll even remember them myself! But I’m pretty sure you’ll remember how I’ve spoken to you, whether positively or negatively. You will remember whether I listened, how I handled a certain situation, whether I understood you, encouraged you, how I served, not just up-front but behind the scenes. 

Those of you who’ve come into my home you’ll remember how I’ve tried to disciple my children, how I treat Teresa, how I made you feel welcome. Knowing that, knowing that’s the sort of stuff that determines whether I’m a good servant of Christ Jesus or not, that’s what inspires me to keep working at godliness.

And finally, part of living a life of godliness, living out the truths of God will mean that of Christ progress - not perfection - is the name of the game.

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. ~1Timothy 4:15  (NIV)

Notice how Paul goes all out here, rather than giving yourself half-heartedly, he says go “all in”. Be diligent, make an effort, get absorbed in it like you would binge-watch the latest TV show because by doing so, the results will follow. Only in this case, we’re not talking about progress in terms of better test scores or a bigger paycheck. No, the progress has got to do with growing in godliness!

We often say here at MBM, as followers of Jesus, we want our best days to be ahead of us not behind us. That is, we’re all works in progress, I am, you are, we all are, none of us have fully arrived. 

Whenever I’m chatting to someone about stepping up to leading the hesitation every time has either got to do with doctrine, “I don’t have the answers” or lifestyle, “I’m not perfect. I don’t feel I’m good enough”

Well, this verse should come as a relief, the pressure’s off, perfection is not what we’re after but rather progress. I’m glad you don’t have the answers because that’ll make you hungry to go and ask questions. I’m glad you’re not perfect because none of us are and you’re aware of what you need God’s help with!

I often say to couples during marriage prep that the test of a godly marriage will look like the husband saying to his wife: ‘I feel more respected by you this year compared to last.’ And a wife saying to her husband: ‘I feel more loved by you this year compared to last.’ That’s progress!

Progress is the name of the game when it comes to sin too. If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for a while, I would hope that there’d be certain sins you could look back on and say, they’ve been put to death from the time you first took the hand of Jesus. I heard one person share humbly this week about how certain TV shows he watched when he first became a Christian he just knows to stay right away from now.

We’re forever playing the long-game on that one in putting sin to death. Recently I’ve been really convicted about the sin of prayerlessness and in particular a shallowness to my prayer life. So, rather than being stuck there, what do I do? I go away, I put the work in. so that in 6 or 12or however many months time, my progress will be evident.

Well, that brings us to verse 16. A good servant of Christ Jesus has got good self-awareness. 

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. ~1 Timothy 4:16 (NIV)

They have got a keen eye on their speech and their conduct because at the end of the day, salvation is at stake. Now we know earlier, from this letter, there’s no doubt, we do not and cannot save ourselves. There is only one mediator between God and humanity, the man Jesus Christ.

But Paul wants to make it clear, we do have a role to play, just as the hypocritical liar or the false teacher leads people AWAY from salvation. So too, the person who takes godliness seriously, the person who’s talk about Jesus lines up with their walk with Jesus, how we speak, how we act, it’ll either help or hinder whether the gospel gets a genuine hearing.

I began by asking who do you want to be? Do you want to be a good servant of Christ Jesus? Are you willing to train yourself to pursue godliness? To put in the effort, the discipline, to get back up again when you don’t feel like it. Well if your answer to that question is Yes, then that will have tremendous blessings not just for your life here and now and not just for eternity. It’ll have blessings for the church you’re a part of too.

In the 10 years I’ve had the privilege of being part of this church, I’ve discovered by chatting to others who don’t call MBM home, that we here at MBM are known for many things.

A zeal for lost, introducing people to Jesus, seeing them move from death to life. We’re known for diversity, that’s probably one of the biggest reputations of MBM, after all that’s what the first M stands for, Multicultural. 

It’s such a delight to see the United Nations gather Sunday by Sunday, I can’t wait for that day when we’re all together in person again. I pray it’ll be sooner rather than later. Not only that, we’re also known for our commitment to the Bible. That’s what the B stands for. That we’re devoted to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and teaching across all ages and stages, kids, youth and adults. And the final M in MBM stands for Ministry. See what makes up a Ministry? Ministers, servants, or more specifically based on what we’ve been looking at today, good servants of Christ Jesus. Without that, we’re a shell of a ministry. All show and no substance!

And so, if you call MBM home, I don’t know about you, but whenever someone asks, what is MBM known for. Yes - they’ll mention those things we’re already known for but my prayer is that they’ll be able to say ‘MBM, oh yeah - that’s right. That’s the place where there are truckloads of servants of Christ Jesus.

Servants who serve, servants who set an example when it comes to speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. Servants who take godliness seriously knowing that’s the one thing that’ll transition from this age, to the age to come. Servants who are committed to watching their life and doctrine closely.’

I thank God for the many servants of Christ Jesus who call MBM home already. Faithful servants, men, women, children, youth, young adults, singles, couples, parents and seniors. Who are switched to what Paul says in verse 10.

As servants of Christ Jesus, this is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. ~1 Timothy 4:10 (NIV)

How about we pray to that end.

Help us to play our part. Doing whatever it takes. Please show us the areas that need to change. In this coming week. And in the days ahead. Especially in lockdown, help us take the initiative to train ourselves for godliness!

We find ourselves in difficult times indeed. So far, it’s been hard, but mostly straightforward for churches. Mainly because it has been one rule for all. Now we have been told that churches can return to meeting together when we reach 70% vaccination rate anticipated to be October 17th. However, it’s only for those who have been double vaccinated. It has begged a lot of important questions and I don’t want to simply give the road map for re-entry without a theological framework because this is truly a discipleship moment for our church. 

I want to begin by acknowledging that our society has been under a lot of pressure these last five years. We have had various important social movements – Me Too, Black Lives Matter, debates on Sex and Gender, American politics – and now COVID vaccination restrictions. 

In addition, we have also had fires, droughts, floods and mice plagues. Then came lengthy lockdowns, widespread fatigue, poor mental health, an overstretched health system, exhausted health workers, postponements of serious medical treatments, the rise of domestic violence and addictions, unemployment stress from the economic downturn and government policies such as ‘no jab, no job’. We are facing unique challenges both as a community and as a church. So how do we go forward and glorify God with these added government restrictions?

The Archbishop has given us the freedom to come back or delay. Like every other church, the leadership team is struggling because there is a clash of biblical principles. It’s the perfect storm of issues with growing tension points. The bible treasures a number of truths, and it’s important to remember not one truth stands alone. We need to do more than just quote one bible verse. When the devil quoted scripture, Jesus’ response was “but the scriptures also say…”.

I once heard a definition of a fundamentalist: “Someone who treats a partial truth like it was the whole truth.” So, what does the bible value that speaks into our situation? The six below points are not in any order.

1.   The bible values the gathering of God’s people.

God commands us to not forsake meeting with one another as some were in the habit of doing (Heb 10:25). The context is of those who were choosing to not attend the gathering. As I often say MBM online is important but it’s not church, it’s a ministry of the word. It ought to grieve us that we can’t all gather as God’s people to encourage each other, especially when so many are vulnerable. And yet it’s not an absolute value, since you rightly miss church when you are sick, or when work calls you out for an emergency. 

2.   The bible values the unity of the church.

We are one in Christ. Galatians 3:28 states, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, (vaccinated or unvaccinated) for you are all one in Christ Jesus, “I truly hope you feel the grief of all of us not being allowed to meet together as God's family. But this does not mean we don’t put any limits on unity. For example, we don’t change our core teaching if some disagree and threaten to leave MBM. Unity is important, but it’s not the only truth.

3.   The bible values obedience to the government.

The repeated teaching in the bible (Rom13:1-2,6, 1 Peter 2:13-14,1 Tim 2:2) is that we are to submit, pray, pay taxes and honour our governments, whether they are godly or not. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was burnt at the stake under orders from Queen Mary in the sixteenth century. His second point in his final speech was to obey the government that was burning him at the stake and to do so ‘willingly and gladly without murmur or grudging.’

Why was Cranmer burnt at the stake? Because he was disobeying the government when it came to teaching God's word. Acts 5:29 is clear that “We must obey God rather than human beings!” I said to my son who is a pastor that he may well go to prison for teaching parts of the bible before he dies and Jesus wants him to count that persecution as a privilege (Matt 5:11). However, I don’t see COVID restrictions as Christian persecution, for all people are impacted by them not just believers.

4.   The bible wants us to do good to all people, especially those in the household of faith (Gal 6:10).

Our love must extend to how we manage the impact of our health on others. We know our hospitals are at breaking point. Some health workers from church tell us firsthand they are working long shifts. They are exhausted, wards are full, and other medical procedures have been postponed. 

We should be conscious of how our health impacts others at church. While I don’t give medical advice as a Pastor where health issues impact church life we take advice from doctors we know and trust. This has been our policy for thirty years at MBM. That is why we are a nut-aware church, or why we tell parents when their child is sick (green runny nose, rash, temperature, or conjunctivitis) they should not bring their kids to church. But the difference here is that the unvaccinated who are healthy can feel like they are viewed as if they are sick and unclean. 

5.   The bible values respecting conscience and conscientious objections.

We worship a God who understands that not every Christian is going to agree on everything. We are to respect and even protect each other's consciences and choices, even if we think they are wrong. 

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. ~Romans 14:10 

And yet, conscience and individual freedom are not absolutes. You can have a clear conscience and be completely wrong. A person who genuinely believes in the prosperity gospel will be loved at MBM but will not be given a teaching platform.

6.   The bible values our witness before a watching world.

We should care about how we are seen by the world. In 1 Tim 6:1, slaves were to submit to their masters. Why? So that the name of God and the good news of Jesus would not be slandered. We should be concerned to make Jesus look good before a watching world, as individuals and as a church. The only thing is, the world consists of different people who are offended by different positions. As a church, we can’t “be all things to all people.”

So, these are some of the issues that push against each other; the gathering and unity of God’s people, obeying the government and obeying God, showing loving concern for the health of our church and community, guarding our individual conscience and choices, and watching how we live before a watching world. 

It’s worth remembering it is not a problem unique to MBM. Every pastor, in every church in Sydney, is facing these same issues and very few think there is an easy answer.

Road Map for re-entry

We thought it would be helpful to lay out a road map to deal with uncertainty.

  1. We will NOT return to Sunday gatherings when we reach 70% vaccination estimated to be October 17th.

First and foremost because we feel the grief of not having all of us able to attend church because of the restrictions. There are also complications with running MBM kids church, as well as a delay for some still waiting for their second dose.

We are hopeful that restrictions may be lifted beyond 80% vaccination rate but there is no assurance of this happening. 

1. If the restrictions are not lifted we wait and NOT meet for five Sundays commencing from October 17 for the sake of those who can't attend. 

2. If the restrictions have NOT been lifted we will reluctantly return by November 21st and gather according to government restrictions. 

At this point, we want to at least give the majority the opportunity to meet for their good and we want to give non-Christians the opportunity to come to church and hear the gospel. 

At that point we hope to start live streaming our services for two groups; those who can't meet because of government restrictions and those who can't meet because of health concerns

3. If the government removes restrictions and allow us all to meet together beforehand we will meet earlier. 

If the government allows separate vaccinated and unvaccinated gatherings we will reluctantly consider it, but only as a temporary measure. 

Please note that this is not a policy for MBM South West who, as we have announced earlier this year, will become independent in October under the name of, ‘The Church of the Risen King Jesus’. 

More information will be forthcoming for MBM Youth and Growth Groups

Whatever road we take there is no soft landing and we hope, pray and have requested the government to lift restrictions as soon as possible. The sad reality is that regardless of government restrictions, every option available to us either now or later excludes somebody

You may be saying; 

“Why should I miss out on meeting together for five weeks for the sake of others who choose not to get vaccinated?” Or

“Why should others meet when we who are a part of MBM are kept from the gathering because we are vaccine-hesitant for a medical reason?”

For a moment I ask you to ignore the government law and the MBM road map. I want you to take to heart a key truth that “love limits our liberty”

Love Limits our Liberty

In Philippians 2, we are called to value others above yourselves” Then Paul grounds the reason in Christ's humility.  

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! ~Philippians 2:5-8

There it is! Christ did not use his rights for his own advantage. Rather he went from heaven to earth and from God to the God/man to death on a cross for us. The one who has issued the command to “value others above ourselves”, has led the way. If you are not used to applying this principle in your private life, you may find it hard in your church life. 

A Matter of the Heart

As with all truth, it begins in the heart. Can I respectfully place a challenge to us all?

And let us pray that it will not be long before restrictions are removed. The challenge for any church or society is how the majority treats the minority. And who should know this better than we Christians who are in the minority? 

Make no mistake there are godly people on both sides of the vaccine debate. And both sides of the debate have said things they need to apologise for and have. We don’t get to postpone godliness in a crisis. 

After the recent Parramatta and Penrith semi-final NRL game, some of the players from both teams prayed together in a huddle at the end of the game. They knew their first identity is not their team but their Father in heaven. 

If you go MBM Rooty Hill can I ask you to join us on zoom on Sunday (10:45am, 5pm) for question time and demonstrate the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

This is a time to examine our hearts. One brother shared with me how he has been angry at the other side. He knew he needed to deal with that anger and not let it become a root of bitterness.

I would also ask us all to check our motives; Before COVID restrictions…

Love must not be theoretical

The care of the church is the responsibility of every member. That is why there are fifty-seven ‘one another’ verses and the most frequent is “Love one another”. Make a call, send a meal, provide a care package, send flowers, go for a walk and take interest in others. Mark Boyley’s men group were paired off and walked in twos within the LGA to celebrate the end of term growth group.

For your mental health sake, can I suggest you cut back on your screen time. If your family is telling you that your response COVID restrictions are harming them please listen to them and take steps.

What should be our response to the government? 

The government is given by God to restrain our wickedness. In our system, the voice of the people is given by God to restrain government. As a good citizen who wants good government use all the channels available to speak up. Get to know your local state member when you see injustices and advocate for yourself and others. It is good for you; your mental health and you are less likely to demonise politicians. 

I spoke to a number of folks who are vaccination hesitant due to medical reasons and who are losing their job. With their permission, I offered to call up our local state member for them. Two of them wrote very clear, respectful and direct letters to the minister. We must support those in our church who are losing their jobs. They are under tremendous pressure.

Gospel Hope!

Our hope is ultimately in the gospel, not politics. Do you realise that Christians in Australia have lost every major public debate in the last fifty years? The last being the abortion laws in state parliament last year. We are simply becoming a more post-Christian culture.

Take heart God still rules! How did Christianity grow from eleven scared men in an upper room to become the state religion of the Roman Empire in under 300 years? It was the hope of resurrection. Christians were not afraid of death. Plagues and natural disasters caused chaos in the ancient world and life was unstable. However, Christianity offered a better explanation, a better story, the forgiveness of sins, a resurrected body and the promise of new creation. 

Christians generally coped with disasters better, and they took care of their own and others. When plagues happened many stayed with the sick and some of those who survived became Christian. The world also saw how martyrs faced death with such confidence

The next couple of months will be very difficult and it made me wonder what our great grandparents had to face this time last century They went through World War 1, a pandemic, massive economic depression and then World War 2 and all within thirty years.  

This is our time friend so let us not forget how great is the God we worship. When Israel was under siege and starvation was so bad that mothers were even tempted to eat their young we read the words of the prophet Jeremiah.

Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ~Lamentation 3:22-23

Let us pray

Precious Father, these are such difficult days. First COVID then lockdowns, and now restrictions. We beg you for relief.

Assure us of the truth that you rule in all decisions and promise to work in all things (good or bad) for our good including this season.

We are all in this storm, but we are not all in the same boat. Some are doing much tougher than others. 

We uphold those who work in the health services, for those who have lost their jobs, for those whose mental health is deteriorating, for single parents and for those on their own.

Let those who suffer, not suffer in silence, and may their needs be made known. Comfort them at this time and use us to be that comfort.

Allows us to all gather safely together for our encouragement, as soon as possible.

We ask that as your holy people we would stand out from the world and make Jesus look good. We plead that we would support each other and not turn on each other. 

Please give our leaders your Spirit that they may make wise decisions and grant us patience and a godly response when they don’t. Cause us all to lift our eyes off our screens and up to the heavens where you are ruling and reigning

Help us to grasp that you are for us, and with us. Come what may we will praise you for you are: 

God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To you, Lord be honour and might forever.

Amen.

It's not the easiest time to be an Olympic athlete, they push their bodies to the limit for 4 years and then Covid hits and they wait another year, then they have to get picked again. Some have come down with COVID in the Olympic village. If they do make it there are no crowds to applaud their efforts and some who make it to the final come second by .02 second. While it's an honour to represent your country, they don’t hand out gold medals for trying. Its all based on performance, performance, performance, I'm so glad that salvation is offered to every one including the very worst

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

No one is so good that they don’t need to be saved and no one is so bad they can’t be saved. People don’t use the word ‘sinner’ all that much these days.

Christ Jesus came into world to save sinners. No one is excluded from the category of sinner. Some may be worse than others. But as we like to say at MBM, you miss the plane by 3 minutes or 3 days, you have still missed the plane. We have all missed the plane by failing to love God with all our heart and failing to love others as we should.

The question is saved from what? 

From a harrowing Christless eternity, that is why Jesus did not come into the world to teach you how to be a better you, to offer a set of self-help bullet points. Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

Christianity is a rescue religion not a reform religion, people going to hell is our greatest need, not to be encouraged or educated or enlightened, to be saved.

The 7 year old daughter of a friend found herself in trouble at the beach, she got too close to the rocks and was getting closer, I swam out to her and pulled her back to shore. The girl was very aware of her need to be saved, whether she was aware or not she still needed to be saved. Whether you are aware of your sins and the judgment to come, you still need to be saved. The very name of Jesus tells you why he came to earth, the Angel said to his Joseph

…you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” ~Matthew 1:21 (NIV)

450 year ago in England a man by the name of Thomas Bilney came to trust Christ as his saviour. One day he heard his friend Bishop Latimer wrongly preach how you need to go to the priest for confession before God can forgive you. So Thomas Bilney asked Bishop Latimer if he would hear his confession.

What Bilney confessed were these words "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." It was this verse from Timothy that brought Bishop Latimer to faith, even though a priest, he too needed Jesus to save him from his sins. That same bishop made sure that when the Church of England prayer book was written, after the general confession, this same verse would be read out…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

Within the list of sinners in this world, Paul the apostle, saw himself not better than the rest, not the same as the rest, but worse than the rest.

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

Literally no 1 sinner is worse than the list of sins in 1 Timothy 1; slave traders, sexually immoral, mother killer, father killers. He said the law was for lawbreakers and he was the chief of the lawbreakers. I wonder if Paul is naming the elephant in the room, the false teachers in Ephesus wanted to undermine Pauls authority and undermine his charge on Timothy to silence false teaching.

Were they thinking? We know what he, Paul, has done, he has no right to command us to silence false teachers, He has blood on his hands. Paul is not hiding the truth.

Do you know who the worst of sinners are?

It’s not Hitler, or Stalin. It’s Not the person who ran over your son. It’s not you. It’s not me. Twice Paul tells us he is the worst of sinners.This is not false humility. Paul is not taking the log out of his own eye. He tells us why he is the worse of sinners.

.... I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man ~1Timothy 1:13 (NIV)

He list his sins in increasing orders: He was a blasphemer and a persecutor. The deep seated violent heart Paul takes us to his conversion, on the road to Damascus where he planned to wipe out the name of Jesus by wiping out every last Christians The risen Jesus strikes him down and strikes him blind “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me”

Then appoints him as His apostle. The one who wrote a lot of the New Testament was not just a murderer. He killed the very people he would spend eternity with and he never forgot it.

He doesn't say ‘I was the worst of sinners’ He says ‘I am the worst of sinners’ Christ Jesus who came to save sinners just like me. But what a relief  to know that Paul is the worst, which means you can never say you’re the worst. You can say your 2ND worst, get the silver but the gold medal for sinning goes to Paul.

Two surprising reasons are given for why he was shown mercy

Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. ~1Timothy 1:13 (NIV)

When he killed Christians, he did not know that Jesus was the Christ, he thought he was doing God a favour, he thought Jesus was a false messiah, steering people away from the truth. He did it for God's sake, which didn’t make him innocent, clearly he still needed mercy. He is like those who killed Christ himself. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”

They are not like the two men mentioned in verse 19, Hymenaeus and Alexander who ship wrecked their faith by knowingly rejecting the truth. No mercy for those who know the truth and choose to turn away. So come to Jesus because he came into your world to save sinners just like you. But maybe you have crossed the line and feel that you are unworthy. The second reason why God saved Paul

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. ~1 Timothy 1:16 (NIV)

Why did God save Paul? He saved him so that you would know one thing, that if God could patiently forgive Paul he can patiently forgive anybody. If God is prepared to the save the worst then of course he will save the rest who come to him. Look again at the word of God

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. ~1 Timothy 1:16 (NIV)

Nobody is beyond the mercy of God and nobody is outside the kindness of God. There may be consequences now, there should be consequences now, murderers should be imprisoned. But coming to Christ is about removing the ultimate consequences. 

Right now, in prison, there are those have come to understand that Christ Jesus came to save sinners just like them. Right now in Churches there are some ministers, priests and social workers who refuse to think they are sinners needing to be saved by Christ. They are not forgiven. Christ wont save anyone who doesn't want to be saved. The question is not who is the worst of sinners the question is who wants to be saved.

From sinner to servant

Paul is so aware that even his faith, love and hope has been given to him, he is on the receiving end of so much mercy that God poured out on him

The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. ~1 Timothy 1:14 (NIV)

How on earth does a man like Paul go from killing Christians to preaching Christ? He lost everything to follow Christ, he went from respect to renegade, so why? He met Christ Jesus, who drenched him in mercy. What's amazing to me is that God gave the most important job, apostle to the nations, to the worst of sinners.

So thankful to Christ, verse 11, God entrusted the gospel to Paul, verse 12, appointed Paul to God's service. From sinner to saint, from blasphemer to apostle, from self centred to servant of the Lord. A reminder that Christians are not saved to just kill time till we meet Jesus we are saved to serve. Serve Christ, serve his people, serve the gospel.

Sure you’re not an apostle, this is a unique privilege of 12 plus Paul, but you are to play a role in making disciples. Christians move from sinner to saint to servants of Christ. Too many get the sinner to the saint but not the serve.

The man who spent his life blaspheming Jesus is now praising God for Jesus

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. ~1 Timothy 1:17 (NIV)

Paul can't talk about God without praising God, and friends nor should we. Those who receives mercy are full of thanks and praise for God.

Praise to the King eternal, the one who has the right to speak into our lives and our church. Who sent Christ Jesus into this world to save sinners. Who commanded Paul to be his apostle and he tells Timothy and us to fight the good fight

Praise to the King eternal, the who is from everlasting to everlasting. The one who speaks timeless truths to us who are trapped in time

We can, mere mortals, praise the immortal king, the undying God, who let his son die for us sinners. The immortal God who gifts us with immortality.

Praise the King invisible who reveals himself in his word and charges Timothy to silence false teachers, because they kept putting words in God mouth.

Only one God and one way to God, He alone sent Christ Jesus into the world to save sinners, He alone deserves honour and glory

Have you thanked and praised God for saving a sinner like you? 

A friend of mine, who is a minister, was taking a service. A man came up to take the Lords supper with tears running down his face. Afterwards he went up to the minister and said. “Do you want to know why I am crying? I've been coming to church all my life but I have just become a Christian. When I heard the words of assurance after confession I finally got it” "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."

People who think they are healthy never go to a doctor. People who don't think they are sinners never go to Jesus to be saved.

What a tragedy. After Christ has come into your world, to think you would not want to come to him.

Hear the word of assurance

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners ~1Timothy 1:15 (NIV)

We start a new series today with Paul’s letter to Timothy for the church in Ephesus and us at MBM. The series is titled “Life in God's family.” Unless we guard the truth inside the church, we have nothing to offer those outside the church. But who has the right to speak into our life and the church? 

From the moment we are born we are told “No one has the right to tell me how to live”

We can't see the problem, we act like we are all-knowing and inherently good, we have learnt to be suspicious about everyone except ourselves. In reality, we are born in one family, part of one culture at one time, we are just one blip on the stage of history. We have silenced God, the one who speaks timeless truths in time-bound cultures. It has placed a tremendous burden on a generation that is lost and a church that has lost its way.

But God in his kindness doesn’t leave it up to us, what a relief to know that the one who has the right to tell us how to live is for us.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. ~1Timothy 1:1-2 (NIV)

This letter was written by the Apostle Paul to Timothy. It is about how Timothy is to lead the church at Ephesus, Paul ends this letter assuming the church is reading it.

The chain of command begins with God who is described as Father and Saviour, the highest calling for a Christian, that the only Sovereign God, King of Kings, Lord of Lords who alone is eternal and invisible who dwells in unapproachable light. That God is your Heavenly Dad because Jesus Christ is our hope.

Your future is guaranteed in him.

This letter begins by underlining the authority of Paul, together both God the Father and his Son appointed Paul as an apostle.

Unlike false teachers Paul is not self-appointed, he is made an apostle and ambassador of Christ by God's command. This means this is God's letter to them and God’s word to us.

This book is written to Timothy, Paul’s spiritual son. Timothy came to faith through the ministry of Paul. He served as a fellow missionary with Paul and he was circumcised for the gospel. See the chain of command of this letter – The Father, the Son, Paul, Timothy, the local church and to us. To reject Paul's letters is to reject God himself.

Why is this so important for us? Paul is going to say some tough stuff that we don’t want to hear, start praying that we will let God speak to us. The first thing Paul tells Timothy is to mute the false teachers

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer ~1Timothy 1:3 (NIV)

It’s that blunt.

The best thing about social media is the worst thing about social media, it allows anyone to say anything, even it they haven’t earnt the right to speak, not so in the church of God. We guard the preaching. For me to get to this point to preach I needed to be assessed for 4 years, my teaching, my character and my family was reviewed and I was repeatedly interviewed. Even now if I preach heresy, you can dob me into the bishop.

So what was it they were teaching?

False teaching

…command certain people not to teach false doctrines any Longer. Literally … not to teach other teachings… ‘other than what’? Other then what was handed down from Paul and the Lord Jesus. More specifically:

…(not) devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. ~1 Timothy 1:4 (NIV)

Myths and Genealogies - Teaching made up stories taught as though they were true. Probably Jewish myth because they wanted to be teachers of the Law. Myths often fill in the gaps in the bible. Telling you the things in the bible you were curious to know, stuff your imaginations run wild with.

Haven't you ever wondered what Jesus did as a teenager?

Think how interesting Youth Group could be reading stories about how Jesus spoke to his sisters, how he handled Rabbis with a bad temper, how Jesus coped with his dad who made him work after school when his friends could play.

You don’t have to guess? We have one of the false Gospels of Thomas that was written 140 years after Jesus birth, where Jesus was 5 years old and he is playing with other Jewish boys, making 12 clay sparrows on the sabbath, when his father, Joseph, tells him off for breaking the Sabbath. He claps his hands and all 12 fly away. Great party trick! Not true and not helpful.

What is the Koran? A rewriting of both Old Testament and New Testament story.

What is the book of Mormon but one long myth. Mormons love genealogies, the Mormons have developed the most detailed genealogy record database. They believe that you can save your dead ancestor by naming them and baptising them. 

All of it is based on an obscure half verse in 1 Corinthians 15:29.

What is as bad as treating myths as if they were true? Its treating truth as if it were a myth.

I remember one guy coming to church and he was shocked that I was preaching through Exodus, Moses, 10 plagues, Cross of the red sea, like they actually happened. He was taught at his Catholic University that the whole Old Testament was myth.

Paul lets us know the fruit of such lies

Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith ~1 Timothy 1:4 (NIV)

They promote useless and harmful arguments that never advance God purposes. God's word is to be stewarded not speculated, such teaching stir the imagination, they do not spur on godliness. This command is to silence them. It is not driven by insecure leaders who have control issues. This isn’t a power game. It’s about love for God and his people.

The goal of this command is love, … ~1 Timothy 1:5 (NIV)

It’s not loving to mute yourself when lies are being taught. It’s not loving to let lies masquerade as truth. You may not like it when people say in bible studies ‘Where do you get that from the passage?’ But it’s a loving question. Love is as close to Truth as the Father is to the Son. 

What drives this command is everything that the false teachers were not.

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. ~1 Timothy 1:5 (NIV)

A pure heart is driven by the applause of God. A good conscience that is washed by the blood of Christ and taught by the word of Christ. Sincere faith that genuinely knows and trust Gods word.

In verse 19 Paul calls out two men who shipwrecked their faith by rejecting a sincere faith and good conscience. They slowly drifted, they stopped caring about what is right or wrong, they stopped listening to their conscience. Consciences need to be educated, are you responsive when you’re convicted or do you simply suppress it.

There was a speaker at the Men's conference years ago and he was considered one of the great ones. He preached to 3000 of us while planning to leave his wife for another man, within a few months. He was asked, “how could he prepare people for marriage knowing that in a few weeks he would leave his wife?” He said “that was my professional life” Conscience hardened, faith insincere, heart corrupt. His wife, a very godly woman, said, “God used my husband to convict us of our sin, lets pray that God would convict him of his sin.” She was a godly woman with a sincere faith and good conscience.

How many times have we seen people shift their doctrine only to find they were engaged in some private unrepentant sin. Notice how Paul profiles the false teachers.

They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. ~1 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)

Unlike Paul and Timothy, they are self-appointed. Sounds like the trolls on social media, they were confident but clueless. 

I am sometimes surprised by what people call a good sermon, so often impressed by the communication and not the content. Train yourself to ask yourself where exactly the message is coming from. Beware of those who spend all their time around the text but not in the text. When you are at Growth Groups, don’t be afraid to say the obvious.Don’t get bored with saying the obvious.

Since these false teachers misused the law, Paul puts them right. The law can refer to the Old Testament as well as the commandments in it. 

Paul says 3 things about the law.

1. The law is good

The law is not a myth and speculation. It's about fact, not fiction. The law reveals both Gods holiness and human sin. The law must be used Gods way

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, ~1Timothy 1:8-9 (NIV)

You can misuse Gods law by

• Subtracting it and ignoring its authority

• Adding to it and become a legalist

• Trivialising it to justify yourself

2.The law is for the godless not the godly

The NSW government has driving laws and when breached it results in demerit points. Some of you know exactly how many demerit points you have and others don’t have a clue. Demerit points are for lawbreakers, God's law is for those who have rebelled, which is all of us - that is why Christ Jesus came to save sinners.

Paul starts with general rebellion that violate the first 4 Commandments, then he specifically works his way through commandments 5-9

..for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine ~1 Timothy 1:9b-10 (NIV)

Here God's law is being used properly, telling us that God is holy and what is sin. Cultures may have changed on both slave trading and homosexual practice but Gods word has never changed. Notice there is no speculation, this is no myth, this list of sins are so clear, so concrete and full of conviction.

This is sound doctrine

—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine ~1 Timothy 1:10 (NIV)

Sound doctrine is healthy teaching and healthy teaching leads to a healthy church

3. A healthy church knows that the Law is not the Gospel

…that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. ~1 Timothy 1:11 (NIV)

The law and the gospel both agree when it comes to sin but the law can’t do what only the gospel of our Lord Jesus can. That is to save and forgive sinners

The most well known Christian song has to be Amazing Grace, it was written by John Newton, a former slave trader, who cursed God and kidnapped people and sold them into slavery. After coming to Christ, Newton testified against slave trading and helped bring an end to that evil. It was the law of God and not his culture that told John Newton that slave trading was a sin and it was the glorious gospel of the grace that could save him and transform him.

Friends, if you don't let God speak, sure you can avoid hearing the law as it names your sin, you will still find another law to live by and that law will either condemn you or give you a false sense of self-righteousness. But what you will never hear is silence from God...the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God. It’s that gospel that offers Grace, Mercy and Peace

False teachers only have myths and lies to offer, they fail to name sin and fail to offer forgiveness. We either silence false teaching or we silence God!

If we at MBM stop listening to Gods apostle, Paul, we lose the gospel of grace. Unless we guard the truth inside the church we have nothing to offer those outside the church

When Communist rebels tried to oppose Christianity in the Philippines, they first killed the pastors and when that didn't work they would cut their tongues out and silence them. Leaving them as objects of pity.

The words of a teacher can do the most good and the most damage. We know from recent reports that bad teaching on headship can promote abuse. Get it wrong and a lot is at stake. Hence the warning!

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. ~James 3:1 (NIV)

Everyone should teach one another, that is critical and it is a command. We do it in conversation, in growth groups, in song and in sharing - but not everyone should be teachers.

It’s why we have a limited roster of preachers. Social media gives the microphone to those who have not earned the right to speak. The preaching office is to be guarded, but guarded not avoided. I do hope and pray that we have those who long to teach. Both men and women as God has permitted and gifted.

If I can speak to the men of our church whose instinct is to follow the first man Adam, whose guilt was silence. Stand up men and don’t let the women do all the heavy lifting. Seek to lead your families and at church. The reason for the warning is clear, every teacher will be judged much severely. To be fair, every one of us will be judged by our words.

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words, you will be condemned.” ~Matthew 12:36-37 (NIV)

Like you, I will have to give an account to Jesus, the judge of all the earth for every word I speak. But for us who preach there is a stricter judgment. What I say will be assessed by God and by you, the bar is higher for teachers of God’s Word, because the damage is greater.

It is not that teachers have a greater chance of going to hell, Heaven has been purchased by the blood of Jesus for all of us. But God will test the work of the teacher-pastor with a higher bar. The bigger the church, the larger the platform to speak, the greater the opportunity for damage, that is why we start with smaller places. None of us pastors want to simply escape the flames with nothing to show for our labour. The stakes are high for teachers of Gods word.

When I was a student minister I preached to 3 old ladies in Redfern at the evening service, they were Dot, Kid and Pat. My challenge was, would I prepare for them like I would when I preached to a larger congregation? Would I give them my best?

So keep the pastors in your prayers. Prayer for your children and youth leaders, your growth group leaders, and parents. To all who teach including parents, make sure you handle the word of God correctly, make sure you are prepared. Souls hang in the balance as God's word is unpacked. Yet no preacher and no person can look you in the eye and say we never stumble.

We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. ~James 3:2 (NIV)

James includes himself as one who stumbles, we all stumble. Don’t be idealistic about churches and their teachers, we are not perfect, we all stumble in many ways. It’s important that we teachers don’t stand over you but come alongside you.

I remember being respectfully corrected by Gab Gewargis from South West for using an inappropriate word. He said, “Ray if you use that word in your sermon then other men at church will think it’s ok to use.” Busted! He was so right, I sent an email that night to everyone at SW apologizing for what I said.

We all stumble in many ways… ~James 3:2a (NIV)

The bible is very realistic, how difficult it is to control the tongue, we often speak before we think. This is especially true if you’re a fast talker like me. Ultimately no man can fully tame the tongue. Though the tongue is so small its effects are enormous

James gives 3 examples

Example 1

Small as the bit in the horse's mouth is you can direct a stallion to go where you want it.  If you have ever been to Royal Easter Show and seen those massive bulls led round with the nose ring by a small child.

Example 2

Small as a rudder of a ship is it changes the direction of an Ocean liner, it shifts the trajectory of a nuclear submarine.

Example 3

Small as a spark is it can set a bush fire alight. How many bush fires have there been in the Blue Mountains? How many were caused by a simple match, or a cigarette butt flicked out of the car?

My niece’s husband’s family lost two houses in Winmalee 5 years ago, one spark, one small flame and a whole community is devastated. Homes and lives lost. Like a small bullet put in a gun can take a life in a moment. Our simple words have the potential for so much good and so much evil.

How many of you are haunted by words spoken by a parent, a boss, a teacher or ex-best friend? One dear sister in our church was told by her mum “I wish you were never born” The tongue, small as it is, directs your whole body and can send you to hell.

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. ~James 3:6 (NIV)

Your words shape the direction of your eternal destiny. From your lips, you will deny knowing Christ. From your lips, you will confess that Jesus is Lord. The tongue driven by hell will send you to hell. The tongue will then burn in the fires of hell.

Remember again, our Lord Jesus said we will be judged by our words. No conversation is off-limits to God, no word will be forgotten, none of it is off the record. Just think that our Lord is reading every post on social media, seeing every Instagram photo, hearing every word brought up. We know that companies look at old Facebook posts to see if they want to employ the person. How many have said that what I wrote on Social Media has now come to curse me.

After a big Sunday with so many conversations, many encouraging, some critical and occasionally the odd cruel one comes our way. How Sandy and I talk about every member of MBM will be as important as the sermon and it will determine whether Satan is in bed with us.

None of us believed it when we sang in the playground “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Words that have cut deeper than any knife, words that have killed more effectively than a semi-automatic. We have all said those words, we have all been on the receiving end of them. I know 70-year-olds who are trying to prove their dead parents wrong.

I heard one story of a father was dying, his words to his son were “I expect Son, that when you inherit the family business you’re going to ruin it”

James makes the observation, many animals have been tamed by humans, from cats to killer whales well maybe not cats. The first animal I think was the dog 6000 years ago, we tell it to sit and it sits, we tell it to jump and it jumps. We even train pigs to herd sheep into sheep pens and yet no one has yet managed to fully tame his tongue.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. ~James 3:7-8 (NIV)

What shocking words about our words, it almost sounds pessimistic and demonic. You would think James was talking about Serial killers, Terrorists and Paedophiles. But he is talking about all the words that leave your mouth, whether you speak by your mouth or by sign language.

Even the most mature saint wishes they could take back the words they have just spoken. I don’t know how anyone can say at the end of their life…“If I had the chance to do it all over again I would not change a thing” Filled with regret, that is why be ever ready to say ‘I am sorry, I should not have spoken that way’ It must come easily from our lips.

Nothing like the thought of your loved one dying to make you wake up to your words and then it’s too late. How many are traumatized by the words spoken to a loved one who unexpectedly died before making peace. We may feel comfortable with our hypocrisy but God isn’t.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. ~James 3:9-10 (NIV)

One moment we sing “Oh Lord our Lord how majestic is your name” Then next we say to our loved ones Shut up! I hate you.

You see that any verbal abuse is demonic.

James says this should not be. Think of the words you used getting ready for church. This should not be, whether we are in the church, the home or the workplace.

Some think that the rules change when you go to work. Like I can swear and curse and humiliate workers because I work with men in a factory or mechanic shop or in Jail, I think we forget who exactly we are talking to and talking about, when you’re with non-Christians. Remember: they are humans, even your enemy is made in the image of God, I share the one creator with every human, I share the one Father with every believer. 

I had to stop calling bad referees and players who make mistakes ‘idiots’. The reason is that there is a close connection between humans and God. This is God's world - every person is made in God's image, when we do the dirty on another person we do it to God. You speak against another person—and you speak against God. God stands behind every person.

At the time when James wrote his letter, if you dishonoured an image of an emperor you dishonoured the emperor and you paid the price for that.

Just like when those teenagers graffiti the war memorial, they dishonoured the men who died for this country. Yet James expects that we are to tame the tongue. The antidote is wisdom.

James raises the question:

Who is wise and understanding among you? ~James 3:13 (NIV)

You read these words and say - Not me. So, what is the key to taming the tongue? The words you use will depend on the wisdom that you live by.

Remember this truth: Nothing ever comes out of the mouth that is not already in the heart. That is why our words are a window into our hearts. There are 2 kinds of wisdom.

Demonic wisdom

But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. ~James 3:14-16 (NIV)

The heart of the problem is the problem of the human heart. Behind our words lies our heart. Hearts that nurtures envy and selfish ambition. Hearts that is shaped by the devil's agenda. The heart that vomits out disorder and evil. 

Wisdom From Above

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. ~James 3:17-18 (NIV)

Pure - a heart that genuinely wants to please God, like Jesus, whose greatest joy was to obey his Father.

Peace loving - a heart that strives to bring harmony in relationships, like Jesus who died to turn us enemies into friends.

Considerate - a gentle heart that thinks of others, like Jesus who came to seek and save the lost.

Submissive - a heart that is willing to submit to others, like Jesus who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. 

Full of mercy and good fruit – a generous heart, like Jesus who went round only doing good.

Impartial - a heart that will not have favourites, like Jesus who ate with rich and poor, sinner and saint.

Sincere - An honest heart that refuses to be a hypocrite, like Jesus who could look people in the eye and say which of you can accuse me of sin. No one!

Do you know what Jesus, the average Aussie, and your kids all have in common? They can spot a hypocrite a mile away. 

Do you know what Jesus, the average Aussie, and your kids also have in common? They can also tell the real deal a mile away.

It’s time to make Jesus look good by all our words to all people.

Grace is the main motivator to forgive and make peace. How can we withhold forgiveness when we have been forgiven so much? And we have been commanded to forgive, it's not optional. We must get on that "peace train", we do it by going to higher ground. It’s never just you and that other person. It’s done for Jesus sake and for God's pleasure.

As we think through resolving everyday conflict there are a couple of pieces in the puzzle still missing. The first is found in Romans 12. When you have been profoundly hurt, making the other person suffer is the most natural response, hence the command to not do it.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. ~Romans 12:17 (NIV)

We instinctively want justice, it’s why we love payback and vigilante films, where the Father takes the law into his own hands. He makes others pay for killing his wife and kids.

I've noticed my wife, Sandy is taken with the Taken movie series with Liam Neeson, partly it’s a desire for justice. But God is saying - don’t retaliate. You may confront but don’t humiliate, you may call the cops but don’t personally retaliate. You may even need to use force to restrain someone from hurting but don’t be excessive

What sets Jesus words apart from every other is that He wants more from us than not hating and not hurting

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse ~Romans 12:14 (NIV)

When I lived next door in the church house, I must have called the cops 20 times over the years, we had the drunks, making noise, urinating in my bushes, but twice they pulled 5 new plants out and threw them at my bedroom window at 1:30am,

that’s downright mean. I found myself coming up with plans on how I could get them back, humiliate them, pulverize them, follow them home and rip up their plants. My mind naturally wants my pound of flesh.

At a good moment, I think of Jesus at the cross being nailed by the hands that he created, knowing he could invent a billion ways of making them suffer a slow death, but all you hear is Father forgive them for they know not what they do. Paul then introduces this radical idea, he wants you to punish your enemy by loving them to bits. This is how you can do it.

On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." ~Romans 12:20 (NIV)

Such reverse logic, punish your enemy by doing good to them and it’s like dropping burning fire on their skull. The reason given for letting go of personal revenge, to reject hating, cursing, gossiping, shouting, slandering and withdrawing is the previous verse

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. ~Romans 12:19 (NIV)

The reason why we don’t pay back is knowing that a day will come when God will judge. A day when his anger will be poured out on every sin levelled against you.

We need to remember:

What stops someone from picking up a gun and murdering their unfaithful spouse? It’s knowing that God says I will repay, leave room for my wrath. In other words friends, one key to forgiveness is believing in hell and knowing that justice will be served. This is a comfort, especially for persecuted Christians.

People think if you believe in a God who judges it will turn you into a violent person. Croatian Miroslav Volf said it’s the opposite. 

My thesis is that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance…The truth is, if it’s forgiving people that you want, tolerant people, people who will answer evil with love and respond to violence with mercy, if that’s what you want, then you cannot have it, not really, unless you believe in cosmic justice; unless you believe in hell.

You see, we need a universe where evil doesn’t win, where righteousness triumphs, where we can refuse the impulse to take vengeance because we know that God the Lord is an almighty and just Judge.

What makes us able to forgive our enemies is knowing that God will deal with enemies who don’t repent. I don’t need to take things into my own hands because they are in God’s hands and he will do what is right. Vengeance is mine says the Lord.

There is an episode of Inspector Morse, a drug dealer is selling bad LSD to primary school kids who ended up dying from an overdose. The cops set a trap but when the dealer sees them he takes off. The car chase ended with the drug dealer killed in the car crash. At which point the policemen said “Damn it .. he got away” Because if death is the end then he did get away. The next day the policeman was looking at photos of the kids who had died, at which point he said “Its times like this I wish there was a hell.”

That is why in heaven we will join with angels praising God and declaring

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments... He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” ~Revelation 19:1-2 (NIV)

God does not take pleasure in the death of a sinner but we praise God that justice will be served. I can let the injustice go because God will not. Every wrong will be righted.

A key to forgiveness is believing in hell. So now I get to punish my enemy by bombing them with love. OK, but what happens when Christians have done the wrong? Either before they become Christians or after? Have they not gotten away with it?

I was wrestling with this issue with a friend a few years ago, they were deeply hurt by a leader of a church. What stuck in their throat is that this Christian got away with it. And it made it harder to let it go. At the same time as I'm talking to this person

I had a deep sense that God was disciplining me. And it was painful.

So, let’s turn our attention to God's discipline of his people. It may help us to forgive Christians who seem to escape the consequences. The place to go is Hebrews 12, Jesus is God's final word. He brings in a better Covenant because He is the better perfect high Priest, offer the perfect Sacrifice, to the perfect God in the perfect Temple to make us perfect

Jesus is the pioneer and perfector of faith, so set your eyes on Jesus as you face suffering. Jesus who when he faced his own suffering and death He locked eyes on the joy before him, putting aside the shame of the cross. Now seated at the right hand of God. Then the writer says unlike Jesus don’t overestimate your suffering, it could be much worse.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. ~Hebrews 12:4 (NIV)

Too many overrate their suffering. You have not suffered to the point of death, then he says don’t underestimate the meaning of your suffering, it has a purpose.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? ~Hebrews 12:7 (NIV)

View your suffering through Gods eyes. Consider this hardship as discipline, your hardship is a mark of the discipline of the Father toward a son. You need to reframe how you’re seeing your suffering. The writer quotes Proverbs

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, ~Hebrews 12:5 (NIV)

Don’t make light and don’t lose heart, two mistakes, don’t be careless and unthinking, don’t be crushed under the weight of it. Be clear-minded on seeing hardship as discipline, your hardship is not some vindictive punishment from an angry God who takes pleasure at your pain. In fact it’s the very opposite.

because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” ~Hebrews 12:6 (NIV)

So suffering is an expression of God's love, not hate. The wrong application when we go through suffering is to think God is against me, that he is angry at me. Friends if you’re in Christ “You can't make God angry” Remember our Saviour learnt obedience as Son through suffering and he was sinless. In fact, discipline is a mark of adoption not a mark of rejection

If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all ~Hebrews 12:8 (NIV)

I only discipline my kids, not others. When I'm on the train and kids are swearing I'm not usually saying anything but if they were my own it would be very different. God disciplines you because you are his.

The question - What am I being punished for? Is not the right question. Better questions are:

In recent years both my wife, Sandy, and I have felt we have been disciplined by the Lord. We have experienced some painful experiences, not brought on by our sin directly but those experiences have exposed to us a quota of pride in us that needed to be put to death. And yes the writer makes the point when we are disciplined it’s always painful at the time. Whether it’s the discipline of your earthly Dad or your heavenly Dad.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. ~Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

What is the purpose of Discipline? To punish? No! to produce a harvest of righteousness and peace.

God's one stubborn goal for all of us is to shape us into the image of his Son. To recycle your sins into the praise of God and your suffering to the fruit of the Spirit.

And it’s up to you whether you will become bitter or better. Discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. If you don't fix your eyes on Jesus and paint yourself as a perpetual victim, you will become bitter. If you don’t rethink hardship as discipline from a loving father, you will become bitter. If you don’t let yourself be trained by it a bitter root will grow and cause trouble.

Don’t live your whole life as if you were a 5 year sent to their room for being rude, banging doors, saying I hate you Dad over and over. That is the picture of your whole life, kicking against God's sovereign loving hand. Lives that never get past the pain. I hope you have been thinking about Gods discipline in your life. But I want you to now ponder Gods discipline on other peoples lives.

Back to my friend who was struggling with the Christian leader who he thought was getting away with bad behaviour, I said you know God loves that person, he is Gods son and as part of his love, he will discipline them. You may or may not see it but he is doing a work and it will involve pain. So pray that they and you both will be trained by it. That they and you will consider hardship as discipline recognizing that God is treating you as his child.

Friends, Gods discipline and love is inescapable for his people.

You can escape formative discipline by closing your bibles, and ignoring God's word. You can escape corrective discipline by staying away from the church and avoiding the rebuke of the saints. But God will lovingly use all things in your life to get your attention and shape you to be more like him.

Vengeance belongs to God and discipline is for his people, so learn to forgive and let it go!

What do you love about Church? The coffee, the music, the sermon, the morning tea/supper or the social aspect? What should we love about Church? Look around, each other, these are the church, these are the people God calls us together for, to love. 

The church is God’s gift to his children. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God's Word and sacraments. Not all Christians receive this blessing. 

This term we’ve been thinking about dealing with conflict in relationships in Church, as the bible puts it, pursuing peace. 

Just as God considered a relationship with us worth pursuing, worth fighting for, worth suffering for, worth dying for! He also considers our relationships worth pursuing, worth fighting for. 

And it’s really been setting a culture. We’ve had story after story of people seeking reconciliation with others, saying sorry, engaging others about the ways they’ve hurt them, calling sin for what it is.

One lady was able to bring up something someone said to her about a year ago that hurt her and it was tough! But she engaged in the conversation and they were able to share their story, apologise, and they’ve reconciled. 

Another girl from our Parramatta campus, was encouraged to think about the pain that might be affecting her boss’s anger and was able to love him with patience instead of harbouring bitterness.

Even in my own house, I’ve been able to recognise an idol I was holding onto that stopped me apologising to my wife the other night.

Today, we’re going to be thinking about how the Lord’s supper affects how we think about conflict and relationships in the church. 

And to do that we’re going to take a look at one of the worst churches we have read about in History, the Corinthians. Paul writes:

In the following directives, I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. ~1 Corinthians 11:17 (NIV)

Whoa! What is happening in their gatherings? I can just imagine how we’d feel as a staff team if on Monday morning we got an email from someone saying ‘your gathering yesterday did more harm than good!’ 

We’d be horrified!

Well over the next few chapters Paul explains how to be a church that does more good than harm in a number of areas, but we’re going to stay in this chapter and think particularly about how to do good instead of harm when it comes to the Lord’s supper, we are getting to learn from their mistakes! 

See what happened in Corinth was, they were doing the supper, they were getting together, they had food and drink and  they thought they were doing ok, but Paul says ‘you’re not even close!’ 

So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat… ~1 Corinthians 11:20 (NIV)

Whatever the Lord’s supper was supposed to be Paul says, that’s not it! What’s going on during their meal that’s making their gathering a disaster? 

In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. ~1 Corinthians 11:18 (NIV)

What’s the big issue there? Division! 

But what’s the big deal about divisions? 

I mean Paul says in verse 19 that divisions are normal, to be expected. 

No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. ~1 Corinthians 11:19 (NIV)

What he means is - divisions reveal differences, differences are generally what cause conflict and divisions, we know that, differences/preferences. But it’s a little more pointed here, Paul’s saying, divisions, reveal hearts; divisions expose where our hearts are really at before God. The big problem Paul says is that there are people among you who are neglecting and despising others and that’s telling us something about where they’re at with God!  

So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you?  Shall I praise you?  Certainly not in this matter! ~1 Corinthians 11:20-22 (NIV)

What’s happening is that some people in the church who seem to be doing better off financially, or just generally in life, are not caring about, or being concerned for others who are struggling, or are just different from them. They’re not waiting for them to eat, they’re not caring if they have any food. They’re putting themselves and their concerns above the needs of others. They’ve found their little groups of close friends who probably all agree with each other on most things and they’ve closed their door to others, not caring to include them, not caring to serve them, not caring to love them! They’re despising and neglecting those who don’t seem “Good enough” for them. You might have experienced that here in some way, or maybe you’ve been part of that problem. 

Around 5-6 years ago I was working at a Church in the Hawkesbury area, and I was amazed at how non-multicultural that area was! Very white! One day I was telling a new guy at the church about this area, and Blacktown and about how so many nationalities are coming into our country, and if you didn’t know what country you were in it would be hard to guess because of how many different backgrounds there are and I said “there doesn’t seem to be many moving out this way” and he said “yeah it’s great hey?” and I said, “No, I was going to say it’s not good, it’d be good if we had more!” And he quickly tried to defend himself. 

You know, it’s sad, but the reality is, our natural way is to compare ourselves to, and neglect people who are different from us, not only in race but style, age, financially and educationally. And you know what that causes… Divisions! 

And In Paul’s eyes, in God’s eyes divisions are the biggest enemy of the Christian community. They’re out of place in the Church!

What’s so bad about this issue? What’s so wrong with having a few lingering disagreements around the place? Well, it’s because of what the Lord’s supper is actually about! The reason divisions are so out of place in the Church, is because the Lord’s Supper is a celebration of our Unity in Jesus! The Supper is a reminder of our unity in Jesus. 

Let’s have a look at what Paul says and break it down  

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” ~1 Corinthians 11:23-24 (NIV)

So Jesus would have had one piece of bread, he broke it, and he handed it to them all. We can’t see it in English, but the “you” there is a plural. This is my body, which is for you all!  

Westy - “yous”
United Stated - “y’all”
My Mum (English) - “you lot”

Now some churches in history have gotten caught up with the word “is” here.. thinking Jesus was saying he’s handing them his actual body, teaching them that he was literally in the bread.

And even now when some churches do the Lord’s supper, they pray that the bread and drink would really turn into the very body and blood of Jesus. It’s very problematic and that’s reading far too much into this sentence. Jesus wasn’t being that literal, but symbolic.

Here’s a picture of me “that is me” “this is me” that’s a representation of me. Jesus also said he is the gate, he is the good shepherd, he is the vine. He’s not saying he is literally a gate but likening himself to those things to teach a point about what he’s like for us. He was making the point, that just like bread is a staple food source for life, he himself, is our food source for spiritual life! 

Just as we eat bread and it enters our body and fuels us for life, it becomes part of our body! Jesus is saying that he is the very thing his followers are to feed on for true and ultimate life. Not by eating him but by accepting him by faith, entrusting themselves to him, for life and sustenance in their relationship with God. 

When we feed on him by faith, when we accept him into our lives and hearts He actually unites himself with us!  We become one with him! He gives us his own spirit. His life-giving Spirit! 

Jesus lived a perfectly obedient life and then gave over his body as a sacrifice and substitute for us broken, sinful people, that if we trust in him, God would now see us as perfectly righteous in Him!

As we eat this bread, it’s a visual reminder that Jesus’ real body was broken on the cross for us all, that he made a way for us to be made whole, to come back into a restored relationship with God! We remind ourselves that everyone who trusts in Jesus is no longer under the judgement of God for their own sin but is now seen by our father in heaven as if we were like Jesus himself. Viewed as God’s very own beloved son or daughter because of our union with Him. There is no greater thing to be! 

No Instagram picture, no Facebook post, no photograph, no selfie, no amount of make up or muscles could make us look anywhere near as lovely as how our God now sees us because of Jesus! Oh doesn’t that just fill your heart?! Back in chapter 10 Paul says:  

Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. ~1 Corinthians 10:17 (NIV)

That’s what the bread symbolises - our collective union with Jesus. What about the drink?  

In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” ~1 Corinthians 11:25 (NIV)

This cup represents the new covenant in my blood… what’s that? What was the old covenant? 

...without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness… ~Hebrews 9:22 (NIV)

That is - sin deserves bloodshed/death, so because we sin, we either lose our lives, have our bloodshed or we offer the life of another in our place, in the old covenant that was an animal. 

In Hebrews 10 it explains how the Priests under the old covenant, year-after-year would have to keep bringing animal sacrifices for their own sins and the sins of the people, shedding blood and offering animal after animal, again and again. But that’s an endless cycle, right? it never fully deals with our problem of sin, it really just highlights it! 

But Jesus is saying, once I’ve shed my blood for you! It is finished! One ultimate sacrifice for sin, by a perfect substitute! 

Once and for all!  

That’s the new covenant. This sacrifice is given, ahead of time, in your place, perfectly sufficient, provided by the very one we’ve offended. Whatever we’ve done. Whatever we deserved from God for it is dealt with at the cross! All my sin, all my failures have been forgiven at the cross! Everything you’ve ever done and will do. It has been nailed to the cross and forgiven through the blood of our Saviour Jesus. What a sacrifice!!! To bring us back into a relationship with himself. 

Jesus said, as you share this drink together, remember what I’ve done for you all. 

See, it’s not about each of us individually coming to God with our own offering for our individual sins, but about together, recognising our equal need before God… that we’re all in the same boat! That the ground at the foot of the cross is level, we’re all equally in desperate need for Jesus, no one any closer or further away, no one any better or worse off. We together, recall our hopeless state apart from Jesus… lost, without hope, broken, abandoned by the empty promises of our world. In darkness and in need, out of a relationship with our maker and not just out of relationship but in conflict with him! Deserving His judgement… 

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. ~Colossians 1:21b-23a (NIV)

That’s what we remember as we eat and drink together. Jesus brought peace, between us and God. But not only between us and God, but he’s also brought peace between us - each other! 

The big word is Reconciliation. Or more profoundly, union with God. We’ve been united to God, because of Jesus, by His own Spirit! And because each of us are united to Christ, we are therefore united with each other! If you trust in Jesus then you are united to every other Christian, by God’s spirit. It’s profound! The many have been made one. And made one, that the world would see God’s love at work within our community, and say - Wow - God must exist! 

You know, right after Jesus shared this supper with his disciples before he was arrested, he prayed, he prayed for his disciples and for everyone else who would follow Him in the future… us…  and do you know what he prayed for… Unity!  

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. ~John 17:20-23 (NIV)

That’s why divisions in the church are a complete contradiction and undermining of the gospel, especially when gathering to share the Lord’s supper. That’s also why we’ve spent a whole term on relationships & conflict!

Well, if the Supper is a celebration of our unity through the Gospel and divisions ruin that celebration, how do we do the supper rightly! How do we move forward, doing more good than harm? Paul gives us the answer, 

Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. ~1Corinthians 11:28-29 (NIV)

How do I examine myself in regards to the body of Christ? In 2 big ways… 

Firstly 

Don’t be fooled, if I say I’m a Christian yet don’t live as if that’s true, God is not fooled, he knows my heart.

Secondly 

Jesus himself said, 

A new command I give you, love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you must love one another! ~John 13:34  (NIV)

When Covid hit the advice we were all getting and the most loving thing to do was that if you had any symptoms, stay away from everyone! Right? I think we’ve often got a Covid mindset when it comes to conflict and sin in the church. 

When a conflict arises, or I’m struggling with some sin in my life - we “stay away” from everyone! We exclude ourselves from fellowship or we try to exclude the other person from us, we go to a different service, or turn up late and leave early, but that’s not the way of Christ. The way to examine ourselves rightly is to identify the sin or conflict that’s going on within and to call on God to help us fight it or approach it and to do all that we can to make it right, Just like Jesus did for us. 

Let me tell you about a scenario I experienced in a previous church. Two girls in the Church had a falling out over something that went on in their friendship group. One girl offended the other by something she did. They’d been serving together on different teams and had a lot of ministry and friendships in common. One of the girls, to avoid dealing with the other one, and avoid forgiving her, moved to another service. Over time, the girl who had initially caused the breakdown sought forgiveness, apologised, tried to explain her side, pursued peace, but the other girl wasn’t willing. She withheld forgiveness, she continued ignoring her at Church things, she gathered a group of people around her who also began justifying her behaviour and affirming her hurts… “you’re right to feel this way” 

See, that’s another aspect of what conflict brings… sides… 

What happened was the girl who sought forgiveness and didn’t get it started hearing from other friends, “we’re on your side here” And some who saw lots siding with her said “you’ve got lots of support, we’re going to show the other girl love”… people were taking sides of one of the girls… but not taking the side of Jesus! Who says - go and be reconciled…

Conflicts that won’t reconcile don’t only affect the individuals… it has an effect on the whole community… loyalty to people can often mean sacrificing loyalty to Jesus… but loyalty to Jesus means calling others to reconcile. This other girl who wouldn’t forgive would come to church, sing the songs, praise God for his love and forgiveness, even serve and encourage others about God’s love… take the Lord’s supper being reminded of God’s grace! But then wouldn’t be willing to extend that forgiveness to the other girl.. quite hypocritical.. 

This went on for almost a year and what the other girl started to feel was that maybe she wasn’t even forgiven by God! If this girl wouldn’t forgive her maybe God hadn’t either and maybe this was Gods way of punishing her for what she initially did… 

and that just wasn’t true! See our conflicts, which we often try to hide from, can have so many consequences and can cause God’s grace to be undermined in the whole community. It’s like an ingrown toenail - such a tiny injury… but it puts the whole body out of whack… 

Praise God those 2 girls eventually did reconcile - the girl who was unwilling to forgive took the initiative and reached out but that whole episode took a toll on a lot of people… 

I think evaluating ourselves rightly - is asking the question: 

“if everyone in the church was like me… had my struggles, my sins, my laziness, my selfish tendencies, if everyone turned up to church as much as I do and loved others the way I do - how well would this community be doing?” Scary thought, hey? 

The point is, how you’re treating the body of believers, is how you’re treating Jesus. You can’t claim to be in right standing with Jesus if you’re in bad standing with others by not pursuing peace 

You can’t presume forgiveness from God if you’re withholding forgiveness from others, or actively sinning against someone… or in some other way… Paul says in v 29 to live like that and take the Lord’s supper is to eat and drink judgement on ourselves - to remind ourselves that we’re actually still under God’s judgement! Being in a conflict with God’s family, without pursuing peace, puts you in conflict with Jesus. God tells us:

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. ~1 John 4:19-21 (NIV)

So, Paul says, before you turn up and think you can just rush in for the meal, check your heart! How are you affecting the body?

Now it’s important to be reminded here that if we’re going to wait until we’re perfect to take the Supper, we’ll never eat it! 

The supper itself is a reminder to us of the bloodshed and body broken for our forgiveness and reconciliation with God, and it comes through faith in Jesus’ perfect actions - not our perfect actions! The supper is actually a gift for us in that way. 

To drive home into our hearts the reality of God’s love! It’s an active acceptance of Grace! for sinners like us! So sin, in general, isn’t what should stop us from taking the supper, but sin that we won’t repent of — should! 

Question: Do you have a conflict you’ve decided to let the other person stay in? 

Question: Is there a sinful habit you’ve decided that God should be ok with? 

The word to you is to repent, seek forgiveness, seek reconciliation. Taking the supper or not doesn’t make you a Christian or not, but it is a strong reminder for us to take our walk with Jesus seriously. 

Today might be a day you don’t celebrate the meal to remind yourself you’ve got some work to do. Or maybe the meal will be that strong reminder for you that if you’ve received God’s forgiveness and grace, to extend it out towards others. Or maybe today will be the first time you celebrate this meal, as you’ve realised today’s the day you want to start a relationship with Jesus, and you want to let this be your active expression of that. 

Christian Community is a blessing from God for us to enjoy, and for us to demonstrate to the world how worthy our God is! 

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! ~Psalm 133:1 (NIV)


What gets in the way of resolving some conflict is when the church remains silent and fails to discipline. 

My first minister used to be an electrician, he knew a builder who did work for a couple in his church. They failed to pay him for his work, they owed him $20,000. The minister asked the builder will you take them to court? And he said that the bible does not allow me to sue Christians. The builder absorbed the injury and forgave them. I love and don’t love that story. Why wasn’t this couple disciplined by their church? Every organisation has boundary markers and each one has a set of expectations, they define who is in and who is out and sometimes expelling members becomes necessary to guard the group.

So when a member of a club keeps breaking its rules they are asked to leave

a. To preserve the values of a group

Political groups expel their members when they fail to maintain the core ideals of its party.

b. Sometimes it’s to protect the other members.

A school will expel a violent child to protect the other students

c. Sometimes it's to punish the person for breaking the group’s rules.

As a society, we expel criminals to jail, in part to punish them for the crimes they have committed.

If expelling people from groups is important for the health of any group, it is no less important for the church. It’s just that we do it for different reasons. The church reformers in the 16th century said that one of the marks of a true church is church discipline. You cannot have a holy church if you are not prepared to discipline.

Let go to the feral church at Corinth.

What is the problem?

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife ~1 Corinthians 5:1 (NIV)

They have a reputation but it’s not a good one, the nature of the sexual sin is that a man is having sex with his step mum. The Father maybe dead because he is not mentioned, the woman herself must be a non-Christian because she is not disciplined.

What makes it worse is that ... you won’t even find it among the non-Christians

… and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife ~1 Corinthians 5:1b (NIV)

These Corinthians were worse than the world. Even the non-Christians were shocked by this sin, a man has his fathers wife and you are proud. They have confused their freedom from sin with the freedom to sin. Coming to Jesus was a free ticket to sleep with whoever you want.

The church is not just tolerating it but celebrating it. This church was out of control. 

The Response

For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. ~1 Corinthians 5:3 (NIV)

So much for do not judge. Paul doesn't say wait till I get to Corinth and when I have gathered all the information, I will form a committee and we will write up a report and then make a recommendation.

NO

I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. Why? because God already has.

“Do not have sexual relations with your fathers wife; that would dishonour your father.” ~Leviticus 18:8 (NIV)

The proper response is grief, not boasting. Grieve like you would the death of a member of your family. Weep because those who don't repent place themselves back on the express lane to hell.

When Ravi Zararius was exposed, and it is so upsetting, the action to be taken is described in a range of ways, but it’s the same thing. 

… put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? ~1 Corinthians 5:2 (NIV) 

 …hand this man over to Satan, ~1 Corinthians 5:5 (NIV)

… [do] not to associate with sexually immoral people ~1 Corinthians 5:9 (NIV) 

… Do not even eat with such people. ~1 Corinthians 5:11 (NIV)

 ... Expel the wicked person from among you. ~1 Corinthians 5:13  (NIV)

In Matthew 18:15 Jesus makes it clear that expulsion is the last word and not the first.

Church discipline begins with a private rebuke. If that fails, then take two or three witnesses and if that fails, then and only then take it to the church. Treat them as an unbeliever. 

Purpose

…hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. ~1 Corinthians 5:5 (NIV)

The goal is to save the man not punish him. We are not a bikie gang that breaks the legs of those who break the club’s rules.

There is a tribe on Lake Titicaca in Peru where they live on man-made grass islands. When the tribe has a fallout with a family they literally cut them off and let them float away. There is no going back! Church discipline is always done so that they can repent and be restored, that is why it is done with grief and tears and not joy. It is not out of revenge it’s about repentance and salvation.

I interviewed Hadyn, from Liberty ministry. He confessed Christ but kept engaging in one night stands with other guys. When I asked him what was most helpful? He said when his minister threatened to discipline him.

Church discipline is loving. I don’t know how many people have thanked me for loving them by speaking the hard word. Expulsion gives a taste of the final judgment and it’s loving.

To one man who was disciplined and repented Paul says in the second letter…

Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. ~2 Corinthians 2:7 (NIV)

Once the man repents we are not to rub his nose in it. To discipline is to love the sinner. To not do it wounds the church.

The first reason is to save his soul and the second reason is to keep the church holy.

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. ~1 Corinthians 5:6-7 (NIV)

Yeast is a living organism that will reproduce on its own, making bread rise. The yeast refers to sin and the dough points to the church. Paul doesn’t want the yeast of sin to spread and infect the rest of the church.

Remember this church like MBM was called to be holy.

… called to be holy, ~1 Corinthians 1:2 (NIV)

Church discipline not only loves the sinner but it protects the rest of the congregation.

Imagine we have wife swapping happening in church and said nothing about it, did nothing about it. No one would be protected. Every year we shepherds are watching the wolves and keeping them out to protect the sheep. This is the neglected grace of Church discipline that helps the church to be like Christ and not the world.

The yeast was taken out of bread during the 7 day Jewish feast of unleavened bread. At the heart of the feast was the annual Passover meal, it was the feast that remembered how Gods people escaped death in Egypt. The Jews escaped Egypt by killing a lamb and pouring its blood on the doorpost. When God’s angel came to judge, He passed over every home that placed the blood of the lamb on the doorpost. They were saved.

Now Christ is our Passover lamb. At the cross Gods judgment Passover over you by being poured on his Son 2000 years ago at the cross once for all. That is why you can’t make God angry, Jesus drank the cup of Gods anger in your place. He drank, so continue to celebrate the feast 24/7 by sincerity and truth. 

Christ our Passover Lamb

If Christ died for sin then we die to sin.

When we don’t take a stand, we don’t love Jesus, we don’t love the person who sinned and we don’t love the rest of the congregation.

This is as important as who to discipline.

We are not to judge a person for their motives. That is for the Lord. We are not to judge the world that does not have the Spirit. It is only for those who carry the name ‘brother.’

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. ~1 Corinthians 5:11 (NIV)

We constantly have non Christians coming to us who are greedy, who get drunk, lie and cheat, and sleep around. Hear me now, we won’t judge you, we love having you with us. But we judge those who call themselves a Christian and want to justify their sinful choices. That is what is unacceptable.

Put it this way, if you call yourself a Christian and want fellowship with us but justify your sinful behaviour then one of these will have to go, either stop calling yourself a Christian, stop fellowship with us, or our preference is – stop justifying your sin. If you don’t you are under God's wrath and we want you in heaven with us. This judgment is only for believers, we are not called to be the worlds spiritual cop

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ~1 Corinthians 5:12-13b (NIV)

It also critical that we don’t confuse Christians struggling with sin and those who justify their sin. If we expel those who battle with sin, what would happen? we would have expelled each other, no one would be left at church.

Church discipline is not for saints who sin but for those who are proud of being able to sin and claim the name, Christian.

This is not about the man who has slipped up one day but a man who has his father's wife.

This is a settled state of disobedience.

It is not about a man who has gotten drunk it is about a drunkard. It is not about a man who committed a sexual sin it is about a person who is sexually immoral. Otherwise, no one could turn up for church.

What does it look like? Most who fall into sin withdraw themselves. Few justify sin and then want to stick around at church.

We physically don’t pick up someone and kick them out of our Sunday services. We don’t act rudely to them when we see them at shops. We don’t ignore them on the side of the road if their car has a flat.

We speak and act with grace, we make it clear that we are not on the same page. We can’t have fellowship. You are not my brother or sister in the Lord. We will urge you to not take the Lord’s supper, you will not be able to serve at church, you cannot attend growth groups

We keep pleading for repentance and if there is repentance then we celebrate like mad.

Friends, this is God word, will you obey it? Will you be committed to the holiness of the church?

I remember the first time I had to do it, a man in growth group had left his wife and was living with another woman. He called himself a Christian and assumed nothing would change. I spoke with him. The week before a man gave his testimony, he shared how he had been attending church for 2 years but realised he had not repented. I used his example and said do you think you have repented. I thought the same thing. I said you need to stop sinning, or stop calling yourself a Christian or leave growth group. One of those 3 will have to go. He stopped calling himself a Christian, that was good, no pretending.

The two best days in life is the day you know you’re not a Christian and the day you become one. Months later he repented and left that relationship, he has been with us ever since, strong in the Lord.

Don’t neglect the surprising grace of church discipline.

Imagine you lived in Australia in 1942 when Darwin was being bombed by the Japanese and 3 midget submarines came into Sydney Harbour sinking a ferry and killing 21 people. Inside your local church, you have young men hearing the call to defend the country and going off to war. Some returned home with limbs missing while others never returned at all. In your congregation some Christians refused conscription out of good conscience before God they could not fight. They believed that the bible forbids them to take up arms.  

Can you imagine the tension and division it would have created inside local churches? What would be the pastor's role in that situation? I suggest one issue would be to help brothers and sisters think through the principles of living in a church where the saints held different views.

I think it's the same for us when it comes to living in a church where members hold different views on vaccination. The purpose of this paper is not to give direction on vaccination. I am not a doctor nor am I not a scientist, I am a pastor called to disciple the church of God. To that end, let me share how we can live in a church with different views on vaccination to God's glory.

Firstly, I recognize this is a very delicate and emotional issue. For a start, we are all feeling the impact of an extended lockdown. It messes with our heads and hearts. That pressure is felt by some more than others, especially if we are isolated with little support or if we suffer from acute depression or anxiety.

Importantly, some have lost loved ones here and overseas to COVID 19. One person at church lost six friends in South Africa another has lost ten people in India. COVID has profoundly and personally impacted some people at church.  

Still, others have their own quota of health issues and are feeling physically vulnerable and acutely compromised concerned for either themselves or members of their family. All of which means we must speak on this issue with extra care and sensitivity.

Interestingly, last Monday we had a discussion at staff meeting and it became evident that we did not share the same views on vaccination. It was a good and gracious discussion with a number checking on each other to see if they spoke with grace. This made me realise we need to think hard about how we live together with different views on vaccination. 

Here are a few principles to keep in mind and I'm sure you can think of others. 

1.   The two great commandments are to love God and love others. 

Whatever you decide with the vaccination seek a conclusion that loves not just yourself, but your family, and the wider community. Remember it's not about you! We are to have the mind of Christ who considered others better than himself (Phil 2:5-11) and in particular those who are vulnerable. The God of the bible has his constant eye on the orphan, the poor and the widow. Paul warned us that without love we are nothing (1Cor13:1-2). Whatever your view on vaccines adopt an ‘other person-centred approach’ with a special eye to the powerless.

2.   Turn your panic into prayer. 

God is no less on his throne now than before or after COVID 19. Jesus told his disciples, that if we have a Father in heaven who knows our needs before we ask, and truly cares for us, then we need to trust him and not be like the pagans who panic about the basic needs of life. The repeated rebuke by Jesus to his disciples was ‘why are you so afraid?’ Before a watching world, including social media, we have a great opportunity to stand apart in refusing to live in fear because our God will never leave us or forsake us. While we can't stop feeling anxious, we are called to turn it into prayer (Phil 4:6) and let God's peace guard our troubled hearts. I assure you it will be more helpful for your troubled soul than constant exposure to a never-ending stream of COVID information.

3.  Be informed and be thankful. 

We are made in God's image to push back on the effects of the fall. This means we must thank God for the work of scientists who are doing what God calls imager bearers to do; to understand and rule over this virus. Nevertheless, use your God-given mind to assess the research available wisely. Be discerning who to trust and be open and non-defensive to hearing other people's views. Watch how much time you spend reading on this issue and becoming an expert compared to the time you spend reading God's word, and fellowshipping online with the saints. Ask yourself the question, “are you more excited about sharing your view on vaccines than about sharing Christ?”

4.   Be humble and know that no one is infallible. 

Even the best of research is not perfect. If you are suspicious about the ‘other’ position then learn to be a little suspicious about your own as well.

5.   We can't avoid risk. 

We live after the fall and outside the garden of Eden. We must never think that we can avoid risk in a broken world. We are all forced to assess what is calculated risk. However, there is no risk in following Christ who will raise our body from the dead as surely as our Lord was raised on the third day. 

6.   Don’t pressure other people toward your view. 

Have the conversation if the other person gives you permission but don’t have it if they don’t want to. That includes members of your family. It’s exactly the same with evangelism which has to do with eternal issues. Ask permission to speak and share information, don’t dump it and definitely do not demand that people accept your view.  If someone does send you material on vaccination, you are free to read it or ignore it, but you are not free to be rude about it. If we are called to speak with ‘gentleness and respect’ to false teachers (2 Tim 2:25), how much more should we be gracious with those who have different views on vaccination in person or on social media.

      Be careful to not be cynical and sarcastic about people who hold different views. You don’t have to apologise for holding your view but never forget you share the same creator with fellow image-bearers you disagree with you. How much more, in the church where you share the same Father in heaven who sent his Son to die for both of you.

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. ~ Romans 14:10 (NIV)

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. ~ Romans 14:19 (NIV)

7. Have a biblical view of government. 

We each have different default attitudes to government. Some are more suspicious of authorities, and for good reason. Let us not forget that “The rulers of this age crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:8). On three occasions, Roman magistrates had Paul beaten with rods (2 Cor 11:25; Acts 16:22). Our federal government-led us into unjust wars such as Vietnam and approved pro-abortion legislation in NSW. It's not in “Gladys we trust” but in “God we trust.”

Others have a more positive view of government. They know that the kind of freedom, order and wealth we have in Australia has never been matched at any other time in the history of the world. No doubt, each view is shaped by experiences in this country and our country of origin. As a result, some are more inclined to believe government-approved research on vaccines, while others are more sceptical. 

Nevertheless, let us be very clear about what the Bible requires. We are explicitly called to honour (1Peter 2:17), pray (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and submit to all governing authorities (Romans 13:2-3). And all for one reason, and it's not because they are necessarily doing a great job. It's because “The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Rom 13:1) If the apostle Paul can say that about the Roman Emperor who was vicious and brutal we have even less reason to reject God's teaching. Unless the government causes us to explicitly violate our loyalty to Christ, then we regularly pray, openly respect and ‘willingly’ submit to them even if we think they are inconsistent, ineffective or just plain wrong in their response to Covid19. 

Suffice to say that any attempt to engage or promote civil disobedience, because we are inconvenienced, grieves the Spirit of God. This doesn’t mean we can't protest and communicate our convictions, as long as it is done lawfully and respectfully. 

8. Strive to maintain the unity of the church

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace…” ~ Ephesians 4:3 (NIV) 

Finally, take heed of the warning not to divide the church of Christ. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (NIV)

Let the world see how MBM is a profound mystery with men and women, young and old, from many cultures and classes with different views on politics and vaccines but who dearly love each other united by Christ's precious blood and sealed by his Holy Spirit.  

Once conflict is faced and peace begins, trust needs to be rebuilt and that takes time. What heals wounds? What builds trust? What creates safety? It is love. 

The Corinthians church was known for their many conflicts. This church managed to divide on every possible issue, from Leadership to the Lord's supper to Litigation. It was a toxic and proud church, they saw themselves as so ‘spiritual’ but were so ‘immature’. Priding themselves on some gifts of the Spirit-tongues, ignoring the fruit of the Spirit such as love. To the least loving church comes the clearest outline of Love.

The question for us is what would Jesus say about you? What would Jesus say of MBM?

The first point is this gifts multiplied by no love = nothing

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. ~1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV)

Oh, to speak in the language of angels but without love, I am as useful as a car crash. Oh, to grasp the mysteries of the universe and to believe with so much confidence that you could park Mt Kosciusko in your front yard, but if love is absent, you are nothing! Oh, to be so generous that you give not 10%, 50% but 100% of all your money to the poor or be so committed to Jesus that you would take the bullet for Jesus and yet live a life without love. You gain nothing!

It won't be the first biography on a famous missionary who did great things for the Lord but whose personal life was a tragic loveless mess. The formulae is simple heroic gifts without Love = is nothing, you gain nothing.

Let me take you back to Maths class. If you Multiply one number with another number you get a much bigger number

5 x 8 = 40

11x12 =132

If you multiply any number with 0 the answer is always 0

100 x 0 =

10,000 x 0 =

1,000,000,000 x 0 =

Any heroic act x zero love = 0

But wait a minute, I thought giving your money to the poor was an act of love? Well, isn’t it?

Well, let see the dos and don'ts of love. The first thing you notice is love is practical it not theoretical. It's not like a love song. All of me loves all of you.

But the bible gets down and dirty with love.

Love is patient … ~1 Corinthians 13:4a (NIV)

Love is Patient… it literally means “Love suffers long…” So straight out of the blocks, we are reminded that it's love in hard places, love with difficult people, love in conflict situations, when you’re tired and annoyed, love at 6am if you're not a morning person or 11pm if you are a morning person.

The best research on Marriage comes from the Gottman Institutes. John Gottman says, When couples repeatedly begin an argument with harsh words and tones -it is the great predictor of divorce.

But Love is long suffering, which is exactly what Gods love is like.

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, ~Exodus 34:6 (NIV)

He is a long suffering God, it's why the bible is so big. It's 66 love letters. Those of us with short fuses take note, Love isn’t easily angered or provoked

Love is not easily angered… ~1 Corinthians 13:5b (NIV)

Many of us have not quite come to terms that God has placed sinful humans outside of the garden of Eden. We expect our plans to operate smoothly and watch out if anyone gets in our way. No matter how organised, life throws a curve ball, holidays can be rained in, babies cry all night, friends let you down.

Christians criticize, neglect, let down, disappoint, undermine, rebel, slander, gossip, litigate,

John Piper says

If I am to LOVE like this, something in me must die.
My strong craving for a trouble-free life must die.
My need for an uninterrupted schedule must die.
My demandingness that frustrations and interference get out of my way must die.

Love is patient it is not easily angered. There are 15 things love can and can't do, but whatever else, Love is patient.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. ~1 Corinthians 13:4 (NIV)

Love is Kind. Even the word “Kind” sounds insipid and weak but that is exactly how God treats his people who rebel against him. His loving kindness binds him to us and us to him. Have we not tasted of the kindness of the Lord.

Consider: Two men walking toward each other around a steep mountain cliff face. The path is too narrow to walk past each other or they will fall off.

Solution: One man lies down and the other walks over.

Kindness: A kind deed to help out someone who hurts you, a kind thought wanting the best, a kind word that builds up another person rather than taking them for granted. Kindness is as simple as a word of encouragement. The Corinthian Christians who received this encouraging and kind letter were impatient, self centred, rude and full of envy.

Love is described not just by what we do but what we don’t do. Love does not envy and we know envy perpetuates so much conflict.

There are sins of commission—what we should have not done. And there are sins of omission—what we should have done but didn't.

Envy feeds conflict and love starves the envy that feeds conflict. Love rejoices with the success of others. It's hard when someone else got the job you applied for when someone else got the lover you long for. The solution to envy is to thank God for the success of others and let the person know that you are happy for their success. 

We rejoice with those who rejoice equally when one part suffers we all suffer, when one part rejoices we all rejoice. Love wants to encourage, envy wants to withhold encouragement. Find that one person you envy and today send them a text, email, letter or say something to encourage them.

Perhaps you feel as if your life is more like a water polo game, you can only lift yourself up by putting someone else down. That is not love

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. ~1 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)

Love also keeps no record of wrongs. Just like Jesus, love keeps no record of wrongs. It's not as if once we are reconciled there won't be any more hurts. Love doesn’t keep score on the mistakes of others. It is what kills marriages, churches and friends.

Conversations that begin with…"You always do that" or "Typical you" or "You will never change" or "You’re so hopeless". Jesus doesn’t keep score on your sins and he is perfect so why do we think we can keep score on other peoples sins.

I love the idea of love when it theoretical, I love this passage except when I have to think about real people in my life who hurt me. Love will be seen in what gives you pleasure.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. ~1 Corinthians 13:6 (NIV)

Since God is love, then love does not take pleasure in evil, love is not rude but neither will it pretend, it doesn't call good evil and evil good. When faced with conflict love sides with God. It loves what God loves and it hates what God hates. Since God is love, love sides with the truth, no matter how unpopular.

We don't play that silly game of setting truth against love, you can't love people unless you love truth even if the truth hurts. Truth is a person and that person is Jesus. Love aims at being consistent, it's how we build trust.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ~1 Corinthians 13:7 (NIV)

It always protects … it always has your back.
It always trusts … refuses to be cynical … it won't slip into sarcasm.
It always hopes …keeps handing out second chances, it's optimistic without being naïve.
It always preservers…Loves hangs in when others give up.

Love doesn’t just play the big games well but every game.

You get the parent who works 3 jobs for the family, but day by day they are moody, grumpy and critical. That is the nothing person! Gifts without love = nothing

For now, every Christian has been gifted and every gift will pass away, they have a use by date.

But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. ~1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (NIV)

Everything you enjoy at church and in this age is both imperfect and temporary. Imperfect because we prophesy in part, we know in part. I will never preach the perfect sermon. Temporary because they will disappear; they will come to an end.

The truly wise person knows what to be impressed by:

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. ~1 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)

It's time to grow up…give a 5-year-old child a choice between a million-dollar diamond and a chocolate bar and they will choose the chocolate every time. It's time to grow up!

I love a person exercising their God-given gifts in the body of Christ but the older I get the more impressed I am by the fruit of the Spirit beginning with Love. 

When we hear of relationships scared by conflict become healed by love, the cliché “It doesn’t get better than that!” is so misused. When I heard last week of two people whose journey began when they met a person at MBM who loved them and they could see God in them. ‘It doesn’t get better than that’ 

Learn what to get impressed by. Greatness is measured by one word: love…Those who love are God heroes.

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ~1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (NIV)

As Karl Barth put it “When the sun rises the lights go out…”

When Jesus returns and perfection comes, we get to see God face to face the gifts go out.

People are not a means to an end they are the end. Do you know why this is so liberating? You may have missed out on a range of gifts, opportunities to serve that never came your way, but know this, you have not missed out on the greatest of all. I plead with you. Do not be the 'nothing' person. Hear the warning again: without love you’re nothing! And nothing will be your reward.

One of the great struggles in resolving everyday conflict is to see our part in the story. This is especially true when the greater sin lies with the other person or you think it does, they started it, they said the cruel words, they bagged you out on social media.

As I said last week we can freely talk about our pain and the other person's sin, but we find it almost impossible to talk about our sin and the other person's pain

Today, Jesus is giving the master class on disciple training. The question for you is, who is shaping how you respond to conflict?

He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? ~Luke 6:39 (NIV)

Too often we let the wrong people set the agenda for how we respond to conflict and then we pay the price. What did you learn from your parents? Did they ignore or ignite conflict? When you tell your friends about a conflict; do they feed your sense of self-righteousness and justify your refusal to forgive or nurture an attitude of entitlement?

The challenge for us is will you let Jesus tell you what it means to be his disciple? Will you stop telling Jesus why you don’t have to love your enemy? That its always someone else’s fault and never yours? Lets face it Jesus knows a little about conflict,

He has reconciled the world to himself. Jesus has told his disciples how to think about those who hate you, reject you and insult you. 

  1. Do to others what you would have them do to you.

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. ~Luke 6:27 (NIV)

The enemy is clear, it’s a person who curses you, mistreats you or takes advantage of you. It's any people who either keep you up at night or you want to get even with.

Which level of love do you live on?

a. Love your friend’s hate your enemies. “…Don’t get mad, get even”
b. Love your friends ignore your enemies…Keep your enemy at a polite distance.
c. Love your friends and love your enemies…Return good for evil

Notice how Jesus is not just calling his followers to tolerate or be polite, four ugly reactions of people meet four grace responses by Jesus people.

When hated - we love
When excluded - we do good
When insulted - we bless
When rejected - we pray for them

It's not just feel good toward them it's doing good toward them. When your enemies make it into your prayers and your prayers are to bless them and not curse you then you’re on your way to higher ground and to glorify God. That is radical. Jesus gets under our skin with his outrageous examples.

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. ~Luke 6:31 (NIV)

That is ridiculous! You won't last one minute in this world, everyone will rip you off. Like going home from church finding thieves loading their boot with your stuff and you say “Hi guys -can you tell me when you’re finished, I will just go and grab a cup of coffee, don’t forget the $300 dollars in the jar under the bed.”

We know they are exaggerated examples to get you thinking… We know that because the Apostle Paul required only widows who are over 60 and proven themselves as faithful in good works to qualify for the church pension. No free handouts here.

Jesus words are dangerous

If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. ~Luke 6:29-31 (NIV)

He is almost inviting abuse. It sounds like you can't have boundaries. But we have an account of when Jesus was struck on the cheek. Jesus is being interrogated by the High Priest and the soldier hits him in the face. What does Jesus do? Feel free to hit me on the other cheek, this is what he does say.

“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” ~John 18:24 (NIV)

That’s what it looks like, Jesus love was expressed in two ways, He confronts the soldier, holding him accountable but he doesn’t wipe him off the face of the earth. Love doesn’t mean we don’t confront, it doesn’t mean we let people walk all over us, it does mean that you approach the enemy wanting to do good to bless and to pray. When you do good, remember you’re like your Father in Heaven and not like the world

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. ~Luke 6:32-34 (NIV)

Call me strange but I have absolutely no problem loving those who love me back. It's true, give me compliments, offer me a gift and I’ll be your best friend. And Jesus says Big Deal! even the sinners do that.

In 2002 they found a scrapbook that belonged to Karl Hocker, it had photos of Nazis at play loving each other, it was those who ran Jewish extermination camps in Auschwitz.

You could rewrite Jesus words and say “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even the ‘Nazis’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even the ‘Nazis’ do that.

All the time while hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were being gassed to death. To return evil for good is of the devil, to return good for good is being human, to return good for evil makes you just like your Father in heaven.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. ~Luke 6:35-36 (NIV)

Never are we more like our Father in heaven than when we love and do good to our enemies. God will remember, record and reward every act of grace toward your enemy. And it will echo into eternity because it glorifies God.

Elsewhere Jesus says God lets the rainfall on those who love and hate him, God lets the sunshine on the just and unjust, every time you see that sucker rise in the east God is telling you to love your enemies because that is what I am doing every day. Never did that love reach an absolute pinnacle then when Christ died for us while we were his enemies…do to others what you would want them to do to you. Have we not all been an enemy of someone in our lives? Haven’t we all wanted them to show grace to us? It's not like this is optional for disciples wanting to follow Jesus. When we are hurt it's so easy to demonize the other person, we stop thinking the best.

  1. What you do to others is what God will do to you.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. ~Luke 6:37 (NIV)

Don’t judge…50 years ago John 3:16 was the most well known Bible verse known by Christians, now it's "do not judge, and you will not be judged." We are letting the blind lead the blind. The world is creeping into the church, the world that stops God from speaking, the world which loves sin and hates the saints, the world that loves to call good evil and evil good. So what does Jesus mean by don’t judge? I think the next verse tells us exactly what it means. Don’t condemn:

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven ~Luke 6:37 (NIV)

Don’t be quick to play God, don’t be quick to say this backsliding Christian is in hell. I can warn a person that they are heading for hell if they don’t repent but I can't announce they are in hell. I don’t know what they did before they died.

We had one guy who joined us for a time, he thought he was sinless and it didn’t take him long before he was announcing that every person at MBM was not a Christian and for good reason. I was not a Christian because I yawned during prayer time. Do not judge

Imagine 2 people going to the toilets for the first time, one comes out and goes straight to the wash basin to wash their hands but the other person just goes out. Its easy for the person washing their hands to think how disgusting that the other person has not washed their hands, not knowing that the other toilet had its own washbasin Don’t judge, you don’t have all the information.

Stop trying to judge the motives of people. You’re not God, only he knows the heart, don’t be quick to think the worst, resist the urge to demonize, especially those who hurt you.

So how do we correct each other and not fall into this sin? Approach a person assuming the best and that the hurt was unintentional, that it was thoughtless, not malicious, speak to them as though you’re the greater sinner.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. ~Luke 6:41-42 (NIV)

The person who judges tends to overestimate the sins of others and underestimate their own sin. Wouldn’t we all get along with each other much better if we assumed we are the bigger sinner? It has to be this way! Because you live with you 24/7. You know what you think or say or do 24/7. You know the motives behind what you say and do, you see more of your sin than anyone else, it has to be that way. Whenever you speak to another always assume that you are the greater sinner.

So, it will always be a speck in their eye and plank in the other, as you face the person you’re in conflict with, remember the telegraph pole in your eye and eye lash in the other person. You may spend more time focusing on your sin and their pain, than focusing on your pain and their sin. 

This will come out in how you apologise, you may be aware that you played a small part in the conflict.

They may or may own their failure but you know your father in heaven sees what you have done and is pleased. We play to an audience of one! Your conscious is clear and God is glorified.

In many conflicts, there is a power struggle, one person is committed to changing another person and the other is committed to not wanting to be changed. We get locked in, for me to win you must lose, and if you win, I lose. Our desires turn to demands, our hurts turn into rage or passive aggression. 

When wounded, we turn in ourselves. We are quick to name our pain and the other person's sin. We are unable to name our sin and the other persons’ pain. Worst of all, we act like there are only two people in this conflict. Faced with conflict we react to what is in front of us, the bible will encourage us in the midst of conflict to go higher ground and to think God thoughts.

We can’t make wise decisions when we are in the heat of a battle. In the conflict of war Generals always went to the highest point to see the battle from with the widest lens. When they invented airships and planes they took to the sky. When they invented satellites, they took to space.

The best way to understand conflict is to stand back and go up; to think God thoughts. It's never just you and the other person. It's you, them and the Lord Jesus, He redefines every relationship for a Christian.

So what does it mean to go to higher ground? First, it means we understand that we are raised with Christ, so set your minds on the things above.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. ~Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)

So why meditate on heaven when I live below on earth? Two reasons. The first is, that is where Christ is who is ruling the church! Set your heart and mind on the risen Lord Jesus. He is now seated at the right hand of God, from there he rules the universe, he rules the church. He is firstborn of the creation, firstborn of the dead so that in everything he might be first. And that includes being first in every conflict relationship you’re in. In other words, I win if Christ is first.

Second, we set our minds on the things above, that is where we are, we are caught up in Christ’s victory. Our life is hidden with Christ. We are expected to engage in conflict from a different point of view to the world. 

Let's ponder the idea of union with Christ.

We are alive in Christ and we are with Christ, we will appear with Christ in glory. The second coming is every Christian's coming out party. Once you get that you cant be the same. From that vantage point we put sin to death, we put away old me, we put off our earthly sinful nature. We may fall into sin but we don't walk in those sins.

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. ~Colossians 3:8-10 (NIV)

Raised with Christ and set your minds on the things above, we will not engage with the old weapons, Anger, Malice, Slander or Swearing. Nor do we pretend and lie but speak the truth in love, all with gentleness and respect. The good news as we are being renewed and transformed is that we are not on you are own, God is at work in us

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. ~2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)

From the moment you said “I Do” to Jesus, God made a commitment to transform you into the likeness of his son, to shape you to be more like Jesus. That growth is described as an ever-increasing glory that happens as we live for Gods glory.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. ~1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)

Every moment of every day, amidst every relationship good or bad, we get the privilege to put a smile on the face of God. That includes how you engage with conflict.

I once ran a bible study for teenagers/young adults who were new Christians. There was one girl who was 15 maybe 16 at the time, she came from a broken and dysfunctional home. One day as the group was going home she said, “Ray I think I understand what life is all about.” What’s that Julie? She said,

“Its about Giving God the glory in everything.” 

That insight changed everything, it shaped how she responded in her relationships, especially the ones that were dysfunctional. She instinctively went to higher ground, she has gone on to make an enormous impact in the lives of so many. 

So how do I glorify God in the midst of my conflict? In short, you keep to two great commands front and centre, Love God and Love others. That is how you glorify God, to love God is to engage in conflict in such a way that brings honour to him. 

What motivates you is that He sees your attempt to be at peace, He is honoured when you raise a difficult issue, He is pleased by your desire to forgive, He is lifted up when you love the one who wounded you, He is glorified that you’re satisfied with his approval. He smiles when you keep loving the person who is slandering you. This is higher ground, it's never just you and the other person. There is you, them and the Lord Jesus.

Have you not noticed that when God directs how we ought to live our relationship, whether to husbands, wives, parents, children, servant, masters or each other, the church. It's always in Christ and as to the Lord, in every relationship you have, whether Christian or not, work, home, study or church is redefined by your relationship with Christ. We serve and love others for Jesus sake.

It's as if Jesus is saying I “If you can't do it for their sake, I know you can do for my sake.” It's what breaks the hold of a power struggle. This truth saved my marriage.

Sandy and I fought a lot in the first 6 months of our marriage. From my end, I was counting who is doing more and I counted in my favour. Then one day I was reading:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. ~Ephesians 5:25 (NIV)

Jesus was telling me, Ray, get your eyes off Sandy and get your eyes on me and when you think you have gone as far as me on the cross then you draw a line in the sand but until then keep loving and keep laying down your life. Love for God extends to Love for the enemy. As Jesus said anyone can love those who love them back. If you do that Jesus says, big deal, even the pagans do that. We love the enemy.

There is a Scottish proverb that says ‘The worst thing in life is to die without enemies. The worst thing in life is to not love your enemies.’ In times of conflict, our loved ones can become our enemy. 

The Bible is very realistic, God knows that you will be in a difficult relationship, we live outside the garden and after the fall. Do not be idealistic about the church, we are Saints who still Sin. The church is like a suitcase of porcupines, hence the command to forgive one another, and bear one another.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. ~Romans 12:18 (NIV)

Love means we are committed to reconciliation, think of a difficult relationship you’re in right now. God, if possible, because it may not be that they died, or won’t talk or admit, as much as it depends on you, from your side. Strive for peace.

Your Lord knows that it takes one to forgive but two to make peace. You are responsible to do whatever it takes to make peace. You are not responsible for the other person behaviour.

Here is a lesson I learnt 36 years ago that has kept me sane and it's in the verse. In a nutshell, know what you have control over and what you don’t. Know what you are responsible for and what you are not.

Dr. Larry Crabb put it this way:

Goals are those things that you have control over and are responsible for.

Desire is something you would like to happen but don’t have control over.

You work toward your goals, you pray for your desires.

Wanting my friend to apologise; Goal or Desire?
Forgiving my friend; Goal or Desire?
Wanting my cousin to be saved; Goal or Desire?
Taking up opportunities to share my faith; Goal or Desire?

In this verse a desire is to be at peace with all people, you pray for it but you cant control the outcome. A goal is to make sure that everything that leaves my mouth is driven by the good of the other person.

You see this principle in the Serenity Prayer - Reinhard Neihbuhr, prayed in AA meetings

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

When I am stressed in a relationship, I ask myself the question what is my desire that I have no control over? I want to be heard, I want the person to own their sin against me, I want to hear an apology, I want to be loved, I want them to acknowledge the damage they have done, I want their approval and respect. None of which I can control. 

What I can control, what I am responsible for, what God requires me to do is to speak a word of encouragement with gentleness and respect, to raise a hurt, to be patient, to listen to another person’s pain, to own my sin, to apologize, to forgive, to set boundaries. So, winning is not about being loved, it's about being like God and striving for peace as much as you can do.

My goal is to glorify God in all situations and not let Satan have a win. My goal is to go to higher ground and make Jesus look good. My goal is to be satisfied with my heavenly Father's approval. My goal is to think God thoughts. My goal is to speak in a way that seeks peace. My goal is to let the Spirit do his work in my life.

On my better days when I go to higher ground, I think of Jesus at the cross being nailed by the hands that he created, knowing he could invent billions of ways of making them suffer a slow death, but all you hear is Father forgive them for they know not what they do.

I spoke to a woman at church this week, her father left her mother and 8 children, abandoning them into poverty, their life was so hard. He never owned his sin. Many years later he tried to re-entry their lives, which they welcomed, only to find out it was only for money. Years after that she heard that her Dad was in the hospital, and she called him to see how he was. She asked for the opportunity to talk about matters and make peace. His response was clear “I don’t want to talk to you” and then he hung up. The next day he died.

I said to the woman, ‘You don’t come across embittered.’ She said two things, God's grace to her and knowing that while her father on earth abandoned her, her Father in heaven said

“Never will I leave you, never will forsake you.” She went to higher ground and it set her free.

What is going to be MBM Parramatta’s biggest challenge? It will be each other? The hardest thing about being a human is other humans. We each have a natural difference, when fuelled by a spirit of demandingness it quickly leads to conflict. Which would ok except we either ignore it or ignite it, but we can do better.

This term we are going to look at resolving everyday conflict.

As the series title suggests: "Worth fighting for". Our Lord Jesus is the prince of peace and fought for that peace. At the cross, he waved the surrender flag and said I don’t want to fight anymore.

If you want to kill me then kill me and let's get it over with so that we can be friends. And He then gives us his Spirit and commands us “Be at peace with all people as much as it depends on you.” But there can be no peace unless we go for higher ground, there will be no peace unless we understand, unless we get that unforgiveness is not an option.

Deep down we each have a quota of pain, sinned against by someone in our family, in our church or in the world. It could have been a one-off event or ongoing. It could have been done thoughtlessly or maliciously, but however, it got there, it's there. At some point, we all have put a fence around our pain and have said to ourselves, to others and even to God “… this is so bad, what was done to me so wrong, the wounds so deep that not even God would ask me to ever consider forgiving the one who wounded me.”

Let me say up front

  1. Forgiveness is rarely a one-off decision. It's an ongoing process.
  2. You can forgive a person who you report to the police.
  3. You can forgive a person you set boundaries around
  4. You can forgive and not be reconciled because there is no repentance.
  5. But what makes forgiveness is that you will eventually want to do them good from the heart.

The apostle Peter is aware that sin happens both inside and outside the church and so he ask Jesus a question...how often?

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” ~Matthew 18:21 (NIV)

Peter is trying to out-grace Jesus. Rabbis required people to forgive only 3 times, Peter offers the perfect number 7 times.

But I would have asked Jesus another question with it, not just how many times? But how bad does the sin have to get before? before I can say: "that's it".

Jesus answer haunts us in our pain even today.

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. ~Matthew 18:22 (NIV)

Or 70x 7, you can almost feel abandoned by God in your pain, the word is don't ever stop forgiving, there is to be no limit, don’t stop striving to be at peace with others. Jesus reverses the vengeful language of Lamech, reminding us, the opposite to revenge is forgiveness, the opposite to forgiveness is payback!

Forgiveness is choosing to absorb the sin and not retaliate.

We have twice interviewed Gladys Staines at MBM, her husband and 2 sons were burnt alive in India by radical Hindu extremists. They were Medics in India helping the poor and the Lepers. She said “I have no anger, I have no hatred.” I asked Gladys how she was able to forgive and so quickly. She said, “I think it was because I learnt to forgive the little things.” What wise words. We are either cancelling debts or holding on to them.

There are 2 reasons given by Jesus in his story, the first is tied to the amount of forgiveness we have received and the second is tied to the amount of judgment that will fall on us if we don’t.

We live in light of breathtaking forgiveness.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. ~Matthew 18:23-25 (NIV)

The man's debt to the king was enormous. Some say it's a national debt, about 15 billion, others say it was the wages of 60,000 working days. This was a time when you couldn’t file for bankruptcy, you (and your family) were personally responsible for your debt. Like this man you and I face a debt to God we could not pay; a punishment we cant bear. We were standing on the edge of hell, facing our own hopeless eternity; staring into the place of utter darkness. With the enormous debt before him the man cries out.

At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ ~Matthew 18:26 (NIV)

He has no idea how much he owes, he thinks he can pay the king off, like so many who think they can buy God off with good works. And yet in a God like way the king had mercy on him.

The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go. ~Matthew 18:27 (NIV)

Can you feel the relief? This is a picture of God's forgiveness. The whole debt is gone. The king does not postpone the payment of the debt, the king does not ask for 10 cents in the dollar, the king wipes the slate clean. It's why Paul says love keeps no record of wrongs. To forgive is to release one from a debt.

I once read in the newspaper (Telegraph) “Australia forgave Egypt a 200 million dollar debt” (1991). Australia said to Egypt you don’t ever have to pay it back.

So why does Jesus put no limit on how many times we ought to forgive? I will tell you why: because God puts no limit on the amount of sins that he forgives us. Every day we grieve his Spirit and every day he forgives them.

By not forgiving, we show that we have absolutely no idea what it cost Jesus the innocent Son of God to enter the horror of the cross. That we have no idea how bad hell is that we have been delivered from. No idea how bad we all are and we have no idea that unforgiveness is not an option.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. ~Matthew 18:28-30 (NIV)

This guy is often called the unmerciful servant, he also is the ungrateful servant, forgiven so much, now refusing to forgive so little. It was just loose change compared to what he had been forgiven.

Albert Tetzler won the lottery a while back in the US, the amount pocketed was 7 million dollars, a lot of money. Two years later he was sent to prison because he had failed to pay child support which totalled just $35,000, he got 7 million but couldn’t pay $35,000. 

You reckon that is bad, try telling God why you don’t have to forgive when he has forgiven so much. He is the ungrateful servant and so are we when you allow our pain to swamp the grace of God. Freely you have received, freely forgiven. 

This is not saying that you have not been sinned against and it was not wrong. This is not saying that the pain is not real or that God doesn’t care. This is not to say that church discipline should not be applied or in some cases, the cops should be called. This is not saying that comfort can't be found, knowing that God will punish those who refuse to repent. What it is saying is that when you set limits on forgiveness you deny the full extent of your own sin against God and the full extent of Gods kindness to you.

Too often revenge conquers us instead of us conquering revenge by the grace of God. We must stop playing God, who alone says “Vengeance is mine says the lord I will repay” The King acts when he finds out that the man he forgave, refused to forgive another so little, he is angry

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. ~Matthew 18:32-34 (NIV)

Do you understand what Jesus is saying? Unforgiveness is not an option for those who follow Christ. Think back to the Lord's Prayer..

"Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us"

Jesus has thrown us a curve ball, when we pray we are asking God to treat us in the way that we treat others, by not forgiving others you are inviting God to not forgive you. So both Grace and judgment demands forgiveness. Jesus ends the story with the stinging warning...

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” ~Matthew 18:35 (NIV)

Take the grace of God lightly and you will end up taking his judgment severely. If the grace of God won't move you to forgive then maybe the fear of God will. It's as clear as a bell, isn’t it? Don't wallow in the pain, now is the time to start to forgive, seize the moment and conquer the urge to punish, let the Spirit do its work in you right now.

Do you know why I think unforgiveness is not an option? It's because God loves us, He is saying: “I don’t want you to waste your life filled with bitterness; where you spend your days re-playing those stories over and over to feed your rage." Jesus says: "I don’t want you to let those who sinned against you to keep punishing you. I want you to know the freedom of forgiveness, but that won't happen unless you forgive from the heart." It is not a 'pretend' forgiveness when we play games and say 'I don’t care' or 'it doesn’t bother me' or just laughing it off. Living in denial is not forgiveness.

The journey may begin further back, you may need to pray, to want to pray, to even want to forgive. At some point, you have to get on that peace train, even if it's last carriage. Are you not tired? I know you are. 

There was a year I held something against Sandy. I noticed I was sulking for longer periods of time. On one occasion I sulked for 5 long weeks but Sandy barely noticed. No eye contact, a slight shift in tone, for 5 weeks I was aloof. It went so long I forgot why I was sulking. Then I had to make myself remember, I was exhausted and ashamed. When I eventually did forgive, I was so relieved. My refusal to forgive caused me to have a growing bitter heart. Has it not weighed you down long enough.

One of the messages to Australia from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

"It's my choice to be a victim or a survivor. It's my choice to forgive or hate. It's my choice to look forward or back. So I have chosen to love the life I have. I have chosen to forgive those who hurt me, because I don't know who hurt them. My 'Message to Australia': I ask you to do the same. The action of hate fixes nothing."

I have been in awe of so many at MBM who have endured so much suffering and who eventually decide to forgive and enjoy the freedom it brings.

We start a new series and we will take our time and think hard about how we can be at peace with all people. It's risky, its not an option and it's worth it. We are reminded yet again that God’s way is the best way.

“All of life is related to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" That is what one woman said at MBM; what a profound comment. At the heart of the bible is the gospel and at the heart of the gospel is the Lord Jesus. That must be the DNA of MBM, to know that Jesus is Lord of all. Which means he answers the big question of life. 

The Hitch Hikers guide to the Galaxy was a funny book seeking to find the answer to the meaning of life. The answer was '42', when we all know it's 1. Wrong answer to the right question. So, let's see how Jesus is the right answer to the right question.

At the heart of a prayer of thanksgiving, we are presented with the Son in whose kingdom we dwell. He is the image of the invisible God

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. ~Colossians 1:15 (NIV)

Christ makes the God who you cannot see, known. You don't have to guess what God is like, you meet God in his Son. He is not just a pale reflection of who God is. Jesus is God!

Later we read that all the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form. That is why Jesus says to Philip ‘If you have seen me you have seen the father.’ So as Christ stands to God, He is the perfect image, but as he stands with the World Christ is its creator.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. ~Colossians 1:15 (NIV)

First born is the language of supremacy; He is not part of Creation but supreme over creation. The firstborn gets the inheritance, He holds rank over all of it. If there is any doubt that Christ is not part of the creation verse 16 makes it plain.

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him ~Colossians 1:16 (NIV)

Look at how comprehensive is the supremacy of Christ. There is nothing that Christ has not created. By that, he means things in heaven and earth. By that, he includes things visible and invisible. By that, he means thrones, powers, rulers and authorities. If Jesus didn't make it, it doesn't exist. Every corner of the universe is covered. That includes the angels and demons, Jesus made the devil, not as the devil but as an angel who later rebelled. Do not think there is a spiritual battle between good and evil and its neck and neck, Jesus created hell for the devil and his angels. 

The Colossians were tempted to pray to and worship angels. If your view of Christ is not supreme then you will worship something else. If your Christian religion is Mary, and the saints. If you’re into non-Christian religious gods and gurus. If it's new-age, angel and crystals. If you’re into the dark arts it's demons, if you're an animist it will be spirits, if you're an atheist it will be your mind.

Once you see Jesus in all his glory then to whom will you go.

Jesus is not number 1, He is the only one. Jesus answers the big questions of life. Questions that people have been asking from the beginning of time, questions that children ask and

adults are afraid to ask or are too busy to ask or just forget to ask. Questions like Who made me? Why do I exist? What is my reason in life? The answer is given in such simple words you could almost trip over it. 

All things were created by him and for him. ~Colossians 1:16 (NIV)

You exist for one reason, you were created to be in a personal friendship with Christ, on his terms and for his glory. God made the universe for his Son, this is the message we take to the world.

When I read this verse, I think of the classic love lines in songs and movies…

Words that capture the spirit of the age, and the idols of our heart. The songs remove Christ from his rightful place, that language should only and can only be applied to the Lord Christ.

It's not as if Christ created us and then left us to go on our merry way. The one who is before all things is Christ, the one who holds it all together.

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together ~Colossians 1:17 (NIV)

We say of a person who is coping with a lot of pressure, ‘He is holding it all together.’ For Jesus literally holds the universe together.

(The Son is)...sustaining all things by the power of his word. ~Hebrews 1:3 (NIV)

If the job of science gives natural explanations for the natural World, the Bible gives the ultimate explanation for the natural and spiritual world. Christ sustains the universe and it is he who is bringing everything to its appointed end.

History is moving in one direction, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow. Christ is supreme in this age and in the age to come.

And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. ~Colossians 1:18 (NIV)

Christ rules in creation and he rules over his people the church, Christ is the head of the church which is his body. There is an intimate connection between Christ and his body the church.

Jesus said: "When you do it unto the least of my brothers you do it unto me." The church belongs to Christ, He rules the church. Its right to say that MBM is Christ's church its even ok to say its our church, but it is never Ray Galea's church.

And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, ~Colossians 1:18 (NIV)

The church that he rules is the one he leads into the age of the resurrection. Jesus is firstborn from the dead, He is the first of the dead ones to rise, He spear heads a new people who will also rise from the dead and God raised his Son first

…so that in everything he might have the supremacy. ~Colossians 1:18 (NIV)

literally "so that in everything he might be first."

He ranks supreme in this age and in the age to come. He ranks number 1 in this creation and the next. He rules over all people and Gods people.

The one who is firstborn of creation is firstborn from the dead, so that in everything he might be first. John the Baptist was right, Jesus must increase and I must decrease. He is first because he is God

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him ~Colossians 1:19 (NIV)

The first Christmas day not only made us happy it first made God happy. God was pleased to become fully human, God permanently sided with us humans to bring peace.

Coming to earth was not the end of the story, God delights to put right the universe that has gone wrong

… and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. ~Colossians 1:20 (NIV)

To reconcile means is to bring together that which is apart, to make friends where there are enemies, to make peace where there is war and to put right that which is wrong. The Universe was made by Christ and for Christ but every corner of the universe has been stained by sin.

There is rebellion in the invisible world with Demons opposing God, there is rebellion in the visible world with humans as enemies of God. Christ came to bring peace through his blood with all things. In some way that means God made peace with the devil. That peace is not just a peace of friendship, all holding hands, smoking weed and singing “ all your need is love…” it has the idea of the pacification of the universe.

Pax Romana described 200 years of Roman peaceful rule. The peace of Rome- was 'not flowers in the hair' singing ‘We are the world’. The Peace of Rome involved the army who came to put down any rebellion.

So how did God made peace with the devil? by disarming and shaming the devil at the cross by taking from him his right to accuse us of sin. The Cross is as much about suppressing the enemies like Satan as it is about saving sinners. At the cross, the rift between God and man and God and the universe is reversed.

These are the facts, Christ is the reason that you exist, why you exist, why your sins cant condemn you and why Satan cant accuse you, why your death cant defeat you. Christ rules the world and he rules this church, He grants you the right to breathe and the right to enter heaven. At every point Christ is supreme.

There is not a corner of your life and there is not a square metre on this earth where Christ cannot say ‘This is mine and I own it and it belongs to me’.

So why isn't Jesus first in your life? What part of your life are you refusing to let Jesus be first? Perhaps you think you've gone too far!? Join the rest of us.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation ~Colossians 1:21-22 (NIV)

We were all enemies of God, the evidence is seen in what we did and what we thought. We have been funding a war with God, for some, it's open warfare with blatant defiance, for many it’s the cold war.. silence and sulking, but war it is. The peace was brokered over Christ’s physical body.

I heard of a couple who were separated and on their way to divorce. One day the husband decided to visit the grave of their dead son, as he stood there he heard someone coming from behind, coincidently, it was his wife. For a moment they were going to walk away from each other but standing over the grave of their dead son they held hands and peace came to their marriage.

God has made peace with you over the body of his Son, its time to take the hand of God and go home knowing you’re at peace with God. What does this peace with God look like?

On Judgment day there is no shaming, no condemnation, no accusation, no rejection. You will be Holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. You go home with our Lord and there will be no I told you so, no more criticism, no blame.

That is the power of the gospel.

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