Liberation

LENT ADVENTURE 2016

Read Matthew 11:1-6

11 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’

Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’

John the Baptist is discouraged. Jesus has not fulfilled his expectations. Liberation has not yet come in the way John expected and now he is close to death. He wants to know for sure that Jesus is who he thought he was. The people were waiting for The Messiah, the one who would liberate them from Roman occupation, but Jesus was not acting like The Messiah that they expected. Liberation would not come in the way they expected. Liberation was already happening but in a different way.

“The Christian community is both a sign and a promise of God’s coming liberation. We are the presence of God’s liberating kingdom in a broken world. We are the place where liberation can be found, offering a home for exiled people. We are to welcome the broken people to a community of broken people. We are the community among whom liberation is a present reality – the jubilee people who live with new economic and social relationships. We are the light of the world, a city on a hill. The challenge for us is to articulate Jesus’ message of a liberation in a way that connects with people’s experience and offers a place of liberation in the Christian community.” -Tim Chester, Good News to the Poor, 97.

For John, he would die in prison. He himself would not be liberated. How do you respond when life does not go the way you want it to? When Jesus fails your expectations! Are you willing to trust and obey and not stumble in times of doubt and pain?

What are some of the unreal expectations you have of God? Talk to him about them. Pray that He would give you wisdom and courage to see things from a Kingdom Perspective and live a life knowing you have been liberated from sin.

Identity

LENT ADVENTURE 2016

Read Mark 8:27-30

27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’

28 They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’

29 ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’

Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.’

30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Who do you say Jesus is? For Peter in this passage, he identifies Jesus with the promised Messiah. Peter had a revolutionary leader in mind, one who would lead the Jewish people in a rebellion against the occupying forces. Jesus would bring liberation but for all humanity. Bringing freedom for all people and reconciliation with a God who had not given up on his plan to rescue and redeem humanity and ultimately to  renew all things.

The subject of Mark’s gospel is always the identity of Jesus. What Mark is wanting us to decide is “who is this man?” and “is he worth following?” Does his identity matter? Does, ‘who he is’ affect ‘who we are’?

In the Philippians 2:6-8 in the Message version we read, “When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.”

Jesus identifies himself with us. Jesus identifies with us and we gain access to everything he is by being incorporated into him, by entering into his kingdom. Jesus chose to identify himself with humanity. He chose to take on the pain and the suffering and the curse that has fallen on humanity. He chose to be contaminated with the sin that infects us. He chose to be polluted with the effluent of humanity, all the wickedness, all the evil, all the abuse, all the sickness, all the disease.

What Jesus did by identifying with us and choosing to get what we deserve deals with the problem of suffering. Jesus absorbs pain and suffering. He is Emmanuel, God with us. God identifies himself with humanity. He lives a human life which is brutally ended in pain and suffering. Jesus embraces humanity. In that embrace we find forgiveness, restoration, reconciliation. Jesus offers and alternative way of living. Instead of a society committed to destroying itself, Jesus establishes a society of healing and hope, a community that opposes evil, this kingdom of God.

Who do you say Jesus is? Does the identity of Jesus affect how you live your life? Does his life and death, His crucifixion and resurrection impact who you are? Does his identity in some way affect your identity? Do you identify with him?

Today, How will your identity be influenced by His identity? Read Colossians 3:1-4. What does this say about your identity in Jesus? What difference does this make to you?

Parables

LENT ADVENTURE 2016

Read Matthew 13:1-23​

“What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.

“Are you listening to this? Really listening?” Matthew 13:3-9

Jesus loved using parables. Mark tells us that, “He did not say anything to them without using a parable.” (Mark 4:34) He was never without a story when he spoke. Metaphor was his main teaching method. Why did he use them?

Challenge: The parables challenge the listener to make a decision. What is the message of Jesus for? It’s not to be filled up with knowledge it’s for living. The parables do not hide or obscure the message of Jesus. They drive the point home. Jesus wants his hearers to become genuine disciples and put his message into practice. They were not to go hey nice story, tell us another. They were to go away and think and wrestle with what had been said and apply it to their lives and the lives of others.

Invite: Why do you speak in parables? Why are you doing this? It’s hard work. Give us a list. Make a powerpoint with bullet points. Give us a formula. Make it easy for us. If it’s easy it’s shallow. Hidden truths invite people to enter the depths of the story. You can paddle in the shallows and hear a story about soil and rocks and birds and weeds of you can take a breath a plunge into the depths of what this story say about the human heart. The parables invite the hearer into relationship. Parables invite the hearer to ask questions and enter into dialogue. Conversation.

Change: Don’t just listen with you ears, listen with your heart. Make a decision. Choose life. Don’t walk away without applying this. Go deeper. Discover the meaning for yourselves. Don’t be spoon fed. Chew on it, savour the taste. Allow it to change you. Parables are not about information but about transformation. They change our hearts. They invite you into a relationship and into a life that is changed. They help shape the heart that is willing to change. They invite the person into a relationship, to look both inwards and outwards.

If a parable leaves with a “Huh? I don’t get it”. You have 2 choices. Either you can throw a tantrum and say I don’t have time for this stupid childish story. You can respond in anger and arrogance and stomp off. Or you can engage and respond with humility and an eager curiosity to find out more.

If we come at these stories with an aggressive arrogance then we exclude ourselves from the gift that is being offered. The parables and the message of Jesus are like something hidden that becomes visible in the warmth of the good soil the message grows and matures.

What Jesus is giving his listeners is the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom. This is how God works, how he interacts with people. This can’t be condensed to a list. He quotes Isaiah the prophet, who said that when people’s hearts are hard they lose the ability to enter into the depths they don’t see or hear the truth that is given to them. They miss and dismiss the message.

“Parables entertain us at the front door while the truth slips in through a side window and sandbags us from behind.”  -Adrian Plass

How will you respond to what Jesus says in the parables? How will you respond to the way of life in the kingdom that is offered to you?

The parable of the sower is really about soil condition, the soil conditions correspond to the heart condition. Where are you hard hearted towards God? Where are you superficial in your relationship to God? Where is life choking out the life God offers you?

How will you cultivate a life with God that becomes receptive to his word and produces an abundant harvest?

Grace

LENT ADVENTURE 2016

Read John 1:14-18

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, ‘This is the one I spoke about when I said, “He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.”’) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Jesus was full of grace. John Stott once wrote that “Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.” Grace is central to the Gospel. So, why are those who call themselves “Christians’ often so ungracious? In the Church there can seem to be a distinct lack of grace. Our world is desperate for grace. Grace is an alien attitude to our consumer, entertainment culture. What kills grace? Legalism, manipulation, negativity, criticism, perfectionism, comparison, control, competition, pettiness, pride, bitterness, fear, resentment, unforgiveness, insecurity, guilt, shame, gossip.

The best ‘christians’ are those that get grace.

The best ‘christians’ are those that give grace.

Without grace we are just religious people. Without grace we are pharisees. Wayne Cordeiro writes, “You don’t expect or require flawlessness from an irresistible church. Mistakes are made, yet the people in your church own up to their mistakes, learn, and grow from them. An irresistible church is a model of grace and acceptance.”

For more on grace visit  this previous post on what it means to be a grace-full church or this post on The Gift of Grace.

Today, How will you put the grace of God to work (into effect)? These seems contradictory but everything we do in and for the Kingdom comes from a place of grace. Remember grace is opposed to earning not effort. See 1 Corinthians 15:9-11.

How will you respond with grace to those who do not ‘deserve’ grace?

How will you live in light of the ‘undeserved’ grace God has shown you?

Truth

LENT ADVENTURE 2016

Read John 8:31-47

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’

Out of the four Gospels, the account of John is the one that is obsessed with truth. From the beginning in which he describes Jesus as “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 To the end of Jesus’ life when the Roman governor Pilate scoffs. “What is truth?” John 18:38

And here Jesus is saying that the truth will set people free.

“Truth isn’t something you get out of a test tube, or a mathematical formula. We don’t have truth in our pockets. Philosophers and judges don’t own it. It is a gift, a strange quality that, like Jesus’ kingdom in fact, comes from elsewhere but is meant to take up residence in this world. Jesus has come to give evidence about this truth. He is himself the truth”. NT Wight

How about a bit of Hebrew thinking… In Hebrew thought truth, when used of people and things, is all about reliability and truthsworthiness. So in the OT, God is described as the God of truth: the God who can be trusted. The faithful one. The reliable one. The one who is able to act and whose care for his people is sure. Truth in the OT is emeth and is often linked with chesed, which is God’s loyalty in fulfilling his promises and his covenant. In the 1st chapter of John we have the only place in the NT where the equivalents of chesed and emeth occur: “The Word becomes flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Grace and Truth stand for chesed and emeth. To John the greek word for truth aléthia is the OT emeth. The covenant love (chesed) and steadfastness (emeth) that God displayed through the history of the OT have now come into fullness in the person of Jesus. God is faithful (emeth) true. He keeps his promises. He does what He’ll say he’ll do. He made a promise to Abraham to bless ALL people through him. He has a plan, to bring humans beings back into relationship with himself. That is his will, and his effective will is His Kingdom, what he wants done: A worldwide moral revolution. Jesus embodied and revealed the truth of God’ plan to redeem the world. His entire mission was to tell people about the truth.

To know the truth means to come to know God’s saving purpose as shown in Jesus. And the freedom promised is the freedom that the revolution of God brings; freedom from sin through Jesus. The truth that Jesus speaks is not only the truth of who God is but also the truth of God’s plan to rid the world of evil.

Today, How will you live be set free by the truth of who Jesus is?

How will you be someone who speaks truth (in love) and pursues truth? How will you join Him in His worldwide moral revolution? How will you live in light of the truth that Jesus has set you free from the power of sin?

Gospel

LENT ADVENTURE 2016

Read Luke 4:13-44

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

“I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God…,

because that is why I was sent.” Luke 4:43

Jesus was clear about his Message and his Mission. He came preaching that the Kingdom of God was near, that there was a new way to be the people of God. The good news of the kingdom was the only gospel Jesus preached and it was the only message he taught his disciples to proclaim. What message are we proclaiming? A message about the Kingdom (or about Jesus) that sounds like bad news is not the gospel of Jesus. 

Our friend, Simon Ponsonby wrote a letter to the UK Church, in it he points out that, “We have a gospel. We have the breath-taking, heart-racing, life-changing, epic story of God who loves us and has come for us. This story of stories presents God in Christ entering the world to rewrite our fractured story, to rescue the drowning, to find the lost, to free the bound, to comfort the broken, to restore the fallen, to enlighten the confused, to create community, to transform society, to recreate creation. Without it we are doomed, we are damned. Death and life and heaven and hell are at stake here.”

This is the story we live in. This is the adventure we are living out. This is the Gospel message and mission we have been called to participate in. By saying “yes” to following Jesus you have ‘signed up’ for the exact same mission: communicating the works and words that enact and explain the Kingdom of God.

Do you know the gospel?  Do you know the message you carry?  The Good News that God himself, the creator has come to rescue us from sin and renew all things in and through the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, and to establish his kingdom in the power of the Holy Spirit. (See Jon Tyson’s session on the Gospel from the New Wine Leaders Conference 2014)

Do you know this message of Gracious Acceptance? Of Life Transformation? Of a Renewed World? Today how will you communicate this message in your words and your actions?

For more on this listen to our series from the end of 2014: The Gospel.

the GOSPEL square

Fulfilment

LENT ADVENTURE 2016

Read Matthew 5:17-20

17 ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practises and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

This text comes near the beginning of the famous ‘sermon on the mount’ Jesus has just spoken about those who are blessed (The Beatitudes) and how His followers are to be Salt and Light. What Jesus taught was in the context of the quality of life that those who embraced the Kindom, responding to God’s invitation to live a new life and experience a new birth. All of Jesus’ teaching is Kingdom infused. This was not so much as to replace the Law and the Prophets as to fulfil or transcend the Law and the Prophets. This was new teaching and with authority. Authority greater than that of Moses or any of the Prophets.

Jesus lived and taught a kingdom life, a revolutionary counter cultural set of ethics that turned things upside down, or rather, the right way up.

The possibility of having a righteousness that surpasses the religious leaders comes only through an internal heart attitude, not through external practices. This is grace in action not earning God’s favour. How is your heart attitude? How is your character becoming more Christ like?

Today, ask the Holy Spirit to form Christ like character in you? You may want to pause and reflect in the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

Kingdom

LENT ADVENTURE 2016

Read Matthew 4:12-17

“When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali – to fulfil what was said through the prophet Isaiah:

‘Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’

From that time on Jesus began to preach,

‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’”

The Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God was central and foundational to all of Jesus teaching and all of His ministry. The Kingdom is the key theme that runs through the entire Biblical Story. 

This was not some geographical, nationalistic rule in which the king ruled with political and military might. The kingdom he was announcing was the establishment of His rule on earth. No longer would the kingdom of darkness be able to hold humanity in captivity and slavery. Jesus was announcing liberation. Jesus was announcing restoration. The renewal of all things.

The Kingdom of God has broken into the present. War has been declared. Jesus has come to invade and destroy the kingdom of darkness. There is an enemy that seeks to corrupt and destroy God’s creation. Jesus came to defeat satan and sin. And he did it. That is why we celebrate the beauty and the majesty of the cross and the resurrection at Easter.

The kingdom has broken in. “It is finished!”, Jesus shouted, but then why is there still disease and sickness, pain and suffering, death and sin? We live in the time between times. Between the inauguration and the consummation of the kingdom. We live in the presence of the future. The already and the not yet.

The already and the not yet.

The Now And The Not Yet – Derek Morphew from Multiply Vineyard on Vimeo.

“The theology of the Kingdom plays a unique and crucial role in the historical legacy of the Vineyard.” – Derek Morphew (See Why is the Kingdom important?)

“During the last ten years I have found myself teaching on the kingdom in conferences linked to the same movements in 16 countries and multiple languages. The perception of the leaders has been the same everywhere. We need to lay this foundation once again. The subject is so fundamental to scripture and to our spiritual genesis that we cannot allow a single generation, church or group of churches to miss it. I generally try to explain how crucial the kingdom is to this emerging tradition…” -Derek Morphew, Quoted by Luke Geraty

For an excellent series of teaching on The Kingdom see here.

Theologian Don Williams comments that when we pray, we ask for the future kingdom to break into the present world, rather calling down perfection from heaven.

Today, Pray, “Lord, your Kingdom come, Your Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven”. What signs of the kingdom are you seeing? Where do you see the Kingdom coming?

How are you living in the tension now and not yet of the Kingdom? Refusing to embrace the triumphalism of the “now and already” and refusing to accept the defeatism of the “not yet”. For more on this see Morphew’s Breakthrough: Discovering the Kingdom

Emmanuel

LENT ADVENTURE 2016

Read Matthew 1:18-24

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: his mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’

22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).

Emmanuel (Or Immanu el in the Hebrew) means ‘God with us’. God present with His People. The whole account of Matthew’s gospel is framed by God being with His People. At the end Jesus comments how he will be with them until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). ‘God-with-us’ becomes ‘Jesus-with-us’.

Tom Wright comments that “…we are to look at Jesus and see in him, however strange it may seem, the personal presence of Israel’s God, coming to be with his people and rescue them from the plight their sins have brought upon them – which, in ancient Jewish terms, was focused not least on the ‘exile’ they were still suffering, the plight of being overrun and ruled by pagan nations.

QUESTION:So why wasn’t Jesus called Emmanuel? 

Today, know that God is with you, His Presence, His Holy Spirit is near. Jesus told his followers that he would never leave them, therefore wherever you are, he is. And wherever you are, His Kingdom is near. How does that change the way you think about your day today?

Messiah

LENT ADVENTURE 2016

Read Isaiah 53:1-12​

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah is Salvation”, the book of Isaiah has been described as a Symphony of Salvation. This Salvation is experienced both personally and corporately and ultimately through the servant who will suffer. The person, Isaiah describes will be wounded and crushed for our sins to bring us back to God and take away our punishment. Salvation would come through the Messiah. Messiah, in Hebrew, means “Anointed One”, in Greek this is translated Christos or ‘Christ’. The Messiah was the coming King, David’s true heir, through whom YHWH would restore all things, through both judgement and salvation.

At the end of the book of Luke, two disciples meet a post resurrected Jesus (they don’t know it at the time), He leads them through the whole story of scripture showing them how,

“…it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations—starting from here, from Jerusalem! You’re the first to hear and see it. You’re the witnesses. What comes next is very important: I am sending what my Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until he arrives, until you’re equipped with power from on high.” Luke 24:44-48

He shows them the Messianic meaning and the missional meaning of the story of The Story. The Story so far can be seen as 5 Acts… Act 1: CreationAct 2: Fall and Act 3: Israel. Our Lent Adventure is about to take us into Act 4: Messiah. Hold on…

The Messiah would suffer on your behalf. What does this mean for you? Is His Sacrifice something that you accept or reject? Something you are thankful for or despise?

Today, where are you in need of Saving? Where are you in need of “total life-change”?

Whether you realise it or not, You are part of the great Story of God. What happened to and through Jesus affects your life. Jesus was sent to accomplish the Mission of God. You and I are called and sent to continue this mission: bringing the message of Salvation to those around us. Will you accept this mission? Will you go?