#Nexus2015 – Cross Shaped Ministry – Reflections Part 2

(The recent Nexus2015 Conference “A cross shaped ministry” thought through the implications the cross has on how we think about gospel work in our churches. These are some of my personal reflections.)

3. The cross sets the terms of gospel ministry

The cross was divine judgement for sin, and Jesus’ resurrection brings the Spiritual renewal and transformation from sin. This lead to one of the most practical comments on the day… we must beware a common shift in our churches where “sin” only refers to “personal brokenness”, where “growth” only refers to “self-improvement” and where “sacrifice” only refers to “the personal circumstances I’m in at the moment”.

No. Sin is the rebellion against God, the defiant disobedience of His commands in heart and actions. Growth is the miraculous spiritual transforming power that allows Christians to say no to sin and obey God in the midst of pain. Sacrifice is giving up things for a better heavenly reality – it hurts and we need to stop fooling ourselves that we’re doing it.

4. The cross shows us the the pattern of gospel ministry

Since we follow a master who was beaten, ridiculed, persecuted… we should expect the same things, and we should call others to follow.

This is similar to the 1st point about our personal motivations, but it must go further. When we call on others to follow and serve in our churches, we must be wary we are not suggesting they do it for their own glory, or in their own strength, or for us – the under-shepherd! Rather the “recruiting conversation” should be a call to serve their master and his plans.

Next post… “Nexus2015 – What was missing…”

The gospel dares us to ignore our feelings…

The gospel of the Lord Jesus is unemotional… it is simply a truth. Jesus; the God-Man died and rose to life for sinners; to absorb their guilt, punishment and death, and to make them righteous, holy and alive as His adopted brothers in eternity to display the glory of His Father.

But the gospel does cause emotions. The gospel causes many many different types of emotions! Christians can rightly feel things all the way from shame to joy, from insignificance to glorious-pride (in a good way).

But what happens when you feel one aspect of the gospel more than another? What about those times when you feel the guilt and shame of your sin; when you feel the weight of your personal rebellion against God… when you feel how small and insignificant you are and how you have nothing… absolutely nothing to offer… just sin; wrath-worthy sin.
What about those times when your feelings of guilt are so strong you just can’t believe that God would want you, let along love you and want good things for you?

See, it’s not that you don’t understand the gospel… you “know” that Jesus’ blood can atone. You “know” that God can forgive through the cross. You “know” what God says, but you just don’t feel it – you feel like it can’t be true… “God could never love me, not now, not after what I’ve done.”

That’s when you need to ignore your feelings. They’re lying to you. In fact, it’s Satan lying to you. So please, don’t act out of your feelings! Don’t act in line with your emotions! Choose, nay, DARE to ignore your feelings and act according to the gospel.

Imagine for a moment… if God really loved you and wanted good things for you, what could you pray for? What would you feel comfortable praying for if you truly felt God was your great and powerful daddy? Anything, right!?! Trivial things, right?! Little nothing things, right?!

So dare to do that! Boldly approach the throne of grace and ask for the type of things that you shouldn’t be able to ask for! Take the plunge! Do it!

Trust God’s unemotional gospel in the midst of your emotional turmoil.

 

Jesus doesn’t want to ‘take the wheel’, he wants…

He wants you to learn how to drive properly.

We need to keep explaining to Christians what it means for Jesus to be their Lord. Having Jesus as our Lord does mean he needs to rule over every aspect of our lives. Jesus does want all our lives, not just the scraps or even most of it… he wants to rule all of us.

But that doesn’t mean Jesus wants to take over driving your life. It might feel like you’re letting go… but really you’re just choosing to drive the way he tells you to.

 

 

Have you exhausted your discipline muscle?

Making decisions takes effort. Making hard decisions takes more effort. Making decisions to be godly in the face of temptation takes enormous effort (and spiritual power!).

A good word for this is discipline. And I reckon we’re all built with a certain amount of discipline… A certain amount we can handle each day. Just like our other muscles (which are powered by God’s strength), our discipline muscle can grow stronger and can get exhausted.

If that’s the case, it seems wise to…

  • Consider your day; if you’re going to be going out with mates and possibly having a beer, you’ll want to have heaps of disciple energy in reserve…
  • Consider your nights; if you’re not getting enough sleep, that’s going to severely deplete your discipline reserve.
  • Consider the times you’ve sinned; have they been at certain times of the week? Possibly after big draining events (like exams, deadlines, late-shifts, arguments)?

This whole thinking about discipline is why it’s better to setup scheduled direct transfer giving. You decide on your donation when you’re in the best frame of mind, and you follow through on your intentions even when you wouldn’t have the discipline to do it.

What other areas of your Christian life can you do like that?

How the “grace of God” teaches us

Paul writes is Titus chapter 2,

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…

People often approach this passage with a particular sin in mind… they have that behaviour they try and hate, they try to stop, but they really love and they keep on doing… and they come to this passage and feel even worse because it seems to imply that the reason they keep doing it is because they don’t understand “the grace of God”. They think to themselves, “Why hasn’t the grace of God taught ME to say ‘no’ to this sin?! Why hasn’t it taught me to be ‘self-controlled’?!? Maybe I’m not even part of God’s grace!?”

That’s Satan talking, twisting God’s word – again.

God grace “is teaching”. Continually and presently. It hasn’t finished teaching. Just think, if it had, you would NEVER sin, in ANY way.

So how IS the grace of God teaching us? Well, what does the grace of God actually do – or allow us to do?

Grace allows us to boldly approach the throne of grace (Heb 4:16). Where sin increased, grace increased all the more (Rom 5:20). See, every time we sin and repent to God, (i.e. asking him for grace again), we are again trusting him at his word that he will graciously forgive again. We are being schooled by His grace every time we pray the Lord’s prayer, “forgive us our sins”. Responding to God’s grace reminds us and teaches us what is unrighteous (our sin) and what is righteousness (God’s grace through Jesus’ life, sacrifice and death for others).

Grace will only be our teacher if we continually go to his lessons.

Rather than “repent”, should we say “trade up”?

What does it mean to repent of sin? It’s more than just feeling remorse for sin. It often entails taking definitive action… saying sorry, giving the item back, making amends. But it’s more than performing certain actions too. We’ve all seen the child who gives-in and reluctantly returns the toy to their sibling.

Christian repentance must have something to do with Jesus. And the best way I can think of this is like trading-up.

Repentance is when you admit to Jesus that you were wrong, that you wanted the wrong thing – even if you didn’t DO it, you still deserve punishment… and admitting that you’d like to trade it in.

“Jesus, my heart wanted something you hate. I even acted on that desire. I rightly deserve wrath. But if you’re willing, I’d like to take up your offer to trade-in my wrong for your forgiveness and righteousness? That’s an amazing deal I don’t deserve.”

See, repentance is the action of giving our wrong desire to Jesus, and asking him to take it away from us so we don;t do it any more… and asking him to replace that wrong with his righteousness.

We’re a people who keep trading-up, day after day!

The difference between accusing and rebuking is…

Intended outcome. The difference between accusing and rebuking is the desired outcome.
A rebuke is a form of love. It’s really an appeal. It’s an appeal to stop, repent and renew ones commitment. Sometimes it’s an appeal to have a soft heart and admit wrong-doing in the first place. But in all those scenarios, a rebuke is aimed at a certain outcome, by the grace of God.
As such, a rebuke doesn’t carry a condemnation in itself. It may outline a future consequence (“if this doesn’t stop we will need to take these steps”). Rather, it is an appeal to see and change one’s sin with an offer of forgiveness.
On the other hand, an accusation is what satan does. An accusation is not an appeal to someone to change, but a verdict that change is not enough, and forgiveness is out of reach. It doesn’t look to a renewed commitment, but looks to incite guilt and self-loathing. An accusation is a declaration of condemnation.
However, because the difference is a “desired outcome”, that means someone who is unwilling to repent as desired will only hear a loving rebuke as an accusation. They can’t get past the first part of the rebuke… The idea they did something that needs to change.