Recent blog posts
The subject of Holy Spirit Baptism has been very divisive. Typically people are polarized into two camps:
Many things about Christmas have pagan origins. Does this mean that by participating we are opening ourselves to the occult? What about Christmas trees, yule logs, lights, mistletoe and even the date of December 25?
When we look deeper, huge parts of our culture have pagan origins, from the names of the days of the week, the months, common personal names and place names.
One pagan website points out that
Many people celebrate Halloween, which has much more obvious pagan origins, and some music and new-age practices have explicit connections.
I am going to suggest we can divide these cultural elements into three categories:[read more...]
The answer to this might seem very easy to some people. The Arminian might respond, “Repeat the words of this simple prayer after me”, or “Just ask Jesus into your heart”.
Others might say, “If someone is not a Christian, then they are dead in trespasses and sins and so can’t do anything”.
I believe what Jesus said in John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” But on the other hand Jesus very frequently told people to come to him, implying that this choice was available to them.
We have to maintain the tension between:
The starting point must be that the Holy Spirit is working in a person, even before they are born again (otherwise they would have no spiritual interest). It is possible to resist the Spirit (Acts 7:51) up to a point, but ultimately God can break through any resistance (e.g. Paul’s salvation).
The second assumption is that the words of the gospel are like seeds which the Spirit can bring to life. So we don’t tell people that they are required to trust in Jesus yet cannot. We tell them to trust him with the confidence that the Spirit is the one who gives power to these words.
The third assumption is that assurance is the work of the Spirit, not our job. So we don’t say, “Now you have prayed this prayer, you are a Christian.” We say, “keep seeking God until you know you have a new spiritual life within you.”
So now back to the question itself—what must a person do? The simple answer is “repent and believe”, but this needs some explanation, and raises an important question, “How much do you need to know to become a Christian—is there a minimum?”
I think there are three things you need to know:
Here are my thoughts, taken from an outline of a sermon on: "What does a person do to become a Christian?"
1. Who God is:[read more...]
The command to repent is right at the core of the Gospel message preached in the New Testament, but repentance sits very ill with today’s self-righteous society. Three possible approaches are:
Unwilling to limit the gospel to the obviously immoral (a), to focus on moralism (b) or to change the Gospel (c), I want to find a way of convicting people of their most important sin—failure to love and acknowledge God as their creator and Lord.
The second target I want to hit is the politically correct pluralism that says: “I am not against your god—he is fine for you. I am not his enemy, I am just neutral in this whole god debate.”
The reality is that we are either for God or against him. But how do you convince people of that?
My suggestion is an approach in which we start with what God is doing—He is involved in a cosmic struggle to root out every form of evil and injustice in the universe. Given this situation, not to be on God’s side is actually to help his enemies.
This is especially true when you consider that the forces of evil are united by one thing: Denial of God’s rights as their Lord.
So if you do not acknowledge God, then you are siding with his enemies[read more...]
Paul is arrested in Jerusalem by the Roman soldiers. As he is being carried away he says to the captain, “I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.” (Acts 21:39)
Remarkably, Paul is given permission. “Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:”
What will he say? Now is his opportunity to preach Christ and him crucified.
…but no! Instead, Paul gives his testimony!! What on earth was he thinking?
I recently listened to a podcast from the White Horse Inn about how inappropriate it is to give one’s testimony when presenting the Gospel. One of the speakers said
So why did Paul not take this golden opportunity to preach “the Biblical Gospel” but instead told his story. Actually it is worse that that—Paul’s testimony is actually repeated no less than three times in Acts. Luke gives it to us, and then Paul tells it on two occasions rather than giving a more cross-centred Gospel message.
So why does Paul do this? The answer is very simple: first and foremost Jesus tells us to be witnesses.
The biblical scholar, Professor A. A. Trites, looked at all the Greek terms in the New Testament used to refer to evangelism and came to the conclusion that the word translated as ‘witness’ or ‘testimony’ occurs more often that all the others put together. He published this in an excellent book entitled The New Testament Concept of Witness.
The book was later republished in a popular format as New Testament Witness in Today's World and in it he states, that the group of related “witness” words appear over two hundred times in the New Testament (p.9)
Paul didn’t just spin an interesting yarn. His testimonies were very focused. If you compare the account that Luke gives us together with Paul’s two accounts, some valuable insights can be gained into Paul’s strategy.
Your main evangelistic responsibility as a Christian is simply to be a witness to Jesus and what he has done for you.
We have several detailed accounts of Paul preaching the Gospel. It is very interesting to see how different his message is when he is preaching to pagan Gentiles as compared with his message to Jews.
The two occasions are:
It is quite remarkable how similar these two sermons are. I have laid the two passages out in parallel here: Paul preaching to pagan Gentiles--Acts 14 and 17 laid out in parallel.
Here are some observations:
I was once visiting a church and the pastor announced, “We’re not going to have a sermon today because we want to just hand the whole meeting over to the Holy Spirit and see his power”. This immediately felt wrong to me, and I started trying to think through why.
For one thing, if the preaching is from the Scriptures, then it is “Holy Spirit” truth. So it is not a choice between “Word” and “Spirit” but “Spirit” and “Spirit”.
But then I read Act 14:3, “So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” The miracles came, not instead of the preaching, but because of the preaching! So if you want to see signs and wonders, then preach a message that God will want to bear witness to, with a supernatural “Amen!”
So it looks like we have two operations of the Spirit: the Spirit of truth and the Spirit of power. I wondered whether it would be possible to go through the Bible and divide the references to the Spirit into to those two categories. As I started on the project I found plenty of truth verses, such as:
And power verses, such as
But then a third category emerged. He is the Spirit of love
I began to get excited when I found several verses that combined two of the three and some that combined all three, such as “For God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7) It seems I was onto something. (The complete list of references can be found at loveintruth.com)
I see an unfortunate tendency for churches to zero in on one, or maybe two, of these three aspects of the Spirit. Charismatic churches want to see the Spirit move in power. Reformed churches love the way the Spirit leads us into truth. New churches are emerging whose main focus is strong relationship.
But what does the Spirit think of this? Does he want us to take one aspect of his ministry to the exclusion of the others? How would a girl react if a man said to her, “I like your beauty, but I’m really not interested in your mind!”
So what does it mean for churches that want to see more of God’s power? Instead of cancelling the sermon, I suggest we need to ask the Spirit to lead us into such an excellent understanding of truth that the Lord will bear witness to it in power, as in Act 14. And then we need to be radical in our love: “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22)[read more...]
King's Community Church (KCC) is a Newfrontiers church in Hedge End, an eastern suburb of Southampton. I visited the church last Sunday. The church has a beautiful building with a surrounding grassy space. The auditorium has a balcony and feels very compact, but can seat 400. Even so, the church has to have two Sunday morning meetings to accommodate everyone.
We received a very warm welcome and in the picture above are chatting with Steve Haines, one of the elders. There was a great time of worship with some contributions from the floor. It was a little shorter than I am used to, but I discovered later that the aim is to keep the meeting length shorter during the summer months.
The sermon was truly excellent—one of the best gospel messages I have heard for a long time. The preacher was Steve Chick and he was kind enough to give me his sermon notes afterwards, so I can say authoritatively that this outline is accurate :)
The Secret of Satisfaction (Matt 5:6)
The sermon had a really good application both for the Christian and the non-Christian, and can be downloaded here: http://www.kcc.uk.net/Media/AllMedia.aspx?speaker=Steve%20Chick
Finally it was great to see our friend Mark and Steph Heath again. Mark is well known for his Word and Spirit blog which is well worth following.[read more...]
Last weekend I visited Jubilee Church in London, UK. I was determined to visit the Saturday morning prayer meeting—Adrian had told me that it was the power house behind the growth of the church. (I blogged about the church two years ago: http://chri.st/jubilee-church-enfield and there has been remarkable growth since then.)
Jubilee meets in a Cineworld cinema in the central hub of Enfield, a multicultural urban area on the edge of north London.