The Voice of Accusation Vs. Conviction

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After my sermon this past weekend (March 11/12), I got a huge amount of feedback about how helpful it was. Which is always encouraging – it was a good Sunday afternoon! Thank you!

But, I’ve also received this question a few times since then: How can you tell the difference between the voice of the accuser, and the voice of God convicting you of sin? Well, the answer is actually pretty easy…

Accuser: “You are wrong.”
God: “That choice was wrong.”

Accuser: “You are so bad.”
God: “That wasn’t right.”

Accuser: “See, you’re so worthless. Why bother trying?”
God: “You are pure, holy and blameless. You don’t need to live that way anymore.”

Are you seeing the difference? Satan accuses you – of you. God convicts you – not of you, but of sin and your calling to live into who you really are.

So, when God convicts us, it’s of our actions, not of our personal value or worth to Him. When the accuser accuses us, he takes our actions and then says that they are what determine our value and worth. 

God doesn’t guilt, He convicts. So, when you feel weighed down with guilt, shame and worthlessness, that isn’t from God. The difference is, when God convicts me of my sin (which is often), I know I’ve done something wrong. When Satan accuses me, I feel that I am intrinsically wrong.

The other thing to watch for is the outcome of the “conviction/accusation.”
With the accuser, his voice always leads to depression, shame, silence and despondency (or inaction). With God, His conviction leads to repentance, which literally means “changed behaviour” – a different way to live. With the accuser, his voice causes us to run from God – we hide (i.e. look at Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden). With God, His conviction leads to a greater reliance on Him and a desire to follow Him, knowing that He is faithful and just to cleanse us from every single wrong.

So, Satan tries to tempt us into believing our life is based on what we do (or fail to do). But, Christ has already done everything and so God’s conviction is based on living fully in that reality, not trying to earn it. 

May you hear God’s Spirit this week clearly, closely and personally, and may you not give the voice of the accuser the time of day.

Beautiful Quote on Love

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I read this in a book a few weeks ago and its really lingered with me:

Love is the great equalizer. One cannot love from a higher position. Love requires personal abandonment, a divesture of the social, economic, political, or hierarchical artifices we think make us somebody of worth. Only love does that, and the loving requires the divestiture, the humility. It descends, never condescends. This is what God is teaching us in Jesus. Phil Needham

Yeah I don’t have anything to add to that, other than that this is true and worth reflecting on. To help try reading Philippians 2:5-11 a few times, I think it will resonate really well with what Phil Needham wrote.

Following Jesus is Hard ~ Goodbye Violence, Revenge, and Retaliation

old-bible-1178354-mOn Sunday we explored the teaching of Jesus where he says to turn the other cheek. Jesus is incredibly clear, even if we wish he wasn’t, we are not called to resist an evil doer. Before we look at how, we wanted to explore why. Why are we called to live this way? Why are we called to practice non-resistance, non-retaliation, and love?

The easy answer isn’t actually the right answer. The easy answer is that violence, and an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind as Ghandi said. And that’s true but that isn’t actually why we are called to practice non-violence, non-retaliation, and turning the other cheek. We are called to live this way, not because an “eye for an eye” doesn’t work. We are called to live this way because this is who God is.

Jesus, as the perfect representation and revelation of God, practices what he preaches. On the cross he doesn’t resist the evil people, he turns the other cheek, and he practices what he preaches. This is who God is – one who turns the other cheek. So if this is who God is, this is who we are called to be. If this is the way of Jesus it needs to be the way of his followers.

So we don’t practice “turning the other cheek” because it is pragmatic or effective. We practice it because it is the way of Jesus Christ. Hauerwas says, “Jesus does not promise that if we turn the other check we will avoid being hit again. Non-retaliation is not a strategy to get what we want by other means. Rather, Jesus calls us to the practice of non-retaliation because that is the form that God’s care of us took on his cross…In a like manner, Christians are to give more than we are asked to give, we are to give to those who beg, because this the character of God”.

This is our calling, and so on Sunday we heard Jesus’ challenge: to turn the other cheek this week. How this will work its way out in our lives will be different in each situation. Jesus himself recognizes this with the different responses he gives in the passage. The point is that Kingdom people – turn the other cheek – because their king did, does, and will continue to.

“We are concerned not with evil in the abstract, but with the evil person. Jesus bluntly calls the evil person evil. If I am assaulted, I am not to condone or justify aggression. Patient endurance does not mean a recognition of its right…the shameful assault, the deed of violence and the act of exploitation are still evil. The disciple must realize this, and witness to it as Jesus did. Because this is the only way evil can be met and overcome. The very fact that the evil that assaults him is unjustifiable makes it imperative that he should n to resist it, but play it out and overcome it by patiently enduring the evil person. Suffering willingly endured is stronger than evil, it spells death to evil.” Dietrich Bonhoffer

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Do not resist and evil person

Take Aways…

  • What if we actually did what Jesus said?
  • God’s blessing allows us to live differently
  • “The only proper response to this word which Jesus brings with him from eternity is simply to do it” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Our calling is to not resist and evil doer
  • Jesus teaching shows us that that in God’s kingdom we will have enemies, encounter evil people, and we are not to resist
  • Jesus here is not teaching an ethic based on pragmatism, but on who he is
  • We are called to this life of non-resistance because we are called to follow Jesus
  • Jesus doesn’t let someone else’s violence dictate or determine his response.
  • Not-resisting evil doesn’t mean accepting evil either
  • “Jesus does not promise that if we turn the other check we will avoid being hit again. Non-retaliation is not a strategy to get what we want by other means. Rather, Jesus calls us to the practice of Non-retaliation because that is the form that God’s care of us took in his cross…In a like manner Christians are to give more than we are asked to give, we are to give to those who beg, because that this the character of God” Hauerwas
  • We are called to live this way of non-aggression, of peace, reconciliation, and grace – because that is who God is
  • Yes we are stand against evil but we are to do it in Jesus’ way
  • Can you commit today to trying this week – To practice turning the other cheek
  • “Cheek-turning is not advocated as what works (it usually does not) but advocated because that is the way God is – God is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. This is not a stratagem for getting what we want but the only manner of life available now, that in Jesus we have seen what God wants”. Hauerwas.

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?What did you find hardest about this teaching? What did you find compelling? When has someone ‘turned the other cheek’ and really changed you? Who might you be called to turn the other cheek towards this week?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk to your kids about today’s teaching. Teach them about how we are called not to retaliate, but turn the other cheek. Make it practical and real and share with them how Jesus did that for us so on the playground, at school, or even at home if someone hits us, or hurts us we don’t hit or hurt back.

Challenge for this Week: Commit to turning the other cheek

Advent: A Time of Waiting and Finding

432071_70194656On Sunday we looked at the art of waiting. In Advent there is a sense and need to wait. We look forward to Christ’s coming, to his entering the world, and to our salvation.

And for many of us we are waiting for some significant things to happen in our lives. So how do we patiently wait in this season, how do we not give up, and even find what we are waiting for?

This is what we looked at on Sunday, preaching from an odd place ~ the page between the Old and New Testaments. This page represents a people of waiting. It represents the Israelite people expecting and desiring God to fulfill his promises. It represents a people waiting and longing for the Messiah.

The truth is though that the longer we wait, the less hopeful we get. But even while we wait we can still have hope, because the page always turns, the story doesn’t end.

We turned the page from the Old to the New Testament and read the first verse in Matthew 1:1 that says, “This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus, the Messiah, a descendant of King David and of Abraham”. Jesus arrives, the promises are fulfilled, the Messiah comes, and the waiting isn’t wasted. And we need to remember this in Advent with the promise of God’s arrival. That the waiting is never wasted, and Jesus does come, he does arrive.

Pope John Paul writes, “Advent is then a period of intense training that directs us decisively to the One who has already come, who will come and who continuously comes.” Jesus does come, he is always on his way, and he does arrive. So we have hope even in the waiting, and we must never ever give up, because Jesus is the one who comes to us.

Advent is about waiting, but it is also about finding. And when you wait for God it is never wasted. So we ended with this main point that Christ is coming, don’t give up waiting. If you are waiting from a dream, a healed friendship, marriage, a job, whatever it may be: don’t give up, Christ is coming.

We ended with three simple ways to put this waiting into practice. First, that we need to acknowledge and name what it is we are waiting for. Second we need to share with God the depths of what we hope for, long for, and strive for. We need to be honest with ourselves, and with God for what we hope for. And then thirdly we need to watch for his arrival.

Some missed Jesus’ arrival because they stopped watching, but Advent reminds us that Jesus does arrive. So watch for the arrival of Jesus in your life because with him comes health, life, and hope.

So the challenge for this week was simple: watch for Jesus’ arrival. And we prayed together this prayer from Revelation 22:20. Our Lord says, ‘Surely, I come quickly.’ Even so; come, Lord Jesus. May that be true in your life as well.

This is truly a different waiting from our familiar ‘waiting’. We wait for something different, quite different – we wait for God. Waiting for God cannot be like that kind of waiting which says or thinks: ‘It would be wonderful if he came; but if he does not come , then we must go one living without him.” We cannot wait for God so ready to resign ourselves to his not coming, so indifferent, so foolish, as we might wait for an increase in salary. No, that would be foolish, meaningless waiting if we really mean God.  But if we will not be satisfied with what is offered us today as godlike words, we will go on waiting, with longing, seeking ,and hoping until at last, it is God himself who comes to help and to comfort…Then our waiting and hoping is not like a piece of wishful thinking, or a fantasy, but life itself. Then we live only because we wait for God. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Christ is coming, don’t give up waiting.

Take Aways…

  • Three responses in advent: Waiting, Willingness, and Worship
  • Waiting is a part of life as a Christian
  • God’s timing is not on-demand
  • “Celebrating advent means learning how to wait waiting is an art which our impatient age has forgotten. We want to pluck the fruit before it has had time to ripen” Bonhoeffer
  • The longer we wait, the less hopeful we get.
  • You turn the page from a place of waiting to a place of finding
  • Advent is then a period of intense training that directs us decisively to the One who has already come, who will come and who continuously comes. Pope John Paul
  • Jesus is the one who comes to us.
  • Advent is about waiting but it is also about finding.
  • When you wait for God it is never wasted.
  • Christ is coming, don’t give up waiting.
  • We truly acknowledge what we need and what we are hoping for
  • Share with God what you are waiting for
  • Watch for Jesus arrival
  • Our Lord says, ‘Surely, I come quickly.’ Even so; come, Lord Jesus. Rev 22:20

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? What made you laugh? If you were given the marshmallow test as a child – how would you have done? What are you currently waiting for? What makes it difficult? What helps to make the waiting “easier”? How are you watching for the arrival of Jesus in your life? How might you try to watch for him this week? Who can help to journey with you as you wait and watch?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Try the marshmallow experiment with your kids. See how long they would last. Tell them if you would have found it really tough to do. Take sometime to talk to them about the importance of waiting, and patience. Remind them too that in the big things of life Jesus promises to show up.

Challenge for this Week: Watch for Jesus’ arrival

 

Come to Christ, not just the Church

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we present Jesus. I’ve really noticed something of late.

What I’ve noticed is how much of our language focuses on “church” as the destination. That people are seeking to get others to go to this church service, program, speaker, worship event, etc. There is nothing wrong with any of these things, in fact, I think they are important. But we must be clear, the goal of life is not to get people to go to church, but to go to Christ.

That’s where the disconnection happens, because theologically you never go to church; as a Christian you are the church. You bring church with you. Our message needs to be, come to Christ and become part of the church. Our message is come to Jesus and join the adventure of following Christ together. Our message is good news to all. The church has the amazing role and responsibility of sharing that message. But the church shouldn’t transcend  or replace the message.

So all I’m saying is, the church is important, but it’s important only because of Jesus Christ. So when you invite a neighbor to church don’t stop there. Make sure you invite them to discover Jesus as well. Because the amazing thing is that once someone comes to Jesus, they become the church wherever they are…