mandag 29. oktober 2012

Mark 11:1-25 The King appears


Mark 11:1-25

1. What is impossible with man, is possible with God

Let’s deal with the last verses first – what catches all of our greedy little eyes is this “23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

We convieniently leave out the next verse talking about forgiving people and difficult things like that. No, these verses are where it’s at – power, prestige, commanding mountains to fall into the sea, and demanding - I mean asking - God for things. We love it because it pulls at our very core – we can be like God. We can be God, deciding for ourselves. After all, if you’re asking God for things and he’s GOT to do it – well, who’s really God? That’s our problem of sin – we want to be God instead of letting God be God. We have swapped him out with us.

This is a favourite verse of those white-suited salesmen you see on so-called “Christian” television. Peddlers of false religion who sell modern-day indulgences to gullible people. Gullible because they don’t know their Bible, they don’t know the God they profess to love in all his power and might and awesomeness. Who in their right mind would believe that the God of the Bible would do whatever you ask him. Seriously? You? You with all your sin and failings, your rebellion, your shame, your darkness and evil? Ordering God about like he’s your servant, there to bow to the whim of the great <insert your name here>.

What’s the first rule of Bible study? Context.
And the second rule? Context.
And the third? Yes, context!

Because a text without a context is a pretext for a con. And, boy, do these guys con people. They run multi-million dollar enterprises on these cons.

But you might say “I was blessed by that man (or woman)” “they really helped me to understand this or that about God” or “my aunt was saved after listening to x”. God often speaks through the mouths of evil men, and achieves his purposes through his enemies. Let me remind you of the story of Balaams donkey, where the donkey speaks God’s word to Balaam, which causes Balaam to bless Israel and not curse them. God can use the words of an ass to bring blessing. Doesn’t make the ass any less of an ass. Don’t be fooled.

These verses do not mean “whatever pathetic worldly desire I have right now, I can ask for it and God will do it.” No, you cannot muster up enough “faith” to get a Ferrari, no matter how hard you try.
These verses are talking about something much greater than that. The mountain that Jesus is talking about is the impossibility of men to be saved – particularly here the people of Israel. And if Israel can’t be saved, God’s chosen people, what hope have the rest of us?!
None at all.
But as Jesus stated in the text we looked at two weeks ago “what is impossible with man is possible with God” (10:27). Have faith in God brothers, because the mountain of sin and rebellion against God is about to be dealt with – by Jesus on the cross. Jesus will cast that into the sea, the mountains made low and the valleys raised up for the Lord, a highway in the desert, a highway to the city of our God (Is 40 quoted in Mark 1:3).

So does this mean if we pray a pious prayer, asking God for good things like salvation for our loved ones, that he will answer – must answer? Again, no, because who is God and who isn’t? We know already from Mark that prayer is a declaration of dependence on God, not a list of things for him to do. This has to do with two things: 1. The offer of salvation for everyone. Jesus has made a way for everyone to be saved, he has removed the mountain, but who is saved is not for us to decide. 2. You, me, individually – if we pray for forgiveness, and believe in Jesus, we will be forgiven. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

How do we know that he’s talking about salvation here, and not big houses and fast cars and pretty women? The very next verse, which even begins with the word “and”, is talking about what? 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
Forgiveness. Being forgiven by the Father. Being accepted. This is the real big deal. Ferraris are rubbish, utter nonsense compared to this. Knowing the Creator – as FATHER. Being forgiven, completely. Accepted. Free. No guilt, no shame. Utter contentment in life no matter your circumstances. Happiness whether you own a Ferrari or a pair of battered shoes with holes in the soles! This is where it’s at. And as we have been treated, we cannot do any less than treat others the same way. We have been forgiven so we can forgive.

This is where it’s at. Let us stand in awe of Jesus as he does the impossible. Lift up your eyes – lift them up and see your saviour king. Lift up your voice and shout Hallelujah (God saves), Hosanna (save now) in the highest! For here comes the saviour, the humble Warrior King, the Son of David going to war for his people, a battle that will cost his very life.

Jesus can do the impossible, casting the mountain into the sea, because Jesus is the Servant King.

2. Jesus the Servant King

7 [T]hey brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” 11 And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple

Jesus comes riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, the crowds rejoicing and celebrating, just as in 1 Kings 1 when Solomon, the King, the son of David, comes riding into Jerusalem on a donkey (the king’s mule). Here is the true son of David, of which Solomon, the king of peace and wisdom, was really a poor shadow. Jesus is the true King. This is the King we are looking for, fulfilling the word spoken by the prophet Zechariah:

Zec 9:9–11 (ESV) Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. 11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

Here comes Isaiah’s suffering Servant of God, the king who serves – for to set us free from the waterless pit of death he must (10v45) give his life as a ransom for many. What king is this! What love is this!

If the crowds had really understood what Jesus was doing, instead of just thinking he was a political rescuer, they really would have shouted Hosanna (lit. save now). And really would have blessed his name. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Comes from Psalm 118, a Psalm of military triumph against overwhelming odds.
Jesus will fight and win the impossible battle. And he calls us to join him in his triumph. If we will only have faith to pray for forgiveness, believing we have received it, it will be ours. For it is bought by the blood of the King, guaranteed by his awesome love, his awesome power.

Jesus is the Servant King.

3. Jesus the King

But Jesus is not just a servant – he is the servant KING. And the King demands respect, he demands allegiance, and in his anger he will judge. And this is what’s happening with the fig tree and the clearing of the Temple.

Remember how Mark’s Gospel opened?

1:2 Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, - it’s a direct quote from Malachi 3:1. And the verse continues like this: And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple….But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

Malachi promised a day when the Lord himself will come suddenly to his Temple, a sudden day when the sins of Israel will be exposed. Israel’s judgement or evaluation is at hand, and they are found wanting. The fig tree is green – it looks good from the outside – all the religious pomp and circumstance is there, all the rituals… but there’s no fruit, no reality, no love for the Lord God. It is a withered, dead tree.

The cursing of the fig tree, with the Temple pronouncement in between, is part of Mark’s “sandwich” structure. We know what the cursing of the tree (the “bread”) means because of the “meat” in the middle: clearing the Temple. The fig tree is Israel. The fig tree is the old religious order. The fig tree symbolizes both the hollow reality behind the imposing religious structure and the unrepentant, fruit-less nation of Israel itself.

The Temple is unfit for receiving the King. The Temple (God’s “house” v17) is unfit as a house of prayer for the nations – instead it is a den of robbers. And, we might add, a den of murderers – look at v18 the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.

Jesus has come to establish a new Israel, those who follow him – and judgement will fall on the old Israel, who, in only a few days, will crucify their true Davidic King.

New Israel, however, represented by the disciples, will grow from strength to strength, because the very power of God is behind it. Indeed, they merely need to speak to a “mountain” and it will obey them.
On the Day of Pentecost they prayed and received the Holy Spirit of God, and spoke to the mountain of religious Jews of their guilt and their need to repent and accept Jesus as both Lord and Christ. They were cut to the heart, and over 3000 repented and were baptised in one day!

Israel re-forged!

Jesus quotes from Isaiah 56:7 “my house shall be called a house of prayer”. Isaiah 55 and 56 is a beautiful vision of the compassion of our Lord. It begins like this Is 55:1–3 (ESV) “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

Here is “David”, the true King, standing in his Temple, offering free forgiveness, free because he is about to pay the ultimate price. And the vision in Isaiah is not just for Israel, but the whole world. Note Jesus’ quote “a house of prayer for ALL the nations.” In Isaiah 56 all nations are part of the restoration, all peoples can hear the call to “come”. So will we listen? Will we come to the King while he is to be found? Or will you harden your heart?

I‘m going to end with a story which Jesus tells in Lk 14:16–24 [Jesus] said…, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’ ”

Inside or outside? Feasting with the King? Or facing the outer darkness? Those are the choices.

Jesus is the King, the Servant King, come to judge and to save, and we need to respond rightly.

After listening to this there’s two ways of responding.

The wrong way, the Impossible application is this: I, like the Pharisees, can save myself. I can impress God with my religion, my good works, my niceness. That will work.

The right way is to bow down before this awesome king, and beg him to accept us, to forgive us. And if we do so, listen to these comforting words 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Is 55:6–9 (ESV) “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; ...return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.


søndag 21. oktober 2012

Mark 10:35-11:11 The Servant King

Mark 10:35-11:11

What kind of boss would you like to have?

What do you think makes a great leader?
Most of you are probably thinking along the lines of someone who cares for you as a person, not just a cog in a machine. Someone approachable, not distant. Someone who listens to other people’s ideas, not who rules with an iron fist. Something like that? I doubt many of us thought of an autocratic dictator as good leaders. Most people in history, and many people in the world today, however, would disagree with you.

In a survey of leadership throughout world history an interesting pattern emerged. Most societies viewed compassion in a leader as weakness. Leaders were strong, exercising authority over people, and lording it over them. People were there to serve the leaders. This was across the board, even to the level of fatherhood. Many fathers believe that their authority is given them in order to please them instead of to serve others.

But as Christianity started to spread, there was suddenly a totally different model of leadership on display: compassionate, servant-hearted, looking out for the interests of others. Now Jesus wasn’t the first (or the last) to proclaim such ways of leading, but he was the only one who truly embodied it, washing his disciples’ feet, dying on the cross for his followers, and commanding them to do the same.

And eventually they did, and changed the world, although in tonight’s passage they’re still stuck in old ways of thinking.

1. Christians live to serve

Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

You’ve really got to feel sorry for the disciples here – getting it wrong AGAIN! This is a repeat of 9:33-37 (Jesus predicts his death, the ultimate act of service from the greatest person in the universe, and the disciples? Well, they were v34 “arguing about who was the greatest”!) and a repeat of 8:31-33 where Peter, who has just declared Jesus as the Christ, then gets it completely wrong and rebukes Jesus for suggesting he should die – but that’s exactly why Jesus came! This is a rescue mission.

But it’s a hard thing to get your head around isn’t it. I mean, why do we all want to be rich and famous? It’s not because we want to run around serving people is it? No! It’s so we can get people to serve us. At our heart we want to be God, we want to be the one calling the shots, shaping our life to be the way we want it to be. And the disciples are no different. They’re just as sinful as we are. There’s nothing special or better about them – except that Jesus called them out, to follow him.

And so, because they have the same problem we do, the disciples blow it again. After Jesus’ third proclamation of his death, his ultimate service, they completely ignore what he’s said “There, there Jesus, that’s very nice and all, but you’re not really going through with this – when we’re in Jerusalem you’ll flex your muscles and show them who’s boss, and we, well we want to be right beside you telling people what’s what and who’s who.” You can see that they don’t believe Jesus’ proclamations of his death because they readily agree to his challenge “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Are you willing to suffer like I will, to drink the cup of God’s judgement, to die to save a sinful world? That’s what he’s asking them.
And they answer We are able.
Not a clue!

And the other disciples are no better, all indignant because they didn’t think to ask Jesus first, like children arguing over who gets to sit where.

No, says Jesus, it shall not be so among you (v43). You disciples, and all who follow me, are called to pick up your cross, deny yourself, and follow me. Put your pride and ego and arrogance to death. In humility to almighty God, go where you are sent and do what you are sent to do.

Jesus’ humility, his willingness to serve, even to death, stems from a secure knowledge of who he is. When you are trying to boost yourself, stroke your ego, constantly aware of who’s looking at me, what do they think – you cannot serve. When you are secure in who you are, a child of God, seated in Christ at the very throne of God, declared innocent, with a perfect record of obedience already proclaimed from now until the day you die – wow. Then your sensitive ego can be shut up while you throw yourself into whatever task God has given you, however small or difficult or demeaning (low) it is. Because then you are following in the footsteps of Christ.

Do we really understand this? This demand on our lives to follow Christ? Do we get what pick up your cross means? It means we give up our rights to Jesus. It means we become his slave. It means that in order to win others to him we will do anything to glory in our Saviour, no matter what. Let me read some of the story of Asif, a Pakistani Muslim who became a Christian – and suffered the consequences. (from Voice of the Matrys book)

Asif had a motorbike accident and broke his leg – but a Christian lady prayed for him and his leg was healed! This made Asif angry – how dare he pray to Jesus – but also set Asif to thinking. Asked mulvi – tried to poison him before accepted Jesus. Accepted Jesus. Thrown out of home. Beaten. Arrested. Lost "everything". But carries on for the joy of sharing Jesus with those around him. Has everything that matters. Story of Asif from Pakistan in 2001. As far as we know, still preaching fearlessly today.

What are you still hanging on to as your “right”? What are you demanding from God? We belong to Jesus, not anyone else, and certainly not ourselves. 

But after reading something like that I just feel guilty. Who can live like that?!
If you’re anything like me your heart is always loudly demanding its rights and sulking and being put out when it doesn’t get its way. I get angry when I’m put out. I’m so selfish!

Jesus, the way of loving service is impossible!

I can’t do it!

Exactly. Doing this – following Jesus - requires Jesus’ miraculous power at work in us.

2. Following Jesus is impossible without Jesus 

I’m so happy that this miracle is placed right here. Another blind man whose eyes are being opened. The first (in 8:22-26) revealed the power of Jesus in opening the eyes of the disciples to his identity. We cannot recognise God without God’s power to open our eyes. So pray for those who don’t know Jesus as Lord and Saviour – that’s the most important thing you can do for them. And then tell them, invite them to church or Bible study, and keep praying.

But this miracle is for Christians. Because this section is all about how do you follow Jesus. And just when the disciples are getting it all wrong, again, Jesus opens the eyes of a blind man.

Just like the disciples, this blind man knows who Jesus is. And just like the disciples, this man cannot follow Jesus because of his blindness. 47 when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Son of David – the rightful King. The one who fulfils God’s promise to David in 2 Sam 7 of an everlasting descendant who will rule over all Israel in righteousness and justice and peace forever. It is this blind man who first acknowledges Jesus as King of Israel. And he cries out for mercy.

Jesus hears his cry and opens his eyes, and the man v50 immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way

Friends, you cannot follow Jesus on your own. Just like we’ve been seeing in Romans in the Bible studies, we are saved by grace and we live by grace. Grace covers us from beginning to end. All our sins past, present AND FUTURE are nailed to the cross. There is no accusation against us – we are innocent, set free. God is no longer angry with us, and will never be angry with us, his wrath satisfied on the cross. Your performance is already approved.

So what joy, what pure joy to throw everything aside and give up everything for Jesus. Look what he has done for me, you cry to your heart, I will give everything for him. And be confident that you can do that in Christ because he is at work in you, performing miracle after miracle to keep your blind eyes open so that you can follow him on the road.

Jesus is the one who makes it possible to follow Jesus. Christian, you do not follow him in your own power, but in his great mercy and love. Be of good cheer, have courage, you can do it through him who gives you strength.

Christians live to serve, because that’s what Jesus does. He is the Servant King.

Following Jesus is impossible without Jesus.

So, come to the King, he is gentle and kind, powerful to save, a servant King.
Come to him you who are rebels against him and find forgiveness.
Come to him you who belong to him and find strength to follow in his footsteps. We do NOT do this alone, for He is with us.

søndag 14. oktober 2012

Mark 10:13-34 It is impossible to be saved

Mark 10:13-34

Previously on “Mark: the Gospel”….

Jesus of Nazareth has burst onto the scene and created quite a stir. He’s been doing massive miracles left, right and centre, healing people, casting out demons, walking on water, making food appear from thin air – enough to feed over 5000 people, and then again 4000 people, and even raising people from the dead! He is no fake. Even his critics cannot deny his power! They accuse him of being from the devil instead. (Dirty politics 101: If you can’t beat them, throw mud at them and hope it sticks!).

And these stories really happened. People were there with Jesus. They SAW him do these things. And these weren’t primitives! We are often so arrogant assuming that people who lived long ago were somehow stupider than we are. That they would be fooled by simple magic tricks.
The society they lived in was complex and sophisticated. They were part of the Roman empire. There was trade, business, long distance travel, courts of law, police, large cities, running water, roads, schools, reading, writing, in fact university-level mathematics, and philosophies that are still in use today (and being heralded as “new”)! It was an advanced civilisation!

So if Jesus had been just a magician (and there were magicians in those days, just like now, it wasn’t something they’d never seen before) he would quite quickly have been exposed for his trickery. Or people would have been entertained, like now, but any claims to divinity would have been met with mocking laughs, just as if Paul Daniels (UK magician) suddenly claimed to be God. So Jesus really did do what he’s reported as doing.

Some say that “Oh no, this was just a story that was embellished (added to)”. They say that the miracles were added in at a later date by some unknown authors. There’s two problems with that:

1. The genre of historical fiction was only invented 1800 years later. Before that time it was never even conceived of to write fiction as if it were history, fact. Myths were written as myths and history as history. As CS Lewis, Oxford Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English, said “I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends and myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know none of them are like this. Of this Gospel text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage…or else, some unknown ancient writer…without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern novelistic, realistic narrative.”

2. People were still alive who remembered the events of that day! If I went on NRK today and said that during the 1970’s fuel crisis when King Olav took the tram, after he got out of the tram he launched himself into the air and flew to the top of the mountain, melted some snow with his laser eyes, and then skiied down so fast he broke the sound barrier, I’d be laughed at. No-one would believe me. People remember what happened. That didn’t happen. Additionally, even if it did happen, people would be reluctant to say it happened, because it’s so fantastical. The only way people would agree that it happened would be if they could not explain it away by any other means.

Jesus really did do the miracles he did, and the disciples saw those miracles first hand. They heard his teaching, teaching “like no other”. He made audacious statements “you have heard it said (in the Bible) but *I* say…”. And it still took them over two years before they were able to believe the evidence before their eyes and say “You are the Christ” (the rescuer promised by God in the Old Testament). They still didn’t understand fully, didn’t understand that he was God in the flesh, in person, until his resurrection. That blew away all doubts! Jesus could do the impossible.

And in tonight’s passage Jesus touches on exactly that point.

And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 

1. Only “children” can be saved 

15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

The big theme in this section between the two “blind man” miracles, this part of Mark’s gospel dealing with the question what does it mean to follow Jesus, has been greatness in the kingdom of God. What does it mean to be great? How do we follow Jesus? What does it mean to “deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus”? What does this look like?

We’ve seen so far that Christian leaders lead by serving, not ordering people around. Christians guard their lives carefully, striving to obey Jesus, so as not to lead other’s astray. Christians pray “help me in my unbelief”, dependant on Jesus instead of arrogant self-sufficiency like the Pharisees. And here again Jesus brings home the message that independence and self-righteousness, depending on your own goodness for salvation, like the rich young ruler, doesn’t cut it. Dependence, helplessness, simple trust, faith, like a child – those are the marks of a Christian.

This is not about children! If you doubt that, have a look at verse 24, what Jesus calls his disciples: 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!”.

It is not about AGE but about CHARACTERISTICS. Much rubbish has been spoken about these verses by people who have not read them in context, and ignore the rest of the Bible’s teaching on sin. They say “Children are innocent”.
If you read Mark from the beginning and get here you will know the children represent dependence on Jesus – they certainly don’t represent innocence! Jesus addressed that nonsense back in chapter 7: sin comes from our hearts, inside, not from outside influences. We’re born with it.
Anyone with children will know they are not innocent! No parent sits down and teaches their child to be selfish, or to lie, or to hit their siblings! The Bible tells us time and time again that we are born sinful, born as rebels against God, because we inherit that state from our parents, all the way back to Adam. We are born wanting to be God, independent, determining our own path, deciding for ourselves what is right and what is wrong.

Jesus accepts the little children and blesses them. It was not to demonstrate that if you’re under the age of 12 you go to heaven. If that was the case, the most loving thing we could do is kill every child under the age of 12 to make sure they go to heaven! So, if wholesale murder of children for their spiritual safety is the logical outcome of your interpretation of a verse, you’ve probably got it wrong. No. Jesus blessing the children was a huge message to the disciples to take the message of the Gospel to everyone, even children (the least important in society in those days)!

This deliberate misreading of this verse out of context, ignoring the rest of the Bible - this idea that children are innocent has had tragic consequences: people have stopped telling the gospel to children. Parents aren’t raising their children in the light of the gospel. How do you raise children without the gospel?!
Because kids understand sin and grace much better than we do. They struggle continually with their sinful behaviour – they’re not so sophisticated at hiding their sin and justifying themselves. They know their own sin. And then we say they’re innocent, good.
It is a lie.
And they know it’s a lie because they know themselves. It is a lie with no hope.
And so they reject Jesus, believing him to be a fool. Please, keep telling children the gospel!
Do not be like the disciples, hindering the children from coming to Jesus. For Jesus will terrify you in his anger: it would be better for [you] if a great millstone were hung around [your] neck and [you] were thrown into the sea. 

Tell them the truth. Call sin sin. Show that their behaviour reveals the rebellion in their heart. Help them understand their desires to control, to boss people around, to do what they want, their anger when they can’t be God in people’s lives. Help them know themselves. They need the truth as much as adults do. And then please offer them the wonderful news of the gospel – Jesus has dealt with their problem of sin.

I can tell you story after story of times I have sat with Kristin, tears streaming down her face, as she cries and cries about her inability to stop being naughty, to stop sinning. “I don’t want to be like this”. She knows, she knows. What a horrible father I would be if I lied to her then and said “no, no, you’re good, you’re innocent”. That’s horrible because it’s saying to her “try harder, do better”. You’re failing because you’re not good enough. That’s religion. That’s moralism. And that cannot save. Instead I tell her that her heart is bent, that deep down she hates God, just like me, and that leaks out all over the place – but that Jesus has come to deal with that problem, that he forgives her, that he can wash away her sin and mine, that he loves her, and can hold her in his arms and bless her. And there is the power of eternal life! 

We are to be like children, not innocent, but helpless, dependant, because “it is IMPOSSIBLE to be saved”.

2. Good people can’t be saved 

Here we have the rich young ruler, the pinnacle of society. He is blessed by God with riches, youth, and power. To the first century Jew riches were a blessing from God for being good. Riches meant goodness. And he is a good man, following the Law, a moral man, outwardly a great success. Surely this man God would be pleased with?

But Jesus exposes his heart. “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

What is the man’s problem? He thinks people can be good enough for God. Jesus gently reminds him that only God is good. And then quotes some of the Ten Commandments to him.

Now those of you coming to the Bible Study should remember the purpose of the Law: Rom 3:20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in [God’s] sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
So listening to that list, the man should have realised that he is not good, that he is a sinner - not gone "oh yes, I've done that!". And note the commands Jesus does NOT quote – all those to do with relating to God. This man’s problem is that he is outwardly good but his heart is far from God.
He is self-sufficient.
He can say the right words and play the part, but at the end of the day he saves himself: it is his actions, his words, his goodness that counts, that gets him all the way to paradise.

He does not consider himself helpless, like a child. He does not cry out “help me in my unbelief”. Instead he says “all these I have kept from my youth”.
I did it. I achieved it.
God, you owe me salvation. Indeed. Who is God then if you are ordering God around, making God do things because you’ve pushed the right spiritual buttons?

This whole charade with Jesus is to justify himself. HE wanted Jesus to say “well done, you’ve done it, what a great guy you are.”

But, instead, Jesus loves him, and exposes his heart: sell all that you have and follow me. The man’s security was found in his wealth, his power, his prestige. His “goodness” was based on his abundance, living the good life. Give up your false security, says Jesus, and have faith in me – follow me.

The demand is stark. This man trusts in himself, follows his own path. Jesus demands that he trust in Jesus, and follow Jesus. He’s calling him to obey the commandments he didn’t quote: to have no other gods before him, to stop worshipping idols, to honour his name, to honour the Sabbath (that is find his security in God).

Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

We are in severe danger in Norway: Our wealth blinds us to our need for God. Our self-sufficiency leads us away from him. Our Christian morals leads us to self-righteousness.

Friend, what are you trusting in? Yourself. Your own abilities. When you go to bed at night do you feel good or bad depending on what you’ve done during the day? Do you feel far away or near to God depending on your performance? Beware! Because you may be trusting in yourself rather than the free grace of Jesus. And you are forgetting that you are a sinner. You are a law-breaker by nature, at your very core. You cannot satisfy the perfection of a great and holy and good God, not even as a Christian. No-one is good but God alone. Repent now, stop trusting in your earthly riches, and follow Jesus.

Let me tell you a story about a couple we’ve got to know over the course of the past year. They are lovely people, generous, kind-hearted, friendly. Got everything going for them. They give massive amounts of time to religious work. They are good people. They know the gospel of Jesus. 
But they are the man in this story. Their good works are what justifies them, what they depend on to make them right with God. Jesus’ great act of redemption on the cross is relegated to second place, a kind of gateway to pleasing God, but after that you’ve got to prove to God that you’re worthy of paradise. 
That is not grace. That is not the gospel. That cannot save them, it cannot save us.

Listen to Jesus’ words: they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible.

Good people cannot be saved.

3. God can do the impossible 

Thankfully verse 27 does not end there where I ended it! 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Jesus is about to achieve the impossible. He, the only good man, is walking towards Jerusalem, towards his death. He will pay the punishment our sins deserve – all of our sins, even those we haven’t committed yet – by being “delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him.

Jesus, who is first, will be last, in order to make us who are last, outside, banished, first, inside, children of the Living God.

And it is a gift of love, a free, undeserved gift. Peter’s self-righteous claim in verse 28 “hey, we’ve followed you” is cut short by Jesus.
“Please, you can’t out-give God!” is what he’s saying in v29-30. It is an undeserved, free gift.

Your own abilities do not save you – in fact, they can lead you away from God.

Instead, come like a child, helpless, dependent, before the feet of Jesus, crying out “I believe! Help me in my unbelief!”. And Jesus can do the impossible and answer that prayer. Amen!

søndag 7. oktober 2012

Readings for "The reason relationships fail" (Mark 10:1-14)

Mark 1:2 “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way”

Malachi 3:1 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire.

Mk 9:9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”

Mal 4:1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts. 4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. 5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

Mk 10:1–34 (ESV) And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. 2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him

Malachi 1:14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations. 2:1 “And now, O priests, this command is for you. 2 If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honour to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart.

Mark 10:2 Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Mal 2:13 And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

Continue reading... (link to sermon)

Mark 10:1-14 The reason relationships fail

Link to Bible readings for this talk

Tonight’s text is one of those that you will never hear preached unless you’re in a church that goes through books of the Bible, beginning at the beginning of the book and reading to the end.
Who on earth wants to preach on divorce? What pastor is brace enough or foolish enough to open THAT can of emotional worms.
Unless they like condemning people, you know – “You sinners! You eviiiiile people.” Secure in the fact that because they’re still married (or never married) this doesn’t apply to them! Actually, it does. And moral superiority is NEVER the mark of a Christian!

Well, tonight I’m forced by God to tackle this question. And in his grace he’s put it in context – the context of Jesus, the Son of Man, the great and powerful King, with all power and authority throughout all of time and space – going to Jerusalem to be mocked and beaten and killed as a sinner, so that we, who are sinners, can be made right with God. This passage is not to be used as a stick to beat people over the head with, but to reveal our hardness of heart and our need for a saviour. The breakdown of our marriages reveal our sin and moral depravity and reveal how deeply we need a saviour. How deeply we need grace and forgiveness and reconciliation.

It is in the context of an Israel that is seeking to reject their King, reject their God. Did you see the Pharisees motives in v2 “in order to test him”. They don’t want to bow before the Christ, the Son of God. No. They want to turn the people against him, to get rid of him, and so they seek to test him.

But Jesus is the new Moses, the new leader of the new Exodus. There is a new Israel being formed, one of Jews and Gentiles, people from every nation, tribe and tongue – and the self-righteous religious people are not part of it.

Who is part of the kingdom?
Through Mark we’ve found out that it is those who have listened to Jesus, and come to him.
Those who recognise him as the Christ because he has opened their spiritual eyes.
Those who then give up everything else, deny themselves and pick up their cross, in order to obey him in everything, following him wherever that may lead.
Those who cry out “I believe! Help my unbelief!”. That’s prayer – and the prayer of every Christian. I love that it’s in the section of “what does it mean to follow Jesus”, not “who is Jesus”. We keep needing to cry out to Jesus “Help!”. We are saved by grace and walk by grace. This "deny yourself and pick up your cross" thing is impossible. We can only do it in his strength, no other.

And tonight's passage is exactly the same. To marry and stay truly married (one mind, one flesh, united, intimate) we need the grace of God.

I really struggled for a while with these verses because they seems so totally out of place. The big theme in this section is greatness and servanthood, and all the stories link into that – except this one. Jesus randomly talks about marriage, and then it’s back to kids and the kingdom!

So, why? It’s not random, it’s placed deliberately. It wasn’t until I read Malachi that I suddenly understood.

1. How we treat our spouse is evidence of how we treat God. 

We’ve seen Malachi a few times already in Mark’s Gospel. Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. It is a short book of prophecy, where the prophet Malachi warns of Lord’s Day of judgement, promising that he will send a Messenger who will prepare the way of the Lord (Mark 1:2). That Messenger in Malachi chapter 4 is revealed as “Elijah”. So the disciples’ question about Elijah in last week’s passage (9:11) comes from Malachi. And Jesus basically says that John the Baptist is that Elijah figure, he has prepared the way for the Lord, Jesus.

Malachi is calling the people back to God – they have abandoned his ways. He’s warning them that God will suddenly appear in his Temple (amongst them). They need to be ready for his appearing. In Malachi God has this against his people: the people are offering impure sacrifices (giving God the worst of the land, instead of the best – lip service, not heartfelt worship); the priests are leading them astray (ch2) by accepting these offerings and not rebuking the people (not giving true instruction); the people are not tithing, and thereby robbing God; and they have broken faith with the wife of their youth.

So, in this passage with heavy Malachian undercurrents, it is not strange to see an argument about marriage and divorce!

The Pharisees, like the priests in Malachi’s day, are leading the people astray. John the Baptist (“Elijah”) was beheaded because of his stand on exactly this issue (remember a few chapters back) – King Herod had married his brother’s wife, and John told him that was wrong – and so he was murdered. Jesus is taking the same stand, and he, too, will be murdered.

In Malachi we read (2:14) the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. And so God does not accept their worship. He rejects them. They are no longer counted as his people with access to the one true God.

Likewise the Pharisees come with faithless hearts, hearts coming in pride instead of humility, hearts to command the God of the universe instead of crying out “help”. And so they, too, will be cut off from the people of God. Doomed to experience the day of his wrath. For Mal 3:2 who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

It’s worth noting the fact that there is a direct correlation between the people’s “religious” practices, and “real” life. What they are doing with God leads to destructive marital relationships (and other bad things). Or you could say that the reason for the high divorce rate in Ancient Israel was lack of fear of God. And therefore the remedy for broken interpersonal relationships is God, the Lord who comes to his Temple.

Today in Norway family life and marriage is appalling. Broken relationships everywhere. People are totally unable to keep their genitals under control. Totally unable to stay together for more than a couple of years (when the infatuation has worn off). And the solution for Norway is a wholesale repentance and turning to God. That’s the only way to save our marriages. This is not pie in the sky when you die! It affects your life now – deeply, centrally.

For example, the reason Debby and I have such a good marriage is not because we are better than everyone else – or even just “lucky”. No the reason our marriage is great is because of Jesus. Because he can deal with my sin, the root problem of marriage. Because he calls me to obey him, to love him, to follow him IN MY marriage. I love Debby because I love Jesus. You see, all of us have a selfish little record-keeper keeping ‘score’ of everything we’ve done for other people, especially our spouses. And at some point we want payback. 
But if that score-keeper is keeping score against Jesus – well, I’m always indebted to him! So, whenever I have to be unselfish, or apologise, or make a difficult decision, or get off my backside to be involved with my family – I mentally remind myself that I’m doing this for Jesus, not for Debby or the kids or anyone else. Otherwise I will resent them eventually, for getting in the way of what I want to do. But Jesus? He made me. He rescued me. I belong to him. I am his slave. I am his. 

The proclamation of the gospel is the most loving thing we can do. It is the solution to the heart of every problem in this world. THIS is real life. Everything else is a shadow and a lie.

Divorce reminds us of how much we need the gospel of grace.

2. Marriage: the ideal 

Mk 10:4 [The Pharisees] said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.

Divorce is an indication of our sinfulness. Because we have hard hearts the law needed to make provision for divorce. But as sinful men we took the provision and elevated it to an ideal or a right. “I have the right to be happy, she’s not making me happy, let me dump her.”

Jesus’ words are a huge corrective. Divorce is an indication of sin. Circumstances don’t lead to divorce, but sinful behaviour – either from one spouse or the other, most often from both.

God made us to be married for life. Adam and Eve were naked and knew no shame. They were completely open and honest with each other, knew each other intimately, and accepted and loved each other. That’s what we all want, isn’t it. To be accepted, to be loved, completely, utterly. But Adam and Eve threw all that away, choosing to rebel against God and his good laws, and immediately the joy and intimacy they had with each other was broken. They made clothes to cover their nakedness, and their relationship was cursed with the desire to control or manipulate the other person to do what you want, what is best for you. Selfishness replaced love at the heart of our most precious human relationship. And so we need to work hard, battling our own sinfulness and the sinfulness of our spouse to even stay married!

But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.

Marriage is God’s idea, God’s creation. It is a good thing. But sin messes it up. God’s command is for us to stay together, but we, in divorce, disobey his command. Divorce is a serious matter! It is a tearing apart of two people who have become one. It’s like a person being torn in two. It is horribly painful. It is "not good".

It’s worth also seeing that the definition of marriage here includes living together (“samboer”).
Marriage has two distinctives: sexual intercourse (one flesh) and being a couple (man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife). That is why a sexually active couple experiences such pain in break-up. It is divorce. “Samboer” who move out are experiencing divorce. The divorce rates in Norway are sky high!

And like Israel in Malachi we pay lip service to God, sitting in our churches ignoring Jesus and disobeying him in our relationships. We don’t tithe because the state takes care of that and we divorce our wives because we don’t care about God. And the ministers cry “peace, peace” where there is no peace. This is a crisis. Norway is in terrible danger. Now is not the time to cry "peace" but "beware!"
Beware the terrible Day of the Lord. Mal 4:1 For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.

If we claim to be Christians, we cannot ignore Jesus’ teaching. We are to be faithful in marriage because he is faithful to us. We are to marry one woman and hold fast to her because we love God and want to honour him, no matter what the cost. Because if we don’t, we can cause others to sin, and if we do that, it is better for us if a great millstone were hung around our neck and we were thrown into the sea (Mark 9:42).

3. Divorce in the community of God’s people 

It may come as surprise to us in the West, but we are a community, not a collection of lone individuals. Western culture needs a corrective from the Majority World here! Our sin affects everyone- as we go, others go. That’s what Jesus warned us about last week (9:41-50) – we need to take sin seriously! Whatever causes us to sin, cut it off, cut it out, get rid of it. Because it is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.

And here we have an example of what Jesus was talking about: Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.

Our sin can cause others to sin. And here we have a man who divorces his wife which leads her to commit adultery. As a woman in those days being without a husband generally meant starvation. No place to stay, no protection, no income, nothing. Alternatives were find another husband, become a prostitute, or die.
The stakes may not be as high today, but as people created to be in marriage relationships it is very hard to be single. Particularly if you were previously married. The sin of unrighteous divorce leads to further sins of adultery, because in the eyes of the Lord you are still joined to your first spouse. And when you shack up with another person, by choice or out of desperation, you commit the sin of adultery against your spouse.

Marriage is to be honoured. Unrighteous divorce is a sin. What does this mean?

Well, clearly if you are married, stay married! Do whatever you can out of love for the Lord and the desire to keep others from hell to stay married. The emphasis here is not on condemning the broken, but on reminding those who are currently married, or going to be married, of the commitment that they are entering into (and this includes moving in together, or being a sexually active couple). You are committing yourselves to each other for life, and breaking that covenant vow is serious,

But what if you are previously divorced, or married to an abusive spouse, or any of the other myriad problems sinners have? Well, as the law of Moses indicates, God is a realist, and allows that sometimes divorce is justified. Even God divorces his people because of their unfaithfulness. Given other Biblical texts which we don’t have time to go into now, what Jesus is targeting here is “no-fault” divorces. That cavalier attitude to marriage / living together that has a back door if it gets inconvenient. Like I said at the beginning, this text is not a stick to beat people with, but finds itself within the context of grace. Divorce is serious, yes, but so is lying and gossiping – and we don’t ban them from church or leadership positions in the church. It is painful enough as it is.

Let us remember that the purpose of the law is knowledge of sin. We see the prohibition on divorce and realise we are adulterers. We look at people shacking up and breaking up all around us and realise that our country is crying out of the restorative grace and truth of Jesus. We look at Christian people ignoring the commands of our Lord and defiling the Gospel by getting divorced and we realise our responsibility to obey the Lord.

Let us cry to Jesus “I believe, help my unbelief!” We need his grace and mercy. We have all messed up in our lives, some more publicly than others. But we are ALL sinners, all fallen people. We are a community of forgiven sinners. Let us act like it. Let us bind up the sores of those hurt by sin, either their own or the sins of others. Let us offer the grace of our Lord Jesus who covers sins and remind each other that he is worthy to be praised!

The day of the Lord is coming. The terrible and fearful day of fire. So let us fear the name of the Lord and shelter in the sun of righteousness: Jesus, the Christ, the one who will suffer and die at the hands of sinful men in order to save sinful men and women. Praise Him!

FAQ: Can Christians remarry?

Additonal note: Can Christians remarry?

Please read the sermon and Bible readings first.

Just a note on the sermon. The question on everyone’s lips afterwards was “Can Christians remarry”.
I believe that the answer is yes (I, not necessarily God – I could be well wrong here! Many eminent Bible teachers much smarter than I say no here, so it’s very likely that I’m wrong!).

As I said, I think the emphasis in the passage is on not getting divorced (rather than remarrying). It is at the time of divorce that you make yourself and your spouse adulterers, as remarriage is a given - of course people will get remarried! We were created for marriage (it is not good for man to be alone)** Particularly for a woman in the 1st century, divorce was a death sentence if remarriage was not allowed. In Malachi which underpins this passage, the emphasis is on breaking the covenant of marriage, abandoning your wife, in the same way Israel has abandoned God and broken faith with Him.

I also believe the answer is "yes" because of the gospel. There is a new Israel being formed here (in Mark's gospel), and it’s formed not on the basis of being good, but on recognising that you’re not good and you need Jesus. You cannot change what is past, but you can repent of your sin of unfaithfulness and start afresh, walking in newness of life. For a divorced man that means picking up his cross, rebuilding a family in service and sacrificial love, patching up relations with his old family, no matter the cost, and dealing with all the consequences of his sin.
I do believe that if your spouse is still around and still available that you should reconcile with them before running after someone else. Otherwise I would question whether you have really repented of your sin of divorcing your wife. Do you believe the problem lies within, from your heart, or are you unrepentant, believing that the problem was the other person? An unrepentant divorcee should not be married, not because of their divorce, but because they are unprepared to be married!

The gospel proclaims new hearts for old, new lives for old, grace instead of law. Yes, divorce is serious and an abomination against God. But all of us are sexual sinners and adulterers, if not physically, certainly mentally. All of us are divorcees and adulterers, and all of us can find forgiveness and reconciliation at the cross of Christ.

**The great thing is that in Christ singleness can be just as fulfilling, since whether married or single fulfilment is only found in Christ. In fact, there’s a big danger in marriage which is finding fulfilment in your husband or wife, and that leads to severe problems. So although marriage is the norm, singleness is not wrong or an aberration. After all, Jesus was single and he lived a perfect, fulfilled life! Many people have chosen a very difficult path by getting married to non-Christians out of desperation, instead of finding fulfilment in Christ and being patient and obedient. Trust Jesus. He knows what you're going through, and his grace is sufficient for you.


These people are WELCOME at Rock International Church:
Muslims, Buddhists, homosexuals, divorcees, gossips, liars, egotists, fools, atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Catholics,  reformed conservative evangelicals, intellectuals, scientists, rationalists, communists, capitalists, street-sweepers, Norwegians, Nigerians, Koreans, Americans, New Age believers, Princess Märtha Louise, musicians, accountants, lawyers, sexual perverts, drug addicts, porn addicts, romance novel addicts, murderers, and [your job], [your beliefs], [your dark secrets] - you're welcome.

In other words: Whoever you are, whatever your past, whatever your beliefs: come as you are.

The great joy of the gospel message is this: God burns like the Sun in his holiness and awesome power, we are dark smudges, rebellious specks of dirt - yet in his great love and compassion he reaches out to us and says, come to me as you are, the price has been paid. Too often churches portray themselves as clubs for good people, holy people. That's not the gospel. That's not a Christian church. The gospel is that unholy people, that bad people, can meet the Holy God, the Good God, through his Son, our Lord Jesus, the Christ. God is big enough to deal with us! The price is paid, the way is open. Welcome.