søndag 21. juli 2013

What is baptism

It is:
1. a symbol of belonging to the church
2. a symbol, and has no power to save
3. a symbol of the gospel: dead to sin, alive to Christ!

1. It is a symbol of belonging to the church

Why do we baptise? Because Jesus told us to.

Mt 28:18–20 (NLT) Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

So baptism is for disciples. A symbol, public symbol, of belonging to Jesus.

Just like circumcision was the symbol of belonging to God’s people, the Jews, in the Old Testament, so baptism is the symbol of belonging to God’s people, the church, in the New. Today when we baptise Mia and Tori and Marit we are saying welcome to the worldwide Church, that community of believers throughout time and space – and welcome to the local representative of the Church: Rock International Church.

It is a symbol of belonging to the church

2. It is a symbol, and has no power to save

Just like circumcision, baptism has no power to save, no spiritual power within itself. There were many circumcised Jews who were far away from God and did not belong to him, even though they had the outward symbol – and there are many baptised people today who are far away from God, and face his anger and judgement, even though they have the outward symbol of baptism.

Baptism cannot save. Only faith in Christ Jesus can save. Only his blood can wash away sin – water cannot. Only his resurrection can bring you new life – baptism cannot.

It is a symbol, and has no power to save

3. It is a symbol of the gospel: dead to sin, alive to Christ!

What does it symbolise. It symbolises Christ’s blood washing away our sin (all sin, past, present and future). It symbolises dying to your old life (as you go under the water), and rising to new life in Christ (as you emerge from the water). Death, to life. Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Rom 6:3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

It is a symbol of the gospel: dead to sin, alive to Christ!

So, baptism is a symbol of belonging to the church. Baptism is a symbol, and has no power to save. And baptism is a symbol of the gospel: dead to sin, alive to Christ!

søndag 7. juli 2013

Ephesians 4:1-16 Walk in unity

Ephesians 4:1-16

Do you want to be a mature Christian?
How do you make sure that no-one deceives you, lies to you, about the truth?
Do you want to be part of a church where everyone loves each other, cares for each other, serves each other. United with a single purpose, everyone moving in the same direction, bringing glory to God.

How can we have a church like that?

Well, that’s what today’s passage is about: the church united, united in love, in service. It’s about being mature Christians, able to know right and wrong, and learning to care for each other.
It’s about walking in unity: together using the gifts God has given us to serve each other in the church. That’s why we’ve been given the gifts!

· Walk in gospel unity (not just any unity – unity in the gospel)

· Christ gives gifts to his people- so they can give them to build the church

· Christ has given us preachers to grow us

Walk in gospel unity

4:1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.

We now begin the second half of Ephesians. The first half was the gospel – what God has done for us. The second half is now what we must do for God, or as one commentary put it: “those for whom God has done so much should live in a way that is consistent with what God has done for them”. I’ve heard it described like this. I’ve described it like this.

But I’m not sure if that’s right- because it brings to mind a business transaction. We are in his debt, therefore we struggle manfully to pay off that debt. Or it’s about living up to our Father’s expectations. You know, the story about the son who has been raised right, raised from birth to take over the family business – and the son struggles to rise up to their father’s expectations, before failing utterly. And their cry? “I’m not you! I can’t do what you can do”.

Isn’t that how we feel when we come to this? Particularly if we’ve come out of a heavily moralistic church background, maybe Catholic, or Orthodox Tewahedo or some Protestant churches who’ve lost their grip on the gospel. We feel crushed by the burden of God’s expectations. Weighed down by his commands. His standard is so high – look what it says 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

So what I could say now is: How’s your humility? Your gentleness? Are you always gentle, always putting others before yourself, particularly in the church. Well, are you? No. Try harder. Come on. And what about patience? Ever lose patience with people in this church? Or others. How dare you. “Make every effort to keep yourselves united,” the Bible says. Do it.

But there’s no gospel in that, is there? Look at verse 1 – the first word. “Therefore”. Whenever you see that word you need to be asking what’s the therefore there for. By thinking like that we’ve forgotten where we are in the book. We’re in chapter 4, not 1. And verse 1 continues lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Like Lazarus in the tomb, God has called out to us “Arise, and come forth.” His power surges through us, new breath enters our lungs, our heart starts beating again – we are alive! A new creation!

As we carry on through Ephesians we see that we should “walk” in unity (4:1–16), holiness (4:17–32), love (5:1–6), light (5:7–14), and wisdom (5:15–6:9). Why? Because that is what we have been given. Christ united us, he poured out his love, he has flooded our hearts with light, and all wisdom and understanding is found in Christ.

This is calling us to use gifts we have been given. That’s a big difference! It’s not us being called to raise ourselves up, or to pay back a debt. It is us being given a million kroner and being asked to give back NOK100.

What is our job? To turn away from sin, and give ourselves willingly to God. To allow Him to work in our lives. To say “I am yours, Lord. I belong to you. Here’s my gift – i give to you to use” That’s walking in unity.

But there’s another error we can fall into. The error of cheap grace. If Ephesians finished at chapter 3 we might feel that “Christ has done everything, I don’t have to do anything”. And that’s right. But also wrong. Because we are not just saved from, but saved for. We were dead, raised to life AND given good works to do which were prepared beforehand. We are not saved so that we can continue living our own selfish lives. Our purpose is to glorify God – not glorify ME! If our lives do not change as a result of knowing Christ, we do not know Christ. As someone put it: if there’s no fruit, there’s no root.

When we are saved, we are not just saved, but we now belong. Christ is not just Lord, but also Master. MY RIGHTS no longer exist. We exist to serve and please him. Now that’s scary. We would never trust another human with that kind of power over us. The temptation to abuse that power is so huge. And we can abuse without even knowing it! But God is not like us, demonstrated on the cross, demonstrated when he who was above descended to our level, to the messiness of our lives, to go through the darkest times, to take our sin upon his shoulders, to go to the cross – and their triumph over the darkness, defeat the powers of hell, destroy sin and death forever, and emerge victorious. That is our Master!

So we can gladly give ourselves to him, and say “Lord, do with me what you will.” And here we see what he will do: he will make us people who are humble, gentle, patient, the family of God united together in peace and love. Sounds terrible doesn’t it! What a terrible master! J No, isn’t that exactly the kind of people we long to be. Isn’t that the kind of church we want to belong to?

So dear friends, trust Christ. His mighty power is at work in you. So repent of your sin, turn away from selfishness, and turn to God with willingness and say “use me, Lord, I am yours.”

Not convinced? Still think Christianity is about being good, about following the rules? Well, let’s look at verses 7-10, the heart of this passage.

Christ gives gifts to his people- so they can give them to build the church

The key in this passage is the Old Testament quote in verse 8. 7 However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ. 8 That is why the Scriptures say, “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.”

But Paul has done something interesting here. Flip back to Psalm 68 (page 346). We can see that the Psalm is a song of praise to God who rescues his people. Like a mighty warrior breaking into the enemy camp to set his people free. Ps 68:1 Rise up, O God, and scatter your enemies... 3 But let the godly rejoice. Let them be glad in God’s presence.

A big focus is when God rescued his people from slavery in Egypt (the Exodus). Ps 68:7–8 O God, when you led your people out from Egypt, when you marched through the dry wasteland, 8 the earth trembled, and the heavens poured down rain before you, the God of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel.

Out from Egypt, and into the Promised Land He lead them to Mt Sinai, where he confirmed that they were his people, a holy nation, belonging to God – and he was their God, and would forever be with them. And so on to the Promised Land, and Jerusalem, Mount Zion, where the Temple was built, the great symbol of God with his people.

And so we pick it up in verse 17 to 18, where our quote comes from: Ps 68:17–18 (NLT) Surrounded by unnumbered thousands of chariots, the Lord came from Mount Sinai into his sanctuary. 18 When you ascended to the heights, you led a crowd of captives. You received gifts from the people, even from those who rebelled against you. Now the LORD God will live among us there.

Now did you notice something different between this and the quote in Ephesians? Here in Psalm 68 it says the people give gifts to the Victorious King. But Paul changes the quotation. It says HE gave gifts. But Paul isn’t just randomly bringing out God’s generosity! The context of Psalm 68 is God rescuing his people from Exodus. And the gifts the people are giving are gifts to build the tabernacle / holy Temple. But where did they get these gifts? From Egypt. God caused the Egyptians to shower the Israelites with gifts as they were leaving. The gifts they had to give back to God were provided … by God.

And so with the church. We serve in church with the gifts God has given us. He gave us these gifts to give back to him to build his tabernacle, the holy Temple of worship to him: the CHURCH! Eph 2:20–21 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.

Do you get the picture? Exodus. God victorious over Pharoah, defeating him and his mighty army by leading the Israelites through the Red Sea and into freedom. The Israelites carrying gold jewellery, precious stones, costly gifts – gifts from Egypt. Here is the victorious King, leading a crowd of captives (they were prisoners, slaves) – but now he is giving gifts to his people: they are free, they are a people, they are showered with an abundance of gifts. And then, as they ascend (go up) the “height” (Mt Sinai (tabernacle), Mt Zion (Temple)) the people give the gifts they have been given back to God to build his Temple.

And so too with us. Jesus, the victorious Warrior King, having defeated Satan, sin and death on the Cross, ascending to heaven. And we the crowd of captives following him, our eyes fixed on him – and he’s showering us with gifts. And these gifts are not given for us to selfishly hoard, but to give back to God for building his Holy Church.

Church is not just means to an end – it is the end goal. God’s goal is the church. Church is not just to make me a better person, or to meet my needs, or to train me up – although it is these things, it is more than these things. It is where we serve. We come to church to serve. To serve each other. We come to church ready to hear the word of God, ready to love each other, ready to serve wherever necessary.

Where can you serve in this church? What gift have you got? Maybe it’s making tea, putting out chairs, administration, doing the books, designing posters, visiting people, praying, giving money to support the church, giving money to support people in the church who are struggling, serving in the Sunday School, meeting to read the Bible with someone, sharing the gospel with friends and neighbours, organising evangelistic events, praying, singing! There are so many opportunities to serve, so many areas where we can give back to God the gifts he’s given us.
Oh, and don’t sit around waiting for God to show you your gift like some message floating down from heaven. See a need, get involved. Take action. This is your home, your family, so get in!

Christ gives gifts to his people- so they can give them to build the church. You have been greatly gifted, greatly blessed. So keep in mind the picture of King Jesus in his victory procession, riding on a mighty white horse, his crown gleaming, his armour shining like the noon-day sun, power in his arms, love in his eyes, throwing gift after gift out to his people. And there you are, gift in hand, and you run after the King, stumbling in your eagerness, “Jesus, I give this to you, I am yours”. That’s what we do when we serve in the church, whether it’s preaching from the front, praying alone in the quietness of the night, sweeping the floor, fighting our own sin so we can love our brothers and sisters like we should – as we are doing these things and more we are saying to Jesus “this gift you gave to me, I am giving it to you to glorify you. I am giving it to build your church, your body.”

Christ gives gifts to his people- so they can give them to build the church.

But how do we know what to do, how to serve? How do we know how to use our gifts? How do we know what it means to be a church, to live as God’s family? Ah, Christ has given us the gifts for that too!

Christ has given us preachers to grow us

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

All these gifts are word ministry gifts – gifts related to teaching the Bible. Without God’s word we will never be mature. We will be like babies. We will be easily deceived. So Christ gave us first the apostles and prophets. How? Like this letter we’re reading. The Apostle is teaching us. The prophets are the gospel writers like Luke and Mark who were not apostles, and the writer to the Hebrews. (Compare 2:20 the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ as the cornerstone.) We have their written words, and the evangelist (someone especially gifted in the church to preach the gospel clearly to non-Christians, like my Dad), and the pastor and teacher teach these words to the people.

My job is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. That is my responsibility commanded by God. So pray that I will be a responsible pastor and teach the Word! Because if I don’t, then we will all be babies, immature, blown about. Pray that I guard my time, that I am not distracted from preaching the word.

But, when the pastor is doing his job, that sets everyone else free to do there’s. I do my job well for your sakes. You, in kind, do you jobs well for my sake and the sake of others. And we work together, united in purpose, for the glory of God.

14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Walk in unity: use the gifts God has given you to serve each other in the church. That’s why you’ve been given the gifts!