Archive for the ‘Colossians’ Category

Doctrine of Scripture 2014

Highlights from the first full day of ministry training course for the new apprentices @ the new and upgraded Halfway House, Sigona. With particular thanks to Harrison, Fidel, Mercy and Christine. If I knew how to use Twitter these would be tweets…

The battle for the mind is not to set your hope fully on your dreams but on real events – Cross & Coming (1 Pet 1:13-21) #GospelReality

You can believe the Bible is authoritative and not be evangelical… if you put other sources of authority on the same level. #SolaScriptura

We don’t worship the Bible. The Bible is a witness. To Jesus. (John 5)

It was written *for* you not *to* you. (Rom 15:4; 1 Pet 1:12)

Fear is part and parcel of ministry. It’s v natural when ur dealing with the Word & people. <– maybe Timothy was not so unusual (2Tim 1:7)

All the power of God, his glorious might, is there to strengthen us… for endurance, patience and suffering (Col. 1:11; 2 Tim 1:8)

What went wrong btwn the East Africa Revival and panda mbegu. A failure to guard the gospel.

The saving gospel is what happened 2000 years ago (1 Cor 151-11; John 20:10-31) not what happened 2 years ago

so a story of God’s work in my life *even when it is Christ-exalting* is not the right foundation 4 anyone’s faith. #SubtleDanger

Hire Character. Train Skill. (Peter Schutz)

Servant: faithful, reliable, teachable, available, motivated

colouring, collections, snacks, singing… The ever-present need for Acts 6:1-7 in children’s ministry

Teaching children takes more preparation than teaching adults. Without it you’ll either communicate nothing or lies #LetThemCome

The most important, most foundational thing children need to know is that they are children of Adam #LetThemCome


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At the ministry training today two things came out particularly strongly for me:

  1. The gospel is for believers. Fidel preached on 2 Tim. 2 and wonderfully brought home verse 1 – be strengthened not by your bank balance or friends or vague hopes or false promises but be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Then in Colossians 1 we saw that we mustn’t move on one inch from the gospel we first heard (v23). The way to get people mature in Christ is… to preach Christ (v28).
  2. God has given us books. Not a random pick-and-mix collection of verses. I’m getting increasingly excited about preaching and discipleship and training that is basically just going through books. Instead of coming up with our own ideas and complex schemes and finding verses from all over the place to support that, how about taking the books that God has given us and seeing what the particular message and target of each of them is and just let them do what they’re there for. So instead of coming up with 10 points on gospel ministry that we think the apprentices need to know at the beginning of their year, let’s just let Fidel preach 2 Timothy – a letter all about handing on the baton of gospel ministry. Instead of us trying to come up with an introduction to the doctrine of God, the gospel, expository preaching and how to live in the light of the gospel – let’s just go through Colossians.

Notes from the day:

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A brother recently tweeted:

“For every use of ‘gospel’ as adjective I want 3 explanations of the noun & if u bang on abt gospel-centred by golly u’d better centre on it”

Harsh but fair. Let’s give another explanation then….

  • The gospel is not a system – I repent / believe /give / surrender and I get heaven / blessings / breakthrough / peace.
  • The gospel is not Jesus as a means to an end – a solution to my problems – even the problem of my struggles with sin (a sort of ‘holy pragmatism’).
  • The gospel is Jesus himself.

10 times in the New Testament the gospel is called the ‘gospel of Christ’. It’s not just that Jesus is the author and speaker and possessor of the gospel – it’s more that Jesus is the content and the substance of the gospel.

“Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.” (Acts 8:35)

500 years ago Luther rediscovered this Jesus gospel.  Surprisingly, perhaps, he saw it clearest in the Song of Songs.

“My beloved is mine, and I am his” (SoS 2:16)

The gospel is having Christ and being his. It is a marriage, a union, which even death cannot break. In this marriage the husband says of his wife’s sin, “That is mine”, and the wife says of the husband’s righteousness, “That is mine”. In this marriage we are given a completely new identity and status. But best of all we have him – the infinitely beautiful, gracious, glorious Christ.

Jesus is not just a cog in a salvation machine.  He is our foundation, our cornerstone, our portion, our life, our hope, our desire, our joy, our bridegroom.

There are loads of implications from this but here are three to start us thinking:

  • Both relationship and justification. I’ve struggled with this personally. Some brothers seem to be the ‘relationship guys’. “It’s all about a relationship with Jesus.”  They’re passionate about Jesus but it’s all a bit fluffy and it doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with the Cross and justification by faith. Other brothers seem to be the ‘justification guys’. “It’s all about the Cross and justification by faith.”  They’re clear on doctrine, there’s a strong objective base but they don’t always seem to love Jesus very much or have much of a personal relationship with him – it’s all a bit theoretical. But once we see the gospel as Jesus – union with Christ – we see it’s both-and. Relationship and justification are inextricably linked. The marriage-union relationship is my justification and it should look just as passionate as in the Song of Songs (and that is some passion!).
  • Preaching and evangelism is presenting Jesus. Paul says, “We proclaim not ourselves but Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:5), “Him we proclaim” (Col. 1:28), “In that I rejoice” (Phil. 1:18). Richard Sibbes (who, like Luther, found the gospel in the Song of Songs) turned away from the legalistic preaching of his day and counselled evangelists: “Woo for Christ, and open the riches, beauty, honour, and all that is lovely in him.” We need evangelistic preaching that is full of Jesus. What is the point of an altar call at the end of a sermon which has told me nothing about Christ? What Christ am I accepting? Give me Jesus! Tell me all about him – and not just bland statements, “He’s wonderful, he’s faithful” – tell me exactly what he’s done, what he says, tell me stories about him.
  • We have fullness. That’s the message of Colossians: You have the one who is the fullness of God, the one who creates, sustains and sacrificially reconciles the universe. You have him in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. You have him who is the fulfilment and reality of all the shadows. So don’t let anyone come along and tell you that to live the full Christian life, to have the full gospel, you’ve got to have Jesus plus X, Y and Z. Jesus plus laws and principles. Jesus plus signs and wonders. You have Jesus! If you add to him you subtract from him. He is the fullness of God, the fullness of salvation, the full life, the full gospel.


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Why do we sing when we meet together as church?

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

Singing is the way, along with teaching and admonishing, to get the Word in.  We sing the gospel of Christ to one another and in praise back to God so that those great realities penetrate deep into our spirits.  Singing glorious, deep, authentic gospel truths has immense power to lift our spirits and the eyes of our hearts to the throne of grace and so strengthen the church.  Many a saint has been kept alive in a dead church by the rich theology of the hymns of Wesley, Newton and Toplady.

So singing is just as much word ministry as faithful Bible teaching.  If we really believe that, what difference does it make?

  1. We’re seeking music ministry not music performance, edification not entertainment.
  2. Music ministry is very important – whether in Sunday school or ‘adult church’.  We don’t just use it as a ‘filler’ while people arrive or as something to do when we’ve been sitting down for too long.
  3. We want gospel music – not necessarily in the sense of a style but certainly in content.  Songs where the emphasis is on what Jesus has done and his hold of us not on our devotion and grip on him.
  4. We’re looking for music to stir us at the deepest level through the truths of the Word – exactly the same as the sermon.  It’s not that the music stirs the emotions by the Spirit and the sermon stirs the mind by the Word.  In great songs the Spirit stirs the mind, emotions and will by the Word.
  5. So it really really matters what words we sing – just as a preacher must chose his words with the utmost care.  A heresy in a song is as bad as a heresy in a sermon.  Banal, weightless or vacuous lyrics are as bad as having nothing much to say in the pulpit.  And if we don’t understand what we’re singing (it took me 30 years to get what ‘lo he abhors not the virgin’s womb’ meant) then it’s as bad as not understanding what the preacher is saying.    
  6. Which means preparation is important.  Just as preachers need ministry training and theological study, so musicians. Just as the preacher must spend hours preparing the message, so the music leader will need hours to chose songs with great tunes and great words which reinforce the message of the sermon and theme of the meeting.

Let’s be appreciating and praying for our musicians and singers in their vital work, especially at this time of year.  And why not share a carol or hymn or song that really excites you about Christ? Let me give a few of my favourites to start off…

There is a day (by Phat Fish)

Man of Sorrows (You Tube video – not sure what the butterflies and flowers are all about)

My hope is built (Emu Music tune)

God rest ye merry

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In his image

What do all these things have in common?

  • The abortion of 189,100 babies in the UK in 2009, 1.1% for reasons of likely serious handicap.
  • A Muslim debater challenges a Christian, “Can God also become a dog?”
  • A terrible industrial accident brought about by a culture of recklessness on the part of authorities and residents.
  • Extreme environmentalism that sees humanity as a cancer on the planet.

Underlying each of these is the suppression of a very important truth – that men and women are immensely privileged to be made in the image of God.  We are not God (as some sects would have us believe and as our sin pretends) but we are in the image of God.  As Francis Schaeffer says:

I am as separated from God in the area of His being the Creator and infinite and I being the creature and finite, as is the atom or the energy particle [or the dog]…  However, on the side of God’s personality, the break comes between man and the rest of creation… man’s relationship is upward      (The God Who is There, pp. 94-95)

What is the image of God then?  What is it that we have trampled and deformed?  What is this personality that we are supposed to share (amazingly) with the Creator?  I’ve always been a bit stuck on this one.  From Genesis 1:27-28 we can infer that we are like God in exercising dominion, in being moral beings and in being plural, social beings.  Is that all?  I was greatly helped by a David Jackman article recently which prompted me to turn to Colossians 3:

9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

So what is the image?  Truthfulness, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love.  From the parallel passage in Ephesians we might add ‘working with your hands so that you have something to share with those in need’ (Eph. 4:28).  Now try meditating through the Old Testament and consider how God is all those things – truthful, compassionate, gentle, incredibly patient, even working with his mighty hands for the benefit of others – what a God we have!  Even his dominion is a gentle, humble, loving, for-the-benefit-of-others dominion – servant leadership.

Which all makes us think of Jesus doesn’t it?  The ‘Creator’ in Colossians is Christ (Col. 1:16).  It is the image of the Lord Jesus into which we are being changed (2 Cor. 3:18).  Before the world began it was God’s plan to conform us to the image of the Son (Rom. 8:29) and one day we will be fully like him (1 John 3:2).  And how are we conformed to his image?  (1) By all things that we experience (Rom. 8:28), especially suffering; (2) by seeing Him (2 Cor. 3:18; John 3:2) – that is knowing him, his truth, compassion, kindness, humility in his Word, and fixing our hearts and minds on him (2 Cor. 3:12-16; Col. 3:2,10).   

Sometimes these truths are better sung than read – listen to this great song by Emu Music – In His Image.

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