As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty. -- Matthew 13:23
Francis is the real deal.
Luke 8:15 describes Francis as receiving the word and holding it fast in an honest and good heart. As the simplest of the four characters in Jesus' parable, Francis doesn't fall into the errors of the others. Mind is open to the gospel; heart is set on Jesus and Jesus alone.
Francis is not crippled by serving two masters - everything: every relationship, every possession, every talent, every minute is consciously given to serving God. Francis recognises that God created all of life and both desires and deserves to be honoured in all of life. Francis might be an outgoing, in-your-face evangelist that somehow manages to naturally slip into conversations about God in an average 27.63 seconds from first introductions or might be the kind of person who rarely says much to anyone but displays the transforming power of the gospel and the love of Christ - the type people turn to to share their problems with. Or Francis might be the practical type that drops dinner round to the young couple that spent last night in the hospital and came home parents. Or perhaps the person who invests time in young people showing them by instruction and example what it means to follow Jesus.
But whatever Francis does - whether vocal or silent - is done in the service of God. It is inspired by the recognition of God's grace towards them. It is empowered by God's spirit within them. It's done in the imitation of Jesus.
Francis is open and honest. Humble and loving. Obedient. Francis has the heart of a servant. How? Francis knows what it means to be loved by God.
Jesus. The perfect example of the one whose perfect obedience and love towards God the Father is the basis of all our hope. Talk about that for "bearing much fruit!"
John. The apostle who knew that Jesus loved him. His affections and priorities are simple: he loves Jesus and he loves like Jesus.
- Who do I know who lives like this? When did I last thank God for placing them in my life? How can I learn from them? How can I encourage them?
- What is it that leaves me short of the mark? Where are my ideas and ambitions out of sync with the gospel? What is holding me back from living like this?
Pray that you will fall into the final category. One who bears fruit. One who sees the likeness of Christ reproduced in themselves through following him in the power of the Holy Spirit and in others as you evangelise and make disciples. And pray for your loved ones, that they will too.
Why are you still on your computer when you could be on your knees?
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The inestimable Don Churchman introduced this morning with two hymns: "Thou art the everlasting word" and "Master speak thy servant heareth."
Jonathan again began by mentioning the work of Langham Partnership - mentioning the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where there are churches which have 200+ people, but only 2 or 3 bibles. And of an event for training pastors where not even all the pastors that turned up had their own bibles. They are dealing with situations where they literally tear a bible in half and one pastor will preach from the old testament and other from the new.
G K Chesterton observed that when people stop believing in the truth, the result is not that they believe in nothing - but rather they believe in anything.
We live in a culture which tends to assume that our values, morality and religion, can be assembled in a lego-like fashion from which ever ideas take our fancy.
There is a growth of interest in Hinduism which, with it's more relaxed attitude to dogma, seems increasingly in tune with contemporary relativistic thought in Britain.
Jeremiah was a man who stood against the tide at a watershed moment in Israel's history.
v1-8 The challenge of truth
Jeremiah's prophecy is not fatalistic. It may be bleak, but it is offered on the basis that there is still time for repentance. Still an opportunity to find mercy.
Truth for critical times. Babylon was on the move - Nebuchadnezzar's army was now a threat to Jerusalem. For the first time it was beginning to look as though Jeremiah's prophecies of doom might actually turn out to be true.
The seriousness of the situation leads to a national fast being called. But there is a difference between fearing men (which makes us want to manipulate God into protecting us) and fearing God (and genuine repentance). Israel only want to repent of the consequences of their sin.
But the fast means an unusually large audience for Jeremiah as people make their way to Jerusalem for the fast.
It was the word of the Lord. v2,4,6 "The words I have spoken." An example of the dual authorship of scripture - it is more than "lovely literature." It is (cf 1 Thes 2:13) God's authoritative, powerful word. Jeremiah compares it to fire in his bones and to a hammer.
All the words I have spoken v2. God's wrath (v7), judgement (v3) and mercy (v3) are all part of the message. Jeremiah's faithfulness requires him to proclaim the entirety of God's message.
v9-26 Confrontation with the truth
How truth is rejected - in 3 short scenes.
Scene 1: It is read publically in the temple. Macaiah understands the significance of the prophecy and reports it to his father, an official.
Scene 2: It is read to the officials. The officials are disturbed as they hear the message - they become afraid and so they take it to the king.
Scene 3: It is read to the king. Jehoiakim openly rejects it. It is read in sections and as each section is finished, he cuts it off and carefully and deliberately drops it into the nearby fire. Not an angrily or impulsively, but slowly and deliberately and listening to the whole thing. Ignoring the pleas of his wiser officials. And with no apparent understanding of the significance of what he has just done.
But he sufficiently annoyed to order the arrest of Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch.
Truth is under attack today - in a variety of ways. Often it is relativised. Absolutes are denied.
A Christian girl was advised by her counselor to sleep with her boyfriend. When she objected to this prescription, her counselor said: "If it is functionally helpful, it is legitimate."
The reality is, however, that truth liberates. Freedom is only found in the environment for which we were intended. We need truth to survive, like a fish needs water. A fish finds freedom not in jumping out of a bowl into air, but in discovering a more water. We find freedom not in abandoning truth but in the embodiment of truth: Jesus.
v27-32 Truth stands forever.
It will be fulfilled. v30 The king who threw out God's word will himself be thrown out.
Isaiah 55:10-11 declares that God's word will accomplish its purpose. Every time.
Jonathan told of a friend of his who he had witnessed to at school over a period of years and seemed to get nowhere. They split up and went to different universities and, in the first week of Uni, this guy went to the Christian Union and was saved.
It will last v28,32 Jeremiah prepares another scroll.
Isaiah 40:6,8 "The word of our God stands forever."
This second scroll shows the pathetic futility of Jehoiakim's rejection of God's word. He merely sealed his own destruction.
No matter what opposition his word faces, God is sovereign.
We are, like Luther, to "throw the bible into the congregation." Expose them to the truth.
We finished by singing "Stand up, stand up for Jesus."