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LW08 - Evening 3 - The Dimensions of Christian Motivation

2 Corinthians 5:10-21

After a brief welcome by convention chairman, Paul Moore (St Wilfrid's, Cowplain) Michael Herbert (Cosham Baptist) introduced as usual. We sang And Can It Be, How Deep the Father's Love, You Chose the Cross (Soul Survivor finally getting a look in!) and Above All Powers.

"Flattery is a bit like smoking - it does you no harm unless you inhale."

Jonathan described sitting in a service station and being unable to avoid overhearing a conversation between a couple of insurance salesmen. The older man was advising the younger on how to manipulate your way to a sale: from appropriate dress for the city vs in a village. Different approaches to take when selling to men and women. Physical posture - when to sit, when to stand. But it was all about manipulating people into notches on a balance sheet - not about serving or helping the customer. The motivation is entirely selfish.

Paul is facing critics who likewise have a warped value system. They are not preaching or working from pure motives. He explains 3 major motivations for mission.

1. We are loved by Jesus our Saviour 5v14

v13 Christ's love controls us. We are not driven primarily by a sense of need. Nor of guilt or a desire for fulfilment. It is love that compels us into action.

Paul's logic

Christ died for all

∴ all died - ie. death to our old life

I no longer live for myself - ie. the centre of gravity in his life has radically shifted. Unlike a t-shirt design "Today is all about me," for the Christian today is all about Christ.

I live for Christ - ie. his life is my life. We give everything because he gave everything.

Or as the NEB puts it: "the love of Christ leaves me no choice."

What does this look like? e.g. A young Christian guy with a degree from Oxford working in Yakutz in Russia. An area with permafrost - so all pipes are above ground. Temperatures reach -60°C in winter. Why? Working with young people to share the gospel. "It's worth it to see them come to know Christ."

2. We are responsible to Jesus our judge 5v10

On Sunday, June 25th, 1865, unable to bear the sight of a congregation of a thousand or more Christian people rejoicing in their own security, while millions were perishing for lack of knowledge, I wandered out on the sands alone, in great spiritual pain; and there the Lord conquered my unbelief, and I surrendered myself to God for this service. -- Hudson Taylor (Quoted from A Retrospect)

The judgement is not of our salvation but of our stewardship. Have we done well with what God entrusted to us?

Building for eternity. 1 Cor 3:10-15 - which is clearly talking about Christians, because Christ is the foundation. The message is clear: how we live now matters - the judgement is practical. How do we use the gifts, time, resources available to us?

Two parables Matthew 13 - Farmer finding treasure; Merchant finding pearl. In both cases joy at what they had found enabled the reckless pursuit of what mattered most.

During the time of the Rwandan genocide, a Christian leader and his family, who were working with and caring for refugees, were given the chance to escape - but he responded "If I cannot share my people's pain, I cannot share the gospel with them." He knew what it was to use what he had well.

2 Tim 4:7,8 - we are, like Luther, to be primarily concerned with two days: today & that day. Jesus is our judge & he's coming back - our lives should reflect our belief that that is true.

3. We are sent by Jesus the King 5v20

How do we see people? (v16) We are no longer seeking to judge people according the distinctions of the world around us, like skin colour, image, ethnicity, social status, wealth etc. We are to see people through the eyes of the gospel - men and women who need to be reconciled to God.

How do we explain the message? v17 New creation: It is not an addon, an appendage or a boost. The closest analogy that Paul could describe was not metamorphosis, nor birth but creation itself. It is a message of total, radical transformation.

v18,19,21 New status: we are reconciled, forgiven and made righteous.

How do we fulfil the mission? (v18) We are Christ's ambassadors - not in a lofty sense, but a humble one. There is a combination of authority (we speak on Christ's behalf as ambassadors) and urgency (we beg).

What we need more than anything is the right motivation. More than strategies, plans or programmes: our greatest need is the motivation that flows from a fresh vision of Jesus Christ.

Nothing is more important for the recovery of the church's mission (where it has been lost), or its development (where it is weak), than a fresh, clear and comprehensive vision of Jesus Christ. When he is demeaned, and specially when he is denied, in the foulness of his unique person and work, the church lacks motivation and direction, our morale crumbles and our mission disintegrates. But when we see Jesus, it is enough. We have all the inspiration, incentive, authority and power we need. -- John Stott

We are loved by Jesus our Saviour; we are responsible to Jesus our Judge; we are sent by Jesus our King. Let's go.

The meeting closed with us singing "Jesus: be the centre" and "Be thou my vision."

LW08 - Evening 2 - The Foundations of Christian Hope

2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10

Michael Herbert (Cosham Baptist) introduced as usual, with a series of hymns: "Praise my soul the King of Heaven" (a modified, explicitly trinitarian version), "You're the word of God the Father," "Jesus, Hope of the Nations," "From the Breaking of the Dawn" and "Lord, I come before your Throne of Grace."

Jonathan kicked off with a chinese proverb: "To prophesy is extremely difficult - especially if you want to prophesy with regard to the future."

Most contemporary prophecy is pessimistic: commentators expect increasingly severe environmental and economic problems ahead.

Yet the more uncertain the times, the more we want to know the future. Recent article about young business people in Manhattan visiting a psychic. "Psychics are better than friends because they can tell you where you're going and give you hope for the future" one young businesswoman was quoted as saying.

Our generation is the first in over a hundred years to have lower hopes than our parents.

One common response is to fall into short-term hedonism - living for the weekend.

Hope shapes the present. Christian hope is not a fanciful hope as in "I hope I'll pass my exams" or "I hope the preacher won't go on to long this evening" - such hopes come with no guarantees of being true. It is based on what God has already done, which verifies and authenticates the promises he has made.

The more clearly we see the future, the more deliberately we can live now.

v16-18 Living in two worlds - 3 contrasts

v16 Outward decline and inward renewal. Living in this world while participating in the world to come. Our bodies inevitably decay, but our appreciation of the future should grow. We experience this world while anticipating the world to come.

v17 Present trouble and future glory. All our suffering is light and momentary when compared with weight of eternal glory.

Like climbing a mountain - struggling and wanting to give up - but knowing the vista at the top is worth effort.

We often speak of someone who has been ill as being a shadow of their former selves. We are now a shadow of our future selves.

v18 The seen and the unseen. Two ways to looking. Some believe that all religions are mocked by the hard white smile of the skull - that the immediately visible is all there is and therefore all that matters. Troubles, however, help us see the transient nature of this age.

The contrast here is not physical vs. spiritual - it is present vs. future.

At John Stott's 80th birthday party, someone quipped that is is hard to get someone a present at 80 because, by the time they are 80, most people have everything they need. Uncle John, on the other hand, has nothing. And we don't want to spoil that. He has invested in the age to come.

5:1-5 Anticipating the future

v1 What will it be like then? 'We know ... an eternal house in heaven.' v1 'Mortality swallowed up by life' v4.

Paul speaks as a tent maker who spent significant portions of his life travelling to spread the gospel. He looked forward to the day when he would pack his flimsy tent up for the last time and move into his the permanent house his Heavenly Father had prepared for him.

He has a robust vision of heaven - it's a solid house, not an ethereal experience wearing celestial negligee and hanging out on a cloud.

Death and decay will be overcome; life will consume them.

vv2,4 What do we feel now? We groan (cf Romans 8:19-23). We experience an inevitable restlessness and tension.

v5 How can we be sure? 1. God had this in mind all along. This is not a new plan, nor is it Plan B. God always intended it to end up this way.

2. God has given us a sign. The Holy Spirit is the first installment of what we will receive in the age to come. Like the way they used to serve coffee on British Rail trains in the dining car: the first waiter would give you the milk and sugar - an indication that the coffee was on its way.

Can be easy to talk glibly about this until it is staring us in the face. We must consider this deeply and soberly so that the experience does not catch us off guard.

v6-10 On our way home

Visions of the future are often given to those facing particular difficulty - like Jeremiah, Daniel, and the Apostle John on Patmos.

v7 We live by faith. We don't see Jesus, but we know his presence and we trust God more than we trust ourselves.

v9 We live to please him. This goal must reign supreme above every other ambition: we will see him. It is vital that we live in anticipation of that day.

We live in the light of eternity. We must see our life as it is: the prelude, the backstory, for eternity. Ironically, this actually makes life now more significant - it means our lives are more than a vapour that is forgotten. What we do now matters - our stewardship will be judged.

We should live with our eyes on the horizon and our boots on our feet.

The final hymn was "There is a higher throne."

LW08 - Minister's Talk - Integrity in Christian Ministry

Paul Moore (St Wilfrid's) introduced briefly.

Jonathan spoke from the 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12.

He introduced the topic by describing the problems he has with their digital TV set. Apparently A/V sync is a relatively common problem: mouths flapping, but not corresponding to the words being heard. A lack of coherence that makes it hard to take someone seriously.

To lack coherence between what we say and what we do is to lack integrity. Just as buildings are inspected for structural integrity to ensure that all the parts are in good repair and fitting together well, so we need to examine our lives.

There is a consistent link in the NT between holiness & mission, between godliness & ministry.

So what do we do?

1. The Gospel must be embodied

1:5 Effective communication. We communicated more than just information - it came with conviction and power. They modeled what they preached.

God's word, accompanied by the power of the spirit and embodied by the minister makes for a powerful combination.

A prophet is not God's postman who simply delivers God's message - he must embody it.

2:6-8 Compassionate Identification. Paul not only shared the gospel message with the Thessalonians, but he shared his life as well. Sharing the gospel may be getting harder, but sacrificially sharing your life is harder still.

It is not from a pulpit but a cross that power-filled words are spoken: sermons need to be seen as well as heard.

2. The Preacher must be approved

2v4 Entrusted by God. Implies testing - a continual cycle of testing and further being entrusted. Just as Paul's passion for sharing the gospel flowed from a deep sense of his calling, so the burden of trust we have received should impel us.

2v4-6 Pleasing God. 'as you know' v5, 'God is our witness' v5, 'you are witnesses and so is God' v10. Our sole ambition is God's pleasure. Here criticism is our friend - because it reveals the true state of our hearts. Success in ministry to easily breeds pride as an artificial motivational-substitute.

[In its early stages] pride looks and feels like energetic commitment, sacrificial zeal, selfless devotion. -- Eugene Peterson

If our motivation for ministry is pride, we will be exhausted if we try to live two lives - we have a constant need for God's strength.

Ministry must be modeled

A godly example 2:10-12 Paul declares that his behaviour was holy, righteous and blameless among them. cf 2 Corinthians 6:3 - He did his utmost to ensure that nothing he did caused them harm; caused them to doubt the truth of the gospel.

Christian character is as much taught as caught.

Jonathan gave the example of a treasurer at the church he attended as a small boy who was found to have embezzeled significant amounts of money over a period of several years. It was shocking and extremely disturbing for the church. (He went on to discuss how it had been handled in a godly way, the man had repented and demonstrated his sincerity over many subsequent years in humble service).

Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity. (2 Tim 2:19). Paul's faithful conduct made the gospel seem more credible - and he pushed others to follow his example.

Richard Baxter, the puritan who wrote the Reformd Pastor, declared that we must study as hard to live well as to preach well.

He quoted a survey which indicated that the No.1 reason for boys abandoning church during their teenage years is seeing a disconnect between their father's conduct in church and conduct at home.

There is a ripple effect:

v5 the gospel came to you

v6 you welcomed the message

v8 it rang out from you everywhere

v6 you became imitators of us

v6 you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia

Reflection

Ministers need to:

Look out: Keep watch. Are we exhibiting signs of spiritual decline?

Find help: Support networks. How do we care for one another? How do we avoid isolation? How do we pursue accountability?

Keep learning: Stay humble. Keep seeking to understand the scriptures more deeply and clearly. How do we avoid acting as though we've reached a spiritual plateau?

LW08 Photos (Wednesday Evening)

Michael Herbert
Michael Herbert introducing
Paul Moore & Jonathan Lamb
Convention Chairman Paul Moore & Speaker Jonathan Lamb
Living Word 2008 - Wednesday Night Band
The wednesday night band & stage area
Living Word 2008 - Delegates
The convention delegates
Jonathan Lamb Preaching
Jonathan Lamb preaching
Jonathan Lamb Preaching
Jonathan Lamb continuing to preach