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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 - Evening 1 - The Costs of Christian Service

2 Corinthians 4:1-15

Michael Herbert (Cosham Baptist) is, as usual, introducing the evening sessions. Unless I missed a hymn as we were arriving, we started with “O for a thousand tongues” followed by “In Christ alone,” “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds” and “Oh to see the dawn (The Power of the cross).” Then the reading (2 Cor 4:1-15) and a final hymn (“Who is there like you?”). Where would we be without Church of Christ the King, Brighton?

Jonathan Lamb led off with a brief description of Langham Partnership International – describing how the global face of Christianity has changed in the last 50/60 years from being 75% in the northern hemisphere in 1950, to the opposite situation today where 75-80% of the world's Christians live in Africa, Asia or Latin America. Langham Partnership works in partnership with churches in these countries to help train leaders and equip the church. Jonathan is particularly involved in Langham Preaching – training bible teachers and preachers in universities, seminaries and churches.

Jonathan started by telling the story of a student he was interviewing with regard to a post working full time for a Christian ministry in Europe. Having determined that the student in question was a Christian, he asked him why he wanted the post. The students response was twofold: he wanted financial security and he wanted to travel Europe.

No-one reading Jeremiah or Paul would come to the conclusion that Christian ministry is pleasant, safe or fulfilling. The call of Christ is exceedingly costly. 20 churches closed in Algiers this year, due to persecution. Village in Indonesia attacked, 3 churches destroyed, 4 christians tortured and then murdered, 56 injured. Bishop murdered recently in Iraq. An apparent conspiracy of silence in Turkey meeting the team investigating the recent murder of 3 christians.

Paul's ministry is built upon a basic paradox: one which – humanly speaking – seems absurd, yet makes sense of both the gospel and of our service. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Just as God's power is seen in the apparent weakness of Jesus on the cross, so his power is displayed through our weakness in serving him: Christians are like teabags – their true strength is only drawn out in hot water.

v1-6 Ministry priorities

v1 Responsibility. We have this ministry by God's mercy. The perennial challenge faced by christians is discouragement; Paul served because he had been called. We serve not out of a subjective sense of our own ability, but because we have a God-appointed task to perform.

v2 Integrity. We renounce underhanded methods. Every aspect of ministry is to be above board - open & transparent. There is no spin; no manipulating the message to be different according to the audience. Our lives should help validate the message.

v3,4 Realism. We should not be under any illusions about the difficulty of the task: many people will simply ignore the message of the gospel. Paul was fully aware of the reality of spiritual warfare: he was neither obsessed by it, not arrogantly dismissive.

v5 Faithfulness. Ministry is not an ego trip - we proclaim Christ. We don't promote ourselves. Nothing is allowed to undermine this message: we lift up Christ because it is only through Christ that we know the glory of God. Faithlessness == fruitlessness - because the we rely on the power of God which operates through our weakness.

v7-12 Ministry experience

v7-9 Weakness & Power. Jars of clay could be a reference to an earthenware lamp where light shines through the cracks; might be a cheap container holding the spoils from a military campaign. Who knows? The significant point is the contrast between the relatively insignificant container and magnificent treasure within. The purpose: to emphasize the divine origin of the power.

v8-9 Series of greek word plays: cf. ice cream van slogan "Often licked, never beaten." Or "Hemmed in but not hamstrung."

Quote: Betsie Ten Boom in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp: "We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still"

v10-12 Union with Christ. A church is a community centred around Christ. A christian is a person united with Christ. We willingly identify with and carry the death of Jesus in our bodies in order that the life might show as well. Particular identification with Jesus on earth emphasised by the repeated use of his name.

We ought to be suspicious of any model of christianity which does not display this weakness.

Ministry implications

v13 It is worth preaching the gospel. cf Psalm 116, also written by someone who had apparently had a near death experience. The hardship and suffering makes preaching the gospel seem all the more important. We must continue to preach the gospel as long as we hope in the gospel.

v14 It is heading somewhere. Both our suffering and ministry has direction and purpose - just as Jesus who suffered & was raised. The hope of the resurrection is key.

v15 It is all for God's glory. All these struggles that Paul (and we face) are ok - because God's people benefit and God is glorified.

Ripple effect: God's grace impacts more people ... God's people rejoice in his victories ... God's glory is the eventual goal.

He closed by telling us of Graham Staines - a missionary in Northern India who was in his landrover with his two sons outside their church when they were attacked by a mob of hindu extremists who set the car on fire. All three died. Gladys, his widow, declared to press that gathered that she was deeply upset, but not angry, for Jesus taught us how to love our enemies. It was a message that the press relayed across India.

Seeing the way the gospel has spread in the years since that incident, it seems that the testimony of one middle-aged widow did more for the cause of the gospel of Christ than the millions of dollars worth of slick Christian television.

The meeting closed with the hymn: "When I survey."