Author: Simon

Our Best Label

I’m a husband, dad, friend, pastor, musician, teacher, Leeds Fan and coffee lover. These are my labels and I’m pretty proud of them. They say something about be although they don’t say everything. For example: “musician” is a pretty broad category that could be anything from composer to guitar strummer. My Leeds Fan label might hide every now and then … when we’re not playing so well!

Labels define for others who we are. This is sometimes really helpful. But we cannot rely on labels in our walk with Jesus. Why? so often our labels come from either what we do or what we have done in the past. Again, as an example, i’ve played the piano for 43 years. Those years of playing mean that today,  I’m musician. I was born in West Yorkshire and because of that I’m a Leeds fan. My labels describe my past.

Although my labels describe my past my identity in Christ defines my future.

Because of Jesus there is a different outcome to my life that far exceeds labels.

“And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

2 Corinthians 6:18 NLT

How has Christ rewritten your future?

Salvation – whosoever wills

A certain Mr. Kline, discouraged, defeated, and convinced that life just wasn’t worth living because no one cared for him, walked past a church one Sunday evening when services were in progress. As the congregation sang he caught the strains of that familiar hymn: “Saved by grace alone, this is all my plea. Jesus died for all mankind, and Jesus died for me.”

His hearing, however, was not very good, so when the congregation came to the words, “Jesus died for all mankind,” he thought they sang, “Jesus died for ol’ man Kline.” “Why”, he said, “that’s me!” Stopping in his tracks, he turned and entered the small auditorium. There he heard the simple message of the Gospel as the minister presented the good news that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Mr. Kline believed and was saved.

—Richard De Haan

Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1232). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

The Enneagram Problem

The Enneagram, a personality system configured around a circle of nine types, promises to help the spiritual seeker break free from sin, peel back layers of dysfunctional ways of thinking, and find inside him or herself the essential, God-given gem. However, as this in-depth article from The Christian Research Institute points out .. all is not what it seems and careful discernment is needed.

Life Group Notes for John 17:14–19

This week we are taking a break in our Life Group Study in Romans 9 (don’t worry we will pick it up again later) to think about what Jesus meant by “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. ” Here are the notes for this week’s meetings:

The immediate context to the phrase is found in John 17:14–19:

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

The context of these verses is that Jesus is praying before He faces execution. Albert Barnes says of these verses:

It adds much to the interest of this prayer that it was offered in the stillness of the night, in the open air, and in the peculiarly tender circumstances in which Jesus and his apostles were. It is the longest prayer recorded in the New Testament. It was offered on the most tender and solemn occasion that has ever occurred in our world, and it is perhaps the most sublime composition to be found anywhere. Jesus was about to die. Having expressed his love to his disciples, and made known to them his last desires, he now commends them to the protection and blessing of the God of grace. This prayer is moreover a specimen of the manner of his intercession, and evinces the interest which he felt in behalf of all who should become his followers in all ages of the world

Barnes, A. (1884–1885). Notes on the New Testament: Luke & John. (R. Frew, Ed.) (p. 352). London: Blackie & Son.

There are three things worth discussions (and although these verses are packed with truths, our specific focus is on verse 16 only)

  1. We are in the world. Look at John 17:11 where Jesus says “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world”. This has to do with our PRESENT LOCATION
    It’s interesting that part of Jesus’ prayer is to mention that we are in the world. This is because the Christinan is like an astronaut in outer space: we are living outside our natural element. It is absolutely possible to survive here, but we need extra protection. This world is not our home. The problem for many is that we become too attached to the world. We get caught up in the world’s system and values. We become seduced by materialism and influenced by selfishness.
  2. We are not of this world. Look at verse 14 and 16 where Jesus repeats the phrase “they are not of this world”. This has to do with our POWERFUL DISTINCTION. Jesus is reminding us that there should be a distinction about our lives that marks us as different. We are set apart. The word the Bible uses is “holy”. That’s not supposed to carry any kind of hint of superiority or arrogance. Simply put, the holy person is an odd person. The odd one out. Different. Different in what way? In the values and motivations that we have. cf. 1 Peter 1:16
  3. We are not out of this world. Look at verse 15. This has to do with our PENETRATING INCLUSION. Jesus was no escapist! He never suggested that we become monks and isolated ourselves from the world. He told us to jump in with both feet and live like Christ right where we land.

So this is talking about transcendence: living for a Kingdom whilst inhabiting another. We are to reflect the priorities and values of God, whilst living on the earth. Just like Jesus did.

Two questions that Jay Kim asks in his book Analog Church that are particularly relevant to this discussion are this:

  • In what ways are you a derivative of the cultural moment and in what ways are you a disruption to it?
  • What are some specific, practical ways you can begin to help your church community live in “creative, prophetic” opposition to the perils of the digital age by “gathering when the world scatters, slowing down when the world speeds up, and communing when the world critiques”?

Word Study: Election

For those of you who like to work through the Bible regarding a topic, we’re just hit on the iea of election during our studies in Romans 9 so here is a topical guide to studying election.

Election defined by “The New Bible Dictionary, Third Edition” is:

The act of choice whereby God picks an individual or group out of a larger company for a purpose or destiny of his own appointment. The main OT word for this is the verb bāḥar, which expresses the idea of deliberately selecting someone or something after carefully considering the alternatives (e.g. sling-stones, 1 Sa. 17:40; a place of refuge, Dt. 23:16; a wife, Gn. 6:2; good rather than evil, Is. 7:15f.; life rather than death, Dt. 30:19f.; the service of God rather than of idols, Jos. 24:22). The word implies a decided preference for, sometimes positive pleasure in, the object chosen (cf., e.g., Is. 1:29). In LXX and the NT the corresponding verb is eklegomai. eklegō is commonly active in classical Gk., but the biblical writers always use it in the middle voice, with reflexive overtones: it thus means ‘choose out for oneself’. haireomai is used synonymously of God’s choice in 2 Thes. 2:13, as in Dt. 26:18, LXX. The cognate adjectives are Heb. bāḥîr and Gk. eklektos…

The Greek word is ἐκλεκτός (eklektos) and appears 18 times in the ESV version. Here’s 14 of those times
Mt 24:22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
Mt 24:24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
Mt 24:31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Mk 13:20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.
Mk 13:22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.
Mk 13:27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
Lk 18:7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?
Ro 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
1 Ti 5:21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.
2 Ti 2:10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
Tt 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness,
1 Pe 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
2 Jn 1 The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth,
2 Jn 13 The children of your elect sister greet you.

The key verses that related to Election are:

Deuteronomy 7:6
“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

John 15:16–17
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Romans 8:28–29
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

1 Corinthians 1:26–31
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Ephesians 1:3–14
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Deuteronomy 7:6–9
6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,

Isaiah 42:1
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.

Romans 8:28–33
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Romans 9:11
though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—

Romans 11:5
So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.

Ephesians 1:4–5
4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

2 Thessalonians 2:13–14
13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:1–2
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

 

No Book is As Important

I had a conversation this week about the importance of the Bible versus the importance of other books. The conversation wasn’t theological or even specifically Christian but it did highlight for me a few things about why Christians revere the Bible, but are also ok with reading other books .. or are we? Here’s some of my conclusions:

The Bible isn’t the same as other books.

By that I mean to say a number of things. Firstly, it’s a completely unjust comparison to say that the Bible is just a book. The Bible is the transmission fo God’s words, will and thoughts from God to us. No other book even comes close to that claim. Look at what Paul wrote about the Bible:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work

The 66 books that we call the Bible is the answer to questions such as: “What is God saying to me?”, “What does God think about …?”, “Is God speaking today?”. The answer is: read the Bible. You won’t get God’s answer to those questions by reading a book other than the Bible.

The second reason that it’s an unfair comparison is because the Bible is inerrant whereas the authors of other books, and their books are not. Inerrancy simply means that the written words are true. It doesn’t mean that the written words are without error. So for example, Psalm 113:3 says:

From the rising of the sun to its setting

now of course we know that the sun doesn’t set or rise.  The Sun isn’t moving around us at all, and the earth is not the centre of the solar system. It’s actually the earth that rotates so that the Sun can be seen that causes the “sunrise”. So is the Bible therefore wrong? Well no of course not … it’s not intending to teach us that the earth is the centre of the solar system. It’s using language that is describing “phenomena” as we experience them rather than stating scientific fact.

The point is that the Bible is telling us truth. Even when talking about the rising and setting of the sun .. this is the truth from where the author is standing watching the sun rise and set. It doesn’t affect inerrancy. So, it’s unfair to compare other books to the Bible because the authors are substantially different – one is God and the other is human. Look at some of the words that Peter used to describe the source of the Bible ..

2 Peter 1:20-21 – knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Why this is important is because when we come to read the Bible, if we are reading it correctly, we are reading the truth as presented by God. This means that any conflicting view (perhaps we simply just don’t agree with what we read) requires us to submit to it’s truth, rather than change it to fit our own truth. We don’t do that with any other book. We read other books very differently.

Never a substitute

Reading other books is not a substitute for reading the Bible – for all the reasons stated above. There is a spiritual process that takes place when we are reading the Bible that doesn’t take place when we are reading other books. This is why the writers say things like:

1 Peter 2:2—“As newborn babes, long for the guileless milk of the word in order that by it you may grow unto salvation.”

1 Timothy 4:6—“Being nourished with the words of the faith.”

The testimonies of people in the Bible, like Jeremiah said

Jeremiah 15:16 – “Your words were found and I ate them.”

God said to the Israelites:

Deuteronomy 8:3 – And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

Jesus Himself repeated this claim in Matthew 4:4

“Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

This means that we need to daily read the Words of God (The Bible) so that we can be nourished. No other book does that.

Reading other books is helpful

I have had conversations in the past with those people who say that reading other books, other than the Bible, is dangerous to our faith. I have completely disagreed with this line of argument in the past and continue to. Here’s what they are often saying: “I don’t want to read what other people think, because what I think is less dangerous. I am able to discern truth from error, and since the Bible is without error I’m better off with the Bible”. Now, I hear what they are often trying to articulate .. the Bible IS better, but to imply that their spiritual discernment is better than the spiritual discernment of the author is nothing by spiritual pride. To say that the Holy Spirit speaks to you through the bible in a way that He doesn’t do so to others is nothing but spiritual arrogance that needs repenting of.  Now, before I continue .. it MAY be that some books (sadly, many books) are not worth our time or, at worst, heretical. But to paint all books with the same brush, and thereby all authors as spiritual less able to discern than you is sadly prideful.

We have a God who has spoken through the ages to his people through the words of the Bible. These people have written their understanding down on paper. They might be wrong (and sometimes sadly are) but many many authors have added to the Christian faith depth and richness that without them, we would be lacking today. They help our understanding. They are fallible and sometimes erronous (just like us!) so …

Read with discernment

Always always always read books in one hand and your Bible in the other. If what the author is saying doesn’t line up with the bible then disregard it. This itself is a Biblical idea. The writer to the Hebrews says:

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:14)

What the writer means is this … those who are Bible readers and are submitting to the authority of it over their lives (i.e. their lives change to what the Bible says rather than the other way around), this solid food (Bible authority) is for those who have been reading what is wrong (in other books for example), and discerned that it is wrong according to the timeless truths of the Bible. If you are reading something that doesn’t line up with the Bible, and you discern it’s wrong, THIS is solid food!

Three questions to ask when reading other books:

First, there is the concern of content? Is the book you are reading helping you grow spiritually, or is it at least something God would approve of you reading?

Second, there is the concern of time. Is the reading of a particular book the best use of your time as a follower of Christ? Even a good book could be a bad decision if it is keeping you from God’s calling for your life in other areas.

Third, is the reading of other books interfering with reading God’s Book? No book is as important as the Bible, and those who focus on it daily are blessed (Psalm 1).

 

The Ezekiel Prophesies

Are we approaching the biblical “end of times’ scenario? How is this made known to us through the Bible? Can we do anything about it? Joel Rosenburg takes us through some very critical and difficult passages in the Bible that tell us of these prophecies.

 

Talking about Real People and Places

Let’s face it .. Zoom isn’t a real place. Online church isn’t either. However great these technologies are they are not real. They are electrical processes that mimic the real world. You nickname on a Zoom meeting isn’t real either. It’s just a collection of words that might mean something during the meeting … but the meeting only lasts for a while then it’s over. There’s not lasting connection because .. well the connections been pulled!

It’s our conviction that church involves real people and real places.

This is why we’re introducing a series into our Life Group meetings about this very issue. We’re encouraging you to read the book “Analog Church” (excuse the US spelling). We’ll discuss this in detail at our Life Groups .. pull out the things we disagree with and hold onto the things we affirm. By God’s help we’ll become the church God wants us to be – especially as we seek to do that in-person and digitally.

Speak to your Life Group Leader to get your book. If you’re isolating please let them know you need one so you can read along.

 

 

Serving Others

We often think that serving in church is a big weekly job.

A few hours on a Sunday morning setting up equipment, or greeting new comers.

These are vital roles for people to take on. But to leave ‘service’ with just these roles is to underestimate the term.

The Bible talks of the various gifts we are given, and how diverse the church family can be. It’s only right that our list of service should reflect this. In reality, the list of ways to serve in a church would be endless.

In readiness for our re-opening of in-person meetings we are publishing a new ministry service rota for the next few months. However, we really want to encourage you to TWO things:

  1. Sign up to a service rota – we need greeters and people to set up and tear down. We might not be called to these things but we are called to serve one another.
  2. Come prepared to use your spiritual gift to serve – you may not use your gift of encouragement when you are pulling down the marquees but you still have an opportunity to come along side someone, listen to their heart, pray for them and encourage them.

WE NEED BOTH OF THE ABOVE TO BE EFFECTIVE IN GOD”S CALL FOR US!

  • all sign ups will be done via ChurchSuite. If you don’t have access to this please contact us
  • please be eager to service your church! Take note of the things you’ll be asked to do and come prepared to do it
  • You’ll notice that some of the roles are either missing or have changed. This is because we need to streamline everything so that the fewest people are serving on any given Sunday as possible.
  • if you don’t know what gifting you have ask someone! Most of the time they will see things in you that you don’t see yourself. You don’t have to be highly skilled and perfect! Start stepping out into God’s purpose for you in our fellowship and see how God will bless it

Thanks again for your patience as we prepare to reopen for in-person gatherings on 4th October.

Be Careful What You Put Your Hope in, Including Politics

Randy Alcorn posted a super helpful blog  post last week that was so timely I thought I’d share it

Like many of you, I am not looking forward to all the political turmoil, including in the church, that is sure to come as the presidential election gets closer. At the same time, this is an excellent opportunity for God’s people to determine where our hope is placed.

I don’t mean that politics don’t matter and certainly I know that moral positions such as abortion and racial justice matter very much. But the fact remains, when people put their hope in political parties and beliefs, these can become gods. Christians sometimes view political leaders and their platforms with a degree of faith that should be reserved only for God and his Kingdom. And sometimes they display a degree of hatred and scorn that should be reserved for Satan and his demons.

Neither the judicial, legislative, nor executive branch of our government is the ultimate solution to America’s problems. Isaiah 33:22 tells us the solution: “For the LORD is our judge [judicial], the LORD is our lawgiver [legislative], the LORD is our king [executive], it is he who will save us.”

Ravi Zacharias wrote, “Outside of the cross of Jesus Christ, there is no hope in this world. That cross and resurrection at the core of the gospel is the only hope for humanity.”

God is the sovereign King, and He alone is the hope of this nation and every other one. Even if America crumbles (which could happen under any presidential candidate, or be delayed to sometime in the future), God is the only hope of each person and each family. He has been that all along, but perhaps this time it will be just a little more obvious.

Paul David Tripp had some good things to say about hope and politics in his video “Is the Gospel Political?” Below are some parts that I especially appreciated:

Read the rest here

Covid 19 Update – September

We’re Back – that’s the big news this month! In-person gatherings have already started and although we had some technical issues on the night it was so amazing to see so many of you come out. Thank you for making the effort!

We’re changing some things around over the next few weeks so here’s a quick run down of what’s coming up:

ONLINE GATHERINGS

  • Our Sunday Morning Service will continue to be streamed online. From 4th October we will be switching to using YouTube as our only platform. To access this you will need to use the website address: https://live.calvarysoton.co.uk. Between now and the 4th we will continue to use Online Church platform.
  • Life Groups will continue to meet via Zoom. Everyone is welcome so please search the events calendar for the Life Group to join and come along and see us.
  • Our monthly Ladies’ and Men’s Bible Studies will also continue to meet via Zoom. Everyone is welcome so please search the events calendar for the right event to join and come along and see us.
  • From 13 September we will no longer publish our weekly study guide or family ministry materials.
  • From 20 September our Post-Service Fellowship on Zoom will cease.

IN-PERSON GATHERINGS

  • Most of the details for gathering in-person can be found in the weekly e-bulletin or on the event in the calendar
  • Friday 18 September is our next in-person gathering, then we move to Sunday Mornings on 4th October
  • The main thing to remember is that we are “Covid safe” and seats need to be booked prior to your arrival.
  • Children’s ministry is available. Please book “Family Ministry” ticket in the event page.
  • At the moment we are unable to serve tea/coffee but we’re working on it! For now, feel free to bring your own!

Why We Gather

With the move to in-person gatherings taking place in a couple of weeks time I thought it would be good to remind us of what the New Testament teaches us about the local church assembly.

  1. We see that the church regularly gathers. We read throughout Acts that they came together and, if you pay attention, there seems to be a weekly reoccurrence. Paul uses phrases like “when you come together as a church” and “the whole church comes together” (1 Cor. 11:18; 14:23).
  2. We see that the church distinctly gathers. What I mean by that is that church was an event unlike other events. It was special. We know this because Paul provides specific instructions on what believers should do “in church”—that is, in the church meeting. (see 1 Cor. 14:19 & 28)
  3. We see that the church as one gathers. Some NT churches were huge! Thousands of believers belonged to one church in Jerusalem, yet they met “all together in Solomon’s Portico” (Acts 5:12). There was an emphasis on all gathering together in one place.
  4. We see that the church particularly gathers. That just means that when they met, there were things that they did that could only be done by meeting together. For example, the combination of admonishing one another and singing and reading the Bible (1 Tim. 4:13), encouraging one another (Heb. 10:24–25), and taking communion (1 Cor. 10:17, 11:18, 33) and only really be done in-person, as the church meets together. Of course, many churches, as has ours) gone to great lengths to try and replicate this online but it’s no substitute. The last 6 months have been a strange season and we should assume from the NT that believers belong first and foremost to the main congregational gathering given the biblical emphasis on the whole church meeting together.
  5. We see that the church was called out to gather. The Greek word most commonly translated church is ekklesia. in non-biblical writing this referred to a group of people, sent to a city to form a example of how Romans live. This group for people gathered in the name of Rome, called out of Rome and set apart from the city to which they were sent. The Biblical idea of ekklesia follows the same idea. We are called to gather in His name (Matt. 18:17, 20), to reflect the values of Heaven, whilst bring the good news message of the God to the city.
  6. We see that the church gathered and scattered. A church is more than a gathering, of course. It gathers, then scatters, then gathers again. Its members continue to be part of the church throughout the week, as they serve and represent Christ in their homes, their workplaces, their neighbourhoods. But a church is never less than a gathering.

God’s Sovereignty and Human Choice

I came across a really interesting list on how the Bible affirms both God’s sovereignty and human choice (particularly interesting in light of our recent and upcoming Romans studies)

God’s Sovereignty:

  • God is the Creator, ruler and possessor of all things
  • God is the ultimate personal cause of al that happens
  • God elects His people
  • God is the Unacknowledged source of good fortune or success

Human choice

  • People face a multitude of divine exhortations and commands
  • People obey, believe and choose God
  • People sin and rebel against God
  • People’s sins are judged by God
  • People are tested by God
  • People receive divine rewards
  • The elect are responsible to respond to God’s initiative
  • Prayers are not mere showpieces scripted by God
  • God literally pleads with sinners to repent and be saved

– D.A Carson

The priorities of the Christian

One of the things that the Lord has really been speaking to me about over the last 6 months is about the priorities of the Christian. What are the things, when everything else is stripped away,  that should be my focus as a Christian? Well in no particular order I think the Bible teaches that there are three predominant priorities for us:

  1. Knowing Jesus
  2. Growing in the Gospel
  3. Making Disciples

Know Jesus

This is our ultimate goal as Christians: to know Jesus. Jesus prayed in John 17:4:

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

Paul’s vision for his life was to:

know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Phil 3:10)

As Christians we’ve been called into this wonderful relationship with God – which is all of His doing – and yet the goal is to know Him. We’re invited to abide in Him (John 15).

Practically there are a number of ways we know Jesus but primarily of course we know Him as we explore what the Bible says about Him. The Bible says that He is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14), the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Hebrews 1:3), the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), in whom all the fullness of deity is pleased to dwell (Colossians 2:9), who upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). However, it’s not just about learning facts about Jesus – it’s knowing Him personally. It’s to know the One who saved us. If we know Him personally, He is not just the Jesus of theological categories, He is Jesus my Lord and my God. Jesus, our Saviour.

Practically, this means we talk with Him as we learn about Him. It means we think about Jesus and we talk about Jesus. It means we love him. From our sermon this Sunday we saw how God works together everything for good for those that love Him.  Christians are people, who by their new nature, love God. The first and greatest commandment is that we love God with all our being. Paul wrote:

1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV) — 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

1 Corinthians 8:3 (ESV) — 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Ephesians 6:24 (ESV) — 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

So we, as a priority, should be people who love and adore and worship Jesus! So convicting because how often in my singing, in my prayers, in my study of the Scriptures is my aim to better love and express my love forJesus?

Grow in the Gospel

The second thing we’re called to do is to Grow in the Gospel. That basically means that as we know Jesus we are growing in our relationship with Him and this is expressed in our sanctification or Christian maturity. We are putting off sin and putting on Christ as Paul would say.  I think, however, too often we think that just gaining facts about God is the same as growing in the gospel. Somehow, too often, we think that if we know the order of the Kings of Israel, for example, that we’re maturity in the gospel. So, let me see if I can help with a quote from Ray Ortlund. He said this:

“For me, personally, it took me years and years AND YEARS to get past a moralistic, legalistic, performance-based , anxiety-conducive, pressuring kind of hermeneutic with which I read the Bible.”

That is a wonderful quote because he is saying that a Christian can live as though our performance matters to God. We are still somehow connected to meritocracy. Let’s talk about that for a second …

Meritocracy is a powerful ideology that directs the lives of millions of people. It basically argues that societies worth is found in the talent of its subjects. What rules is merit. The more talented you are, the more valued you are in society.

But being a Christian isn’t about approaching God on the basis of your talent or how good you are. The myth of meritocracy imagines that somehow each of us can earn our daily bread but Jesus teaches us that no one can earn grace. None of us. God gives us what we need not what we deserve. He values each of us equally because we are hidden in Christ. Yet, because meritocracy is so ingrained in society, we still think that my works will someone count for something.

Ortlund is saying that it is easy to read the Bible and see it as a list of rules. It’s easy to get a to do list. When we see our relationship to God that way it’s actually called “religion”.  This leads to what Orlund says is “performance-based, anxiety-conducive” because we are unable to live up to those high standards. Instead, if we really understand that the gospel is for Christians, as well as non-Christians, and we are in a relationship with God, through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, it transforms the way we live.

We need to be people who grow in the gospel realising that every time I come to Jesus I come because of grace.

Make Disciples

The third thing we’re called to do is to Make Disciples. This is primarily about evangelising those who do not yet know Jesus and helping them to grow in the gospel. So this priority is outwards focused rather than inwards. It’s about others rather than myself.

This starts with living out the priorities of “knowing Jesus” and “growing in the gospel” in front of those who do not yet know Jesus. We call this “being a good witness” but it’s about living out the first two priorities in front of others – not perfectly because none of us are that – but in a way that confesses imperfection and desire to do what is right.

It also goes beyond living as a faithful witness to speaking about Jesus to others in a way that invites them to start following Jesus too.

It doesn’t stop there though. We are not called to make converts only, but disciples. This means that when a person starts to follow Jesus, we make it our aim to help them into this cycle of  “knowing Jesus, growing in the gospel, making disciples”. So making disciples is about the way we live, making much of Jesus to those that don’t know Him, and then walking with people as they get to know and follow Jesus.

Covid 19 Update – August

For those who were unable to meet online this week here is a summary of our discussion:

We are so much looking forward to welcoming you back to Calvary. We can’t wait (but we have to).

Here are the plans:

  • Towards the end of September we are hoping to start a Friday evening service at the School. This will essentially be an open recording session where we will record the service and stream it on Sunday morning via live.calvarysoton.co.uk (as we have been doing).
  • Here are some things that you need to be aware of:
    • Booking seats is required. We will let you know when you can do this.
    • For the purpose of NHS Test and Trace, attendance records will be kept for 21 days. You do not consent to this please do not attend.
    • Attendance is limited to 30 people (including staff & children)
    • There will be no children’s church
    • There will be no tea/coffee served
    • Doors open at 6:45 pm and close at 6:55 pm. Latecomers will not be permitted to enter the building.
    • There will be no congregational singing but worship will be lead from behind a perspex screen.
    • The bible preaching will be lead from behind a perspex screen
    • At the end of the service, people will be asked to leave the building straight away.
    • All of the usual distancing guidelines apply. Attendees will:
      • keep 2 metres apart at all times, unless in a bubble.
      • sanitise hands on entry and exit (sanitiser will be provided)
      • seat in allocated seats
      • wipe down seats after use (sanitiser wipes will be provided)
      • wearing face mask
      • have forehead temperature checked on entry.
      • bring their own Bible. Church bibles will not be available to use
      • follow the one way system

We want to make Calvary the safest place in Southampton so please bear with us! Please do let us know if you can help with set up and pack down – there’s a lot to do and any spare hands are helpful!

Sons of God and the NAR

In this weeks sermon passage there is a verse that has cause some controversy and I thought I’d take this opportunity to explore it in a little more detail. The verse is from Romans 8:19:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

This is just a short post regarding the false doctrine attached to this verse. There are some groups that take this phrase “revealing of the sons of God” and use it as the foundation for a doctrine that I don’t believe is Scripturally faithful. The doctrine goes has gone by many names over the years but today it’s associated with the movement called New Apostolic Reformation. For the most part this movement still accepts the basic tenets of the Gospel and so in that sense they would be included in orthodox Christianity. It is evangelistic and charismatic, it believes the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. The movement also usually takes a conservative stance on moral issues, values prophecy, promotes social action and can encourage support for Israel. For these things they should be commended.

However, on the issue of end times, in my opinion, they are inescapably unbiblical.

So what does the NAR believe about this verse? Well it says that there is going to come in the last days before Jesus returns a “new breed” of Christians called the “Manifest” or Revealed “Sons of God” who will have super-natural spiritual power. These people are likened to Moses and Elijah. The are collectively known as “Joel’s Army” and are the same as the mighty men from Genesis 6. They will subdue all the enemies of Jesus until they eventually gain power and authority throughout the world. This means that the governments of all the nations will be under their control and when all authorities, governments, monarchs have finally submitted to them, Christ will return and they will present the kingdom to Jesus.

So who are they?

Well I think it’s pretty easy to establish that the sons of God are Christians. Whilst they will have supernatural power (Acts 1:8), the ret of what NAR affirms is an over realisation of end times theology. Of all the mentions of the sons of god in the New Testament they are refer to people who trust in God:

Matthew 5:9 (ESV) — 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Luke 20:36 (ESV) — 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

Romans 8:14 (ESV) — 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Romans 8:19 (ESV) — 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

Galatians 3:26 (ESV) — 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

Sovereignty and Free Choice – Quote of the week

This weeks quote comes from Randy Alcorn’s book “Hand in Hand” but the quote is from Spurgeon:

I see in one place, God presiding over all in providence; and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions to his own will, in a great measure.

Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act, that there was no presidence of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to Atheism; and if, on the other hand, I declare that God so overrules all things, as that man is not free enough to be responsible, I am driven at once into Antinomianism [lawlessness] or fatalism.

That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other.

If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other.

These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.

 

Being Church

With some churches deciding to meet back face-to-face and a growing idea that what we now face is an endemic rather than a pandemic, we want to invite you to a series of special events where we will be discussing how the church can continue to be formed, grown and flourished.

We’ve always said that the church isn’t a place we visit, but the church is the people of God. Now that we don’t have the opportunity to meet, how do we function as the church of God in the place that He has put us? What should our focus be? How can we eventually get back together?

Everyone has something to learn and something to say so please do come along and be part of the the conversation. There are three main 20 minute sessions with breakout discussions afterwards.

The event will be a Zoom meeting on Wednesday 5th August at 7:00pm. Access code is 812 2995 2460 or click here

 

 

 

Blessed Assurance

This is a great song for our current series through Romans where Paul is writing about assurance. Check it out and put it on repeat.

 

“Blessed Assurance” from our new album “Only a Holy God” recorded live at our church St Paul’s Castle Hill available to purchase at
http://apple.co/2h3qIGd
© 2016 CityAlight Music

Words and music by
Michael Farren, Jaywan Maxwell, Rhyan Shirley, Nate Singh
CCLI 7073328

All my attempts to be satisfied
Were vain and empty
Until the moment you rescued me
And your love filled me

My soul sings
Now my soul sings

What blessed assurance
I’ve found in you
I’ve found in you
I won’t be shaken I will not be moved
How steadfast your strong hand
Is keeping me
Is keeping me
I won’t be shaken I will not be moved
Oh blessed assurance

No other love that I’ve ever known
Compares to you God
No other love that I’ve ever found
Has done what you’ve done

Ever my anchor
Ever my strength
Ever my portion
And all I need

Ever my healing
Ever my hope
Ever the truth that leads me home
That leads me home

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