Warner's TheoBlog

Thoughts from a disciple who writes


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Paying the price

I wonder if, for too long, the Christian faith has been presented as an easy option?

Let me start by stating that Jesus has paid the price for our salvation, once and for all. We are saved by grace, not as a result of our own righteousness. In this way, the price that we simply cannot afford has already been paid, fully and unequivocally, and salvation is free. BUT…

However, it is not salvation that is at issue, so much as it is the life of a disciple.

To paraphrase Bill Hybels, if the Christian faith is only about salvation, why are we still breathing? Why is it that we are not, as soon as we believe, taken into heaven? What happens after salvation? It is after we are saved that God asks us to pay a price. We don’t have to pay it, but we are given the opportunity to do so over the rest of our life on Earth.

Richard Taylor, at #RMLC2014, talked about an aeroplane where the ones who are in first class are simply those who are willing to pay the price expected to upgrade from standard seating. All of the passengers are heading for their destination, but some have paid more and so find more on their journey. The difference between standard and first class is not where one travels, it is how one travels.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)

These words of Jesus do not say that there is a cost to salvation. Anyone can hear the words of Jesus, comprehend the meaning and believe in the truth. Yet, there is a difference between those who believe and those who follow. Following Jesus costs more, but it means more too.

To follow Jesus we must give up our own preferences and life choices. We must choose to submit our future to him, living in a way that is consistent with his teaching, even if it is different to what we have always known. This might mean that we strain, or even lose, relationships with family and friends who do not agree with us or understand our faith. It might necessitate a change in our priorities of time and effort. Following Jesus will almost certainly mean that we have to sacrifice our need for control over our own destiny, choosing to live by faith instead of knowledge.

Following Jesus ALWAYS leads to change. We will change, our lives will change, our relationships will change and our view of the world that we live in will change.

The Cost of following Jesus is simply that we have to follow Jesus, wherever he leads us… even when it results in derision, persecution and, possibly, death.

Why? Because Jesus Christ is the only way for the people of the world to be reconciled to the God who created them. He is the only way to be forgiven from sin and the only path into the presence of the living God. Further, the people of this world NEED to see the truth that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. It is through the lives of the disciples of Jesus that they will find the evidence of the truth of salvation by grace. We are the body of Christ!

To be saved does not mean that I need to be a disciple of Jesus. I don’t have to pay that price. But, because I am saved, how can I not follow? How can I not dive into God? The question is this… am I willing to pay the price so that my fellow men and women of the world might taste and see that Jesus is the way to full and wonderful life?

“Where else can I go? With you, Jesus, are the words of eternal life”

End Note – This blog is the result of my thoughts following the @RMChurches Leadership Conference in Norwich (#RMLC2014).


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The Parable of the Treasure (a retelling)

It has been a long time since my last Theoblog post, but now it is time to start posting again. If you like what you read, please share it around. There are also a great many posts in the archive so please take a peek. Comments are more than welcome as are retweets, shares, and the like.

I am going to start off this new era with my take on a parable of Jesus…

There was once a man who, whilst he was working in a field, found a treasure of immeasurable worth. From the moment he found it, he knew that this treasure was of greater value than anything else in the world. Greater than anything he had, would or could ever possess. So, he buried the treasure once more and went off with the firm intention of selling everything he had so that he could buy the field and gain the treasure for himself.

Whilst he was hurrying to do so a pretty young lady caught his eye and he stopped to talk to her. He thought, “I will sell everything later to buy the treasure” and took the pretty young lady for a drink. The man and the lady got talking, time passed and the man still firmly intended to sell everything and buy the field… later.

In time, the man and the lady married, found a house to share together and had a few children. He often thought about the treasure and, every time it came to mind, he firmly intended to sell all that he had to buy the field where he had found the treasure. He even went as far as to go to the auction house where he could sell everything, and was surprised when they offered him a job. The treasure would come a little later, he decided.

The man worked hard, smiled, was patted on the back, celebrated, enjoyed his children, house, pet dog, food, drink, holidays in the sun, sadness, fun and a cottage on the continent for dreamy days and family gatherings. All safe in the knowledge that the man knew where the treasure was.

When, eventually, as a much older man, he got around to being able to afford the time to be able to buy the field the old man handed over the money, took his spade and dug down to find that the treasure he had found all those years ago was still where he had left it. And he wept as he looked on its beauty and was overwhelmed once more at its immeasurable worth. He wept for all of the time he had lost without the greatest treasure in the world.

The man fell down dead and went to heaven, leaving the treasure in the field where he had first found it. Unused.

 


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The temptation to ambivalence

This blog is not really a Bible study. It is more in the line of a reflection that comes out of where I find myself in recent months.

I used to watch people slip away from church and wonder how it could happen. I would believe that if they had a passion and faith like mine, then they would not be able to slip away.

In the last month or so, it has become very real to me that there is a temptation to simply fall out of church. I would call it, ‘the temptation to ambivalence’.

It is not that anyone has said anything, or that the church where I go is teaching heresy. It is most certainly not that I have lost my faith. I BELIEVE! It is simply that I am tempted to give up caring. There is something missing, either from me or the church, and I feel increasingly disjointed and utterly discouraged. The only word I can use to describe it? Meh.

I am a passionate man. I am not used to feeling ambivalent. I want to see things happen and I love to make stuff happen, yet… nothing is happening. I believe in the Gospel with a passionate zeal. Jesus is Lord! The world needs to know it! I love Jesus with all my heart and want nothing more than to see the people I love, and the people of the town where I live, come to know Him. I want to see the power of God move.

Yet I can understand how easy it is to simply fall away. Not deliberately. Not out of a fit of pique. Certainly not because I have lost my faith in Jesus. Simply, because… Meh!

It would be so easy to take a week off. And I know that the week would soon turn into a few. In the end, it would be easier to not go to church than to face the questions and the smiles where I to return. Without a doubt, my faith would suffer and before long I would have less faith in Jesus and… Devil’s job done. I would be taken out by the enemy. Not with violence… but with ambivalence.

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

I will not slip away! I will hold on. Somehow, I will hold on.

So I pray! I pray for God to speak… where am I supposed to be? I pray for God to move in power… fill me Holy Spirit! I pray for my church, my family, my friends, my leaders, my colleagues… God’s will be done! I pray for encouragement.

There is nothing else for me to do. I hold on and pray!

Speak Lord, your servant is listening. And when God speaks… Boy will I jump to action!


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Happy Christmas! He is in it with us!

Christmas cogitation part 9

For me, one of the most important verses in the Bible is also the most important verse of the Christmas period.

“The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the Only Begotten Son who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 NIV)

I like the translation in Message too;

“The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.” (John 1:14 MSG)

Jesus is the Word. He is the beginning and the end. It is this Word that is incarnated in the person of a human baby. He takes the form of a human being, just like us. Why? So that we can be rescued to be just like Him.

Human beings are separated from God by the sin of pride. It is our pride that leads us to conclude that we do not need God. That we can find our purpose and being in the world we live in by our own actions. This is simply not true.

Without God, there is no purpose or meaning for us. We are formed by God to walk with Him. Our purpose is to live in relationship with God and as long as we do not do so we will forever be disconnected and lost. When we walk alone we are simply not doing what we are supped to be doing. We are like a shoe that is being used as a doorstop. In some way the shoe is up to the task of keeping a door open, but this task is so much less that the purpose that the shoe was intended for.

In the midst of this beautiful, broken and suffering world, humanity is lost and alone. Struggling to create a place of meaning and significance, yet doomed to failure since our meaning and significance rests in God. We will only ever find eternal meaning and significance when we live the life we were created to live. When we walk with God.

God sends His son, Jesus, to be born, live, walk, suffer, die and rise in the same world that we live in. He literally moves in to the middle of the neighbourhood where we live, so that he can point us towards the Father. Jesus is in it with us.

That God would make and enact such a plan is the proof of His glory and the evidence of his commitment to the people that he created. Jesus directs us to the Father, evidence of His grace and the truth and that the only true purpose for human beings is found by being close to Him. We are adopted by God, as beloved children, as a result.

I simply love this concept. Jesus is in it with us! He has moved in to the same situation that we live in, for the profoundly simple reason that we need to be offered a way to come to God. We cannot do it for ourselves, so Jesus does it for us.

An idea and truth that is worth celebrating.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!


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Children of God

Revelation!

There comes a time when things click. Something is said or happens and we respond, “Oh! Now I understand. That’s what it means”.

When revelation comes, the whole colour and meaning of the world changes. It is like putting on a pair of spectacles that make the world suddenly clearer. Before, one was hardly aware that the world was out of focus, but when one begins to use spectacles it is impossible to understand how ever one didn’t notice how fuzzy things appeared.

The shepherds had a choir of angels to lead them to the stable where Jesus was born and, after they had seen the new King of kings, they went home singing because their world was forever changed.

The wise men needed a star to guide them to the new born king and, when they had met him and bowed before him, there was no doubt that the whole world would never be the same again.

God had come to humanity, offering a way by which we can be forgiven, reconciled, welcomed and reunited with the Creator of the universe.

“Yet to all who receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husbands will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13)

The revelation of Christmas is simply this.

If we receive Jesus into the world and our lives as the son of God and saviour of the world, then everything changes. We are adopted by God the Father as His children. Not by birth or nature, but by the will and decision of God.

When we welcome Jesus, God welcomes us. Not because we are good or worthy or without sin, and certainly not because he has to welcome us, but because of Jesus. Jesus is our route to God. Jesus is the key that opens the door to the presence of the living, loving God which is otherwise hopelessly locked to us.

I am a child of the living God. I no longer have to be worried about belonging and having a purpose in the world. I am a child of God. I belong to Him. I am wanted by Him. I am welcomed by Him. Nothing else really matters.


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Jesus who? – Another Christmas cogitation

My children have a wide range of skills and gifts, and I am very proud of them. Not all of them, however, are as positive as I might hope. One of their remarkable skills, that in this case I can only hope they grow out of, could be best described as ‘selective blindness’.

Let me give you an example.

One of my sons will want to wear his favorite sweater. He will ask where it is and my wife or I will tell him that the sweater he requires is in his bedroom, in his sweater drawer. My son will then race off to look, only to return 20 seconds later to say that his sweater is not in his sweater drawer. We will assure him that his sweater is, in fact, in his sweater drawer and send him off to look once more. A mere 25 seconds later, our son will stand before us, speaking with great vehemence, to tell us that the sweater is not in the drawer. We will tell him once again where the sweater is (in the drawer) and he will have. what can only be described as, a ‘strop’, shouting that we are wrong and flinging his foot towards the floor with a passion that can only be felt by a child insistent that his parents are ‘wrong’ and ‘being unfair’.

Any parent will know what happens next. We go with him into his room, to the drawer in question, and find, sitting on top of the pile of clothing inside his drawer, the very sweater that was required. He will then insist that it was not there only a few moments before.

This exchange contains an everyday miracle. The miracle is not that we have found the sweater which our son insists mystically appeared in between his searches. The miracle, as far as I am concerned, is that my son did not find the sweater that was on top of his clothes, in plain sight, in exactly the place we said it would be!

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:10-11)

Where is God? In a beautiful world that is wracked with pain, loss, disaster, disease and more, the cry goes out. Where is God? Why does God ignore us? We are told that there is a God, yet we cannot see Him.

The accusations follow.

There is no God. We have looked and He is not there! We have been lied to. If God is there, why can’t we see Him?

The truth is simple, yet profound. God is with us. He is in the midst of this beautiful, suffering, struggling, dark and painful world. Born in a stable, to live and die and rise again. He is right out in the open where all can see him… yet so many people miss him. It seems that the majority of the world suffers from ‘selective blindness’.

We may stamp our feet and shout our frustration, because we cannot see the presence of God in the world, yet… there he is. Right out in plain sight. Just where he has been declared to be for the whole of our lives. Jesus is God’s presence and rescue for a lost world. God is right there in plain sight for all to see, yet so many simply do not see him.

The miracle is not that God is in the world. The miracle is that we fail to see him! He is right there in plain sight.

It is for this reason that those of us who are Christians and can see God’s presence in the world right in front of us, must not get frustrated with the people who cannot see Jesus. Just as it is a waste of time and energy shouting at our children when they cannot see a jumper that is in plain sight, neither should we scream our frustration at the world’s selective blindness in their faces. Accusing the world of willful ignorance is a waste of energy and in no way displays the love for the world that Jesus exemplifies and calls us to. It might well be that Jesus is right in front of them in plain sight, but they genuinely cannot seem to see him.

What we have to do is simply walk alongside them and show them Jesus. Point to him, right out in plain sight, and hope that next time they will see him for themselves. Because, once a person sees Jesus for themselves, they simply cannot fathom how they were able to miss him for all the time that passed before.

Simple, yet profound. Do not get angry that others cannot see Jesus when he is right there in front of them. Rather, walk with them and show them where he is. Perhaps next time they will see Him for themselves.


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Testimony to the light

There is a basic question in Philosophy which, when all is said and done, is pointless. “If  tree falls in a woods and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a noise?”As far as I am concerned, if a tree falls in the woods and there is no one there to hear it, it does not matter unless there is an impact and a witness to that impact. Noise is irrelevant. It might be that the tree falls on a house when there is nobody to hear it. Then, the noise matters not a jot but the fact that a person witnesses the crushing of their home and the loss of their possessions is of huge importance. What matters is the effect of the tree.

What matters is the witness. If the tree falls, whether it makes a noise or not, and there is no witness to its effect, then it is does matter at all what happens. The fall of the tree is only given significance by the witness to it; it’s effect and impact. Without a witness, the whole world will be ignorant of the tree’s effect and life will go on as before.

“[John] himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light” (John 1:8)

Jesus is the light of the world. His effect on the world is incredible and has a huge impact. He came to illuminate the truth about the sin of humanity which stops us knowing God. To save us from our sins, so that we can be reunited with God our Father and have an inheritance of life instead of death. John too was saved by Jesus because he was subject to sin, and it is this that John witnesses to. The coming of the light of the world. The messiah and saviour of the whole human race appears and the world is changed forever.

“The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (John 1:9)

John is a witness to the light of the world. Seeing who the light was, pointing to Him, encouraging others to follow Him. The impact of Jesus, the light of the world, is witnessed because it changes everything. Jesus leads people out of darkness and into light and truth. As Isaiah 9 says, the people of the world are walking in darkness. Yet with Jesus they see a great light. And those who do not see the light hear John, together with the apostles, the disciples, Christians, you and I, pointing to that light and crying out, “LOOK!”

“John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’” (John 1:15)

“John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”” (John 1:29)

If we do not point to the light of the world and exclaim His existence and work, there are huge numbers of people who will miss Him. Like a tree falling in the woods, they will carry on life regardless because they neither saw nor heard its impact. People NEED to hear about the light of the world. Why? Because they live in darkness. We need to shout and point to the light of the world. Why? Because we have seen the light.

The people of the world do not need to be told that they are lost in darkness. They need to be shown the light so that they can see the darkness.

(Christmas cogitation part 6)