Reforming church, culture and our city

Reforming church, culture and our city

Archive for March 2008

Easter in Sydney

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Three things come to mind when people in our city think of Easter – the long weekend, chocolate easter eggs and the Easter show. On the odd occasion people will connect Easter with Jesus. If pushed they might even say that it’s about the death of Jesus. Easter was originally celebrated as a one of two ‘holy’ days that Christians observed i.e. days that Christians set aside to remember, reflect and celebrate aspects of Jesus life and work. What in our day is a public holiday to kick back, relax and have a barbeque, was actually a ‘holyday’ set aside to remember Jesus’ life and work. In fact, Easter was not necessarily a joyful or festive celebration. Beginning on Friday you recall Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, before you celebrate his resurrection on Sunday. Easter was an opportunity to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus.

That should be no surprise as the death and resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of what Christians have always believed. Christianity is not about learning to be a morally good person; it’s not about doing good works to earn your way into heaven; it’s not about what we do. Authentic Christianity is all about what Jesus has done, in particular, his death and resurrection for me.

At Easter we remind ourselves of very important news, good news that saves: that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised to life on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor.15:3-4). We’re reminded that there is nothing we can do to pay or to make up for or to take away our sins. We are sinful and rebellious people i.e. we are people who have lived our lives ignoring our creator, choosing to live lives our own way, with no regard for what God thinks and says. That is at the heart of our sin and rebellion, which puts us under God’s right and fair judgment. If you’re living life apart from God, you are condemned, under his judgment and in danger of hell. And that’s the reason why Jesus died. He died as our substitute taking our place on the cross, bearing our judgment and punishment for us. He died in my place and your place, for our sin and rebellion. A great exchange takes place at the cross where Jesus died.

But Jesus’ death wouldn’t be very significant if he remained in the grave would he. There would be nothing special about someone who died and remained buried. Jesus was buried, but he also rose from the dead three days after, a demonstration of not just his power over death itself, but of God’s approval of Jesus’ death for our sin. The resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee that our sin and rebellion are forgiven; that our judgment has been dealt with; that we are no longer condemned; and that death will not be the last word for us. He is alive and risen, and is the man God has chosen to rule and judge our city and our world.

Authentic Christianity celebrates and remembers what Jesus has done, in particular, his death for our sin and his resurrection from the dead. We are reminded at Easter that we are sinful and rebellious people who cannot do anything to save ourselves. We are reminded at Easter that we are under God’s judgment and in danger of hell. We are reminded at Easter that Jesus died as a substitute for our sin and rebellion, taking on himself God’s judgment to save us. We are reminded at Easter that without Jesus we are condemned. We are reminded at Easter that Jesus has risen from the dead and is now the ruler and judge of our city and our world. We are reminded at Easter that not only do we need Jesus, our city needs Jesus.

The great tragedy this Easter, is that in our city the vast majority of people will remain under God’s judgment, condemned and destined for hell because they have never heard an authentic Christian message; they have never acknowledged their sin; and they have never acknowledged their need for Jesus.

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

Rom.10:15

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Written by eugenehor

March 19, 2008 at 2:33 pm

No One Lives An Uncommitted Life

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“No one lives an uncommitted life.” Even the person who is lazy is a committed person i.e. committed to laziness. We’re brought up in a culture of commitment (from parents who are seeking to instill a commitment to the family, studies or values – to a culture that tells us to be committed to a our personal development and careers). No one lives an uncommitted life – because everyone is committed to something, someone or some way in life. Commitment is not a bad thing and is to be valued, but as followers of Jesus, it must be asked, ‘what are you committed to in life?’ What controls your commitments in life? Look at your ambitions and priorities, your family, your use of time and money, and your relationships – are they shaped by a commitment to follow Jesus?

Paul in 2 Cor.5:10-6:2 was a man shaped by two events that shaped his commitment to Jesus and his mission. Firstly, Paul understood that as a follower of Jesus he was accountable for the way he lived his life. He makes clear that there is a judgment where we must ALL appear before Jesus to give an account. His desire to please Jesus and to see people come to know Jesus was grounded in the knowledge that it will be Jesus who will one day judge all people (Paul included). Paul had a healthy fear of judgment in his life – a judgment that held him accountable, and a judgment that he knew people around him would also one day face. And so he makes it his commitment to persuade others to join him in fearing Jesus, in living a life that pleases Jesus and in being reconciled to Jesus.

Secondly
, Paul understood that as a follower of Jesus he was personally loved by Jesus, who died so that he might live. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died” – 2 Cor.5:14. We often forget that Paul was not always a Christian. He was an angry, violent, legalistic, self-sufficient man (1 Tim.2:12-16; Gal.1:13, 23; Acts 22:8; 26:19). And like those around him, Paul was under God’s judgment, destined for hell. Then Jesus saved him and transformed him. It’s Paul’s experience of the love and saving power of Jesus that transforms and directs his commitments in life. From one under judgment and hell, to one saved by Jesus, who is now a man accountable to Jesus and his mission because others are still under judgment, who is now ‘compelled’ or ‘constrained’ by Jesus’ love for him in life.

If there was a profound truth that summed up Paul’s personal relationship and commitment to Jesus – it would be ‘Jesus loves me’. If you were to interview Paul and asked him what is the most profound truth you’ve discovered in your Christian life? He would say – Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak but he is strong / Jesus loves me, he who died. Heaven’s gate to open wide. He will wash away my sin. Let his little child come in. / Jesus loves me, he will stay. Close beside me all the way. If I love him when I die. He will take me home on high (Anna B. Warner, 1860). His life was constrained, shaped, directed, marked, overwhelmed, won over by Jesus’ love for him. Is yours?

No one lives an uncommitted life – what or who are you deeply committed to?

Written by eugenehor

March 7, 2008 at 2:29 pm

A View Of History In This City

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Our view of history shapes the way we look at life, how we live and how we understand circumstances and events in our world. Some people believe that history is cyclical – life is a cyclical. There’s nothing new – because history repeats itself in an endless cycle. Others believe that history is linear. History and life is linear with a beginning and an end. Then there are others who hold to a chaotic view of history. History and life is nothing more than a series of events that are left to chance, a series of random disconnected events with no beginning, end meaning.

windowAnd so when you look at life you’re faced with 3 possible windows. Am I stuck in a never ending cycle beyond my control? Am I moving forward towards some ultimate goal or ultimate end? Or am I living a series of random disconnected events that just happen without beginning, end or purpose?

I shared last week from the pulpit that there is a Biblical and Christian view of history and life. The Christian view of history and life is that it’s linear and purposeful moving towards a plan put in place by God himself. The Christian view of history is that there’s an unifying story that’s being played out in history and life that cuts across every nation, culture, people and language group – it’s going somewhere … it’s not a random series of events … and all that happens in history and life in our city is moving towards a plan put in place by God himself. There’s a story that unites us in this city.

broken faceFirstly, the Christian view of history is that something is wrong with us, our society, our city and our world. Even in an affluent and modern city like ours brokenness is self-evident, from local council corruption, to 30,000 homeless on our streets, to 31,000 abortions each year. Nationally, 40% of marriages in our country ends in divorce, and we spend more on our pets (2.3 billion) than on overseas aid (2 billion). Something is wrong with us, our city and our world. The Bible calls it the consequences of sin i.e. the consequences of living life in a society and culture that has rejected God. What we see and experience of brokenness around us is the outworking of a culture and society that has turned its back on God. (Rom.1:18-32)

crossSecondly, the Christian view of history is that God is not absent, but is involved, in control, working out his purposes in history to save us, to fix us, to redeem our culture, to renew society, to transform our broken cities and world. And he’s doing it in a man called Jesus who 2000 years ago died on the cross for our sins, who rose again from the dead, and who now rules as God’s appointed right hand man in our lives, our city and our world … who is gathering to himself a people, building a new and transformed society and culture, a city within our city, called the church. Everything in history and life converges and centres on Jesus who comes to save and to transform those living life without God, caught up in sin and brokenness. (Acts 2:21-36; 4:12)

There is a story being played out on the stage of history, in our lives and in our city. We live in a broken world, because we’re broken people who have rejected the God who made us and ignored his way in life. We all need saving, and God acts to save us in Jesus by sending him to die for our sins, to conquer death by raising him from the dead, and to be the one who now rules over all. And right now Jesus continues to save and gather his people, building a new and transformed city within our city called the church; a city where his love, compassion, forgiveness, justice and mercy rule; a city on a hill, a church whose light cannot be hidden in a city that desperately needs saving. You and I are that city, and the story is still being played out today.

Written by eugenehor

March 5, 2008 at 11:24 pm