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“There Is No Other Way To Be A Disciple Of Jesus Than To Be In Communion With Other Disciples Of Jesus” (via Fleming Rutledge)

An observation from Fleming Rutledge about the Gospel of John and how it demonstrates that while Jesus was relating to individuals, he was creating a community, a family, a body, branches joined to a common vine.

Taking the Gospel and the Epistles of John together, no writings in the New Testament are more concerned with the church than John. You wouldn’t necessarily notice this, however, if you read the Gospel without looking for it. Our typical American individualism tends always to focus on the single, supposedly autonomous person, so we typically read the Bible through that lens. And it’s true that for the first two-thirds of the Gospel, John features a striking number of personal, intimate conversations between Jesus and single individuals: the Samaritan woman, Nico- demus, the man born blind, Thomas, Martha of Bethany, Mary Magdalene. These stories stand out because they are beautifully crafted by John, a master dramatist. So, most people tend to read the Fourth Gospel that way. But the overwhelming emphasis in John is not on individuals, but on the organic connection that Jesus creates among those who put their trust in him. This theme reaches its apex in chapters 15 and 16, during the last hours of his life on earth, when he teaches, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5).
There is no other way to be a disciple of Jesus than to be in communion with other disciples of Jesus. Why do you suppose the Lord didn’t separate out each one of his followers, stand us up separately, pronounce us each a unique individual, and then bid us go off and create ourselves?
He did the opposite; instead of making us independent and self-centered, he makes us mutually interdependent and other-directed.

Fleming Rutledge, Three Hours, Eerdmans, 2019, pgs 31-32.

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Rejoicing In Revival Whereever It Happens (via Nicolas Alford)

Nicolas Alford writes about three unhelpful reactions that Christians can have to revivals.
When God sends revival to a church other than the one we belong to there is a strong temptation to not recognise what is happening as being the fruit of the work of God’s Holy Spirit.
An excerpt.

When we assign to apparent revival in other quarters a “broad way” condemnation because of the various ways they aren’t like us and therefore aren’t faithful to God’s Word and therefore couldn’t possibly be enjoying his blessing while we aren’t, don’t we betray the cynical elitism in our hearts?
Let’s not do that. When our Christian brothers and sisters in other denominational contexts see real blessing from God on their labors, let’s not let our various disagreements with them over doctrine and practice prevent us from recognizing the true work of God in their midst. Let’s not betray a belief that if God isn’t blessing us (or those most incredibly like us) whatever we are seeing must be a mere mirage of revival. Being different from us doesn’t put another group beyond the reach of God’s blessing anymore than it puts them beyond the reach of His grace. This of course doesn’t apply to those who hold to outright heretical views–I’m not talking about that. But not all doctrinal disagreements are heretical. There are a multitude of second tier issues which Christians will always disagree on. Are we really ready to say that those who we disagree with over Baptism, or the exact role of the Law, or the precise nature of the Spiritual gifts or many other issues we rightly make distinctions over are so far gone that we can’t grant to them the genuine blessing and favor of the Lord? Do we really want to say with our dismissive attitudes that we are the only ones who are deserving of His favor?


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Fullness For The Family (via Daniel Bush & Noel Due)

Anything from Noel Due is worth reading.

You can hardly believe that the church is God’s fullness if you look with the eyes of sight. It always looks weak and beggarly – full of failure, no God. Yet because it’s the family of the Father, because it is inseparably the bride of Christ, because it is the spiritual dwelling place of the Spirit, it is, in fact, “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:23).
Because Jesus is the head over all things for the Church, all of the world’s happenings, from the rise and fall of nations to the smoking of volcanoes (Psalms 144:5; 104:32), occur for the good of the Church. When he appoints the boundaries and habitations of the nations (Deuteronomy 32:8; Acts 17:26), it’s for the good of the Church. When he gives power to one of the enemies of the Church that they might rule over it for a season, he’s doing it to bless the Church. Every fibre of Christ’s being is towards us and for us. His every thought, intention, and affection is to bless us, to love us, to fill us, to inhabit us, to pour himself into us. There is absolutely nothing outside of his sovereign control, and he’s been set as head over all things for the express purpose of blessing the Church.

Embracing God As Father, Daniel Bush & Noel Due, Lexham Press, 2015, pg. 26

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Westminster Larger Catechism – Lord’s Day 24

Westminster Larger Catechism – Lord’s Day 24

Q & A 91
Q What is the duty which God requires of man?
A The duty which God requires of man, is obedience to his revealed will.*1

Q & A 92
Q What did God at first reveal unto man as the rule of his obedience?
A The rule of obedience revealed to Adam in the estate of innocence, and to all mankind in him, besides a special command not to eat of the fruit of the tree knowledge of good and evil, was the moral law.*2

Q & A 93
Q What is the moral law?
A The moral law is the declaration of the will of God to mankind, directing and binding every one to personal, perfect, and perpetual conformity and obedience thereunto, in the frame and disposition of the whole man, soul and body,3 and in performance of all those duties of holiness and righteousness which he owes to God and man:4 promising life upon the fulfilling, and threatening death upon the breach of it.*5

Q & A 94
Q Is there any use of the moral law to man since the fall?
A Although no man, since the fall, can attain to righteousness and life by the moral law:6 yet there is great use thereof, as well common to all men, as peculiar either to the unregenerate, or the regenerate.7

Q & A 95
Q Of what use is the moral law to all men?
A The moral law is of use to all men, to inform them of the holy nature and the will of God,8 and of their duty, binding them to walk accordingly;9 to convince them of their disability to keep it, and of the sinful pollution of their nature, hearts, and lives:10 to humble them in the sense of their sin and misery,11 and thereby help them to a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ,12 and of the perfection of his obedience.13

Q & A 96
Q What particular use is there of the moral law to unregenerate men?
A The moral law is of use to unregenerate men, to awaken their consciences to flee from wrath to come,14 and to drive them to Christ;15 or, upon their continuance in the estate and way of sin, to leave them inexcusable,16 and under the curse thereof.17

Q & A 97
Q What special use is there of the moral law to the regenerate?
A Although they that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from the moral law as a covenant of works,18 so as thereby they are neither justified19 nor condemned;20 yet, besides the general uses thereof common to them with all men, it is of special use, to show them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good;21 and thereby to provoke them to more thankfulness,22 and to express the same in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of their obedience.23

*1 Romans 12:1-2; Micah 6:8; 1 Samuel 15:22.
*2 Genesis 1:26-27; Romans 2:14-15; Romans 10:5.
*3 Deuteronomy 5:1-3, 31, 33; Luke 10:26-27; 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
*4 Luke 1:75; Acts 24:16.
*5 Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:10; Galatians 3:12.
*6 Romans 8:3; Galatians 2:16.
*7 1 Timothy 1:8.
*8 Leviticus 11:44-45;. Leviticus 20:7-8; Romans 8:12.
*9 Micah 6:8; James 2:10-11.
*10 Psalm 19:11-12; Romans 3:20; Romans 7:7.
*11 Romans 3:9, 23.
*12 Galatians 3:21-22.
*13 Romans 10:4.
*14 1 Timothy 1:9-10.
*15 Galatians 3:24.
*16 Romans 1:20; Romans 2:15.
*17 Galatians 3:10.
*18 Romans 6:14; Romans 7:4, 6; Galatians 4:4-5.
*19 Romans 3:20.
*20 Galatians 5:23; Romans 8:1.
*21 Romans 7:24-25; Galatians 3:13-14; Romans 8:3-4.
*22 Luke 1:68-69, 74-75; Colossians 1:12-14.
*23 Romans 7:22; Romans 12:2; Titus 2:11-14.

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The Bible Living In Its Native Habitat (via William Willimon)

From William H. Willimon on the Biblical Word:

…Scripture is not merely a helpful resource for preaching, it is the genesis of preaching, the rationale for preaching, the substance and the means of preaching. When we preach from the Scriptures, to the congregation, the Bible is living in its native habitat. It is functioning as it was intended. When the Bible is given over to scholars in some college department of religion who are subservient to the academy rather than to the church, it is often made to answer questions that are of little interest to the originating intentions of Scripture itself.

William H. Willimon, Proclamation And Theology, Abidingdon Press, pg 26.

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More Than Just Scottish People

So, embarking into the book of Acts on Sunday part of the sermon looked at the response of the disciples to Jesus promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
They asked “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
The disciples had an understanding of what the power of the Gospel would achieve.
Jesus pointed out their expectation was not wrong, just too limited.
The Spirit empowered fruit of Gospel witness would extend to all the worth.
There was time when some Australian Presbyterian churches would think about outreach and confine themselves to folk with Scottish accents or heritages.
Or families who identified with the denomination, but didn’t attend.
(Legend might have it that some churches might have questioned why people from outside that national background would be interested in worshipping in a Presbyterian church.)
Nothing wrong with that, but it’s too small a vision.
Everyone, everywhere needs to hear about Jesus.
Locally, nationally, and internationally.
We reach out to people from the nationality that gave rise to our church tradition.
But the Holy Spirit means our vision expands beyond them to every other on earth.

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Preaching That Connects With People’s Stories (via Justin Buzzard)

Received this post from both Buzzard’s own blog and Moody Publishing.
The point is one I continue to need to work on in preaching.
The answer is always ‘Jesus’, but there’s a skill in trying to help people see that their how their lives are asking a question that he alone can answer.
I don’t necessarily unpack that as clearly as I’d like.

Everybody in your city has a story. Preaching is your opportunity to share the Bible in a way that engages each one. But how do you do this with both Christians and non-Christians at your service? Effective preaching is preaching directed at both the people who are already part of your church and people in your city who are not yet part of any church. Story is the key to engaging both of these audiences well. If you can connect with each person’s story, challenge it, and recast it with your preaching, your Sunday gatherings will be increasingly filled with people who are following Jesus and people who aren’t.
It is natural for most pastors to connect their preaching with other Christians, but they must also connect their preaching to the very different storylines inhabited by the non-Christians in their community. If you’re not yet doing this, now is the time to start. Start preaching each week as though there are non-Christians in the room, even if there aren’t. You will learn to do this better by having non-Christian friends and by knowing the pulse of your city. Eventually, non-Christians will start coming—the Christians they know will invite them because they know your preaching will speak to them.
After you connect to the storyline non-Christians are living in your city, challenge it. Use your preaching to show how the story has a bad ending—how faith in atheism, success, power, etc.—leads to disappointment instead of freedom and joy. This isn’t just a technique. This is a way of preaching that grows from a heart that wants to know and love the diverse people in your city who are far from God.
After connecting with and challenging the non-Christian storyline, retell people’s story with the happy ending found only in the gospel and the particular text you’re preaching. For example, if you’re preaching John 10:10 in Los Angeles, a city obsessed with image and fame, you can show people that the abundant life, love, and excitement they’re searching for is found only in Jesus—the One who laid down his life and fame in order to give us true life. Such preaching is relevant to non-Christians, but it also equips the Christians in the room to better understand their faith and how to thoughtfully share it with others.
Everyone on the planet believes some sort of story to make sense out of their life. Only the story of the Bible is big enough to make sense out of both the beauty and the brokenness in people’s lives.