Pastors' Pages


Let us go to the house of the Lord

posted 30 May 2016, 05:20 by Bert Weenink

Psalm 122 is a Psalm of David and this is the opening verse: I rejoiced with those who said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD."

David can’t have been thinking of the temple here, as the temple was to be built by his son, Solomon. No, what made him rejoice was the very thought of God’s people gathering together to praise the name of the Lord. This is what he wrote in verse 4: That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, to praise the name of the LORD according to the statute given to Israel.

I would like to apply this psalm to the church, God’s New Testament people. Here again, we do not think about buildings, but about the gathering of the people of God as they worship, as they serve, as they care for and encourage one another. So let’s take this psalm and look at the church.

1. We must value the church

In verse 3 he describes the city of Jerusalem as a city that is closely compacted together. David thought of a pilgrim coming to the city, being freshly impressed with its beauty and its strength. It is a compact and solid city.

So is the church. It is God’s institution, the body of Christ. It is not small, it is not weak, the church is a mighty work of God, built by Jesus, so that not even the forces of hell can overcome it.

In verse 4 we read that Jerusalem is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD.

We think of Israel of being one people, but we mustn’t underestimate

the great differences between the various tribes, e.g. different accents, different habits, different locations. Yet there was unity, because their motive of gathering was the same, to praise the name of the Lord.

Those who belong to the church are united in purpose as well, namely to worship, follow and please our Lord Jesus Christ.

In verse 5 we read that in Jerusalem the thrones for judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David.

Jerusalem was the place where God was worshipped and His Word was heard and so it so be in the church. We need to meet together to hear what God has to say, where we allow the Word of God to dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16) and where we encourage one another to remain faithful to Him.

 2. We must pray for the church

The keyword in the last 3 verses in Psalm 122 is ‘peace’ - shalom:

· Pray for the peace of Jerusalem

· May there be peace within your walls

· I will say, "Peace be within you."

Where God dwells there is peace. When after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to His troubled and fearful disciples, He said: “Peace be with you.”

In a church that is out of tune with God there is often confusion, division, anger and mistrust. But those who, together, walk with their Lord and Saviour will know peace.

This is something we need to desire and pray for as we read in verse 6.

At Tyndale we are going through a time of change and the enemy could so easily come in to cause division. We need to pray against that.

In verse 9 we read that “for the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity.”

We must desire and seek the best for the church of God and here again, I can’t think of a better way than to pray for God’s blessing on the church.

When speaking to the elders of the Ephesian church, the apostle Paul tells them to “be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”

We all need to be reminded that we are not our own, we were bought with a price, we belong to Jesus, individually and together.

Tyndale is a small church, but not insignificant, because we belong to God. Treasure your church, let’s serve the Lord together there, let’s us not forsake meeting together and let’s pray for God’s blessing upon us all.

One with you because of Jesus,

Bert







Why do you seek the living among the dead?

posted 26 Feb 2016, 01:45 by Bert Weenink

Where else should the women have looked? They had seen so clearly that their Lord had died. They had seen how His battered and bruised body had been taken from the cross. He had been buried in a tomb made available by Joseph of Arimathea. There was no doubt about it—Jesus was dead. The women were just going to the grave to cover His body with some spices—it was the only thing left for them to do.

 

But what an unexpected turn of events: ‘They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: `The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'" (Luke 24:2-7)

 

Just imagine: These women were just planning to pay their last respects to a beloved Master, but instead they made some amazing discoveries:

 

· The seal of the tomb was broken and the soldiers were gone

· The stone had been rolled away

· The body of the Lord Jesus was missing

· Two angels spoke to them about resurrection

 

There was a slight rebuke in the words of the angels. Jesus Himself, as He appeared to His disciples expressed some disappointment in their lack of faith. So how did the women and the disciples go wrong?


The first reason where they went wrong is that they went to the tomb, as this was the last place they saw Him. They had been making their plans without considering the power of God. Jesus was dead—dead bodies need spices—dead bodies are not raised to life again—these things just do not happen!

 

Isn’t that how we often live? We plan, we make decisions, we go here, we go there, we do this, we do that, we try to be rational, sensible, wise and thoughtful. We do things that make sense, we plan what is possible, we go out when the door is open and stay home when the door is closed.

Is it wrong to be sensible? No, not really, but don’t forget that the beginning of true wisdom is ‘the fear of the Lord’. (Read the opening chapters of Proverbs) In other words, we need to reckon with God and all He is, and all He can, and all He wants…

 

The second reason why the women and the disciples went wrong is that they hadn’t been listening when He told them beforehand that He was to suffer, die and rise again on the third day. When the angels reminded them, they remembered, but why had they forgotten something so important in the first place?

 

Here again, it is easy for us to go wrong as well. God has given us some wonderful truths, some amazing promises and incredible revelations, but we forget.  As the old hymn says ‘tell me the story often, for I forget so soon…’ I don’t think that that is a truth worth singing about!

 

· We shouldn’t forget, but remember.

· We should take God at His Word and act upon it and step out and be prepared to be amazed!

· We should base more of our prayers on boldly something like this: Lord you said that if we would do such-and-such, you some of those supernatural promises of God.

Never mind ‘common sense’. People are not saved by using common sense. Churches are not built on common sense. Communities are not turned upside down through common sense.

 

Go and read the Bible finding God-given promises that you can pray back to Him. Just as Nehemiah did (read chapter 1), praying would bless us…. So Lord, here we are, we are doing such-and-such—stand by your Word Lord, do it Lord, fulfil your promises, Lord, amaze us, Lord.

One of the most amazing promises in the Bible is the one found in Ephesians 1:19-21 ‘….and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.’

 

What amazes me here is not the fact that the power of God raised Christ from the dead. Nor that this same power seated Jesus at God’s right hand. Nor that God’s amazing power exalted Jesus far above all rule and authority. What amazes me is that that same power that raised Jesus from the dead, is at work for us who believe!

 

Let us not make the same mistake as these women did, who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, seeking to put spices on a dead body, while they should have been worshipping the living Lord! Let us not limit what God can do, but let us be expectant. Let us pray and plan and serve with the power of God in mind.

 

Happy Easter!

Pastor Bert

Body Building

posted 26 Feb 2016, 01:38 by Bert Weenink

Did you know that we are involved in a bit of body building at Tyndale? No, I am not thinking of the one you see in the picture—it is body building of a spiritual nature that I have in mind.

 

One of my favourite passage on the ‘workings’ of the church is Ephesians 4:11-16. This is what it says:

 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

 

If you want one word to summarise the teaching in this passage, then it must be the word ‘growth’. God wants to church to be growing in service, in unity, in knowledge, in stability, in assurance, in love and ultimately He wants us to “grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” In this year of change for Tyndale, the elders and deacons are united in the desire to encourage all believers at our church to be involved in the ministry, using their God-given gifts. With that in mind consider the following truths following from the passage in Ephesians 4, quoted above.

 

1. A healthy church is a church where leaders encourage service

It says that pastors and teachers have the task ‘to prepare God's people for works of service’. One-man ministry is not only a thing of the past, it was never scriptural in the first place! Pastors are called to encourage the believers to be useful in God’s service, according to the gifts God has given them.

 

2. A healthy church is a church where individuals serve for the good of the whole

In a good church individuals are mindful of the body: ‘so that the body of Christ may be built up’. We are living in a very individualistic society and Christians have undoubtedly been affected by the culture around us, but we must not allow individualism and personal agendas to control the church. ‘If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.’ 1 Corinthians 12:26

 

3. A healthy church is a church  where the goal is maturity in Christ.

No, we are not easily satisfied, because our goal is ‘to reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.’ It seems to be that we won’t reach the finished product while on earth, and so, growth towards maturity will always be on the agenda.

 

4. A healthy church is a church  where God’s truth is central

There are many people to day who strive for church unity by watering down or even ignoring the truth. That is never healthy. So many people in churches are like ‘infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming’. The only antidote to this lack of stability is the truth. Paul emphasises that we must speak the truth in love, but speak the truth we must!

 

5. A healthy church is a church  where love and a desire for unity are high on the agenda

Our human bodies struggle if one limb wants to go one way and another limb the other—ask a learner-skier! Unity between Christians is not a bonus or an optional extra, it is at the very foundation of what we are about—listen to Jesus: ‘May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me’. (John 17:24)

 

6. A healthy church is a church where Christ is head

Let no pastor, elder, deacon or any other individual loose sight of this—there is only One who is Head, that is Christ: And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (Colossians 1:18)  

         

Pastor Bert

(This article is adapted from the one that was published in the Tyndale Times of February 2005)

Stand in the ways and see

posted 31 Dec 2015, 07:34 by Bert Weenink

Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.’ (Jeremiah 6:16)

I am writing this on the 31st of December. In many ways it is a day like any other and perhaps some of our relatives are right to go to bed at their usual time on New Year’s Eve! We have never done that as we feel that the end of an old year and the beginning of the  new, is a good moment to reflect on where we are, where we have been and where we are going.

 

So, let us stand at the crossroads and see, asking for direction as we seek God’s will.

 

1. Stand in the ways and see

At the beginning of a new year it is good to stop, to stand still and to consider, to see and to reflect.

Where am I in my relationship with God? Have I grown in 2015 or have I gone backwards? (Remember, no one stays the same, failing to go forward spiritually is going backward!)

Have I grown in my passion for the Lord and for His gospel, in seeing others come to faith and finding forgiveness and eternal life?

How am I doing in my spiritual disciples, such as reading God’s Word, seeking God in prayer and having fellowship with other believers?

 

2. Ask for the old paths

The world is changing constantly and we are more aware of that as a

result of technological development. There are many different

opinions about almost everything, there are many new paths, recommended by the world, such as equality and tolerance and freedom and openness, which can be confusing and unsettling. However, we need to realise that it is the world that confuses change with progress. The world is undoubtedly more tolerant, but in becoming that has felt it necessary to let go of truth. Even many religious people claim to believe in God, as long as God is willing to update His views to the 21st century.

 

God’s Word is clear. We need to ask for the old paths, the well trodden one, the right one. We need to admit that there is a right path and that there are wrong paths as well. The Bible gives many examples:

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)

 

There is only one way to God and that is Jesus. It is an old path, promised for many centuries in Old Testament times and opened up by Jesus 2,000 years ago. There is no other way to heaven, to eternal life, to having a relationship with God, to being forgiven!

 

3. And walk in it

That is obvious, isn’t it? But in Jeremiah’s days, that wasn’t the case. The prophet brought God’s Word to the people, but observed that God’s people said about the old paths: ‘We will not walk in it.’

And when God old them through His prophet to listen, they said: `We will not listen.' (Jeremiah 6:17)

 

It is so easy for us to dress the failure to follow and listen with excuses such as: ‘I have been too busy’ or ‘I am not in a very good place’ or ‘I find Bible reading, prayer and going to church too difficult at present’, but the result is that we are not walking in the old and trusted way.

If you have backslidden in 2015, seek God right now, confess your sin, ask for forgiveness and for His help to walk in His way in 2016.

If you find yourself still walking the old paths at the end of 2015, thank God for His grace and faithfulness and ask Him to help you to continue throughout 2016. It is the only way to find rest for your soul.

 

Your fellow traveller,

Pastor Bert

 

 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given....

posted 8 Dec 2015, 07:51 by Bert Weenink

It is a custom in Holland, that, whenever a baby is born, the parents send a birth announcement card to all their relatives and friends. On this ‘birth-card’ the parents will put the name of the new baby, its weight, length and other details such as the address of the family and the times when mother and baby are resting.

 

The prophet Isaiah did something similar regarding the birth of the Lord Jesus, with the difference that he wasn’t the parent, he was just the messenger. The other amazing fact about Isaiah’s ‘card’ is that he  sent it 700 years before Jesus was actually born!

 

So what details do we find on Isaiah’s card?

 

1. The birth would be unusual

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son….. I don’t know what Isaiah thought when he wrote this, but he was spot on: "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

….and will call him Immanuel. Did Isaiah get the name wrong? No, not really. The angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream used Isaiah’s words and referred to the name Immanuel. The name means ‘God with us’, and that is exactly what happened when Jesus was born—God came among us.

 

2. The birth would be like a light shining into the darkness.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Jesus confirmed later that this is one of the reasons why He had come: When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

 

3. The birth would be for all

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…

It is as if this child is a gift, a gift from God to us. That is exactly what Jesus is, God’s gift to a people in need: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. That is why the angel announced the birth of Jesus in this way to the shepherds: But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. The greatest gift ever given was when the Father gave His Son to us and when Jesus gave His life for us.

 

4. The one to be born would be very special

Isaiah talks about the extent of Jesus’ ministry. He describes how the government will be on his shoulders. Isaiah also said that Jesus will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

This reminds us that Jesus is so much more than a helpless baby in a manger. He is the One who came to rule the world.

He is a wonderful counsellor, always able and willing to help those who call on Him in their time of need.

He is Mighty God—Jesus became man without ceasing to be God, beyond our understanding, yet still true. That baby in Bethlehem, that man on the cross, He is God.

He is also the everlasting Father. No, the Son is not the Father, and yet the Son and the Father are one, and he who has seen the Son has seen the Father. The Father reaches out to us through Jesus, a Father who will never leave us or abandon us, for He is the everlasting Father. And finally, He is the Prince of Peace. Through Him we have peace with God and through Him we receive the peace of God.

 

One day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! Happy the person who recognises and acknowledges Jesus as Saviour and Lord today.

 

Wishing you a Christ-centred Christmas,

Pastor Bert

 

Are you ready for reaching out?

posted 8 Dec 2015, 07:48 by Bert Weenink

 

How are you doing with the wonderful task of evangelism? Is it going well? How many conversations have you had? Are you enjoying it?

OK I admit that I find evangelism difficult too. And, yes, there are many days when I don’t seem to have an opportunity to share the gospel. I say ‘seem’, because it may just be that I am not prayerful  or pro-active or just brave enough to open my mouth to speak about Jesus. The question we all need to face up to is this: If Jesus is such a wonderful person (which we believe He is!), why do we find it so difficult to talk about Him?

One reason Christians use to explain their reluctance to evangelise is lack of knowledge, we don’t know what to say, we are afraid that when we get into a conversation the words will dry up or we may say things that are not helpful at best or not true at worst.

One way to deal with that is to tell our own story, what Jesus means to me, what He has done for me. (see the Tyndale Times of October 2014) But another way to deal with that fear is to prepare ourselves.

Ask yourself the sort of questions people may ask you:

What do Christians believe? What is the gospel? Why should I trust in Jesus? If that is you, keep reading as I want to give you a brief outline of the gospel.

There are many different possible outlines, using different words, but in essence they all contain the same basic truths. Here is one of those outlines:

 

1. There is one God, He is the Creator, He is holy, and He is worth knowing. See Deuteronomy 4:39; Isaiah 46:9; Genesis 1:1; 1 Peter 1:16. It is good to get your Bible out and check these passages.

2. Everyone is a sinner separated from God. See Romans 3:23; Isaiah 59:2.

3. There is a penalty for sin. See Romans 6:23; Hebrews 9:27; Romans 14:10; Mt. 25:46.

4. Jesus paid that penalty for all who believe. See Isaiah 53:6; Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 3:18. 

5. No one can earn God's forgiveness and favour. See Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5. 

6. We should respond with repentance and faith. See Mark 1:15; John 3:16.

 

7. We can have assurance of eternal life with God. See 1 John 5:13.

 

This Christmas, rather than asking each another ‘are you ready for Christmas’, let’s ask ‘are you ready for reaching out’? Are you?

 

Your fellow evangelist,

Bert                

 

 

Five ways some Senior Adult Churches became younger

posted 8 Dec 2015, 07:44 by Bert Weenink


It seems to be a Catch-22. If your congregation is older, the way to reach younger families is to have younger families in your church. But the reason the congregation is older is because it has few or no younger families.

I have seen this played out on numerous occasions. A young family visits a church. They notice there are only older adults in the worship services. The young family decides not to return as they surmise there are few opportunities for younger adults and their children.

Hear me clearly. I am not suggesting there is anything inherently wrong with a congregation of senior adults. But I have been asked on numerous occasions how these churches can possibly reach younger families. Rather than give you my own subjective opinions, let me share with you five different ways some churches have actually accomplished this feat.

 

1. They prayed for younger people to come to their church. Sometimes in our quest to find methodological solutions in our churches, we neglect the most important Source of our needs: God through prayer. Some senior adult churches have done just that. They have subsequently seen young families and young singles come into their churches.

They were willing to change. There is a natural tendency to resist change as we get older. Colloquially, it is often expressed as “getting settled in our ways.” I spoke with one 77-year-old man who made a visit to the church in town that was reaching young people. He saw what attracted those 1. younger generations in contrast to what was taking place in his church. He prayed that God would give him a heart that was other-focused instead of me-focused. He would later become a leader of the older congregants urging them to let go of things that were simply their preferences.

2. The members expanded their social circles to younger people. Relationships are key to reaching people. If older adults are intentional about connecting with younger persons in their social settings, those relationships will soon transfer to the church.

3. The members started Bible studies with younger adults. The example where I have familiarity is a senior adult man who began a Bible study in his home. He invited people in his neighborhood to attend, many of whom were younger families. Eventually he invited them to church, and some responded positively. An elderly woman took the same concept and began mentoring some younger women.

4. Younger adults are asked to be “missionaries” to the older-adult congregation. One church successfully received two-year commitments from five young families to be a part of the older congregation. These younger families were highly intentional about inviting their peers, and the church grew with younger people. A word of admonition is in order here. You cannot simply ask younger families to join you. The older congregants must be willing to listen to the younger families and act on many of the changes they suggest.

 

Again, let me be clear that I am not suggesting one generation is inherently superior to another. I am responding to numerous requests for ideas on how churches of primarily senior adults can reach younger families.

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on 21st September 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam,  Art, and Jess; and nine grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.            



Feeling weak is good for you

posted 8 Oct 2015, 10:41 by Bert Weenink

The name Brené Brown probably means nothing to most of you. She is a very successful American ‘self-help’ guru. She is earning mega bucks as she has found a new way to help people becoming strong. Her new method is to convince her clients that they shouldn’t be afraid of making themselves vulnerable or  feeling weak, because that, according to Brown, is the way that leads to greater strength.

It surprised me greatly that so many in the U.S. are so enthralled with this lady’s teaching as what she is presenting is not new at all! We find the same emphasis on the blessing of weakness in God’s Word, the Bible. That doesn’t surprise me, as God understood our needs long before this lady in America. After all, He is our Creator and He made us to depend on Him.

When the apostle Paul struggled with a particular problem that made him feel very weak, he pleaded with God to take that problem away. God didn’t answer that prayer, but instead He said to the apostle: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

The apostle responded to that in his own radical way by saying: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

It shouldn’t surprise us that God got there long before Brené Brown, but the challenge is how we respond to weaknesses, insults,  hardships and difficulties. Most people hate the idea of appearing weak – it is embarrassing—we all long to be strong. Whether it’s physical might, emotional courage, or mental strength – at work, at home, at church – we want to be known for our successes, and we want our failures and weaknesses hidden far from sight.

How often do we drop into conversation something that demonstrates our value, our ability, our godliness? How often do we avoid telling others the things of which we are ashamed, the things that make us look fragile, unsuccessful, or even sinful?

The thing is, appearing weak makes us vulnerable. Everyone admires the person who is strong and capable and being admired is a comfortable place to be.

We persuade ourselves that being a “good” Christian means being productive, enthusiastic, and taking life in our stride. It’s not to struggle with, to find life difficult, to feel weak and fragile.

All these are weaknesses, and weaknesses should be left in the shadows, relegated to the realm of private prayer.

But that’s not what Paul thinks, when he writes: “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses” (2 Cor 12:9).

Did you hear that? He doesn’t just say that we must put up with our weaknesses or accept them, but we are to gladly boast about our weaknesses.

Why would Paul do that? How is that even possible?

The clue lies in the sentence before, when the Lord promises him this: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

It’s an astonishing thought. A revolutionary truth: God’s power is made perfect in weakness. God’s power will be at work and seen and experienced in our weakness.

Let’s join the apostle Paul in the human weakness revolution and say it out loud: “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong!”

 

Pastor Bert

Transformation

posted 17 Aug 2015, 02:31 by Bert Weenink

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

 

At Tyndale we are having a special season of seeking God in prayer. We are concerned for the lack of growth in the church and from July right through to the middle of September, Sunday services and prayer meetings are focussing on our need of God and the need to examine ourselves and our walk with Him.

 

One of the questions we are asking is: ‘Why does spiritual growth sometimes stagnate in believers and in churches? I came across an article on the sermon central web-site recently where Thom Rainer offers his view from a study of the Corinthian church. It seems appropriate to share this article with you in an abridged form.

 

Discovering Transformation

The eternal reality that we were saved from sin should have a daily effect on life in this world. But sometimes, it stalls. How can we help liberate our congregations from their spiritual lethargy?

 

The Corinthians and Us

The first letter to the Corinthians was probably tough for Paul to write and tough for the church to receive. They were in the midst of a city known for all of the wrong moral codes. Many of us live, work and worship in cities similar to Corinth. Sadly, the moral code of the city became the moral code for many of the Corinthian believers—and the same happens in our day.

The letter from Paul leaps from antiquity and into our laps today. When I read it, I don’t just hurt for my congregation—it hurts me. The Spirit convicts me through it. I am often forced to admit that a stalling effect has taken place in my own transformation. Read this short passage in the third chapter:

Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were not yet able to receive it. In fact, you are still not able, because you are still fleshly. For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and living like ordinary people? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

The members of the Corinthian church had placed their faith in Christ and moved from darkness to light. But their lives stalled. They had not lost their salvation, but they had lost the forward momentum in their daily lives for real-time transformation.

When we lead our people in the process of transformation, we need to orient them to the reality of the war within them. Romans 8:8-9 says, “Those whose lives are in the flesh are unable to please God. You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Once a Christian, the Spirit lives within us. But the “old self” still wars against the transformation. It is a battle and process that will continue until we enter eternity.

I think 1 Corinthians 3 gives us a portrait of what our church members must guard against in order to experience the fullness of transformation God intends. Let me point out three ways transformation stalls and give some responses as well.

 

1. Transformation stalls without spiritual exercise.

Verse 1 says that the Corinthian believers were acting like “babies in Christ.” They had Christ but were neglecting to grow up. They should have been eating solid spiritual food but needed to stay on spiritual milk because they lacked maturity. The only answer is exercise.

We all know that the believer cannot be transformed without the truth. Time in God’s Word is a necessity for our spiritual exercise. Church members must not fall into the trap of thinking that group study is enough. I think everyone should be involved in a small group Bible study and be exposed to strong biblical preaching, but leaving out their personal time with the Scriptures is a quick path to stalling their spiritual transformation.

Exercise begins with prayer. In another letter, Paul wrote, ‘Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God’,  (Philippians 4:6).

Remaining active in sharing the Gospel is also important in staving off the stall that often occurs. I believe that losing the sense of what the gospel can do in the lives of others has a powerful effect in our lives. The work of evangelism has the side effect of reinforcing its own power in the life of the one who does the sharing.

I would also add that serving others keeps us on track as a spiritual exercise leading people toward transformation. Service lifts our eyes from personal needs to those who are needy right around us or in a different culture. God uses service to aid others and to conform us to the image of Christ.

As physical exercise is a discipline, so is spiritual exercise. Transformation is something that actively takes place in our lives. We are transformed by the gospel to consistently become more like Christ and lead others to do the same.

 

2. Transformation stalls amidst envy and strife.

In verse 3, Paul tells the Corinthians that they are “still fleshly.” (worldly) Continually giving in to the world hinders a person from yielding to the way of Christ. Obsession over the lives of others brought about by envy and strife distracts from a focus upon the life of Christ.

Envy and jealousy are extreme forms of selfishness. With envy, we want someone else’s life more than we want to be like Christ. With jealousy, we want what others have more than we want Christ himself. These forms of selfishness move us away from personal transformation and mission to personal promotion and ego.

These sinful characteristics deny a person the opportunity to serve others, and transformation is abandoned.

When we serve, envy and jealousy have no room to stall our transformation. Rather, the service becomes an outworking of Christ’s transforming character within us.

 

3. Transformation stalls when we live like the world.

The final issue I see in this short passage from Paul is his question in verse 3: “Are you not fleshly and living like ordinary people?” It is an indictment of believers who have stifled the transformation begun in them by the gospel.

One of the greatest condemnations that can come into the life of a Christian is that he/she has settled for an ordinary life. Transformation by its very nature means that something significantly different from the world is happening in our lives. In C.S. Lewis’ The Weight of Glory, he wrote: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (Lewis, C.S., The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 26) Lewis is right; we should see the pleasures of this world as trinkets in comparison to the transformation offered by Christ. Life is too brief to live like the world and deny our new position in Christ.

 

Striving Rather Than Stalling

What if each morning, your church members prayed something like this: “Lord, I choose to be sold out to you today. Let me cross paths with those who need to see how your power transforms a life. Let me put others ahead of myself. Rejecting the feebleness of this world, help me to live like Christ.” Imagine the transformation possible if they chose to place God’s mission and the interests of others before their own. I fear that too many people simply hope to survive the day unnoticed and unscathed. I discovered that such a mentality is too much like the world and too little like Jesus.

But the Christian life does not have that intention. God creates a new life in us and wants to transform our everyday living into a portrait of the gospel’s power. If you find your congregation stalled, then it is time to help them make a decision. Christ’s plan for His people is that they might be more and more like Him. Decide today that stalling is no longer an option for them, and choose the hope borne from transformation.

 

I found this article very challenging, what about you?

Pastor Bert

Be Filled with the Spirit

posted 29 Apr 2015, 01:22 by Bert Weenink

‘And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit….’

(Ephesians 5:18)

On Sunday 24th of May we will celebrate Pentecost, exactly 50 days after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The word Pentecost comes from the Greek pentecoste, meaning "fiftieth day".

Pentecost is also seen as the birthday of the church as on this day the apostle Peter preached his first sermon when 3,000 people came to faith and were added to the church.  From Acts 2 onwards the Holy Spirit plays a vital role in the growth of the church, in number as well as in depth.

It is sad that the ministry of the Spirit often causes division among believers and churches today. There are many references to His Person and ministry throughout the New Testament, but believers are often confused when they consider the meaning of terms such as baptism in the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit, being sealed with the Spirit, grieving the Spirit, etc. It goes far beyond this article to have an in-depth look at the Holy Spirit (join us in our Sunday evening services from the 31st of May if you want that!).

For now I would just like to look at the verse quoted at the beginning, telling us to be filled with the Spirit. What does this mean, being filled with the Spirit? One important principle whenever we consider a Bible verse is to study the text in its immediate and wider context. A lot of wild and wrong interpretations would be avoided if we would zealously adhere to that principle. I would like to answer three questions regarding the commandment ’Be filled with the Spirit’. 

1. Who is it for?

Paul wrote his letter ‘to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus, (Eph. 1:1), so this was clearly addressed to believers, those who were chosen, redeemed, forgiven and sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Being filled with the Spirit cannot, therefore, mean receiving the Spirit for the first time, or being promoted to a higher level of Christianity. This was written to those who were spiritually alive, saved by grace and God’s workmanship.

2. What does it mean?

Paul instructs the believers not to be drunk with wine, but, instead, to be filled with the Spirit. It is clear that Paul is thinking about the influence and control of the Holy Spirit. Those who are filled by the Spirit engage in spiritual activities, such as ‘speaking  to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord’ . (5:19) It also means submitting ’to one another out of reverence for Christ. (5:21) The evidence of being filled with the Spirit can be seen in what happens between husbands and wives (5:22-33), children and parents (6:1-4), servants and masters. (6:5-9) It is obvious that being filled with the Spirit has an effect on very ordinary—down to earth—day to day situations.

3. How can we bring it about?

From reading the text it seems clear that the Spirit is willing to help us live the Christian life in the way just described, but He doesn’t do it against our will. The commandment to be filled is given to us, we need to give Him space, we need to allow Him to do this. His filling promotes our obedience, but, likewise, our obedience promotes His filling. To me, being filled with the Spirit is simply the opposite of what we read in 4:30, where we are told not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God. There are things to be avoided, and things to be done.

Be filled with the Spirit, it is not really an option, it is a commandment for us all. May God help us to submit to Him and to one another for Jesus’ sake.

Desiring to be spirit-filled with you,

Pastor Bert

 



 

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