What Are We On About?

God’s word leads us down a different path.

O.T. LESSON:   Isaiah  56:1-8
N.T. LESSON:   II Cor 5:14-21

The Lighthouse

There’s a lighthouse on the hillside
that overlooks life’s sea ,
When I’m tossed it sends out a light
that I might see.
And the light that shines in darkness now
will safely lead us o’er
If it wasn’t for the lighthouse
my ship would be no more.

And I thank God for the lighthouse
I owe my life to him,
For Jesus is the lighthouse
and from the rocks of sin
He has shone a light around me
that I might clearly see
If it wasn’t for the lighthouse
where would this ship be.

Everybody that lives around us
says, “tear that old lighthouse down,
The big ships don’t sail this way anymore
there’s no use of it standing ’round”
Then my mind goes back to that stormy  night
when just in time I saw the light
The light from that old lighthouse
that stands up there on the hill 7

In our ‘post-modernist’ society, principles and objective truth have taken a backseat to a ‘make me feel good’ and ‘as long as it works’ approach to life. If religion works for you that’s great, but it really doesn’t affect me.

However God’s word leads us down a different path. Society wants an ‘at-a-boy!’ but followers of the Way (as the apostle Paul calls them) are called to ‘sing a different tune’.  As Paul stood before Felix in Ceasarea, he presented the Gospel (the Good News) and “he discoursed on righteousness, self-control, and the judgement to come” [Acts 24:25].  In contrast to the world wanting to be comfortable and accepted, we as believers are called to be countercultural, and to expect rejection and persecution [see I Peter 1:6,7].  And notice Felix’s response in verses 25,26: he “was afraid.. ‘when it is convenient I will send for you’… he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe“.

What God has called us to be in this world is to be a community of believers practicing the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. You see Jesus told his followers “as you are going [that’s what the sense is of the word ‘Go’] into all the world preach the good news to all creation making disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father,Son, Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” [Mark 16:15; Matt 28:19,20].

The early church had a hard time with the going: it took major persecution to get them to scatter throughout the area [Acts 8:1]. And then as Paul was commissioned, the gospel became a phenomenon throughout the ‘then known world’.  History says it went from Spain to China.  And a missionary to South America found evidence of the Gospels’ message high in the Andes where white men had never gone. 6

God also called us to the Great Commandment: “Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” [John 13:34,35 NLT].  And what does that love look like?

“Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude.  Love does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable or touchy.  It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong.  It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out.  It you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost.  You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him. .. love goes on forever.” [I Cor 13:4-8a Living Bible]

And God has given us a framework in which to develop this: it’s called ‘the church’, the body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, a building expertly built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets with Christ as the chief cornerstone [Ephesians 2:20].  And in this church “he…gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets.. evangelists…pastor/teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ will be built up.. and become mature… and build itself up in love as each part does it’s work.” [Ephesians 4:11-16].

Eugene Peterson in his book The Unnecessary Pastor says that sometimes pastors or leaders will think that nothing happens without them.  Then he goes on to say “We (pastors) have important work to do, but if we don’t do it God can always find someone else, and probably not a pastor”. You see a pastor isn’t someone you hire “who is an expert to keep you ahead of the competition– or someone to follow so you don’t have to follow Jesus anymore” 1 , but rather someone who leads by example; challenging, cajoling, comforting, and lighting the fire of the compassion of Christ under you, equipping and together with you discipling, training and welcoming into the church those who are being saved. [Acts 2:47].

The activity of the Christian / “follower of ‘The Way'” then is to do the work of helping people come to know Jesus and helping those who know him (whom to know is life eternal — see John 17:3) to grow and develop in their expression of the character of Jesus Christ [Romans 8:29].  “Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God 2 for it is God who inspires you with the will (the ‘itch’ 3) to do the good things which you desire to do 4, and also the power to achieve His purpose 5[Philippians 2:13] .. For I’m convinced that “No temptation [this word can also be ‘testing’] has seized you except what is common to man(kind 3).  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. [I Cor 10:13]”

Will you trust Him — that is, abandon yourself to his mercy and accept his gracious forgiveness and thorough cleansing and on that basis love with God’s unconditional AGAPE love — love your family, your church family, all those who are the blood-washed ones — loving in such a way that those who are outside of the kingdom will be forced to say  “look at how they love each other, at how they care for each other”.

Then God will get the glory and those who are prepared will be added to the body of the believers (the followers of “The Way”) – and the angels will be rejoicing.

1  Peterson, Eugene. The Unnecessary Pastor, Grand Rapids, Eardmans,  2000. [return to message]
2  Peterson, Eugene. The Message.  NavPress Publishing Group, 1995. [return to message]
3 D. H. Friesen [return to message]
4 Lamsa New Testament (translated from the Peshitta), Philedelphia, A.J. Holman Company, 1968. [return to message]
5  Phillips, J.B. N.T. in Modern English, London, Geoffrey Bless, 1960. [return to message]
6 Olsen, Bruce. Bruchko, Orlando, Creation House, 1993. [return to message]
7 Words and music by Ronny Hinson, Journey Music Co., 1971. [return to message]

Faithful in the Meantime

We are to go out into the world, being salt and light, until he returns.

[Concluding the Apostles’ Creed]
OT Lesson   Isaiah 52:7-10
NT lesson   Revelation 21:1-7

“The resurrection of the body and the Life Everlasting AMEN.”

“God is at work” and as He has “pursued a loving relationship that’s real and personal” [1. Blackaby, Henry T., Experiencing God, Nashville, LifeWay Press 1989] — we have responded.   We’ve invited Jesus Christ into our lives and have discovered that it has changed us.  The Holy Spirit is working to develop the character of Jesus Christ in our lives.

The Apostle John wrote in John 1:12,13 “To those who believed in His name He gave the right to become children of God… born of God.”  And the Apostle Paul writes in Eph. 1:5 that we are “adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ.  And “having believed, you are marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit who is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.” [Eph. 1:13b, 14].

Humanity started out as perfect — without defect– complete– and capable of choice and responsibility. As a result of the sin of Adam and Eve all nature was ‘cursed’ [see Gen. 3] Weeds would make agriculture difficult– antagonism between humans and animals would make living hazardous and the pain of childbirth would remind us that sin hurts.

God had said that when “you eat of it (that is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) you will surely die.” [Gen 2: 17]. And so from that point on the dying-disintegration.  Cells are dying as well as being reproduced and from adulthood on the dying goes faster than the reproduction.   But God wants to restore our bodies as well as us to Himself.  The “resurrection is God’s counter-fulfillment of a plan whereby He might redeem what had been lost in Eden” [2. Lockerbie, D. Bruce, The Apostles’ Creed, Wheaton, Victor Books 1977, p.130]

The Old Testament had introduced the concept of resurrection in Isaiah 26:19: “But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy.  Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.” And so in I Corinthians 15, Paul presents the logical arguments, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the fulfillment of that passage in the model of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So when Christ returns, our bodies will be changed and we will become like Christ [I John 2:3] — only in a changed body could we enjoy God forever “so in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye … we will be changed.” [see I Cor. 15:50-54].  And Paul concludes that because of these facts we can continue to do the work of the ministry God has given us in spite of the circumstances, “Because you know your labour in the Lord is not in vain.”  [I Cor 15:58] This ‘resurrection’ has the purpose of preparing us for the “Life Everlasting.” This ‘Eternal Life’ is not merely an extension of our existence related to time.  It has the connotation of “Outside of time” [3. McGrath, Alister, I Believe, Illinois, InterVarsity Press,1997] The flow of time as we know it here will no longer exist.  It is sometimes expressed as “a forever NOW”.   What it specifically will look like is beyond our ‘ken’ but it is figuratively described as this in a passage in the Revelation.  “Now the dwelling of God is with men and he will live with them, they will be his people.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away.”  [Rev 21: 3,4]

I can hear some people rolling their eyes and saying “So what!  That’s a ‘someday’ thing.  What about the here and now?  What difference does it make now?” I believe Barry Callen summarizes it well in the title to his book on the “End Time”.  He calls it “Faithful in the Meantime.” [4. Callen, Barry, Faithful in the Meantime, Napanee, Evangel Publishing House, 1997.]   He writes:

“The final judgment will establish as enduring reality the nature of the relationship with Christ that was chosen in this life… At death the burden of freedom is lifted; the wealth of freedom spent… Our individual life stories in this present world are significant and have permanent implications in the final unfolding of the divine story” [Callen,  255]

In II Peter 3 [see MSG], the apostle challenges us and reassures us that God is faithful and that His coming is seemingly delayed only in that He wants everyone to respond to Him so that no one will be “lost”.   Not all will respond, but God doesn’t want to lose any more people than absolutely necessary.

So we are to “Go into all the world and preach the ‘Good News’ (of Salvation) to all creation” [Mark 16:15], and  “make disciples, baptizing them, … and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  [Mat 28:19,20]   We are to be Salt in order to make society taste better and last longer and to ‘Shine’ out our “Light” so that every one can get a clear picture of God and what He’s done for us and can do for everyone [see Matt 5:13-16].  Let us be “Faithful In the Meantime”.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, HIS ONLY SON, OUR LORD. HE WAS CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY. HE SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, WAS CRUCIFIED, DIED AND WAS BURIED. HE DECENDED TO THE DEAD. ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN. HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN  AND IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER. HE WILL COME AGAIN TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.

I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE HOLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH,  THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS,  THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS,  THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY,  AND THE LIFE EVER LASTING. AMEN

Other resources used:

  1. Alister McGrath, I Believe — Exploring the Apostles’ Creed, Illinois, InterVarsity Press, 1997.
  2. D. Bruce Lockerbie, The Apostles’ Creed: Do You Really Believe It?  Wheaton, SP Publications Inc., 1977.
  3. Holy Bible, New International Version. International Bible Society, 1984.
  4. Eugene Peterson. The Message, Colorado, Navpress, 1993.
  5. Gilbert Staford. Theology for Disciples, Anderson, Warner Press, 1996.

©2000 D H Friesen

What are we on about?

In our ‘post-modernist’ society, principles and objective truth have taken a backseat to a ‘make me feel good’ and ‘as long as it works’ approach to life. However God’s word leads us down a different path

God’s Purpose and Mission for Your Church

O.T. LESSON: Isaiah 56:1-8 N.T. LESSON: II Cor 5:14-21

The Lighthouse

There’s a lighthouse on the hillside that overlooks life’s sea,
When I’m tossed it sends out a light that I might see.
And the light that shines in darkness now will safely lead us o’er
If it wasn’t for the lighthouse my ship would be no more.

Everybody that lives around us says, “tear that old lighthouse down,
The big ships don’t sail this way anymore there’s no use of it standing ’round”
Then my mind goes back to that stormy night when just in time I saw the light
The light from that old lighthouse that stands up there on the hill 7

And I thank God for the lighthouse; I owe my life to him,
For Jesus is the lighthouse and from the rocks of sin
He has shone a light around me that I might clearly see
If it wasn’t for the lighthouse where would this ship be?

In our ‘post-modernist’ society, principles and objective truth have taken a backseat to a ‘make me feel good’ and ‘as long as it works’ approach to life. If religion works for you that’s great, but it really doesn’t affect me.

However God’s word leads us down a different path. Society wants an ‘at-a-boy!’ but followers of the Way (as the apostle Paul calls them) are called to ‘sing a different tune’. As Paul stood before Felix in Ceasarea, he presented the Gospel (the Good News) and “he discoursed on righteousness, self-control, and the judgement to come” [Acts 24:25]. In contrast to the world wanting to be comfortable and accepted, we as believers are called to be countercultural, and to expect rejection and persecution [see I Peter 1:6,7]. And notice Felix’s response in verses 25,26: he “was afraid.. ‘when it is convenient I will send for you’… he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe“.

What God has called us to be in this world is to be a community of believers practicing the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. You see Jesus told his followers “as you are going [that’s what the sense is of the word ‘Go’] into all the world preach the good news to all creation making disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father,Son, Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” [Mark 16:15; Matt 28:19,20].

The early church had a hard time with the going: it took major persecution to get them to scatter throughout the area [Acts 8:1]. And then as Paul was commissioned, the gospel became a phenomenon throughout the ‘then known world’. History says it went from Spain to China. And a missionary to South America found evidence of the Gospels’ message high in the Andes where white men had never gone. 6

God also called us to the Great Commandment: “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” [John 13:34,35 NLT]. And what does that love look like?

“Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. It you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him. .. love goes on forever.” [I Cor 13:4-8aLiving Bible]

And God has given us a framework in which to develop this: it’s called ‘the church’, the body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, a building expertly built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets with Christ as the chief cornerstone [Ephesians 2:20]. And in this church“he…gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets.. evangelists…pastor/teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ will be built up.. and become mature… and build itself up in love as each part does it’s work.” [Ephesians 4:11-16].

Eugene Peterson in his book The Unnecessary Pastor says that sometimes pastors or leaders will think that nothing happens without them. Then he goes on to say “We (pastors) have important work to do, but if we don’t do it God can always find someone else, and probably not a pastor”. You see a pastor isn’t someone you hire “who is an expert to keep you ahead of the competition– or someone to follow so you don’t have to follow Jesus anymore” 1 , but rather someone who leads by example; challenging, cajoling, comforting, and lighting the fire of the compassion of Christ under you, equipping and together with you discipling, training and welcoming into the church those who are being saved. [Acts 2:47].

The activity of the Christian / “follower of ‘The Way'” then is to do the work of helping people come to know Jesus and helping those who know him (whom to know is life eternal — see John 17:3) to grow and develop in their expression of the character of Jesus Christ [Romans 8:29]. “Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God 2 for it is God who inspires you with the will (the ‘itch’ 3) to do the good things which you desire to do 4, and also the power to achieve His purpose 5[Philippians 2:13] .. For I’m convinced that “No temptation [this word can also be ‘testing’] has seized you except what is common to man(kind 3). And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.[I Cor 10:13]”

Will you trust Him — that is, abandon yourself to his mercy and accept his gracious forgiveness and thorough cleansing and on that basis love with God’s unconditional AGAPE love — love your family, your church family, all those who are the blood-washed ones — loving in such a way that those who are outside of the kingdom will be forced to say “look at how they love each other, at how they care for each other”.

Then God will get the glory and those who are prepared will be added to the body of the believers (the followers of “The Way”) – and the angels will be rejoicing.

Unless otherwise noted, scriptures are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, 1984, International Bible Society, Zondervan Bible Publishers.

1 Peterson, Eugene. The Unnecessary Pastor, Grand Rapids, Eardmans, 2000. [return to message] [buy this book from Amazon.com]
2 Peterson, Eugene. The Message. NavPress Publishing Group, 1995. [return to message] [buy this book from Amazon.com]
3 D. H. Friesen [return to message]
4 Lamsa New Testament (translated from the Peshitta), Philedelphia, A.J. Holman Company, 1968. [return to message] [buy this book from Amazon.com]
5 Phillips, J.B. N.T. in Modern English, London, Geoffrey Bless, 1960. [return to message] [buy this book from Amazon.com]
6. Olsen, Bruce. Bruchko, Orlando, Creation House, 1993. [return to message] [buy this book from Amazon.com]
7. Words and music by Ronny Hinson, Journey Music Co., 1971. [return to message]