Faith by grace

Preached on: Sunday 13th June 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 21-06-13 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Acts 18:24-28 & Ephesians 2:1-5
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Let us come to God in prayer let us pray:

Come Holy Spirit, soften our hearts to the word of God.
Come Holy Spirit, impart to us wisdom and revelation.
Come Holy Spirit with power and deep conviction, for we ask it in Jesus name Amen.

We’re now in our penultimate week on our sermon series on Grace and previously we’ve seen that God’s grace can refer to the spiritual gifts that God gives us, or to His power to sustain us in the most difficult of times, then, last week, we saw how grace so shaped the early church that they were sacrificial in everything and how they lived, their lives and the lives they shared together, and their sharing of money and possessions. They, in this way, mirrored Jesus and His sacrificial giving.

Yet, today, when we read our passage in Acts none of these meanings applies to what we read about grace and so we find another meaning of grace. We read “When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed.”

Now, it’s noteworthy here, that we don’t read that those that Apollos went to were people who had believed in God’s grace nor are they people who believed in the God of grace rather, instead, we see that they are people who by grace had believed, and that’s an important difference because it suggests that these disciples, maybe all disciples, are helped by grace to, and that’s not something we often think about, I think, or talk about. Maybe because it points an uncomfortable truth, a truth that’s picked up in Ephesians, our reading today, in that passage we read “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world, all of us also lived among them at one time gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest we were, by nature, deserving of wrath.”

I’m sure as you read those once again even more questions are coming to mind than they did the first time. Like “WHO is Paul talking about here? WHO’s he talking about?”

Well, he says “as for you” and then “all of us” and then “like the rest.” You, us, and the rest. So, whatever he’s talking about here apparently applies to everyone. Everyone, before they put their faith in Jesus, and it’s not just for some people long ago or one bit of society or for the people we don’t like or we think are a bit dodgy, it’s for everybody.

So, the next question you might ask then is “Well WHAT is the issue, Paul?” and he says “you were dead”. He’s saying that before these Christians had put their faith in, in fact, before any Christian had put their faith in Jesus, apparently, they’re dead.

So, I guess, we might then be saying “Well, WHAT kind of death, Paul? Because, come on, these people are living that you’re writing to, were living before we were, before we were a Christian so what kind of death are you talking about because they were living.” Well, he’s talking about a spiritual kind of death. We might talk about a walking dead or, to use a more modern phrase we know from tv, the waking dead. Of cours,e that maybe raises another question “HOW can Paul claim that? How how can he claim that you and I, anyone, is spiritually dead before we put our faith in Jesus? How can he have the nerve to claim that?”

Well, we see, he says, in the next bit hopefully “You were dead in your transgressions and sins” and by saying transgressions and sins he’s basically using a bit of a catch-all phrase meaning both the sins that we choose to do and the sins we end up doing because we choose not to do other things – commission and omission – and that leads Paul to conclude that we are spiritually dead because of what he knows in the Old Testament in the Old Testament. He knows that it said “Your iniquities have separated you from your God. Your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear” and then Jesus said this, he said “Now this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” So, Jesus is saying, to have spiritual life, to be spiritually alive, to have eternal life, is to know God but Isaiah is saying, because of our sins our relationship with God is broken. There’s distance between us and it’s that that leads Paul to conclude we are spiritually dead.

So maybe we then wonder “Well, WHERE is this deadness, saint Paul? Because if it’s real, come on, it has to be seen somewhere.” And again, Paul would take you to the Old Testament, he would take you to verses he used in Romans where he writes “There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away. They have together become worthless.”

There is no one who does good, not even one. Where is this deadness seen? It’s seen in the ways we turn from God’s, ways it is seen in our apathy towards God, it is seen in our mistakes, the choices we choose to do that we know are wrong, and the choices we choose not to do which would be good. As Paul says in Ephesians “each of us follows the ways of the world.”

So often and we gratify what’s in our hearts and in our minds, the flesh so that we follow its desires and its thoughts. Where is this sin? It is seen in the brokenness of our world and that we all contribute to that, me included, because, inherent to being human, inherent to being human, is a nature that is marred. We have an intellect, we have emotions, we have hearts, we have motives we have goals, which are not pure. None of it is truly good and sometimes we do stuff and we do it because we think it’s good, but we maybe do it for false motives.

Paul is not saying here that we don’t have potential, that we can’t do some good, and he’s not saying that God doesn’t value you, because he knows that the Old Testament teachers were made in the image of God but, nonetheless, his point here is simply that our nature, the image of God in us, is broken, it’s tainted, we have a darkness to us, our spiritual death is seen every day in our lives and in the brokenness of our world, and that’s what leads Paul to say we’re spiritually dead, that we are separated from God. As he said in Romans, and because of that spiritual deadness we don’t even seek God, we don’t even seek Him if left to ourselves, we’re so trapped by sin that we don’t actually seek reconciliation with God off our own back. That’s our predicament, that’s our predicament, and it affects every one of us.

So, what’s to be done, what’s to be done? Is God just like sitting up there having a big huff, or is it in a rage, and he’s ready just to smite us, because Paul talks about some wrath in there, probably made us a bit uncomfortable. Is He just waiting to come with His wrath, well, No, no, because in the same passage we read these words: “but because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. It is by grace you have been saved.”

Despite us being a bunch of rebels and mostly most of the time, telling God to take a hike, He still loves us, His mercy is still so great that He will not wait, he will not stand off and so, just as Jesus was raised from physical death, anyone who puts their faith in Jesus will be raised from spiritual death to new life, made a new creation, given life eternally, by faith in Jesus, by becoming reconciled to God, and He does it because He loves you, God loves you enough to die for you, and so that’s why we read in our passage in Acts today “Apollos was a great help to those who by grace had believed.”

The grace of God helped them to turn to Him, His grace helped them to respond and to repent. Other parts of scripture also teach the same truth so for example we can read “One of those listening to the disciples was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” Or we could see what Jesus says “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” And then Paul, to the church in Corinth said “For God who said let light shine out of darkness made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the person of Christ.” We need God’s grace, we need His help, we need His intervention if we are to respond to the good news, if we are to come to Jesus in faith, and so, then, have His light shine in our darkness and bring that new life. Grace must come alongside us and work in us before we can respond in faith, and so, sometimes it’s called prevenient grace, the grace which comes before God gives that grace so that we can respond freely to in faith or to reject his invitation.

Christianity, friends, is not about becoming a nicer person, it’s not about becoming religious and having a religious routine, or ticking the box ‘you went to church’, Christianity is about becoming a new person, a new creation, becoming spiritually alive by His grace, enabling you to respond to His invitation so that His life might be in us and raise us from spiritual death. So, if you claim to be a Christian, then God’s grace came first, God’s great grace came first. So, there’s no boasting, there’s no right to achievement or reward, because His grace came first.

God did not stand off, He did not simply wait in wrath until it was too late, He came close, He gave grace so that you might seek Him, so that you might seek Him so that you might turn to Jesus and find new life, that His light might shine and bring that in your heart and your life and restore you, and He did all that because He loves you, He loves you.

And so then, we might wonder What’s our response today if you’re a Christian? Just humbly thank God for His grace, thank God for His grace that He so worked in your life.

One way somehow that that you responded that His grace came, because if that grace hadn’t come you wouldn’t be here, you wouldn’t be claiming faith in Jesus. Secondly, you might want to be praying for that grace to be working in others’ lives, but thirdly, listen to what scripture says about the importance of sharing the good news “How then can they call on the one they have not believed in and how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard” Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word about Christ. As we share the good news, faith can arise, is what Paul’s saying here in Romans, but we know from what we’ve just seen, that faith can only come when there’s grace, and so it seems that in the act of sharing the good news God pours out his grace so that people can respond in faith. Now there’s an even greater motivation to be evangelistic, that as we share the good news, grace is given and people then have the choice to respond in faith or not!

Now what if some of us here today, are watching at home, would claim not to follow Jesus, what if that’s you, what if in your heart you know that Jesus is not your Lord and Savior, you’d rather be anywhere other than here in church or watching this at home, and that might include both adults and young people, and you might have attended church for years, you might have got married in church, you might have been brought up in church all your life, but you know inside the reality is, you’re spiritually dead, and you can tell that because Jesus is a bit dull to you, he does not seem glorious, you can tell it because you’re deaf to the voice of the Holy Spirit, you can tell it because, in your heart, there’s no love for God, there’s no confidence that that He is your Abba Father, there’s no awareness of His personal presence day by day with you, all this and more besides points to the reality that inside you might come to church, you might even have had tons of sermons, but you’re spiritually dead, your spirits are dead until you come to faith in Jesus.

And, if that’s you, and if it bothers you, and if you want to know God and know His forgiveness and so no new life through Jesus, maybe today God is stirring up your heart, maybe God is pouring grace upon your heart so that you’re in a position to respond. Maybe today is the day to do that because we should not think there will be another opportunity, that I can just put it off to another day, we shouldn’t think that, we shouldn’t assume because Hebrews warns us “See to it that none of you has a sinful unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

You can become so hard of heart that you might hear the gospel but you will not choose to respond and you will not choose salvation through Jesus.

Don’t leave it too late because, who knows when you flip into that point where it becomes so hard that you will not respond, that can happen, that can happen.

And so, will you respond today? Will you respond and seek reconciliation with God and be made spiritually alive by putting your faith in Jesus? Because, in a moment, I’m going to lead us in a prayer, I’m going to give us that opportunity to respond and invite you to repeat the words after me – you can speak them out quietly if you want, you can speak them quietly in your heart, it doesn’t matter, God hears but sometimes speaking them out can just articulate it but, there’s no pressure because today is, remember today that you’ve to respond, today is maybe the day you put your faith in Jesus and become spiritually alive. So, don’t put it off if you’re feeling tugging at your heart today let’s pray:

Lord Jesus, thank you that I am here today and hear you tugging at my heart. I’m sorry Lord Jesus, for the things I’ve done wrong and, in the stillness, just now I name anything for which I’m sorry ……

please forgive me Lord Jesus.

And now turn from everything I know to be wrong and submit to you as Lord. Have your way and my life.

Thank-you that You died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven and set free and find new life.

Thank-you that You offer me forgiveness and the gift of Your spirit to indwell me. I now receive these gifts. Please come into my life by your Holy Spirit, to be with me forever. Thank-you Lord Jesus.

And I wonder, for the rest of us, what do you need to take home today? Have you grown a bit lukewarm in faith? Have you grown away but lukewarm to the fact that you’ve been given grace? And without that grace you wouldn’t be here and you wouldn’t believe? Or are there people that you need to be praying for, or even sharing the gospel with come walk me because how will they believe and turn to Jesus if you don’t share it?

Lord God, lead us in Your ways, give us a holy boldness where we need that, and may Your grace abound in this place, in this parish, across the Braes, Lord, that many would turn to You and find new life spiritual, life eternal, life which begins now by knowing You today and every day.

For in Your name we pray and for Your glory we ask it. Amen.

Prayer for one another

Preached on: Sunday 20th September 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-09-20-Message-PPT-slides.
Bible references: Ephesians 1:1-18, 15-17
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Ephesians 1:1-18, 15-17
Sunday 20th September 2020
Brightons Parish Church
Message
Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s Word.

May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be pure and pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

We’re halfway through our series on prayer, responding to this call from the Lord to grow as a people of prayer, that His purpose for us – to ‘invite, encourage and enable people to follow Jesus’ – might be realised in our day and in our community. We’ve seen the importance and value of the Lord’s Prayer, how it can shape us and help us know what to pray.

Then on Tuesday night of last week, I put into practice what I’d preached on, taking to the streets of Brightons and prayer walking, for about half an hour, as a means of praying for others If you missed the live event, you can still watch the recording on our YouTube channel, and it might give you ideas, or a flavour, of what prayer walking can be like.

In that time of prayer, it was my privilege to pray for the wider community, but I also got to pray for our church family, for people who identify with Brightons, who say this is their spiritual home This call from the Lord to pray, is also a call to pray for one another and that’s the focus of our reflections this morning.

In the letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul mentions “Father” and “prayer” more times than in any of his other letters. It seems that having God as our Father, and belonging to His family, should result in prayer. Later in the letter, Paul says: ‘…be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.’ (Eph. 6:18)

Part of the reason why Paul will again and again weave together having God as our Father with prayer for the family of God is because of what Father God was doing through His Son Jesus. Paul writes: ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ…’ (Eph. 1:3-5)

Paul is saying that it is in the nature of God to draw people into relationship, into His family Before the creation of the world, there was Father, Son and Holy Spirit existing in perfect community and from the overflow of their love they sought to extend that community, to have a family, a people that were their own. And so, God made choices, God made a plan, God acted intentionally, with purpose, exerting His will so that one day you might have the invitation to come into the family of God.

Friends, in this passage, in the Scriptures as a whole, the goodness of God is revealed, for we have a heavenly Father who seeks us and pursues us. He is not distant, He is not cold or austere, but rather He delights in you, He loves you so greatly that His Son died for you. I wonder, do you have this relationship with God? Have you responded to God’s invitation?

If you have, you’re now part of the family of God, bought at a price, dear and precious to the Father, and so, we should treat each other that way as well. Often, we can misunderstand church thinking it’s just another club or a group to belong to. Because of that it’s easy to take one another for granted, or just to be surface level in our care for each other. But Paul models something different: Paul earnestly gives himself away for the church – Paul gives his time, Paul serves, Paul encourages and underpinning it all Paul prays for the family of God.
So, here’s the invitation for this week of prayer. Remember, I said each week we’d have something to pray or do. Well, this week I invite you to turn to Ephesians and use one of Paul’s prayers. You can find them in Ephesians chapter 1 verses 15-17, and Ephesians chapter 3 verses 16-19.

Take one or both of these prayers and pray them for our congregation and for our organisations. Pray them for your Pastoral Grouping. Pray them for our Boys and Girls Brigades, as well as our Sunday School groups. Because we are family, we are part. of the family of God because of Jesus, because of the love of Father God, and so He calls us all to reflect His love to one another, by caring enough to pray. May it be so. Amen.

Can I really know the affection of this God?

Preached on: Sunday 16th June 2019
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 19-06-16-Brightons-Powerpoint-Scott-sermon-morning.
Bible references: Luke 15:11-20 and Ephesians 3:14-19
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Texts: Luke 15:11-20 and Ephesians 3:14-19
Sunday 16th June 2019
Brightons Parish ChurchYou’ll be glad to hear that we are on the penultimate week of our sermon series on Luke chapter 15, and next week’s Sunday School Closing Service will round off this series.

Last week we explored the robe and ring in the parable of the prodigal Father, and we saw that these symbolised pardon and position for the younger son. We asked ourselves whether we, as adopted sons or daughters of God, were sharing in the great adventure of faith? Are we living out our pardon and position, or have we tamed the life of faith to something comfortable, something familiar, but something less than God wants for us?

We asked those questions amidst a “Weekend of Invitation”, where we were all encouraged to invite someone along to church, and it was heartening to see around a dozen or so newer faces, which is about 9% of our weekly adult attendance here on a Sunday morning.

We did that “Weekend of Invitation” within the “Thy Kingdom Come” prayer movement, which is an international, interdenominational season of prayer, where the church at large is encouraged to pray and especially to pray for others to come to faith in Jesus Christ.

And we partnered in both these initiatives because to introduce people to Jesus, to be part of their journey of faith, where they come to trust and follow Jesus as Saviour and Lord, well that’s one of the greatest adventures we can participate in – because as we heard last week, God is on an adoption adventure and by that He seeks to heal our broken world. This isn’t about evangelism and conversion for their own sake – this is about participating in the very mission of God, at the heart of which, is people coming to know Him and being reconciled to Him through Jesus. And so, helping people to know and follow Jesus is a key way of sharing in the adventure of God and a key way of sharing in a process takes us beyond comfort and what is familiar.

The “how” of doing this in our current society…
is one of the greatest quandaries of our time, and we often do not feel equipped or ready to participate in this part of the adventure. But I’m reminded of a colleague’s third year theological project, which was about mission in the 21st century. She explored a variety of issues, but within that project she included this quote:

‘The challenge for the church is to recognise that while not all of what postmodernity stands for is good, there are values that this generation holds that provide a key for how the church could communicate the message of Jesus Christ to a very post-Christian generation.’
(Brian Krum, The Missional Shift of Youth Ministry: from cookie cutter to incarnational ministry)

The principle thing I take away from this is that there are ways to engage with today’s generation, which could very well refer to anyone under the age of 50, but the key to engage with them is to know their values. Now, there are many values we could highlight but the ones of relevance this morning are: spirituality, the experimental (or experiential) and authenticity. So, these young folks are not interested in religious duty or more knowledge or good morals or acts and forms of religion. But what they are open to is a faith that makes a real difference in life, and which is also experiential. Now, when it comes to their desire for an experiential spirituality, I wonder if we sometimes scoff at that, or denounce it as part of hedonistic Western culture, a culture that appears to simply seek one experience after another. But you know,…
I wonder if we have always sought this out? For example, we have our well-loved Psalms:

‘My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?’ (Psalm 42:2)

‘The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.’ (Psalm 23:1-3)

If we’re brutally honest, to attempt to understand these Psalms without involving some experiential dynamic simply guts all meaning and relevance from the them… So, if we’re honest, we also want to experience God – we want our souls refreshed by God, we want led and helped and provided for. But I wonder if we actually expect God to come through on these ideas, or do we just settle for the comfort of nice words but without the comfort of God Himself? If this is the case, then maybe today’s generation is not as hedonistic as we might think; maybe they simply are not willing to settle for concepts and flowery words, and instead they want to see and know God as a true being and presence.

And maybe all this terrifies you or confounds you? Maybe you appreciate that this is what young people seek and expect, what they (and we) hunger for, but you don’t know how to join up the dots? You’re not sure how that hunger and expectation might be met?
Well, I have some good news for you – our very familiar parable, the parable of the prodigal Father, reveals a God who wants to provide the very answers and needs of our moment in history, our missional moment.

In the midst of the parable we read these words:
‘But while he [the younger son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him.’ (Luke 15:20)

Now, we have looked at just about every part of this verse – the watching and waiting of the Father; the compassion the Father felt at the son’s return such that He ran towards His child; and we have looked at what comes after this moment, with the robe, the ring and the response of the elder brother.
But we have skimmed over the words: the Father…‘threw his arms round him and kissed him.’ The Father…‘threw his arms round him and kissed him.’ In these very words we see a God, Father God, who is ready to draw close, embrace us, and be affectionate, be demonstrative in His relationship with us.

Now, you may wonder if I am making a mountain out of a mole hill here, or whether I am turning parable into allegory? But as we have seen, Jesus is very deliberate in His storytelling, for He draws on the customs of the day and ensures that this parable is as loaded with meaning about Father God as possible. So, I don’t think it stretches the purpose of the parable to focus on these words in a little more detail, for in truth,…

their meaning is picked up and expanded upon again and again elsewhere in the New Testament.

For example, we read in Ephesians 3 today:
‘I pray that you…may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’ (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Here Paul speaks of knowing the love of Jesus, the love of God, such that we are filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. “the fullness of God” in Ephesians refers to the way God makes his presence and power felt, that in experiencing Christ Christians experience the fullness of God, his presence, and His power…
For Paul is praying that they will experience a greater measure of the divine presence in their lives such that they partake of God’s own being and are made like him. Now, as Paul makes clear, here and elsewhere, this is an ongoing process, but it is an experiential process nonetheless, yet we tend to gloss over such nuances and uncomfortable truths. However, once again we see that we have a God who is ready to draw close, embrace us and be demonstrative in His relationship with us.

Or take the prayer of Jesus in chapter 17 John’s gospel: Jesus prayed…‘Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they [current and future disciples] know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.’ (John 17:25-26)

Again, we must gloss over or twist these words if we are to take away any sense of God being close, embracing us and being demonstrative in His relationship with us.

Or, what about Paul’s words to the Romans:
‘And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.’ (Romans 5:5)

Now, Paul is not simply meaning here that we are to love like God, that we have a loving heart, for then it would have little relevance to having hope – you don’t have hope because you have a loving heart towards others… No, you have hope because you have something within you that sustains you, and what sustains the Christian is God’s very own love – a love, which Paul says here, is poured into our hearts, the centre of our being, not simply into our minds, where it can be kept as a nice concept, but rather, it is poured in here, so that it is known deep in our being and able to nourish true and lasting hope.

So, once again, we see that the wider teaching of the New Testament is of a relationship with God wherein He is close, embracing and demonstrative; He is not distant, He is not cold, He is the Father who threw His arms round the younger son and kissed him. And likewise, God wants to come close, embrace us and be demonstrative…
[STORY OF PRAYER IN CAR FOR WEDDING]
So, how is it that Father God draws close, embraces us and demonstrates His love? How will today’s younger generations come into that experience of God which they expect or yearn for?

Well, whether it be in Ephesians 3, or in Romans chapter 5, or in John’s gospel from chapters 3 to chapter 20, in all these places and in every portion of the New Testament, it is by the person of the Holy Spirit that we are given help to know the Father’s love, to know His nearness and embrace. Romans 5 is maybe the most succinct:

‘God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.’ (Romans 5:5) Note here that Paul refers to the Holy Spirit, ‘who has been given’ – ‘who’…a person. It is easy to slip into referring to the Holy Spirit as ‘it’, because we are tempted to think about the Holy Spirit as a force, or energy or some kind of ghostly presence. But the clear teaching of Scripture is that the Holy Spirit is a person, the Holy Spirit is God’s personal presence amongst us. He is one of the three persons of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit – One God but three Persons.

Notice what else Paul says here about this third Person of God: the Holy Spirit ‘has been given to us’ – ‘has been given’, as in, this has already happened, and this has happened ‘to us’, to any person who claims the title
Christian and affirms Jesus as Lord and Saviour…
So, anyone who claims to be a Christian has the Holy Spirit, the personal presence of God residing in them, in our hearts; we have become a temple of God’s presence, as Paul says to the Corinthians.

So, why am I labouring this point? Well, as we have seen, the Holy Spirit is the means by which Father God helps us to know His love, to know His nearness and embrace. This is given to each and every Christian, as we have seen, and so to each and every Christian is given the means by which to know the Father’s love, His nearness and embrace, just like the younger son. And it will be by that same Holy Spirit, the third Person of God, that the Father’s love, nearness and embrace will be imparted to those younger generations who want a faith that is more than mere words on an old page or good moral and religious duty.
But here’s the thing: can we, each, speak of knowing the Spirit’s work in our lives? For young people today, it isn’t enough to point to an old book and claim it as truth – they want to know how these old words have come alive in your own life, they want to hear and see them in reality.

I came across a helpful illustration this past week…(pg99 of Mark Stibbe, The Father You’ve Been Waiting For.)

What’s the lesson of the story for us this morning? It is this: don’t settle for second-hand relationship, or secondhand religion; we each should and must pursue the real thing for ourselves. We each should and must pursue a real, authentic relationship with God, by His Holy Spirit, the third Person of God, His very presence amongst us…
Because a dynamic life of faith is not meant to be the reserve of the few; a dynamic life of faith, where we know the Father’s love, nearness and embrace is meant to be the bread and butter of all God’s people, for the Holy Spirit has been given to one and all who claim the title Christian, and so the Holy Spirit is ready to lead us into the Father’s embrace.

And if we want to help the younger generations see that the Christian faith meets their hunger and expectations, then we must be able to share our own stories of faith and be ready to point them in the direction of a God who is ready to draw close, embrace them and be demonstrative.

Now, there probably isn’t a quick fix to this, it will take time,…
it will take some learning and maybe even some unlearning of previous ideas. It will likely involve us going deeper in our own faith journey first, of being willing to admit that maybe there’s more to God and the life of faith than we ever imagined and maybe have ever experienced.

To help towards that, the Discipleship Team are planning an Alpha Course in the autumn session, beginning on the 18th September and running to the end of November. The Alpha course is a great way to explore, or re-explore, some of the core aspects of the Christian faith, so we are giving you 3 months’ notice in the hope you’ll make the time to come along and take a new step in the adventure of faith, by giving Alpha a try.

But the Discipleship Team also hope that some of us might consider inviting friends, family or neighbours to the Alpha course. The Weekend of Invitation was really just the beginning of a process: we all need to regularly invite others to come and find out more about this God who wants to draw close, embrace us and be demonstrative. And so, maybe the next step in the adventure of faith is for us is to invite someone to Alpha, to invite someone to come see that the hunger and expectation they have of God, can be found in this God, who has revealed Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and who is ready, so very ready, to throw His arms round and embrace all who return to Him.

May it be so. Amen.