Preached on: Sunday 13th June 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above WILL BE UPLOADED SOON. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here .
Bible references: Acts 18:24-28 & Ephesians 2:1-5
Location: Brightons Parish Church
Preached on: Sunday 13th June 2021
Preached on: Sunday 6th June 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There are no PowerPoint slides this week.
Bible references: Acts 4:32-37 and John 15:9-17
Location: Brightons Parish Church
Friends, sorry I can’t be with you in person today – the side effects of the Covid jab got a little bit of the best of me but I had already prepared my sermon and felt it would be a little bit unfair just to throw Ian completely in at the deep end so I’ve done this recording and as we turn to God’s word now let us pray.
Come Holy Spirit, come with revelation and wisdom from our Father.
Come Holy Spirit, soften our hearts to the word of God.
Come amongst us Holy Spirit with power and deep conviction, for we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.
We’re now halfway through our sermon series on Grace, seeking to understand more of this incredible word.
Previously we saw that grace can refer either to the spiritual gifts that God gives us by his Spirit living within us, or to God’s power to sustain us particularly in hard times, and we thought how the grace of Christ is sufficient.
Today we come across a different working or a different impact upon the church. When we read about God’s grace in our passage from Acts, we read “all the believers were one in heart and mind, no one claimed that any of their possessions was their own but they shared everything they had. With great power the Apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there was no needy person among them.” These are the principal verses we’ll focus on today and we won’t simply focus on the last bit which mentions grace, as the context is important as well, to give some structure to our thinking. We’re going to work in reverse order within these verses starting with the mention of God’s grace.
We see here that God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all, that there was no needy person among them. In the NIV translation this is put as a separate sentence whilst in some other translations they link it to the previous sentence. Seeing the link between grace and power once more as we did, wherein the Apostles testified with great power, we’re told however, all translations are united, and saying that God’s grace was upon them all, and in the surrounding verses it is the collective attitude of believers that is highlighted, not simply the Apostles. So, it makes sense I think, for this to be a separate sentence so as to highlight the fact that it was God’s grace upon them all which brought such radical sharing. This wasn’t normal behavior, it wasn’t something they worked up amongst themselves, rather God’s grace nurtured a different perspective and a sacrificial way of life. We read in the surrounding verses what helped to ensure that there was no needy people, no one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had, From time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the Apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. When we read these verses, I wonder if you thought the early church practiced the form of communism, but in fact they didn’t because we see here that the sharing was voluntary, it didn’t involve all personal property only as much as was needed, and thirdly, this sharing was not a requirement to be a member or part of the church.
Nevertheless God’s grace brought about our perspective and way of life, where there was continuous sharing and also extraordinary acts of sharing. These believers did have personal possessions but they did not consider them to be private possessions held exclusively for their own use and enjoyment, rather they understood what they had as belonging to God primarily and that we are but stewards of these resources. Out of this perspective, as God’s grace worked upon them, we see here a group of generous people who are sensitive to the needs of others such that no one went to bed hungry because they could prevent it, no one slept on the street because they could give a bed, no one went without clothes because the members took care of one another, and the wealthy even sold property in order to ensure this reality. The wealthy who sold this property would be what we call today landlords so it wasn’t that everybody made that particular choice yet everyone did have a right perspective about their possessions and gave what they could to support others.
One of our church values is Sharing, it says “Sharing our lives and the good news of God’s love in word and deed”. Our elders chose this because we see it as a biblical value which we are to aspire to grow in, and we see it in part within our DNA already. Yet, there’s always room to grow and I’m not sure we can say that we evidence the generosity of the early church quite yet.
So, how do we grow in this? Well to know what needs there are and to be able to feel able to share those needs we need a depth of relationship of community. We know from Acts chapter 2 that the early church spent time sharing together in meals within one another’s homes. Now, clearly, that’s been difficult to do this past year but I wonder over the summer might we do something with one another because, here’s the thing, do we care about one another, do we care enough to invest in one another, will we be intentional and will we be sacrificial? Because the outworking of God’s grace upon the early church was seen in these ways and if this is to be seen in our lives then maybe we need more of God’s grace upon us, to change our heart,s to change our minds, and help us to obey Jesus. After all, Jesus said “My command is this – love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
How are you going to lay down your life? Because following Jesus should be more than simply turning up to church for an hour, or switching on Youtube at home as Francis Chan says in the book we’re reading this summer. in many churches you have about as much of a connection to the people who are supposedly your spiritual family as you would to someone who visited the same movie theatre as you.
So, how are you going to lay down your life? How are you going to connect with your church family? How will God’s grace be seen in you?
Now, it’s interesting that our value of Sharing said “sharing our lives and the good news of God’s love in word and deed” Notice, we captured both our lives and the good news and this will be shared in both word and deed. We’ve just thought about sharing our lives and the time we give and the needs we meet as we learn of them, but it’s striking that in the midst of a short passage about meeting material needs, that we also read this “with great power the Apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” It kind of seems out of place at first, doesn’t it, kind of wedged in there, yet, as our value says sharing should also include the sharing of the good news of Jesus and our words and this is important because with such a strong emphasis on being a community who share our lives with one another, on being a family together, then a potential danger arises that all our attention is given to this alone, possibly to the detriment of other things.
So, let’s learn from the example of the early church. A shared community life is not the goal, it is not an end in itself, because when this becomes the goal of a church, sadly, church becomes maintenance focused, it turns following Jesus into a cozy holy-huddle which is all about us, and very inward looking as such. Alongside sharing our lives, there still needs to be sharing the good news and deep conviction of its importance, because the perspective which can say what is mine is actually God’s, and so I’ll be open-handed with it to help others. That kind of perspective is nurtured and sustained by a deep conviction that there was a man called Jesus, he really did die for us, he really did die for us, rise from the dead and he will return one day. Such a perspective enables a person to know that this life is not all there is, and the values of our world are not the most important values. Without a deep conviction about Jesus we won’t be willing to financially give in a sacrificial way, and we won’t invest time in one another, and we won’t even bother to speak about our faith.
So, for example, and this is not to boast, but from the day we were married 16 years ago Gill and I have given away about a tenth of our income each year to our local church, or what some Christians call a tithe. We give up some sunny holidays, we give up various other things and we choose to have less, all because we really do believe in Jesus. Likewise we have consistently invested time in our church family wherever we’ve been, and before I was a minister, and we’ve done this because we really do believe in Jesus and that this church is his family, and so, is our family as well.A belief in Jesus and that He truly is alive even today is what helps to rightly shape our individual and corporate lives not only with a care for one another but with an outward concern as well, and I don’t simply mean that we should be evangelistic, though that would be lovely, instead, what I mean is, do we have a right balance between an inward and an outward focus? Do we have a right balance between an inward and an outward focus? And this affects everything in church life. The just retired moderator of the Church of Scotland, Martin Fair, wrote an article in the March edition of Life and Work, our denominations magazine – Martin said near the end “Let it be asked of every worship service – Is it being designed with young people in mind? Let it be asked of every group and organization – Is it being run with the express intention and hope of engaging new people? Let it be asked – Of every pound spent, is this expenditure intended to keep the show on the road or to bring good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, sight to the blind?”
Now, maybe you would take issue with that last quote, particularly around worship, but we need to face facts, as Martin also said in his article, we have been declining numerically for 60 years and the decline in numbers of young people has been nothing short of catastrophic. So, let’s remember that context nevertheless, in every area of church life what is the balance between an inward and an outward focus? Are we willing to right that balance even if it is costly and sacrificial to do? So, because that sounds like a choice which also needs God’s grace.
Our final point today draws from the first verse of our passage which said “all the believers were one in heart and mind.” This unity was of heart and mind, the heart that core place where we are driven to make our choices by both emotion and values, and the mind, the place of reasoning and identity in both spheres. There was unity, and not a superficial unity, but a real unity, a unity displayed in their way of life. What helped them reach that place of unity? What helped them to be willing to sacrifice for the other?
Well, a couple of things, firstly, in just the previous verse we can read after they prayed they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke the word of God boldly. There’s that deep conviction again, that deep conviction about Jesus, and it came after they prayed and they were filled with the Spirit. Friends, are we gathering for prayer? Do you make time to come on a Thursday evening, to our time of prayer or to pray in your Fellowship Group? As we pray together, we are brought closer together, and do we pray to be filled afresh with the Spirit? After all, Paul exhorts us to do that as well, but this unity was encouraged and sought in all of the early churches such that Paul, writing to the Philippians said “Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, of any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
We see again many of the same elements as we’ve already spoken about this morning, but the unity of heart and mind is tied here to our unity to Jesus, and are following after his example as Paul will go on to say in that chapter. As such, what brought unity to the early church, was not warm fuzzy feelings, indeed the church was made up of groups that had previously been at odds with one another, instead, what brought unity was a new identity, a new identity founded in Jesus, and a deep sense of call to His mission. It was through this identity and through that mission they were able to focus on something greater than themselves.
I wonder, brothers and sisters, what shapes our identity first and foremost? What shapes our priorities? Is it Jesus and His kingdom?
If we are to have such unity, if we are to embody the value of sharing, then we must pursue Jesus and His kingdom first. Towards that end I do pray that God’s grace will be poured out in greater measure upon us all and so may it be so, Amen.
Preached on: Sunday 30th May 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 21-05-30 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Acts 14:21-26 & Hebrews 4:14-16
Location: Brightons Parish Church
come holy spirit soften our hearts to the word of God come holy spirit with revelation and wisdom of our father and our lord Jesus
come holy spirit with power and deep conviction for we ask it in Jesus name amen last week we began a new sermon series on grace and our aim is to understand more of this wonderful word because it is rich and meaningful partly because of its many uses and references in the scriptures and we saw previously that one of its uses is to talk about our spiritual gifts that the spirit gives us to enable us to be part of God’s mission but our passage today doesn’t use grace in that manner we read from Italian Paul and Barnabas sailed back to Antioch where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed earlier in chapter 13 these two men had been prayed for by the local church and sent on their way because the church had felt prompted to do this by the holy spirit so what we read here in chapter 14 is telling us that those prayers are committing of these Christians to the grace of God and so grace here is not referring to spiritual gifts or to saving grace or to God’s character of grace so raises the question what is this grace and what does it do because let’s notice something else first despite being committed to the grace of God despite being faithful and exemplary brothers in the faith they faced hard times in fact a little earlier if you go back earlier in chapter 14 we read of Paul being stoned in response to his labors for the lord and in the second letter to the church in Corinth Paul says five times i received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one three times I was beaten with rods once i was pelted with stones three times I was shipwrecked i spent a night and a day in the open sea i have been constantly on the move I’ve been in danger from rivers and danger from bandits in danger from my fellow Jews in danger from gentiles endangering the city endangering the country in danger at sea and in danger from false believers I have laboured and toiled and often gone without sleep i have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food i have been cold and naked besides everything else i face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches and i don’t know about you but looking at that list there’s part of me that says what is so amazing about grace if this is what Paul had to face what is so amazing about grace
and I wonder friends if you can relate to that and the hardships that you maybe face right now are you maybe asking what’s so amazing about grace where are you God why how am I meant to cope with this when will this end Christians across the ages have shared these same questions and struggles the famous preacher Charles Spurgeon who was used mightily of God in the 19th century suffered recurring bouts of depression throughout his adult life he was also simultaneously popular and unpopular in the stands he took and often as a result would face ridicule including from other pastors added to this was his need to provide relentless care for his wife who was an invalid for most of their marriage and on top of all that if it wasn’t enough Spurgeon faced the last 20 a third of the last 27 years of his ministry out of the pulpit because of his own physical illness there was hardly a weakness an insult a hardship or difficulty that Spurgeon didn’t know personally
so what about you what’s your story
and in the midst of that story are you asking what’s so amazing about grace
and to begin responding to that question we need to turn to other passages later in the same letter to the church in Corinth Paul says i was given a thorn in my flesh a messenger of Satan to torment me three times i pleaded with the lord to take it away from me but he said to me my grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness therefore when i am weak then i am strong what does this passage say about grace well the lord says my grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness notice the parallel my power my grace so when we receive the lord’s grace we receive his power but power for what does he give this power for well based upon Paul’s experience and the t his teaching in part God gives his grace his power to sustain us to sustain our faith that we might persevere to the end after all in our passage from acts we read Paul and Barnabas return to Lystra Iconium and Antioch strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God they said core to the teaching of the early church was the awareness that hard times come that in fact we will say face such difficulties that it will potentially rock our faith that will test our faith and we may even be tempted simply to walk from Jesus
so what can help us persevere what will hold us fast that we might persevere to the end and share in the perfection and glory of the kingdom of God when it comes
well the answer my friends is the grace of God it is his power that sustains now maybe you’re thinking well that doesn’t sound like very much Scott I’d like a bit more
and i wonder if part of that thinking is because we want a Jesus who makes things right now we want a Jesus who meets our needs in the way we want them met
but as one commentator said God did not change the situation by removing the affliction he changed it by adding a new ingredient grace God did not give Paul any explanations instead he gave him a promise my grace is sufficient for thee we do not live in explanations we live on promises for promises generate faith and faith strengthens hope
I wonder brothers and sisters how’s your faith doing what’s your level of hope in the face of your hardships how how how are you trying to persevere are you simply trying to kind of work up some more willpower and get through on your own strengths or are you trying to resort to positive thinking and simply downplay the doubt in the heart because Paul’s perseverance didn’t come from either of those approaches instead he found in the grace of the lord Jesus Christ a power a strength beyond any human capacity to emulate or duplicate earlier I spoke of Charles Spurgeon and the great hardships he faced and yet he himself said this it is easy to believe in grace for the past and the future but to rest in it for the immediate necessity is true faith at this moment and at all moments which shall ever occur between now and glory the grace of God will be sufficient for you this sufficiency is declared without any limiting words and there I’ve therefore I understand the passage to mean that the grace of our lord Jesus is sufficient to uphold thee sufficient to strengthen the sufficient to comfort thee sufficient to enable thee to triumph over it sufficient to bring the out of ten thousand like it sufficient to bring the home to heaven whatever would be good for the Christ grace is sufficient to bestow whatever would harm thee has grace is sufficient to avert whatever thou desirest his grace is sufficient to give thee if it be good for thee whatever thou wouldst avoid his grace can shield thee from it if so his wisdom shall dictate hear let me press upon you the pleasing opportunity of taking home now the promise personally at this moment for no believer here need be under any fear since for her or him also at this very instant the grace of the lord Jesus is sufficient
Paul and Spurgeon in the midst of their suffering knew God’s grace in the face of any suffering wherever however whenever they knew the grace of Christ to be sufficient but let’s not fall into easy errors in relation to these words or the words from acts Paul is not a theological masochist who glorifies suffering itself indeed he prayed for deliverance from his hardships what is more Paul is not saying that only when you are weak do you have the grace and power of Jesus weakness is not its one and only condition what is more the experience of grace is not a reward or payment for suffering nor must we seek suffering to receive grace and not going through hardships does not earn us a place in the kingdom of God so let’s not misconstrue things from these weighty passages instead let us see the invitation of God the invitation of God to each of us brothers and sisters to have a grace to have a power that is sufficient for any and every need we may face
yet yet to find and receive this grace there needs to be a response of trust and so we come at last to a passage from Hebrews earlier we read since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven Jesus the son of God let us hold firmly to the faith we profess for we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are yet he did not sin let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need if we want God’s grace if we want his power and his help in our time of need then the response of trust is to approach him it’s basically to have a relationship with him and to come in prayer that is how we find and receive the grace of God the writer says we’ve to approach let us approach and the idea in the original language is approached regularly almost constantly he says too we’ve to come with confidence as one commentator put it approach with bold frankness with bold frankness that’s the invitation of God to you he’s not a God who asks you to deny the situation he’s not a God that says well it’s all karma so it’s your fault or this is because you’re too attached to the physical world and so again it’s your fault no no no no that’s not our God our God is the God who says come to me oh you are weary and burdened we are to have this confidence we are to pursue God this intently because he knows our experience Jesus knows our experience he shared the depth of our humanity he shared the suffering of humanity our God does not stand alive but he sympathizes to the point of stepping into our brokenness and experiencing it himself
that is our God
yet friends how easy how often too easy too often we drift from God and we allow bitterness and self-pity to create distance between us and God and in doing so we we rob ourselves of immense and timely help
so what about you where are you at with God and the hardships you face the hardships you observe are you making space for God are you coming to his throne of grace or does your life display a practical atheism does your lack of prayer show your true colors do you say with your mouth yeah i believe in God but any lack of prayer simply points to something else that actually deeper down you believe you can do without them that you don’t really need them in huddle recently which is one of our discipleship groups we’ve been exploring the rhythms of our life we’ve been talking about the balance of our relationships and in the midst of that we’re just beginning to hear both the invitation and challenge of Jesus to order our lives according to his wisdom i wonder brothers and sisters do we need more of the same in our own lives
and i don’t simply mean going to Jesus and with lots of words good though that is unnecessary though that is because one of the things I’ve been learning in recent months is just the value and the discipline of silence and solitude and so every day i will try and spend 10 minutes in silence before the lord saying as little as i can seeking him in that place vernally honestly and as much as i can with a heart of worship though it’s easily distracted and it’s only been a couple of months but i can tell you those 10 minutes are making a difference because they are a means of grace in my life but i not only spend some time in silence i do pray as well i pray for the day ahead i pray for my family i pray for some close friends and i pray for at least two families in my pastoral grouping every day so that by the end of the week i pray for my whole pastor of gripping every week and that’s my way of approaching the throne of grace for myself and for these others that we all might know the grace of God and i wonder friends are you creating space are you creating space for God and approaching his throne
because he calls us to be a family and a family is there for one another and so will you seek God will you come to his throne both for yourself and for one another that together with Paul we might confidently say the grace of Jesus is sufficient and though we are hard pressed on every side we are not crushed and though perplexed we do not despair and though we may face persecution we are not abandoned and even if we are struck down and our life is given in the cause of Jesus and his gospel we are not destroyed we are not destroyed for we are heirs of God and coheres with Christ and we shall know his glory and the glory of his kingdom for his grace is sufficient
let us pray
God’s right here right now
is there an area of your life where you need to come before the throne of grace
and maybe just in the quiet of your heart
tell him what that is it might just even be one or two words
he knows what’s on your heart
he knows who you’re breaking
he knows where you’re doubting
and he wants to meet you now with his grace
lord for however is upon our heart or whatever situation breaks our heart maybe today for whatever feels like it’s just too much and we wonder how will i cope and when will this end father we ask afresh for your grace your power to uphold us to hold us fast
both now and always
for we ask it in Jesus name
Preached on: Sunday 23rd May 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 21-05-23 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Romans 8:1-8
Location: Brightons Parish Church
Paul has spent 11 chapters explaining the Good News saying why it was necessary for Jesus to come and declaring what Jesus had achieved, and then its impact upon individuals who respond in faith, and our previous series in Joshua kind of ended on a bit of a similar note, of focusing on the great sacrifice and work of Jesus who died for broken, rebellious, humanity are people who keep breaking trust with their Maker and yet, in that series, we time and time again came back to the Cross remembering what we have through Jesus, that we are justified before our Heavenly Father and so, we are now part of His family.
We have received mercy, upon mercy, and He has come to be with us, not only as a body of believers, but within us, residing within us, by His Holy Spirit, confirming our redemption as heirs of the Kingdom of God. Yet, for Paul, it’s not enough just to end there at chapter 11. There’s more, there’s drive, there’s expectation of what this should mean in the Christian’s life and so he goes on for four more chapters.
Because there should be a response there should be something coming off this, a taking up of keys we might say, and so Paul says “Therefore I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, this is your true and proper worship.” Here’s the expectation of Paul, it’s not enough just to impart or rehearse knowledge of God, but that this reconciled relationship with the Lord should lead to something in a person’s life. Paul says we are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, we’re to yield, we’re to give over our lives to God, and underpinning this is Paul’s understanding of a person, because in his Hebrew understanding, talking of the body would speak of a whole person, all of life, and so we’re to give all our lives in worship to God, a yielding, a giving over as a living sacrifice. It’s to be in the day-to-day, moment by moment, parts of lives, and, if we do this, he says, it is pleasing to God, but it is also holy and that is given over to His purposes, it is dedicated to Him it says, also it is worship. Worship is more than just turning up to church, it’s more than singing songs, it is the giving of our lives and if we will do this he says it is true worship, true worship that is more than ceremony or obligation, it is more than just an abstract thinking process in our heads, or even a purely inward spirituality, true faith, true worship is seen in how you live your life – picking up the keys, picking up the keys God has given you and entering into all of that, and to do anything else, his final word I want to draw is proper, because to do anything else would be unthinkable, improper. The only appropriate response to the mercy, upon mercy we have received, is to give our lives in worship, to give our lives in worship.
So, can I ask friends, do you have faith, do you have faith, is that faith in Jesus and if it is, if you have that, are you offering yourself in worship, are you offering your life to God throughout the week, throughout the week. But how do we do this? what does that look like?
Even well Paul will spend the rest of his letters detailing this, but in the verses we’ve got remaining for us, three brief things to highlight for us:
He says, firstly do not conform 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. Paul is saying don’t be pressed into the mould of this world, with its values and priorities, don’t let it continue to stamp its mark on you, or as one commentator put it, ‘do not follow the fleeting fashion of this world but undergo a complete change’. Fashions come and go, one minute it’s flares, then it’s a straight before you know it we’re back to flares. Aren’t we yet, instead of swaying back and forth with the fashions of the this world, or allowing it to force us into its shape, we’re to follow the example of Jesus way. For he said ‘I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me.” To do the Father’s will was the core of Jesus life. When we learn the will of God and allow it to shape our lives, Paul says, by having our minds renewed, we learn to think God’s thoughts, after Him, His values, His ways.
Now, of course, it’s a process and it takes time, and yet it’s made possible through His word and by His Spirit. Paul says elsewhere ‘all scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training.’ and elsewhere he also says ‘live by the Spirit and then you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.’
So, I wonder, friends, are we in our Bibles, are we reading His word, making space for it and it’s not even enough just to be doing that, I would say, I think in that space and time you’ll grow all the more if you will engage in relationship with Him as you read His word, if you say ‘Lord, what does this look like in my life? How have I to change?’ Talk to Him, pray over it, tell Him your honest struggles, and your hopes and dreams, cry out to Him for help and as we do these things, we create space for the Spirit to draw alongside us and shape and change us.
Now, as we do this, and our thinking and our character changes, such that we increasingly are worshiping God by living according to His will.
Paul adds our third thing, that we’re to be humbly involved in the church. He says ‘Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought but rather think of yourself with sober judgment in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you in Christ. We though many, form one body and each member belongs to all the others.’ Paul’s saying, remember your faith journey. That’s what he means of ‘the faith God has distributed’, remember the faith journey. We’re all incomplete, we we’re all imperfect, we’ve broken trust with God, and yet He has lavished His love upon us by reconciling us to Himself through Jesus and so, there’s no place for boasting, there’s no place for it, there should only be humility, there should be something of Jesus seen in us, Jesus who made Himself nothing and took the very nature of a servant and so, likewise, we are called to emulate Jesus in that way, and be part an active part of our local church, That’s where we belong, here with one another, warts and all, so what about us, what about us brothers and sisters, do we look down on anyone, do we do we say to someone ‘Well this is my church more than it’s your church.’
And as things begin to open up and restrictions ease, alongside planning your Summer holidays what else are you planning? Are you planning to give any time to your church family? Are you planning to reconnect and encourage?
Because it is our Father’s will that we humbly recognize that we belong to one another.
He died to make it so and as part of that belonging finally Paul says, we have a part to play and this is where we read of God’s grace today. We have different gifts according to the grace given to each of us. You can see I’ve added in the Greek for the two words of gift and grace and you can see how closely tied they are that gift actually comes from the word grace in the Greek and Peter says something very similar he says each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. Before the service ends today we are ordaining four new elders for the form of grace, God’s grace, upon their lives is of leadership and shepherding God’s people.
Today is also Pentecost Sunday, if you weren’t aware, that day when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the church as a gift as God’s grace and our lives, to enable us to be part of all He would purpose, Because to each of us who claims faith in Jesus the Spirit is given to reside in us, to reside in us and He gives spiritual gifts, God-given enablement, grace in action, we might say, to serve His purposes and His people.
Now the gifts listed here are not all of the gifts. We know from other letters there are more besides, but as I was working through the New Testament Reading Plan and preparing for this series I was mindful of seeing these gifts just pop up time and time again. Recently, in the Book of Acts, sure we see the apostles but we see prophets as well, we see teachers, but we also see people serving, we see people being encouraged and giving encouragement but also sacrificially giving to generously support one another, and we see mercy in the darkest and hardest of times. It’s all there, every one of the gifts and they’re all still for today including the supernatural gifts because there’s nothing in scripture to say they’ve done away with.
Now, does your natural gifting help you understand what your spiritual gifts are? – not necessarily. Is your spiritual gift connected or unconnected rather to your natural gifts? – not always. So how do you know how can we figure out what our spiritual gifts are?
I’m not sure there’s a quick or easy fix to that so you’re not probably going to walk away with an answer by the end of today, but there’s a few things to say.
Firstly you’ll never figure it out if you don’t get involved often you need to step out in faith first, and give something a shot, maybe even something you think ‘I could never do that!’ I didn’t just jump into a pulpit one day, it was a journey, it was a journey.
Secondly, we discerned together as a church family and that’s what we did with our new elders today, your names came forward because the elders, the existing elders said ‘Yeah, we see something in them.’ and then that was processed with you through a conversation and prayer and giving time, and then they were presented to the wider church family saying ‘Are we off the mark here?’ nothing came back, just to let you know you’re all good, because over the years we’ve seen something in you that suggests to us God has gifted you for this call.
But we’re all called, we’re all gifted, so I wonder, brothers and sisters, how are you serving? where are you offering your gifts? We’re all called to play our part in the purposes of God. He calls us to take out what’s been given. He’s given us the keys so that we might experience an adventure with Him, not just a religion of morals and nice stories and turning up to oddly shaped building once a week. We have more than that because friends, we are reconciled to the living God and so will we offer our lives in worship to Him and will that offering be done with humility sure, but will it be done with enthusiasm as well? Church with enthusiasm, because He’s called us to be part of His family and to every one of us He has gifted us by the Spirit.
I hope and pray that we will, and so, in a few moments, we’re going to ordain our new elders and then together, both here in the sanctuary and at home, we’re going to share in a renewal of commitment as a church family but first we have our hymn of preparation.