Saturday, 30 April 2022

DIY Sunday Service Kit - 31/04/22 - 1 John 3:1-3 - 'We shall be CHANGED!'

 Hi guys

Welcome to the DIY Sunday Service Kit for the last day in April ... and to a focused the key to personal transformation with the help of the Apostle John.

Here's a focus from the Psalms (Psalm 51:5-13) to get us going ...


"Create in me a pure heart, O God,

    and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,    

so that sinners will turn back to you."


Thank you Lord for your mercy and your grace.

Give me the joy that realising it brings, and lead me to live in your light.

AMEN.





Here's the Word for the Week video on the currently topical rural subject of Fert and Famine ...



The sermon podcast (or video if you prefer that) are posted below.

The transcript can be found on the Buzzsprout (audio) site.
(Click the pic)








Our final song today comes from City Alight





"The Lord bless you
and keep you;

the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;

26 the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”’

AMEN.

If you would like to help us support the work of y GRWP reaching out On the Ground, Online and On the Road, please click the Stewardship Giving link below





Sunday, 17 April 2022

DIY Sunday Service Kit - Easter 2022


Hi guys,

The website that hosts our regular DIY Sunday Service Sheet has failed ... on Easter Saturday night!

I am therefore posting the components here. I'm sorry. I will take this up with the company when I get back from a week's break in the week after Easter. Naturally enough, they are away for the week too!

Let's not let it spoil our Easter worship though. We've had a number of problems with the provider of this service recently, but we can have a think about whether we can find a better solution over the Easter break.

God bless you all this Easter.

Stay in touch!

Simon.


Here's the Easter worship Spotify playlist to get us in the right frame of mind for worship

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4XOSIfxN31Zllo62Y3Iioo?si=d9b7d1eacde749fb



And now here's the Easter Word for the Week video from the farm:

'Who's paying for THAT?!'


Please feel free to copy the link below and share this on your social media or by email with friends and family if you think they might watch it.





Praise and prayer points:

Wales to Ukraine

Last week we calculated that the cash value of medical supplies for treating traumatic injury sent from y GRWP to places that are under fire in Ukraine came to £7,301.26. And that's neither a maths error nor a misprint!

Caleb did a great job of getting gifts and amazing discounts out of manufacturers and suppliers of these specialist goods ... he even got a LOAD of packing gauze for treating catastrophic haemorrhage at junctional sites in the body when those can't be had through the usual channels at all at the moment due to the demand in Ukraine.

Here's one of his little videos where he gets enthusiastic about just one piece of the kit we sent in the last consignment ...


You'll find a few of his little videos about this work here.

It really feels as if the good hand of God has been upon this.

We have really very good communications with trauma medics in Ukraine who are using these supplies in war torn places and they have sent messages back to us really appreciating the sort of stuff we are sending and asking specifically for help next month when they say they don't know how they are going to cope with the onslaught and demand for trauma medicine they are expecting in the south and east, following the developments there of the last week.

Please give thanks we've been s greatly and surprisingly helped by God so far with this and pray for the successful and (above all) useful scaling up we are attempting for next month's consignment, with fresh helpers associated with y GRWP coming in to take on specific tasks to raise funds around Wales and administer the project, leaving Caleb to finish his degree and concentrate on sourcing materials which is what he seems remarkably good at.

Please also pray that our contacts with individuals associated with this will bear spiritual fruit, and that we'll be able to build fellowship with believers involved in search and rescue out there for their encouragement and our prayers.

Premises in Llandovery

It feels like we've been searching for premises in Llandovery for a long while, with a lot of false starts and blind alleys to navigate. This week's failure of the online set up for Sundays only highlights the need to get sorted!

As it happens, last week I 'happened' to meet some people with a really useful empty café they could usefully let us have ... it won't be a quick job which is just as well, but whilst we need to manage our expectations we do need to let loose our prayers. And that's why I mention it. Let's (PLEASE) keep praying that the Lord supplies our practical and personnel needs to have a place to be meeting again as soo as possible in Llandovery and reaching the people we were able to read from Ty'r Bugail in Market Square?

Heavy duty in Carmarthen

The Chaplaincy outreach in Carmarthen is taking place against the background of much lower attendance at the market at the moment, but much higher demand for help from people in trouble.

And with it there's a much greater spiritual openness.

We gave a number of Christian books away there from our stand next to the toilets in the run up to Easter. Please pray God speaks through all this to opened ears and hearts?

Fruitfulness and protection

There are people turning up in the livestock marts now with active COVID. Precautions seem to have been largely abandoned in response to the tome and tendency of Government messaging.

I've been almost the only person using a mask in two marts this week. Please pray for protection and fruitfulness, as well as care and attention to self-preserving detail in the way we watch out while we're out there serving in these marts? The team is Alex, Clive and Simon, and all of us could do without catching 'it' ... again.
:-)




This is the link to the Bible passage for today



Here is the sermon podcast




https://www.buzzsprout.com/47879/10450095


And here is the Studiocam video recording from the podcast studio: 'Hope for the Future - anchored beyond our Era of Anxiety … Hebrews 6:19'





If the link above doesn't work please click here







And now ...


"May the God of hope 
fill you with all joy and peace 
as you trust in him, 
so that you may overflow with hope 
by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Romans 15:13


If you would like to support the work of y GRWP please click the pic below







If you would like to help the Ukraine project please click for the (different) link for that on the pic below






Thanks for persevering through the 'special measures' put in place to cope with the IT failure this week
Please feel free to stay in touch on 07748 644958 or HoWChaplain@gmail.com
Pasg hapus i bawb
Happy Easter to you all!
Simon.

Saturday, 9 April 2022

Hope for our Suffering - 2 Corinthians 1:3-11

AUDIO

VIDEO



   

•          Introduction

Don’t we seem to live in an age that is very sensitive to its sufferings?

It’s not simply that we live in what someone called ‘the Paracetamol Generation’ where pain and suffering at no level is tolerated and ‘a pill for that’ must be found.

It seems to me that we are particularly sensitive to our sufferings for at least two reasons:

Firstly, because as a society we currently lack a meta-narrative … a big story showing how everything fits together and makes sense … that can account for suffering while giving meaning to and enabling some kind of understanding of it which prevents suffering becoming the ground on which the experience of our lives gets us swallowed up by meaninglessness.

Secondly, because the triumph of individualism in our culture has left us essentially alone in facing our sufferings.

And the hope held out in the resurrection addresses directly the anxiety accompanying suffering that is common in our place and time.

Things are different in many places where Christian believing is a more threatening experience.

In January 2021, about 2,000 Chinese house church leaders sat in a conference centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, listening to Tim Keller, Don Carson, Chinese Indonesian pastor Stephen Tong, and about a dozen mainland Chinese speakers. 

The theme of the gathering was how the church relates to culture. 

But in a culture that has long been hostile to the church, that mainly meant exploring how the Chinese house church can think about persecution and suffering.

A month before a strange cluster of cases of a very virulent double pneumonia emerged in the city of Wuhan. 

The disease added an enormous amount of stress to the daily life of Christians who were already harried. Since 2013, Chinese president Xi Jinping has tightened party control over every facet of life. In 2017, the government reiterated that house churches are illegal and that no religious activity—including hosting a home Bible study, donating money to a religious organization, or studying theology at college—could happen without their approval.

 

Now, basically all Chinese house churches have had their pastors and some of their people questioned by the police. 

 

Some have been kicked out of their church buildings.

 

Significant numbers have spent time in jail.

 

Even before COVID-19, leaders in the Chinese house church were working on a theology of suffering.

 

But the Chinese pastors and church members attending the conference spoke of sharing the gospel with the police, praying for fellow inmates, and being willing to suffer for Christ.

 

Get this clear understanding of what it’s all about, though:

 

“The mark of the church is the cross,” one leading Chinese pastor told the conference. “If you truly live the life of Christ, you will be persecuted.

But you will also “have resurrection power. 

You will have the power to suffer.”

Where are we going with this?

Our Era of Anxiety is an era sensitive to suffering and the Christian resurrection hope addresses this in three very useful dimensions that we can discern in 2 Corinthians 1 as Paul writes to a troubled and hurting church.

To some extent we have to see this hope in the resurrected Christ in the face of suffering addresses our actual personal circumstances of suffering.

         •        Hope in our Circumstances - deliverance, vv. 8-11

Firstly, of course, human beings in situations of suffering are naturally concerned for the relief of their current circumstances 

Suffering has come and we want for it to go away.

We want it fixed, foiled, finished with.

It’s perfectly understandable to feel like that … to let the circumstance itself become the uppermost thing in your mind that has your full attention.

The men and women of God of the past knew that experience … it’s one that Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10

“We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God …

 

“He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us …”

2 Corinthians 1:8-10

            •          A living God

Let’s face it, a dead God is about as much use as a stuffed pillow.

You might lean on it for reasons of comfort, but it’s not going to DO anything for you.

If Christ’s bodily resurrection that first Easter tells us anything it tells us that God is not finished … a busted flush of a Messiah … but a LIVING one, so there is HOPE that He might step in for me and do something.

He is there and He is not silent.

He LIVES, so He can step in.

But WILL He?

Well, that is going to depend, isn’t it, on what makes Him ’tick’?

(And here’s where things REALLY start looking up).

            •          A loving God

Paul begins this first section of his letter with “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort …”

Paul is clear that God is not sometimes disposed to have compassion on His people and to comfort them on a good day when there’s a following wind.

‘FATHER of compassion’ or ‘Father of mercies’ … 

I think we get a bit bogged down in places 2 Corinthians (the original text of which is notoriously challenging to interpret) if we fail to realise that what Paul does so often throughout this book is to paint pictures with words for us, so that analysing the meaning too close-up and personal loses the point he’s making.

So much exegesis of 2 Corinthians is like getting too close to a painting in a gallery by Monet or Degas … they were impressionist painters with brushes and Paul here is being an impressionist truth-painter with words.

The FATHER of compassion gives you the idea of His essentially and supremely compassionate character constitution.

‘God of ALL comfort’ … comfort is something He is bang up for in spades.

He is always the God of every sort and extent of comfort.

Where the Trinity is concerned it’s not so much ‘Toys R Us’ as ‘Comfort R us’ … if you see what I’m trying to get at here?

This God is a LIVING God and a LOVING God.

Which is fine if all you want is someone who will be moved by your situation but aren’t concerned about whether they can DO anything for you.

But whom earth would think like that when life gets tough?!

You want someone Who is real, is motivated by love to help, but not someone who can only sit there wringing their hands about how hard life is for you at the moment.

Paul is not describing that sort of living and loving person here, but One Who also wields Sovereign authority in the world He has made.

            •          A Sovereign God

At the end of verse 9 here, Paul speaks of “God, who raises the dead”.

Come on, Who can do that?!

The One Who spoke the word of command and the world came into being.

The One Who said

““Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

 

27 So God created mankind in his own image,

    in the image of God he created them;

    male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:26-27

The Creator and ruler of all, Who gave life, decreed that the punishment for sin should be death and by the same authority can call to dead Lazarus commanding him to leave his grave … and then give orders to unbind the grave-clothes from the staggering but rude healthy man who came staggering out.

You can find hope in your circumstances when you are looking to and trusting in the God Who lives, loves you and is the authoritative ruler of the ends of the earth.

Now THAT is the kind of friend sinners can RELY on!

And it is in that consideration that the point of all this suffering seems to lie …

            •          The God to DEPEND on

You see, here’s the PURPOSE Paul discerns in the painful trial in his own experience that he refers to:

 … this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God …

Now, that is the dynamic definition of faith, by which I mean ‘faith in progress’, ‘faith in action’ or ‘faith HAPPENING’.

What happens when we come to faith in Christ is known as ‘saving faith’.

It is the faith that turns away from self-reliance to trust in Christ alone for salvation, and it happens at the first.

But once you’re saved, you’re saved, you have been pronounced ‘not guilty’ now in Christ’s merit in the highest court in the cosmos by the decree of the Heavenly Judge and that is done … finished.

But there’s a life that has been engaged upon there, at the first, and as Paul says in Romans 1:17

“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, 

just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.””

Do you see?

The faith once for all justification of the lost human being is by faith.

That moment of faith seals that salvation.

But the justification that is by faith is by faith from first to last … it starts with faith alone and is BY faith alone from first to last believing breath!

And because it is by from first to last, the faith that saves lasts.

Saving faith lives by faith from start to finish.

It DEPENDS on Gods to save and then to … carry on by the same relationships trust in the Living God.

It is resurrection-dependent because it looks to God to deliver from each daily trial and trouble and you can’t have that sort off device from a dead Saviour.

Paul is saying here in our text in 2 Corinthians 1, though, that we learn to live this faith through the trials that arise in living as a believer in a fallen world that is in rebellion against God.

Moving forward as he writes of how the Lord impacts our circumstances in suffering, Paul writes to the Corinthians

“He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us …”

         •        Hope in our Fellowship, vv. 3-7

Now that living, loving, Sovereign God you can depend on, by the power of Christ’s suffering … His death and resurrection … creates a two dimensional fellowship to help us and ease us through OUR experience of suffering alongside our crucified Messiah in His Kingdom.

“the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  

For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 

If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

 

Now, that fellowship is first with Christ, and through Him with the Father by the Spirit.

 

            •          Our fellowship with God

Richard Gaffin was a Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in the 1970s and his writings were substantially translated into Chinese, leading to significant fellowship with Chinese house church leaders … and he wrote a lot about the theology of suffering.

Sharing in the “fellowship of his sufferings,” Gaffin explained, means that “existence in creation under the curse on sin and in the mortal body is not simply borne—be it stoically or in whatever other sinfully self-centered, rebellious way—but borne for Christ and lived in his service.”

In other words, Christian suffering has purpose. 

It reminds us—again and again and, in case you forgot, again—that we live an “already, not yet” life. 

Like Jesus, we exist in both a broken world and also in a spiritual reality.

We carry in us both the pain of this sinful physical existence and also the joy of the Holy Spirit. 

We’re caught, as it were, between two worlds.

But our fellowship is with a crucified Messiah … we follow a crucified Saviour.

The symbol that Christians rally to is a Cross, not a Crown.

But there is no body on the Cross Bible believing Christians use, because (to quote angelic the proclamation that first Easter Day) “He is not here, He is risen just as He said”

So Paul can write of the fellowship Christ-followers have primarily with the Lord Himself in their suffering of God Who:

“comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”

Sharing in the “fellowship of his sufferings,” Gaffin explained, means that “existence in creation under the curse on sin and in the mortal body is not simply borne—be it stoically or in whatever other sinfully self-centered, rebellious way—but borne for Christ and lived in his service.”

 

In other words, Christian suffering has purpose. It reminds us—again and again and, in case you forgot, again—that we live an “already, not yet” life. Like Jesus, we exist in both a broken world and also a spiritual reality. We carry in us both the pain of this sinful physical existence and also the Holy Spirit. We’re caught, as it were, between two worlds.

 

But it’s not only our fellowship with God in this broken world that helps us through our suffering here.

The God Who fellowships with us because of the achievements of Christ’s death and resurrection also creates a HUMAN fellowship of those who are in fellowship with Him, which Paul teaches us is also hugely helpful in delivering hope to us in our sufferings.

            •          The fellowship that our fellowshipping God builds

Paul speaks here in 2 Corinthians 1 of the sharing in the sufferings of Christ, but also of the sharing of the strength that has given us individually with one another in the fellowship of His resurrection … the gathering of His followers, His church.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

Look - that sounds convoluted but it is actually pretty straightforward.

Paul follows Jesus Who is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, the Crucified Messiah.

Following a crucified Messiah is going to have implications for our experience because the same world that was hostile to Him will be hostile to us if we are faithfully following Him … not because we’ve looked for that (what an aberration THAT would be!)

Not because we’ve looked for that but because the Gospel we live for and by is fire on a rebellious world’s skin.

So Paul ‘shares abundantly in the sufferings of Christ’ (v. 5)

But the sufferings Paul shares with Christ arise from the fellowship he has with Christ and the one mitigates the other, just as the suffering promotes the dependency on Christ the suffering teaches Paul and the closeness of fellowship with the Christ Who Paul is learning more and more to depend on.

And what THAT does is that it equips Paul to comfort others with the comfort this has all brought Paul from God.

Only the resurrected and therefore living God can produce the hope for our Era of Anxiety in its experience of suffering by this method and means.

The fellowship Paul has with God strengthens Paul as he passes through the experience of suffering, and then playing his part in the fellowship of God’s people Paul (and others like him who have transformed their experience of suffering by doing it with Christ) are able to share the comfort this brings them with others in the fellowship who are themselves going through it. 

And now finally, having travelled the road of these less well-realised routes to hope in their suffering for believers, we can turn to most Bible Christian’s FIRST resort in addressing suffering.

         •        Hope in our Destiny, v. 9

Paul has hope in his circumstances, in fellowship with God and his believing fellow mankind and hope in the destiny of the fellowship of the resurrection 

“… this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”

2 Corinthians 1:9b

We know he makes much elsewhere of the comparison of our light and momentary sufferings (as he describes them) and the eternal weight of Glory that these are achieving.

“ I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.”

Romans 8:18-19

The super-transformative fact is that far from drifting through a meaningless wilderness, the fellowship of the Resurrection are travelling with definite purpose towards a glorious destiny.

         •        Conclusion

In the words of Sarah Liu … imprisoned and tortured for her Christian faith:

““Suffering is not a new truth, it is an old truth.”

“So,”

Says Eugene Peterson in his ‘Introduction to Job’  “instead of continuing to focus on preventing suffering—which we simply won’t be very successful at anyway—perhaps we should begin entering the suffering, participating insofar as we are able—entering the mystery and looking around for God. In other words, we need to quit feeling sorry for people who suffer and instead look up to them, learn from them and if they will let us—join them in protest and prayer.”

The thing is …

The living resurrected God delivers His people.

The living God we fellowship with creates comforting fellowship teaching and forming His people’s hearts for Glory.

The living God accompanies us along a journey that leads to a definite destiny.

You CAN’T just say that the Christian’s hope lies bottled up in another place.

Supremely, I guess it does.

But it also lies in the individual’s deliverance by the living God in the actual and present circumstances, 

the individual’s comfort in the shared experience and life of God’s resurrection people 

AND the glorious transformation of His people’s experience as they ultimately pass into His presence through suffering in a hostile world.

Saturday, 2 April 2022

Hope for our Era of Anxiety - Justice - 2 Peter 3:13

 AUDIO

STUDIOCAM




         •        Introduction

Do you reckon there’s ever going to be any justice in this world?

Well, there’s no doubt it can get on top of you when it seems that ‘evildoers’ prosper … rally are you anxious about the world and the state that it seems to be in.

There’s a fascinating passage about this in Malachi 3:15 says:

“But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.’”

There’s a LOT we can identify with in that sentiment, isn’t there?

But just hold on a minute.

When you put that verse in its context, it says:

““You have spoken arrogantly against me,” says the Lord.

 

“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’

 

14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.’”

Do you see?

What’s happening in Malachi 3 when the people are lamenting the situation where the arrogant are blessed and the evildoers prosper is that they are rebelling against God in their hearts when they give in to thinking and saying these things!

The undergirding reality is that God has a plan ,and what these guys in Malachi are complaining about is covered in God’s plan for justice to prevail in His world.

Of course, Malachi hasn’t got this level of detail, but it is actually the resurrection which gives huge hope that justice will prevail.

So, to help us with relating well to the appearance that people who do evil get away with it … and to build hope in our Era of Anxiety … I plan to look briefly at what the Bible says about what justice is and how the resurrection helps us  to both define justice and to promote it.

         •        The resurrection and the roots of injustice

First of all, let’s just check in with the roots of injustice in our world.

The Bible tells us that when history gets wound up at the end of this present evil age, it’s not just that a few hand plucked individuals from the suffering mass of humanity will be pulled up out of the mire and saved.

On the contrary, “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” Romans 8:21

ALL the effects of sin … all the corruption and decay in the world … will be healed.

It’s not just sickness and suffering … disease, ageing and death that will be would up.]

Poverty, war, crime and injustice along with the psychological brokenness of our experience (fear, guilt, shame and despair) will be banished too.

Yes, of course, individual believers reaping the benefits of Christ’s resurrection at that point will themselves be made new.

But we will also receive a renewed world to live in, with Christ, in our own renewed resurrection bodies.

So Peter says in the words of our text:

“in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”

2 Peter 3:13

I really think that’s a verse worth remembering.

It’s not just that nobody’s going to get away with anything.

It’s that by virtue of Christ’s death, resurrection and sending of the Holy Spirit, at the inauguration of the Kingdom of God, the end of this ‘groaning’ of all creation we currently live with has been settled.

The Kingdom of righteousness, justice and peace is on its way and the preparation for its coming has been made.

God’s incoming kingdom is a Kingdom of justice … with a passionate concern for justice at its heart.

         •        God’s incoming Kingdom and Justice

Some good, Bible-believing Christians get a bit uncomfortable when we start talking about justice like this, because they reckon it all sounds a bit ‘Marxist’.

But the fact is that when Jesus announces His Kingdom as He reads from the scroll in His home-town synagogue service at Nazareth in Luke 4, He proclaims the purple of the preaching of the Kingdom is: “to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

    and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free,

     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Luke 4:18-19

Now, some people reckon that’s just the spiritually poor (Conservative Evangelicals mainly) and some people reckon that’s just the materially poor (theological liberals mainly).

But if Jesus was only concerned with the spiritually poor that isn’t consistent with His clear concern for the materially poor outcasts of His day, and if Jesus came as a political sort of revolutionary who was about putting down the materially rich and raising up the materially poor, that doesn’t sit well with the way He went out of His way to avoid stirring up political rebellion in His world (remember that time the crowd came to take Him and make Him King by force and He snuck away? You can read about it in John 6:15).

The short story is that God saves the spiritually poor who humble themselves, confess their sin and trust Christ alone (not their own selves) to save them, but that the experience of being saved through spiritual poverty finding riches in Christ unfailingly opens the believers eyes and heart to the needs of the materially poor and weak around us.

James 2:14-17 is right on the point here:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Now, in the sort of world we live in where wrong is pronounced right, I do want to establish some stuff here about the polity and the practice of justice.

            •          The purpose of the ‘Polis’ of God - modelling justice

In Scripture the PRACTICE of justice take place not individually but in the context of the community.

Tim Keller planted and led a church in Manhattan … right at the heart of the city of New York … and he sees God’s paradise as a city in Revelation 21, and the city of Jerusalem as the heart of God’s plans for His Kingdom.

I’m not an urban church planter (although I started there) and I’m equally passionate that Paradise was at first in Genesis 1 and at last in Revelation 22 very much a horticultural enterprise!

The thing is, you can’t just see the πόλις of Revelation 21-22 as the ‘city’ in the modern Western sense … it’s a πόλις not a sprawling urban metropolis as envisaged by 20th. century inner urban church planters.

In the Greek world it was customary to talk of bodies politic being structured as 

Basileus (a kingdom)

Tyrannus (an autocratic state), or

Polis (a much more benign system of government that emerged out of the tyrannical then monarchical systems that tended to precede it).

(Basileus, tyrannos and polis: the dynamics of monarchy in Early Greece, in: Klio 98.1, 1-89 

https://www.academia.edu/26398211/Basileus_tyrannos_and_polis_the_dynamics_of_monarchy_in_Early_Greece_in_Klio_98_1_1_89)

Now, in Scripture, from the Old Testament right through to the end of the New Testament, God plans for justice too be manifested in a fallen and unjust world through the gathering of His people and the way they relate to one another in those human gatherings and settlements.

It’s not a call to urbanisation, but to community … and it is in that community that the hope for the rest of humanity also takes root.

THIS is where we learn what ‘justice’ actually looks like.

In Deuteronomy, near the end of his life, Moses explained that the obedience of Israel (the gathered community of God’s people but certainly not a modern ‘city’ as they were wandering in the Wilderness) was meant to be a witness to the world … a JUST community.

With regard to the laws of God the injunction was “Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?”

Deuteronomy 4:6-8

God’s people were to bear corporate witness to the non-believing world by creating a counter-culture … in two particular aspects mentioned here.

Firstly, their obedience to God’s Laws created a wise and understanding people … which would draw people to the Lord Who made them so (v. 6).

Secondly, that obedience created a just society that people would want for themselves (v. 8).

Of course, this community fort showed itself in the Wilderness wandering community that then got focused with the construction of Jerusalem as it had the Temple at its heart, and the city of Jerusalem … in its communal life together so long as people walked humbly with their God … was to be two things:

i) an evangelistic witness to the unbelieving people around the known world and

ii) a pointer to the perfect peace and justice of the New Jerusalem of the New Testament where perfect peace and justice are to be established in the City of God at the end of time in Revelation 21-22.

So when Jesus spoke in Matthew 5:14-15 about His disciples being ‘the light of the world’ telling them “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” … that is the Biblical theological foundation of what He is saying.

Please notice that all this takes place in the gathering, in the SOCIETY of the people of God.

Keller is helpful at this point when he says:

“If believers are a counterculture of justice and peace, they become an attractive witness to the world, a foretaste and glimpse of the New Jerusalem, when all of human life will be healed by the presence and Lordship of Christ.”

And all that hangs, can you see, on the crucified Lord NOT being dead, but very much the Resurrected Christ.

If you want justice, you need a resurrected Christ … the ruling King over the coming Kingdom of justice and peace.

And by now you are saying that people are calling in the name of justice for things that Christ speaks out against as wrong and to be rejected or opposed.

So we need to raise the crucial question here as to what constitutes justice.

            •          What actually IS justice?

This is a huge and many sided question, but Biblical justice is characterised by at least these four broad-brush key and leading aspects …

            •           Impartial equal treatment

It’s not a well-known fact, but the Law of Moses said “’You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.’”

Leviticus 24:22

That’s got race covered in the Old Testament laws to create the forerunner community of the resurrection-bought people of God in the City of God at the end of Revelation … the justice of the coming Kingdom of God.

But this impartial treatment covered not just race but also of what we might call ‘Class’.

The Old Testament seeks to protect the poor against the injustice caused … for example … by corruption in high places and bribery (Isaiah 1:23).

And behind all this emphasis on equality lay the teaching f Genesis 1:27 that all human beings (whilst they would fall and chose bad stuff) are created in the image of God.

James 2:1-7 follows up centuries later speaking of the great evil of discriminating between people on the basis of wealth and James 3:9 reinforces the whole thing about all people needing to be treated as created in the image of God.

So, every human being regardless of race, class, gender, ability and so on must be treated with equal fairness and respect.

And that is to model for a watching world where the life, death and resurrection of Christ gets us to as He establishes His Kingdom.

That looks to me … scrabbling around in a world here that DOESN’T look like that … like a glorious and wonderfully hopeful prospect.

Secondly, what justice looks like is radical generosity.

How so?

            •           Radical generosity

There are two things at least to consider here …

            •           Private property

The Bible is pretty strong on condemning theft of personal property as injustice.

So at the heart of the Old Testament law codes, the eighth commandment come down HARD against stealing.

There are three, three-word prohibition there at the heart of this law code against murder, then adultery, then stealing.

It is really very blunt, punchy stuff!

Private property’s protected in God’s just society.

But … there’s also a strong strand in the Old Testament that describes the earth as the Lord’s, and everything in it - to be used for the purposes He and not we have designed.

            •           Stewardship of Divine Goods

Psalm 24:1-2 therefore states the fact of this case and gives the reason for it:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,

    the world, and all who live in it;

2 for he founded it on the seas

    and established it on the waters.”

Please notice, God is not like an unjust ruler who has grasped at and conquered territory, claiming the right to it.

It is His because He made it and established it.

Human property fits in Biblically under the illustration of stewardship. 

So 1 Chronicles 29:14 in his prayer at the consecration of the Temple David puts it like this: ““But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”

1 Corinthians 4:7 embraces the same perspective about how things are viewed in the just and right Kingdom of God:

“who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”

So the Old Testament model for the ideal society of justice and wisdom that was coming in Christ was a place where some grain was deliberately left every harvest for the poor to pick up and eat, where there were sabbath and jubilee laws where debts were cleared and indentured servants released … unique provisions amongst the cultures of the world.

Jesus extends this principled corporate generosity amongst His disciples by addressing the habits of the heart about money … speaking of money in the Sermon on the Mount as an idol we are wrong to think of as bringing us security or self-worth.

And yet in that same chapter He shows understanding of human anxiety about material things and shows the way for His disciples to change their hearts.

It’s not a rant, but a warning against having. Distorted view of life and an uncovering of the way to go ahead and change … presaging the dawning life of the incoming, post-resurrection Kingdom of God.

            •           Advocacy for the powerless

Thirdly, justice contains this element of providing advocacy for people without power.

Who do we speak up for?

Biblically, we’re never encouraged in God’s vision for a new world to speak up for the rich and the powerful.

We ARE though encouraged to speak up for some others.

Proverbs 31:8-9 teaches that the way of wisdom and justice is to:

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,

    for the rights of all who are destitute.

9 Speak up and judge fairly;

    defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Jeremiah backs this vision in Jeremiah 22:3 and Zechariah lists four such groups that need this sort of help to meet God’s requirement to act justly and wisely:

“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’”

Zechariah 7:9-10

In the New Testament Jesus throws His own heart and soul into advocating against the rich and powerful for the poor.

He calls out the Pharisees in Luke 16:14, for example, for being ‘lovers of money’, and the Scribes in Luke 20:47 for ‘devouring widows houses’

His righteousness takes on those Who are powerless … His Kingdom is to protect the precarious and the vulnerable.

            •           Corporate and individual responsibility

And fourthly we can see that God’s justice means giving people their due individually for what we have done and corporately for what we’ve allowed in our society.

That last one in particular is pretty counter-cultural in our contemporary society.

Injustice … Biblically exposed … comprises direct (individual) and indirect (systemic) injustice.

Sometimes God holds families, groups of people - even whole nations - accountable for the sins of other individuals even if they didn’t commit those sins personally.

Daniel, famously, repented of the sins of his ancestors who didn’t listen to the prophets and disobeyed their calls back to God’s ways Daniel 9:5-6).

Some have argued this applies only within Israel but actually Amos 1-2, 1 Samuel 15:2 and Deuteronomy 23:3-8see members of the current generation of a pagan nation held accountable for the sins committed by their ancestors.

It’s not just a thing for Old Testament times either.

In Acts 2:14, 23 & 36 Peter held that ALL those present in Jerusalem a the time of Christ’s crucifixion were responsible for His death.

In the same way Paul forbade believers to have anything to do with slavery based on kidnapping in their society (1 Timothy1:10).

Now, the Bible DOES put the greatest weight on the individual’s responsibility to God for their actions.

The reality of corporate sin does not allow us to retreat for cover into blaming society, but neither does individual responsibility rule out social and institutional  … corporate … evil.

         •        Resurrection Justice

Now, you may want to say ‘that sounds lovely’ … and that is of course what the community living inside God’s covenant was SUPPOSED to make onlookers say.

But you may also want to say ‘but that all sounds just a bit like wishful thinking, pie in the sky.

How on EARTH can you reckon this ‘justice after death/ life after death’ thing is for real?

Well the big clincher of the deal is the dawning of the age to come in the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, followed by the sending of the Spirit to be with us …the fruit of the resurrection and the down payment on the age that is coming in already.

In a world that left to itself proves to be so broken and unjust, the resurrection comes along as hope-giving Good News.

That’s because the resurrection means that the atoning death of Christ has done its work and that there will be healing for ALL of creation’s decay and corruption.

Romans 8:21 puts it like this:

“that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now. 23 Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 

24 For in hope we were saved. 

Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? 

25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance.”

Redemption … for all ruptured relationships, whether the rupture has occurred spiritually, socially, morally, psychologically, racially, economically, culturally, physically … however or whatever has brought the brokenness about as all people are brought together again under the headship of Christ.

It is through the Risen Lord Jesus that a new creation is coming.

 

         •        Conclusion

The vision we’ve been examining is a supremely hopeful but thoroughly evidenced one through the Chris Who conquered sin and death and hell and rose to rule over the incoming Kingdom of God.

The prophet Isaiah, way back in Isaiah 65, paints for us this vision most gloriously:

“‘See, I will create

    new heavens and a new earth.

The former things will not be remembered,

    nor will they come to mind.

18 But be glad and rejoice for ever

    in what I will create,

for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight

    and its people a joy.

19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem

    and take delight in my people;

the sound of weeping and of crying

    will be heard in it no more.”

Now THERE’S hope for our Era of broken anxiety!

DIY Sunday Service Kit - 26/06/22 - Testing the 'Voices' and matters of 'Legacy'

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