Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, March 22, 2019

Lent 3: There is No Need to Sin....Ever

Isaiah contains this wonderful promise/offer to all people to come to God … and to be satisfied, to be content, to have a sense that… the Lord is my Shepherd, therefore… I have everything I need.

This great invitation from God, saying to you and to me, today… Come… I have an abundance of the things you need… do you want some?

In Luke Jesus speaks about sin and then tells a parable... in a sense He says: “stop sinning and bear fruit.’

The fig tree in Scripture, like the vineyard, is usually always a metaphor for God’s people… you and me. So God is saying to us, to you, to me, stop sinning and bear fruit.

In our first year in our new home in Norwich we planted a fig tree, two olive trees and a grapevine (in Scripture these are all signs of having reached the place of settling down). The fig bore fruit the next year, the vine last year, and we still await our first olive crop.
In the parable, the fig tree (God’s people… God’s Church… you and me) hasn’t born fruit for 3 years.

3 is such a symbolic number, an important number, in Scripture… it often signifies completion or perfection; or wholeness. Here we have a tree (a people, a church) that should be whole and complete and doing what it should be doing, bearing fruit.
But it isn’t, and the owner says: Pull it up, get rid of it. But the person tending the tree in the vineyard, in other words, the vine-dresser, who in another parable Jesus says is “My Father”…. The vine-dresser says… Wait… give it one more year and I’ll dig, I’ll fertilize, I’ll feed it, and let's see what happens.

God is so patient, so caring, so “long suffering” towards His people, His Church, you and me.......isn't He?

The God who in Isaiah invites us to feast off His abundance, the Lord who supplies all our needs… is patient when we don’t allow His provision to feed us, sustain us, and bring us to fruit bearing in the world around us… bearing and providing for the thirsty, hungry world around us…. Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, humility, and self control.

So in this season of Lent, this season which encourages us to do without to abstain or fast in some way… here in the 3rd week God teases us with the promise of abundance, of provision, of supply for our needs… which the Biblical story is full of.

The Biblical story is also full of the truth that our sin is a barrier between us and our God and therefor between us and the abundance that God seeks to shower upon us. As an umbrella keeps rain off us, our sin keeps Gods overflowing abundance off us. But, praise God, just as an umbrella does not separate all the rain from us, so too, praise God, does our sin not keep all of God’s abundance away from us. Otherwise, we would, truly, be dead.

So in Luke Jesus says: “Stop sinning… not because I want to spoil your fun, but because I want to feed and fertilize you and bring you to full fruit bearing – I want you to be everything I know you can be, everything I created you to be, but your sin… hinders my work in you."

Stop sinning… bear fruit.

Can I stop sinning?

Let’s find an answer to that question in our reading from Corinthians and let’s uncover the truth about temptation – a truth that perhaps will set us free – free from sin and free to bear fruit.

Six truths reveal themselves in our reading:

1.    Temptations are the primary reason you desire to sin. The fall into sin is always preceded by a temptation that has overtaken you.

2.    Temptations are particularly dangerous when you think you can’t fall – that’s interesting isn’t it? You’d think it would be the opposite… that you would be strong when you think you are strong… but that’s when we’re at our weakest.

3.    Temptations seek to overtake you. They are not inactive, but active. But here is a wonderful truth. Before every sin lies it’s temptation. If you defeat the temptation… you will not commit the sin.

4.    The temptations you experience are never unique, but always common. This is the beginning of good news, of gospel: Your temptation is not unique, or bigger than anyone else’s temptation.

Now comes the really Good News:
5.    Temptations aren’t allowed to go beyond your ability to resist them. Because of His faithfulness to us, God will not allow you or me to be tempted beyond our ability to resist temptation. Isn’t that Good News… God limits temptation.

It gets even better.
6.    Temptations are always accompanied by the Lord’s way of escape. God provides – he is Jehovah Jireh...... My provider.

So Jesus says: Stop sinning and bear fruit, and this is a command of God throughout Scripture.

Stop sinning: Not in order to be saved. We are not saved by whether we stop sinning or not.

We are saved… by faith.

So don’t stop sinning in order to be saved, stop sinning because you are saved and in order to bear fruit.

Come to the God who says… Come.
Come to the God who says… Eat.
Come to the God who says… Drink.

Com to the God who promises to provide all He knows you need right now.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Sermon on Mount: Fasting

This is the third of the “when you …” statements of Jesus. We’ve looked at when you give and we’ve looked at when you pray. Today our subject is fasting. Jesus says, “when you fast …”

Lent: Reflection, Repentance, Prayer & Action

                                                                  image sourced here

The cross, O the wonderful cross
What Glory, what victory, I've found
I'll come to the wonderful cross
And my whole life I lay down

These words from The Wonder of the Cross by Robin Mark (listen to it here) are a wonderful reminder of one of the reasons for the season of Lent: Over a period of 40 days, starting on Ash Wednesday, we undertake a spiritual journey deep into ourselves but with our eyes focussed on the Cross, and hopefully rediscover or perhaps even discover for the first time, the glory and the victory which are ours because of what Jesus did and then lay our whole lives down for Him again….or, perhaps, for the first time. I really hope that is what Lent 2019 will be for us all.