20th September 2015

What does a disciple look like?

What does a disciple of Jesus look like? There are five particular characteristics of Jesus that we would like to give ourselves – individually and as a church collectively – to growing in.

The first is that Jesus’ disciples are courageous. We read in 1 John 4:18 that perfect love casts out fear. When we know we are loved and secure, we become more courageous. We are not called to play it safe. Courage comes as a by-product of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

We are called to be a people who step out in courage despite fear – when we feel fear, it’s an opportunity to be courageous because we know God won’t reject us but is we are secure in Him. When we know we’re loved, it gives us the freedom to take a risk and go for it.

Disciples are also joyful. We’re a people who enjoy God, enjoy His salvation and enjoy the Church as well. We learn to rejoice in all circumstances – we can be happy in God even when everything is going wrong. It’s not about pretending everything is fine, but it’s accessing the things that God has given us.

We rejoice in the hope and glory of God. We read in Galatians 5:22 that there is a connection between being filled with the Spirit and being joyful. Even when going through severe tests of affliction and extreme poverty, an abundance of joy and generosity can flow out. That’s how the gospel works: it’s supernatural – two bad things go in but two great things come out (see 2 Cor. 8:1-2).

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, but rejoicing is an act of the will. The most joyful people are those who spend the most time rejoicing. Rejoicing can be seen and heard. How good are you at rejoicing? How much time do you spend doing it? If you think you’re just not wired that way, read the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians – it’s a master-class in joy.

Thirdly, disciples are authentic. We are called to shine with integrity and purity. Our inside private world matches our outside public word. We don’t try to live to please people, but to please our Father in heaven. There’s something genuine about Jesus’ disciples – the world needs a Church that doesn’t put on a façade but shines with truth and integrity.

We need to have genuine, open and transparent relationships with others, where we open up our hearts to a few people who are part of this church family, and share with them our highs and our lows. Prioritise connecting with people in a godly and real way.

Disciples grow in honour – this is about where we place value and giving value to what God gives value to. We honour men and women on the basis of the fact that they have been created in the likeness of God. Honour is only truly seen in disagreement. It’s easy to honour people we like and people who agree with us.

Finally, as disciples who follow Jesus, we overflow with generosity – we are too be generous with time, emotion, money, energy, and all that we are and have. We are called to live generous lives.

Our communities are looking for a Church that is different from them. These characteristics aren’t for Sundays or for mid-week meetings. Courage, joy, authenticity, honour and generosity should pour out from us, because we have received so much from God and He is with us.

Paul Mann

Posted by Paul Mann


29th September 2013

Four reasons why Jesus talks about our possessions

This is the final blog post in a series adapted from Gagging Jesus by Phil Moore and is used here with permission. Gagging Jesus is available here. Scroll down to read the first two parts of this series.

They may not mean stripping down to our underwear like Giovanni Francesco de Bernardone, but Jesus makes four statements in this passage (Mark 10:17-30) that require a radical response of our own.

First, Jesus talks about possessions because He loves us. Mark 10 tells us that "Jesus looked at him and loved him". God isn't in need of our handouts. He wants us to give Him our possessions because He knows that it will do us good. The French author Andre Gide observed: "Complete possession is proved only by giving. All you are unable to give possesses you." Jesus doesn't talk about money in order to back us into a corner. He talks about money to set us free.

Second, Jesus talks about possessions because they make us self-sufficient. The rich young ruler addresses Jesus as "good teacher" because that is all he thinks he needs Jesus to be. Even when Jesus recites the Ten Commandments and challenges him that no one is good except God alone, he still can't see how much he needs a Saviour. Jesus tells him to give away his possessions so that he will get into the habit of looking to God each day for provision and forgiveness and salvation.

Rich people can rely on God (like Joseph of Arimathea in Matthew 27:57), but Jesus tells us that such faith is rare. He tells each of us to give away enough of our possessions so that we can no longer be self-sufficient.

Jesus tells us we ought to give away more than generous unbelievers (Matthew 5:20 and 23:23), but His emphasis here and in Luke 21:1-4 is not so much on how we give as it is on how much we have left over. Unless what we give away devastates our standard of living and throws us onto God's mercy daily, the we aren't giving enough away.

Third, Jesus talks about possessions because they can distract us. The rich young ruler's problem was that he was straitjacketed by his fortune. He could afford whatever he wanted but he couldn't afford to give it all away. Peter left his fishing business to follow Jesus. Matthew left a table piled high with Roman coins. Zacchaeus promised: "Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." But the rich young ruler went away sad.

People who follow the real Jesus keep their focus on what matters and take radical steps to prevent their possessions from distracting them. They have the same spirit that made Charles T. Studd explain to sports fans: "I knew that cricket would not last, and honour would not last, and nothing in this world would last, but it was worthwhile living for the world to come... If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him."

Fourth, Jesus talks about possessions because they can make us poor. When Peter complains about how much he has given away, Jesus reminds him that God views our gifts as an investment in His goodness, and that He will reward us both in this age and in the age to come. Charles T. Studd reflected on this passage towards the end of his life and concluded:
"God has promised to give a hundredfold for everything we give to Him. A hundredfold is a wonderful percentage; it is ten thousand percent. God began to give me back the hundredfold wonderfully quick. Not long after this I was sent down to Shanghai... When I saw that brother right soundly converted I said, 'This is ten thousand percent and more'... What is it worth to possess the riches of the world, when a man comes to face eternity? ... I have tasted most if the pleasures that the world can give. I do not suppose there was one that I had not experienced; but I can tell you that these pleasures were as nothing compared to the joy that the saving of that one soul gave me.'"

Jesus therefore warns you to view your possessions as potential enemies in your own home. They can possess you, they can distract you, they can drive you away from God, and they can therefore impoverish you. Jesus urges you to treat your earthly riches as mere pocket money, given to you by your heavenly Father in order to train you to handle the true riches of heaven.

So let's give away our money and possessions for the sake of God's Kingdom. Let's give away so much that our lifestyle is seriously affected. Let's give until we feel alarmed at the thought of how much this means we are going to have to rely on God each day. Let's give like Francis of Assisi and like Charles T. Studd, and let's dedicate whatever possessions we have left to the One who gave up His life so that He could set us free.

Natalie Williams

Posted by Natalie Williams


25th September 2013

'British sports personality of the year'

This is the second blog post in a series adapted from Gagging Jesus by Phil Moore and is used here with permission. Gagging Jesus is available here. Scroll down to read the first part of this series.

Seven hundred years after Francis of Assisi gave up everything to follow Jesus, a star of the England cricket team read the same verses in Mark 10. Charles T. Studd was captain of the Cambridge University cricket team and the only English batsman left at the crease when Australia beat England for the first time on English soil in the infamous match which gave rise to The Ashes series. That same year, he became, effectively, British sports personality of the year. He was fabulously wealthy and extremely famous. Then he started listening to the ungagged Jesus.

Charles T. Studd was convicted by Jesus' words to the rich young ruler that his privileged lifestyle was very sinful. It was normal by the standards of Victorian Britain, but he knew it wasn't the lifestyle of a follower of Christ. He reflected later: "Either I had to be a thief and keep what wasn't mine, or else I had to give up everything to God. When I came to see that Jesus Christ had died for me, it didn't seem hard to give up all for him."

He gave away 90 per cent of his family fortune to fund missionaries and orphanages, holding back a mere 10 per cent to help him set up home when he got married. When his fiancee Priscilla read these verses, she refused even this: "Charlie, what did the Lord tell the rich young man to do? Sell all. Well then, we will start clear with the Lord at our wedding."

The British sports personality of the year left for China with only five pounds in his pocket and died almost fifty years later as a missionary in an obscure village 4,000 miles away from home.

It's easy to see why people want to gag Jesus. The real Jesus is expensive. We marshal reasons why these verses don't actually apply to you and me — they are just for the rich young ruler or for medieval playboys or for Victorian cricketers. That's why we need to be honest about four general statements in Mark 10:17-30 that apply to each of us...

Read about these four general statements here on Sunday.

Natalie Williams

Posted by Natalie Williams


22nd September 2013

The story of Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone

This blog post is adapted from Gagging Jesus by Phil Moore and is used here with permission. Gagging Jesus is available here.

Jesus spoke more about money than about heaven and hell combined. He tells us that how we spend our money is the truest gauge of what we really think of his teaching. He tells us that the clearest statement of faith is a person's bank statement.

Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone was a prosperous Italian playboy until he read Jesus' teaching in Mark 10:17-30. He was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant and about to inherit a small fortune from his father, when he started reading the family Bible.

When he read the story of Jesus' encounter with the rich young rule, Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone was so convicted by the gulf between Jesus' teaching and his own lifestyle that he sold the contents of his father's warehouse and gave the proceeds away. When his father dragged him to court and threatened to disinherit him of everything except for the clothes he was wearing unless he apologised, he stripped down to his underwear in the courtroom and walked barefoot into the snowy streets outside.

Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone is better known to us as Francis of Assisi, the founder of an order of monks who gave away everything to follow Jesus and who still inspire millions of people around the world today...

Read part 2 here on Wednesday.

Natalie Williams

Posted by Natalie Williams










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