3rd January 2014

Same old new year?

Galileo thermometerEven as I clink my champagne glass and take a sip on the stroke of midnight, most New Year's Eves I find myself in the midst of a slight malaise. It is partly the season – miserable weather and too few hours of sunlight – but it's also the mingling of hope and disappointment: hope that this year I'll stick to all the goals I set for myself; disappointment that I probably, actually, realistically won't. I've become so used to the cycle that I feel the disappointment even as I'm setting the goals, and I already anticipate feeling the same way 12 months down the line when I haven't changed as much as I hoped.

But on January 1st I read what may well be the most liberating and encouraging blog on New Year's resolutions that I've ever read. Entitled Ringing in the New Year, it begins:

"It's that time of year again – time to ring in the New Year with dramatic resolutions fuelled by the hope of immediate and significant personal life change."

The all-too-common disappointment I experience, along with many others, may actually come down to a culturally-corrupted, X Factor-styled "big drama Christianity" that promises radical change overnight, ignoring that little doctrine known as sanctification or, in other words, the effort-required, blood, sweat and tears process of becoming more Christ-like.

"...Biblical Christianity – which has the gospel of Jesus Christ at its heart – simply doesn’t rest its hope in big, dramatic moments of change. The fact of the matter is that the transforming work of grace is more of a mundane process than it is a series of a few dramatic events. Personal heart and life change is always a process."

Of course, this doesn't mean we shouldn't expect deep, lasting change. Much the opposite. It challenges me to appreciate the little steps – sometimes so teeny-tiny that no one else could spot them – that come when I daily access the grace that is sufficient for me, exercise my faith as small as a mustard seed, and choose God's ways rather than my own. Realising that these small steps add up to a great journey that takes me "from one degree of glory to another" (2 Corinthians 3:18) helps me keep my eyes on the bigger picture and remember that there is One more committed to my transformation than I: the Author and Perfector of my faith!

"You see, the character of your life won't be established in two or three dramatic moments, but in 10,000 little moments. Your legacy will be shaped more by the 10,000 little decisions you make in 2014 rather than the last-minute resolution you're about to make."

So this year won't be the same old because I'm approaching it differently: I'm still hoping for change, but this year I'm resolving to make 10,000 small steps in the right direction and, as I do so, to relish one degree of glory at a time...

Read the full Ringing in the New Year blog by Paul Tripp here.
Image: 'I always know how warm it is!' by minxlj

Natalie Williams

Posted by Natalie Williams


16th June 2013

The secret of my success

What is the secret to successful Christian living? Two things are vitally important: faith and believing the right things. We need both, because our Christian walk is the result of what we believe – not because our faith makes it true, but because we believe what is true and step out in faith accordingly. We need to hear and be shaped by what God says about us.

Over the course of this Transformed preach series, we've unpacked layer upon layer of truth. How will we live successful lives in the light of that truth? Here are seven areas to help us re-centre our lives on Jesus…

Firstly, success comes from having the right goals. Many of us measure success by what we do and what we achieve, but in God's Kingdom success has far more to do with what we're like: the primary goal is to be like Christ (2 Peter 1:3-10); as John Stott puts it: "God wants His people to become like Christ. Christ likeness is the will of God for the people of God." God's goal for you is that you follow and become like Christ.

Secondly, our significance comes from a proper use of time – what the world considers newsworthy and significant is quickly forgotten, but we have the opportunity to make an impact on eternity (1 Timothy 4:7-8). It's not how much we're doing that's important, but how eternal it is.

Thirdly, fulfilment comes from serving others – in fact, we have a responsibility to discover our own uniqueness in Christ and use our abilities and gifts to serve others (1 Peter 4:10; John 13:13-17). Fulfilment has little to do with our circumstances, and much to do with growing where we're planted.

Fourthly, satisfaction comes from living a life of quality, and nothing satisfies like living a righteous life (Matthew 5:6). It's about quality, not quantity: doing a few things well brings greater satisfaction, and the same is true of relationships (Proverbs 18:24). Satisfaction comes from living righteously and investing in what we do and the relationships we have to ensure they are of great quality.

The world says happiness comes from getting what we want but the truth is, fifthly, that happiness comes from wanting what we have (1 Timothy 6:6-7). Being thankful – enjoying what we have, being thankful for it and for all that God has done – is key to the health of our souls (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

Sixthly, security comes from focusing on eternal things – insecurity comes when we rely on earthly things that we have no ability to control. The apostle Paul had plenty of reasons to feel insecure, but he kept his focus on the eternal One: Jesus Christ. When we do the same, we rest secure in Him (John 10:27-30).

Finally, peace comes from quieting the inner storm. If your peace relies on external circumstances, you will be disappointed. The peace of God is internal, not external. We already have peace with God (Romans 5:1) but we need to take hold of God's peace daily (John 14:27). There are many things we cannot control, but we can control our thoughts and emotions. God is bigger than any storm you may face! (Colossians 3:15-17)

BE TRANSFORMED! (Romans 12:2)

To download the 'life application' questions and sermon, click here.

Paul Mann

Posted by Paul Mann


26th May 2013

Knowing me, knowing you

God has called us to love Him and to love one another as we love ourselves. 1 Corinthians 13 gives us God's description of love. But how do we love others like this? Firstly, we need to take hold of our freedom in Christ, then we can be free to relate to others as God intended. Knowing who we are in Christ forms the basis for how we love others: we love because He first loved us; we give freely because He gave freely to us; we are merciful because He's been merciful to us; we forgive because He forgave us.

In relationships, we can often be quick to think about our rights, rather than our responsibilities. God turns this on its head and asks us to focus more on our responsibilities than on our rights. Someone else's character is not our concern; we are responsible to God for our own character and actions.

Love is to be right at the heart of who we are: we're to walk in love, just like Jesus, imitating God (Ephesians 5:1-2). When we're filled with God's love us, we're empowered to love others. When we love, we can celebrate each other rather than oppose one another; accept and honour each other; see past faults and failures; lift up; give; and encourage. When we truly love, these things begin to naturally flow from us; love is the overflow of the life of Jesus within us.

If you find love difficult, then be filled with the Spirit of Jesus, because He is love. Choose to walk in love daily, saying to God, "I need you today, God. I want to be your ambassador to this broken world, expressing your love to everyone I see today!" Learning to relate to one another in love is crucial for us as Christians, because it is our love for one another than draws others to Jesus.

To download the 'life application' questions and sermon, click here.

Santino Hamberis

Posted by Santino Hamberis


19th May 2013

Staying free

The freedom that Jesus won for us at the cross is not a one-off experience, but a way of life. The truth is that we have already been set free – from the moment you accepted Jesus, your position before God changed and you instantly gained access to everything you need in order to live a godly, free, faith-filled life.

However, we don't become mature in our faith the moment we become Christians: we mature as we increasingly understand all that Jesus accomplished for us on the cross and align ourselves with the truth of what God says about us.

The difference between freedom and maturity is that we take possession of the freedom that is rightfully ours in Christ, but maturity is a process of growth that continues throughout our lives. 'Growing' is the normal state of any healthy Christian. As Steve Goss puts it: "Any Christian can become an old Christian – all it takes is time! Any Christian can become a mature Christian – but many do not."

So, how do we grow as Christians? God has provided all we need – see 2 Peter 1:3-6 and 8-9, Ephesians 1:3 and Colossians 2:9-10, if you're in any doubt! We cannot mature if we don't take hold of our freedom: we need to deal with any footholds the enemy has in our lives first.

One of the keys to maturity is taking personal responsibility for our relationship with God. The apostle Paul didn’t offer to pray for the Corinthian church that their quarrelling would stop – what was required was their own confession, repentance, submission to Jesus and resisting the devil. Paul couldn't do this on their behalf. If you want to grow as a Christian, no one can do that for you. We need to know the power and authority we have in Christ, and then act on it.

Another key to maturity is renewing our minds – uncovering lies we have believed and connecting with what is really true. When we read 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, we see that it is our responsibility to fight, demolish false arguments and take our thoughts captive. When we regularly apply truth to the lies we have believed, over a relatively short period of time we find that our minds are renewed.

It's important to take a long-term view. In Hebrews, it says: "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (5:14). Again, there's personal responsibility here – we need to immerse ourselves in God's Word and get to know what He says.

Take hold of the freedom that is already yours, and keep growing!

To download the 'life application' questions and sermon, click here.

Paul Mann

Posted by Paul Mann










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