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Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘The Gift of Eternal Life'
John 10:24-30 The Jews gathered round Jesus, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no-one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one."
Eternal life: the fifth of the seven gifts that Jesus gave to His Church.
Salvation is a work of the Trinity. It is through the Grace, Truth and Living Water of the Trinity that we became Christians and received the gift of Eternal Life.
It is a mystery that the Trinity are one, and it is a greater mystery that as Christians we are also one. Each of us can say, like Jesus, I and the Father are one.
Jesus’ words in John 6:63 The Spirit gives life; our humanity counts for nothing.
At the very moment we first believed, Jesus gave us eternal life. This is our legal standing in Jesus, fixed, permanent. The Spirit gives us tastes of the experience of eternal life.
It is only in the life that the Spirit gives, that we can ever hope of fulfilling two very important teachings given to us by the apostle Paul.
Col 3:17 ...whatever you do, whether in words or deeds, do it all in the Lord Jesus,
1Co 10:31 ..whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’
This cannot possibly or remotely be achieved in our humanity. In ourselves the standard is to high, but in Jesus they are possible.
As Paul writes, ‘Whatever we say or do, do it all in the Lord Jesus.’ The mystery of living out our Christianity is this ‘do it IN Jesus’. In the oneness that is freely available to us.
Listen to Paul’s testimony in Gal 2:20 “I died with Christ Jesus; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in my humanity I live by the faith of the Son of God.
It is only when we come to the point that we are able to rely on Jesus in all aspects of our lives we can join Paul and truthfully say those words, that our humanity counts for nothing. Then we experience living ‘by the faith of the Son of God’. Then as we walk on in life our reliance on Jesus glorifies God.
We have had centuries of man made church practices, church activities and church traditions and never achieved anything like becoming one. That is because church practices that rely on human effort, divide. Living in trust and faith in Jesus unites.
The only time Christians of different flavours experience oneness with each other is when we are all worshipping together, all expressing our love and adoration for our Lord, and our focus is on God alone. Its only when we get into discussing theology or religious practises that division comes.
When the apostle Paul became a Christian it was as a Jewish Christian, the Judaeo-Christianity that he would later oppose. At first Paul kept all the Jewish religious rules and traditions, for example he baptised new converts. Then the Spirit took him into the wilderness of Arabia.
It was there Paul says that his Rabbi Jesus revealed the good news of grace. A grace not mixed with Judaism, but absolute grace, a grace that was unadulterated by Judaism.
That means he relied totally on God’s grace for his spiritual life, without relying or adding in any religious practices to gain merit or acceptance.
Out of Paul’s new understanding of the purity and simplicity of grace, he stopped practising his previous Judaeo-Christianity. This change is highlighted when he says;
1Co 1:17 For Christ Jesus did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel of grace; and not with words of human wisdom like in the past, but in grace alone so that the cross of Christ could not lose any of its power.
When I became a Christian I unknowingly followed many Jewish practices like repenting of sins, confession, communion, baptism, all taken from the instructions laid out in a Judaeo-Christian document called the ‘Didache’ written for the Gentiles in Rome.
But now I understand the simplicity of grace and I no longer needed my previous Judaeo-Christianity.
The gifts of Grace, Truth, Living Water, bring oneness when nothing else is added. No more law, no more condemnation, no more guilt, no more shame, no more blame, no more feeling unworthy, no more religious practises, no more a second rate Christian, no more a sinner, but always a saint.
It is never by what we say or do in our humanity that brings glory to God. Glory given to God relies solely on the gifts of Jesus. The glory of God lives in us as a gift from Him.
So who are we? Verse 29 of tonight’s reading tells us, Jesus said “My Father, has given them to me’.. That’s who you are, a Gift from God to Jesus.
Extracts from Lynn’s Preach ‘Don't let anyone tell you what to do'
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
Mary and Martha were sisters, they lived together with their brother Lazarus. Now adult siblings living together is always a risk (I’m not sure I could live with my sister) but in this story we have a little snapshot into their lives.
The house is referred to as Martha’s home. In those days woman didn’t own property so we could assume the parents died and left Martha the house instead of her brother – very unusual.
When Jesus and the disciples, 13 men in all, show up at Martha and Mary’s house it was considered essential to follow certain customs – not to do so would be very rude. Hospitality, involving washing everyone’s feet, providing drinks, a place to rest and preparing a meal was expected. It was a lot of work and the burden for this fell on the women of the family.
Martha got on with everything she had to do but found Mary wasn’t helping.
In Jesus’ time sitting at the feet of a teacher listening and learning was for men only. Women never did it. But Mary took her place with the men and shockingly, Jesus approved! Mary wanted to be in the thick of the teaching, discussion and debating as a student and a disciple.
The prejudice against women was huge. Every day Jewish men said a prayer “Praised be to God that he has not created me a woman.”
For a host to complain to a guest was a major breach of hospitality but Martha complained to Jesus. She broke the rules as well. And Jesus’ reply took the wind out of her sails. He said,
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
The Greek word is often translated as “better” BUT it’s actually the word for “Good.” Jesus is saying Mary’s way is “good” but he is not saying Martha’s is bad! Is it a rebuke to Martha? I don’t think so.
Here we have two women already breaking a lot of social rule. Martha owns property, They are not married, they run their own house, they have independent wealth, They are good friends with Jesus.
Mary sits at Jesus feet and sees herself as an intellectual and spiritual equal to the men. She doesn’t care what the social, and religious norms are. She’s bolshie, independent and in love with her Rabbi.
And then we have Jesus who also breaks the social rules of the time!!! This story isn’t about the contrast between service and listening. It’s much more radical than that… Jesus takes those who society rejects and elevates them so that the “unclean” the “rejected” come first.
Every interaction Jesus had with those rejected completely flipped the social and religious norms.
Women, the disabled, the lepers, the blind, those caught in adultery, the mentally ill, the Roman enemy, the thief on the cross.....the list goes on and on and yet after 2000 years we still have a religious hierarchy that misses the point.
The wider Church still has a hierarchy and LGBTQ people are at the bottom of the list. If the established Church says we are at the bottom Jesus welcomes us to sit at His feet.
The gospel is radical, it’s not dependent on how acceptable someone else says we are. It’s not dependent on baptism, conformation or church membership. Grace makes us Sons and Daughters.
So, what can we learn from this little snap shot of this unconventional family?
Jesus has a fondness for rule breakers. In fact He doesn’t like rules that prejudise at all !!!
At Liberty we challenge any rule that marginalises people. We stand up for those who are relegated, ignored and rejected. We welcome those on the edges of society. We abandon the rules, creeds and liturgies that keep people segregated and conflicted.
We don’t develop rules that measure people against some man made measuring stick!
Mary bravely and boldly sat at Jesus feet despite her culture telling her she was forbidden.
Mary knew where she belonged despite Martha’s complaining.
So, what can we take away from this little story for the rest of the week? Don’t let people tell you what you can and can’t do. Abandon the unjust rules laid down by others and...
Sit at Jesus feet, it’s where you belong, it’s where you are welcomed.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘The Gift of Living Water'
‘The Woman at the Well’ an taken from John 4
Jesus said the woman, "Everyone who drinks this natural water will be thirsty again,
but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst again, the water I give them will become in them a spring of living water welling up to eternal life."
The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty"
He told her, "Go, call your husband and come back." "I have no husband," she replied. Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband. …. you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true." "Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet.”…
Jesus told her a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.
God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth."
The woman said, "I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he."
We are very gifted people. John 1:17 says we have received the gift of God’s grace and truth freely given through Jesus.
The gift of truth is grace being expressed, being visible. Last week I spoke about Sandra as an example of this: Nina received grace by seeing its effects in Sandra’s life.
Truth is the fulfilment of Gal 5:1 It is for freedom that Jesus has set us free. It was that freedom that Nina saw in Sandra that convinced Nina of the truth in the gospel of grace.
It was with the confidence that grace gives you that 13 years ago Nina, Sandra and myself walked into an LGBT church in Manchester. We went to worship with LGBT people for the first time. We knew that because of the gift of grace they were our equals in the sight of God.
Jesus said he could give the woman at the well a gift which Jesus calls living water.
Turns out this woman is promiscuous and Jesus lets her know that He knows all about the men in her life, though there is not even a hint of condemnation in His revelation. She’s impressed; Here’s a Jew speaking to her a woman, without looking down on her. Also He’s speaking to her a Samaritan without the usual racism. Plus He doesn’t condemn her because of her many sexual relationships.
This is unheard of, she’s so affected by this acceptance the woman leaves behind her water jar and runs into town to tell her neighbours. She tells them of the grace this man has shown her, a man who accepted her just the way she was, without disapproval or criticism.
A man who had a gift of which she knew nothing but yet she didn’t need to know because somehow she trusted this man, she just knew what he said was true. And she didn’t even know his name. But there was an urgency in this woman, a strong desire to take her neighbours to the man who treated her so respectfully and said if she drank the water he could give her would never thirst again.
This woman came to the well on her own. That was unheard of; women came together for safety. But this woman was despised, rejected, no other woman would associate with her. Wives would tell their husbands and children especially their sons to keep away. Religious leaders would denounce her lifestyle call her unworthy and unclean.
Why send a woman of ill repute to tell people about a man of grace? Why didn’t Jesus speak to the town’ s Mayor or another man of influence, or any man, especially in that society.
The beautiful thing is that grace is given without regard to position or status. The truth grace expresses comes with power from God to give spiritual life.
This woman was inspired, by a man whose name she didn’t yet know. Such was the power of His grace she knew He was being truthful in promising this gift of living water. And she knew it was true when Jesus told her He was the Messiah. She was so wowed by this she was falling over herself to get back to town to tell her neighbours to come out to meet Jesus.
And they streamed out of town following her – in a culture where no man followed a woman and certainly not a woman like her.
Jesus’ living water of the Holy Spirit was already having its effect on her neighbours. Through her it was drawing them like a magnet to the Messiah. They listened to and followed someone who was the least of the least. Because the Holy Spirit empowered her words and living water was being poured out.
Who will ever listen to any of us lot?. How can we ever reach our neighbours? We don’t hire big venues and get big bands to draw the crowds. Who are we anyway?
According to about 200 churches in Lancashire we’re unworthy, we’re unclean. We are seen as promiscuous with a lifestyle to match.
But Jesus sees us as qualified to share his gospel. He sees us with gifts He’s given us. He’s given us grace and truth and experiences of himself drenched in the gift of living water.
This story in scripture is showing us a recurring theme. That God can empower anyone he wants! It doesn’t depend on our abilities or our resources. It depends on Him working through us pouring out the living water in our stories of Jesus and His love.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘The Mystery Gift'
Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.
We have all received a precious gifts. The gift of God’s grace and truth.
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in Ephesus stating that he had received a revelation of God’s grace for all including the most marginalised of his day, the Gentiles. In Eph 3:3 he said that God had revealed this mystery to him for the benefit of others.
Paul called this revelation ‘the gospel of grace’ Ac 20:24. and said it was a mystery. For me, God opened my eyes to me the gospel of grace over a 3 year period, beginning in 1995. Sandra is the only person here from that time who heard me when I first started to speak about the mystery of all inclusive grace.
John 1:17 In tells ‘The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ’. Grace is the undeserved favour of God, the truth is His favour manifested. Sandra’s experience was God’s undeserved favour and that affected her life.
When I met Nina she was weighed down by all the rules of her evangelical background, do this, don’t do that, do more of this etc. She loved God so put her best efforts into doing lots to please him. She didn’t realise He didn’t need her efforts, because actually, the Lord couldn’t be more pleased with her because His love is unconditional.
At first Nina couldn’t get her head round the gospel of grace, then she got to know Sandra and realised that Sandra wasn’t trying to do anything to please God. Yet Nina could see Sandra was close to God and God was working in her life. Nina knew that when Sandra became a Christian she had never repented, didn’t confess her sins, and has never confessed any sin, not had water baptism, didn’t believe in communion yet Sandra had a deep trust in Jesus and trusted Him in her daily life.
Sandra trusted in what Jesus has done and was doing in her life rather than in the externals; the outward ceremonies meant nothing to her, the reality in Jesus was everything.
Just by seeing Sandra’s relationship with the Lord, Nina saw the immensity of God’s grace and she was able to relax, give up her own efforts to impress or please God and simply respond to Him in her life. Nina felt liberated, set free. For Nina grace and truth came through Sandra.
The mystery of the gospel of grace that Paul proclaimed, is that we as Christians do not have to work to please God but simply need to respond to what Jesus is doing in us.
This is total trust in Jesus for our right standing with God and trust in His plans and purposes for us. It’s not about our efforts but about what He’s done and is doing.
Paul wrote in Gal 2:20 “It is no longer I that live but Christ lives in me.” This is the surrendered life. Paul continues, “the life which I now live in my humanity I live by the faith of the Son of God.”
This is the believing life, the result of a surrendered life.
The Law of Moses came at a cost, grace and truth were gifts freely given. The law put burdens on people, the result of grace and truth was freedom. The law marginalised and excluded women, non Jews, disabled people and other minorities. But Grace and truth are inclusive, gifts from God.
All religious laws, rules, commands, principles, religious practices or traditions are based on what we do for God. They place conditions on the unconditional promises of God. Therefore as Paul writes in Romans, all these things make faith meaningless, and the promises worthless Ro 4:14.
In 1995 the mystery of grace raised a question within me; if all Christian rules, Christian practices, Christian traditions are no longer part of my Christianity what do I do?
I felt the Lord simply say ‘Get on with your life’. It dawned on me that all God’s promises are mine; they were all fulfilled, in Jesus. Jesus my shepherd, my leader, my teacher, my God who I had trusted with my life. Surely my life was and is safe in the hands of my Lord.
I once saw tonight’s reading as things I had to do to gain God’s favour, but the mystery of the gospel of grace caused me to see these verses rather differently. I’ve re-written them here:
Psalm 37:3-5 a paraphrase:
3. I AM the Lord trust in me and I will infuse you with My goodness. Regard Heaven as our home and eat with me there, know My faithfulness, and be nourished with My love.
4. Let Me be the source of your happiness, and it will be My happiness to fulfil what your heart desires.
5. Trusting Me with your life means that Our lives become entwined and Our desires become as One.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach 'Take Away To Establish’
Hebrews 10:5 - 9
When Jesus came into the world, he said: "Sacrifices and offerings you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.
Then Jesus said, ‘It is written about me—I have come to do your will, O God.’" First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, "I have come to do your will." He takes away the old to establish the new.
Liberty Church was established onthe words in Hab 2:4.
Those words are ‘the just will live by faith’ These are quoted twice by Paul , once in Romans 1:17 and again in Gal 3:11.
Martin Luther began the reformation with a belief in the very same words. In some translations it says "The righteous will live by faith."
They mean that Christians live by faith, trust in God and not by their own efforts to achieve spiritual standing. But Luther realised that Christians were locked into a religious system of religious practices ruled from Rome.
Luther first tried to reform from within the Catholic Church and he failed. Repeatedly throughout history people have tried to reform the church from the inside and failed and then, in order to bring about change, they had to come out.
Throughout scripture, starting with the Genesis account of creation God has always ‘done away with the old to establish the new’.
Luther founded a new liberated church but did not do away with all the old . As a result the old man made traditions and practises crept back into the new church.
John Wesley, who founded the Methodist Church, respected and affirmed inspirational women preachers. He was moving forward in a new move of God. But 12 years after his death, those who clung to their traditions succeeded in banning women from preaching. That ban remained for years.
Just like the 12 apostles, the newly converted Apostle Paul preached the message of the ‘ Kingdom of God’ to the Jews. But his three year Arabian wilderness experience changed him.
In the desert God changed Paul radically. God did away with the old in him to establish the new. The new was the radical different inclusive gospel of grace which Paul began to preach.
A gospel that put him on a collision course with the Christian religious establishment in Jerusalem.
Paul’s words in Phil 3:8 in a modern version: ‘all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life ...everything I once thought I had going for me is meaningless dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the bin so that I could embrace the anointed one’.
The old in his life was done away with to establish the new.
It can be painful to let go of our the traditions and practices when God leads us into the new and different. But to move on with God we have to. Many of us here recognise that God has taken away the old and familiar in our lives to establish the new.
Jesus said, Lu 5:37 ‘No-one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. New wine must be poured into new malleable wineskins.’
Liberty is a new malleable (flexible) wineskin, with new wine, bubbly, effervescent, unpredictable and like all new wine can even be explosive. But Jesus said some prefer the old wine…….
I reckon Jesus is still taking away the old to establish the new. Living by faith, meaning living in reliance on God instead of on our own abilities, is easier said than done.
Over the years I have come to know the gentleness of God and so I know He only takes away what we freely give Him, and He never ever takes away the real you.
Our biggest problem, the greatest enemy to our spiritual advancement is ourselves. Living by faith is stepping into the supernatural. Responding to God’s will instead of to our own. It can be scary!.
To take up your cross and follow Him means dying to yourself, your plans, ambitions, ways of doing things in order to live according to His plans and His leadings.
He wants to take away the old, in our individual lives and in our gathering together as church to establish the new. Something new and different and full of His life.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach
‘Don't Go Back’
They arrived at Bethsaida. Some people brought a sightless man and begged Jesus to give him a healing touch.
Taking him by the hand, he led him out of the town. He put spit in the man’s eyes, laid hands on him, and asked, "Do you see anything?"
He looked up. "I see men. They look like walking trees."
So Jesus laid hands on his eyes again. The man looked hard and realized that he had 20/20 vision. And Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Do not go back into the city.’ Mark 8:22-26
In scripture Miracles were called signs. They were sign posts to a spiritual truth. As we discovered last week this miracle was to show that we are all partially sighted, the disciples did not understanding some of the things that Jesus was doing and saying. Neither do we.
The complexity of scripture and our frequent lack of understanding is like God saying to us ‘You can’t fully understand and I don’t want you to rely on your understanding of the bible.
I want you to totally rely upon Jesus.’
We became a Christians because we came to know and put our trust in Jesus. We need to continue doing that. Jesus said ‘... remain in Me’ and ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (nothing of spiritual value). We must remember that.
In the story above after Jesus healed the blind man he told him ‘don’t go back into the city’.
The story started with Jesus meeting a blind man in Bethsaida but led him by the hand out of the city to heal him, then told ‘don’t go back to the place I brought you out of’ What had Jesus got against Bethsaida?
Jesus had previously performed miracles at Bethdaida but despite this its people rejected him..
Bethsaida was a place of unbelief and rejection so in the spiritual sense all of its inhabitants were blind. Jesus led the man who was also physically blind out of the town to heal him. Jesus led him outside the place of unbelief then warned ‘Don’t go back.’
Bethsaida means ‘house of fish’. Fish are symbolic of Christians so ‘the house of fish’ can be seen as representing many Christians together. In this case Christians who are unbelieving, knowing Jesus but is unable to really rely on Him.
I believe today’s message is for those who have been led out of the darkness of unbelief, or out of rejection, or a place of tolerance but not acceptance. Don’t go back.
There are plenty of scriptural examples and warnings of not going back and even not even looking back like Lot’s wife. The Israelites are brought out of slavery in Egypt but instead of looking forward to what God had for them they wanted to go back to what was familiar to them. Scripture lists them wanting the foods of Egypt; cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. All foods that were back breaking to collect because they all grew on the ground
The foods they looked back to were gained by hard work but the fruit God had for them in the Promised Land was free for the taking. The fruit was grapes from vines they had not planted and fruit from trees they had not grown. With no effort they could just take the fruit at will.
The story set in Bethsaida is a warning. Don’t go back to any place of rejection or unbelief where you have to work for your spiritual food. Celebrate that Jesus has brought you out for the purpose of taking you into something far better. It may take time for you to realise that works or effort in any form are not necessary in the kingdom of God.
The fruit of the vine that is from Jesus and the fruit of the Holy Spirit are truly free
Although the Israelites didn’t go back into Egypt they often harked back and held on to the past and the mindset they had developed in Egypt. Egypt was a place where gods were visible so they soon fashioned a symbol of God according to there limited understanding. They made a golden calf. They easily slipped back into the familiar and started to worship their symbol.
Learn from the golden calf. What may be a symbol to you may bean idol to God.
Symbols are man made. Their purpose is to focus the mind an emotions on some aspect of your relationship with God. The emphasis is on the mind and emotions. We relate to God in the spirit and in the spirit symbols can get in the way.
Our relationship with God is built on having the closeness of our spirit being connected, immersed, and infused with God’s Spirit. Anything we can create is not able to make us closer to God than that.
Jesus talked about worshipping in Spirit and in Truth. In other words worship in the Holy Spirit and in Jesus who is the Truth. Don’t trade the spiritual for the physical. For our spiritual lives we must always depend on Jesus.
The blind man was led out by Jesus. His eyes were opened by Jesus. The first thing he saw clearly was Jesus. When Jesus brings us to a place where we see Him more clearly lets move on in the clarity He gives us. Don’t look back. Don’t go back either physically or mentally.
Keep hold of Jesus’ hand and let him lead you on. Look forward to where he taking you not back to where you once were.
Continue focusing only on Jesus.
Extracts fromJim’s Preach ‘Partially Sighted’
They arrived at Bethsaida. Some people brought a sightless man and begged Jesus to give him a healing touch. Taking him by the hand, Jesus led him out of the city. He put spit in the man’s eyes, laid hands on him, and asked, "Do you see anything?"
He looked up. "I see men. They look like walking trees."
So Jesus laid hands on his eyes again. The man looked and realized that he had perfect vision, able to see clearly.
And Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Do not go into the city.’ Mark 8:22-26
In scripture miracles are called signs; they’re sign posts to a spiritual truth. In this miracle it appears that Jesus failed to restore the man’s sight the first time and had to try again.
Surely that can’t be right? What could this event be teaching us? Let’s look at it.
On a previous trip to Bethsaida Jesus performed the miracle, we call the feeding of the five thousand. He multiplied five loaves and two fish to feed 5,000 people and have 12 baskets of leftovers. (Mr 6:43). (The Jewish nation was made up of 12 tribes.)
Mark 8 then tells of Jesus visiting a Gentile area called Decapolis. Jesus miraculously fed 4,000 Gentile people with very little and had 7 baskets of leftovers. (Seven Gentile nations lived in Canaan.)
Later some Pharisees caught up with Jesus and challenged him to give them a sign (Mr 8:11). Jesus refused then sailed back to Bethsaida with his disciples.
On the journey the disciples said “We forgot to get provisions we’ve only one loaf.” Jesus replied with a warning "Be careful, watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees” (Mr 8:14,15).
He then said “Why are you on about having no bread, don’t you not understand?
“The twelve baskets and the seven baskets. Do you still not understand?" (Mr 8:21)
They didn’t understand him. And often today we don’t understand Jesus either.
They disembarked at Bethsaida the place that had seen the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus touched the blind man and asked a strange question. “Do you see anything?” Surely he wasn’t doubting the man could be healed? Surely not. Just what’s going on!
The blind man said ‘I see people like trees walking around’, meaning he could see shapes and outlines and movement but he could not see the all the details.
Jesus touched the blind man again. His eyes were now fully restored and he could see clearly.
This is the spiritual teaching in the healing of the blind man. Our eyes have been opened spiritually to know Jesus and just like the blind man in the story we often can’t see clearly.
We have all been touched by Jesus and like Jesus’ disciples then we are all spiritually speaking partially sighted in many areas.
We can all think at times that we know it all and get entrenched in what we believe, yet we all fail to understand so much. We fail because we are all partially sighted and it’s not until Jesus touches our eyes again that we can clearly see Jesus and what He’s teaching us.
The disciples missed the meaning of the twelve baskets left over from feeding the five thousand Jews and the meaning of the seven baskets left over from feeding four thousand Gentiles.
Miracles are signs, sign posts pointing to a spiritual truth. The five thousand were are all Jews. Twelve baskets leftover demonstrate that Jesus had more than enough bread for the twelve tribes of Israel.
Then four thousand Gentiles in Decapolis. Scripture refers to the seven nations of Gentiles. So Jesus was attesting that he also had more than enough spiritual bread for the Gentiles.
Jesus is saying, “See I have enough bread for all the Jews and all the Gentiles, that’s how abundant my supply is.”
What about the yeast of the Pharisees? Later Jesus told the disciples that the yeast of the Pharisees is hypocrisy (Lu 12:1).Is Jesus saying to his disciples and therefore Jesus is speaking to us, ‘don’t pretend that you are something you’re not’? That’s what being a hypocrite means.
When we try to big ourselves up to impress Jesus we’ve missed the whole point of grace that tells us we are welcome just as we are.
I think we all have to acknowledge that we, including myself, are all partially sighted when it comes to spiritual understanding. We mustn’t fall into the Pharisees trap of pretending to know everything when in fact we don’t. When it comes to spiritual things we know very little,
We are often spiritually blind and at best we are all partially sighted.
So let us just thank Jesus for what little understanding we do have and, as the disciples did, look to Jesus to lead us into more.
Because the God given understanding that we do have was enough to bring us to know Jesus.
Jesus the bread of life who is our abundant supply. Let’s keep our eyes focused on Him.
Extracts from Lynn’s Preach ‘Free Indeed’
‘To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
They answered him, "We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?"
Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. ‘ John 8:31-36
Freedom is offered in all sorts of guises. As a young adult I was really interested in the ideas around Anarchy. The idea of no rules was really attractive to me.
The dictionary defines freedom as –‘being able or allowed to do, say, think, whatever you want to, without being controlled or limited’.
But what did Jesus mean when He said “If the son sets you free then you are free indeed”?
Jesus was talking to Jews who were ruled by Rome but they were confident or even arrogant in their identity as ‘sons of Abraham’ and not being spiritual slaves to anyone.
They were entrenched n their religious law, keeping hundreds of rules and regulations.
Here Jesus is saying freedom doesn’t come from keeping the religious law (this was a truly revolutionary idea) but it is to be found in a relationship with the son.
Rules, liturgy, rituals, sacraments won’t bring spiritual freedom. But a relationship with Jesus will.
Freedom always comes at a price but we don’t have to pay for any of it. Jesus paid for it all.
Freedom comes from Jesus. We can’t buy it with good works. It isn’t a reward for following the rules It doesn’t come from joining the right church and signing up to creeds/statements of faith.
Jesus’ freedom is unconditional and all encompassing. We are free in all areas of our life.
We are liberated (we’re not called Liberty Church for nothing!)
We are NO LONGER slaves to sin. Our sin has been dealt with completely here and in eternity, past, present and future. Grace means freedom that is not dependent on anything we do.
It costs us nothing, but it cost Jesus everything.
As a Methodist preacher I could never understand why we had to have confession as part of our service EVERY single week. It made no sense to me. Surely either Jesus paid the price for my sin or he didn’t?
It doesn’t say in scripture “your sin is forgiven but that needs renewing every Sunday morning”
Either I’m a slave to sin or I’m free.....Jesus says I’m free.
You can’t put me back in chains, you can’t lock me up. Jesus says I am free. No one can say I don’t belong to God because Jesus says I am free. I am free INDEED.
The word “indeed” is important. The root of the word is Aramaic and speaks of more than just a slave receiving freedom. It’s about being born into nobility. It is a freedom that is obtained by birth and once you have that you can never lose it.
Salvation is more than just a deliverance from sin. It is a born again experience. We are born into the very family of God and have become heirs of His kingdom – What belongs to Jesus belongs to us!
A slave has no rights. A slave’s value is in his doing. Our value is in our being.
Galatians 5:1“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
We have become children of God. We will always, always belong to Him. So, knowing all that why then do we sometimes live as slaves?
On Thursday I was leading a service in town. Before I started a young guy, a Christian, came to me because he wanted to know God’s forgiveness. He was on bail for a violent assault and knew he would go to prison. He was weighed down in guilt and despair and felt he had lost God. We spoke about Jesus and I put my hand on his shoulder to pray for him. Suddenly we both felt the impact of the Holy Spirit. It was like electricity pouring into him. He visibly changed. He felt instantly released from the huge weight of guilt that had crushed him. Suddenly it was gone. He was free before God, knowing for certain that he was totally loved and accepted despite the terrible thing he had done.
He will have to face prison but he now knows that God will be with him there and as he tries to re build his life in the future.
I have experienced freedom from addiction. I’ve recently known freedom from the shackles of religion. But I want more. I want freedom from my childhood experiences that cause me to be controlling and cautious. I want to be free from that too.
Jesus says ‘if the son sets you free, then you are free indeed’. I want the ‘indeed’.
If like me you are yet to experience being free indeed then let’s grab hold of His grace. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to work in us to free us from the oppression and chains that bind us so we can fully know the freedom Jesus offers.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Seeing Jesus’
In Lu 18, Mark 10,and Matthew 20 there are accounts of Jesus travelling to Jerusalem nd going through the city of Jericho on the way. Jesus had three encounters with blind men: one on the outskirts on the road into the city, one on outskirts of the city and the last encounter was with two blind mean as He left the city.
Each of the blind men shouted out to Jesus ‘Jesus, Son of David’. Each blind man risked his life by giving Jesus this title for the Messiah.
Thinking about it, it must have been the Holy Spirit that had brought each of the blind men to this place and to this point in their lives.
It must have been the Holy Spirit that had revealed to them that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. How else would they know? This revelation gave them faith in Jesus that brought them into the Kingdom of God and made them citizens of the Kingdom. What’s more they were in the presence of the King Himself.
Salvation had come to each of them. What more could they want? Yet Jesus asked each blind man in turn "What do you want me to do for you?"They all asked for their sight and Jesus said to each one, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you."
This story of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem is an allegory, a story within a story, a literal story with a deeper spiritual meaning. Jericho, in scripture, represents the religious world the story symbolises Jesus’ earthly journey into a religious world and on to the heavenly Jerusalem only hesitating to heal the blind.
The first blind man was a Jew, the second, Bartimaeus, a Gentile and the last two were Jews. The allegory tells us Jesus reaches out to the Jews first, then the Gentiles, then finally the Jews again. Other parts of scripture also confirm the allegory.
So what does this story mean to us in this place and at this point in our lives? We are all on our individual journeys of life. All of us spend time in the religious world of Jericho, though we all have a choice about how long we stay there, blind and begging.
We can all know that Jesus is the Messiah and that Jesus is Lord yet remain spiritually blind in so many ways. Is it a coincidence that six times Jesus called the Pharisees blind?
The Pharisees embodied religion; they adopted the titles and vestures of religion. They claimed to be the only true interpreters of scripture, making them the judges of the scriptures and the people. They believed in grace but only saw it as a safety net when the rule keeping failed.
The Pharisees, who Jesus called blind guides, put heavy loads of people that they could not bear.
I have not invited one person here to Liberty Church. But, thinking about it, it must have been the Holy Spirit that has brought you to this place and to this point in your life. It must have been the Holy Spirit that has revealed to you that Jesus is Lord, how else would you know?
When you have received faith in Jesus the Kingdom of God is yours, you are citizens of the Kingdom and we are in the presence of the King. Salvation is yours, what more could you want?
We can have the gift of faith in Jesus yet still be blinded by religion. Bartimaeus threw off his robes when he responded to Jesus. We too can throw off the old to put on the new for a new stage n our journey of life. We are in a place and at a point in time where Jesus is saying to us, "What do you want me to do for you?"
The blind men wanted their blindness to be healed. They wanted to see, but more than that they wanted to see Jesus. Because they needed to see him to be able to follow Him. And in each story it says that when their eyes were opened, they all followed Him.
Jesus said to Bartimaeus, ‘Go your own way’ but Bartimaeus’ way was to follow Jesus. Like Bartimaeus we all have a choice, we are all free to go our own way, or, to follow Jesus.
When our eyes are opened, if we want we can still stay with our begging bowls hoping to be fed with the things we like and things we are familiar with. Or we can journey on following Jesus.
In following Jesus we won’t know what’s on the menu or what’s round the next corner, but as long as we keep our eyes on Him a glorious journey is assured.
I close with a prayer for you, a paraphrase of Ephesians 1:15 -19
I know of your faith in the Lord Jesus, I thank God for you and pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the spirit of wisdom, and revelation to know Him in an ever increasing measure.
And that the eyes of your understanding will be opened; so you can see the hope he has given you, and know the riches of the glory that is in His inheritance for you His saints, and see the greatness of His power in us who believe.
Extracts from Paul’s Preach
‘Salt of the Earth’
(Jesus said) "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
Brother Andrew is a Dutch man who has taken the message of the gospel to hostile places all over the world. Early in his life he regularly smuggled bibles to Christians in Eastern Europe in countries where possessing a bible was illegal and could lead to a long prison sentence.
Andrew had to cancel a speaking engagement at Soul Survivor (a Christian festival) at short notice and some months later two of the festival organisers went to visit him in Holland.
They met an elderly man with white hair and a twinkle in his eye, like a nice grandad. But in his study were photographs of him with armed extremists from countries across the globe, all people he had shared the gospel with. He explained that he cancelled his speaking engagement in England as he had got an opportunity to meet with Islamic extremists in Afghanistan and he was able to speak to them about the love of Jesus.
As the visit came to a close they all prayed together. Andrew said ‘God, I pray that you inspire with so much of your love that we would be willing to crawl through a field of broken glass if it meant that one person would be saved’. The visitors knew that he meant it and that his prayer reflected the way he had lived his life.
Ten years ago I had the opportunity, as part of my job, to study for a second degree at Lancaster University. That year two other people from Liberty Church were going to Lancaster University. Two is company, three is a society!
I prayed about starting an LGBT Christian society at the University…….after meeting with different people I was approached by the President of the University Christian Fellowship. He asked if I would do a joint event with him.
Jim and Nina and myself were booked as speakers and we were on!
Jim and Nina spoke about how Liberty Church came into being and what it meant to people who became part of it. Then my slot was to try to explain to a mainly straight audience something of what it is like to be LGBT and Christian.
I compared my experience of coming out to Lazarus’ experience coming out of the tomb. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and when he came out of the tomb he was still wrapped up in the linen that the people of that time wrapped round a dead body – I imagine it was like the wrappings round an Egyptian mummy.
It must have been very difficult for Lazarus to walk and, if there was linen over his face, very difficult to see. The disciples were shocked and were just staring at him. Jesus had to tell them to go and help him and to ‘take the grave clothes off him’. Once that was done Lazarus was free to move around and start functioning again.
For me, coming out had similarities. Living pretending to be someone I wasn’t felt like being in a straitjacket. I wasn’t able to move freely or live fully. When I came to the point of being able to come out some people were shocked and didn’t know how to react. I was very vulnerable.
I didn’t need people to tell me to choose to be straight or to tell me I couldn’t now be a Christian. Those things are deeply wounding. I needed acceptance and support from people to be able to get out of the straitjacket to function fully and to be myself.
It was acceptance and support from people who cared about me and valued me as me that helped to remove that straitjacket that were like Lazarus’ grave clothes and allowed me to be free.
One young man was in tears after I told about my experience. His sister had recently come out to his parents and he said that he now realised something of what she had gone through.
For me it had been like facing a field of broken glass to bare my soul in that that way. But I had felt impelled to do it by the Holy Spirit. And one person was reached.
Perhaps all that event and the work before it was God’s way to reach just one guy. If so it showed me how deeply God loves him and his sister.
I’d love to see this church jam packed with people. But they won’t come all at once. They will come one by one. Particular people God leads to come here at a particular time in their lives. And God values each one.
There may be times when some of us face our own field of broken glass and know that sense of being impelled to cross it. It’s worth facing when we reach that one person.
I pray that we will be the salt of the earth and will not lose our flavour.
Extracts from Lynn’s Preach ‘Close to the Broken Hearted’
Psalm 34:17-22 Message Version
Is anyone crying for help? God is listening, ready to rescue you.
If your heart is broken, you'll find God right there; if you're kicked in the gut, he'll help you catch your breath.
Disciples so often get into trouble; still, God is there every time.
He's your bodyguard, shielding every bone; not even a finger gets broken.
The wicked commit slow suicide; they waste their lives hating the good.
God pays for each slave's freedom; no one who runs to him loses out.
Jesus once came across a blind man shouting out into the crowd - “Jesus, son of David have mercy on me” Jesus called him and asked him – “What do you me to do for you”?
I would have thought it was obvious! But I’ve found that Jesus never barges into our lives and does stuff against our will. He values us enough to ask. The man asked for his sight and Jesus then healed him physically but emotionally and spiritually as well.
Psalm 34 tells us that God is close to the broken hearted. Often in the times of heartbreak God seems so far away? But the psalm says that God is intimately aware of our pain, rejection and struggles in life.
Which one of us has not had our hearts broken? Who amongst us has not felt the gut retching pain of rejection? That deep aching that keeps us awake at night.
Which one of us has not felt broken by rejection from lovers, families, friends, churches and co-workers?
The rejection I’ve suffered from churches has taken me to the point of suicide - BUT God says he is SO VERY CLOSE to my broken heart. He has promised to shield me, to protect me, to be my body guard.
God asks “Is anyone crying out for help, I will rescue you”. Jesus asks “What can I do for you?”
God is close, He sees us, He hears our cry. A loving parent always hears their baby cry out, no matter what. I could hear my son cry out even when I was deeply asleep. His cry would reach deep into my soul and I would wake up to tend to him. This Psalm tells us of God who is as attentive as the most loving parent.
Why then do we hold on to our pain? Why did I have to reach “rock bottom” before I asked God to help me? I almost let rejection kill me? I imagined that I was alone, that none else understood my hurt.
I shut off emotionally; I became hard, bitter and suspicious, angry with everyone and with God! I believed the lie that I didn’t belong to God.
I walked through the doors of Liberty Church a broken and dejected human being. I held onto my pain for months, I rejected offers of love and help. I was paranoid that people had some kind of ulterior motive. I used my pain like a shield so none else could hurt me.
One day Jesus asked me “What do you want me to do for you?” He didn’t barge in. He just gently whispered in my ear “I’m close to your broken heart Lynn. I’ll help. I’m here”
God is so close. The Hebrew word here means “close enough to touch”. That’s close.
Charles Spurgeon said - “There are many sorts of broken hearts, and Jesus is good at healing them all.”
There is no brokenness that Jesus can’t heal, no rejection that He can’t heal, no loss He can’t heal, no sorrow He can’t heal.
When I was sat holding my dying son’s hand I felt that God was sat alongside me. He understood my deep pain.
Jesus asks us now….. ”What do you want me to do for you?” What do you need Jesus to restore in you?
Jesus wants to heal that pain you hold in your body, that anxiety that robs you of sleep, that rejection deep inside.
Jesus said “God’s Spirit is on me; He’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free”
If you are burdened and battered tonight, if your heart is broken then come to Jesus. Reach out your hand, trust Him, He longs to set us free. Don’t hold onto it any more. Let it go to Him
What happened to the blind man? He followed Jesus along the road. .He wanted to stay close to Him.
I have a tattoo on my arm. Its a quote from John Wesley’s dying words. They are “Best of all God is with us”
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Hyper Grace’
1Corinthians 3:10 - 13 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.
For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus the Messiah.
If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, precious stones, or wood, hay or stubble, every man’s work will be clearly seen in the light of day. Because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall show up every man’s work for exactly what it is.
Ephesians 18 - 22 For through Jesus we all have the right to enter into the presence the Father by one Spirit. And for this reason alone, we are no longer outsiders but we belong, fellow-citizens with God’s saints and equal members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with the Messiah Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
And in him we too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
In his letter to the Corinthians Paul says that no one can build on any other foundation apart from the one already laid which is the Messiah Jesus.
Then in the letter to the Ephesians we are told of building on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Confusing, two foundations?
Both foundations are based on an understanding that a church is a temple of the Holy Spirit. A place where God’s Spirit dwells, where God lives.
The Temple in Jerusalem had two foundations; one below ground that couldn’t actually be seen and a foundation above ground that could be seen.
The foundation above ground was the first row of stones that were laid upon the absolutely solid foundation already laid below ground.
There is no way that Nina and I would have started Liberty Church if we hadn’t felt that Jesus was asking us to do so.
And so we believe whole heartedly that Jesus sent us to this community and He laid the foundation and has the constructional details of the spiritual Temple He wants to build us into. Jesus is the foundation of this church. Our job is to ensure Jesus remains in place as the cornerstone.
The corner stone is the big stone placed in the first visible row of stones above ground. It stands squarely in the corner. We need to ensure that we, the living stones of this Temple’s walls, are in line with Him.
What do we know about building temples? Very little. That’s a great advantage because it encourages us to rely on Jesus all the way. Jesus the master builder lays the foundation. He places the cornerstone and all other stones so long as we don’t interfere.
Liberty began as non-denominational. Liberty is also non-sacramental, devoid of religious ceremonies and will remain so. Liberty was simply founded in faith according to God’s grace.
Our humanity, with its intellect and emotional needs is the adversary that opposes our faith that depends upon the faithfulness of God found in His grace.
Tonight's scripture says there is a choice of building with gold, silver, precious stones, or wood, hay, stubble. What do these building materials represent?
Gold represents Jesus’ deity, silver the redemption in Jesus and the precious stones, the light of Jesus, like the ‘Bling’, the dazzle or sparkle in a diamond.
Wood is a dead tree and represents humanity that is spiritually lifeless. Hay is dead, lifeless and seedless, unable to reproduce. Stubble is the dead dried up stalks of the crop that has been harvested which the farmer burns up.
So the scripture is saying we can choose to build with humanity, our intellects and limited abilities. Or we can build on that foundation that is Jesus by looking for Him to put His life into this Temple.
How do we build with Jesus’ materials? By faith in Him. By listening for Him, trusting in Him and responding to Him. By following his directions rather than our own ideas and emotions.
Soon after Liberty started I felt God tell me that like Abraham He was taking us into the Promised Land.
God was speaking to Nina at the same time saying, like Joshua He was taking us into the Promised Land.
Abraham represents faith and Joshua represents freedom. To enter the Promised Land we need faith in Him, and we need to be free from anything that might constrain, restrain or burden us.
The Promised Land is the land of faith and freedom. It’s living in faith in Him and its where we is where we find joy (mega-happiness). It is also the land of grace: unlimited grace that excludes no one.
Romans 5 says ‘Religion with its rules were added in so that failure might abound. But where failures abound, grace abounds all the more’. In the verse the word ‘abound’ occurs three times; twice the Greek means ‘increase’ but the third time the text uses a different Greek word ‘hyper-perisyoo.
Its saying that there is a ‘hyper grace’, a grace that exceeds, overflows and is beyond measure. I can imagine Paul sitting there writing trying to get a word big enough to describe this exceeding grace and coming up with hyper-perisyoo ...hyper grace!
I want to be in the place of hyper grace, the place of faith and double measures. The place of freedom, a place filled with the sweet aroma of Gods presence, a place where our experience of God can overflow and exceed human possibilities.
A place that’s free from the expectations, obligations and restrictions of religion, a place where we can be ourselves. A place of the supernatural and a place where Jesus is free to be Himself.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Mega happiness’
Taken from a Psalm of David chapter 16:5 – 11
You, my LORD, are all I want, and you give me all I need; you are my future.
How wonderful are your gifts to me; how good they truly are.
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
I have put the Lord always before me; he is my strength, I will not be moved.
Therefore my spirit is glad, and my soul rejoices: my body rests in hope.
For you will not abandon me nor let my soul be imprisoned.
You will show me the path that leads to life; your presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure.
In the middle east girls and women of the family usually look after the sheep. King David as the youngest child was the family shepherd, because there were no girls in his family to do the job.
So the adult male shepherds on Christmas cards give a false impression. There are good reasons to think the shepherds the angels announced Jesus’ birth to were women. I think the first to hear that good news of a supernatural event, the birth of a unique life, were women.
Also outside the tomb in the garden of Gethsemane an angel announced to women the good news of a supernatural event, the re-birth of a unique life.
The first two words of the angels at the nativity and at the resurrection were ‘fear not’, that’s no coincidence, especially when in each story two more very important and significant words appear which are, ‘great joy’. The first instance was ‘great joy’ going in and on the second it was ‘great joy’ being expressed.
Joy is not a word we use much these days. Joy basically means happiness. The English word ‘great’ in the Greek is ‘mega’, so great joy is ‘mega happiness’.
About a year ago Lynn walked into Liberty for the first time. She had suffered repeated rejection from Christians. Rejection hurts, I know, I’ve had a taste. But it cuts deeper when you are rejected not just for what you do, but for who you are.
When that rejection tries to tell you that God rejects you as well then it becomes spiritual abuse. That is what Lynn experienced and is what many of us here have experienced.
To be treated like a leper is simply awful. Where is the love, where is the respect for a fellow human being, where is the good news?
Over the last year Lynn has been able to share the pain she experienced and find support and understanding to help her towards healing. Her pain has turned to the happiness I saw on her face as she preached here last Sunday. The good news of mega happiness has gone in to Lynn from Liberty and now comes out from her to others.
Months ago Lynn had a question, ‘Why has God brought me to Blackpool?’ Now she knows. It’s to spread mega happiness wherever she goes, as the Lord leads her on in her ministry.
The apostle Paul tells us in Ro 14:17 That ‘the kingdom of God is... righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.’ Ro 5:18 tells us that righteousness is a gift, its free to all God’s children. We can’t work for it or earn it. It is the giving of God Himself, it is His own righteousness, bestowed upon those who trust in Him. We are now seen as holy and perfect in God’s sight Col 1:22.
Our peace comes from knowing that God Himself has made us right with Him. We may not have peace with other people or with life in this world, but we have peace with God. It is the peace that passes understanding, perfect peace because we trust in Him. Living in peace with God is something to be mega happy about.
For me, coming from a religion of condemnation into the freedom of the gospel of great joy makes me very happy, even mega happy. I’m no angel, as you know, but I bring good news of great joy.
Ro 8 tells us ‘that the Spirit of life has set us free from religion and its demands.’ Religion the text says that is ‘devised by humanity for humanity which ultimately fails because of humanity.’
We are warned that ‘those who live according to their human nature and its desires have their minds set on their own needs.’ Whereas ‘those who live according to the Spirit have their hearts fixed upon the desires of the Holy Spirit.’
When we focus on living according to the man made demands of religion that path leads to a dead end.
Whereas the Spirit takes us along the path of righteousness into the life of peace and mega happiness. It is in the Spirit that the fruit of the Spirit joy and peace is to be found.
It is not only Christmas cards that give a false impression, religion also gives a false impression.
We all to easily put our confidence in the false news of religion and its practices.
The angel that spoke to the shepherd women, and the angel that spoke to the women at the empty tomb, both announced good news of a supernatural event that brought God’s life into this world.
Lynn’s preaching last week was a supernatural event that brought God’s life into this place. If our meetings are not a supernatural event it is religion. Religion can never ever bring life, unique life conceived and birthed by God through His Holy Spirit.
At the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit a supernatural event recorded in Acts 2, onlookers said the disciples seemed drunk. They weren’t, they were delirious, experiencing life in the Spirit for the first time and they were overflowing with mega happiness.
Lord may the river of life overflow in this place and so bring the glory of mega happiness to your throne. I close with Jude verse 24, ‘Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with mega happiness.’
Extracts from Lynn’s Preach ‘Psalm 139'
O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar…….. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD..........you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
…….For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well……. ……..test me and know my anxious thoughts. ………….lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:1-24
Celebrity gossip is big business. A photo of Posh and Becks can bring a fortune, a photo of Victoria smiling will be worth thousands! The media is full of celebrities. We compare our lives to theirs and we somehow feel less!
Some of us are very private people, we will only let you know what we want you to know.
Others are an open book but still we like to control what is know about us.
Psalm 139 lets us know exactly who we are. It tells me that God truly knows all of me. This is a Psalm that can bring deep healing.
The writer of Psalm 139, King David, describes God as The One who knows all things. Nothing past, present or future is hidden from Him. Six different Hebrew words are used to tell us that God knows our story intimately. We are deeply loved by Him and held close by Him.
Over and over the Bible affirms this. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. When you feel the crushing weight of loneliness and wonder if you would be missed if you were gone, remember, you are known and wanted by Almighty God.
He is the God who can be experienced in any place There is nowhere that his love and presence can’t reach us. We can’t be anywhere other than in his presence. David recognises that he cannot hide from Him, even if he wanted to.
God sees deep into our psyche, he knows our thoughts and motives, he knows our secret struggles, he knows our heartbreak and our loss. And he loves us.
He is the God who can do all things. David says that the script for our life was already written by God, that he has carefully mapped the details of our calling. We have a purpose and His thoughts are on us constantly. He loves our company. And He has specific plans that we alone can fulfil. He crafted us, designed us, he formed us in our mother’s wombs.
And God is intimate with us. But this is not a scary place to be......Oh to be known so intimately and yet be so completely loved. God is not judging us, he is in love with his creation.
David had done just about everything that people tell us would separate us from God. Adultery, murder, cheating etc etc, yet David was fully known by God and fully loved. God had formed his DNA - No transgression can change that, we don’t start from a place of rejection we start from a place of pure, unconditional love. Nothing is hidden from God.
He knows all the things that have made us who we are. The damage others have caused to us by their words and deeds and the damage we have caused to them. He knows the attitudes we have, that are destructive to our human relationships. He knows our struggles with addiction, he knows the pain of our losses, he knows our nightmares and anxiety and he loves us..…
We are who God says we are, and He says “we are wonderfully made”. We are his beloved, the apple of his eye, he knows us and loves us. We can never be insecure when we have a relationship like this.
There is nowhere we could possibly be that is away from his presence. No sorrow, no loss, no depression, no addiction, no disability. The Psalm says if we feel like we are in the grave - He is with us.
If I am wonderfully made then so are you , I can’t see anything other than Gods fingerprints all over you. I can’t discriminate against you, I can’t reject you, I need to see you as God sees you.
No one can tell me I don’t belong, no one can judge me, no one can put demands on me that are not compatible with Gods will for me. I hold my head up high because I am known by Almighty God and He says I am ok! My heart thirsts for more, more of you God.
If you don’t know who you are today read this psalm. If you feel lost in the world read these words. If people tell you you are less - read it. Take time to rest and heal in this intimate relationship. Let it heal you.
Don’t listen to those old voices that tell you you are worthless or stupid. If it was a parent or a partner or a school teacher they lied. Listen to who God says you are.
You are loved unconditionally and completely. Fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together by the very hand of God. The God who flung the stars into space shaped and formed you, there is no safer place to be.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Faith, Hope and Love'
Reading from the beginning of Romans 5:1-5
...Since we have been made righteous through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope, in the expectation of the glory of God...
hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his
love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Tonight’s reading speaks of Faith, Hope and Love. At the end of 1Co 13, the famous chapter on love, it says of Faith, Hope and Love, love is the greatest. Faith hope and love are needed in this life but only love the greatest remains in the next.
Some Christians focus on love as being the answer to everything we need in life as a Christian, (I once did), others focus on faith. But hope is very rarely spoken about.
So what are these qualities in the scriptural sense? 1Cor 13 tells us about pure love that keeps no record of wrongs and never fails, surely this is about the purity of God’s love. My love is an impure emotion; my human love fails regularly, like everyone else’s. At times God empowers me with his love when I’m able to love beyond my human limitations.
Faith is trusting in God and all that He is, merciful, just, true, loving, faithful. It’s a sureness in His faithfulness, the faithfulness He has revealed to us. It is from God, a free gift from Him, not anything we can muster up ourselves. Hebrews 11 tells us that faith has a substance and has a real effect on us, it’s our inward evidence for what cannot be seen.
Hope is a vivid expectation of something God has promised that will surely come to pass; a knowing that even though we cannot see it God can, it has substance and it exists. It is a work of the Holy Spirit in us. While faith is about trusting God and His nature hope is about having a distinct expectancy that what He has promised us will come to pass.
When God has revealed something to us, it becomes a reality to our spirit; it is the only evidence we need to know in our inner being that it is true. We may not see it with our eyes but we can perceive it in our inner self, in our spirits.
When a woman is expecting a child, the child is real though she cannot see it. Her confident expectation is not without substance, mother nature guarantees it; and the woman knows that something beautiful and wonderful will happen.
Scripture declares there is one God yet three manifestations; Father, Son, and Spirit. God has one nature yet scripture declares three manifestations of it Faith, Hope, Love. Three yet one.
The love of the Father, the faith of the Son, and the hope/the expectancy of the Spirit (Ro 8:23)*.
Scripture repeats: ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.’ Abraham the father, Isaac the Son, Jacob represents the Spirit.
In the Gospels Jesus often takes Peter, James and John with Him to the exclusion of all others.
Peter represents the faith of Jesus, John represents the love of the Father and James therefore represents the hope given by the Holy Spirit.
(Remember in the Old Testament Jacob represented the Spirit. James was Greek for Jacob).
These things are not a coincidence they are to teach us. Father, Son and Spirit three yet one, Faith, Hope, Love three yet one.
Faith, Hope and Love are fulfilled in Jesus who is the glory of God.
Liberty is built on the foundation of Faith, Hope, and Love. It was out of His love for this community that He sent Nina and me, it is out of faith in God, and His faithfulness that we came.
He has given us our hope, our confident expectation that He will reveal His glory among us.
We have a sure expectation that after a period of gestation Liberty will give birth to something that is beautiful and wonderful.
Faith, Hope and Love are featured in tonight’s reading where it is recorded that faith in God, given to us as a gift, renders us righteous in his sight. So faith brings peace of mind because we know that at all times and in all circumstances, no matter what we are like or how we fail, we always, always have right standing with God.
This undeserved favour, known as grace, gives us hope, that confident expectation, the overwhelming feeling in that we know, that we know that we know, that we are welcomed and included in the glory of God.
We hope in confidence because God has poured His love into our hearts. Our experience of His love is our guarantee that our faith and hope are true.
His love is where our trust and expectation was conceived. His love brings life to the glory of God within us. The glory of God whose name is Jesus.
* Ro 8:23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Experiential Truth’
Reading taken from Acts 15
Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the Gentile believers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be Christians."
Paul disputed this and went up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. A council was convened and the apostles and elders considered this question.
After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them:
"Brothers, I bear witness to Paul’s testimony. God, who knows the heart, showed me personally that he accepted the Gentiles by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.
Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of these Gentile disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?
We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."
Theology basically means, a system of religious teachings and beliefs. We all took on the beliefs of the first church we were in when we came to faith.
But on top of those beliefs, we have all had our own personal experiences of God, sometimes collectively sometimes individually. This is what I call experiential theology or experiential truth.
It was when my experience of Jesus in my life and in the lives of others came into conflict with what I was being taught that I began to question.
Anna, who is 10 years old, overheard Jay telling Nina about phobias saying, ‘Theo-phobia was the fear of God,’ Anna interrupted, ‘Who could be afraid of God? He’s a lovely guy!’
Pr 14:27 says, ‘The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,’ but Anna’s experience of ‘a lovely guy’ calls into question what the bible seems to be saying. We’d be fools to dismiss Anna’s experience, so maybe we should question our interpretation of the bible.
Experience sometimes contradicts what we’ve been taught. We can’t ignore experience.
A few years ago a couple of holiday makers wandered into a Liberty service not realising that most of our congregation are LGBT. They entered into the Holy Spirit inspired worship. But they were surprised by Robert, who was giving his testimony that Sunday. They listened to a gay man describe his relationship with Jesus. They had not known that such a thing was possible.
This conflicted with their theology which said that gay people were not acceptable to God. Before they left they told us they had to re examine their theology because of their participation in worshipping with LGBT people and experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit in our gathering, this had shown them they had got it wrong on gay issues.
In John 9 Jesus healed a young man on the Sabbath who had been blind from birth. This healing troubled the religious beliefs of the Pharisees whose rules stated that no work (and they saw healing as work) could be done on the Sabbath. To them the Sabbath was a sacred cow, no one could touch it. So they discounted their experience of the miracles they could plainly see in favour of religious rules. The Pharisees who were blinded by the teachings of religion, and the disciples were too.
Peter had looked down on Gentiles all his life and saw them as ‘unclean’. The other week Lynn spoke about the experience God gave Peter in a vision (Acts 10) that changed a lifetime’s prejudice.
After that powerful experience Peter said ‘God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean’. From then on Peter started treating the Gentiles as equals.
While Peter was away from Jerusalem, James, the brother of Jesus had somehow become the church leader. It’s thought that James sent out the Judiasers to the new Gentile churches. They were insisting that Gentile Christians should be circumcised.
Paul went to Jerusalem to sort the problem out. The church council listened to Paul saying, ‘God is saving Gentiles, baptising them in the Holy Spirit and they are journeying on in the Spirit.’
This evidence proved the Gentiles didn’t need the Jewish rite of circumcision to know Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Peter supported Paul witnessing to this experiential truth.
But then Acts 15 tells us that James says, “Listen to me…my judgement is this.” Note: James’ judgement, not the Holy Spirit, not even the council of church leaders.
James decided to lay down religious rules, ignoring the fact that up till now the Gentiles had got on very well without any rules.
Despite the experiences related by Paul and Peter, James defaulted to his religion and its traditions blinding James to Paul and Peters testimony which like Roberts was shouting out ‘your theology is wrong,’ but James couldn’t see it.
Its experiential truth I want folks of Liberty to look at. Examine what your previous church taught you and see what conflicts with your own experience. Take note of your personal experience. Value your experience its important and tells you a lot about how Jesus relates to you.
Remember, spiritually the most powerful thing we have is our own story of our experiences with Jesus. Don’t waste time arguing the bible with anyone. You won’t change them and you’ll fall out.
But tell someone your testimony, your account of your experiences with God, and ask them about their testimony. Our experiences of God in our lives draw us together and opens our eyes more to the wonderful unique way He works in each person’s life.
Our testimonies are experiential truth. And an invitation for people to meet Jesus in us.
Extracts from Jim’s Preaching ‘Waiting’
Reading from Luke 10:38– 42
As Jesus and his disciples were on their journey, they came to Bethany where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.
She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
But Martha was distracted by all the serving. She came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
"Martha," the Lord answered, “only one thing is needed.
Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
I see it as right and proper that as a society we should look after the weaker ones in the community. With that mindset I was delighted to read that at the very beginning of the church (recorded in the Book of Acts) newly converted Christians were selling their property to finance the support of the poor.
I thought that as Christians today we imitate them by doing the same and that this would revitalise the church and bring many to know Jesus. I thought, as many did at that time, that we should base our church on the church of Acts and do what they did.
But in time I realised that that was not the answer. Imitating what other Christians had done was not the way forward. The Lord showed me NOT to base my actions on the actions of the church of Acts, but base them on what the church of Acts was based on.
wThe church of Acts was based on Jesus. They were responding to what He inspired them to do and they were empowered by the Holy Spirit.
We often hear Christians say that we should imitate Jesus’ example and be like him. But we fail to walk on water, heal all who come to us, multiply loaves and fishes, and raise the dead. We fail miserably to imitate the supernatural Jesus and resort to trying to imitate His humanity, by trying to be loving and caring. But we fail.
But Jesus didn’t ask us to imitate Him. He asked us to follow Him. Follow Him by responding to him, wanting to know what he is saying to us and responding to His leading.
Truly imitating Jesus is saying in your heart ‘your way not mine Lord’, in everything.
Paul wrote; Ro 15:18-19 ‘ I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in my ministry, by what I have said and done, by the power of signs and miracles, all through the power of the Spirit.’
Just like Jesus, Paul accomplished everything through the power of the Spirit. And the Spirit only empowers the things the Lord calls us to do.
Doing only what the Lord leads us to do is my goal and my desire for Liberty. Like Paul I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through us. I know there are those at Liberty with the same ardent belief, goal, desire and purpose.
Someone who once came to Liberty critically asked, ’Why does Liberty not have a programme of good works like other churches do? The simple answer is that Jesus has not led us that way at this time. He has led others down that path but at present is not leading us that way. We only want the works He leads us into. He always leads his children down their own unique path.
We want supernatural God works not our own good works. We want to imitate Paul and be truly Christ like and accomplish everything through the power of the Spirit.
Jesus gave up His job left home and trusted God for His next meal and a place to sleep. Jesus told his disciples ‘"Take nothing for the journey, no bread, no bag, no money, no spare clothes.” Like Jesus the apostles relied totally on God and never did good works only God works.
That is the foundation of the church in Acts. Christ like they absolutely trusted God for everything. Everything they needed to live and to find their direction in life.
Jesus waited 30 years for His ministry to begin, the disciples waited in the upper room, Paul waited in the Arabian desert and I waited 20 years for Jesus to call me to start Liberty. And at the God appointed time He opened every door and removed every obstacle to establish it.
In tonight’s reading we find Mary sat at Jesus’ feet learning, in another story Mary is sat at Jesus’ feet worshipping and in another story she is sat patiently waiting for Jesus to arrive. She was criticised for this. But scripture tells us Mary responded when Jesus called her.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sat resting awaiting the call, blow the criticism, I’m waiting on Jesus. I’m not rushing anywhere I’m waiting at His feet because I only want his ways, not mine.
There have been countless criticisms of those that have patiently waited for the Spirit of Jesus, waited for the mighty rushing wind that serves and saves, feeds and fills, cures and comforts, invigorates and inspires. In my view it’s always worth waiting for.
Jesus we wait. We wait for the wind of your Spirit and for you to do your work in us and through us.
Extracts from Jim’s Preaching ‘Special’
Colossians 1:12 - 18
Giving thanks to the Father, who has made us fit to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he is supreme.
On my first visit to India I found myself preaching to 5,000 people. Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking and I had suffered badly from it in the past. But the Lord had cured me of it and it had to be cured to fulfil my calling from Him.
Although this huge number of people was the largest congregation I had ever experienced I had no nervousness at all. I spoke with confidence, to me a miracle!
The evening before I had gone with the pastor to visit a women’s compound on the outskirts of the city. I held a girls orphanage, a workshop where women were taught how to sew, a women's bible college and a widows refuge.
Before me were 2 lines of over a hundred girls and women all dressed in pink saris. From tiny tots to elderly widows they path and as I walked in they showered me with flower petals and sang. Other women stepped out at intervals and draped colourful shawls around my shoulders; a sign of honouring someone in India.
Embarrassingly I cried all the way. I’ll never forget them. Later I sat in the home of my host Pastor Gnana Prakasam and asked him why he had honoured me. I’m an introvert from
Blackburn, no academic qualifications whatsoever, no theology degree from a bible college and a dodgy sense of humour I use to cover up my inadequacies.
Gnana, a small plump uneducated Pastor and leader of a church of over 20,000 people simply said
‘I honoured you because you are a child of God’.
There was nothing I could say; we became friends. I’ll never forget Gnana Prakasam.
The law of Moses has many faults but it has good things about it. After gaining a deeper understanding of grace I could see the heart of God in the instructions for sacrificial offerings in Leviticus.
God asked the rich to bring a bullock the most expensive of the offerings, the next not so wealthy brought a lamb and the poor brought pigeons. It wasn’t the size or expense that mattered it was the heart of the person making the offering that mattered.
Though of varying sizes and values, the different offerings were all accepted as sweet perfume to the Lord. In God’s economy everyone was valued just the same. This is a lesson of Leviticus. Human achievements and wealth matter not a jot to God. He is interested in our heart attitude to Him.
As children of God we inherit the riches of heaven. Gnana born in poverty but spiritually very rich.
Gnana treated me as special, honoured even though I didn’t deserve it. God called me and treats me as special even though I don’t deserved it.
Sometimes I’m easily irritated, sometimes opinionated, some times I’m bossy; I feel too inadequate and I have too many flaws. But, I have learnt though it’s not about me, it’s about Him. The Lord will reveal Himself through the fog of me, His light will shine through.
When you are a child of God you’re special. It doesn’t matter what others say or think, you’re special to the Lord, the only One that matters.
God is your friend. He finds you worthy to be called His friend. God holds you in the highest esteem. God will always treat you with respect, holding you in the highest regard. All God has is yours. You are under His protection.
If you are hurting so is He. The Lord of the universe feels at one with you and loves you unconditionally and eternally.
Though you may not feel it or deserve anything at all, the Lord has made you fit to share in the riches of heaven. They are yours, they are your rightful inheritance.
My friends, as a friend I give you this advice; make the Lord the desire of your heart, be at one with Him. Stand firmly and fixed in His grace. Always, always knowing he loves you no matter what.
Seek Him with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, He will bless you far beyond your human standing, your intellect, your abilities, even your imagination.
In the Lords eyes you are a success, you are unique, the Lord has made you that way. Never forget you are a child of God, and He honours you. You are special.
Extracts from Lynn’s Preaching ‘Made Clean’
(Peter) became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air.
Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." …….
…….. Cornelius (a Gentile) was expecting (Peter and others) ….As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only a man myself."
He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.’ Extracts from Acts Chapter 10:10-28
Ours is a world full of boundaries and divisions. No-trespassing signs warn the uninvited to stay out. Lines painted on the floor tells us when we are “out of bounds”. I was recently in Belfast where streets are separated into catholic and Protestant areas.
From fenced gardens to fenced borders, our boundaries seek to keep the insiders in and the outsiders out. And of course we have Trump’s wall...
This week I heard of a church who refused to bury the ashes of a gay man. It seems that even the churchyard has barriers as to who’s allowed in and who’s not!!!
Boundaries not only segregate. We know who we are by both our identification with "our people" and our moving away from those who are not like us! We have felt that most keenly in how the church has (and still does) treat LGBTQ people! Only this week a Bishop suggested that communion should be withheld from people in same sex relationships.
But in tonight’s story in the book of Acts we find the extravagance of the Holy Spirit and the wideness of God's grace. There is nothing and no one unclean who God has made clean.
I have lost count how many times people have said - “we need to get back to the early church way of doing things”. Yes we do and they knew that no one is is unclean who God has made clean.
Or as the Message version says “If God says it’s OK, it’s O.K!”
This story demonstrates that the Spirit of God is not bound by the limitations that the Church and religion puts on it. We can’t put Gods grace in a box, we can’t contain it and we can’t withhold it!
The Spirit is not only poured out on the Gentiles; it is given to the Jewish Christians, enabling them to see with new eyes and capture a new vision of the kingdom of God.
I have lost count how many times people have said - “we need to get back to the early church way of doing things”. Yes we do and they knew that no one is is unclean who God has made clean.
As we hang around people like us we feel safe with we contribute to the visible and invisible boundaries of segregation between "us" and "them".
The reassurance of this story tonight is that Peter was not able to cross the boundaries on his own. He was trying to be a good Jew and keep away from unclean people. But the outpouring of the Holy Spirit empowered him to move from his segregated place of who’s in and who’s out!
The Holy Spirit broke the barriers between Jew and Gentile, male and female, black and white, LGBT and straight. The Holy Spirit propelled the story of the resurrection beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem and Galilee as He burst into the world.
Peter was given a vision to see people differently. To see them as God sees them: not unclean but clean.
Here at Liberty we are experiencing visions and pictures of God's expanding grace. We are not on the outside looking in, we ARE on the inside. We are completely and utterly acceptable to God, not because we are something special BUT because of Jesus. When God looks at us he sees Jesus.
People out there who think they are on the outside don’t know they are acceptable to God. They have no idea of Gods amazing grace. We are the voices from the margins of society that can tell them.
In Blackpool Pride parade yesterday Big Jesus’ presence screamed out love and grace and people loved him. People wanted to reach out and touch him. When they see an image of Jesus dancing at Pride they recognise, maybe for the first time, His immense grace and His delight in welcoming everyone!
Isn't it just like the Holy Spirit to interrupt Peter’s idea of who’s in and who’s out in order to give him an unmistakable sign of God's grace? “Nothing and no one is unclean who God has made clean.''
I have had to let go of my hatred of Franklin Graham because God’s grace is big enough to embrace him too. It’s not his job or my job to say who’s in and who’s out. My job (our job) is to share God’s wide, wide grace.
Because NO ONE, NO ONE is beyond Gods’ grace. There is nothing and no one unclean who God has made clean.
As we move on to St Paul’s Worship Centre maybe like Peter we might be pushed out of our comfort zone. Pushed by the Holy Spirit to reach out to others who believe they are on the outside looking in.
But we don’t have to do it on our own, the Holy Spirit will empower us and God’s grace will burst out of the containers we keep Him in to restore the broken hearted and set the captives free......
Extracts from Jim's Preach 'More Excellent'
Abel, Enoch and Noah, from the list of faith heroes in Hebrews 11:4 – 7
‘By faith Abel offered God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.’
Many Christians today say their life is based on the bible, but in reality it is founded on a relatively small number of verses they have memorised. As the preacher said, ‘today's church relies more on a book the early Christians didn't have, rather than on the Holy Spirit the early Christians did have’.
Let’s look our list of three heroes of faith. They all lived before the bible or any scriptures had been written. Abel had no bible yet he offered the more excellent sacrifice to the Lord.
So how did he know how to bring a more excellent sacrifice to please God? I reckon his name tells us. Abel means ‘breath’ which is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Like the early Christians he relied on the Holy Spirit.
Enoch was the first of 7 people listed in scripture who were ‘changed in the twinkling of an eye’ through faith in God. Faith inspired by the Spirit can bring changes that no book ever can.
Noah’s name means ‘comfort’. Again a symbolic name of the Holy Spirit.
No matter who we are or what our natural abilities are, every Christian here can respond to God with faith or in other words trust. Trust is the more excellent attribute.
The more excellent only comes through grace and faith. God by his grace giving us a Spirit inspired confidence in Him.
God was Noah’s companion in his journey of life. Noah was not bound by a bible, nor by religion, he was saved by grace through faith. Noah lived under grace. He lived before the ten commandments and the Law of Moses. Yet Noah trusted God and followed his leading even when it didn’t make sense to him or those around him.
I think I know something of what Noah felt when I felt that the Lord asked me to build a different sort of church.
The spiritual life can be likened at times to the natural life that progresses from infancy, to adolescence, to maturity. I remember when the Lord urged me to pray and praise Him out loud in church, I couldn’t do it. He urged me express myself in worship, I couldn’t do it.
In the infancy of my Christian life I couldn’t do it. But as I grew and matured in the Lord things that had seemed so difficult became easier. In time I grew to have a confidence in recognising the voice of the Lord and I was able to respond when he said to me ‘Will you take me to the LGBT community and build a church?’ I couldn’t do what he asked by myself but inspired by His Spirit I could.
Another thing I have in common with Noah is the coming rain. Rain symbolises the Holy Spirit
I do know that the rain of the Holy Spirit is coming to soak our community in God’s presence.
A long time ago I sensed that we should not rely on any external things for our faith journey into a different land. So we don’t have external symbols of our faith like communion, baptism or collections. We rely on Gods natural and spiritual provisions just as God supplied the different provisions for all the different occupants of Noah’s ark, for their journey into a different land.
We rely on Him to provide the finance we need for the church and for Him to baptise us in his Holy Spirit and to give us ongoing communion with Himself and each other.
Another thing I felt was, that I personally was never to directly invite anyone to Liberty. Noah didn’t round the animals up, they came willingly by themselves, in exactly the right numbers.
The ark had every provision needed for the different occupants. There were choppy waters to be experienced and plenty of crap to be jettisoned. The journey had a safe ending for all on Mount Ararat. ‘Ararat’ means ‘the curse reversed’. It was a new beginning.
Liberty has varied provisions for various occupants. There has been and will be choppy waters to be experienced and plenty of crap to be jettisoned. A new beginning, the old has to be thrown out.
Though blessed by some, Liberty has been and is cursed by others. Be assured God is going to reverse the curse. He promised ‘I will bless you and you will be a blessing’.
Because the Lord by His Spirit has and will make Liberty more excellent in His sight, full of different people for a different land. People of faith in the land of grace.
Extracts Jim’s Preach ‘A New And Living Way’
Taken From Hebrews 10
The animal sacrifices repeatedly offered year after year, failed make perfect those who draw near to worship…….But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, leaving worshippers with a guilty conscience.
We however have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who have been made holy.
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. …….Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to boldly enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way opened for us through the curtain,
Let us draw near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
According to Matthews Gospel the moment Jesus died the curtain in the Temple tore in two, from top to bottom. The Temple curtain was not like a thin fabric curtain on a stage. It was like thick heavy tapestry made of woven linen to keep out any light. It took a lot of force to tear it in two.
This is the curtain ‘opened for us’ referred to in tonight’s reading, an opening the writer informs us is a new and living way. This replaced the old dead way.
In the Temple the priests (who had to be from the tribe of Levi) progressed from the altar at the entrance, to the Laver, a big bowl of spring water where they washed their feet, to the Holy Place separated by the curtain from the Most Holy Place. Only the high Priest could go into the Most Holy Place where the manifest presence of God was and he could only go in once per year, in fear and trembling in case he might offend God.
At the altar animals were sacrificed day and night for the sins of the people but, as Hebrews says, they ‘failed to make perfect those who drew near to worship’.
The Altar symbolises Jesus’ cross. It is through the cross we have been cleansed from sin and made holy. Jesus’ sacrificial death has made us holy and perfect once and for all time. God said "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." A promise that includes us all, yes, you and me.
This promise underlines that perfect forgiveness is forgetfulness. As far as God’s concerned our sins don’t exist. That’s all of them, not just some of them but all, past, present and future.
This is confirmed in Col 1:22 ‘God has reconciled you by the Messiahs sacrifice to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation’.
The next thing you came to in the Temple was the Laver, the big bowl of spring water. The priests already had their sins temporarily dealt with by their sacrifices. The foot washing was to remove the dust of their journey before they entered God’s dwelling, his house. They could then go into the Holy Place to worship and pray.
But in the new and living way, Jesus is our sacrifice, Jesus has washed our feet, and Jesus has made us perfect and holy.
Brothers and sisters we are children of God with the perfect bloodline; priests not of the tribe and temporary order of Levy, but like Jesus in a royal priesthood in the eternal order of Melchisedec.
The new and living way is totally inclusive, it does not discriminate; Jesus’ sacrifice was for us all.
In the Temple only the High Priest could go through the curtain into the Most Holy Place where the presence of God was. But for us, when we reach the Most Holy Place we find the curtain that separates of the presence of God is torn apart and we are right there in God’s presence. We are welcome to enter God’s presence and approach the eternal throne.
This is the new and living way, the curtain completely removed through Jesus’ sacrifice nothing now to separate us from God. Nothing, Nothing, Nothing can separate us from the love of God.
I think all of us here have been rejected one way or another. Told we were not good enough, worthy enough, pure enough. Of ourselves no human being is worthy enough for God. But Jesus is worthy and our imperfect lives are hidden in Him. He is our goodness, He is our worthiness, He is our purity.
It seems to me that for many of us after first coming to know the Lord and discovering the wonder of his presence, it was like someone shut the curtain again. We were told we were not good enough to enjoy God’s presence and blessing and given lists of expectations to fulfil.
The old and dead way that relies on what we do not on what Jesus did will always find fault with everyone. It condemns and excludes. The old and dead way will judge us, reject us and eject us.
But we must never find fault in ourselves, ‘who Jesus sets free is truly free’ Joh 8:36, for ever.
We are not servants of God. We are his children. Servants are paid for what they do children are free to be who they are. A servant has no permanent place in the family but children belong to the family and no child should be afraid or apprehensive about walking into their family home.
The curtain of the old and dead way was torn from top to bottom by God; God has not repaired it, nor renewed it. Lets boldly go into His presence knowing we are always welcomed.
Extracts from Jim's Preach 'Noah'
From Mt 24:37-44
(Jesus said) As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be when I return. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.
That is how it will be when I come back. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
Jesus is saying that the story of Noah relates to what will happen at the end of time when He returns in all His Glory. So let’s look at Noah and how he relates to Jesus.
Ge 6:8 Tells us that ‘… Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD’. It’s the fifth time Noah appears in scripture and the first time grace is mentioned. No coincidence. Remember 5 is the number in scripture for grace.
The story tells that Noah was a man who was always fair in his dealings with everyone, and that Noah trusted God in all aspects of his life. Noah had human failings, he is the first drunk mentioned in scripture, but Ge 6:9 declares Noah as being ‘perfect’. Noah was perfect in God’s eyes.
Again it is no coincidence that the first time the word perfect is written in scripture is the seventh time Noah’s name is found. Noah was also seventh in line after Adam. Remember 7 is the number in scripture for perfection.
The story says that Noah walked with the Lord. They were life time companions.
God wanted the human race to know Him and trust Him, like Noah did. But the people of were not interested. Then God made a very strange request. He asked Noah to build an ark, ark means box, a big ark in the middle of nowhere.
It took Noah 7 years to build the Ark. (7 = perfection in scripture). All who came into the Ark with Noah were saved from the destruction of the flood. All those left behind perished.
The story of Noah symbolises things about Jesus.
Whether they know Jesus or not it is what Jesus has achieved that brings someone into a relationship with God. Scripture tells us that his cross stands outside time ‘from the foundation of the world’ Re 13:8. It is effective from creation till the end of time. Hence Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and all who trust God knew God because Jesus also died for them; such is the power of the cross.
As the water disappeared the ark grounded and ended up on a mountain, Mt Ararat. It reached safe dry ground on 17th April. Ararat means the curse is reversed. 17th April is the date that Jesus rose from the dead.
By his resurrection Jesus reversed the curse that engulfed the whole of humanity (from creation to the end of time) the curse that kept the human race separated from God.
Coming out of the Ark was a new era and a new beginning for Noah’s family. Jesus’ resurrection was the visible start of a new beginning into a relationship with God.
The rainbow in the sky signalled a fresh start, a new beginning.
Prophets described visions of Jesus surrounded by the brightness of a rainbow signalling our new start in spiritual freedom. Jesus said at the end of time the sky will turn to the colours of a rainbow. And so we will be with the Lord for ever, never to be separated from Him.
Do you realise that God’s grace is there for you as it was there for Noah?
Do you know you are in perfect in God’s sight as Noah was?
Do you know that the Lord wants to walk with you as your companion?
Do you realise that He has written the sign of his promise in the sky?
Do you know that the rainbow is a reminder of that promise?
Jesus is coming back, He reversed the curse to allow those who trust God to come into his family, an eternal family saved for an eternal life in Jesus.
Extracts from Lynn’s Preach ‘We Want To See Jesus’
Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast.
They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus."
Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me. John’s Gospel 12:20-26
Celebrities tell us that most want a selfie. People will queue for hours to stand next to someone famous. Here we are in Church and we too are standing alongside those Greeks in our reading, with the Gentiles and those who don’t fit in!
We too have heard strange stories about Jesus. And we, like them want to see him, maybe today we would ask Jesus for a selfie!
We hear this. We’re hungry. We long for the bread of life—bread that truly satisfies.
St.Augustine said: ‘Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee’.
Who is this Jesus that we long to see?
A miracle worker, healing, raising people from the dead? The one to defy the unfair system? The expected Messiah, the one to free people from oppression, the one to bring heaven to touch earth? The one to lead us into life in all its fullness? God walking among us?
Who do we want Him to be? Someone to wipe out our enemies? A Rambo or Che Guevara revolutionary to put the world to rights and right the wrongs? But our world is still falling apart.
I want Jesus to sort out Syria, Palestine and stop all the senseless suffering and pain in the world.
But Jesus defies all our expectations. What Jesus says defies even an East Enders plot twist.
Jesus answers all of us clamouring to see him that his hour has come to be glorified. He talks about the grain of wheat that has to fall and die to produce tremendous life.
He says he who loves his life will lose it but he who ‘hates’ his life will keep it for eternity, (’hates’; meaning willing to risk his comfort and security in this life for Jesus).
He is referring to His death. John makes that clear in verse 33 to follow.
Shock! Why talk about His death? It’s a scandal! He has come to die at the hands of His enemies and so dismantle the hold of evil. It is totally against what we see as victory. What sort of victory is this? How can His death show God’s glory?
I want to see the real deal, victory over enemies, an end to pain and suffering.
The Good News is totally against our expectations. But the Good News Jesus proclaims cuts against those expectations. And the cut runs deep, touching the very stability of our lives. And if the shock of that sight is not enough, he tells us that we can never go back to the way things were, we are to be changed, His grace draws us in and we are no longer the outsider looking in.
We too each need to be able to lose our life to truly find it for eternity.
Jesus’ journey starts at the cross and ends with the resurrection. But the incarnation, God among us, is still going on; it's just as physically real today as it was when Jesus walked the roads of Palestine. (Palestine is the Roman name for Israel).
When the Holy Spirit came to fill up those believers on that very first Pentecost, God once again took on flesh. By giving us the Holy Spirit, God awakens in each of us the gifts that God needs to continue to be here and present in this world.
At that very first Pentecost God became dependent upon human beings in a whole new way, and God has been dependent on us ever since.
People want to see Jesus, people need to see Jesus. Its through us that the incarnation of God continues to live on. We are the Body of Christ. All those in our communities who are in need of God's unconditional love need to be able to find it, find Jesus, by finding us.
They need to find a God who will hold them when they need to be held, who will comfort and reassure them when they are afraid, a God who will laugh with them when they are delighted, a God who will run an errand for them, who will pick up the phone to let someone know that they are being thought of, a God who will mourn with them when they grieve. A God who will house them when they are homeless, feed them when they are hungry, and visit them when they are in prison, who will sit silently with them when they simply need a friend by their side.
A church building is not the body of Christ – we are. We want to see Jesus. People out there want to see Jesus. The question is will they see Him in us?
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘New Creation’
From Paul’s Letter 2Corinthians 5:16 -21
So from now on we regard no-one from a human point of view. Though we once regarded Christ Jesus in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we become the righteousness of God.
We sing ‘I am a new creation no more in condemnation here in the grace of God I stand’
In my early Christian life I sang this a lot but didn’t really understand it.
Those who sang along with me all those years ago I wonder if they knew the depths of those words. I was ignorant of what I was singing. That ignorance was the norm as I and those around me were focused on trying to live according to Christian Religious Activities and Practices (CRAP) to gain merit with God. We didn’t realise the CRAP wasn’t needed.
Back then I didn’t know the fullness of the acceptance found in the grace of our Lord Jesus. I thought my sins could separate me from God.
I didn’t know that: Grace means total, full, completed, unconditional and undeserved acceptance.
Grace does not judge, Grace cannot judge. Grace does not condemn, Grace cannot condemn. Grace does not and cannot separate. Grace does not and cannot reject.
Eph 4:24 points out that the new creation is ‘created in the likeness of God, in righteousness and true holiness.’ Paul now could see things differently. He wrote ‘now I regard no-one from a human point of view’. He saw all Christians as righteous and holy.
Our human vision is so often blind to spiritual truths.
Just as Jesus had two natures a human nature and a divine nature so we have two natures: a human nature and a divine nature according to Peter’s second letter 2Pe 1:4.
Every Christian is a child of their natural parents and a child of God. The apostle Paul reveals His human weakness and his spiritual strength in Roman 7 and 8. In his human
nature he fails in what he wants to do, try as he might. He does what he tries not to do and doesn’t do the things he should do. The frustration only leaves him with a dilemma.
He only gets peace of mind when he realises that this dilemma is rooted in his humanity and his humanity is no longer his true self Ga 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live...
His humanity condemns his failures but he gets the revelation that in his spiritual nature he is a new creation and no longer can be condemned. ‘There is no condemnation for anybody who is in Christ Jesus’ Ro 8:1. No longer do I identify with the son of man, I identify with the Son of God.
I am a child of God, a new creation, in Jesus, in His image, in His righteousness, in His holiness, in His identity. Paul goes on in Ro 8 to say that no longer does his human nature govern his thoughts and actions.
The old as gone the new has come. ‘Reckon yourself dead’ Ro 6:11 to what you once were Paul says. In your humanity and in your religion, in your own efforts to please God, you failed. Now let the new you be guided in a new way and be led by the Spirit.
There is no longer any need for masks of respectability and self righteousness. You are totally acceptable to God exactly as you are now.
Remember it was through the miracle of the virgin birth that God became like you, it is through the miracle of a spiritual birth that you have become like God.
God has done away to establish, the old has gone the new has come: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we become the righteousness of God.
Jesus took our identity so we could take His identity.
Who are we? We are the righteousness of God, ‘we all, are changed into the same image from glory to glory ‘2Co 3:18. In 1Jo 4:17 it says ‘as Jesus is, so are we in this world’. Created anew.
‘I am a new creation no more in condemnation here in the grace of God I stand’
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘His Image’
Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
For God was pleased to have all his fulness dwell in him,
Colossians 1:15 - 19
God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” Gen 1:26 What does that mean?
When Nina became a Christian she knew God loved her, loved like she had never been loved before. There was a simplicity in her faith. As well as the immense love there was a new feeling, a feeling that somehow she was connecting with heaven.
Because of problems in her previous marriage Nina rarely went to church for her first 4 years of being a Christian, so she didn’t learn the standards and behaviour required; that is until her marriage ended and she started to attend church regularly.
As happens to most Christians, Nina slowly but surely learned all the Christian Religious Activities and Performance (or CRAP) required by her church. When she met me her reaction was that I ‘was not a proper Christian.’ Because I was no longer steeped in the CRAP.
Her judgementalism had kicked in and was kicking me out, that is until God changed that.
But why was Nina going to reject me? Because CRAP blinds you and can even make you reject yourself as ‘not good enough’.
Genesis says God created humanity to be like God Himself, righteous and holy. It was the God given righteousness and the holiness that, according to the Genesis story, humanity lost when eating from the tree of judgement (judgement is based on knowledge) in the garden of paradise.
They judged themselves, and guilt, shame and fear followed and so they hid. God came along and said, ‘Where are you?’ It’s not as if He didn’t know. This was a rhetorical question, He was speaking to Himself when He said ‘Where are you?’. It’s because God could no longer see His image in them.
He could no longer see Himself in them. He could no longer see His righteousness and holiness in them. They had lost it, they were changed beyond recognition.
Jesus restored those gifts in the new creation. Paul writes about new Christians in Eph 4: 24 ...the new man, created in the likeness of God, in righteousness and true holiness. Notice true holiness, because there is indeed a false holiness.
Jesus said ‘If you’ve seen Me you have seen the Father’. What did He mean? It wasn’t His physical appearance. Isaiah told us what He physically looked like. ‘There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look.’
Yet Jesus said ‘If you’ve seen Me you have seen the Father’, not physically but spiritually, look and see the Fathers righteousness and true holiness in me. True holiness not the false holiness of for example the Pharisees. Pharisees, who Jesus said were blind; blind to the presence of God and His image in Jesus, blinded by their religion and its crap.
Paul said their religion was a ‘veil on their hearts’ 2Co 3:15 a veil that stopped them clearly seeing.
The same veil Nina wore, the religious crap that blinded her and when she first met me her crap caused her to reject me.
Her religion and her self righteousness, her false holiness that she was busy constructing and maintaining had blinded her to the image of God in me, the God made true holiness that God has given me and every Christian.
I am very fortunate that God led me to the Grace and Faith opticians who did things to my vision that now cause me see things very differently. A revelation of the vastness of God’s grace and receiving faith from Him to trust in His grace, makes everything look so different.
I can now see what my crap stopped me from seeing. The first thing I now see in my brothers and sisters is God. His image. I see God’s righteousness and true holiness.
If we can only see our faults and failings, or see ourselves as unworthy before God in any way then there is crap in our eyes and we need an urgent appointment at Grace and Faith, God’s Optician.
A few scriptures: tonight’s reading tonight for one, ‘Jesus is the image of the invisible God’, and without exception so are all Christians ‘created in the likeness of God in righteousness and true holiness.’
Joh 17.22 Jesus said of all His followers ‘Father, the glory which You gave Me I have given them’.
2Co 3.18 Paul about Christians; ‘we all, are changed into the same image from glory to glory...’
I wholeheartedly agree John Gill, the bible commentator, when he writes: ‘from glory to glory; not from the glory of the law to the glory of the Gospel; or from the glory of Moses to the glory of Christ Jesus; rather from the glory that is in Christ Jesus, to a glory in believers derived from Him.’
Put simply the glory of God is a gift to all His children.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Lifted Up’
John 12:27 - 32
Jesus said, "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!"
Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again."
The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgement on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But if I am lifted up from the earth, then will I draw all men to myself."
This was the third time Jesus spoke about being lifted up.
First time was in Joh 3:14 ‘..as Moses lifted up the wilderness serpent, even so must the Son of man be lifted up’.
Jesus was saying the lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness (Nu 21:4-9) was a picture of Himself being lifted up. In their long journey through the wilderness after escaping slavery in Egypt the Israelites complained because the food was the same every day. Manna porridge, manna toast, manna sausages, manna burgers! They were fed up with manna. They were dissatisfied with God’s provision and were rebelling against Him.
Scripture says that as a result poisonous snakes infested their camp, people were dying and Moses cried out to God for mercy. God told Moses to make a brass serpent and put it on a high pole. If anyone bitten by the serpent looked at the brass serpent they would live.
This serpent story in the wilderness links to the serpent story in the parable of the Garden of Paradise. Humanity rebelled the first time. Not satisfied with what God had provided, they wanted more. So a serpent poisoned them with the toxin of pride and independence from God.
Both stories involve humanity rebelling and rejecting what God provided in favour in favour of self sufficiency and self satisfaction.
The antidote and cure needed was the elevation of One named Jesus, who didn’t consider self but made Himself nothing. The one the Psalmist described as ‘a worm’ and you can’t get much lower than a worm.
This man called Jesus trusted God for every provision and was satisfied; He gave God the glory for everything. Jesus was then lifted up, elevated by God to the throne of Glory. We too can lift Him to the rightful place as Sovereign in our lives and be satisfied.
Moses brass serpent was kept by the people and became an object of worship, an idol. Years later King Hezekiah destroyed it along with all the idols in the land. He called it ‘Nehushtan.’ According to a Rabbi, Nehushtan means ‘anything made of brass used for the purpose of worship.’
As human beings we have a tendency to revere objects and rituals even idolise them. There are many brass objects even today that are revered and ‘used for the purpose of worship’ in Christian churches.
The Second ‘lifted up’ verse is Joh 8:28 Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am, and that I do nothing of Myself;
Jesus the man, says that when we elevate Him, He reveals Himself as God. Jesus also said ‘in my humanity I can do nothing of Myself’. He was always totally dependent on the Father.
In dependence on His Father He can do everything according to the will of God. Jesus’ reliance, Jesus’ trust, Jesus’ God given faith pleased God. Jesus was content to walk the path God chose for Him and with God meeting His needs.
As human beings we often think our wants should be met. Our physical and emotional wants then get in the way of our spiritual contentment with what God provides for us in this life.
Christians often concentrate on lifting Jesus up as the man who was crucified on the cross but the work of the cross is finished. Like the brass serpent it was for a specific time and specific purpose. It was of great importance but Jesus is no longer there.
God has lifted Jesus up to the throne of glory, from a worm of a man, to the majesty of a Divine King. That is where we need to focus our worship.
When the work of the cross was finished it was covered in darkness, but the prophet (Eze 1:27-28) tells us Jesus’ throne is bathed in the radiance of a rainbow that shines out from His glorious light at its centre.
It was when I lifted Jesus up to His rightful place on the throne of grace, that the rainbow shone into my life. I realise that that like Him ‘in my humanity I can do nothing of Myself’.
But I fell into the abundant sufficiency of His Grace. Grace big enough for us all to fall into. Grace that frees us beyond our imagination. Grace that isn’t cheap, its free!
I believe with all my heart as we, as His church seek only the heart of God and exalt Jesus above all else He will draw people to Himself as He has promised.
There are those who have over the years have actually seen, the radiance of His rainbow in this church. I also want the people in our community to see the radiance of His rainbow and be drawn to know Him.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach: ‘Something New’
Taken from Matthew Chapter 9:14 – 17
John the Baptists disciples came to Jesus and asked him, "How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?"
Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them?
"No-one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse.
Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."
The Pharisees tried their best to keep all the rules, knowing that they would fail at times.
But they believed that as long as they had tried their best God would not punish them. God’s grace, His undeserved favour, would act like a safety net to protect them from consequences of their failures. Grace to them was just a safety net, not a way of life.
Fasting was way of earning the grace of God to make up for them falling short.
The majority of the Pharisees were trying their hardest to please God and when they did things properly they felt good about themselves with God. Their religious practices gave them a measure of achievement, self worth, of self satisfaction and pride.
Jesus warned His disciples of religion’s downside: pride and a blindness to hypocrisy, judgementalism and prejudice. Jesus accused the Pharisees of what they could not see, their hypocrisy, judgementalism and prejudice towards those who did not do as they did.
Today when people are asked: ‘What’s your opinion of Christians?’ overwhelmingly their reply is, ‘hypocritical, judgemental and prejudiced’. Religion, man made efforts to make ourselves ‘good enough for God’, blinds us. Do Christians see themselves as Pharisees?
When we are engaged in religious practises we think they are vital to please God. We constantly judge our own behaviour and others and see ourselves as better than those who don’t do those things. When we ourselves fail, we pretend we don’t. Hence the false front, the hypocrisy. I know. I, like many of us here, spent years doing it.
Over the years people have asked me why we don’t have Holy Communion at Liberty. Yet they don’t ask me why don’t ever have a collection. Going through rituals like communion give us the illusion of doing something to put us on better terms with God.
That illusion does bring us self satisfaction and a false impression of belonging. Only grace has the power to give us true acceptance and a joyous satisfaction.
Religious practises to put us right with God are part of of the old. Jesus brought in the new. New and old don’t mix, they destroy each other. You can’t put a new patch on an old garment, nor put new wine into old wineskins.
Remember the angels said, ‘I bring you good news of exceeding joy for all.’ Jesus is with us and in us for all time. If you put a new patch on an old garment the first time the garment is washed the new patch shrinks and tear the many times washed and pre-shrunk old garment.
Or new wine; when fermenting and maturing wine needs a new supple wine skin to allow for expansion. Like the man made practises of religion, old wine skins grown hard and un-yielding and would explode if you put new wine with all its fermenting gasses into it.
The old is familiar and unchanging. New wine is too unpredictable, you can’t control it. The old religious practises of the Old Covenant are finished, the new Covenant is different.
The author of Hebrews knew this truth when they wrote, ‘God takes away the first that He may establish the second.’ Heb 10:9. Our day begins in the morning and ends in the evening but in the creation story the reverse is true for God. For it doesn’t say ‘morning and evening’ but the opposite, ‘it was evening and morning the first day… it was evening and morning the second day….etc.’
Before the new day the old day had to disappear. God brought about the principle of doing away to establish.
God has done away with the Christians Religious Activities and Performance (CRAP). All derived from Jewish rituals. The Judeo-Christian religion that so easily turns us from ministers of the good news of exceeding joy in Jesus, to purveyors of bad news, hypocrisy, judgementalism and prejudice.
God has done away with that religion in order to establish absolute Grace. Grace that is a way of life. Grace that is not just a safety net in which to fall in case we falter or fail, but Grace that frees us from the need for any religious practices to impress God.
Grace that frees us from the worry of are we good enough, pure enough, worthy enough. Grace that frees us to be ourselves in the presence of God.
Paul writes 2Co 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! Grace tells us we are perfect in God’s eyes. All the crap that you endured, the burden of all the conditions of all the prejudice and rejection, is finished.
Jesus said it is finished! He has done away with the old to establish the new. We finish with the old by trusting that Jesus makes us welcomed and totally acceptable.
According to scripture, we are new creations, no more in condemnation, here in the grace of God we stand, rooted and established in Jesus.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘The Loving Father’
"There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance…. he then …….. squandered his wealth in wild living.
After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine and he began to be in need……..he longed to fill his stomach with food fed to the pigs he looked after but no-one gave him anything.
"When he came to his senses, he said, ‘I’m starving to death!....I’ll go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned ………I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’
So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with love and compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
The father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet…….. this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
"Meanwhile, the older son was working in the fields. When he came near the house, he heard (the party for the returned son) . ….He became angry….. He said ‘All these years I’ve been slaving for you ….yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.’
"‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and all I have is yours.
Jesus told this parable to reveal what God was like. Some of us have had abusive fathers, others distant uninvolved fathers, but we can all recognise what a good father should be like.
The father in Jesus’ story is scandalously good; scandalous because he went against social customs. The son demanding his inheritance like that brought shame on the father and offended God. The whole family, and society would have completely shunned this wayward son and counted him as dead.
But the scandal was that the Father still loved the son and welcomed him wholeheartedly when he returned, stinking of the pigs he had had to care for and whose food he’d envied.
The son didn’t go home out of love, he went out of necessity. The Father’s welcome showed that the Father never cut himself off from the son, the son had cut himself of from the Father.
The son thought his Father’s acceptance was conditional and depended upon his behaviour. But the Father is too busy covering his long lost son in kisses to say anything about the wrongs he had done. It is written ‘love covers a multitude of wrongdoing’.
The father made a public demonstration of his love for his child, reinstated the garments of son ship showed that his love had not diminished, in any way at all. Everyone said the son had fallen from grace. But the Father’s grace was so vast that his son could only ever fall into it.
The elder son was angry that he had worked hard for his dad all his life and never been offered a party. But he hadn’t realised that he could have had a party any time he liked because all the Father had belonged to him. The elder son had been obsessed with his duty and had become a servant rather than a son.
I myself recognised this in my own Christianity. The message that I, as many others have, was believe in Jesus and become a child of God but then to show you are a Christian by working your socks off serving to God and the church. But not necessarily in that order.
The children of God are taught to work hard to prove they are worthy to be part of the family. But Christianity is about being, not doing. We don’t have to do anything to prove we are God’s children.
None of the characters in the story or those listening to the story understood unconditional love.
How do we as Christians see the wayward son in the pigpen? A bible commentator wrote, in the view of an African the son was in pigpen because no one gave him food, a Russian said he was there due to famine, an American said he was there because he squandered his wealth. My view is that the son was in the pigpen as he needed to get to his lowest point in order to turn back to his father.
My former Christian teaching would have had me rescuing the wayward son, feeding and clothing him etc. He would then never have got desperate enough to go back to his Father.
Sometimes we can interfere in what God is doing in someone’s life due to a mindset that tells us what we should do according to our understanding rather than look to the Holy Spirit for His leading.
The teaching of Liberty is recognising who we are in Jesus and that God’s love is completely without conditions. Our Christian walk is then to live in close relationship with Jesus and respond to His personal leading in our lives. All He asks of us is to follow Him.
The parable of the Loving Father is about the unconditional love of the father. The parable ends with a teaching for us all. The Father tells the elder son ‘All I have is yours’.
Both sons had their fathers approval simply because they were his children, his own flesh and blood.
Are these the errors of Christianity that the parable is highlighting? Bad behaviour makes us think we have lost God’s approval, or we think we have to work hard to continue to have God’s acceptance.
As children of God we inherit His righteousness and holiness. They are our hereditary condition. Our Fathers righteousness and holiness is in His children’s spiritual DNA. ‘All I have is yours.’
We need to recognise this fact that we are always the perfect children of God. Born in the image of our brother Jesus 2Co 3:18. Always, always possessing the Father’s total unconditional love.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘The Lord Our Righteousness’
‘I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God.
He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head with crowns, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the soil makes the young plant come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.’ Isaiah 61:10,11
At the beginning of Luke’s gospel the messenger announced: “Do not fear; for I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people.”
To me this declaration says, “I’ve some absolutely fabulous news without an ounce of fear in it, there’s no fake news or bad news it’s marvellous news filled with joy, a deep down feeling of happiness. Its not a bit of joy, nor a little joy, its great joy, it’s massive and for everyone.
Scripture records that Jesus went everywhere preaching this good news. At the end of Jesus’ ministry the last thing Jesus says to His disciples is, "Go everywhere, as far as your little legs will take you and preach the fabulous news to all, everyone without exception.’
It’s the same inclusive ‘good news of great joy’ that Liberty brings to our community.
When we first opened the doors of Liberty we were shocked to find people who had been targets of so much rejection and abuse throughout their lives from churches and Christians.
After listening to years of false news, we knew that the Good News of Jesus would pour healing on the wounds that so many had sustained. The joy would grow as surely as plants grow out of soil. The healing was the fulfilling of Isaiah 54:14 which says: ‘In righteousness you shall be established’.
Righteousness is the firm foundation on which we can all rest. Righteousness means our right standing with God. When we look to God we see purity, holiness, mercy, justice, faithfulness, loveliness.
As Paul writes in Col 3:3 ‘our lives are now hidden with Jesus in God’. When God looks at us He sees Jesus’ purity, holiness, justice, mercy, faithfulness, loveliness.
It is written that ‘Abraham believed God and God deemed Abraham righteous’ in other words simply because Abraham whole heartedly trusted God He honoured Abraham with His own righteousness.
From that moment on Abraham could do no wrong in the eyes of God. Read Abraham’s story you’ll find that’s true, despite all Abraham’s faults. It’s just as true for us, God’s children.
Col 1:22 ‘Jesus has reconciled you... to present you holy, pure, and faultless in God’s sight.’ That, is good news. Righteousness is a gift, we cannot do anything to earn it or do anything to keep it.
Ro 5:17 ‘...they which receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus the Christ’.
The prophet Jeremiah says one of the names of Jesus is ‘The Lord our Righteousness.’
It is a very hard concept to hold on to, that from the moment we trust with all our hearts in God, from that moment on we can do no wrong in His eyes.
It’s not easy to grasp that truth after a lifetime of being told you’re wrong, sinful, unworthy, undeserving, morally reprehensible, judged, condemned and rejected.
We are not perfect people, neither was Abraham, yet he was a friend of God simply because he believed God. Didn’t Jesus say, ‘You who also believe in Me are not My servants but My friends.’
‘The Lord our Righteousness’ is where we believers stand. He is our rock and our foundation; it is in Him and in His righteousness that we are established both now and forever.
Knowing our position we just no longer believe anyone who tells us we are not worthy to know God, no matter what religious authority they claim. We know that that bad news is not true.
When this truth is settled in our hearts that ‘The Lord is our Righteousness’, fear, anxiousness towards God disappears. We know that nothing, nothing, nothing can separate us from the love of God.
As we are secure in our relationship with God our self worth rises.
If God calls us His friends, His children, His saints, who cares what anyone else thinks or says. The effects of spiritual abuse are drowned in our realisation of God’s acceptance. Negatives are consumed by the positive, the rejections of men are devoured by the inclusiveness of the good news of Jesus our Righteousness.
No wonder another of Jesus’ names is ‘The Lord our Peace’ we know that Peace in reality when we fully know ‘The Lord is our Righteousness’
The Lord who is also our Saviour, our King and yet also our Brother, our Friend.
What a friend we have in Jesus.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Completely Finished’
God appointed His Son heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father"? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son"? Hebrews 1:2- 5
Last week we learned that God’s Son finished God’s business. Tonight’s reading tells us the Son has inherited the business, the business of reconciling humanity to God.
Hebrews chapters 1 and 2 tell of the glory and supremacy of Son of God and says ‘God put everything under His governance and left nothing that is not subject to him.’
Then in Heb 2:9 the writer mentions for the first time the Son of Man, in His humanity.
The Son who is the ‘radiance of God’s glory’; the image of God Himself, worshipped by angels came as a man who tasted death on our behalf. But Jesus only tasted the death. Death could not swallow Him so He ensured that death could not swallow us His saints.
My early Christian experience was the gospel of fear, of guilt, of shame; the bad news of recrimination not the good news of reconciliation. No wonder I left the church.
My church had focused on Jesus’ suffering and death and my part in causing that because of my sins. It seemed the business of God was accusation and blame. The false message was that the Holy Spirit’s job is to keep us focusing on where we had gone wrong.
Heb 2:9 begins, ‘But we see Jesus’. Not what He has done but who He is. He said ‘see me and you see the Father’. In Mt 16 it tells us that the disciples did see.
It was only when they took their eyes off the Son of God that they ran away.
It is only when I took my eyes off the Son of God that I ran away.
When I focused on sin, the Son of Man, the cross, His death, I was looking in the wrong place. I was looking at Jesus the human being.
Jesus cried out on the cross ‘My God why have you forsaken Me’. God wasn’t looking. Why were all his followers from then until now still looking to the cross?
God did not look at a dead man, God looks at His living Son. The Son of Man suffered and died, the Son of God arose and lives. Heb 2:9 says ‘But we see Jesus’, not dying or dead, but alive.
Jesus not on a cross but on a throne. Jesus the King, Sovereign over all.
The book of Hebrews explains the true purpose of the law of Moses. The writer explains that the Law of Moses with its religious practices was only a shadow of the reality that was to come. Like everything in the law, the temple furnishings, ceremonies, feasts and celebrations were all symbolic.
And all are fulfilled in Jesus. Everything was focused on the centre of the Temple where God lived. No one focused on the altar and the sacrifices. They were just a means of getting to the centre.
The centre was where the glory was. The purpose of the law and temple worship was to keep God’s people in a relationship with Him. As long as the temple worship was correctly practised, the relationship was assured, and for long periods of time it worked.
People always broke the religious laws but the law foresaw that and had them covered. The High Priest, had to stay pure. He carried out the intricate ceremonies, confessions and sacrifice of atonement to return all the people to right relationship with God, no matter what laws they had broken.
God reconciled all the people to Himself through the actions of the High Priest. Once a year the High Priest did what was needed to reconcile all the people to God. So God and His people were united, no matter what their faults. The atonement ceremonies took care of those.
Unfortunately this only lasted a year and all had to be repeated year after year. The High Priest had to confess sins, perform the ceremonies and sacrifices year after year after year.
Hebrews tells us that this has now all been fulfilled in Jesus for all time. Jesus had provided the perfect sacrifice that is sufficient for all time. No more confessions, ceremonies or sacrifices. No need for any repetition. Ever.
My old church told me that I had to keep myself pure, I had to repeatedly make confessions. But it wasn’t true. We don’t have to because Jesus our High Priest has taken care of it all, for ever.
At this death on earth Jesus declared ‘it is finished’. The book of Hebrews declares it is also finished in Heaven. Jesus has brought us into relationship with God for all time.
Jesus is our Sacrifice, our Sovereign, our High Priest, our Intermediary; not for a year, but for now and for ever. It is completely finished. We are reconciled to God eternally, we are one with Him, we are His children, both now and for eternity, in Jesus.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Sit Walk Stand’
‘Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in sins—it is by grace you have been saved.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heaven in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by what we do, so that no-one can boast.
Salvation means liberty, freedom from everything that holds us back or limits us. It means stepping into the realm of God. God who is not restrained by anything.
One Sunday many years ago I had preached about salvation and an elderly lady gave me a book called ‘Sit, Walk, Stand’ by a Chinese Christian called Watchman Nee. This book confirmed many of the ways I was thinking. In the book it said:
“The Christian life consists of sitting with Christ, walking by him and standing in him. We begin our spiritual life by resting in the finished work of the Lord Jesus.
That rest is the source of our strength.”
The fact that tonight’s reading says we are sat in Heaven with Jesus and in Jesus is hard to imagine. But it’s not to our imagination that Paul, the author of Ephesians, writes.
Paul appeals to our spiritual, rather than our intellectual, life. God sees us at rest in heaven with Him.
I am in Jesus and in heaven, as well as being in church and in trouble. My position in Jesus is where I see myself, rather than being in trouble as Nina often sees me! Where and how God sees me, is more important than where I or others see me.
Sat in the place of rest, is as Watchman Nee says, “is the source of our spiritual, our Christian strength.” Rest is where we begin our Christian journey.
For emphasis, twice in Hebrews it says “when Jesus had made one offering for sins forever... he took His place and sat at the right hand of God.” For Jesus rest was at the finish of his journey. What was finished and the end for Jesus, was the start and the beginning of our journey.
Our Christian walk needs to be in the full knowledge of the finished work of Jesus.
Remember, the first recorded words of Jesus, ’I must be about my Father’s business?’ His last recorded words were ‘It is finished’.
Jesus had finished God’s business and that business was to reconcile humanity to God. Jesus finished the work of bringing humanity into a relationship with God. We must at all times in our Christian journey, in our walk, trust that Jesus has finished what was needed to reconcile us to God for ever.
We don’t need to add to what Jesus did. Rest and peace comes not by trying but by trusting. We can rest, and be at peace knowing we are fully reconciled to God.
Just as we rest in Jesus, we also walk in Jesus. He is our constant companion, our guide, our help, even our walking stick. The staff on which to lean, the staff upon which to rely; the staff that will always keep us from stumbling on what can be at times, life on a winding rocky road.
At the end of Romans 7 Paul makes an admission; that try as he might, though theologically and intellectually superior, he’d failed to make himself into a Christian worthy to know God.
In the last verse of Romans 7 Paul expresses his relief in knowing he’s been delivered from the awful place of thinking he will never be good enough. Because at last he realises that in Jesus it is finished; no more anxieties, no more worries, no more guilt, no more shame, no more trying.
Then he declares, with great relief, ‘there is no condemnation!’
The old hymn had it right:
‘Standing on the promises of Christ my King, Through eternal ages let his praises ring;
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing, Standing on the promises of God.’
Jesus has brought us into the perfect relationship with God in Him. We’re at the close of business, job done, it is finished and that’s a promise. We can rest in the finished work of Jesus, as children of God seated in heaven, in Jesus, we can put our feet up ‘it IS finished.’
Our Christian journey must begin from this place of rest.
We have a choice, our Christian walk can be according to our humanity with humanities teachings and traditions. We can try our best, or trust in the best..
We can walk with God exactly as we are; no matter our orientation or our shade of gender we can all, without any exceptions, stand firmly on the promises of God.
Ro 8 begins with ‘there is no condemnation’ and ends with ‘NOTHING can separate us from the love of God’ Why? Because of the finished work of Jesus. That is what we rest in, walk with and stand on. From beginning to the end, trust in the beginning and the end, Jesus.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach 'In Spirit and inTruth’
Now Jesus needed to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?"
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus asked the woman for a drink but there is no account of Him getting that drink. The disciples had gone into the town to get food. There is no account of Jesus eating that food.
Jesus felt compelled to go through Samaria, He had a strong feeling that God was leading Him to travel through an area Jews normally avoided. He recognised that sense of leading as He was in union with the Spirit of God.
Like Abraham before Him, this was a journey of faith, following a leading from God to a place He had not been to before. Faith can be one step at a time trusting God for what’s around the corner. Faith can also be great leaps into new, unfamiliar experiences with only one guarantee.
The guaranteed promise from God for all the people of faith; ‘I will bless you and you will be a blessing.’
I’ve experienced the fulfilment of this promise. I know that, like all His children, I’m a blessing to God. And God has worked things out so that there are many ways He has blessed others through me.
Jesus knew that it was not a good idea but a God idea to go to Sychar. It wasn’t Jesus’ will that He needed to go, it was the will of God, hence the certainty of the blessing and the need to go.
Both the woman and the disciples found out from Jesus about the spiritual food and drink that He can give. The woman and the disciples could give physical food and drink. Jesus gives us spiritual food and drink. The physical is of the earth, what Jesus gives is from Heaven.
Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman. That was shocking to Jews! They said Samaritans were unclean. Don’t let them into your synagogues! Don’t let them into your homes! You’ll get contaminated if you associate with them! They were an abomination.
But Jesus ignored religious tradition. And He was not a bit bothered that the woman He spoke to was with lover number six. He didn’t seem to care about her lifestyle. There was no judgemental attitude or condemnation or demand that she change her lifestyle. His silence gave her a freedom to be herself warts and all.
Jesus didn’t concentrate on her morality. He was more bothered about her worship of God. Jesus says we must all worship in Spirit and in truth. Worship not of the earthly realm but of the heavenly realm. Worship in Spirit, the Holy Spirit the person, and in Truth, Jesus the person.
True worship is spiritually alive and increases our sense of our spiritual life in Jesus.
Then the woman revealed her faith in the coming Messiah and Jesus told her He was the Messiah.
The drink Jesus offered to the woman was living water, the Holy Spirit to bring her alive to her union with God. His food was the will of God. In John 6:40 Jesus said ‘, ‘OUR food is the will of God for us, namely to trust in Jesus for life.’
Let’s look at the symbolism in this story: the woman and the disciples represent Christians, the church. They have food and drink they can give Jesus but its temporary, not eternal.
In our humanity we can easily get focused on trying to give Jesus things he doesn’t want, and miss what he wants to give us, and what he really wants from us.
The living water, the Holy Spirit, and the bread of life, Jesus is the staple diet of worshippers. They provide the nourishment we need to live in faith according to the will of God.
The physical food and drink that Jesus didn’t get tells us that in our humanity our man made offerings will not and cannot be accepted. In our humanity we cannot truly give anything to God. We can only return to Him what He has already given us.
We are channels for the living water and the bread of life. It comes from God returns to God. God blesses us and makes us a blessing, to Him then to others.
I have a need to touch heaven, that beautiful, timeless realm where we experience union with God. I recognise that need has been put there by God. God gives us those touches of heaven in our lives and in our worship.
Knowing we can simply be ourselves, let’s worship together in spirit and truth, open to however the Holy Spirit wants to lead us.
Lets receive spiritual food and drink from Jesus to strengthen us in our spiritual journey living our lives in Jesus. Knowing at all times the promise is assured; ‘I will bless you and you will be a blessing’.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach 'The Testimony of God’
Extract from Paul’s letter I Cor 2:1-5
‘When I came to you, I did not come with excellence of speech or a rational argument, to announce to you the testimony of God.
I was determined to concentrate entirely on Jesus Christ Himself, His life and His death upon the cross.
Inwardly I was feeling far from strong; I was nervous and feeling rather shaky.
And my teaching and my preaching were not with persuasive intellectual reasoning, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith should not be in the cleverness of me or anyone else, but in the power of God.’
Paul’s mission was to proclaim Jesus the testimony of God, which further led Paul to testify to the ‘gospel of the grace of God,’ found in Jesus (Acts 20).
Reading these 5 verses again I saw a similarities between Paul and myself: both of us have a focus on Jesus and have an overwhelming desire to make known the amazing good news of God’s grace.
Like Paul I was ‘inwardly feeling far from strong; I was nervous and rather shaky.’ I’m an introvert, I lack academic achievement and I feel I am not an orator or a born communicator. I am though a willing channel. I have had to rely on God to do it through me, despite my faults of sometimes coming over as arrogant, opinionated and way too blunt!
We all have weaknesses in our character but despite those we can all be channels through which God can speak or act. Our weakness is an opportunity for God to show His power.
Paul’s problem was his intellect and his religion, that’s why God took him into the wilderness for three years to change him. He was a hate filled religious fanatic who persecuted and killed Christians. His extreme Jewish religion had to go. Religion and grace are incompatible.
Religion is about external behaviour and appearances. Grace is about inwardly depending on Jesus.
As Paul reminds us ‘our faith should not be in the cleverness of you or I, but in the power of God.’ The weakness of every individual at Liberty is an opportunity to lean on God as that is where he can show his strength when he chooses to work through us.
Scripture tells us that Jesus left all His Divine attributes with God in heaven. He then had to grow and develop over 30 years before he was ready for the task God had for Him. He underwent the slow process of developing His human knowledge, spiritual understanding and the experience of depending on God.
If Jesus had to leave things behind to grow in wisdom and maturity, we have to leave things behind. It’s a slow process, sometimes painful, to bring us to be dependant. We have choices. We can do our own thing or do God’s thing, be independent or be dependant. We can depend on what we know or depend on who we know.
Gemma, who many of us know, came to know Jesus at Liberty. Her Christian life was founded in grace. Many gay Christians were enthused by Matthew Vine’s teaching on the ‘clobber passages’. His teaching was helping them realise that they were totally acceptable to God.
Gemma had total dependence upon Jesus and His Holy Spirit for her justification. She knew, that she knew that she was fully and totally accepted by God exactly as she was. That was unshakable.
We must not fall into the trap of using the bible, like those who condemn us do, to vindicate ourselves. No amount of dissecting words or passages will set us truly free. Remember Jesus told the Hebrew scholar Nicodemus ‘he didn’t understand.’
Remember also 2Co 3:6 ‘What is written can kill, only the Spirit gives life.’ Through the Spirit of Jesus we are given union with God as a gift.
Jesus, the person is the testimony. The testament isn’t old, the testament isn’t new, God’s testament from the beginning to the end is Jesus.
To depend only on Jesus and His Spirit for our right standing with God is sometimes a lonely place, as we find ourselves swimming against the tide. Remember Jesus’ own brothers and sisters rejected Him.
Though like Jesus, we must not reject in any way shape or form Christians who oppose us. But as we hold on to the Testimony of God, Jesus, we stay in freedom.
Freedom to be ourselves before God because of the gospel of grace. And to know the peace of God that passes all understanding. Truly this is amazingly Good News.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach 'The Truth’
Taken from John Chapter 16
I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
When He comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness;
In regard to sin, because men do not believe in Me and in regard to righteousness also, because I am going to the Father
But when the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.
The Spirit will bring glory to me.
There is a truth within scripture. If we deviate from that truth, we can so easily go astray from that which is central to our faith.
John focuses so much upon the one fundamental truth of trusting in Jesus. Over and over John repeats his mantra, believe in, meaning trust in, rely on Jesus.
There are many ways of understanding more about God, but so often our life experiences show up the holes in them. Andy, the pastor and our tutor at MCC in Manchester once said, ‘There is nothing like a good dose of experience to change ones theology’. How true that is.
The belief that John’s gospel speaks about comes from the spirit deep within, not the mind.
Humanity has a habit of not learning from history and that’s why history repeats itself.
Religion is a man made system that tells us what to do to be acceptable to God. Jesus spoke out against the religious establishment of His day yet most of us have trusted in a religious establishment for a period of our lives. Religious establishments I know teach a mixture of God based truth and man made errors.
All these religious movements began with people responding to God freeing them from the constraints of the religion they came out of. Only to end up a generation or two later with another religion that put its own constraints on people.
Jesus didn’t come to bring a new religion. He said ‘When I leave this earth the Spirit will come to replace me. Rely in the Spirit just as you have relied upon me’. In the beginning that’s exactly what the early Christians did. They didn’t rely on bibles, they didn’t have any, they relied on the Holy Spirit.
But then James the bishop of Jerusalem started laying down the rules of the new religion called Christianity. James laid down who was in and who was out and what you had to do to stay in.
Many of us, including me once shifted my trust in a person to trust in a practice of organised religion.
I also trusted in an intellectual understanding of a book they called the ‘Word of God’. But now I object to religion calling the bible ‘the word of God’ when John’s Gospel begins quite clearly by announcing that Jesus the person is the Word of God.
Away from Jerusalem the Gentile church flourished and grew at an amazing rate; there were no bibles. There was no organised church, instead there was an organic church that thrived.
John 8 also says ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ Joh 8:32. John 14 further says ‘Jesus is the truth’. So If we are not free to be ourselves before God we are not living in the truth.
In John 17 Jesus said He would make us holy. We have a choice whether we rely on that promise or strive to attain our own holiness. If we do not see ourselves as holy as the truth sees us holy, we are not living in the truth.
Truth is a person not a book. Anyone who relies on him hears what he says. Truth speaks to all, old and the young, men and women, gay and straight, able and disabled. Truth comes from the very centre of our being, truth that knows that it knows; truth is unchanging.
Truth doesn’t condemn. Truth doesn’t cause contention. Truth always builds up, truth never puts down.
We can put our faith in truth, we can trust in truth, and we can rest in truth. Truth is a person. The truth that runs throughout scripture, the truth that scripture testifies about.
Abraham, Joshua, David, Jesus and Paul went to the wilderness school where there’s nothing but the truth to rely on. The truth that guides, the truth that feeds, the truth that quenches the thirst of the truth seeker.
Every believer here has the truth within them, the truth that is Jesus. Every person here can speak of the truth. The religious elite have never listened, but people from all walks of life have and do listen.
People here have listened, and looking around now I cannot see any resemblance to a religious elite. I reckon we are the very people that God is looking for. Some would say we are unacceptable, unschooled, unqualified, I would say underestimated;
The truth is central to us because like the prophets of old we are the ones bruised, bashed and broken by religion, its rules, its rejection. Truth is all we have, truth is all we need.
Humanity nearly fooled us into believing something that wasn’t true. But we the rejected have found out through experience that Jesus loves us unconditionally and that’s the truth.
That truth, has set us free. The unshakable truth deep within our spirits, we know that we know the love that endures when others say that it won’t.
Our experience of His love has changed our theology. We HAVE learned from history. Those who religion rejects, Jesus accepts and that’s the truth.
Extracts from Jims Preach 'Sleeping Partners'
The reading is taken from the trial of Stephen the end of Acts chapter 7. The closing testimony of Stephen when the Jews had brought false charges of blasphemy; beginning at verse 55.
‘Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
"Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
At this all in court covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them."
When he had said this, he fell asleep.’
I continue to look at the repeated pattern in scripture: God speaks something into being, the Holy Spirit nurtures and develops it until the God life of what is said comes into being.
The word God speaks is like an egg that contains life, the Holy Spirit is like a brooding hen, caring for the egg and waiting until the right time for the life to be seen and experienced.
God promised Moses that a prophet like Moses himself would be Israel’s eternal prophet. He promised Phinehas the High Priest that a priest like Phinehas himself would be Israel’s eternal priest and, he promised David that a king like David himself would be Israel’s eternal King. At the right time, centuries later the Messiah came; the anointed eternal Prophet, High Priest and King.
Over and over promises have been given to God’s people that the brooding Holy Spirit has nurtured and cared for, waiting for the right time for the God life to come from those promises.
The preacher Judson Cornwall once said, ‘We can hear other people talk about what God has done in their lives and we can learn what God is like. It’s only when we then have our own personal experiences with God that absolute trust truly becomes part of how we live.’
Abraham is called our father in faith. In Abraham’s journey through life, many a picture was painted, patterns set in place, signs, symbols and shadows established.
A good example is demonstrated in a promise given to Abraham in the form of a covenant. A covenant was a promise made to Abraham legally binding according to the custom of his day.
The promise was that God would give the land Abraham had travelled in to his offspring. Not his offspring’s plural meaning many, but offspring singular, meaning one, the Messiah.
It was in a time before pen and paper, solicitors and lawyers, so something visual and memorable had to be done to make the promise legally binding. So according to the primitive custom of the day certain animals were killed and cut in half. The parts were laid out so as to leave a pathway between them.
Both parties involved in making the promise had to walk through the path together, that meant they both were legally obliged to keep the covenant, the promise. If either failed to keep the promise they would be cut in half, like the animals.
But in Abraham’s case this promise was exceptional in that only God would pass through the animal pieces. It meant the promise was to be binding upon God alone.
Also, as God spoke and went through the animal pieces Abraham was in a deep sleep.
Though Abraham was a partner in the promise, he was a sleeping partner. Our father of faith set an example of trusting God’s promises when it was God alone who then has to carry out the promises, without any help from Abraham.
God’s unconditional love, God’s unconditional grace, God’s unconditional promises, all have this in common: we His children are sleeping partners. He fulfils them without any help from us.
If you are a sleeping partner in business, one partner does all the work while the sleeping partner does nothing except trust the one doing the work and reap the rewards.
Moses, Phinehas, David and Abraham did nothing to help fulfil the promises. God did it all by sending his son Jesus, the promised Messiah.
Trust is the only thing the sleeping partner has to do. Trust and rely in the partner who does the work.
Scripture records a man asking Paul ‘What must I do to be saved.’ Paul replies ‘Trust in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.’ Paul’s statement has a full stop at the end. It means nothing is to be added. It is a complete statement without conditions.
Scripture tells us that it is by faith we are saved and faith comes in one way or another by hearing God’s voice. It is the brooding Spirit that brings to life to what is said.
That life the Holy Spirit brings is eternal life; possessing the power of the life, that raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus experienced death so we don’t have to.
There is no record the New Testament of a believer dying. It always, like the text says about Stephen in the reading, says they fall asleep.
So whether living or sleeping we do nothing to earn the benefits Jesus brings. We can rest in knowing that He has done and is doing all the work needed to make us welcomed by God.
Extracts from Jims Preach 'Union'
Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! For in our union with Jesus He has blessed us by giving us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm.
Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be His through our union with Christ Jesus, so that we would be holy and without blame in His sight. Ephesians 1:1 - 3
Our reading says that God has ‘blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Jesus. And God chose us in Him.
Before creation God chose us to be united to God in Jesus. It was according to God’s will that Jesus prayed in John 17 for the unity of God, Jesus and you and me.
Remember Jesus laid aside His power to become fully human, so had to rely totally on the Holy Spirit for every need. Romans 8 tells us that the Spirit helps us in our humanity, when for example, we don’t know what to pray, because we don’t always know what God’s will is.
But the Spirit does, and so the Spirit prays through us in union according to God’s will. This was the case with Jesus’ prayer in John 17.
John 1 tells us, ‘In the beginning was the Word’. This is the first picture that scripture paints, the first pattern upon which everything else is fixed and established, the pattern is unchanging and unmoving.
The next picture is painted, the next pattern established in Ge verse 2, ‘And the Spirit moved’. The Hebrew scriptures likens this to a brooding Hen sitting on eggs.
Scripture records that it is ‘the Spirit that gives Life’ and so from the waiting brooding Spirit
emerges the life, and pattern 3 is fixed and established and the light of the life engulfs the darkness.
At our last Sunday meeting Lynn gave an account of how she came to know God. She and her pals went to church to commit a fraud though she didn’t quite put it in those terms.
She was quite unaware that ‘in the beginning was the word’ and in that word was the very soul of God.
God’s mind, His intentions, His will, His plan and purpose was in the word and in the beginning and in God’s soul Lynn had been chosen.
She was unaware that the Spirit had been waiting, brooding until the right time for the light to pierce the thick darkness of her spirit and give life to unite her with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God infused her with His light and His life and united her with Himself. A perfect union of a lesbian woman and God in all His fulness.
All He had was hers and all she had was His. She was now blameless and holy, a new creation.
It is foolish to add to a beautiful picture, it is folly to alter the perfect pattern.
Every blessing of heaven is ours in union with Jesus .Jesus the Light, Jesus the Life, Jesus our light and our life. Jesus our union and unity, as we believe and trust in Him.
Col 1:16 ‘For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him’.
Genesis 1 is an ancient Hebrew poem; it is also a pattern and a picture of the new, spiritual creation. I’ve re written it from the perspective of that new creation, of God’s life coming into humanity.
In the beginning there were people. Both men and women
They were without virtue and empty and darkness was upon their face.
The Spirit of God moved upon the face of humanity.
And God said let there be light and there was light the light was good. And it was so.
God separated the light that was from Him, from the darkness that was without and within humankind
God called light the known and the darkness was the unknown. And it was so.
And God said let there be division and divide the spirit from the soul
And it was so; the flesh was separated from the spirit.
And God said, from the spirit of humanity let life spring forth and let that life bear much fruit.
Let the light and life that gives forth from humanities spirit, reflect in the soul and body of humankind and bring light into the darkness. And it was so.
And God said, Let the light and life show forth the fruit of the light and life within, and so manifest the light and life in humanities soul and body. And it was so.
And God said, Let the life that is in humanity produce more life.
Let the life that I gave them, show forth from within, My glory and excellence. And it was so.
God blessed humanity crowning them with His glory and honour, making them fruitful in all righteousness, being nourished with His love, His faithfulness and His goodness.
In the image and likeness of God having His light, life and glory; humanity entered the abode of eternal rest in union, creator and created as one.
Extract from Jim’s Preach ''Love and Faithfulness"
Reading from; 1 Corinthians 1:4 - 9
‘I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
For in him you have been enriched in every way; in all your speaking and in all your knowledge because our testimony about Jesus was established in you.
Therefore having every blessing, you eagerly wait for Jesus our Lord to finally appear.
He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless
on the day of our Lord. Jesus. God is faithful.’
One day I read in ps 103;7 ‘ He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the children of Israel’. Gods ways are His characteristics, all of them together are God’s personality.
The people knew the headlines, the big things God did, but Moses knew God intimately.
In Ex 33:13 Moses prayed; ‘Lord show me your ways, so that I may know you’
Wow! I wanted that.
I searched scripture and found God’s ways are loving and faithful Psalm 25, just De 32, true Rev 15, holy Ps 145, righteous… and in Hab 3 everlasting.
These are aspects of God’s personality. Ps 103 says that Moses got to know God’s ways. It took a lifetime of walking with God, responding to him and seeing how God treated him and his people.
Like Moses I’ve got to know God by the ways he has treated me as I’ve walked with him and responded to him over the years. In the matter of Edward’s funeral I got to know more of God. Some have heard this story before.
In my Blackburn church there was a dishevelled old man called Edward who didn’t say much. I used to shake his hand and say hello but he made it clear he didn’t want to talk.
At the beginning of a prayer meeting the pastor announced that Edward had died and the council would cremate him as there was no family to give him a funeral. After the announcement we had our usual 15 minutes of public prayer. But as soon as I closed my eyes a repeated thought came into my head. ‘We must bury Edward’.
Over and over again it repeated in my head. I had never experienced this before and didn’t know what to make of it. The prayer time ended and immediately Derek my business partner stood up and said that the Lord had said to him. ‘We must bury Edward’!
In my excitement I shouted across the church ‘that’s right’! When everyone else had gone the pastor told Derek and I that no way was the church going to pay for Edward’s funeral and Derek and I could pay as God had spoken to us.
I just said OK.we’d do it. How I didn’t know as our new business was struggling. We were skint and couldn’t to pay for our stock and our bills on time. The undertaker would need £640 for a burial (it was 1986, in today’s money it would be more like £3,000).
We paid the money from the income from our shops, believing that we would have to fail to pay our suppliers and just face the flack. Edward had a wonderful send off & the pastor took a collection to help with funeral costs.
Derek and I had three clothes shops at the time. The following Saturday, in the Blackburn shop customers poured in….it was like Black Friday (& it hadn’t been invented then!). They were stampeding over each other to buy the clothes and they stripped the rails bare.
And in that one shop, for that one time only, the takings more than trebled.
I did the sums. I painstakingly worked out the profit we would have made on a normal Sat. I then worked out the extra profit on this particular Sat and added in the donation from the pastor’s collection. The total amount came to £649.95. It was 5p short of the £650 we had paid the undertaker. (I’d probably made a slight mistake in my calculations.)
The Lord had paid for the funeral!. He showed his love & faithfulness towards Edward &
his love and his faithfulness towards to me and Derek. We’d stuck our necks out and risked our new business by responding to His voice, His leading.
He had started to show me His ways and He continued to do so in different ways throughout my life and the lives of others who have walked with Him. These experiences of walking with God make up testimonies about what he is like, what his ways are.
My church had tried to teach me philosophies, systems of beliefs, and the traditions of men, but as the psalmist said, Ps 119:24 Your testimonies are my delight and my counsellors.
Many of us here have testimonies, stories of how God has come into our lives and done wonderful things. Keep showing us your ways Lord, that we may really know you.
Extract from Jim’s Preach ''The Bling"
‘Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
Jesus is before all things, and by him all things consist.
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.
For it pleased the Father that in His Son should all fullness dwell.’ Colossians 1:15 - 19
Bling is slang for jewellery, especially the flash of light that comes from a diamond when it catches the light. Verse 3 of Hebrews 1, says that Jesus ‘is the radiance of God’s glory’ another bible version says ‘the brightness of Gods glory’.
If we liken the glory to a diamond, Jesus is the ‘bling’ of Gods Glory!
The psalmist wrote that, ‘the heavens declare the glory of God the firmament shows God’s handiwork’. To put that another way, the universe and what is invisible to the human eye speaks of who God is; and what we see around us, shows us what God has done. And note the grandeur of the heavens, the universe, only speaks of the glory, It is not God’s glory, it only speaks of His glory.
The Glory is beyond words and beyond our imagining. We have haven’t the words capable to describe the fullness of the Glory of God. And Jesus is the radiance, the bling, of that unimaginable, indescribable glory.
The universe can only speak of God’s glory; Jesus though is above and beyond the cosmos, Jesus is sovereign over it, sustaining all that is seen and unseen.
The King of Glory is sovereign over all things, not limited by the laws of nature, the law of gravity, the law of physics, the law of thermodynamics, the law of time and space, the law of… ...everything and anything.
The letter to the Hebrews was written to Jews and it says that Jesus greater than the angels, Jesus is greater than Moses, who the Jews revered, and greater than Aaron, the first High Priest.
The earthly priesthood worshipped in the temple here on earth, the greater Royal Priest Jesus does not worship, but is worshipped, in the Heavenly Temple.
The earthly temple was built with dead stones and with its trappings, the feasts and ceremonies, the rituals and traditions it was only a shadow of the reality.
The earthly way depended upon humanity to do it all, the heavenly way depends on the Saviour King who has done it all.
A new and greater High Priest brought in a new way of worship. Obedience and human endeavour was the earthly way, faith in Jesus is the greater heavenly way.
Hebrews 11 is a list of people of faith, shockingly the list includes, as people of faith, people who had every human weakness. It includes drunkards, liars, prostitutes, cowards, adulterers and murderers. They but they all had faith in God and lived in the realm of the invisible and unseen, They lived in the greater way. Each in a measure saw the bling.
The letter to the Hebrews draws to a close with these words ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith’.
Jesus is the cause of our faith, Jesus is the beginning, Jesus is the foundation on which the Temple of the Holy Spirit is built, Jesus is the mortar that holds everything together.
In our weekly bible study we are once again going through the gospel of John. Matthew, Mark and Luke, in the main, inform us what Jesus did while here on earth. Whereas John for the most part is about who Jesus is. Of the four gospels, for me John is the greatest of the gospels.
John’s gospel is the bling. In fact it is John who tells us that Jesus is the light. For 11 years the preaching and teaching of Liberty has been about fixing our gaze upon Jesus, the King of Glory.
He is the author of Liberty and our foundation, we can trust that our Sovereign is perfecting what He began. If the Holy Spirit lays a foundation on which to build, build He surely will. The Spirit does not lay a foundation and then not build.
He uses hand picked living stones, us, and He shapes us with gentleness and love to be part of His Living Temple. This temple will be upright and true, cemented together with Jesus, a solid building fit for purpose, a building of splendour where the light and life of Jesus is found.
Liberty did not come into being to dwell in the shadow of philosophies and traditions. The sole aim of Liberty is to bathe in the reality of Jesus’ glorious light.
The light and life whose name the heavens declare, a name that the firmament shouts out and announces the beauty of His workmanship and deeds.
Liberty is a chosen vessel for chosen people, a vessel full of Jesus’ light and life that causes its people to know how precious they are and to shine bright like diamonds.
Diamonds to be the radiance of Jesus, and to be the brightness of the light that dwells within each precious jewel.
So that Jesus shines out of us His diamonds. And, as when he chooses, let people see and be amazed by our bling, the sparkling light of Jesus, the King of Glory.
Extract from Jim’s Preach ''Blood of the Lamb"
Jesus the Messiah came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect temple. He came not with the blood of animal sacrifices, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all... for all.
For if the blood of animals, sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean, purified them so that they are outwardly clean how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience and inner self? Hebrews 9:11-14
Often the gospel, which means ‘Good News’, is turned into Bad News based on fear. Dire threats of burning in hell and God turning His back on you if you sin and standing in front of His judgement seat when you die don’t really convey a God of love.
In the Old Testament God was seen as sitting on a ‘Mercy Seat’. A place a sinner could go to receive mercy. Yet, often many Christians fear the ‘Judgement Seat’. That can’t be right.
What was the mercy seat? It was the solid gold lid on a box called ‘the ark of the covenant’. Ark means box. It was from the Ark of the Covenant that God gave out forgiveness and mercy.
The Ark contained 2 stone tablets, a pot of manna and Aaron’s Rod. The 2 stone tablets represented the covenant, the agreement between God and His people, and the 10 Commandments where written on them.
The manna was the bread type food God used to feed, nourish and sustain His people while crossing the desert on their way to the Promised Land. Aaron’s Rod represented office and the authority of the High Priest, Aaron.
The ark was the centre piece of the temple the place where God dwelt. So, right at the centre of the Temple was the Mercy Seat, a powerful symbol of God’s mercy.
Once a year, in a big ceremony called the Day of Atonement was celebrated. Atonement simply means‘ at-one-ment’ - bringing God and His people together to be at one. A sacrifice was made for the sins of the whole nation of Israel. The sacrifice paid for the sins of the people with its life and the High Priest took its blood and sprinkled the blood everywhere in the temple. Everything the blood of the sacrifice touched was cleansed becoming pure and free from sin.
Everything was sprinkled, including the Ark and the Mercy Seat, its gold lid. So even though God lived in the temple there was always a layer of blood between God and the temple itself. So everything in the Temple was made pure and holy for God’s presence.
This cleansing with blood foreshadowed the cleansing that Jesus carried out by his blood.
We, as individual saints and as Christians as a whole, are the Temple of God. Jesus has purified us with his own blood to makes us pure and holy for God to dwell in us.
Jesus totally destroyed any reason for us to be afraid of God or to think we have to perform in a certain way to please God. We are pure and holy because of what Jesus has done.
We can pick out commands in scripture to be perfect, be holy, be pure, the list seems endless when you’re hearing the gospel of fear. They’re all impossible for us to keep. Jesus said ‘it is finished’. His blood has cleansed us, his Temple, for ever. What is finished? The need for us to follow religious rules to try to become pure and holy for God.
The Ark, with its mercy Seat, all foreshadows Jesus. The wood of the box symbolised Jesus’ humanity; the covering of solid gold symbolised His divinity and everything in the box symbolised different things about Jesus.
The manna symbolised Jesus the bread of life who feeds, nourishes and sustains all believers, not just the ones who are morally good. The rod symbolised Jesus’ authority and His office as our High Priest. The High Priest alone had the authority to purify the temple. Jesus purifies us, we can’t do it for ourselves.
The 10 Commandments on the two stone tablets were put in the box, the lid was put on and then the whole box was covered by the blood. God commanded that this box was never to be opened.
I suggest that says to us; don’t open the box, leave the 10 Commandments where they belong, in the box, in Jesus. Don’t get them out and try to keep them, leave them in Him, the only person who kept them all.
I know a lady with an unusual medical condition: everything she sees is blue. That’s something like God. He sees everything about us as red because there’s a layer of His Sons blood between Him and us who make up His temple.
Scripture tells us ten things that we have in the blood of Jesus, oneness Ro 3:25, justification Ro 5:9, redemption Eph 1:7, forgiveness Eph 1:7, cleansing Jo 1:7, peace Col 1:20, a clear conscience Heb 9:14, boldness Heb 10:19, closeness Eph 2:13, and finally, victory Re 12:1.
Knowing we have all these things from Jesus utterly destroys the gospel of fear and gives us lasting, unshakable peace with God.
No matter what our circumstances or imperfections, we can trust and rely on someone who is perfect and pure to act on our behalf.
It is finished, brought to completion in the blood and in the life of Jesus.
Extract from Jim’s Preach ''The Answer"
(Jesus prayed) “I pray for those who will believe in Me through the gospel;
I pray also that all of these people continue to be at one in Us in the way that You are in Me, and I in You; so that the world may believe that You sent Me.
The glory which You gave Me I have given them, so I have brought them into union with me just as You and I Father are in union.
I in them, and You in Me; and so made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
One of Einstein’s students pointed out to him that the questions on his exam paper were exactly the same as the previous year. Einstein acknowledged that the questions were indeed the same as a year ago but he added ‘this year the answers are different’.
That story in a way is like my Christian life.
I’ve had many questions in my time as a Christian and the answers to many of those questions have changed over the years as I changed in the understanding of my faith.
Since I left the mainstream church and gained an expanded view of grace the questions have decreased. Because grace, in many ways, has taken me back to my beginnings.
One of my questions from earlier times was, ‘How can we be Christ like?’ My church said we must do the good things that Jesus did but I found this led me down a path of self righteousness and hypocrisy. And this heaped a load of expectations and responsibility on my shoulders, a burden neither I nor anyone else could bear.
How can we be Christ like? Same question different answer.
In John’ gospel chapters 8 and 12 Jesus said this about Himself:
Joh 12:49 I don’t speak of my own accord, My Father told me what to say and how to say it.
Joh 8:28.29 I do nothing of myself; but as my Father has taught me, in that way I always do those things that please him.
Scripture tells us that ‘without faith it if impossible to please God’ Heb 11:6 . When Jesus said ‘I always do those things that please God’, is he talking about having faith, trust in God?
So are we meant to imitate Jesus’ faith? I know that’s impossible so is there a different answer.
n Jesus saying I do nothing of myself, or I say anything of myself, he puts the burden of doing God’s will firmly upon God’s shoulders. He places all the responsibility for Jesus finishing the work of God, on God Himself. Jesus expected God to provide the faith and the words for the preaching and teaching and expected God to provide the faith and the power for the miracles.
Jesus, in his human nature, said he was the son of Joseph. He ate, drank and slept because his body told Him. Jesus’ human nature taught Him and guided Him in lots of ways without faith being involved.
But in His divine nature Jesus said He was the Son of God. In Jesus’ divine nature He expected God to give Him the faith for the things God wanted Him to do. Jesus said in John’s gospel ‘I do nothing of myself’ (John 15:5) because He didn’t direct the course of events or decide on how to act, He constantly looked to God for direction and inspiration. The responsibility for Jesus’ work was on God’s shoulders.
Jesus also said to us ‘without Me you can do nothing’. That is, we can achieve nothing of eternal value without Him because the responsibility for His work is ultimately His.
When we expect God to lead us and empower us to do his work we place the responsibility on Him. Its different to taking up that responsibility ourselves to try to do things for God.
It is very freeing when faith says we don’t have the responsibility to bring about God’s purposes. Instead of taking on God’s responsibility faith simply responds to his leading and delights in discovering and joining in with whatever God is doing.
I reckon the future of Liberty Church and its members lies in going back to the beginning. Jesus is the beginning. We of ourselves can add nothing to His Kingdom, but, by responding to Him we know that we can join in with the ways He is working out His purposes.
We are all different, God made us diverse in so many ways. Yet while we are all different in our human nature, we all share Jesus’ divine nature.
The answer to ‘How do we live our Christian life?’ is simple. In Jesus. By trusting Jesus, and responding to Jesus. By having Jesus in the centre of our lives and Jesus the focus of our attention. Not focusing on ourselves and what we think we can do for Him nor on other people and what they think we should do, but focusing on Him and responding to what he is doing in us and through us.
By his grace God revealed Himself to us and gave us faith as a gift. By grace and faith we started our Christian lives, grace and faith can enable us to live our Christian lives.
Despite who we were, no matter what our shortcomings, God chose us as His children. It was never about who are or what we can do. It is always about who He is and what He does in us and through us.
For Liberty Jesus is the answer that will never be different.
Extract from Jim’s Preach: 'Complete in Him'
Taken From Jesus’ Prayer In John 17:20-23
"I pray for every Christian, that they become one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they become one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.
"And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, becoming one "I in them, and You in Me; made complete in one and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.’
Jesus prayed regarding us, his people that He would be in us as the Father is in Him: "I in them, and You in Me; made complete in one.”
Paul confirms this in Col 2:9-10 ’For in Jesus dwells all the fullness of God; and we are complete in Him’
Before we knew him we were incomplete but when we come to know Jesus the fullness of God dwells in us …we are complete; as individuals and collectively as his people.
And Col 1:22 says ‘God sees you holy in his sight, faultless and free from guilt.’ It is as He sees us that counts, not as we see ourselves.
Remember the bible is a picture book full of symbolic pictures. Let’s look at two symbolic pictures in the parable of Creation in Genesis.
Ro 5:14 tells us that Adam was symbolic of Jesus. When Adam was put to sleep the story says that God took part of him to form the woman from his side. The woman was made of his very substance. God called them Adam (Ge 5:2), each a different aspect of the same being. Two yet one and they lived in perfect harmony; no division, no discord, nothing divisive..
This is an allegory of Christians, collectively called the Bride of Christ, coming out of Jesus’ side, out of his very substance.
At the crucifixion the spear pierced Jesus’ side blood and water came out. Blood symbolizes humanity and water symbolizes Spirit. The blood of Jesus’ humanity with the spirit of His divinity poured out bringing into existence the new creation.
His perfect life, death and resurrection made the new creation possible, created from His very substance. As we are made of his very substance we become the woman of Christ, the bride of Christ, the church. Collectively and individually we complete the picture.
Being one with Jesus, two yet one, we are re united with God. No division, no discord, nothing divisive.
Just as God saw the man and woman as one in the first creation, God sees the man Jesus and His woman the church as one in the new creation.
Jesus gives his bride his own holiness and righteousness as she is part of his very self.
Jesus’ prayer in John 17 "I in them, and You in Me; made complete in one” has been answered we are one with Jesus as we have the essence, the substance of Jesus.
It is false teaching that says Adam disobeyed God and that his disobedience caused the fall and the separation between humanity and God. All relationships depend on trust. When trust is lost a relationship is severely damaged or even destroyed.
Ge 3:17 "Because you listened to your wife.” This tells us that the damage was done because of unbelief, the loss of trust in God. The man believed in and trusted his wife’s word above God’s.
The curse was that now they had to work hard all their lives for the produce from the ground. They now had to work hard for something that was once freely theirs.
I worked my socks off for things I didn’t realise I had been freely given. I worked hard trying to make myself righteous and holy and to keep myself in relationship with God. Have you?
Jesus reversed the curse. Don’t live as if you are still under the curse like I once did; not realising the truth in Ro 5:17 ‘.. those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through Jesus Christ.
I used to sing a hymn with the line ‘He is all my righteousness I stand complete in Him and worship Him.’ I sang it and had absolutely no idea what it meant.
Numbers in scripture have symbolic meanings. 7 = perfection, 10 = completeness.
In Ephesians Paul says we are ‘In Jesus’ 7 times and ‘In Christ’ 10 times.
In 1Co 13 (‘Love is patient’ etc) the chapter tells us 17 times what the love of God is.
Ro 8 tells us 17 times, that we are more than conquerors (beginning with ‘Shall trouble or hardship’ and ending with ‘nothing can separate from the love of God …)
17 = love and victory in Christ Jesus.
Let us not work hard trying to obtain the gifts we already have! Instead let’s celebrate receiving those gifts. The gifts that sustain our lives without having to work hard for them.
Let’s celebrate Jesus, love incarnate, Jesus our victory, Jesus our holiness, Jesus our righteousness, Jesus our perfection, Jesus our peace, Jesus our glory, Jesus our eternal life.
Jesus in whom we are complete, to the glory of His name.
Extract from: Jim’s Preach ‘In Christ’ Part 7
‘There is NO condemnation now for those who live united in Christ.
For the law of the Spirit, which brings us life in union with Christ Jesus, has set me free from the law of sin and death.
What the Law could not do, because human nature was weak, God did. He condemned sin in human nature by sending his own Son, who came as a man with a sinful human nature, to do away with sin.
God did this so that the righteous demands of the Law might be fully satisfied in us who live according to the Spirit, and not according to our human nature.
Those who live as their human nature tells them to, have their minds controlled by what human nature wants. Those who live as the Spirit inspires them to, have their minds directed by what the Spirit desires.
To be controlled by human nature results in death; to be inspired by the Spirit results in life and peace. ‘ Romans 8: 1 - 6
The last of the ‘in Christ’ statements found in the letter to the Ephesians is in Eph 3:11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
The eternal purpose, or God’s plan, had always been to bring humanity into an eternal relationship with Himself. A relationship that is foolproof, that even we, in our worst moments, can’t mess up, can’t destroy.
It was always the will and intention of God to accomplish and fulfil His plan through and in Christ Jesus His Son.
Many of us failed at Christianity because of the never ending pressure to do more and more Christian Religious Activity and Performance. And the frustration, guilt and shame of never seeming to be able to do enough or to be good enough. I almost drowned in the C.R.A.P.
But then I met some very elderly men and women, retired missionaries who had lived for decades taking the gospel to the Untouchables in India, the poorest class despised by all. They had lived in severe poverty and had found, by experience that Jesus constantly led them, equipped them for the things they had to do and never, never let them down.
They never once spoke of striving to make themselves better, or more moral or kinder or more loving. No. They knew, they themselves had plenty of personal faults and failings. But they didn’t rely on their own goodness to keep them in relationship with God.
They relied on Jesus to keep them in that relationship and He was reliable, always.
I wanted the deep relationship with
God that they had and I saw that faith, trust in Him, was the way to
gain it. The C.R.A.P didn’t help in the slightest. So I ditched it and
gave up on all the activities and performances that I had put such
Mt 6:33 says ‘seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness’. First what is the Kingdom of God? The apostle Paul tells us in Ro 14:17 ‘The kingdom of God is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit….’
Paul tells us the Kingdom of God has spiritual power, it brings life and harmony with God.
Paul also tells us what the Kingdom of God isn’t; and that it is not being clever in words or speeches, or anything man-made, or external, for such things lack spiritual power.
The Kingdom of God, that Jesus, and later his disciples, preached was a compelling invitation to every woman and man to receive as a gift
Totally undeserved righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit!
Now that is incredibly good news.
Jesus never asked people to repent or seek forgiveness; not the Samaritan woman, not the paralytic, nor the blind, deaf, lame or leprous, not the apostles including Paul, not even Peter after his denial.
All sin was cancelled out and righteousness (Jesus’ own righteousness) was given freely to people who didn’t deserve it.
Mr 1:4 tells us that John the Baptist preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And so many churches today preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The preaching of John not Jesus. A preacher said ‘God has no problem with sin because God had sent the answer, Jesus.’
It is a fallacy, a false teaching that our sins separate us from God, Nothing can separate us; only one thing spoils our relationship with God and that is unbelief.
Repentance and asking for forgiveness ended 2000 years ago. My prayer for today is ‘I believe, help me in my unbelief.’
The Christian life has to be lived in Christ, through and in union with the Spirit of Jesus. In total reliance upon the sufficiency that’s in the grace of God.
Jesus said that the Kingdom of God was like you scattering seeds. Just step back and watch them grow, watered from heaven they flower and bear fruit without any effort.
Jesus also said the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, see how small it is but yet grows effortless into the largest tree in the garden
For 11 years I’ve preached that wonderful free gift given to us in Jesus: righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. In other words the gospel of grace. And I’ve seen this good, incredible, even fabulous news bring freedom to many.
Extract from: Jim’s Preach ‘In Christ’ Part 6
Reading from Ephesians 3:14–19
‘For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’
In Ephesians 3:6 it says that as a body of believers we all share in God’s promise in Christ. On a ten pound note it says ‘I promise to pay the bearer £10’. Our monetary system, at its basic level, works on a promise. The promise on a banknote is an unconditional guarantee.
Christianity, at its basic level, works on a promise. The trouble is that often Christianity has gone away from that basic attitude of trusting in Gods promise. Christians often behave more as if God had given us a loan with conditions attached. But ‘In Christ’, God’s promises are unconditional lifetime guarantees and do not depend on our performance.
At the age of 15, when I first came to know and trust in Jesus, I was full of excitement, enthusiasm, exuberance and expectation. Well, my church soon knocked that out of me!
Over the following year I became, so I thought, more Christian. I became religious, meaning I did things with the aim of pleasing God. I involved myself in Christian Religious Activity. I thought that being a good Christian was based upon my Performance.
In Matthew 5 Jesus starts off the beatitudes about how those who are pure, meek, and merciful and thirsting after righteousness are blessed by God. My Christian Religious Activity and Performance gave me the illusion that it was possible to make myself like this. But really it wasn’t an illusion. It was a delusion that through my efforts I could achieve the compassion and moral excellence of Jesus. I tried and I failed.
In Matthew 5:48 Jesus’ command was to ‘Be perfect’. How perfect? ‘as perfect as God Himself.’ But try as I might with my Christian Religious Activity and Performance, I couldn’t be perfect.
I tried my best to be a goody two shoes. Failure left me feeling guilty and condemning myself I left the church.
I had failed in my Christian Religious Activity and Performance because it relied upon me. I was the problem. I was the weakness in the system. I was the weakest link.
When I came back to church, 20 years later, I was again full of excitement, enthusiasm, exuberance and expectation. But once I was back in the system that demanded performance I very quickly slipped back into my Christian Religious Activity and Performance.
This time, older and a bit wiser, I sussed out what everyone else in my church did about Jesus’ command to ‘be perfect’. They ignored it. They simply and concentrated on improving their Christian Religious Activity and Performance. They said that God is happy so long as you keep doing your best. The command to ‘be perfect’ was watered down to ‘do your best.’
My Promotion was very quick. I didn’t have to serve as clerk of the court, or as a solicitor or even a barrister No, I went straight in as a Judge and I was a judge who didn’t need a jury. In court Judges are seated higher than everyone else, it gives them the ability to look down on people. When I was doing well in my Christian Religious Activity and Performance I looked down on those who were not and this fed my pride. Judging others made me feel better about myself.
With my arrogance well topped up, my self righteousness blossomed. Interestingly the initials of Christian Religious Activity and Performance make up C.R.A.P. I was once full of excitement, enthusiasm, exuberance and expectation now I was full of C.R.A.P!
All my C.R.A.P. just made me tired, not perfect. So at last I stopped trying to make myself pleasing to God. There was no point as I could never do it. I gave up my C.R.A.P. Instead, just as I was, with no pretence or performance I turned to Jesus. My prayer was that I wanted to know him.
A few months later in answer to that prayer, I found myself face to face with a woman I looked down on with distaste. She was homeless and I saw her as a scrounger and too lazy to work. (I later realised how wrong I had been). But as this woman spoke to me, miraculously despite my prejudice, I felt tremendous love for her. A flood of emotion entered the top of my head and flowed through my entire body. It was incredible. I felt as though I was glowing. I knew it was Jesus’ love and compassion for her. For just a few minutes, I felt overwhelmed with the love of Jesus for this woman.
And for those few precious minutes, I believe, as far as is humanly possible, I was filled with the fullness of God. Jesus himself had fulfilled in me Mt 5:48 to be perfect. I no longer had to ignore the demand of this verse. In Jesus I had the supply… of His perfect love and compassion.
His perfect love was within me and at that moment He chose to show it. The promise in Christ could be manifested at any time of His choosing according to the perfect plan and purpose of God in Christ Jesus. And when it was not being manifested I didn’t have to force myself to try to make it happen.
Like Paul prayed for the early believers in Ephesus I pray now that, according to the riches of God’s glory, you are strengthened, with his power, by his Spirit, in your inner being.
I pray that Christ Himself dwells in your hearts by faith…I pray that you are rooted and grounded his love.
I pray that as you truly grasp how vast God’s love is and know this love as part of your daily life, that the promise of God in Christ Jesus will be manifested in you.
I pray that each of you at Liberty Church will know times when the perfect love found only in Christ Jesus will be demonstrated in you. And that you will rest in the knowledge of His wonderful love for you, just as you are, without labouring under the oppressive pressure of trying to change any aspect of yourself.
Lord fill us with excitement and enthusiasm for you! Fill us with exuberance and expectation for the things your love will do in our lives. Fill us with the promise of your Spirit. Now to you who can do far more in us than we could ever think or imagine, according to your power within us, to you be the glory by Christ and in Christ. Amen.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘In Christ’ Part 5
Extracts from Matthew 27:37 -46
The guards placed a written accusation above his head. It read, "This is Jesus, the king of the Jews." At that time they crucified two criminals with him, one on his right and the other on his left. Those who passed by insulted him………..
………At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
We continue the theme ‘in Christ’ as found in the book of Ephesians. Eph 2:13 ‘But now in Christ Jesus you who were separated and afar off, are made near in the blood of Christ.’
We sing a song to the Lord ‘You’re Beautiful’. Beautiful according to my dictionary means lovely… exceedingly good… of extreme excellence.
I’m going to tell a story of two women, both found in a garden. The first woman represents humanity in the first creation, the creation of the physical world.
The second woman represents all those in the new creation, the spiritual creation resulting from re-birth in the Holy Spirit. Scripture refers to those in Christ as ‘the bride of Christ’.
The story: It was a beautiful day in a beautiful garden. A beautiful God had made them both. A beautiful woman walked in this beautiful garden and saw a beautiful tree.
The beautiful woman wanted the fruit on the beautiful tree and mistakenly she thought that the beautiful fruit would add to her beauty. But the beautiful woman was already exceedingly beautiful because she was made in God’s own image.
Neither the tree nor the fruit had the exceedingly beautiful image of the beautiful God. When the beautiful woman swallowed the beautiful fruit she swallowed a lie, she was deceived by her won desire for more, and that ruined her true beauty.
The woman had stopped trusting God, God and the woman were separated. No longer did the woman possess God’s beauty. The woman was now so separated from God’s life that now she would experience ultimate separation from him and would die.
God wanted the woman back; the woman was part of His love, part of His life. God knew that only He could bridge the gulf of death between them and restore life. And so, thousands of years later God, through his Son reached out to restore that precious relationship.
It was the plan of the divine exchange. God’s Son Jesus would take into Himself all the flaws, the faults and failings of the woman and in exchange God’s Son would freely give His qualities to the woman.
od’s substitute Jesus was buried in a beautiful garden. A beautiful woman, Mary Magdalene, walked in that beautiful garden on a beautiful day. She saw that the tomb was empty and she saw a beautiful man, Jesus.
This beautiful woman hadn’t always been beautiful. There had been an ugliness about her until earlier in her life she had met Jesus. And Jesus had exchanged his beauty for her ugliness. The exchange was so profound that her only desire was now for more of Jesus.
No longer separated God and the woman once again walked together in a garden. And the beautiful woman saw herself as Jesus saw her, a new creation living in the image of her Saviour.
In the new creation, as in the first creation God made His children in His image. He made us spiritually lovely, exceedingly good and extremely beautiful. But through the centuries those who are created anew have over and over again tried to add to what God has done.
It’s as foolish as ‘gilding a lily’ trying to make a lily that is perfectly beautiful, even more beautiful by our efforts. The result always spoils the original.
A lily created by God is alive, it sways in the wind displaying its different colours, shades, textures. It produces a wonderful scent and feeds the insects. It can reproduce and give life in its seeds that grow into more lilies.
A lily gilded, meaning covered in gold, is lifeless. Its shape is beautiful but its stiff and rigid and compared to the living lily it’s dull. There is no variation in colours and textures, no scent, no seeds and no nectar and pollen. It’s stiff its dead. Adding man made beauty to it only spoiled it.
Why is it that we desire to make ourselves more like Jesus when over and over in scripture God says already have the image of Jesus? Why do we strain for man made beauty and goodness when we have God’s?
As Paul writes of the divine exchange: 1Co 15:49 ‘…we once bore the image of the earthy, we now bear the image of the heavenly.’
We don’t need to gild the lily and become lifeless. We can see ourselves as God sees us, in Christ, excelling in loveliness, extreme in goodness and exceedingly beautiful.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘In Christ’ Part 4
Tonight’s readings are extracts from Ephesians 1 and
I pray that the
eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know
how immense is his power at work in us who believe.
working in us is the same divine energy which he exerted in Christ when
he raised him from the dead and
seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,
Because of his
great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made
us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our
un-righteousness—it is by grace you have been saved.
And God raised
us up with Christ and seated us
with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in
the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,
expressed in his kindness to us through Christ Jesus.
For it is by
grace you have been saved, through faith—and
this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God it’s not the result
of anything you’ve done, so that no-one can boast.
we are God’s workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus.
The Big Bang theory states that the cosmos originated
from nothing. This theory coincides with my belief in God who created
everything out of nothing. God spoke from infinity, from eternity and an
explosion of light and energy occurred and there it was, the creation of
the heavens and the earth .
We can’t imagine the power of such an event… it’s beyond us.
I regard the six days of creation in Genesis as each
symbolising an age of development. Light in the first age, second age
atmosphere and land light, third age plants and trees etc.
The progression is light, from light comes energy and from the light and energy comes life.
In 2Co 5:17 it says: ‘if anyone is in Christ, he is a
The Genesis creation story and the New Creation story
have similarities. The physical creation of the earth started with
light. The New Creation, coming into relationship with Jesus starts with
light, Jesus shining His light into our spiritual darkness.
From His light comes an energising by the Holy Spirit
and that brings spiritual life In the physical creation life first
appears on the third day. Spiritually resurrection life first came on
the third day.
In creation the sun is the source of light and the moon reflects that light. In the New Creation
Jesus is the
source of our light. We reflect his light as we have once again the image of God.
According to Genesis God intended from the beginning
that humanity should bear his image. That image was lost but, through
the salvation Jesus brings, it is restored.
Genesis says on the 7th day
God rested when creation was completed.
Jesus rested when the work of salvation was completed. Jesus sat
down, rested, as tonight’s reading tells us
Ephesians also tells us that we are created in Christ
and, spiritually speaking, we are
seated in heaven. Being seated signifies being in at rest.
As the new creation
we can rest in what has been done for us. Jesus has done
all the work to make our
salvation and our standing with God complete. Sit down, feet up, chill!
Because of your communion in the gospel from the first day until
now, be confident of this,
that he who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus.
These 2 verses tell us our new life created in Christ
is completed in Christ. It is
from infinity, eternity, the
power of God gives us new life and completes new life in us.
This immense power that created the cosmos is the
same infinite power that raised Jesus from the dead and the same power
that gives is new life.
We have God’s potential. There is within us is the
capability to do the extraordinary, to bring others into this new life.
Because the infinite power that brought life to the
cosmos, the infinite power that resurrected Jesus from the dead, the
infinite power that gave us life in Christ… lives on within in us.
As in the beginning the Spirit hovered over creation…
the same Spirit now hovers over the new creation, over us,
to bring light and energy and
life to others
The same Spirit brings the infinite power to release
the infinite power of Jesus’ life within each new creation.
We are saved by the infinite power of grace. We are
saved by the infinite power of faith.
We tend to under estimate the power of grace and
faith but yet, that’s what brought us here tonight to be God’s church,
God’s people sharing his life together.
Liberty was born from eternity, by God’s divine power
bringing new life. By its very nature life reproduces and we will
continue to see Liberty bring new life to many.
It will be through the
infinite power of grace…
The infinite life of God in Christ…
to the praise of His glory.
Jim’s Preach ‘In Christ’ Part 3
Ephesians 1:11 - 14
We have obtained
an inheritance in Christ our Lord, being chosen according to the purpose
of God who works out all things according to His will, so that we… who
first trusted in Christ… should be to the
praise of His glory.
And you also
trusted In Him, after we heard the truth in the good news of our
salvation. In Jesus, you having believed, we were sealed with the Holy
Spirit who is the guarantee of our inheritance …to
the praise of His glory.
We are continuing to look at the phrase ‘In
Christ’ that we find 10 times in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the
Ephesians. In the four verses of the text Paul twice uses the phrase ‘to
the praise of His glory’.
He says ‘that we who
first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory’ and
then later says you also
trusted in Him are to the praise of his glory. According to the
context the ‘we’ meant Jewish Christians and the ‘you also’ meant Non
This was written in an incredibly racist world where
Jews looked down on non Jews, the Gentiles. Jews considered the Gentiles
unclean, unfit and undesirable.
They kept them at a
But here Paul puts them on a par,
giving them equality brought about purely through trust in Christ.
It was a shocking statement, a revolutionary
statement. An all inclusive statement if I’ve ever heard one. It
includes everyone, with no exceptions, ‘to the praise of His glory’. I
see the good news of Jesus as being
all inclusive and that
message to me rings loud and clear above all else.
According to Paul being ‘in Christ’ gives us equality
but also lifts us up as he says we all are ‘to the praise of His glory’.
And that is just by being ourselves, being in Him. This is not about
doing its simply about being.
I want to explain this by telling a story. A
schoolgirl choir called ‘Angelicus’ had an audition on
Britain’s Got Talent. You can Google it to see the audition.
The girls said that they were inspired by their teacher Mr Williams and
they had become a choir because of what he had done for them. The camera
panned to a very frail looking man in the audience.
They said that Mr Williams had had a bad car accident that year and was
The choir of 12 to 16 year olds then sang ‘Nessun
Dorma’. It was stunningly beautiful. The audience and the judges were
on their feet applauding,
including Simon Cowell. Then Simon Cowell asked Mr Williams to come up
to the front. He had difficulty walking and needed help to walk but
the applause for him was deafening!
The girls were so proud of what he had done for them
that evening. They gave him glory and you could see Mr Williams was so
incredibly proud of them.
For Mr Williams that wonderful choir was
to the praise of his glory.
It proved his great love of
music and his dedication to
teaching the girls. The audience had heard the choir and wanted to
applaud Mr Williams for what he had done.
We who know Jesus have come to know him because of
his great love for us and his
dedication to us. He gave his
very life for us.
The difference between Mr Williams and Jesus is that we don’t need to perform for Jesus.
We give Him glory just by being who we are in Him.
It is God who formed and fashioned us in the womb and
until this very moment in our lives in Christ. Jesus is incredibly proud
of us. We are ‘to the praise of
We are the evidence that Jesus succeeded on the
cross, we show His resurrection, we bear witness that He closed shut the
separation between God and humanity. We are the proof that what Jesus
did bore fruit. The fruit is each one of us who have come into a living
relationship with Him.
And just by knowing Him and loving him
we add to his glory. We are
the redeemed, the holy ones of God. We are ‘to
the praise of His glory’. We are the ones who live in the light of
his life and presence. We are the crowning achievement of all Jesus did
To those who think we are
unclean, unfit and undesirable and that we should be kept at a distance;
it’s not what they think that matters, it’s what Jesus thinks. It’s what
is being thought about us and said about us in Heaven,
we are ‘to the praise of His glory’
We must always remember it is not even what we think
of ourselves in human terms that matters.Our human condition or our
human frailties matter not a jot to Jesus, He is dedicated to us just as
Whether we sing in tune or sing out of tune down here
doesn’t matter, we are a choir in perfect harmony in Christ in heaven.
We’re all appearing at the royal command performance singing praises;
for our King and to our King.
God has pressed the golden buzzer, we’ve won the
final our names are in lights, we’re top of the bill, all of us
individually and collectively headliners. All of heaven along with Jesus
are on their feet and applauding,
because we are to the praise
of His glory.
Jim’s Preach ‘In Christ' Part 2
Taken from Colossians 1:15 – 22
Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
by him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether powers or
rulers or authorities; all things were created by him & for him.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body,
the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,
so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
For God was
pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and
through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on
earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on
Once you were separated from God and alienated because of your untrusting ways.
he has reconciled you by
Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight,
blameless and free from accusation
We are looking at the 10 times the Apostle Paul uses the term in Christ in the book of Ephesians. The third is in Eph 1:10 where it says:
to His will, His purpose and
plan, in the
fullness of the time, God will gather together in one,
in Christ, both
which are in heaven and which are on earth’
It simply means God is going to restore everything back to the way it was in the beginning.
Scripture records that in the beginning everything
was very good. The original Hebrew text of Genesis says
exceedingly good. (Like a Mr Kipling’s cake!)
In tonight’s reading says how in the beginning God
created everything in Christ…
in the end God restores everything
in Christ… once again making
everything exceedingly good.
So what happened in the beginning that’s in need of restoring at the end?
In the beginning God was in an intimate, life giving
relationship with humanity.
In the Genesis creation story humanity lived in the simplicity of trusting in God. The Lord advised Adam (representing humanity), not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and bad. This tree would give them moral knowledge and the power to judge themselves and to judge God. It would feed their pride but would not give them the ability to be exceedingly good, or do good exceedingly
God hatched another plan,
Plan B. God chose a nation to relate to. They had the ability to
judge through the knowledge of good and bad and God spelt out the rules
to live by. He knew they would not be able to keep these rules so there
was a remedy.
When the people failed to be exceedingly good an
animal could die in their place as a sacrifice and so keep the
relationship with God intact. But humanity’s ego and pride came in. They
trusted their own judgement instead of God. Relationships are built on
trust. Separation was the only answer.
Plan C. THIS relationship would depend upon God alone. Now people
would not need to know what was good or how to do good because God
himself would live in them. His life and His goodness would be in them.
All they needed to do was trust in Him.
There would be no system, no rules to religiously
keep, because God would do it all. God had created everything through
the Word. He recreated everything through the Word.
So the Word became flesh.
Plan C was JC, God’s son as a human being who was exceedingly good.
It was a glorious plan. JC would keep absolute trust in God He would be
exceedingly good and do good exceedingly.
JC would not eat of the tree of knowledge.
JC wasn’t here to judge but to
save. JC only did, and JC only said what God empowered Him to say or do.
plan A … the simplicity of trusting God. And JC fulfilled Plan B the religious
system. JC kept every rule, every ceremony, every sacrifice exceedingly
well. He fulfilled plan B.
Plan C was trust on another level, because to fulfil
Plan C JC had to be the exceedingly good sacrifice that had to die and
JC had to trust God that He would rise again.So on resurrection day God
filled JC with His life. A union between JC and God took place. God had
at last what was intended from the beginning,
a union and relationship with JC
who was human.
The glory of plan C was that when people trusted in
JC, JC would become one with them. It would be a marriage made in
heaven, the two would become one flesh because JC is flesh. But also in
this marriage the two would become one spirit.
The lives of
those united with JC would be hidden in JC. They would become
exceedingly good simply because they were
united in JC’s exceeding goodness. And as long as they trusted in
JC, together they would do good exceedingly.
Plan C is a relationship built on trust and when
God’s people continue in trust the relationship develops, grows and
matures and becomes exceedingly good. If you are in Christ you are in
the ongoing plan C. You are part of something that is exceedingly good.
Scripture tells us that all those in Christ, those in
heaven and those on earth united in a relationship with God, will never
ever again be separated from Him.
Because of JC nothing ever again, absolutely nothing
can separate us from the love of God. We are in JC;
in Christ, from head to foot, from inside out and from outside in.
What a joy to know that we are exceedingly good in the exceedingly good
Jim’s Preach ‘In Christ Part 1’
Ephesians 1:1 –
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
saints in Ephesus, the
faithful in Christ Jesus:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Praise be to the
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the
heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
For he chose us
in him before the creation of the world to be
holy and blameless in his sight. Because of His love God had already
decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his sons and
daughters, this was his will and purpose.
To the praise of
his glorious grace, which he has
freely given us in his dear Son Jesus.
The theme in Ephesians is that the life of the saint
is not about doing... but about
In Ephesians Paul uses the phrase
‘In Jesus’ 7 times and the
phrase ‘In Christ’ 10 times.
7 is the number of perfection and 10 is the number of
Christ is not Jesus’ surname. Christ is a formal title (an identifying name signifying status).
Messiah and Christ both literally mean ‘Anointed One’
Paul is writing to Christians and he calls these believers saints and faithful. Saint is a formal title (an identifying name signifying status). Saint means ‘holy one’. Paul is saying that those who are in Christ are holy ones.
Jesus the ‘anointed one’ was the Messiah, the Christ,
not by what He did, His indentifying name was not by doing, it was by
being. Our identifying name saint is not by doing it is by being. Being
a saint is not of ourselves we cannot make ourselves holy.
Last week I spoke about the Charles Wesley hymn
‘And Can it Be’. I said
Charles had been bound by the chains of religion. He had been an
ordained minister but he didn’t have a relationship with Jesus.
Then he received the revelation that this
relationship came solely thro faith as, for the first time he
encountered Jesus. He experienced a release from the demands his
religion put on him and the guilt of
failing to meet those demands. He found Christianity was
not about doing but about being.
Charles expressed his joy of coming into relationship
and being released from impossible demands in the line
‘My chains fell off my heart was
free I rose went forth and followed thee’.
I knew a man called Alan, who said he had been in his
church for 30 years before he became a Christian. For 30 years he’d
thought he was a Christian then Alan met Jesus and came into a
relationship. Alan discovered that Christian life was
not about doing but about being.
Religion tells us that sacraments are outward signs
of an inward grace. Charles Wesley and Alan practiced the outward signs
for years but never experienced the inward grace. The outward sign
cannot create the inward grace. Only knowing the Lord Jesus brings about
the inward grace.
You can take holy communion and not have communion
that is holy. You can have religion and not have a relationship. We
don’t have to rely on what we can do but can rely on what Jesus has
Jesus prayed in John 17 that all (without exception) who believed in Him would be one in Him.
We all want a relationship, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a partner. The desire is in our being. God wants relationship, that’s where we get that desire from. And He has made that a possibility ‘by blessing us with every spiritual blessing in Christ’ (Eph1:3). He has given us everything we need for a relationship with God. Because the Christian life is not about doing but about being.
There are 5 relationship gifts: 1. the gift of grace (Ro 5:15) 2. the gift of faith (Eph 2:8) 3. the gift of righteousness (Ro 5:17) 4. the gift of the Holy Spirit (Ac 2:38) 5, gift of eternal life (Ro 6:23).
Five gifts that give you and keep you in a
relationship in Jesus, with
The gift of eternal life tells you how long the
relationship will last. For ever: no break ups, no separation. None of
these gifts can be gained by going to church or being good. They are
free gifts from God.
Galatians 3 tells us Christ redeemed us so that we
would inherit the blessing of Abram. That blessing was the promise made
to Abram Ge 12:2 ‘I will bless you …
and you will be a blessing’
God promised to bless Abram. Who was Abram going to
be a blessing to? God.
Any relationship should be based upon blessing one
another. Despite my jokes, Nina and I above all want bless one another;
we want to do each other good.
God wanted a relationship with Abram and so God had
to give Abram the ingredients for it.
Read Abram’s story. He wasn’t perfect by any means.
By our standards he was a lying, incestuous, adulterer. Not exactly the
model lifestyle of a saint and YET....
It didn’t matter. Because his relationship with God
was not about doing but about
Our relationship is not about doing but about being,
and being in Christ Jesus.
As it is written, Ac 17:28 ‘For
in the Lord we live, and move, and have our
Jim’s Preach ‘In Jesus’ Part 4
Extracts from Luke 8:43 - 48
In the crowd that day was a woman who had been subject to menstrual bleeding for twelve years, but no doctor could cure her.
She came up
behind Jesus and touched the hem of his garment, and immediately her
"Who touched me?" Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you."
But Jesus said,
"Someone touched me; I felt power go out from me."
When the woman
realized that she couldn’t remain hidden, she came trembling and fell at
his feet. In front of all the people, she told why she had touched him
and how she had been instantly healed.
Then Jesus said
to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace."
Continuing the theme
in Jesus found seven times in the book of Ephesians
‘In Jesus’ is how God sees those who trust in His Son
and become the children of God enjoying forgiveness of sin, an
inheritance of ancestral promises first made to Abraham, and a temple of
Saint means ‘holy one’. It’s His presence in us that makes us holy.
1Co 6:17 says ‘Those that are united to the Lord are
And so to the 7th and final ‘In Jesus’ in the book of Ephesians. In Jesus and through faith in Jesus we can boldly approach God with freedom and confidence.
In tonight’s reading a woman who was slowly bleeding
to death (menorrhagia) dared to push through the crowd to touch Jesus.
Her bleeding, according to religious law,
made her ceremonially unclean
and anyone she touched would automatically become unclean too. She had
been shunned by everyone for 12 years because no one wanted to be
contaminated by her.
But this woman had the faith to
challenge the law and its rules that condemned her. As this woman
reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment instead of Jesus
becoming unclean, according to the religious law, His righteousness
flowed out to the woman and made
her clean. Immediately this woman stopped bleeding.
The boldness of her faith in Jesus was greater than
the law but then her boldness deserted her! She knew the law that
discriminated against her. Joy turned to fear as Jesus suddenly said
‘Who touched me?’ And everyone else who discriminated against her looked
But instead of getting a rollicking she was shocked
to find that Jesus was delighted for her!
How many of us have
tried to get near to Jesus, only to let religious rules come and
convince us we’re not good enough and frighten us off? It happened to
me. Has it happened to you?
So the last ‘in Jesus’ of Ephesians says that ‘In
Jesus’ and through faith in him we may
boldly approach God with
freedom and confidence. Anytime, no matter what! Simply because we’re
in Jesus. Being
in Jesus makes us good
Charles Wesley was an Anglican minister who had a
knowledge of God but didn’t know Him. That is, until he read a book by
Martin Luther explaining the book of Galatians. A light came on and for
the very first time Charles discovered the peace of knowing total
acceptance from God that comes through faith alone.
His eyes were opened to the
massive extent of God’s love and he was amazed.
As a result he wrote his famous hymn called ‘And
can it be?’ These are some of his words:
How can it be,/ That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?/… ’Tis mercy
all, immense and free,/For, O my God, it found out me!/ Long my
imprisoned spirit lay,/Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;/ Thine eye
diffused a quick’ning ray—/I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,/I rose, went forth, and followed Thee./
No condemnation now I dread;/Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;/Alive
in Him, my living Head, /And
clothed in righteousness
divine,/Bold I approach th’ eternal throne,/And claim the crown, through
Christ my own.
Charles discovered that God freely pours His amazing love and limitless grace over him without Charles having to earn or deserve it. God’s amazing love made him free to follow Jesus without the chains of religion’s expectations binding him up.
Before this Charles had felt imprisoned, bound up in
a religious system whose demands he could never meet. It felt like being
locked in a dark dungeon. So many of us have felt trapped by that that
failure of being able to live up to what we are told we must do to be
But then Jesus revealed the
immensity of His love to Charles, love that doesn’t apply conditions
and rules but love that is totally unconditional. The chains of the do’s
and don’ts of religion had told him that no matter how hard he tried he
could never be good enough. Those chains had worn him down and stopped
him being himself.
The condemnation and guilt he used to carry were
gone! Charles now knew that he was
in Jesus, in whom he had
forgiveness and an inheritance
and the boldness not only to touch Jesus’ garment but the
boldness to approach God Himself
at any time, no matter what was happening in his life.
In Jesus Charles had the boldness of faith to claim the crown of righteousness that Jesus had bought for him. Jesus has bought a crown of righteousness for you and me. All we need like Charles is the boldness of faith to claim our crown in Jesus in whom we trust.
Jim’s Preach ‘In Jesus 3’
Ephesians 2:14 –
Jesus Himself is our peace, He has made both Jew and Gentile as one and has destroyed all the
barriers, torn down all the walls that divided men and women,
He did this by
abolishing the law with its
commandments and regulations. When He died
the law died with Him. His
purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the Jew and the
Gentile and men and woman, so making peace,
us together through his death on the Cross. The Cross got us to embrace
one another, and accept our differences and diversity.
Christ came and
preached peace to all that listened, treating all as equals.
through him we all have access to the God by one Spirit.
you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God’s
people and more than that, you’re family. This is all built on the
foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as
the chief cornerstone.
In Jesus the whole building is joined together ……to become a holy temple in the Lord.
in Jesus you too are being
built together to become a house in which God lives by his Spirit.
In Ephesians Paul states 7 times that as Christians
we are ‘In Jesus’. We have
the benefits of being in Jesus,
the benefits known as the Divine Exchange (see last week).
God see us as redeemed people who have a tremendous inheritance, who possess the gift of faith from Him and are sealed with the Holy Spirit so we can never lose what He has promised us and given us.
But how do we see ourselves? Do we dare see ourselves
as God sees us?
Church and society have judged many of us negatively.
Criticism and bullying affect us and give us a tendency to have a low
opinion of ourselves.
But God treasures each one of us as precious to Him and loves and accepts us exactly as we are.
That’s why He chose us, I’ve never known yet for God
to make a wrong choice.
It’s hard for us to think spiritually and grasp that
because we are ‘In Jesus’ God
sees us as perfect (Col 3:3).
Paul writes, that we who trust in Jesus are God’s
Temple. Like the Temple in Jerusalem that Solomon built. Solomon built
the temple precisely according to the plans God had given him.
Imagine having the money to build your own house,
furnish it just as you liked and position it exactly where you want with
the outlook you would like.
When Solomon finished the Temple he dedicated it to
God and scripture tells us in 1Kings 18 that the presence of the Lord
came and took up residence in His new house. The Jews called the visible
glory of God the Shekinah glory (Shekinah meaning presence or dwell).
God’s presence was so powerful it totally overwhelmed
the priests and stopped them performing their duties, instead they were
overcome with awe of God. The temple became Holy the moment God moved
in. It was His presence that made
In the story of Moses and the burning bush, God told
Moses he was on holy ground. It was
God’s presence that made it holy,
it wasn’t holy of itself.
Back to Solomon’s Temple. Scripture tells us that
Solomon’s Temple symbolised the Temple to come, which would be made of
people. It was to be flesh and blood not stone . God’s Temple today is
each one of us who knows Him.
Each one of us is unique and designed by God. And at
the moment when we come to trust in Jesus, God himself takes up
residence within us. We become God’s temple, God’s house, the place
where God dwells. And we are made
holy by his presence within us.
And each of us is unique with unique life experiences
and a unique outlook on life.
God’s homes throughout human history are all
different with different aspects and features in different locations and
different outlooks. Each Christian is different. Each Christian is home
to God and each one is holy
because of God’s abiding presence. God’s Shekinah glory, God’s
tangible presence is within.
And every time Christians gather together God’s
presence is among us. So, Liberty is God’s house. I’m not talking about
the bricks and mortar that surround us but the body of saints that
gather together make it God’s house.
And His presence among us makes Liberty a
holy residence. God is the
Architect of the House of Liberty and God is building it according to
His plan and furnishing it with those He has called to be here.
He has chosen each of us for our uniqueness and sees us as precious and holy to Him.
God wants His house to be filled with joy; a happy
and pleasant place for Him to live in. And a home where He can share His
peace, rest and to maybe recover from the stresses of life.
God also wants to share Liberty, His temple, His house. He wants to make it a home where people can come in and meet Him and know the joy of the new life He brings... In Jesus.
Jim’s Preach ‘In Jesus 2’
Extracts from Ephesians 1
To the praise of the glory of God’s grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved Son Jesus.
In Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us
In Jesus we also have received an inheritance, being
you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your
salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy
Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance
When there is
surplus of fruit you can preserve them by bottling. First jars have to
be washed and sterilised. There can’t be any contamination or the fruit
will spoil, every jar has to be spotless. The fruit is then packed tight
into the jars and a lid is put on to seal it. Nothing can then get in to
contaminate or spoil the wonderful fruit inside.
become saints by believing and trusting in the Lord Jesus God sees us as
being in Jesus. The apostle
Paul records in Ephesians the wonderful gifts we have
God’s plan and purpose when he looks at us He chooses to see His Son
Jesus instead of us; human beings with all our faults and failings. From
the moment that we believe in Jesus, in God’s eyes our lives are hidden
in Jesus (Col 3:3).
reading it says… ‘In Jesus
we have redemption’ meaning He paid the price for the forgiveness of our
sins. And that’s ALL of them, past, present and future. What an
outrageous gospel, what an outrageous grace!
forgiven makes us spotlessly clean – a bit like the jars washed clean
and sterilised from every possible germ.
That level of cleanliness makes us immediately fit for heaven.
Scripture records that Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever and because we are in Jesus we are spotlessly clean, yesterday, today and forever.
received an infinite amount of undeserved favour from God, a massive
Grace Gift ticket. So much grace that we’d have no chance of using it up
even in 100 lifetimes.
than enough grace for each and every situation or circumstance… we can
never earn it, no one can.
We can never
fall out of grace or fall away from grace. We can only ever
fall into grace and it is
always more than enough for our needs.
So we are
spiritually cleansed in Jesus
– like the jars were cleansed. What was next in the kitchen? The
filling – all that precious fruit is put inside sterilised spotless
says we that in Jesus we
have an inheritance. The
inheritance is every promise made by God to the ancestors of Jesus e.g.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These promises, for example the one He made to
Abraham ‘I’ll will bless you and make you a blessing’ have been passed
down throughout the generations of Jesus’ family.
Paul said Ro
8:17 we are joint heirs in Christ. We don’t have to do anything to
inherit… it’s ours guaranteed simply because of who we are, God’s
daughters and sons.
goes on to say about our trust in Jesus, we trust Him because we heard
about Him one way or another. I say one way or another because folks
come to know Jesus in such a variety of ways. It’s always the right way
for each individual.
the verse in Ephesians 1 ends ‘What you personally heard
was your good news of your salvation’. To make that plain, it was
the good news of your freedom, free to be yourself and freedom from
everything that at one time came between you and God.
the very instant we believe, is what’s called the Divine Exchange…
Jesus made Himself nothing… to give us everything
He accepted the poverty of earth… to give us the riches of heaven
He took our punishment… to give us forgiveness
He was cursed… so that we would be blessed ,He took our sin… and gave us His righteousness
He took our guilt… to give us his glory, He endured rejection … to give us acceptance with God
He lived a temporal life… to give us eternal life
He died darkness…to give us life in His glorious light
victorious from death… to make us
conquerors in life
knowing it, at the very moment we trusted in Jesus, the divine exchange
took place. And Paul tells us that we were
immediately sealed by the Holy
Spirit. And that takes us back to the preserved fruit. Paul writes
2Co 4:7 that we have this treasure in jars.
spotless by Jesus then filled with His love, His righteousness, His
holiness, the inheritance, the promises, the blessings and the Spirit’s
fruit. Jars sealed with His love by the Spirit.
And because of that spiritual seal nothing we can do can ever contaminate it. Nothing can pollute it, nothing can spoil it. We are sealed in and preserved eternally, in Jesus.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach 'In Jesus'
John 14:16 – 20:
Jesus makes a promise to His brothers and sisters
I will talk to
the Father, and He’ll provide you
another Friend so that you will always have someone with you.
This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!
"I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back.
In just a little
while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me
because I am alive and you’re about to come alive.
At that moment
you will know absolutely that I’m
in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.”
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesian saints, he repeats the phrase ‘In Jesus’ seven times.
Seven is the number of perfection. It’s a bit of an
odd thing to be ‘in’ Jesus.
I often find myself
in trouble…, in Nina’s
bad books, in dickeys meadow.
I know exactly what all those things mean and the consequences of them.
Jesus??? What does that mean
and what are the consequences?
When Paul wrote that letter to the saints in Ephesus
(Eph 3:4) he told them about the revelation
the Holy Spirit had given him,
his ”insight into the Mystery of Jesus Christ”.
A mystery is something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. We live in the natural world whereas Jesus lives in a supernatural realm. And we need inspiration from the Holy Spirit to grasp something spiritually that our minds cannot explain.
I have firsthand knowledge that knowing the nature of
Jesus only comes through experiencing Him, and increasingly over time,
He reveals Himself to us.
Jesus, born an ordinary man stepped into our world
with an invitation for us to step into His realm. Because of the sin of
unbelief, humanity had lost their relationship with God and were
separated from Him. But God gave the perfect substitute, His Son, to pay
the redemption price to bring humanity back into close connection with
That reminds me of my chocolate gateau voucher.
I have an Iceland voucher that I
can exchange for a free jumbo chocolate gateau for
I didn’t earn it. I trust that when I present the
voucher in Iceland, I’ll receive the cake because it’s already paid for.
That’s like our redemption. When every saint gets to
heaven they give their redemption voucher which reads: ‘This person
knows and loves Jesus.’ So each saint has full access to heaven because
the price of entry has already been paid in full.
And the wonderful thing is that spiritually we can
enter heaven, His realm, right now. There are times in life when the
sense of His presence is overwhelming and we get little tastes of
God’s viewpoint is that because we trust in Jesus our
lives are hidden in His life (Col 3:3). When God looks at us he sees
Jesus enfolding us. To God we are
Another consequence of spiritually
being in Jesus is that we are
the spiritual descendents of Abraham and inherit all the promises that
God gave to him (Galatians 3:29). Simply because we are
in Jesus we have an inheritance and we inherit all those wonderful
promises that Abraham was given ‘I will lead
you, I will guide you, I will bless you etc, etc and a thousand
We are also able to share in Jesus’ divine nature.
Peter confirms it in his 2nd
letter 2Pe 1:4 ‘…God has given us (note, a gift, not anything
earned) his very great and precious promises, so that through them you
may participate in the divine nature.’
We share in Jesus’ divine nature. It’s his nature in
us that enables us to know God and to love him and to know His love for
The promises are made to all God’s children. All are
involved. No human being or human organisation or human codes of conduct
have the power to block those promises that come from God Himself.
Which takes me back to the beginning and the apostle
Paul’s experience of… ”insight into the Mystery of Jesus Christ”. And to
Jesus’ promise to us in tonight’s reading ‘You will know absolutely that
I’m in my Father, and you’re in
me, and I’m in you’.
As we live in faith, we grow in our ability to trust
in Jesus more and more. We don’t get free from all our faults and
failings, our bad habits and selfish ways and become perfect human
But there are times,
despite us, when His qualities, His nature, come alive in us,
inspired by His Spirit. And it is the divine life and nature that can
reveal Jesus to others who don’t’ yet know Him.
Then we become bearers of His life as others meet Him
in us, and discover that life for themselves.
And come to know the mystery of Jesus being in them; and they in turn knowing absolutely that they are in Jesus.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach 'Walk in Him'
with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away.
For before he
was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him
must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek
Ge 5: tells
us that Enoch walked with God
and Hebrews 11 tells us Enoch
What does it
mean to walk with God? It means to walk along side one another as
companions; coming together for a journey. It involves talking about the
experiences along the way, especially when the journey is hard. This
togetherness leads to appreciating each other’s company and support when
God means that Enoch had an
intimate relationship with God, a closeness and in step with God.
The prophet Amos wrote "How can two walk together unless they’re in
John writes “if we walk in the light, as Jesus is in the light, we have
fellowship one with another” So when we are walking with God we are able
to relate to others who are also walking with the God. It is always
manmade rules that separate us.
God on His journey not the other way round. I believe that here at
Liberty we are on a journey that God started more than 10 years ago in
response to the fervent prayers of a lesbian called Hayley.
began the journey
and each one of us has joined Him at various stages of
His Liberty journey. Some
may be with us for just part of this journey others may be here for the
Do we know
the way? No... Do we need to know the way? No... We rely on the Spirit
to guide us.
says that Abraham walked before
God.* Abraham was walking out in front but he didn’t know the way. He
took wrong turns and made mistakes but God was behind him supporting
Why did God
allow those mistakes and wrong turns? Because Grace allows God’s
children to be themselves, each with the freedom to make their own
Abraham knew God as ‘El Shaddia’ from the word ‘shad’ meaning ‘breast’,
Mother God not Father God. Mother knows best has the tendency to fall on
deaf ears and so all good mothers allow their children to make mistakes
as part of their learning, while keeping an ever watchful eye on their
In every step
of his journey Abraham had the faith to know that Mother God was with
him no matter what. So what about you and I as saints, and together as
Col 2:6 tells us. ‘As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him’
Plus, 2Co 1:20 For all the promises of God are in Jesus; and ….fulfilled in Him.
means that we are walking in the promises of God.
When I came
into the freedom of the gospel of grace, I realised all the laws and
rules had been swept away. I stood before God simply as me. I said,
“Lord what now?” the answer came “Get on with your life.” So I did,
later realising that in Jesus I had all the promises of God to rely on.
believed God’s promises in scripture:
“I will lead you, I will watch over you, I will bless you” etc, etc. and
a thousand etc’s. I trusted that Mother God knew best.
How do we
walk in God? Simply by trusting Her/Him and being open to Her/His
leading. Col 2:7 tells us to be “rooted and built up in Jesus… grounded
in faith in Jesus”. And faith is simply trusting Jesus.
desire is to grow in our faith in God, and to walk in Her/His way
instead of ours, then our relationship strengthens and becomes more
intimate. Faith that can start out as small and as fragile as a mustard
seed can grow to become strong and unshakable.
Jesus brings us into unity with the Holy Spirit and in union with God,
who is both Mother and Father to us.
can gradually empower us to fulfil the following; Eph 5:2,8 "Walk in
love" …"Walk in the light."
Ga 5 "Walk in the spirit". The
light is in Jesus… the fruit and the fullness of the Spirit in Jesus,
the power God’s unfailing love is in Jesus
Heb 11:5 says
simply that “Enoch pleased God”. And here’s how …with his faith. Heb 11
verse 6 says … “without faith it is impossible to please God.” It was
Enoch’s faith that pleased God.
each one of us as individuals and collectively, the ability
to walk with God, walk before
God, walk in God and most importantly, it pleases God.
Because nothing pleases God more than having the faith for life’s journey with God in Jesus.
* Ex 6:3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as El Shaddia, but by my name Jehovah I did not make myself known to them.
Ge 17:1 ...the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am Almighty God (El Shaddia); walk before Me.”
In light of the overall context given in Genesis 17, the name El Shaddai is directly connected with the promise given to Abraham regarding the future growth of his family, (“I will multiply you exceedingly") and ultimately of the coming of the promised Seed, the Messiah. Understood in this light, the name El Shaddai provides a picture of God's nurturing love for our lives... God nurtures and loves us, like a mother loves her newborn child.
Extract From 'Rejection' (On Liberty Church Podcast. See Top of Page)
Jesus knew from an early age that he was different from other boys. Under Old Testament Law Jesus, along with eunuchs, would have been disqualified from the congregation because Joseph was not his true father. His true father and mother were not married and that made him illegitimate. He had to keep this secret or face being ostracised by his community and bring shame on his family.
The law rejected and condemned what he was and he experienced self-condemnation from knowing his peers would view him as unworthy to stand in the congregation of the Lord. When he returned to Nazareth to preach he was rejected by members of his family and rejected by people he grew up with and worked with. His friends rejected him when he was arrested.
He was denounced by the religious leaders because he wouldn’t deny who he was and what he was. When he appeared before the King, the highest court in the land, an injustice was done with mockery and rejection. His rejection by his fellow Jews fulfilled the scripture that he would be rejected by men.
He experienced the desolation of an overwhelming feeling of loneliness and when a cry to God ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me’ seemingly went unanswered. The final rejection. That rejection was too much, He died feeling desolate and alone.
Scriptures used De 23:2. Joh 7:5. Mt 13:54-57. Mr 15:13,14. Mt 26:56. Mt 26:65. Lk 23:11. Is 53:1-3. Mt 27:46.
His prayer was answered when he rose from the dead. God had not rejected his child. Jesus was the Son of God. He had died to his past and its rejection and now he had entered into a new life.
Jim explained how the Lord can identify with the rejection experienced by many people today from the law that brings self condemnation, family, friends, community, religious leaders, those who you should be able to trust and receive justice, even feeling rejected by God. Jesus himself went hrough it in a profound way.
The Lord touched the hearts of those listening who have been deeply wounded by such rejection. Some of the pain of this was expressed in the tears that were shed. Expressing the pain is part of the healing process. In His time and in His way He will bring each one to a place of healing the pain of rejection and into a new phase of life free of the burden of hurt. Jesus will never reject you.
1Pe 2:4 Come to Him...rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him.
Rejection. CD’s or tapes are available free of charge. Contact Us