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Matthew 11:25-30 (The Message)
Jesus said "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly."
Jesus was telling us ‘Don’t be worn out’
As Christians we were indoctrinated to be ‘doers’. We were told the ‘shoulds’ of Christianity that we should do a list of things that would please God…….. and that list was endless.
There are thousands of books and thousands of programs that tell us how to do all these things and how to get others to know Jesus. It’s as if the survival of Christianity is completely depends on our efforts.
There are times when I absolutely despise religion .When I hear of fundamentalism inciting hatred, paedophile priests, hurtful things said in church about the gay community, or the thoughtless actions committed by one church member on another. Religion clearly fails to make people more loving.
The only thing that gets me through is knowing that religion comes right out of the heart of humankind. Its man’s efforts to please God, to impress God. It’s not God inspired or God blessed and it always fails to change people deep inside.
Religion is “doing”, in fact religion is doing and doing and doing some more and the doing is NEVER be enough. Religion needs constant effort. It’s not what Jesus called us to. He simply called us to relationship with Him.
Jesus says “Come to me (the invitation), get away with me and recover your life” Religion will suck life out of us BUT relationship with Jesus gives us our lives BACK!
Jesus said - I have come to give you LIFE, and not just life BUT life in all its fullness....Life that is beyond our imagination!
Is it religion or relationship for us? The Jews he was speaking to knew all about religion – doing the right thing, saying the right thing, wearing the right thing! They knew how to “do” religion. Religion can do stuff without relating to Jesus. But here we have Jesus saying religion will burn you out, frazzle you, dry you out, and burn you to a crisp!
Instead Jesus says “Come to me”. ‘Come’ not do its about relationship. Walk alongside me and I’ll let you in on how I do it, let me mentor you, watch how I do the Fathers business find out how to do it like that.
This wonderful passage from the Message says –“Learn the unforced rhythm of grace” Gosh that’s very poetic but what does it mean? It’s simply living by grace.
It’s believing that God has covered all our actions with Christ’s blood so there’s nothing we can do or not do that will ruin His plan because He treats us with favour way beyond anything we could deserve. Jesus has ripped up the rule book!
It’s about not trusting what we do to make us pleasing to God. Its simply just being us.
And when we live by grace, nothing is obligatory but as we deepen our relationship with Him we are delighted to do what he leads us in to. And loving God becomes natural, just like breathing in and out - in and out - an unforced rhythm.
We are not supposed to run ourselves into the ground, we weren’t designed for that.
The word rhythm is usually linked to music. The rhythm section of the band lays the foundation for the song. It kind of sets the floor for the rest of the song to build upon.
When the rhythm in a song is mistimed or simply doesn't fit in with the flow of the music, it throws everything off. No matter how beautiful the song is it is ruined.
But when the music has got good beats and rhythm, we get immersed into it. We might start tapping our feet, or just all out dancing along with the rhythm. Its easy to flow with it.
God invites us to set our lives to a new beat, His beat. He invites us to listen for it and go with it, flow with it and live in His rhythms of grace.
The rhythm of this grace meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us. as our own ways are overcome to now live for a greater purpose. It prompts us to respond to God in praise for what He is doing in our lives, not for what we are achieving by willpower.
Let’s allow Him to do what He wants in us, according to His rhythm and live freely and lightly with Him.
Philippians 2:5 - 11 Our attitude should be the same as that of Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became submissive to even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth.
With every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
When Jesus taught his students to pray he started ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’
He addressed God in intimate terms as a loving Father and at the same time as the awesome Holy Being beyond our comprehension.
So what did the Jewish students understand by this term ‘hallowed be your name’? One theologian suggests it meant ‘I desire to regard your name as holy as you are holy.’
Jewish understanding of God’s name goes back to Moses and burning bush when God revealed his name as ‘I AM THAT I AM’, Moses and the people must have been in awe of such a profound name as they didn’t ask ‘I AM what?’ Yet the name was revered.
No one plumbed the depths of the name I AM, because to do so would be plumbing the depths of God who is indefinable and unsearchable.
Later God told Moses He is also to be known as Jehovah. In English bibles it is translated LORD in capital letters. But to the Jew His name is too holy to speak so it’s shortened it to four Hebrew letters YHWH which we know as Yahweh.
Names were descriptive but this name was unique and didn’t describe anything and couldn’t describe anything.
For us the name of God is a spoken word Yahweh, but to the Jew you don’t say it, you breathe it. ‘Yah’ is in the in breathe. ‘Wey’ is in the out breathe.
In Hebrew the name is spelt HWHY (Hebrew reads right to left).
The letter H means life and H is the fifth letter of the Jewish alphabet (five is the number of grace).
When a new born baby takes it first breathe it breathes the name of God; Yah-weh. The last breath of life also speaks the name of God, Yah-weh.
The Lord’s prayer as we know it, is not a prayer to be recited. When Rabbi Jesus said to His students, pray ‘Hallowed be your name’ one thousand five hundred years of Jewish understanding of God’s name came to bear on the Rabbi’s teaching. This was a WOW prayer.
A prayer of awe, a prayer of reverence, a holy prayer to a holy God whose name was unsearchable and too holy to speak. A name full of life and grace.
God changed Abram’s name to AbraHam. He breathed the ‘H’ into Abram’s name, the ‘H’ that means life and signifies grace. In doing this God breathed His life and grace into AbraHam. God also changed the name of Sarai, Abraham’s wife in the same way to SaraH as He breathed the ‘H’, His life, into to her too.
As the breath of His name and the grace and the life of God was breathed into Abraham and Sarah they conceived their promised son and also descendants, that are as many as the stars in the sky. Such is the power of His breath and of His name.
Jesus’ Hebrew name was Joshua, the correct pronunciation is not Joshua with a J, it actually begins with a breath, YeH – sua.
Rabbi YeH – sua had taught his students well. Their education would be continued by another teacher, the Spirit of God who would teach them in freedom from the restrictions of the Law of Moses which Jesus brought to an end.
Before Rabbi YeH – sua returned to heaven he breathed His name and His life into His students. (John 20:22) just as God had done with AbraHam and SaraH. This brought about the conception of their many spiritual children.
In John 20:22 the student John testified ‘that believing Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that having an unshakable belief and trust in Him, you will have life through his name.
Jesus, Yeh – sua, a name that is above all other names who has BREATHED INTO US HIS LIFE AND HIS NAME.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Mercy’
O give thanks to the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endures for ever.
O give thanks to the God of gods: for his mercy endures for ever.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endures for ever.
To him who alone does great wonders: for his mercy endures for ever.
To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endures for ever.
To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endures for ever.
To him that made great lights: for his mercy endures for ever:
The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endures for ever:
The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endures for ever.
Mercy is not a word we use much these days. My dictionary meaning is ‘Leniency and compassion shown toward offenders; a judge motivated with compassion and a tendency to be kind’.
My bible dictionary said mercy is kindness to someone who doesn’t deserve it. So God’s mercy is His undeserved kindness like God’s grace is His undeserved favour.
In John’s gospel, Chapter 5, Jesus is standing by the pool of Bethesda. Bethesda means house of mercy. The pool is bordered by 5 arches. 5 is the number of grace in scripture. Its to be expected that grace should be found in the house of mercy.
Surrounding this pool are people who are sick and infirm. The text says there are the paralysed, the blind, the lame and malnourished. They believed that at times a messenger would come from God, stir the pool and whoever got into the water first would be healed. So everyone hoped they would be first when this happened.
Among all these people Jesus spoke to just one. A man who was paralysed, a man had been stuck there for 38 years.
Jesus asked him the guy ‘Do you want making whole’. The man interprets that as, ‘do you want to be made well’. He said, ‘Yes but I’ve never been quick enough to get into the pool first to be healed.’
He tells Jesus there’s no one to help him, not realising that Jesus, the one stood talking to him, is the one above all who can help. Jesus tells the guy to get up off his bed and walk. The man who doesn’t even know Jesus’ name at this point, gets up and picks up his sleeping mat. Now walk the man heads for the Temple.
But, and it’s a big but, all this happened on the Sabbath.
The Pharisees stop the man in the streets because it’s against the law to carry anything on the Sabbath. The man tells them ‘I’ve just got healed after being 38 years paralysed’. Instead of being delighted the Pharisees are angry that anyone dared heal someone on the Sabbath.
They ask who was responsible for healing the man. It was against their law to do almost anything on the Sabbath! They were so intent on their religious rules they were blinded to recognising a supernatural healing. They just missed the supernatural.
Is there a warning for us all? Beware of religious rules, God works in ways that don’t always fit in with the ways we think or do things. Things that might even seem a bit offensive to us and things that might be supernatural.
The man was powerless for 38 years. What made him powerless? 38 years gives a clue as it links to the 38 years the Israelites wandered, powerless, in the desert in the Old Testament because they were unable to believe God’s promise to them that he would give them the Promised Land.
Their fear was greater than their faith in Gods promise to give them the land, their unbelief made the obstacles in front of them bigger than God. So the number 38 is associated with unbelief.
Under the shade of the porches of grace in the House of Mercy laid the man whose unbelief kept him laying powerlessly on his bed for 38 years. Even though he was totally devoid of faith, he was healed and didn’t even know who had healed him. A guy with no faith in Jesus, didn’t know who Jesus was, completely healed.
Is this because he’s in the House of Mercy receiving mercy he didn’t deserve?
Is this story telling us that God’s mercy is greater than our apparent failings?
The unbelief of the paralysed man was no obstruction to Jesus who, the text says, made him whole, body, soul and spirit. And Jesus did eventually reveal Himself to the man.
And here is another teaching for us in this story of Jesus healing the powerless man. Jesus tells him to take up his bed and walk. These words from Jesus gave him the strength to do so.
The bed which once carried him is now to be carried by him in his walk through life. The bed represents his past life. We all figuratively carry our past with us even when Jesus makes us whole.
In our Christianity we are made spiritually whole and seen as holy and perfect in Jesus, but our behaviour as human beings does not suddenly stop. Who we are, our personality, our faults and failings, all accompany us in our walk through our Christian lives.
Jesus is powerful, He has the power to bring us into new Life in Him and to keep us spiritually whole and holy and perfect no matter what life throws at us every day.
We are not natural children but the spiritual children of God, born of the power and life within us, whose name is Jesus, whose mercy endures forever.
And kept whole and holy and perfect in God’s sight by Jesus, for his mercy endures for ever.
O give thanks to Jesus the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endures for ever.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach 'Two Trees'
From MV.1Corinthians 1:21 -31
Since the world in all its so called wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.
While Jews clamour for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd….Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one.
Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s "weakness."
Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of "the brightest and the best" among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families.
Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"?
That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own trumpet before God. …"If you’re going to blow a trumpet, blow a trumpet for God.’
In the Garden of Paradise there were two trees, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil which gave you the ability to tell the difference between right and wrong.
One tree gave you knowledge of right and wrong, but the tree of life, according to Pr 3:18 gave you wisdom. The tree of life symbolises Jesus 1Co 1:24.
The story says that the tempter told the woman that when she knows the difference between right and wrong she’ll be like God. And humanity has been doing lots of things ever since to be like God.
My bible was made out of paper and paper came from trees. It occurred to me that here in my hand was the tree of knowledge and the tree of life. For in this book I could find the knowledge of right and wrong or find the source of Life.
I have a choice: I can work to gain God’s favour or simply rest in Jesus knowing I have His favour.
One part of this book could make me judge myself and others or part of this book could reveal grace that’s there for me and for all others.
Abraham married Sarah his half sister so he sinned according to Leviticus 18, but God didn’t condemn him, on the contrary… he blessed him. He blessed Abraham with health, wealth, and an enviable relationship with the Lord. Abraham is called the friend of God.
One day I felt the Lord ask me, Did Abraham sin? Funny question I thought. The apostle Paul wrote ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. But I felt the Lord said ‘I’ve recorded Abraham’s faith not his sin’. 1Cor 13 ‘love keeps no record of wrongs’
The Lord was teaching me about grace. Lev 18 condemns. Grace cannot condemn, grace can only bless. The Lord was teaching me to look at people in the way He looks at people- through grace glasses.
When we use the bible as the source of teaching us the knowledge of good and evil we end up judging ourselves and our judgemental attitudes leak out and other people sense them. Unwittingly often churches feed us from the wrong tree telling us ‘do this and you’ll be like Jesus’ ‘Do this and you’ll be like God’. But we can never do things well enough to achieve that.
We need to be fed from the Tree of Life, Jesus. Jesus said that ‘He had come to earth so that we could have life’. He is our tree of life, God’s life.
Jesus is life and gives life. He sustains and nourishes life. All we’ve got to do is reach out.
Tonight’s reading tells us God chose the foolish, weak, lowly, despised and the things that don’t make sense. To so many the simplicity Jesus offers doesn’t make sense.
The word Gospel means good news and what’s good about it is that we don’t need to be good or even do good.
The news is that God is good and His goodness is ours if we can only trust. Trust that His goodness has got us covered. No striving or straining trying to be good but just living in His goodness.
A goodness so good it will bubble to the surface, leak out and be sensed by others.
It is in Jesus and in the fruit of the Spirit where we find life, real life, God life. And it’s much better than anything we could ever achieve, no matter how hard we try.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Faithfulness Of God’
‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things which are certain and true, things we cannot see.
God accepted the saints of old because of their faith.
….. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, without hesitation went, even though he did not know where he was going.
By faith Abraham, when God tested his trust, Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son,
even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned."
Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. Verses from Hebrews 11
Jas 2:20 says ‘ ...do you want to know, that faith without works is dead?’ I used to ignore what James went on to give as an example of, a work that proved faith was alive. The example James gave was of Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son to God. I took no notice of that and used the verse to tell myself that I had to do lots of good things, good works to prove I had faith.
My good works were inspired by me. Abraham’s ‘faith work’ was inspired by God. God spoke to Abraham asking him for this sacrifice. We must remember that when God speaks His words are spirit and life John 6:63. God’s words to Abraham gave Abraham the faith to be willing to do what was humanely impossible, be willing to kill his son.
Abraham trusted God so much that even when he didn’t understand he was willing to allow the Spirit of God to lead him. And God prevented the death of Abraham’s son at the last millisecond.
Faith is a gift from God. The faith work is a gift from God.
The faith work is initiated by God and brings glory to God.
The well known opening verse of Hebrews 11 ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things which are certain and true, the things we cannot see.’
There is then a long list of people of faith who are called ‘a great cloud of witnesses’.
Witnesses to what? The faithfulness of God.
Every act of faith that witnesses to the faithfulness of God begins by what God says. What God says is given life in our hearts by the Spirit, the Spirit gives ooomph to the faith. The act then brings glory to God.
A hallmark of a faith work’ or a ‘God work’ is that it shows how trustworthy and faithful God is. In contrast, our own works tend to show how good we are.
The ‘the cloud of witnesses’ believed and trusted God and then, as they stepped out to follow His direction and leading, they witnessed that God was faithful to them.
Paul writes in 1Co 10:31 ...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
In John’s gospel Jesus says He doesn’t say anything unless He has heard His Father say it first. Jesus also says He doesn’t do anything unless He had first seen in His minds eye that it was the Fathers doing.
When Jesus got to the tomb of Lazarus his friend he said ‘"Did I not tell you that if you had faith, you would see the glory of God?" And so faith and the glory of God are intrinsically linked. Faith by its very nature brings glory to God.
We are the branch not the vine, we are the clay jar not the potter, we are the lamp not the light. Yet Jesus has made us one in Him and in unity with God.
It is in that unity with Jesus we hear the Fathers voice and are empowered by His Spirit. It is the unity with Jesus which is the guarantee of being witnesses of Gods faithfulness.
A unity with Jesus with a faith that comes by hearing God speak and a faith empowered by His Spirit that both assures us and gives Glory to God.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Life in the Spirit’
A parable of Jesus recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke.
“No one puts a new piece of cloth on an old garment; otherwise the new makes a tear, nor takes a piece from an old garment to stitch on to the new the old does not match the new.
“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined.
“But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved.
“And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’”
Jesus was responding to questions about why he and his disciples didn’t keep all the religious traditions and practices of the oral law. (Mt 9:14; Mk 2:18).
Those of us who are old enough can remember in our youth when cloth was first washed it always shrank and the dye always ran. So if a torn old shirt was being repaired it would have to be patched with a piece of old cloth. If a piece of un-shrunk new cloth was used the new cloth would shrink in the first wash and would tear the shirt again.
This was the point of Jesus’ story the old and new don’t mix.
Through this parable Jesus was saying to His critics, I have come to tell folks new news and its good. You don’t need to try hard to live up to all the old religious rules that always left you guilty. I’ve brought something new and different to the old. He didn’t come to patch up the old religion. Jesus brought something completely different.
Likewise with the new wine; new wine is bubbly, effervescent, expanding, contracting, unpredictable even explosive. If its put into dry, rigid old wineskins it will fizz and burst the wineskin. It needs a new wineskin that will stretch and make room for the fizz.
The old wine though is dependable predictable and palatable. It can be hard to give up for the new.
Man made religion is anything that we do by our own efforts to try to make ourselves more pleasing to God. And our own endeavours maybe pleasing to us, but are never enough to please God.
Personally I see man made religion as a form of birth control. Religion is Christianity using a condom, it’s a preventative to life.
We can get a great sense of achievement performing our religious acts and we can think that through them we gain favour with God.
When we do well the achievement puffs us up thinking we are better than others, and when we fail the guilt makes us think we’re worse than others.
But the apostle Paul confirms in Philippians 4:19 That God will supply all our spiritual needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
To me that’s a ‘no brainer,’ I willingly swap my old man made religion with its traditions, and practices, in exchange for God’s glorious riches in Jesus.
The many religious expectations placed on people was bad news and old news and crushed people. Jesus was bringing new news and it was good news and it set people free.
Free from trying to change themselves into something they were not. Free to be themselves. Jesus came to do away with the old and establish the new.
In the story of the woman at the well in John 4 Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will satisfy our thirst for God. Significantly Jesus tells the woman that religion is finished. Both her religion and Jesus’ own religion.
He told her that the worship of God is now going to be totally spiritual. No longer about externals, what you do or don’t do, what traditions or practices you follow or don’t follow but about what is going on internally, in the deepest part of you, your spirit.
When its simply about us having a trusting relationship with God’s Spirit and not about what is expected of us, we suddenly have a level playing field. All are equal.
The highly intelligent person and the person with learning difficulties, the person who is stable emotionally and the person who suffers mental illness.
The outgoing caring person and the person who has difficulty in relating to people. We are all equal because its not about how we perform in life.
Its about that relationship of our spirit knowing the Spirit of God, our spirit wanting more of the Spirit of God; our spirit in unison with the Spirit of God is true worship.
And the fruit of what God’s Spirit does in us in and through us in that relationship, is the fruit that tastes so good to God.
Extracts from Lynn’s Preach ‘Do not let you hearts be troubled…’
John 14 1-3
Jesus said "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.’
Jesus said “Do not let your heart be troubled.” BUT isn’t that easier said than done?
We shout out “there’s so much to be troubled about”. War and terrorist attacks, political corruption, crime and violence, and economic pressure, Brexit, poverty, relationships, unemployment. (If you weren’t feeling troubled before, you probably are now).
The list of our worries goes on and on. There are so many “what if?” scenarios.
What if I get cancer? What if I’m in an accident? What if my partner leaves me? What if I lose my job? What is my benefits are sanctioned? What if I lose my friends and I am rejected? What if I lose my home? So much to worry about.
And our worry and fear may be intensely personal. We all go through some really worrying times.
Today, if your heart is troubled and you’re feeling confused, concerned, and overwhelmed, you’re in good company. In John 14, Jesus’ disciples felt the very same way.
It was finally dawning on them Jesus is going to die, and their hearts are heavy and deeply troubled. They’re worried sick. Now, just hours before he’s arrested he says , “Do not let your heart be troubled.” He can’t be serious!
Have you ever been worried or anxious and someone has said “pull yourself together”? When that happens to me I feel like punching them! I bet the disciples were angry when they heard this.
But Jesus didn’t stop there He then gives them the antidote to their worry, Trust in God and trust also in me”.
Jesus is the living, physical proof that God not distant and uncaring. Jesus shows us that God is actively working in the world and in our lives, that God is an involved, loving, Father/Mother who sees us, touches us, weeps with us, dies for us, and lives for us.
God is not just Spirit, the Son is God in the flesh. Jesus is God with skin on!
We are not left wandering aimlessly in this life. The disciples needed reassurance that Jesus was not about to abandon them and so do we! The antidote to our troubled heart is a relationship with Jesus.
I can be a bit of a stress head! But I know people who say, “Give it to God, He will sort it out” That always winds me up and makes me feel even MORE stressed…… because I find that really difficult.
BUT because I have a relationship with Jesus then I want to trust Him with my stuff now and again! That can be so hard to do.
Jesus tells us that the way to God is through a relationship with Him. Coming to Church is not a relationship with Jesus. Jesus said ‘Believe in, trust in Me’, simple but profound.
Jesus said to the disciple’s ‘I’m going to prepare a place where we will all be together. And I want you to trust me on that even when you can no longer see me and hear me’.
God is present with us through the Holy Spirit, we are not left abandoned. We are NOT in this alone.
Jesus walks alongside us in our anxiety, our stress, our depression and asks us to trust Him. (We can ask Him to help us to do that).
He is not visible to us and often we can’t hear Him but He still wants us to trust in Him and have confidence in Him. Belief involves confidence. Do we have confidence in our God?
Have we got confidence in Jesus being who He says He is? Do we have confidence that trust in Him is the ultimate antidote to our worry?
Jesus DIDN’T say – I’m going to take all this worry from you. He’s not a magic wand. We still have the stress and worry. (When we are able to trust Him in it He works deep in us to give us His peace despite it).
I’ll read those words again and put my own name right at the beginning. You may like to do the same and put your name there. ‘Lynn, let not your heart be troubled, believe in God believe also in me’.
Life can be so hard and some of us are dreading this week and feel overwhelmed and frightened. (We can ask Jesus to work in us by his Spirit and help us to trust Him and to discover His peace in the midst of the trouble).
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘From No to So’
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let’s go over to the other side."
Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were other boats with him.
A furious storm came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?"
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" Mk 4:35 – 41
Twelve disciples (all teenagers) in a boat thinking they’re going to drown. Jesus had told them clearly they were going to the other side but his words melted away when the storm blew up. But Jesus told the storm to shut up and it did. This made the teenagers even more terrified.
Then Jesus said "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" If I’d been in the boat I’d be like the rest of them. Under my breath I’d be saying no I haven’t.
There have been times in my Christian life when I’ve been bricking it and my life hasn’t been at stake. Jesus could easily have said to me "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
In Matthew 6 Jesus was on a hillside teaching his disciples. Time’s gone on a bit and the disciples had got to know Jesus a little better. He was teaching them about trusting God and depending on God to meet their needs. Jesus ended saying ‘If God clothes the grass, and you’re more precious than the grass, surely God will clothe you, O you of little faith’.
Spending all this time with Jesus had increased their faith from no faith... to little faith!
There was a Gentile woman who came to Jesus on behalf of her daughter and just wouldn’t take no for an answer. At the end because she didn’t give up, Jesus said to her ‘you have great faith’. The woman knew the power that was in Jesus was greater than the huge need her daughter had.
From no faith, to a little faith, to great faith leads into the next story. Jesus was met by Roman Centurion whose servant was ill. The Roman says to Jesus ‘you’re so powerful you can heal my servant even though he’s miles away’. Jesus said ‘I’ve never come across so great a faith’
‘No faith’ to ‘little faith’ to ‘great faith’ to ‘so great a faith’. From ‘No’ to ‘So’.
That pretty well that sums up our faith life because we all start off with no faith. But will we finish up with ‘so great a faith’? Will we go from ‘No’ to ‘So’?
We start with no faith but Ro 12:3 says that God has given each one of us a measure of faith.
2Co 10:15 says that our faith is increased and 2Th 1:3 says our faith grows.
I believe as individuals and together as a church we together can indeed go from no to so.
To grow in faith we have to develop an ongoing relationship with the Lord. Put simply, as we do life with Jesus, and get to know Him in different ways as we go through the ups and downs with him, He develops faith within us.
When I first became a Christian my no faith began to increase and grow but unfortunately the rules and regulations got the better of me and I turned my back on the church and left, for 20 odd years. During that time my faith never increased or grew.
But my faith certainly took an upward turn when I returned to the church. Being in the company of fellow believers helped me grow in faith. Especially being in the company of people whose faith was clearly greater than mine. People who had trusted Jesus’ leading for years and had done some amazing things as they walked with Him and faced the toughest situations of life with Him. Many of them had gone to India and Africa as missionaries. Hearing them speak of their faith experiences helped to build my faith.
They also spoke about their church life before they went to foreign lands. It was a church where people had room to grow in faith and in their relationship with the Lord.
There was a freedom of expression within their church culture where mistakes were allowed as people learned to grow in using the various gifts of the Spirit.
And as the Holy Spirit became more and more evident in their meetings worship became a time when people danced and laughed with the tremendous joy that came from Spirit led worship. Some people thought that they must be getting drunk. They were drunk, drunk in the Spirit... not with spirits of the alcohol type!
These things didn’t all happen at the beginning. They had a ‘no’ to ‘so’ experience as the Lord grew them and increased their faith, as He is growing us and increasing our faith.
We see the gifts of the Holy Spirit being among us to build us up body, soul and spirit. We do experience an increase in the sense of the Lord’s presence when we worship. But we want much more.
I believe we’re well on the road. We can go from ‘no’ to ‘so’ in many different ways as we rely on the Lord to lead us. It’s Jesus who causes us to grow in our ability to trust Him and develop in our faith in Him.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘The Precious Promise’
The old covenant (contract) that I made with Israel in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. My covenant which they broke, even though I was a faithful to them.
However, this is the new covenant (contract) that I will make with the house of Israel.
After those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
"No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, ’Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. I will forgive their sins completely, and I will remember their sins no more." Jer 31:32–34
In this covenant God says ‘I will’ 5 times. In scripture 5 is the number of grace. This is a hint that this contract God promised was based on Grace.
Its based on Him giving Israel something for nothing, they didn’t have to pay anything. It was a one way contract, an unconditional contract.
It was new and shocking! The Jewish religion was based on having to do, and not do a lot of stuff to please God. This new contract was one way, it was about God doing it all and Israel doing nothing.
It was as shocking as a landlord getting out the contract for a flat or house and signing up to promise to let you live in that property, maintain the property, do the repairs, provide a cooker, carpets, everything needed and asking you to do nothing. No rent to pay, nothing. Just enjoy the owners generous gift. The contract totally relies on the generosity and trustworthiness of the landlord. It would seem too good to be true.
We might walk away saying; ‘ nah! too good to be true, I don’t believe it! So we would miss out. However, if we trusted the landlord we could then move in and enjoy the property.
This new unconditional contract from God was totally different from the old covenant where the people agreed to obey 613 rules to the letter to be blessed by him.
The upshot of it all was that the people just had not been able to do what was asked of them in old covenant. They couldn’t be totally obedient to God. The covenant gave them the rules, but not the power or the ability to keep them. Religious rules bring disagreement and disharmony. Everyone argues about what the rules mean, and who is keeping them and who isn’t, who’s in and who’s out. If you can’t keep the rules you have to look as though you are, that leads to hypocrisy.
In the book of Romans Paul told his fellow Jews, who had become Christians, that God’s new contract, the new covenant, brought through Jesus, was a one way promise from God.
It relied on God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness and didn’t rely on flawed people. So no one could fail and no one had to pretend to be something they were not. Hypocrisy now not needed.
All that Israel had to do to get the benefits of this contract was to believe and trust in what God said. And God said ‘I will’ repeatedly. He didn’t say I will as long as you do something.
No, He said ‘I will’ no matter what you do or don’t do, just trust that I will.
He said “I will forgive your sins and I will not remember your sins.” All sins would be wiped out, past, present and future.
The Paul had problems with the Roman Christians. They said ‘Nah! Too good to be true!’. And they insisted on carrying on some rules and saying they were still essential.
The do’s and don’ts of their Jewish religion had a powerful hold over them, they seemed like the right way. So they said keeping their rules said made you more pleasing to God.
Paul wrote to the Jewish believers in Rome, Ro 4:14-15 “If those who live by the Jewish religion its rules and traditions and are correct in what they practice, faith has no value and what God said in His promise is made worthless.’ In Romans 3:27 Paul called this new covenant promise,
“the law of faith.” or simply the law of trust in God.
Though the covenant itself had no rules it did have order. In the first creation the law of nature was governed and set in order by God, and it ensures things work together in harmony.
With the New Creation the law of faith is governed and set in order by God. The three persons of the Trinity are ordered, they relate together in trust and harmony in the new creation. To participate in God’s nature we need to trust using the trust in Him that He plants in our hearts.
So in ‘the law of faith’ God’s people could participate, but not by natural human effort, but by a supernatural intimate relationship with God, brought about by faith in what God said.
The Old Covenant was to the Jew, the New Covenant promise was to the Jewish Christian. Paul’s Roman letter was to the Jewish Christian. What has all this got to do with us Gentile Christians? It’s all there for us to learn by, because the character of God doesn’t change.
It shows us that religious systems that rely on flawed humanity doing it right, always go wrong.
Flawed humanity guarantees failure.
The Jewish Christians had a promise based on God’s faithfulness that was so contrary to what they said ‘Nah! Too good to be true! We’ll do it the old way’. We too have a promise based on God’s faithfulness. Let’s grab it, and trust in His promise to us and go through life trusting in Him.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Confounding the Wise’s
1Co 1:25-31 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
Brothers and Sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no-one may boast before him.
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness and holiness.
Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
Naaman was the commander of the Syrian Army. He was revered as a great soldier and used to only speaking to other people who were important and powerful. But he had leprosy.
The lowliest of his servants, a little Jewish girl who was his wife’s maid told his wife that Israel’s prophet Elisha, telling her the prophet could cure her husband’s leprosy. Naaman’s wife passed the message on to him.
With nothing to lose Naaman went to Israel but went straight to the most important person, the king, and asked for healing. The king was angry, he wasn’t God. No one is Israel had ever been healed from leprosy.
But Elisha, the prophet heard about this and sent his servant to offer help. When Naaman visited Elisha’s house, Elisha didn’t bother to see him but sent his servant to give Naaman instructions to bathe in the River Jordan to get healed. Naaman was livid, he wanted to see the boss, not an underling and he didn’t want to follow instructions that seemed stupid to him.
But he did. And he was healed. Elisha said God used him to heal Naaman. God did it without involving anyone important or powerful.
In the gospels there is a ‘certain woman’ with a discharge of blood for twelve years. She broke the religious law that forbade her to go out n public or touch anyone when she was bleeding and she pushed through a crowd to touch Jesus’ prayer shawl. She was healed. Jesus praised her faith.
She believed Jesus was the Messiah and knew the scripture (Mal 4:2) that said the Messiah would have ‘healing in his wings’. (The wings were the ‘wings’ of his prayer shawl).
The healing of Naaman is a story full of ignorance, bias, prejudice and pride. The healing of the woman a story full of knowing, focus, and faith.
Naaman’s story begins with a little Jewish girl, a person of that time and place of no significance, yet God used this girl, a nobody, as a messenger. Naaman’s ignorance, bias, prejudice and pride comes to the fore, because he doesn’t go to Elisha as the Jewish girl says, but to the King. Naaman went to, the important one when he should have gone to the one who was gifted.
Even when he did get to the prophet, then pride and prejudice got in the way, as the great army commander considered the prophets guidance beneath him.
Fortunately, God’s unconditional, unwarranted, undeserved favour is on Naaman, and God does not let Naaman’s humanity with all its failings get in the way of His plan and purpose.
The eyes of Naaman and the certain woman were fixed in two different directions. The man of brains and power looked through intellectual eyes, but the weak despised woman looked through eyes of faith.
Grace covered the lack of faith in Naaman and grace covered the abundant faith of the woman.
God and His grace has no prejudice. Do we need to take notice of this at this time? We who are so rich in the grace of God? We who have experienced so much prejudice, can we ourselves fall into the trap of being prejudiced against others?
In our humanity all of us have faults and failings. We each have different spiritual gifts but no one has them all. That’s why we are a body, we need each other to function properly. As we all have received grace we all must give grace. We need to ask the Lord’s help us show grace to each other.
God uses people we don’t expect. Not the intellectual but the gifted. He uses servants, not bosses, chosen prophets and not kings to fulfil His plans and purposes.
When we look at tonight’s text it fits us “Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.’ Maybe we need the wisdom to see, ‘God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise…’
Liberty Church has much to rejoice about because God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things, and there is no church more despised by many other churches than us.
The grace of God is our strength, show grace to others who, like us, don’t deserve it. Let us boast in the Lord Jesus who has become for us wisdom from God, our righteousness, and holiness.
Extracts from Lynn’s Preach ‘I am who God says I am’
Romans 8: 14- 17 ………those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
What do Marilyn Monroe, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs and Eleanor Roosevelt have in common? They were all adopted.
Adoption is very important to our family. All three of our kids have been adopted and because of that experience we know exactly what this passage in Romans is hinting at.
Three times now I have stood before a judge and been scrutinised to see if I was suitable to be awarded the privilege of taking an abused and neglected child into our family.
Adoption means that I wasn’t the birth mother of this child but the judge has deemed me worthy to take them from an abusive and neglectful situation and raise them as my own.
But it’s not just about raising them as if I had given birth to them it’s about healing and restoring the damage done in the past! It’s a commitment to healing that is for life.
This is a legal agreement is for life, no matter what those kids throw at us, what damage or pain they bring with them. I’m their mummy for life! And when my daughter wants to argue that point I simply say “I’m mum because the judge said so”.
In the Roman world that Paul lived in, children were often adopted but adults could be adopted as well. Sometimes a good master would adopt a slave.
There were different parts to Roman adoption that still stand today.
First, the adopted person or child gained all the rights of being in their new family. They received a new name, a new history (they are added onto the genealogy) and a new identity.
When we are adopted into the family of God we received the name child of God and the family we became a part of is made up of all those who know Jesus.
God is a good Father, he’s nothing like the father I had, or the fathers my children had. Paul writes that we have ‘the spirit of sonship’ and can cry out to God as ABBA, Father
ABBA means Daddy. Its such an intimate word. Some of us remember the film ‘the Railway Children’. The children’s father has been away for years and there is a very moving scene where a little girl is waiting on the platform as his train comes in. When she sees him she races towards him, arms out, crying ‘Daddy, my Daddy’ and he picks her up and hugs her tight. I cried! It was so moving. That’s ABBA, Daddy. That’s our new relationship with God.
We come into an intimate, perfect relationship with God the Father. We can run to him with our arms flung wide and cry out “Daddy, my Daddy”!
Second in Roman adoption the adopted child became heir to the father’s estate.
We have become heirs of God and joint heirs of Christ. Because of adoption my children can inherit everything I own in the world. Because of our spiritual adoption by God we become joint heirs with Christ. One of the things we inherit is his holiness. We also share in his suffering. Like in an earthly families we share in good times and bad times. In God’s family we walk in companionship with Jesus that can involve some suffering!
In Roman adoption the old life of the adopted person was completely wiped out, they were regarded as a new person entering a new life where the past had no claim on them. When we are adopted into god’s family through faith in Jesus our sins, past, present and future, are wiped out. Spiritually we are new.
In addition, the old family had no more claim on the adopted person. They were totally the child of the adoptive parent. As with God, no one can pluck us out of His hands.
When people look down on me….., when people will say “Who do you think you are”, when people say that I’m not good enough, that I don’t belong…. Well TOUGH! I am who the Father says I am and I belong to HIM!
Jesus also gave us feminine images of God’s love for us. In Matthew Jesus said – “I have longed to gather you children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,” What a beautiful image of God as a mother wrapping her wings around us and holding us to her breast!
God the good Daddy, God the Mummy hen with her chicks clinging on to her breast. Who are we? We are totally His.
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.
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