Launching our new focus for Autumn-Winter, we consider the background, context and purpose of Paul’s first epistle to the church in Corinth, before looking in a bit more detail at how the apostle begins his letter (1 Corinthians 1:1-9). Here we see that he starts by reminding the church who they really are – “God’s church in Corinth” – men and women called-out of the culture of the city in order to live-out a radically different life and lifestyle. They are God’s planting in that place – a charismatic Kingdom community, set in the midst of a culture that lives for itself. With its many parallels to our 21st Century challenges and opportunities, we see that – like us – they really matter, and have all that they need as they stand-up for Jesus Christ and prepare the way for His return! Paul’s great longing is to see this church grow strong and fulfil their destiny, and he has much to say that will help us do the same!…
Everybody is welcome in the family of God. Each of us is an important part of the church and God can use us all to minister to one another no matter what our age or physical ability. This Disability Awareness Sunday we consider how we are all loved and made in God’s image and are welcome in the church.
In preparation for our new series, ‘Love Builds Up’, during which we’ll be exploring Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians together, we consider in this message the City of Corinth, the Church in Corinth, and (Paul’s) Correspondence with Corinth. Strategically located as a trading gateway between east and west, this city was a bustling metropolis, full of people from many different cultural backgrounds and ethnicities. Into this melting pot the church was established by Paul (Acts 18) and quickly grew in number and gift (1:7). But with growth came some significant challenges. As we look at the different sections in this letter, Paul deals with each issue in turn, identifying the underlying issue at work. He encourages them to embrace the ‘folly’ of the Cross instead of revering the ‘wisdom’ of this world (1:18), to see the church is a beautiful temple of the Holy Spirit and not a marketplace (3:16, 6:19), to embrace service instead self-interest (10:23-24), and to learn each time they gathered how to flow together as a body of many parts, not parties (11:18, 12:7). Paul was strengthening the Apostolic foundation which he had laid, encouraging the church to hold fast to the gospel they had received (15:1-2)!
We all need friends of faith. In this encouragement message, we focus on what the characteristics of friends of faith might be, how we can implement them in our church family and how we can be friends of faith to those who don’t yet know Jesus. We end with a checklist for consideration and challenge!
As we look at Ezekiel 47:1-12, we see how God has a ‘River of Life’ that comes from heaven to bring abundant blessing on earth. We can see this river being an image of: the life of Jesus poured out for us; and then at Pentecost a pouring out of the Holy Spirit; and then as a river of life in the Spirit that flows through believers from house-to-house. The pattern of God’s increasing purpose to fill the earth is seen in the different depths of the river, and shows us how we can be led by the Holy Spirit into greater depths of fellowship together and of reaching others with the power of the gospel. Finally, we see how being led by the Spirit and drawing upon our relationship with Him will cause us to be like the abundant trees who are fruitful every month and have leaves for healing.
When God declared “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26) He was expressing not only His own ’three-in-one’ togetherness, but also His great purpose in creating men and women who would join together in unity and reproduce His image in all the earth! The story of the miraculous catch and the calling of the first disciples (Luke 5) is a powerful example of what can happen when we prepare for a new day, make ourselves wholly available, go deeper, join together, and help each other handle the great increase He wants to give us! This is the power and potential of churches working in partnership with one another…
In Part 1 we looked at the Holy’s Spirit’s work of Sanctification in our lives. In Part 2, we consider how the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to show us who God has made us to be, and what aspects of our personalities are influenced by sin. We also look at what it means for us to be transformed from one degree of glory to another through a growing REVELATION of Jesus (2 Co 3:18), by REFLECTING His image, and REFRACTING His glory through our lives. The key to surrendering to the sanctifying work of the Spirit is VALIDATION and VULNERABILITY – drawing our value and worth from Him, and being willing to let the Holy Spirit strip away sin’s influence on our personalities. What remains is the true person, created and designed by God to individually refract His glorious light – a unique and precious Living Stone!
God’s House is built with Living Stones (1 Pe 2:5), each carefully selected and put in place by the Holy Spirit. In Part 1 we consider how the Holy Spirit shapes each stone – that great work of the Spirit in the Sanctification of believers, shaping us into the likeness of Christ (Ro 8:29). We’ll also discuss how our new birth into God’s kingdom, restores God’s original design for His tripartite humanity, by which our spirits are promoted to the driving seat of our lives (the proper seat for righteous decision making!). Through His work of Sanctification, the Spirit helps us to bring our souls and bodies into line with God’s restored special arrangement within us (Ro 12:1-2). In Part 2 we’ll consider what unique aspects of ourselves are preserved, in the process of the Spirit making us more like Jesus, and how they might diversely and richly display God’s glory.
God makes it clear in His word how important it is for us to walk humbly with Him. Humility is a virtue that Jesus exemplified. He showed us how to live with a humble mindset and so we explore in this message how to “walk humbly with our God” and how this humility facilitates living full of the Spirit.
Being Spirit-filled is fundamental (who we are) and foundational (how we build and grow together) for us as God’s people. The House of the Spirit is being built by the Holy Spirit, using living stones, each of whom He wants to fill with the fulness of Christ. In this message we look at the practical implications of this for us all, and each of us personally, by considering the three main aspects of the ‘fellowship of the Holy Spirit’ (2 Co 13:14) – communion, community, and contribution.
In the final part of this New Year message, we consider what it means to be a church that’s ‘kingdom advancing’. We discover that it is to be joined with Jesus in the eternal purpose of God, the reason for which mankind was made, and the focus of our great commission! We also discover that outworking our mission in the 21st century is no harder than it was in the first, and that if we’re Spirit-filled and Bible-believing we have all we need to succeed!…