Sunday, 29 December 2013

A Paradigm for Understanding the Relationship Between Grace and Works

James Jordan comments on the relationship between God's grace and our labour as illustrated in the life of Jacob.
Just as he was about to cross over into the Promised Land, a "man" met Jacob and wrestled with him all night (Gen. 32:22-30). It was the Angel of the LORD, God Himself, Who wrestled with Jacob. Amazingly, Jacob "won" the fight, although we realize that it was a victory in grace, not in works. This passage is explained by Jesus Christ when He tells us that the Kingdom of God is open, and all men strive violently to enter it (Matt. 11:12, Luke 16:16). All his life, Jacob had desired to inherit the Covenant, and had wrestled to obtain this blessing. God approved of his actions. It had been God Who had set up the roadblocks in Jacob's way, to test and improve his character, but it had also been God who gave Jacob the grace and the will to persevere.

Then God crippled Jacob as a reminder that when we wrestle with God for His blessing, it is not our might that prevails, but His grace. Then we read, “Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel." Just as Jacob crossed the boundary into the land of promise, the sun rose. We can see him limping across the boundary, and the sun bursting up in its might behind him, a sign of the strength of God's people... who wrestle with God and prevail by His strength, scattering His enemies.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

New Year's Eve Watchnight Meeting

As per Sean's post, we plan to host a New Year's Eve watchnight meeting at the church offices from 11pm on 31st December 2013 to 12:30am on 1 January 2014.

It will be a mix of Bible meditation, prayer and sung worship, loosly based around the following themes:
  • Why God gave us the gift of days, seasons and years: Why we are gathering this night.
  • "The Lord Gives and Takes Away - Blessed be the name of the Lord:" Committing to God all that has been has been
  • "On Earth as it is in Heaven:" Committing to God for all that is ahead.
A great way to welcome in the new year.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Keller on Bonhoeffer

Timothy Keller, writing in the forward to Eric Metaxas' biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer "Pastor Martyr, Prophet, Spy" says:
It is impossible to understand Bonhoeffer's Nachfolge [imitation (of Christ)] without becoming acquainted with the shocking capitulation of the German church to Hitler in the 1930s. How could the "church of Luther," that great teacher of the gospel, have ever come to such a place? The answer is that the true gospel, summed up by costly grace had been lost. On the one hand the church had become marked by formalism. That meant going to church and hearing that God just loves and forgives everyone so it doesn't matter much how you live. Bonhoeffer called this cheap grace. On the other hand, there was legalism, or salvation by law and good works....

Both of these impulses made it possible for Hitler to come to power. The formalists may have seen things that bothered them, but saw no need to sacrifice their safety in order to stand up to them. Legalists responded by having pharisaical attitudes toward other nations and races that approved of Hitler's policies. But as one, Germany lost hold of the brilliant balance of the gospel that Luther so persistently expounded - "We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith which is alone." That is we are saved, not by anything that we do, but by grace. Yet if we have truly understood and believed the gospel - it will change what we do and how we live.

By the time of Hitler's ascension, much of the church understood grace only as abstract acceptance - "God forgives; that's his job." But we know that true grace comes to us by costly sacrifice. And if God was willing to go to the cross and endure such pain and absorb such a cost in order to save us then we must live sacrificially as we serve others. Anyone who truly understands how God's grace comes to us, will have a changed life. That's the gospel, not salvation by law or by cheap grace, but by costly grace. Costly grace changes you from the inside out. Neither law nor cheap grace can do that.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

RFC Bible School 2014

2014 will see us running our first ever formal Bible School. It's open to anyone at RFC who wants to know the WHOLE BIBLE better, but could never quite mobilise themselves to do it alone.

The nine session course will take place at the RFC Offices on the third Monday of the month (apart from April). We'll start each evening with a pizza buffet at 7pm followed by a lecture and seminar delivered by one of the Bible School teaching team and finish around 9:30pm.

Whilst we use words like "lecture" and we plan to cover a lot of material, we aim to pitch that material academically at GCSE / O-level standard.

There are no formal written assignments in this course, but anyone who wishes to write an essay or the like in order to consolidate / build on what they have learned is welcome to do so and will get feedback on it. Also, it goes without saying that the more personal time you can put in, the more you will get out.

The cost of the course is £70, the vast majority of which is to cover the cost of our food, drink and course handouts over the nine sessions. However, we don't want cost to stop anyone from attending, so if you would like to participate, but finances are tight, bursaries are available - more information on request from the church office.

Ideally we would like at least 20 people to sign up (it feels like a "proper" class size then), but will happily run it for whoever we get. Due to space issues, the maximum number we can take is 35.

Here is the course in outline...

20 January
Approaching the Bible
What do we mean when we say that the Bible is the inspired "Word of God"?

17 February
Coming to the Light
What is the central theme of the Bible?

17 March
Gospel Rhythm: From Darkness and Chaos to Light and Order
How does Genesis 1 set the scene for the rest of the Bible?

28 April (Fourth Monday)
Leviticus: The Gospel for "Little Children"
How do we make sense of the laws and rituals of Leviticus?

19 May
The Psalms: Gospel Songs for our Journey Through This Life
How should we read the Psalms?

16 June
The Prophets: God's Gracious Gospel Enforcers
Who were the prophets and how were they used by God?

15 September
The Gospels: Behold the God-Man
How do the Gospels shed new light for us about Jesus?

20 October
Acts: The Gospel goes Viral
How is the Gospel Planted into and lived out in Alien Cultures?

17 November
The Revelation: Not as Strange as You Think
How should we try to understand one of the most controversial letters ever written?

For more info, email me here.

To sign up or find out more about bursaries, email the church office here.