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10 Reasons to Go To Church This Sunday (and every Sunday!)

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10.  Because in church you are equipped to do the works of ministry!  God wants you doing works of ministry – preaching the gospel, teaching the kingdom and healing the sick; and church is where He wants to teach and train you how to do that.

9. Because the church is a body and a body needs all its parts to relate to one another.

8. Because you need to set an example to your family that they need to develop a habit of regularly going to church.  We have had in-laws and outlaws and all sorts visit, and they would say “don’t go to church this Sunday, let the children spend time with us”.  We have never done that because we have trained and set an example to our children that church is vital to their Christian discipleship.

7. Because you need a storehouse to give to financially and invest in.

6. Because there is nothing like worshipping God with the people of God!

5. Because all those people you are witnessing to and winning to the Lord need somewhere to feed them and love them and nurture them.

4. Because you need a place where you can be consistent and stable.  Conferences are an awesome buzz, special services can do some good, Bible Colleges can get you a jump start in the Christian faith and life, but you will never have a consistent life of victory without being plugged into a church

3. Because God uses people to sharpen you like iron sharpens iron.  As you encounter people in the church – people with different views, different backgrounds, different experiences to yourself it sharpens you and makes you a more effective person.

2. Because if you get sick, fall out with your wife, lose your job, go through tough times – the TV evangelist won’t turn up at your house at 2am and pray with you and minister life to you.  Elders and the pastors will.

1, Because Jesus Christ said “I will build my church” and if you ever want to spend your life building with Jesus and not your own kingdom and own empire, you have to be involved in church. That’s not meeting a couple of guys down the pub and calling it church, it’s where there there is a genuine pastor, called of God, appointing elders and equipping the saints.  That’s church.  And Jesus is building it – so let’s get with His programme rather than trying to write our own.

The Breastplate of Righteousness

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Now, in terms of identity – and this is the year of identity – the bottom line is this: you must identify yourself as a righteous person.  If you are born again, you are righteous and you have to see yourself as righteous.  If you believe in Christ and His complete work, then right now you are approved by God, you are right with God, you are accepted by God.  You have free access to God’s favour, God treats you as if you are perfect, He answers your prayers like you have never messed up, He loves you like you never strayed, and He favours you like you always get it right.  There is no waiting for righteousness, there is no working for righteousness – you are right now righteous! 

Romans 3.21 says that a righteousness without the law has now been revealed – this is the great thing that Christ did on the cross – He made you righteous without you having to behave righteous.  You didn’t get it right, but you are right.  That’s good news!  But for some reason Christians struggle to accept this.  We often struggle in the same way as the Galatian church.

Read Galatians 3.1-5.  In Galatians, Paul is telling the church in Galatia that he painted a picture of Christ crucified for them.  He showed them that Christ died on the cross for their sins and all they had to do was believe and receive salvation.  But religion got in the way, and religion tried to add to the simple truth of believing in what Christ has done and added all sorts of works to it.

In Numbers 21.4-9, the people are being attacked by poisonous snakes because of their constant grumbling and complaining.  People are dying horribly due to snake bites, and they come to Moses and ask him to pray.  When Moses prays, God tells him to make a brass snake and put it on a stick.  Anyone who looked at the serpent on the stick was healed and the poison was neutralized, anyone who looked in a different direction died.  Now if you were in that situation, and you knew friends who looked at the serpent and lived and friends who didn’t and died you would go and look at the serpent Moses made.  It’s a no-brainer!  Now, if someone was obstructing your view of the serpent, knowing it would save your life, you would absolutely get them out of the way.

Read John 3.14.  Jesus is saying that He is the real serpent on the stick.  That what Moses did was just a picture of Jesus.  You see on the cross (the stick) Jesus became sin with our sin (2 Cor. 5.21) and became the serpent on a stick.  All we have to do is look at Jesus and realize that He became sin with our sin and that we are the righteousness of God in Him, and all the poison of sin in our life is neutralized by God as we gaze at Him.  It’s that simple.  Becoming a Christian is that simple, and living the Christian life is that simple.

The problem is that many people try to add to the Christian life.  Like the false teachers in Galatia who tried to tell people that to be filled with the Spirit and move in the gifts of the Spirit you had to meet a certain standard of holiness.  Jesus warns us against people who add to the simple gospel as well in Matthew 7.

Read Matthew 7.13-14.  There is a narrow road and a broad road.  I have heard people say the narrow road is when you are really living for God and really doing the things of God, and the broad road is when you go off and live for yourself – in other words, if you don’t live right all the time, you fall off the path and end up in hell.  That’s not what Jesus is saying: He is saying that there is only one place to look if you want the poison neutralized and that’s Jesus.  Just Jesus is your salvation, your healing, your victory and joy.  Just look to Him!  Now – if you add to just Jesus then you make the path broader because you are adding stuff to it – normally rules about how we dress, how we give, how we love, how we are.

Read Matthew 7.15.  After telling us about the narrow path, Jesus tells us to beware of false prophets.  There are always people who are trying to get you to add things to the work of Christ – add your effort and give you laws to obey.   Just like in Galatia, so it is today.  Jesus calls these people false prophets.  People who tell you that you have to obey certain rules to be right with God or have favour with God are false prophets, no matter if they are on Christian TV or seem lovely!  They come in sheep’s clothing – they go to church and look like you, and praise God like you, then they tell you that we haven’t got the full message and you need to add a bit of this or that – rules that take you away from looking to the complete work of Christ.

Read Matthew 7.16-20.  It’s all about fruit!  All false teaching has the following thing in common: they separate the tree from the fruit.  Let’s explain: an apple tree just produces apples – that’s natural for the apple tree.  Pear trees make pears and cherry trees make cherries.  According to Isaiah 61.3, you are a tree of righteousness.  You naturally produce righteousness as a Christian. 

A tree just produces fruit – you cannot sellotape fruit to a piece of wood and call it an apple tree.  Yet that is what we often do with people forcing them to do certain things to be a Christian.  Just get them planted in the Word and they will eventually produce fruit naturally.  Just keep feeding a Christian their identity in Christ and they will eventually bear fruit.

Most of our problems as Christians, and most of our sin is caused by not knowing who we are: not grasping that Christ has made us righteous once and for all.  All gossip is a lack of understanding righteousness – you run down others because you are not confident in who you are.   But you feed on your righteous identity, you study and meditate on the Scriptures you start to become confident in yourself and don’t need to snuff out someone else’s candle to believe that yours is burning bright.  Christians who don’t know their righteousness will never have healthy relationships because everything becomes a game to see who has kept the law the most.   Get off that path – it doesn’t work, and start to rest in your Christ-righteousness.

Read Matthew 7.21.  Jesus said that you will enter heaven by doing His will.  There are two ways we can do His will.  Either keep the law perfectly (and I think we have established that is not going to work) or believe the gospel!  When you believe the gospel you are made righteous (Romans 5.1) and you are right with God.  Lots of people say Jesus is Lord but they have never believed that He sent His Son to make them righteous.  You have to believe that it’s about Jesus and His work. 

Read Matthew 7.22-23.  Never think you are going to heaven because you have worked a miracle or done a good work.  You are going to heaven because Jesus Christ became sin with your sin so you could be the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5.21).  Not only that you can receive healing, receive prosperity, receive joy, receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit not because of your works but because of the work of Christ on the cross.  That’s good news!

God’s Marvellous Grace – A Licence to Sin?

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I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. – Jude 1.4

I think if you are a pastor today, or if you go to church today (I know that’s becoming unpopular among some grace people, but church is still God’s plan to change the world), then you will know that this Scripture is true.  People are worming their way into strong, healthy churches, and teaching that God’s grace allows us to live immoral lives.

As a pastor of a grace church, as someone who loves grace, and who has been changed beyond recognition by the truths of God’s grace, I know from bitter experience that people do still think that grace lets you live immoral lives.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  And as pastors, as good shepherds, we need to notice these people as they will infect your church and rip it apart.  I’m not posting this post because I am anti-grace, but because I am pro-grace!  A little yeast will spoil the whole bunch.

Here are three ways in which you can identify that people think that grace gives us a licence to sin:

  1. They think that grace means that they never have to say “sorry”.  There was a film in the 70s which said “Love means never having to say you are sorry” but that simply isn’t true.  If you care about and love people, and your actions hurt them – if your behaviour is rude, selfish, critical and abusive then you should apologize.  You should let that person know that you care about them, that you regret causing them pain and that you value their relationship.  Jesus had a lot to say about making amends with your family, and people who just dismiss the hurt they have caused others with their negative, selfish behaviour really do not understand grace, no matter what their doctrine on the subject.What is ironic here is that you will find out that the people who insist grace means they don’t have to apologize, will be the most thin-skinned when other people are mean or unkind to them.   A pastor who does not realize this will end up with a church full of offended people, sulking people, and hurt people.  Love means you should apologize when you offend and hurt someone due to your selfish behaviour.  2 Tim. 2.24 says the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to all.   Matthew 5.23-24 says So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  Jesus thinks that reconciliation with others is more important than worship – so be very wary in dealing with people who never think they need to apologize or make amends for their behaviour.  They will destroy your community.
  2. People use grace as a licence to sin when they believe there should be no consequences to their sin.  Now the most beautiful precious truth of grace is that there is no more penalty for sin.  Jesus is the propitiation (the one who takes the penalty) for sin – not just our sin, but the sins of the whole world (1 John 2.2).  There is no more penalty for sin.  You will never be punished for God for your sin.  But sin is still a seed, and seeds will produce harvests.  I had to speak to a young man recently whose girlfriend is pregnant.  He told me “I prayed and prayed that she wouldn’t…” I had to point out that sex is sowing seeds, and seeds produce harvests – in this case, human seeds produce a harvest of a human!  It’s like if you plant apple seeds, don’t bother praying for an orange harvest – it won’t happen.  Sin is sowing seeds of death and they only produce a death harvest.  People who think God’s grace is a licence to sin will always be vocally upset at consequences to sin.  Their marriage is in a mess because they go out get drunk and flirt.  That’s not God judging them, that’s just the consequences to sin.  If you are rude and mean, people will avoid you.  They won’t share their hearts with you.  That’s not God judging you, that’s just the consequences to sin.   People who think grace is a licence to sin will try and avoid the consequences to their sin.  They will never own their sin and own the consequences.  Speeding and parking tickets will be thrown in the bin and ignored, they will never turn up for marriage counselling or debt counselling – they would prefer to moan about their wives and post on Facebook how much money they desperately need.  People who cannot face the consequences to their actions are immature – help them, but don’t build on them and don’t take the consequences for them!
  3. People who think there should be no consequences for sin generally think that means that they should not have to endure the consequences for their sin.  You having to put up with the consequences of their sin does not bother them at all.  Them having to put up with the consequences of sin is all that gets them upset.  So these people will never respect your personal space or fences (if you need some teaching on setting boundaries or fences in your life – or dealing with people like this, http://www.treeoflifeguildford.com/building-fences.html will help you no end), and will invade your life with their problems.They can’t handle being a couple of hundred pounds out of pocket because of their greediness and overspending and lack of self-control, but if they can “borrow” the money off you, then they will not mind you being out of pocket.  And as for saying sorry when they can’t pay you back, see point 1!  If you put up a fence to these people, and refuse to enable them (to use psychological language, refuse to be their co-dependent) then expect a barrage of verbal abuse telling you that you don’t understand grace, that you are legalistic, that you are harsh, mean, selfish.  Grace to these people means that there should be no consequences to their sin; and that people should not put healthy boundaries in their life to protect them from abusive people and anyone who does put a boundary up is accused of being unloving and ungracious.

That is when grace is perverted in my mind, and when I see those three things: an inability to apologize and own wrong doing, an inability to take responsibility for the consequences of actions, and a lack of respect for other people’s personal space and life – then I see an immaturity, a mis-understanding of grace, and I see problems ahead.

Jude’s response to this is to remember that people like this will exist (vv. 18-19).  You should not be surprised at the way some so-called grace Christians can and will act, and how they will try and take advantage of you.

His second piece of advice is “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (vv. 20-21).  In other words, that’s how they behave but you – but you behave in a different way: praying in the Holy Spirit which is speaking in tongues (just as another issue: people who turn the grace of God into a licence to sin often never pray in the Holy Spirit unless they are facing personal dilemmas). You should pray in tongues.  You might be tempted to get annoyed at how other people have treated you: pray in tongues.  You see a so-called mature Christian tell you that apologizing for messing up and losing your temper at someone is the devil: pray in tongues. Someone comes to you and calls you names, insisting you forgive because you are a grace person, but they never do anything to contribute to the relationship or help you in any way: praying in tongues.  Someone is disrespecting your personal life and invading your territory because it is easier on them: pray in tongues.  Pray in tongues!

Secondly: keep yourself in the love of God.  Remember: other people may misuse you, may worm their way into the church and cause trouble.  But you are still loved by God.  Forget that and your response to these grace-twisters may be less than stellar.  You might be the one being rude.  No – remember GOD LOVES YOU.  He adores you.  He loves you.  He cares about you.  He dotes on you.  Keep focused on Him.  Ministry is hard – but Jesus said “Don’t rejoice you have authority over demons, but rejoice that your name is in the Lamb’s book of life”.  In other words, if you rejoice in your effectiveness as a minister – you will have ups and downs.  If you rejoice in God’s love – it’s all up.

Let the people get on with it, set healthy boundaries, speak in tongues loads – build yourself up and discipline yourself to pray in the Spirit, not just when you have a need but because it’s good discipline, training and growth, and don’t treat God’s grace as a licence to sin, but keep yourself in it.  You see the people that take God’s grace and use it as a licence to sin have heard some ideas about God’s grace, some sermons on God’s grace, maybe even gone to a grace church or even a grace Bible College, but they are not keeping themselves in the love, in the grace.  (Mental assent to the doctrines of grace without actually having grace may be the greatest danger to the entire grace movement but that’s another post).

You though – keep yourselves in the love of God.  Meditate on the love, confess and declare the love, memorize Scriptures on the love, act in love, walk in love, love one another.  And pastors and leaders, watch out for people who think grace is a licence to sin and restrict their influence because they will choke the church to death.

5 Benefits of a Multi-Cultural, Multi-National, Multi-Ethnic Church!

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One of the greatest joys in my life is pastoring a church that has over 20 nationalities present in any given weekend.  That’s awesome. I think if you have a monocultural church in London you are doing something wrong.  I love the variety and the life that this exposes us to. Here are 5 of my favourite things about the Tree being multi-cultural:

5.  There are people clapping on every beat.  Maybe you have never noticed this but during the praise music, black people generally clap on the upbeat, and white people generally clap on the downbeat.  At the Tree we have every beat covered!  

4.  We find out about preachers that we would never have found about otherwise.  Ever heard of Stanley Ndovie?  Man, that guy can preach.  He is from Malawi, and I would never have known about him without people from our church from that awesome nation.  I would never have heard some of the amazing preachers from Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana or India without people from those nations introducing me to them.  In fact, a lot of European and American preachers who minister mainly to a particular ethnic group I would never have heard either.  That’s a great thing, because you are getting to help learn Scriptures that maybe you wouldn’t have looked at or who wouldn’t have looked at in a particular way.  These things are really important because…

3. The body of Christ is made up of different parts – just like your body.  If all you do is fellowship with people who look like you, who act like you, who grew up where you grew up and see things your way, then you never learn anything new.  You can’t get help when you meet help.  If you got a splinter in your foot, you would never be able to take it out with another foot – you need a hand to take that splinter out.  When you reach a problem you cannot solve, calling someone just like you will just add to the ignorance in the room.  I am so glad for the wisdom I have received on topics such as giving, prayer, integrity, passion, honour, discipleship, peace, healing from people who have come from a different culture and brought wisdom and life no Englishman could ever have taught me.

2. The food.  I love groundnut soup, fufu, jollof rice; I love daals and chili, I love food from all nations.  Our church pot-lucks are amazing!  Seriously… amazing!

1..  It’s a love tester.  It proves that our community and church are built on love.  If you only love those like you, you are just like a tax-collector said Jesus.  Really – if you cannot love someone who is different from you then you cannot really love anyone.  Racism comes from fear and pride – I’m better than you, and I think that your differences will detract from me.  The counter attitude to racism is gracism: I know we are equal in Christ, and I know your differences can benefit and bless me.  That’s the attitude we are cultivating in our church full of the nations.

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