I can't transform myself..............

I cannot transform myself, or anyone else for that matter.

What I can do is create the conditions in which spiritual transformation can take place, by developing and maintaining a rhythm of spiritual practices that keep me open and available to God.

Ruth Haley Barton - Sacred Rythms - Arranging Our Lives For Spiritual Transformation

Our new preaching series is all about how we can achieve Spiritual Transformation through developing ‘Sacred Rhythms’ in our life.

We started off by talking about the call of Christians to remain ‘in the vine’. We are the branches and branches do not produce fruit. It is the vine that produces the fruit. We just need to stay connected to the vine!

Over the coming weeks we will be looking at how we can develop a rhythm of spiritual practices to keep us connected into the vine :)

Who am I ?

When we make certain things our identity eg career, body, love relationship then they are no longer a good thing – they becomes CRUSHING to us.

They become rooted in being something you can achieve rather than an identity received from God and a unique call from him lived out.  This results in comparison with others and feelings of pride if better and inadequacy if worse. 

The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.[1]

Romans 12:3

We need to change what we worship – we need to ask ourselves:

Sense of self

– what is the core that I identify myself as through the different hats I wear?  

 Sense of worth 

– what makes me feel significant, and what gives me my value?

 Identity is not a neutral thing – if not centred and rooted in God – it will be 

somewhere else

Our identity could be manhood, womanhood, job, sexuality, followers on Instagram, car, house.  They are important, but we were not supposed to put our identity in them. 

If our identity is in Christ:

·     We will live out of the security we are meant to live out of

·     He will permeate everything we do.

·     The striving to be better than others will go because we know that we are who and where God wanted us to be.

·     Feelings of inadequacy, insecurity and jealousy will be replaced by doing life out of a sense of rest and security 

·     We will bring more and more people into the same wonderful place. 

·     We will bring more and more of His life to our wonderful City

 The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.[1]

Romans 12:3


 


 

I want more this week.........

'There is an easier way. There is a more graceful and better way to do ministry. Let me explain.

I learned the more time I spent in the presence of Jesus praying, worshipping, and listening to him, the more fruit began to effortlessly pop up on my tree'.

Tom Camacho

John 15:5 'I am the vine and you are the branches.  The one who remains in me, and I in him, bears much fruit'

This week is going to be different.  I want to do things his way!  I want his fruit that will last and bring life to myself and others, not the fruit I can muster up through striving which shrivels up and dies......

What is a Christian?

Enjoyed reading 'The Reason for God' - 'Belief in an age of Scepticism'.  One of the things it talks about is what a Christian really is.  The definition Tim Keller (the author) gives is:

'Christians are people who let the reality of Jesus change everything about who they are, how they see, and how they live.'

Oh that I would, and we would as a Church, live out what it means to be a Christian and help people in Crouch End, and the surrounding areas of Haringey, to see Jesus in such a way...

Christianity - a blind leap of faith?

Sometimes we imagine that becoming a christian is taking a blind leap of faith.

Nicky Gumbel in the Alpha course describes becoming a christian as:

' Taking a step of faith based on sound historical evidence'

It does not need to be a leap, it can be a step

and it is based on good evidence.  

Some of the greatest lawyers, scientists, and minds over history have looked into the evidence surrounding Jesus and come to the conclusion 'it is true!'  God really did come to earth in the person of Jesus and through him it is possible to have the most wonderful intimate relationship with God.

If we're Christians, do we understand this evidence enough to strengthen our faith and help us to have more of a reason for our faith?

If we're not a Christian have we looked into the evidence before assuming it isn't true?

Over May and June London Life Vineyard will be showing the Alpa course in one of the screens at the Picturehouse Cinema in Crouch End.  It is our chance to avoid a blind leap of faith and look at the evidence that could allow us to step into the relationship which it is said causes all of life to make sense!

 

 

 

'The essence of temptation for a little while is to make sin appear more attractive than what God tells us to do in the Bible'

 

Some really insightful thoughts from Rich Nathan on 'overcoming sin' :)

See, you don’t have true Christian faith unless your faith is enough to provoke you to obey Christ’s commands. Let me just bring this down for you. You know, many of us struggle with some life controlling habit. In your case, it may be an eating disorder, or a gambling habit, or alcohol, or a sexual addiction, or it could just be a really horrible temper, or envy that grips you. You find yourself really upset when you find someone you perceive to be a rival at work, or in school, or here at church is getting ahead of you. Maybe you struggle with materialism and are running up your credit cards. Maybe you struggle with anxiety or fear about the future. Whatever it is that you are struggling with; you will not be able to overcome that issue, if you are a Christian, without faith. Faith is the way we break life-controlling habits. Faith is always going to be at the center of your answer for getting rid of various kinds of addictions. Faith is what we need to battle through temptations.

See, in the moment it is not obvious that God’s way is better than our way when we are tempted. The essence of temptation for a little while is to make sin appear more attractive than what God tells us to do in the Bible. Sin seems more pleasurable in the moment. Sin seems more convenient. Sin seems more promising. It seems more satisfying.

Well, how do you battle with temptation to sin? The only way is by having trust in Christ sufficient to provoke you to obey his Word. In the moment, even though it seems that this will be more satisfying, it seems that this makes the most sense, it seems that I need to take matters into my own hands. Yet, faith in Christ tells me that obeying him is always going to turn out for my ultimate good, that I will have a better life long term, a more satisfying life, a more joyful life, if I obey Christ rather than disobey him. 

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead gives us complete confidence for our future

The greatest news that mortal ear has ever heard is the news that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead as He promised! The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the chief proof of the Christian faith. It is the truth that lies at the very foundation of the Gospel. Other doctrines of the Christian faith are important, but the resurrection is essential. Without a belief in the resurrection there can be no personal salvation. The Bible says, “If we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved” (Cf. Romans 10:9).

In the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have the answer to the great question of the ages: “If mortals die, can they live again?” The Bible teaches that because Christ lives, we also shall live. The greatest truth that you can ever hear is that Jesus Christ died but rose again, and that you, too, will die but can rise again into newness of life.

The resurrection of Jesus shows us that what Jesus did on the cross was enough to restore an eternal relationship with the Father.  Jesus was the 'firstfruit' of those that will enjoy this relationship with God forever.  His resurrection was the most wonderful evidence that the way back to eternal relationship with the Father had been perfectly, unconditionally, for ever, achieved.  

The choice is ours - if we can but trust that all our sins (past, present, and future) were put on Jesus and that His perfection meant that those sins, which were the barrier between us and God, were completely and eternally dealt with, then we can know that our future is tied in with Jesus and that we too will be raised to eternal life as Jesus was.

Christianity is different from any other religious system :)

We are saved by grace, through faith; we are saved not by good works, but ‘unto’ good works. The distinctive heart of the biblical gospel – distinctive, that is, from other religious systems – is that salvation is not something we achieve, but something we can only receive.

And faith is the means of receiving. Even faith is seen as a gift of God in the New Testament. When Gentiles first turned to Christ, the earliest disciples saw this as a gift of God’s grace also. Peter described to the disciples back in Jerusalem how Cornelius and his family had come to faith, and they rejoiced with him in this manifest act of God.

Salvation Belongs to Our God: Celebrating the Bible's Central Story (Global Christian Library)

Christopher J. H. Wright

It's such a relief......

'The Scriptures do not call on men of this age to present their own righteousness to God; but invite unrighteous men to receive the very righteousness of God which may be theirs through a vital union with Christ. The appeal is not self-improvement in the important matters of daily life, but that “the gift of God which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” might be received.'

It's such a relief that Christianity is not just 'another self-improvement project'.  It's all about HIM (Jesus), connecting with HIM through simple trust in what He did for us on the cross.  

The floodgates of His unmatchable love for us can flow freely to us as we put simple trust in the forgiveness He won for us through the cross.  

Forgiven, we live a life enjoying the intimacy with our heavenly father that we were created for, drawn to His ways and into the fullness of all that He created us to be :)

wonderful truth......

Thinking more about the difference between religion and Christianity - such a good explanation in Tim Keller's book 'The Reason for God':

'There is, then, a great gulf between the understanding that God accepts us because of our efforts and the understanding that God accepts us because of what Jesus has done.  Religion operates on the principle 'I obey - therefore I am accepted by God.' But the operating principle of the gospel is 'I am accepted by God through what Christ has done - therefore I obey.'

Two people living their lives on the basis of these two different principles may sit next to each other in the church pew.  They both pray, give money generously and are loyal and faithful to their family and church, trying to live decent lives.  However they do so out of two radically different motivations, in two radically different spiritual identities, and  the result is two radically different kinds of lives.

The primary difference is that of motivation.  In religion, we try to obey the divine standards out of fear.  We believe that if we don't obey we are going to lose God's blessing in this world and the next.  In the gospel, the motivation is one of gratitude for the blessing we have already received because of Christ.  While the moralist is forced into obedience, motivated by fear of rejection, a Christian rushes into obedience, motivated by a desire to please and resemble the one who gave his life for us.'

What makes us complete?

Augustine said:

'If there is a God who created you, then the deepest chambers of your soul simply cannot be filled up by anything else'.

Just so aware that it is only through complete abandonment to Him that we will ever be truly satisfied in our lives - He really is the 'pearl of great price' who is worth everything :)

How much faith do you need to become a Christian?

How much faith do we need to be saved? As an old bible teacher once said, “If you can grip Christ ever so weakly, he will not let you perish.”

A little faith can save just as well as great faith. This is because we aren’t saved by faith, we’re saved by grace. Faith is simply the means by which grace enters our lives. As our text teaches we’re saved by grace through faith. Grace is undeserved favor. Faith is trusting in grace to save us.

Maybe an example will help illustrate this point. Let’s say you and I get on an airplane. You have great faith that the plane will bring us to our destination safely. But my faith is weak. I have just enough to get on the plane. I’m scared and full of doubt the entire time.

We both arrive safely, because reaching our destination doesn’t depend on the amount of faith we have in the plane, it depends on the plane’s ability to fly. We only need enough faith to get on board. The plane does all the work.

In the same way, we aren’t saved by the amount of faith we have, we’re saved by Christ’s ability to save us. Hebrews 7:25 tells us “He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

Your faith may be weak. But as Charles Spurgeon once said, “A trembling hand can receive a golden gift.” You simply need enough faith to trust Him to save you. He does all the work.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” – Eph 2:8

Jesus didn't try to attract a crowd.......

Jesus didn't seem concerned at all about attracting a crowd and he even told people he had healed not to tell others what he had done!  Our focus must be on bringing the Kingdom of God wherever we go - this is 'Church' surely - to equip and support people to bring the Kingdom of God wherever they go.  What a call!  Bringing, salvation, healing, unconditional love, deliverance, hope etc etc to wherever we go :)

And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter. 

 The Revised Standard Version. (1971). (Mk 1:40–45). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

The key to life...

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. 

 The Revised Standard Version. (1971). (Mt 6:25–33). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

 

I'm going to try to seek first the kingdom of God - would love it if you would join me...

I don't see myself as a person of great faith...

This is a story that I have read and re-read many times and really helps me.......

 

The faith that changes the life and connects to God is best conveyed by the word ‘trust’.  Imagine you are on a high cliff and you loose your footing and begin to fall.  Just beside you as you fall is a branch sticking out of the very edge of the cliff.  It is your only hope and it is more than strong enough to support your weight.  How can it save you?  If your mind is filled with intellectual certainty that the branch can support you, but you don’t actually reach out and grab it, you are lost.  If your mind is instead filled with doubts and uncertainty that the branch can hold you, but you reach out and grab it anyway, you will be saved.  It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you.  Strong faith in a weak branch is fatally inferior to weak faith in a strong branch.