Sermon Fourteen How to recognise the new birth

john                                                                                  audio clip

 

Wesley has four elements to the new birth – faith, peace, hope and love.

How wonderful is that, doesn’t it make you jump for joy and grin wildly. We have faith, we have peace and we have love all given to us as gifts from the Lord.

We are children of God, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven – we shall be glad, we shall rejoice and we shall jump for joy. And we do, daily, hourly, by the minute and second because to be a child of God is to live differently.

Now in previous sermons Wesley has honed in on faith so I won’t go over old ground. We are to be reminded though that because of faith there is power over sin, we are not slaves to sin as we were in past lives we have been set free from the burden of sin and we give thanks for that.

This freedom leads to maturity and that is the process we are all in. We mature over time just like fruit on trees. Those fruit need water, food and sunshine. We need the bible, fellowship with other believers, sound teaching, prayer and worship to the Lord. With these tools we mature so that the sinful past becomes a shadow and in time even we forget.

What a privilege we have to be adopted into the family of the Living Lord. Do you feel that privilege today? Or do you think of it as unimportant, are you taking it for granted that you are saved?

We have peace in our hearts that transcends our understanding, we cannot even begin to describe it, nothing we say will ever come close. But it is wonderful isn’t it. Do you feel it today as you face uncertainty, trials and tribulations?

Our hope is in Christ Jesus, in him alone. It is a living hope, and very real. It is not the hope, like oh I hope to go to Cork tomorrow. It is that very real deep down hope that we shall see Jesus, and in the meantime we walk with him in simplicity and sincerity.

We love because first he loved us, it keeps coming back to love. Because love was there in the beginning and it will be there forevermore. It is a love that surpasses all human knowledge. There is no earthly reason why I can turn to my abuser and say I love you, I hope only good things for you, God loves you too, There is no earthly reason why anyone could find something to love in me. But God loves me and because he loves me I am able to love and because I am able to love so others love me. What a wonderful love we have. What a wonderful Saviour we have. Thank you Jesus.

So to be born in God means to believe in God through Jesus as to be free from sin and to enjoy the peace which passes understanding, so to hope in God is to have the witness of a good conscience and the witness of the Holy Spirit; so to love God as to love every human being as you love yourself, making your whole life a labour of love.

Wesley finishes on a note of caution to not backslide, to not become children of the devil once more but that if people do they can fall on God’s mercy again. And he gives an altar call to be saved in Christ.

Day eight swamped

I think if I was working on the two a day that I started out thinking was achievable, I would be sitting in a pile of gooey despondency. But I am not. I am loving this experience of spending time with a preacher from many years ago. I have completed four sermons today so far, one was quite difficult because I had to look up what the jargon meant.

I was originally given the plain English version of Wesley’s studies because I couldn’t understand the language of the original. It is a common complaint. But in all honesty it is not the language per se it is the concepts and jargon and even in plain English they are hard to comprehend if you are learning with the head. Learning with the heart is a completely different way of studying, entering into the vortex of the heart to let the Spirit explain those ghastly terms that the world hasn’t equipped us to know.

Learning with the Spirit guiding is such a wonderful experience and I learn so much in such a short amount of time, it is not a lazy time, it is full on busy but busy being not doing.

Jump up and rejoice in the Lord always and again we shout REJOICE

13 of 44

 

Sermon Thirteen Purifying the heart

john                                                                 audio clip

This sermon is very encouraging to the congregation, it is not as pointy as others have been, there would have been no seat squirming. It simply states the meaning of ‘purifying the heart’ and the implications.

It is a sermon infused with love, preached to believers with the usual call to be careful of the dangers of backsliding and to rejoice in all the Lord has done for each believer.

When we sing “He’s ALIVE” we mean it, we know it to be true, our hearts sing to the Lord, our voices mere instruments of that worship. All God requires is our heart, that we be living sacrifices for him, empty vessels for him to use. To a worldly person it sounds like slavery but to us born of the Spirit it is joy that motivates us to do these things. It is the love of God that permeates every fibre of our body, mind and soul that causes us to respond to our God, our hearts softened and remain soft to love because first we were loved, are loved and will continue to be loved forevermore by the Lord.

We praise your name O God

We are your children

Born of the Spirit, not of the flesh

We worship You, our King

As a servant You came down

As a King You will reign

Sovereign over our lives

Reign in us today, Lord

Each day we praise Your name

Each day reign over us and in us

Creation joins with us in song

To praise Your name, praise Your name

Some sermons need little explanation or reflection, they need to be experienced. A softened heart is an experience, a life in Christ is an experience, to be an acceptable living sacrifice is an experience.

Experience it like never before, I cannot help but write small statements rather than cohesive sentences because I revel in his love at this moment. Thoughts are coming thick and fast but few are for general consumption. Zenith praising, nadir worship. praying and praising all the day long.

Our whole lives, even the bit hidden in a box under the bed, given to the Lord, hardened hearts shattered, shards of bitterness and what if’s?  replaced by soft tissue, palpably beating to the rhythm of God, the river of life, wash over me, wash through me, cleanse me of my sin, make me an acceptable sacrifice to You Lord.

Set our minds and our hearts on the Lord, focus on Him and all he does, is doing and will do in us and through us.

Sermon Twelve the ways of obtaining God’s blessing

john                        audio clip

 

We have a God of abundance, he is not skimpy in giving blessings to us. He is generous and abundant.

Now for me blessings are the tools given by God in order that I can be steadfast in the storm with his help and guidance. Wesley goes at it from a different angle.

He begins with the rituals of the church, specifically the sacrament of Holy Communion. He begins at the beginning of Christianity, when believers lived together with a common purse. He often comes back to this model of living and I concur with him that it is the ideal. When streetpastors go out on a Saturday night there is a core group praying for them and praying for the people they meet. When a remnant, or core group gets together in fellowship, great things can be done for his glory. The people in the New Testament, the early church were blessed and they blessed others and because they blessed other they were blessed more and the more they reached out to other.

But people like hierarchy, they like power, human power and the church became a monstrous edifice mirroring the world, it was not set aside and blessed. It was grunt work, a struggle, weighed down by the centuries of ritual. The reformation blew new life into old Christians. It shook up the world first in Europe and then spread. It threw away the pomp and ceremony and became simple again, referring back to the early church. Different factions grew up into different denominations of which Methodism is one.

There are things done in a Methodist church that are not done elsewhere and likewise there are things of other churches not done in the Methodist church. BUT…

God’s Blessings for us Has Always Come Through Faith in Christ

It is not about bricks and mortar church, it is about the body of Christ church. People. So denominations don’t mean squat.

The church now and in the past has mistaken the means for the end. Mistaking outward performance of ritual rather than seeking the truth in the renewal of our lives in the image of Christ.

It is all about Jesus.                      Not you.                       Not me.

Whatever rituals we go through from ceremonial footwashing, to raising our hands when we sing. They don’t mean anything if it is a habit alone, or ritual, or because everyone else is doing it, we have to be free in the Spirit to learn the way God wants us to worship him, it may be the same way as the person next to us but it might be different. My balance is impaired, I cannot clap in time to music, watching me dance is painful, a mere shuffle at the edge of a dance floor and then in my kitchen as I scrub my floor my toes are tapping in time to imagined music in my head, I stop to clap, I stand to jump up and down, I fall on my knees and cry out to the Lord, thanking him for immeasurable blessings in my life, I count some but there are too many to mention.

Reading the bible and understanding how those ancient words can apply to our lives – that is a gift of God’s grace

Praying, communicating with the Living God – that is a gift of the grace of God

Baptism by the Holy Spirit – that is a gift of God’s grace

Holy Communion – that is a gift of the grace of God

If we are ritualistic or habit forming in our worship then we are not free to change, to move as the Spirit wills us.

We place our trust in the Lord not in the ceremonies. We take part in the ceremonies to remember what Christ has done for us, that it is his blood that was shed to free us from the slavery of sin.

In Christian circles Methodists are seen as people who do. We seem to be seeking salvation through good works, but the outside does not see what motivates us. We do not do good works to outweigh our sin on the eternal scales of justice.

We do good works as a response to the change that has taken place in our lives, we give, we feed, we visit, we live simple lives as a response to the immeasurable love of God.

A person who has been convicted by the Holy Spirit so they become an unwilling sinner sitting under the law, suddenly needs to find a church, suddenly needs to begin studying the bible, suddenly begins to hear more and seek more and read more and pray more until they come to the realisation, possibly through the taking part in the Lord’s supper, they are using all the means of grace, until they fall on the ground before the Lord and give their lives to the Lord, they are then living in a state of grace.

Let our song forever be of the lovingkindness of the Lord

Sermon eleven The evidence of our own spirits

john                                                  audio clip

John Wesley’s pneumatological viewpoint.

Be ready!

Living in the Spirit means we are always trying to be ready. Tomorrow may not come, tonight may be my last night on earth so we need to be ready. How do we “be” ready?

Let’s face it, we are not ready. Nor can we be because we are people who sin. But we have a God of grace and mercy who loves us to bits. He wants us to be in his family and we have a place at the family table, we are invited.

We have the Holy Spirit to guide us and our own spirit, our conscience to help as well. We know when we are veering off course because we will be convicted by both. Our conscience is clear when we are governed by God through the Bible. Using Paul as an example, (Acts 23) Wesley points to someone who had an awful past life sending many to their deaths etc, a son of a Pharisee, a Pharisee himself who persecuted the early church and who because of the transforming power of the Spirit was able to stand and say – my conscience is clear…

To continue to change, to become more Christ like, we need to know ourselves, not in the airy-fairy new age way, but know our faults, our weaknesses and work on them. At the moment of transformation our lives become new. Staying shiny and new takes work – ask the parlour maid in charge of cleaning the silver in the big house. It takes work and effort and we cant do it on our own we need God, and we need all the tools he gives us to do it.

The fruit and gifts of the Spirit are there to help us, the Holy Spirit is there with us. We are Jesus people. We are to conduct our whole lives remembering always we are children of God assured we are to spend eternity with him. Our whole lives does not mean in the Christian “bubble” but also out in the big bad world, among the children of the devil, among non-believers. There are so many ways we can become lukewarm having a foot in both worlds.

With godly sincerity our whole lives are given over to God, not lip service bit life service to the Living God, all for his glory. This is not something that can be copied, there is no formula or script, it is what it is. This sincerity comes from God and is not in any way human wisdom.

There is someone in my life who as soon as I begin to speak they switch off, walk in and out of the conversation, stop me speaking, change the subject back to them or introduce another topic, keeping it light, not delving too deep unless they are speaking. I find this difficult but I am just learning to shut up, I know God wants me to speak to this person, to remain on good terms but each meeting I find it more difficult. It is something I work on daily. Each time this person speaks to me I am wounded but God heals my wounds, shows me the good in what they have to say which sometimes is the opposite to what they say. There will be many of these type of people in my life going forward and I will learn, glean much, from what they say and keep silent.

The knowledge of Jesus and the grace of God have transformed our lives and our conscience pricks us, the Holy Spirit convicts us to work through these difficult relationships. There are aspects in my life that are being worked on right now, my problem with authoritative women (I wonder why I have a problem with that), the ongoing saga of xxx, learning how not to be a difficult person and dealing with difficult people. Every one has a story, everyone has something to say and we all can express it in love to one another.

There is a joy in the learning, just as I have learned to enjoy study so I enjoy learning how to knock off the prickly bits. We are not made new to stay at that point, we have grow, grow in faith, grow in love, grow in knowledge and continue to do what is pleasing to the Lord.

All praise be to God for ever and ever

Amen