Monday, March 15, 2010

Don't lose your head.

So Epaphras hears the gospel from Paul, believes and returns to his home town in Colossae to tell his friends about Jesus. They believe. A church is born. He doesn't go to plant a church. He goes to preach the gospel. There's something in that, I think.

A friend of mine who planted a church a year ago sat with me in a cafe' before he left and told me what his first preaching series was going to be. He and his wife were going to three couples in North Carolina. He said,"You know there's that saying, 'which came first the chicken or the egg'?" Then drawing a simple stick figure of a church and a cross on a napkin, he said, "I'm going to preach on which came first, Jesus or the church." Needless to say the church has grown really quickly, mainly with notorious sinners, as my friend has sought to preach "nothing else but Christ and Him crucified."

So back to Epaphras. He leaves the church in Collossae to hook up with Paul in Ephesus, but later returns to see how they are doing. He is impressed by their faith, hope and love but worried about the dangerous influence of some false teachers. It seems like these guys are a lethal mix of Jewish legalism and Mystic Gnosticism. Gnosticism at its core is the denial that Jesus was fully man. Therefore matter is evil and spirit is good,and so what follows is a denial of the body and an unhealthy obsession with all things spiritual.

Here's how Paul warns against these Jewish Mystics at Colossae.
"Let no-one disqualify you insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason with his sensuous mind. They have lost contact with the Head...from whom the whole body grows.." ( Colossians 2:18)

I am nervous about the obsession with manifestations, angelic appearances, heavenly visions among some of my friends today. Not because I don't believe in them or have not experienced them. I have found gold dust and oil on my hands from time to time which is fascinating. But honestly, for me it holds no more relevance to the gospel than the gold fillings that people got in the '90's. I know it is part of the package, but it is certainly not the whole package!Oh that these things wold be converted into gospel fruit!

I am hungry for the presence and power of God. I want God to speak to and through us prophetically. I affirm the reality of angels who minister to God's people, but I don't want to lose contact with the Head. A church that loses vital contact with Christ her Head is a paralyzed body, with uncoordinated limbs. Atrophy has set in. It's stomach is bloated and its limbs lethargic.It is unproductive.

Let the church rediscover that her life is hid with Christ in God. Let her receive Jesus Christ as Lord, and so walk in Him through the power of the Spirit. And let many more crosses be sketched on many more cafe' napkins!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Jesus is a tee-totaller... for now

A friend of mine says that the first thing he's going to ask Jesus when he gets to heaven is for a taste of the wine He made out of water at the wedding in Cana.
Not sure why he thinks there was any of it left, but hey. Jesus was a good guy to have around at a party. He wasn't so good at funerals. The Pharisees hated the fact that He ate and drank with tax collectors and prostitutes."The friend of sinners," they called him, and He wore the insult like a medal. "Guilty by association!" was their verdict,but He defended his actions with his mission. "The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

If you're given to legalism this blog has already got your blood boiling, and if you're given to licence, it's got you feeling smug. Let's be aware of our bent, and do what's good for the gospel without ignoring our conscience. That said, my aim in this blog is not to be contentious about alcohol.

It's actually something I saw this past few days in Luke's account of the Lord's Supper. A meal within a meal, Jesus explains how his death would fulfill all that the Jewish people celebrated in the Passover meal. He was the True Passover Lamb whose blood would be shed as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. His body would be broken so that we could be reconciled to God and made whole. And every time his disciples eat the bread and drink the wine they participate in the benefits of His broken body and shed blood. Common, earth-shattering and easily forgotten truths.

And then a less common truth. "I will not drink of this wine until I drink it with you in my Father's kingdom." What? The man accused of being a 'wine-bibber' abstaining from wine? So it seems. The Bridegroom fasting in heaven for the wedding feast with His bride. Has he lost His appetite because of His longing? Yearning for the night when His union with a sinless Bride will mean we enjoy a final intimacy much sweeter, more heady and intoxicating than wine itself?

For now we know a sweet and fleeting intimacy with Him. On that day we will finally abide in Him and feast with Him. What choice and vintage wine is He keeping in store for that indescribable night?