All Things (Romans 8:26-39)

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Usually when I sit down to write my message each week, I look for something in the text that is visible or tangible, something we can touch or see, that I can use to illustrate the Kingdom of God or the way God is at work in the world. Jesus did it in his parables, so, as a student or disciple of Jesus, I believe that I can learn from his teaching methods. For example, last week Jesus talked about wheat paddocks, the previous week the image was rain from Isaiah, and the week before that was a yoke.

This week’s New Testament reading, Romans 8:26-39, is an amazing passage with so much great news for us. The part that really spoke to me was verse 32 where Paul writes,

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (NIV)

However, this text presented a serious challenge: how can I use to illustrate ‘all things’ visually for my message?

This is an incredible thing for Paul to say. His message is that God loves us so much that he gave up the most precious thing he had to redeem and save us: his only Son. Value is determined by what people are willing to part with to make something their own. The first section of Romans 8:32 tells us that God values each of us so much that he willingly parted with his Son whom he loves, so we can be reconciled to him and restored to a new relationship with him as members of his family. God willingly gave up the most treasured thing he has, his own Son, so that we can live in a new relationship with him as his children.

Paul goes on to ask that, since God loved us enough to give up his Son for us, won’t he also give us ‘all things’ in his grace towards us? Paul is saying that if God hasn’t held back what he treasures most, then is there anything he won’t be willing to give us? If there is nothing that is as precious or valuable to God as his Son, and since he has already given him for us as evidence of his love, then ‘won’t he also give us everything else?’ (v32 NLT)
When I read these words, to be honest, my natural reaction is to start putting limits around God’s grace by thinking about what I don’t think God will give me. We can start to remember the things we have wanted in the past, but we didn’t get. Maybe we can think about things or people who have been taken away from us. Or we can think about things we’d like in the future that we don’t think we will ever have.

A big question to help us understand this text is what does Paul mean by ‘all things’? Do we take that as literally meaning ‘all things’? Because that’s a lot! Or is Paul talking metaphorically, that God will extend his generosity to some point, but will start to decline our requests when we reach a limit?

One thing we can do to help us understand what words or phrases mean in the Bible is to look at other places those words or phrases are used and what they mean in those passages. I looked up where Paul talks about ‘all things’ and I found that he uses it more than 20 times in his letters. For example, in 1 Corinthians 8:6 Paul writes,

… for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (NIV)

So here ‘all things’ means everything that God has created, which is also the way Ephesians 3:9 and Colossians 1:16 use it. Another place Paul talks about ‘all things’ is in Colossians 1:20 where he says that God reconciled ‘all things’ to himself through Jesus’ blood which was shed on the cross. A third example is 2 Corinthians 9:8 when he writes,

God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (NIV)

This text helps us understand Romans 8:32 better because Paul is also giving us a reason why God would make such an extravagant promise to us. God doesn’t promise to give us ‘all things’ for our own sake, so that we can life safe, comfortable or self-satisfied lives, but so that we can ‘abound in every good work’ and bring the goodness of God into the world.

It is easy for us to hear God’s promise to give us ‘all things’ and think about what we want for ourselves, kind of like children who are looking forward to what they are going to get at their birthday or Christmas. In the faith that God has already given his best for us in the death of Jesus, and for his sake will also give us ‘all things’, God wants us to trust this promise so that we can do good in the world and extend God’s goodness which we find in Jesus to people around us who need his goodness. God doesn’t promise to give us ‘all things’ for our benefit, but for the benefit of others as we follow Jesus in faith and love.

What do we need to do that? Or, more specifically, what do you need from God so that you can ‘abound in every good work’? It might be something to help you with your family or in your work. It could be something with your health or a relationship which might be difficult or challenging. What might happen if we took this promise literally: that God, who gave up his Son for us, will also ‘graciously give us all things’? Sometimes I wonder if we don’t receive good things from God because we don’t trust him enough to ask. If you were to believe what Paul wrote in Romans 8:32, that God will graciously give us ‘all things’ for the sake of Jesus, what would you ask for? What would you hope for from God?

As I sit and write this message, I’m still struggling with what I can use as a visible, tangible example of the ‘all things’ Paul is talking about. This is a massive promise, one that’s hard for us to get our heads around, let alone trust it enough to live like it is true. But that’s what faith is – trusting that God gave up his own Son for us because he loves us that much. If he gave up his most precious Son, then he will also give us ‘all things’ for his sake.

What might that mean for you?

More to think about & discuss:

  • What do you think of when you hear the words ‘all things’? What do you think Paul may have meant when you hear him write about ‘all things’ in Romans 8:32?
  • When you read 1 Corinthians 8:6, how do you understand ‘all things’ in this passage? What do you think it might mean in Colossians 1:20? What about in 2 Corinthians 9:8? How can the way Paul uses the words ‘all things’ in these passages help us understand what Paul means by them in Romans 8:32?
  • What do you find difficult about Paul saying that God will ‘graciously give us all things’ (NIV)? In what ways can this be a hard promise to trust?
  • If you were to take ‘all things’ literally, what are some of the things that might include? How might this promise make a difference in your life or help you in some way?
  • What is something you need most in your life right now? How could God giving you what you need help you to ‘abound in every good work’ (2 Corinthians 9:8)?
  • What are some other ‘all things’ from God you hope for? How might they make a difference in your life and help you ‘abound in every good work’?

If you would like to watch a video version of this message, you can go to https://youtu.be/jhNmgEdKtc0

God bless!

Of One Mind (1 Corinthians 1:10-18)

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On the five Sundays since Christmas, our congregation has been gathering for one worship service each Sunday. This is different from our usual practice of having two weekly services: an earlier service with more traditional liturgies and an organ, and a later service with less formal orders and a band.

One of the reasons for having one service on the Sundays after Christmas was the desire some people in our congregation express to have one common service more often. Some have told me that they are concerned that having two services divides the congregation and it would be good for us to worship together at one time and in one place to make us more united.

I understand their point of view and see some merit in it. Over the last month people have told me how much they have enjoyed the services and appreciated the chance to worship with people from our other service. However, if our goal is a deep sense of unity in the congregation, maybe there are other ways to achieve that. Worshiping together in one service can be a visible form of unity, but it needs to reflect a deeper unity we have as the people of God.

The Apostle Paul addresses this deeper unity in 1 Corinthians 1:10-18. He appeals to the Corinthian Christians in the name of and ‘by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other’ (v10a NLT). These words tell us that the unity of the church is not a trivial thing. Unity is something we need to take very seriously. Paul goes on to instruct his readers to ‘be of one mind, united in thought and purpose’ (v10b NLT).
The unity Paul is talking about runs much deeper that simply having a combined worship service. Looking at the Greek words he uses, Paul is talking about being in the same mind and in the same intention. He mentions this ‘mind’ a little later in his letter when he tells his readers that ‘we have the mind of Christ’ (1 Cor 2:16). When the Holy Spirit gifts us with the life of Christ we are also gifted with a new mind, the mind of Jesus.

This ‘mind’ gives us a whole new way to think about God, ourselves, our relationships with other people, the world around us, in fact our whole existence. Paul uses this same word for ‘mind’ in Romans 12:2 when he writes, ‘let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think’ (NLT). A key element of the unity God is looking for in our congregation is that we are in the mind of Jesus and we are learning to think in the way of Jesus together.

Another aspect of this unity is that when we are in the mind of Christ together, we will also be in the same purpose or intention. This has to do with why we are here as a congregation, what our reason is for existing, what God is calling us to do and where he is leading us into the future. Paul is urging us to be united in our understanding of who we are, why we are here and where we are going as God’s people in this time and place. This is closely connected to and grows out of being in the mind of Christ and learning to think in the way of Jesus. When we are united in our purpose or intention, we will be looking at our circumstances from Christ’s perspective and not just thinking about what is good for ourselves as individuals, what we like or how we can get our way. Instead, being united in purpose is about finding our purpose in Jesus and then living together in his purpose as his people in the world.

It is vital to recognise that unity is not the same thing as conformity. Conformity happens when one person decides that everyone should be like they are and do the same things they do. The church in Corinth wasn’t like that. As we saw last week, for example, there were a wide variety of gifts among the Corinthian Christians. Living with this diversity caused tensions in their community of faith but it was necessary for them to function faithfully as the body of Christ. In the same way, when we look for our unity in our minds and purpose we will be able to embrace diversity in our congregation as we see people who are different from us as people who are also part of and who contribute to the body of Christ as a whole. To try to enforce an external form of unity only leads to conformity as we attempt to get everyone doing the same thing. We’re not the same. Part of the mind and purpose of Christ is accepting that and accepting the people around us with our differences (Romans 15:7). Our differences are vital for the church to be the body of Christ in the world.

With all of our differences, then, it is possible for us to aim for the harmony Paul points us to, being united in the mind of Christ and our purpose as his church. At this point I could go on to describe what I believe that looks like, but I’m not going to. Part of our growth to maturity as Jesus’ followers is to work that out together. As we get to know Jesus more, we learn more about his mind and the Holy Spirit transforms our minds to be like his. As we listen to God’s word in worship, in small groups, in our families and on our own, the Holy Spirit shows us more and more who Jesus is and how he thinks. The Bible is the way in which we meet God through Jesus. The Holy Spirit uses its words, stories, poems and letters to continue to share the mind of Christ with us, transforming our thinking to be like his. As we remain in God’s word together and as we pray together, the Holy Spirit will continue to gift us with the mind of Jesus so we can participate in Christ’s purpose and move closer to the harmony God wants for us.

This unity can be evident when we worship together in one service. It can also be evident if we have multiple services in a number of different places. Worshiping together needs to be the fruit of being united in thought and purpose because trying to achieve these by enforcing things like one worship will only result in external conformity and not the kind of deep unity God is looking for. The unity God wants, the unity Paul is pointing us to and the unity that is possible in our congregation is being united in the mind of Christ, when thinking the way that Jesus thinks is the most natural thing for us, and participating in Jesus’ purpose for his church.

Complete in Christ (Colossians 2:6-15)

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Every now and then I sit down to do a jigsaw puzzle with my kids. A lot of the time, these puzzles are pictures of their favourite cartoon characters, animated heroes or movie princesses. There have been times when we have been doing a puzzle and some pieces have been missing. Even though we’d done as much of the puzzle as we could, the image of the person in the picture was left incomplete.

To complete the picture, we could try to use other things to fill the gaps. We could attempt to make our own pieces and substitute them. Or we could use pieces from other puzzles to try to complete the image. In the end, only pieces that really fit will be able to complete the picture.

In the creation story from Genesis 1, we read that God created humanity in his image (verses 26,27). There are a number of ways in which people understand what is meant by the ‘image of God.’ For example, it could mean having a spirituality unlike anything else in creation, being created for a special relationship with God, having the ability to think rationally, or even being able to make things. One thing it doesn’t mean is that God physically looks like us with a head, body, two arms and two legs. The image of God in us is much deeper than our physical appearance. Humanity carries something in us which resembles the nature and character of God.

However, when sin entered the world, the image of God within us became distorted and corrupted. We still have it, but it isn’t the way God originally intended it to be. One way in which people describe this distorted image of God in us is like looking at ourselves in a broken mirror – we can still see ourselves but not as we really are. Another way we can think of this distorted image is like a jigsaw puzzle of a portrait which is missing some key pieces. We can still work out who it is, but we can’t see the person’s image in the way they really are. Because of sin in the world and in us, we can be aware of God’s image in us and in each other, but that image isn’t what it was meant to be.

There’s something in us that realises that something is missing in our lives, just like in my jigsaw puzzle, so we try lots of different things to fill those holes. We can try things like relationships, paid or unpaid work, sport, family, school, all sorts of things. Especially in our consumer culture, we are taught that buying more stuff can fill the gaps in our lives. There was an ad om TV a while ago which showed people with holes in them that matched products they could buy. The message of the ad, and the idea behind a lot of what happens in our society, is that we can fill in the gaps of our lives and find a sense of being ‘complete’ through the things we buy.

The way in which God fills our emptiness and makes us complete is through the person of Jesus. Paul shows us how God does that in Colossians 2:6-15. He writes that ‘in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body’ (v9 NLT). Jesus is the perfect image of the invisible God. When we look at Jesus, we see the clearest picture we can of who God is and what God is like. Jesus shows us what humanity created in the image of God should look like. Jesus is exactly how God intended humanity to be from the beginning of creation. When we look at Jesus and get to know him, we can see and discover who God wants us to be as people who carry his image in us.

Jesus isn’t just an example of how God wants us to be. Paul says God actually makes us complete by filling us with the fullness of Jesus, who is himself the fullness of God in bodily form, when we are united with Christ through faith. It would be like placing my incomplete puzzle on the picture on the box, and then the two becoming one as the complete picture fills the missing pieces and completes it. This is what Jesus does for us as we are united with him through faith – Jesus fills our gaps, makes us complete and restores the original image of God in us so we can be the way God intended us from the beginning of creation.

Paul explains that the way to be made complete in Jesus is by living as his disciples. He writes about ‘accepting Jesus Christ as … Lord’, which means embracing Jesus and the gospel through faith, trusting it as good news for us. This faith leads us to follow Jesus as we learn to live in the way of faith and love from him. This new life in Christ involves ‘putting our roots down into him’ so that the good news of Jesus becomes the source of goodness for our lives and what keeps us strong when the storms of life come our way. God completes us as his new creation when we build or lives on him through faith and love, just like someone builds a house on solid foundations (Matthew 7:24-27). We can find our complete selves in Jesus when we live as his disciples, following him, drawing strength and life from him, and building our lives on his grace and love.

We can then bring this completeness into every aspect of our lives. Instead of looking to be made complete through our relationships or family, work or school, possessions or anything else, we can embrace them and go into them as people who have been made complete through Jesus, and be part of God’s plan to make all of creation complete in him. This new perspective on life begins with finding who we are as people who have been made complete in Christ through faith in him and living as his disciples.

I get frustrated when I’m putting a jigsaw puzzle together and there are missing pieces. It feels like something’s missing when I can’t complete it. When we realise that we’re incomplete and there are pieces missing in our lives, we don’t have to try to fill the gaps with things that don’t really fit. We can go to Jesus, who makes us complete by filling us with the fullness of God.

More to think about:

  • Do you know what it’s like to start a jigsaw puzzle but not complete it, either because you don’t have the time or there are missing pieces? What is that like for you?
  • Do you every feel like there’s something missing in your life? If you do, can you put your finger on what it might be?
  • How do you try to fill any holes that might exist in your life? How do you try to find a sense of being complete or fulfilled?
  • Is that working for you? Or are you still looking? Explain why…
  • What do you think of what Paul says about Jesus completing us? Do you think it’s possible to find a sense of being complete or fulfilled in Jesus?
  • The good news of Jesus can speak into every aspect of our lives, no matter what we feel might be missing. How might Jesus be able to complete you and what you feel might be missing in your life? (if you don’t know how to answer that, I’m happy to try to help if I can; just let me know…)
  • How might you be able to see different aspects of your life in a new way as a person who is complete in Christ? How might going into them as a complete person instead of looking for them to make you complete change our approach to them for the better?

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Discussion / Reflection Questions

Here are some questions I have about 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 which will be the text for next Sunday’s message (31 March) at St John’s, TTG. let me know if you have any thoughts or questions of your own in the comments below.

  • What questions do you have of this text?
  • What do you think Paul means when he talks about ‘evaluating others from a human point of view’ (v16)? When we look at other people from ‘a human point of view’ what do you see?
  • What changes when we view people from the point of view of Jesus? How do people look then?
  • What is the big change that happens to a person when that person is ‘in Christ’ (v17 NIV) or ‘belongs to Christ’ (NLT)? How can that change how we see others? How can that change how you see yourself?
  • What is the job of an ambassador? Is that a job you think you would like? Explain why or why not.
  • What is the message given to Christ’s ambassadors? (hint: there’s more than one answer to this question) How is this message good news for people?
  • In verses 18-21, Paul talks a lot about ‘us’ and ‘we’. Who do you think he is talking about here – his friends (the apostles and evangelists) who were traveling with him? All Christians of every time and place? Someone else?
  • How does your understanding of who he means by ‘us’ and ‘we’ shape how you read verses 18-21? If he is talking just about his friends, how does that shape his message? If he means all Christians, including us, how does the message of this text sound now?
  • What is the exchange that Paul describes in verse 21? Does this exchange sound fair? Why would Jesus make that exchange?
  • Everything that Paul says in these verses gives us a new point of view of ourselves and others. Who is someone in your life (including possibly yourself) about whom you might need to change your point of view? How will this new point of view change what you might do or say this week?

God bless…

The Suffering Son (Hebrews 5:5-10)

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One of the most common questions I’ve been asked over my years of ministry is, ‘Why do people suffer?’ For a lot of people, including Christians, if God is all-loving and all-powerful, then it would seem to make sense that God would not want people to suffer and would get rid of evil in the world.

I am not aware of any place in the Bible which gives a philosophical explanation for why God allows suffering in the world. It just assumes that there is suffering because of the existence of sin. However, the Bible does talk about the reality of suffering and God’s relationship with people in our suffering.

For example, in Hebrews 5:8,9, we read that Jesus learned obedience and was made perfect through suffering so that he could be ‘the source of eternal salvation’ for all who obey him. There are some key words in here that really deserve a message in themselves to understand what is being said because each of them can be understood in a few different ways. However, one way we can interpret what’s being said is that, as Jesus suffered and died on the cross, he was learning to trust in his Father in heaven. This is what Paul calls ‘the obedience of faith’ in Romans 1:5 and 16:26 – that ultimately God wants us to love and trust him more than anything else, and that trust will show itself in the way we live our lives. When Jesus went to the cross, all he could do was trust that his heavenly Father would hear his ‘prayers and pleadings’ as he asked his Father to save him from death (Hebrews 5:7). Even as he died, he was still trusting that his heavenly Father would keep his promises and raise him to life as he promised in the Old Testament (see Psalm 16:9,10).

This ‘obedience of faith’ then ‘qualified’ Jesus ‘as a perfect High Priest’ because it completed the task that God had sent him to accomplish. The Greek word used for ‘perfect’ is not so much being morally flawless, which is how we can sometimes think about perfection, but instead more about being brought to completion or reaching a goal. Jesus was made perfect through his suffering because God completed him as our saviour and high priest as Jesus trusted his heavenly Father fully in the middle of what he was suffering. Jesus reached his goal by experiencing the full weight of suffering in our world so that, when we are suffering, we can go to him as the one who has suffered more than we could imagine but has also trusted our heavenly Father in ways that we can’t.

To obey Jesus, then, means to trust him like he trusted our heavenly Father. We all suffer in some way in our lives, to one degree or another. However, our society sees suffering as something that should be avoided at any cost, so we spend much of our time, effort and money trying to avoid suffering and pursue happiness. We do that in lots of different ways – relationships, material possessions, life experiences, entertainment and social media, even involvement in church can be a way of avoiding suffering and pursuing happiness.

When we look at the suffering of Jesus, however, especially through this text, we get a different perspective on suffering. When we suffer, Jesus suffers with us, which means that God suffers with us in him. God’s answer to human suffering isn’t to rid the world of suffering, but to become part of human suffering and share in our suffering with us. Whenever we suffer in any way, Jesus, the Immanuel – God with us – suffers with us as well. So we are never alone in our suffering, not matter how alone we might feel.

In the same way that Jesus learned the obedience of faith in suffering, we can also learn this same obedience in our suffering through faith in him. When we are experiencing pain or suffering of any kind, it can feel like it’s all out of our control. To learn the obedience of faith in our suffering means to trust God with those things that are out of our control and causing our suffering, just like Jesus did when he suffered. This is where we find an important aspect of faith: trusting God in all circumstances, even when it seems like he is a long way away.

This is also how God shapes us and perfects us as his holy people. When we find the grace to trust God in the middle of our suffering, he moulds us into people who are able to be his presence in the world. When we suffer, we can find God with us in our suffering through Jesus, and then we can become the presence of God in the lives of others in their suffering. God can use the hurts and pain we experience to bring us closer to him in a relationships of faith so that we, in turn, can bring hope and comfort to others who are suffering as well. In the same way that God used Jesus’ suffering to teach him to trust him and complete him as our saviour, so God can and will use our suffering to teach us to trust him in all the circumstances of life, to grow our faith in him, to equip and then send us to bring his good news of peace and salvation into a suffering world.

None of this means that God inflicts suffering on people. Suffering is part of living in a fallen and broken world, and because we fail to love each other in the way God wants us to. Suffering isn’t God’s fault, but he doesn’t stand by doing nothing while we suffer either. The life and death of Jesus shows us that God is intimately involved in our suffering, as he suffers with and for us. In his creative power, God used Jesus’ suffering to teach him to trust his heavenly Father and to perfect him as our great High Priest and saviour. When we suffer, then, we are never alone. God uses suffering to teach us to trust him as the one who is with us in our suffering, to grow our faith in him, and to equip us as his agents of peace and hope in a suffering world.

Reforming Since 1517 (Ephesians 2:8)

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Christians around the world from many denominations will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this month. On 31st October, 1517, Martin Luther, a German monk, pastor and university lecturer, nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Many see this event as the start of a movement which changed Western European society forever.

Because this is such a significant event, our congregation will spend all 5 Sundays in October having a closer look at some of the key ideas of the Reformation movement and why they are still important for us today.

One way we can understand why the Reformation happened was that the church had lost its way during the Middle Ages. By the 1500s, the church was concerned with worldly power and influence, generating financial revenue, and using fear and guilt to maintain their control. While this might be a simplistic evaluation of a complicated church culture, basically the church had strayed a long way from the picture of Christian community that God has given us in the Bible.

This was the church culture in which Martin Luther grew up. He took his sin very seriously and was struggling to find a forgiving and loving God in the church of his day. The harder Luther tried to make God happy with him, the more he felt God was unhappy with him.

Luther eventually discovered that God was pleased with him, but not because of what he was doing. He found God’s grace in the Bible through verses like Romans 1:17 that “the righteous will live by faith” (NIV) and Ephesians 2:8, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (NIV). Luther’s personal discovery of the gospel grew into a thriving movement as he and others sought to communicate the good news of God’s grace through faith in Jesus, and to bring freedom to people who were trapped in fear and guilt.

A pivotal idea of the Reformation was that the church needs to be continually re-forming. The Reformation was never meant to be just an event that we read about in history books. Instead, the people who dedicated themselves to restoring God’s vision for the church wanted those who came after them to continue their work of returning to the basic truths of the Christian faith, asking whether we are still being consistent with those truths, affirming where we are being faithful, but also being courageous enough to make changes where we are drifting away from them.

As Lutherans, we celebrate the Reformation because we believe that God still wants to be re-forming us as his church today.

Because of our flawed human nature, we always run the risk of drifting away from being the Christ-centred community God wants us to be. Maybe that is one of the reasons why the first of Luther’s 95 Theses read, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” One way or another, intentionally or not, we are going to get things wrong. Jesus calls us to repentance, to keep turning back to him and the truth of his good news, so we can find forgiveness, freedom, love and life through faith in him. Jesus calls us to be faithful to the gospel in our lives, but also in the ways that we live out the gospel in our relationships with each other and as organisations that carry his name. In the same way, the Reformation movement challenges us to ask whether we, his church, are still being faithful to the gospel in our current time and place. Where we are being faithful to the gospel, we can give thanks to God for his faithfulness to us. However, where we are not being consistent with the good news of Jesus, in the spirit of the Reformation, we need to change.

This is largely what our congregation’s Simple Church and Growing Young conversations have been about over the past year or more. I have been asking our congregation to look at what we are doing and ask whether we have been in step with what the Bible says God wants for us as his community of believers, or whether we need to make some changes. As a congregation that exists in the tradition of the Reformation, we need to reflect on where we are and where we think we are heading, and ask whether we are moving closer to the picture of Christian community which God gives us in the Bible. Where we are, we can give thanks and affirm the good work God is doing in us. However, where we might be drifting away from who God wants us to be, maybe it’s time to make some changes.

For the next four weeks, we will be going back to some of the basic teachings of the Reformation and asking how they might still speak to us. Next week, we will look at the belief that the Bible is the only authority on which we can know God and what he wants for us. The following week, we will be asking what it means that we are saved by grace alone. The week after that, we will look at how Luther and the Reformers understood faith and how our lives are shaped by what we believe. In the last week of October, we will focus on Jesus who alone is God’s revelation of himself to us, and through whom we can find God’s goodness and love for us.

The Reformation is both a gift and a challenge to the church. It is a gift because it restored the gospel of Jesus as the heart and core purpose of our lives, both as individuals and as church. The Reformation is also our challenge because it asks us to make whatever changes may be needed so we can give a faithful witness to the gospel in all we say and do.

As we celebrate the Reformation this month, we don’t just celebrate an historical event that happened 500 years ago. We are part of a 500 year struggle to be true to God’s grace so we can faithfully bring the good news of Jesus to the world around us.

More to think about:

  • What do you think of when you hear the word ‘Reformation’? Share some thoughts about what the Reformation has meant for you in your life.
  • What do you know about the life of Martin Luther? Share some stories you might have heard about him or what he might have said or done (you can find a short animated version of Luther’s life here; if you would like to read his 95 Theses you can find them here)
  • The basic goal of the Reformation was to re-form the church with the gospel of Jesus as its heart and core purpose. Do you think this was a good aim? Explain why you think that?
  • As you look at the church today, do we still keep the gospel of Jesus as our heart and core purpose? Do you think we still need to be re-forming today? If you think so, what are some aspects of the church that we need to be re-forming?
  • Over the next 4 weeks we will be looking at the Reformation principles of Scripture Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone and Christ Alone. Is there anything connected with any of these that you would like us to look at in particular? Do you have any questions or concerns about any of these that we could explore for you?