Cold on the outside, but the Spreading Conflagration starts inside transformed lives
Last week we offered a couple of ‘thought’ articles to fuel some of your kingdom conversations during any given week. We focused particularly on a clearer picture of heaven and asked ourselves the question, ‘Are we fighting the wrong battles with the wrong weapons?’ This week’s message and outworked study resources initiate some reflection on getting a clearer picture of how Jesus describes hell which we think is timely. If the world around us is struggling to find an appropriate way to understand heaven, I will guarantee that hell isn’t just a foggy image, it’s gone missing from our conversations. It is either not considered ‘PC’ or has been subsumed by the picture of heaven idea that replaces the imperative of human beings cultivating a relationship with Jesus, with living a life of ‘reasonableness’ because we it now seems we are all going to encounter a positive after life. We here at CCC are happier to trust Father God, the creator of heaven and earth with what happens after we play our ‘temporary’ part in this world and focus INTENTIONALLY on what that temporary life ON earth should/could look like in the BIG picture that is God’s primary purpose. Check out the study material in this week’s message at the end of this edition of ‘Rising HOPE’ so you can agree/disagree, argue with God, with yourself, with partners in life and mission or NOT, as you join us in seeking God’s truth for life ON earth.
Graeme’s attempt to provide tools that he and his mentor Brian Medway have spent years together trying to hear from God about and actually road test in everyday life, is simply ‘one’ effort to DWELL in the actual revelation that Jesus brought and not be continually distracted by the knowledge we think we know without challenging it. We encourage you to use the stepping stones to hear from God for yourself, individually and more importantly, together as His body.
In this important ‘Think Tank’ season, we as a church family are working together on forming a NEW leadership development process that can ACTUALLY address the issues related to the developing mission that God has given us responsibility for, that is in terms of playing OUR part in the work the Holy Spirit is already doing to advance God’s kingdom alongside the rest of the body of Christ in our region. We have a unique part to play and we believe there is mounting evidence that God is (and has been) building a team amongst us and in partnership with us who are submitting to Jesus as the leader and stepping into their callings/anointing’s right now!!! These weekly study materials are simply providing a resource library for the campaign that has begun …. An invasion force of HOPE, (i.e. a team of people governed by Jesus’ compassion, serving humility, unconditional and rescuing love for others’ to reach their full potential IN Christ focus, communion with God and each other); infiltrating the spheres of involvement and influence that God has given each one of us; spheres that are to be engaged by the body of Christ, together as one much more heaven looking instrument or access point.
Signs of the Times
Thanks to John Podmore for organizing his (our) friends at TAFE to once again update our street signage on the front verge of the Augusta Street Hub. John Mac did the foundational art lay out which was a challenging task because of our desire to provide more useful information to the neighbourhood. We had to make a decision that passing vehicular traffic doesn’t have time to read the information anyway BUT people walking by or stopping can get enough detail to make accessibility and engagement eminently more possible than before. Add to all of that, we wanted to include the new logo for our mission which indicates our primary purpose AND the current Baptist Association NSW/ACT logo also.
Never a Trivial Pursuit
Please join our table(s) THIS COMING Saturday evening the 23rd June from 6.30pm out at C3 Centre in Thirroul for a night of Trivia, silent auctions, coffee and dessert FUN! CONTACT Heather via email@example.com ASAP if you’d like to be a part of our support team. This is the annual Trivia night fundraiser for supporting our High School Scripture teachers at Bulli, Woonona and Corrimal. It is an irony of course as the pursuit to provide quality scripture teaching to establish a solid foundation for high students to explore an authentic daily faith journey in Christ is NEVER trivial. We are in this up to our necks; this is a recognized part of our consistent targeted mission effort. As you know, Graeme is the Chair of this combined Northern Illawarra Churches Board and Julie is our church’s delegated member on the board. We want to be part of God’s solution to arrest the attrition of over 50K young adults who reputedly abandon their faith every year in Australia. This is a discipleship and equipping leadership issue for the church as a whole and we have work to prioritize and DO in order to play our unique part in that. Just this week God challenged us in prayer to seek a Holy Spirit led intervention into the battle going on around our Bulli High School scripture teacher, the wonderful Clara. Please pray with us as we listen carefully and act accordingly. Please pray specifically for the Board who meets tonight in Bulli (Monday 18th) to discuss this and other important issues related to ensuring a consistent and appropriate provision of scripture teaching in this challenging season. Thank you!
A Summary of last Sunday’s message for Prayer, Reflection & Response.
Signpost: See & Engage the Harvest
Series: ‘The HOPE Project Trek from Base Camp to Camp One’
Theme: ‘Tools for the Climb: God’s Weapon to Conquer Hell’s Gates (The Essential Function of Church)’ – (studies in ‘the Church that Jesus builds’ by Brian Medway & Graeme Hush) Reference Scriptures = Matthew 16: 13ff, Luke 4, 5, 9, 10; Ephesians 3 & 4
The ESSENTIAL function of the church is To Withstand & Conquer the Gates of Hell
Our growing understanding that the body of Christ is God’s primary weapon for establishing the kingdom of heaven OR God’s rule on the earth (in the hearts of people wherever they are), is found IN Christ. God sent Jesus to build His body, the church, ON the revelation that He is the Christ, the son of the living God (i.e. heaven ON earth).
Let’s look again at Matt. 16:13ff
Matthew 16 is the only place Jesus actually talks about the nature and function of the church.
As has been quoted in a number of articles about functionality, an appropriate question could be, ‘if a can opener no longer opens cans (its function), is it still a can opener?’
We need to be sure that what WE call church is actually doing the work that Jesus INTENDED for what HE called church.
Jesus invented something during the three years he was in ministry on this earth. He said he was going to build ‘my’ church. The word had never been used like that before.
The Greek word simply refers to people who assemble together for a common purpose, particularly for civic meetings. We don’t have to worry about what the Greek word means because when Jesus talks about the church in Matthew 16, he says some very specific things in the context of that conversation with his disciples which we should take notice of.
The phrase I would like you to look at is in verse 18 “ and the gates of Hades/Hell will not overcome it.”
The historical context must demand that gates in the way Jesus refers to them are the gates of a city. In ancient times city gates referenced at least three things:
- The vulnerable part of the city. Gates were built to provide strong defense if an enemy army attacked.
- Gates were a military objective. If you took the gates you could enter the city.
- Gates like a civic centre where governance, regulatory services & trade conducted.
HADES/HELL isn’t a locational context; it identifies the forces that wage war against the church. When the church goes to do its job of establishing the kingdom rule of Jesus Christ in a given situation, its advance will be contested; as was true for the ministry of Jesus & for the early church.
Jesus is using words and phrases here that describe the fact that when the church is confronted by the gates or strongholds (‘cities’) that represent the powers of darkness, it is the church that has been given the appropriate power to deal with them because the church represents ‘the tangible representation of God’s presence/heart on the earth’ (last week’s study)
i.e. the fullness of Christ (Eph 3 & 4).
In other words, the church is a weapon invented by Jesus to overcome the resistance at the gates of the strong walled cities that represent the power that is preventing a people group realizing their God ordained destiny.
WILL NOT OVERCOME / PREVAIL
The important thing here is to see which way the action is going. The only way that makes sense of the words is to see the church outside the gates of hell as the deliverer and the gates being the point of resistance. In any case it surely means that the church is too strong for the gates of hell. (Church = Christ crucified AND resurrected)
The church (Christ’s body) is God’s GATE-CRASHING weapon
In short, this text sets up the strategic plan for the church. Churches have been invented by God to withstand AND crash down the resistance at the gates that open people up to the strongholds of hell. Wherever the church is functioning, the territory governed by the powers of darkness will be broken/defeated. So, determine where the gates of hell are & park the church next door.
If it is true that the church is a “gate conquering” weapon in God’s purpose to establish his kingdom rule on the earth, we should be able to clearly see it happening in the ministry of Jesus and the early church.
Here are a few samples from Luke’s gospel, but I hope they prompt you to think of others.
||Details of Gate Encounter
||Direct encounter with Satan
||The lie that Jesus was Son of God **
||Using the living written word of God properly
||Opposition to Jesus in His home town
||The lie that Jesus had the authority to challenge them in the Way He did
||Jesus was able to invoke the power of the kingdom of heaven to walk through them
||Opposition from the Religious leaders
||The lie that Jesus had the authority to forgive sins
||Jesus demonstrated His Authority by healing the lame man
||Unbelief: they couldn’t Cast out the demon
||Rebuked unbelief & cast out the demon
||Seventy sent out
||Sickness & Demon possession
||Satan falls at Jesus’ authority IN them
* It is worthy to note that the very stronghold that Satan challenged Jesus on FIRST in the wilderness episode, is the revelation given to Peter in Matthew 16 that was the ROCK on which Jesus builds His church.
The above table gives us a few quick reference examples of the body of Christ being the weapon which conquers the gates to the strongholds of hell.
Another table that I’ve previously aired and do so regularly in workshops where kingdom of heaven truth is needed to be presented follows and the reason I’ve included it is to emphasise the traits of the body of Christ as defined by the kingdom and how these obviously challenge, indeed overcome the strongholds that form the kingdom of this world.
|Kingdom of this world
||Kingdom of God / Heaven
||Others (deny self)
|Led by human knowledge & experience
||Led by the Holy Spirit
|Position / Status
|Power over / control / bullying
||Power under / lifting up / empowering
|Tolerance (unity for my benefit)
||Oneness (unity that releases heaven’s Resources for the benefit of ALL
Some review questions you can use to equip or sharpen each other as you learn how to engage in kingdom conversations in YOUR spheres of involvement OR patches ON earth as in heaven.
- As you go about your daily activities this week, continue to purposefully pray and think about how a body that represents the missionary presence of God (as per previous study) could be formed and operate in your (extended) family sphere? Your work sphere? Your friendship circle? Your community involvement sphere? Your learning or other recreational space? (see if you can list the spheres God reveals to you)
- Using the above TWO tables and one of the spheres on your list, ask yourself the following question. “If the kingdom of God fully came to that sphere, how would it be different from what it is at present?
To deal with this question fully, seek clarity from the Holy Spirit and use the following as a guide
i. Write down the sphere you are identifying.
ii. Looking at the left side of the Kingdom table, use the things listed and others you can think of to describe how your identified sphere operates now
iii. Using your written reflections about the sphere, write down what the Kingdom of Heaven version of your list would look like in comparison to the way it operates now – just like the above table
iv. Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you discern ways to respond to help move the way the sphere is to the way it would look if the kingdom of heaven came fully to it (like in the Luke examples table)
v. Ask God to show you a strategic prayer and action plan, and maybe another person in the sphere you’ve identified, that together you might represent and demonstrate the kingdom of heaven towards making a life transforming difference
vi. Be sure to journal and share with a trusted mission partner. Maybe share prayer points via email or text with Graeme or Julie so they can partner with you in prayer at the corporate prayer times on Tuesdays from 5.30pm.
Here’s the Link to the home page for all that’s happening at the HUB https://www.corrimalcommunitychurch.com.au/blog
KAREN WILL HEADLINE THIS YEAR’S ‘CAROLS ON THE LAWN’ AND AMBER HAS AGREED TO PARTY WITH US TOO! MORE SURPRISES TO BE CONFIRMED SOON