May23SatMay 23, 2015
Imagine early Christians talking to their neighbours in the Roman Empire. “I can see that you are religious, you talk a lot about God and Jesus in your conversations. I think religion is a good thing. So, where is your temple or holy place? The early Christian replies, “well, actually, we don’t have a temple… we usually meet in each other’s homes and we believe we are living temples that Jesus dwells in” “So, where are your priests and what type of rituals do you perform?” The believer responds, well, you see we don’ t have a priest… well actually, we do have one, Jesus is our Great High Priest and He seeks God the Father on our behalf. “What about sacrifices?” There again the response comes, “Jesus sacrificed His life once and for all for us. The confused neighbor states, well this doesn’t sound much like a religion at all, but it sure has a lot to do with that man, Jesus!”
Fast forward to 2014 and Sharon and I have just received a phone call from Roger, the owner of the Manor prior to starting Church at the Manor. City Hall has turned Roger down from allowing us to rent the space for church. The city bylaws do not allow for a ‘religious institution’ on the premises of the strip club. However, when our plan to provide lunch and meet with residents along with a time for sharing stories of hope and transformation through God and prayer, we were granted favor. The city gave us an official letter stating that we will be zoned as a ‘social service’. That was perfect as far as we were concerned. We didn’t wanted to be known as a religious institution, but a rescue center!
It’s All About Relationship and Not Religion!
Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” There are really three different ways to respond to God, one is ambivalence, another, religion and then the gospel. Religion is very subtle and quite deceptive because it rests very much in some form of self-salvation.
I love how Tim Keller breaks down the difference between religion and the gospel in his study on Gospel in Life and I have highlighted here with some of my own takeaways as well.
I obey, therefore I’m accepted
I’m accepted, therefore I obey
Motivation is based on fear and insecurity
Motivation is based on grateful joy
I obey God in order to get things from God
I obey God to get God – to delight in and resemble him
When I am criticized, I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a good person
When I am criticized, I struggle, but it is not essential for me to think of myself as a good person.
My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up in my time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment
My prayer life consists of generous stretches of worship, praise and thankfulness. My main purpose is to connect with God in a meaningful way
My identity and self -worth are mainly based on how hard I work or how moral I am. This leads me to a more proud mindset and lack of patience for those who just can’t get there and judgmental attitude as well.
My identity and self-worth is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ This leads me to deep humility and confidence at the same time
Tim goes on to share that the gospel if it really is to believed removes neediness – the need to be constantly respected, appreciated and well regarded; the need to have everything in your life to go well: the need to have power over others.
It’s All About Receiving and Not Achieving!
An insight of Martin Luther was that even after you have been changed by the gospel of grace and finished work of Jesus on the cross, your heart will easily shift to its default mode of operating on a religious or moral principle. We have to deliberately and repeatedly set our heart back to the gospel mode.
John Calvin said this about the righteousness that we receive from Christ.
This we call the righteousness of faith, that is when a man, empty and drained of all confidence in works, feels that the only ground of his acceptance with God is a righteousness which is wanting in himself and is borrowed from Christ.
We must continue to have a gospel mindset in that the same way we received Christ, completely by faith and acceptance is the same way we go on in the Christian walk by faith and complete acceptance of what Jesus is doing in us and through us.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6,7
We have to keep watering the roots with a heart filled with thankfulness so that the tree stays healthy and alive even in difficult situations where we think that maybe God is punishing us or maybe we are not doing enough to earn his favor
Psalm 13 doesn’t start well for David when he shares,
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
But it finishes with But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise for he has been good to me.
Sometimes we may feel that we don’t know where God is, but we must never forget who God is and that is the turnaround for David.
It is all about justification and not justifying myself!
Let’s look at the perspective of a Pharisee vs a tax collector, or the self- righteous vs the sinner
In Luke 18:9-14, (read it again) we read the story of two men seeking justification before God.
The Pharisee is trapped in his own sense of being good vs the tax collector who sees no good in himself. I honestly don’t look at the Pharisee as a hypocrite. He did have high moral virtues that he actually possessed from a human perspective. He would probably win a humanitarian award as long as he didn’t make his disdain too obvious for others who couldn’t hold to his standard. He was an upright, moral citizen, but his fatal flaw was that he was using that as his own justification before God. The Pharisee understood righteousness by outward, tangible acts of goodness.
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
The tax collector see himself exactly as how we should all see ourselves when we do not put our faith or trust in Jesus no matter what the circumstance. We ultimately fail miserably and don’t measure up and that is exactly what Romans 3:23 tells us. We have all fallen so far short of the glory of God.
So in this story the tax collector goes home justified before God because his only words were, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
So what is justification? It is a legal declaration of God that only He can make over us. It has nothing to do with our actions, but our heart attitude and the recognition that I could never justify myself! I Just need to thank Him and praise for what He has already done and allow my actions to stem from a heart filled with gratitude and grace for others.
Manor Church Update
Never the Same Old, Same Old Here!
11 and counting! This is how many baptisms have occured in just a little over one year! Spenser, Amy, Michel and Bobby are the latest to take the plunge!
We have had great opportunities to minister to people one on one and one special occasion for me was the opportunity to have communion one on one with Greg. He shared his life story with me and it was a reaffirmation of faith for him. Greg has an alcohol addiction but it has been so encouraging to see him choose Canada Dry of late as our team members stock him up. Greg just lost his neighbour and very good friend, Jack and we look forward to having an opportunity to do a memorial service for him.
We have also helped moved out a current dancer from the Manor who is looking to get a fresh start. Please pray for her as she also has a strong crystal meth addiction.
I was blessed by my coffee with Michel and hear his journey towards faith and fully trusting the power greater than Himself, Jesus. He is on his freedom journey from alcohol that started March 1st and it was awesome to have the opportunity to baptize him on April 26th. During our conversation, it was so good to hear his dreams of a hobby farm, to be reunited with his wife and children. God is working in his life as he has experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in such a profound way that the peace he felt was supernatural. He spoke of how it was better than any binge drink he ever had. Michel is now working on installing cable lines in northern Alberta for a specific period of time and we just learned that the Holy Spirit has completely set him up as he is presently sharing a rental place with a man training for pastoral ministry. God is good.
Dan is progressing well at Teen Challenge and we had a great visit at the beginning of the month. He is growing deeper in His Christian walk and experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit. Dan has also joined the men’s choir and has had opportunity to minister in a number of churches already.
We had a new man out, Juan, who just moved into the Manor Motel. The first thing he shared with one of our team members was, ‘ I’m an addict, am I allowed to come here?’ By the end of the service Juan was receiving prayer for healing as this past week we had Andreas and Luisa Krause share about their miraculous healing journey. The stories of healing continue this week with JoJo Smith speaking.
In my devotional reading from Bible Gateway I read, We may often pray for safety, but the first Church prayed for boldness. If you’re not living for Christ boldly enough to cost you some security, pray for boldness today. Pray for God to bring you opportunities to bring people to Christ and the boldness to do it!
So, we are looking forward to an opportunity to take the gospel to the streets downtown with our church and give those who attend the opportunity to bless others with a gift and potentially pray with them as well.