Saturday 15th June: Isaiah 42.10-16 / Psalm 96.1-6

Trinity Sunday, 16th June: Ezekiel 47.1-12 / Psalm 46.1-2, 4-11 / John 2.13-25

Monday 17th June: John 14.1-17 / Psalm 21.1-7

Tuesday 18th June: John 14.18-31 / Psalm 27.1-5, 11-14

Wednesday 19th June: John 15.1-17 / Psalm 145.17-21

Thursday 20th June: John 15.18-27 / Psalm 17.1-2, 6-8

Friday 21st June: John 16.1-15 / Psalm 72.1-8, 17-19a

Saturday 22nd June: John 16.16-33 / Psalm 71.1-8

Foundational Christianity, Part 3: The Peace of Christ

(Unless otherwise noted, quotations from Scripture are taken from the Jerusalem Bible)

What is good has been explained to you, man; this is what the Lord asks of you: only this, to act justly to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6.8).

In Part 3 my aim is to explore the themes of peace and non-violence.

The starting point is the first chapter of Luke which contains those beautiful prophetic hymns, Mary’s Magnificat (1.46-55) and Zechariah’s Benedictus (1.68-79), traditionally recited at evening and morning prayers respectively.

These proclamations serve as a prelude to the New Covenant, the coming Kingdom of God. They declare that God will (1) exalt humility as a blessed state; (2) grant mercy to those who fear him in every generation; (3) topple the rich and the proud from their self-imposed pedestals; (4) favour the downtrodden; (5) grant forgiveness, redemption and salvation to his people; (6) fulfill prophecy that his chosen people would be saved from their enemies through a scion of the House of David; (7) fulfill the covenant formed through Abraham, the Father of Faith, in order to (8) give light to those who dwell in darkness, and (9) to bring them peace and to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness.

The New Covenant introduces a process of levelling down, of bringing everything and everyone to completion in a realm of spiritual enlightenment, the Kingdom of God, a state of being that does not recognise rank or social status.

Anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20.26-28).

And in the kingdom there is no distinction of race or gender:

All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised (Galatians 3.27-29; cf Colossians 3.11)….and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10.13; cf Joel 3.5).

John the Baptist was the herald of the kingdom, Jesus embodies its fullness and dynamism. Jesus gently guided his disciples into the way of peace and reconciliation, reserving his ire for the religious establishment who refused to listen to his message. The Beatitudes sum up the moral and ethical code of the kingdom (Matthew 5.1-12).

The crucifixion and ascension of Jesus into heaven completed his earthly mission. He left behind a fledgling church with a firm foundation of apostles and many others to whom he had appeared after his resurrection. Indeed, his resurrection appearances were by way of being his last will and testament before taking his place at the right hand of God the Father. The king has bequeathed the kingdom to his subjects on earth but rules in heaven as judge.

Peace as Christ’s legacy

Ten days after his Ascension, on the Day of Pentecost and exactly as Christ has promised, God conferred the Holy Spirit on the growing body of disciples in order to propel the nascent church forward (John 14.15-17, 25-26; Acts 2.1-36).

Note: The Holy Spirit is called Advocate in the Jerusalem Bible; the ESV uses the rather bland Helper; the New Jerusalem Bible employs Paraclete – (Gk. parakletos) – which means ‘Advocate’, ‘Counsellor’ or ‘Protector’.

The discourses contained in John 14 to 16 are an extended farewell, a declaration of brotherly love, and include a bequest of peace:

Peace I bequeath to you; my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid (John 14.27). This in-dwelling peace is not to be found in the world. And Jesus does not leave his disciples orphans because his Spirit will live among them, just as he lives in his Father (14.18-20). He who loves Jesus will be loved by the Father (14.21-23).

The work of the Holy Spirit is elaborated by Jesus in John 16:

The Holy Spirit will (1) convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgement; (2) guide his disciples into all the truth and things to come (prophecy); (3) mediate Christ by glorifying him; (4) turn the disciples’ sorrow at the loss of their Master into joy; (5) launch the disciples into the world spiritually renewed; (6) convey God’s grace, granting them whatever they wish in Christ’s name, and (7) bestow peace in a world full of tribulation.

All Christ’s disciples in all times and places are his friends, for he himself grants us that privilege (John 15.14-17). If that were not so, Christian growth and maturity would be stunted. Our faith must be such that Jesus, the Word of God, lives in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

A Quaker testimony describes it in this way:

Dost thou submit in loving obedience to the leadings of Christ the Word within thee to do the will of the Father? And how is this work within thee known, as he is Preacher, Mediator, Interceder, Leader, Author, Perfecter, Captain and Physician? Is he the Rock of thy faith and life? Is he the Foundation of all faith? How is thy faith and life built upon him? Does Christ remain thy Anchor and thy Hope to keep thee in his Light and from the power of darkness? [1]

Christian fellowship requires a separation from the mainstream, from those who wish to remain anchored in the secular world. The call to serve Christ inevitably entails severance from former ties if those ties threaten to hold back the disciple from his or her new imperative.

Nor must wealth be a hindrance to following Christ, as in the story of the rich young man who is pious and devout yet is disheartened when Jesus exhorts him to give away all his possessions as a condition of becoming his follower (Mark 10.17-22). Worldly cares and great wealth are incompatible with the total commitment that discipleship demands: You cannot be the slave both of God and of money (Matthew 6.24).

Whilst peace and peacemaking are the guiding lights of Christian fellowship, we can also see that a degree of violence is required in order to make that decisive step towards discipleship – that is, violence to one’s own preconceived mindset and world view. A complete turnaraound – (Gk. metanoia = conversion) – is essential to enter the kingdom and this will certainly require a reassessment of our priorities, values and relationships.

Jesus said:

Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9.62).

Jesus’ message is uncompromising. There are to be no half measures, no prevarication.

Christ remains a controversial figure. His message disturbed the religious sensibilities of the Jews who were held fast in their allegiance to the Law. He spoke of something radically new that undermined their entrenched position. And so it has remained ever since. Jesus knew full well that this would be his legacy, that the eternal struggle between good and evil would be played out against a backdrop of religious contention, with him as the stumbling block (Luke 12.1-12; 1 Corinthians 1.23; 1 Peter 2.6-8; cf Isaiah 8.14; Psalm 118.22).

Non-violence

Whilst Jesus is anxious to bestow peace upon his followers, we must also keep before us his warning in Matthew 10.34-36:

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.

But the sword he refers to is the double-edged sword of justice, the very word of God, that cuts decisively, dividing right from wrong (Hebrews 4.12-13). The JB footnote describes it thus:

‘All that God has revealed through the prophets or through his Son. Since the promises and threats of the message are still ‘alive’ and in force, they make it impossible for human beings to avoid declaring their true intentions, i.e. they ‘judge’ themselves.’

Christ said: Blessed are the gentle; they shall have the earth as inheritance (Matthew 5.6 NJB). Yet the history of the church is a woeful tale of persecution and internecine conflict. It is a catalogue of violence and bloodshed which had mostly to do with power, prestige and wealth. The saga was made worse by church-approved wars. Quoting a Quaker testimony, Tolstoy wrote:

Having proved by a whole series of arguments and texts that a religion based on peacefulness and goodwill towards man is incompatible with war – that is, with mutilating and killing men – the Quakers maintain and prove that nothing has contributed so much to obscure Christian truth in the eyes of the heathen, or has so hindered the spread of Christianity in the world, as the sanctioning and practice of war and violence by Christians.

‘Christ’s teaching,’ they say, ‘having reached man’s consciousness not by means of violence and the sword, but by non-resistance to evil, gentleness, meekness and peacefulness – can only be diffused through the world by the example of peacefulness, concord and love, among its followers.’ [2]

In the Garden of Gethsemane, when one of Jesus’ companions drew his sword and struck the servant of the High Priest, cutting off his ear, [3] Jesus exclaimed, Put your sword back, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword (Matthew 26.52). The New Testament is replete with texts that promote peace and reconciliation. Jesus’ teachings were a marked departure from the Old Testament law of retaliation (lex talionis):

You have heard how it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. (Matthew 5.38-39; cf Exodus 21.24; Leviticus 24.20; Deuteronomy 19.21).

The Mosaic Law teaches that he who maims or injures his neighbour, does evil, and the doer of evil must be punished by death or maiming or some personal injury. Injury must be met by injury, murder by murder, torture by torture, evil by evil (Exodus 21.12-14, 23-25). But Christ rejects all this. He not only reiterates the Sixth Commandment, You shall not kill (Exodus 20.13), but elevates the standard of morality by stipulating that anyone who harbours enmity in his heart is also accountable (Matthew 5.21-26).

If the ethics of the kingdom are governed by love, it hardly behoves a Christian to practise violence (that is, instigating violence; using reasonable force to defend oneself against attack is a different matter). The principle is to teach by the examples of non-violence and gentleness of speech. The dispositions required to accept Christ and make him your life are humility and gentleness.

Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light (Matthew 11.28-30).

‘Gentle and humble in heart’, attitudes of restraint, peacefulness and purity of inention. This corresponds to the third and sixth Beatitudes: Blessed are the gentle, Blessed are the pure in heart (Matthew 5.5, 8 NJB). Paul has something to add:…. there should be love, coming out of a pure heart, a clear conscience and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1.5).

Peter expands on this: You should all agree among yourselves and be sympathetic; love the brothers, have compassion and be self-effacing. Never pay back one wrong with another or an angry word with another one; instead, pay back with a blessing. This is what you are called to do, so that you inherit a blessing yourself (1 Peter 3.8-9).

Peter explains that we must be prepared to suffer for the sake of righteousness:

No one can hurt you if you are determined to do only what is right; if you do have to suffer for being good, you will count it a blessing. There is no need to be afraid or to worry about them. Simply reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have. But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience, so that those who slander you when you are living a good life in Christ may be proved wrong in the accusations that they bring. And if it is the will of God that you should suffer, it is better to suffer for doing right than for doing wrong (1 Peter 3.13-17).

When Jesus sent out the seventy-two missionaries, he instructed them thus: Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you (Luke 10.5-6). The mission is to be guided by peace, not coercion. The kingdom is not spread by conquest but by gentleness and healing, and with the greeting, The kingdom of God is very near to you (v.9). Rejection is to be met by withdrawing to a fresh field of activity (vv.10-11).

All of this can be summarised by the Great Commandment:

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also (Matthew 22.37-40; cf Deuteronomy 6.5; Leviticus 19.18).

Jesus is the the fulfilment of the Law and the summation of the Messianic prophecies.

I will give the last word to the apostle Paul in that beautiful passage from his Letter to the Philippians:

I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone; the Lord is very near. There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, every-thing that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise….then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4.4-9).

Suggested further reading: Isaiah 2.1-4; 11.1-9; Galatians 5.13-26; 1 John 3.10-24

References

[1]. Yearly Meeting of Friends in Christ: ‘Queries and Advices’.                                               [2]. Leo Tolstoy The Kingdom of God & Peace Essays. Oxford University Press, 1936      [3]. Identified as Peter in the Gospel of John.

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Welcome to the Fellowship of St. Peter

The aim of FSP is to promote Christian faith and spirituality.  The central focus is on the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Christianity in the modern world

As the number of churchgoers dwindle in the western world, orthodox Christians need to overcome their differences and consider a form of unity that recognises their common purpose.  It’s time for the faithful remnant to act as a creative minority and formulate a unified response.  The goal must be to preserve the orthodoxy of the faith in the face of the continuing erosion of religious liberty in an atmosphere that is increasingly hostile to Christianity.

The Fellowship extends a hand of friendship to those who have withdrawn from churches which have aligned themselves with secularism and liberal values, thus fatally compromising the integrity of a faith that is essentially counter-cultural.

We must read the signs of the times.  The era is drawing to a close.  It is time to stand up and be counted as the people of God.  Do not be afraid.  The gathering darkness will not enshroud the light of faith nor quench the flame of truth.  These will remain, along with all those whose steadfast faith shields them in the coming storm.

‘And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28.20).

The word of God

The word of God is a powerful force for enlightenment, a necessary counterweight to secular humanism.  The Fellowship seeks to recapture something of the simplicity and vitality of the church in apostolic times, before the purity of the Christian message was corrupted by spurious doctrines.  The emphasis is on spirituality that supports the life and ministry of Christians everywhere, regardless of denomination.

The Bible speaks to the world.  All Christians have something of interest and value to share through their witness.  The aim of the Fellowship is to promote prayer, Bible study and spiritual reflection which will bear fruit in daily lives.  These disciplines can form the basis of a Rule of Life that requires a strategic withdrawal from the mainstream.

Let the word of God fill your hearts and minds, let it guide and inspire you and refresh you like a clear mountain stream.  Be still with God in prayer.  Be an instrument of his loving purposes, a purveyor of peace, and let your peace rest on all those you encounter, especially those in need of compassion and healing.  Heed their cares and bind their wounds.  Live in uprightness and modesty and exercise restraint in your material needs.  Guard your tongue, practise discretion, speak only words of counsel and encouragement, the words of Christ.

Your eyes, hands and impulses should be those of Christ.  Pray always for strength and enlightenment.  Praise and thank God and place into his care your needs and those of others.

Bible.  Prayer.  Witness.  These are the three principles on which the Fellowship is founded.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from who every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3.14-19).

stpeter

Why Peter?

Peter represents Everyman in all his frailty, vulnerability and confusion.  He was headstrong yet inspired, well-meaning but impetuous.  His heart was in the right place but he didn’t always live up to his own rhetoric.  He triumphed over his weaknesses by the grace of God and saw the perfect vision of Christ and what that vision meant for the church and the world.

Peter was a leading figure during Christ’s walk on earth.  He occupied a position of seniority amongst the disciples.  He was there at all the major events during Christ’s ministry and in the final days leading up to the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension into heaven.  It was to Peter and his fellow apostles that Jesus entrusted the legacy of truth enshrined in his teachings, the keys of the kingdom.  After Pentecost Peter and his companions went out to the world to proclaim the Gospel.

Acts of the Apostles.  Peter became a leading light in the early days of the church, the apostle to the Jews living in the diaspora.  His authority in the nascent Christian community has to be viewed against the ascendancy of Paul as apostle to the Gentiles, a position that gave Paul equal authority in the direction of missionary work.

In terms of Peter’s primacy of leadership, however, “….one should not look in Peter or in the primitive church for the developed conception of the primacy which appears no earlier than the third century.  The development of power possessed by the church and by Peter into monarchical leadership lies outside of biblical theology.” (John McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible)

The Gospel of Mark.  The church historian Eusebius (d. ca. 339) wrote: “Mark, who became Peter’s interpreter, wrote accurately, though not in order, all that he remembered of the things said and done by the Lord.  For he had neither heard the Lord nor been one of his followers, but afterwards followed Peter, who used to compose his discourses with a view to the needs of his hearers.” (Recommended reading: Meeting God in Mark, by Rowan Williams (SPCK, 2014)).

1 and 2 Peter.  Of the two letters that bear Peter’s name, the first seeks to encourage and strengthen early Christian communities suffering persecution, reminding them of their heritage.  The second has more to do with the dangers of heresy and how Christians can have confidence in the truth of Scripture.  These encouragements and warnings resonate with us living in times of moral decline and religious indifference.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  (1 Peter 1.3-5).

Peter was martyred in Rome during the Neronian persecutions, probably in the year 64.

Jerusalem Cross

There are various interpretations of the symbolism.  The four smaller crosses are thought to denote either the four gospels or the way the Gospel spread to the four corners of the earth.  In terms of God’s revelation and world history, the city of Jerusalem is of huge political, religious and symbolic importance.  The focus is highlighted in the gospels and in the emergence of the first Christian communities described in the Acts of the Apostles.  It was from Jerusalem that the apostles scattered to proclaim Christ

Bible translations used

Quotations marked ‘JB’ are taken from the Jerusalem Bible, copyright 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Darton Longman & Todd Ltd. and Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. In this translation, ‘Yahweh’ is rendered ‘Lord’ by kind permission of the publisher.
Quotations marked ‘NJB’ are taken from the New Jerusalem Bible, copyright 1985 by Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd. and Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. In this translation, ‘Yahweh’ is rendered ‘Lord’ by kind permission of the publisher.
Quotations marked ‘ESV’ are taken from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by Harper Collins Publishers, copyright 2001 Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The spiritual life

We must keep the Bible open before us.  It is our enlightenment, our source of consolation, our prayer book.  It contains the revelation of God’s purposes in salvation history.  It is the well-spring of all the truth, goodness and wisdom that God wishes to transmit to human beings who he ordained to administer the complexities of the natural world and to carry forward knowledge of salvation history with its outcome in the incarnation of Christ.

The Lord guides and strengthens us, keeping us firmly rooted in the faith. Throughout all the trials we endure in this troubled world, Christ is with us.  The word of God inspires us in various ways, and through the Holy Spirit we gain knowledge, wisdom and discernment, maturing in the faith as citizens of the Kingdom of God.

Remain within the confines of God’s kingdom.  Stay on the straight and narrow path that leads to salvation.  Do not look with longing towards the sunlit hills at every temptation. Too many have trodden the path to destruction, too many have fallen by the wayside.

The Christian life is about being transformed by Christ, being absorbed by him so that his teachings and his very presence guide our every motivation and action.  Christ’s love is mediated through us in the power of the Holy Spirit.  We follow the leadings of the Spirit in order to renew and deepen our faith.

There is a wonderful symmetry involved in the divine-human relationship.  Christ, the sinless one, is the embodiment of human perfection.  Through his very nature as Son of God he brought mankind nearer to the Father.  Through Christ, God shared in our humanity and he also made it possible for us to share in his divinity.  Christ underwent the ultimate sacrifice to reconcile man to his creator, making it possible for God’s plan of salvation to be brought to completion, inaugurating a New Covenant with mankind.  We need to keep before us the astounding truth of his victory over evil on the Cross, through which mankind gained forgiveness and the freedom to live the gospel life infused with selfless love (cf 1 Corinthians 13.1-13).

Christ established a new reality, that to be justified by faith is a sacred identity.  We are identified as Christians when we accept and appropriate the fullness of Christ.  This requires a heroic response from human beings because it runs counter to human pride, the instinct for autonomy.  The response must be underpinned by contrition and humility and it is brought to perfection by obedience.  Once we take hold of Christ we become his disciples.  Discipleship is a life-long commitment, a transforming friendship with Jesus. (Luke 9.23-26; John 15.14-17).

Christ’s death and resurrection brings to mankind redemption and salvation to eternal life.  Christ has opened the way for us to follow him to the perfect vision, far superior to the limitations and imperfections of our earthly existence.  To consolidate the New Covenant with man, the Father has sent us the power to sustain us on our journey through the snares and pitfalls of this troubled world.  This power is the Holy Spirit (John 14.16, 26).  Christ’s presence is manifested in the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit reminds us of his teachings, works in our conscience when we fail, grants us perception when we read Holy Scripture, inspires us in our prayers and meditations, whispers to us in our silent spaces, strengthens us in times of adversity and provides us with prophetic speech.  The Spirit empowers us in our various ministries and impels us to rise above the banalities and temptations of a world that is hostile to our sacred calling.  (Mark 13.5-13; Romans 12.3-9; 1 Corinthians 12.4-11; Ephesians 4.7-13; James 1.16-18, 3.13-18; 1 Peter 3.13-17, 4.7-19).

The worldwide community of faith

Christians across the world have a common purpose: striving to live the Gospel life in the face of widespread indifference or open hostility to the teachings of Christ.  The Christian faith is essentially counter-cultural yet many churches are now aligned with secular humanism, thus inflicting upon themselves the fatal wound of apostasy.  The enemy is no longer at the gates, he is within the citadel.

For our Spirit-filled life to succeed we are to distance ourselves from the corrupt influences of modern culture (1 John 2.15-17, 5.18-20).  There are to be no half measures, no compromise with evil in any of its forms, no accommodation with other religions.  This detachment is crucially important to safeguard the integrity of the Christian faith.  These are perilous times.  Christianity is under assault from atheistic humanism, the dominant force in social and political culture.  Faced with this threat there is to be no weakening on our part.  We are to profess the faith and demonstrate in our lives the true destiny of humankind, the freedom to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.  There is no higher ideal for man to attain (cf Mark 12.28-34; Romans 13.8-10).

Discipleship

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) portrays Christ as the new Moses, but he far exceeds all the prophets and patriarchs of old by his uniquely divine provenance and his destiny as Saviour of the world.  He is not only the promised Messiah, he is also Priest, Prophet and King.  His teachings lead us into the Kingdom of God, into a realm of love, creating a priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2.1-10).  We yearn for the promised homeland above where our labours will be rewarded by eternal peace (2 Peter 3.8-14).

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5.1-12) are a concise presentation of the Christian ethos, describing the blessed virtues essential to life in the Spirit.  They are the supreme ethical and moral guide to Christian life and discipleship, illuminating our path in the human maze.  They set out the Christian way of life, lived in response to Christ through faith.  We strive to uphold values intrinsic to human dignity, stable family life and the maintenance of social order: humility, gentleness, compassion, justice, peace, integrity, courage and witness.  All the blessings of the kingdom are encapsulated in the Beatitudes.

Christ came to fulfil the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5.17-19).  The validity of the Ten Commandments remains (Exodus 20.1-17).  In the Beatitudes Christ describes the spirit in which the Commandments are to be lived in both church and society.  They exemplify Christian discipleship.  They are echoes of the divine, revealing Christ in his perfection.  They define the inward motivations of integrity and love that characterise discipleship, as well as the blessed rewards of faithful service in Christ’s name.  Our acts of charity and mercy spring from a heart filled with selfless love founded on the teachings of Christ and energised by the Holy Spirit.

The teachings of Christ are uncompromisingly radical.  They are employed to combat philosophies that erode the dignity of man: consumerism (money and possessions bring happiness); relativism (there is no absolute truth); secularism (a world view without God); existentialism (life has no purpose).  In the midst of these evils the Gospel shines like a beacon of truth.  And through it all we persevere in the name of Christ, despite the difficulties we encounter on our journey of faith (1 Peter 4.12-19).  God will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us in times of adversity (1 Peter 5.10-11).

Our faith is a wonderful gift to possess and convey to others, and discipleship places on us a sacred responsibility.  It is a joy and a holy privilege to walk with Jesus, to be in his loving presence in a life of Christian service (Luke 10.23-24; John 15.1-17; Ephesians 4.7-16).

Further reading

J. Heinrich Arnold   Discipleship: Living for Christ in the Daily Grind.  Plough Publishing, 2nd edition, 2011.

Steve Chalke & Alan Mann   Different Eyes: the Art of Living Beautifully.  Zondervan, 2010.

Rod Dreher   The Benedict Option: a Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. Sentinel, 2017.

Cameron Lee    Unexpected Blessing: Living the Countercultural Reality of the Beatitudes. IVP, 2004.

John Stott    The Radical Disciple: Wholehearted Christian Living.  IVP, 2010.

John Valentine   Follow Me: Becoming a Liberated Disciple.  IVP, 2009.

 

14 thoughts on “

  1. RE: the Nathanael article, I have always associated this story with maybe some evidence of Jesus’ sense of humor.

    Put in Americanese, I can picture Jesus chuckling just a little bit at Nathanael’s “easy” acceptance of Jesus’ deity based on just Jesus’ vision of N. under a tree. I can almost hear Jesus saying, “Really? Nate? You ain’t seen nothin’, yet!”

    If one may be so casual :).

    I hope.

    Cheers,
    Phyllis

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  2. ….which is why I referred the reader to John 2.25….’he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.’ We wouldn’t expect anything less in the One who was both human and divine. True some of us lesser mortals have a keen perception about human motives, and others go further with some kind of psychic insight, but Jesus’ insight was divinely inspired.

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  3. RE: the review of the Benedict model of fellowship book

    Fellowshipping on the Internet, as it were, seems fitting, though. The remnant gathering in the ether…where the “wind” of the Holy Spirit blows “withersoever He wills,” unrestrained in His creation by brick, mortar, dogma, or denomination…

    Cheers,
    Phyllis

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  4. I like your allusion to John 3.8. Very apt. It’s the only option for the many who are disillusioned with ‘churchianity’, but on the other hand it would be just as easy for the enemy to inflitrate, which they assuredly will.

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  5. Good timing for a Biblical treatment of angels. There are so many angel “worshippers,” you might call them, out there, and little discernment.

    Beautifully written postscript, particularly this:
    “Over-analysis leads to spiritual paralysis, speculation triumphs over objective truth, philosophy replaces divinity. Thus the great truths of the Christian faith are swept away in the floodtide of secular opinion. But when the tide recedes the Word of God remains in the sands of time, in the Rock of Ages.”

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  6. RE: “Creation and re-creation: John 20.19-29”

    From Eliot’s thoughts on time in his poem I am reminded of how God’s will is enacted from His time suspended in eternity to each of our times lived “in motion,” so to speak, on earth.

    I think the gift of time given “in the beginning” is second only to free will in import. For it is within time–however long it takes each of us to respond to God’s “call”–that we come to that place when (and how) we are ready and able to freely choose Him.

    Of all the metaphors in the visible that illustrate the invisible, I think our mortal life, designed to exist in time, from day to month to year to end is the most intimate demonstration of God’s love, His patience, and His pattern of redemption: first comes conception; next, growth and development until finally dawns the awareness beyond self. And then somewhere after that, in our own fullness of time and circumstance, comes the moment of choice when Jesus asks of each, in each our own vernacular: “Who do you say I am?”

    (And the angels pause, ready to rejoice for each one who answers, like Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”)

    To those who acknowledge Christ the Messiah, He sends the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to see, our ears to hear, and our hearts “To become renewed (and) transfigured … in (yet) another pattern”: by grace through faith, just as He did for those in that Upper Room, the first meeting place at the dawn of the New Covenant Church purchased by His blood, the door standing open for a little while yet (for all things on this side of eternity must have beginnings, middles, and endings) for whosoever else may pause there, say “yes” to the invitation, and enter.

    Blessings,
    Phyllis

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  7. RE: “Creation and Re-Creation, Part 2″

    Thank you for the lovely walk amid the sights, sounds, and scents of God’s creation that beckon…and inspire.

    I am reminded of several Scriptures that also, like your prose, invite us to look up, literally and figuratively, to the Designer of designers from this incredible world He’s given us:

    “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. 15 Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? 16 Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?” (Job 37:14-16, NIV);

    How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 25 There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small.” (Psalm 104:24-25);

    “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20).

    Blessings,
    Phyllis

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  8. RE: “The Bible is like a mine containing a precious and unique mineral. In our lifetime we will never exhaust its riches.”

    I wonder, then, while it is often said the holy book is the best-seller of all time it also gets the worst “press,” critics calling it nothing more than myth and mysticism or the product of primitive people with primitive minds?

    I think this is due to primarily one reason: for those on a sincere spiritual quest, the Scriptures quench their thirst, each reading of the same verses revealing more on the length, depth, and breadth of God’s love and His justice (which are intertwined). The verses are meant for personal as well as for corporate guidance, comfort, and encouragement.

    I think for those opposed to such a quest, searching for truth elsewhere, or not yet acquainted with the riches in the Scriptures, they are inclined—or dedicated–to believing the bad press for many reasons.

    One of the reasons I never opened its pages in my youth was because I had grown up in a religious system that deemed only a certain, ordained few had the authority to comprehend and interpret the Bible. But that danger exists in many denominations that subscribe to spiritual hierarchies. There are leadership positions, and giftings of the Holy Spirit, but God’s Spirit sent to teach and guide us is poured out “on all” believers, or Jesus would have been more specific when prophesying of the Holy Spirit that He would send once He returned to the Father (see John 14:16-17).

    The point is, there must be a very good reasons the Bible, among all other religious books, is so controversial.

    I believe it’s because it is so powerful to change hearts and minds, indeed, whole civilizations.

    Blessings,
    Phyllis

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  9. Absolutely right. If there is one thing that evil minds are afraid of it is the Truth. Jesus said that all who do wrong hate the light and avoid it (John 3.20). The Bible satisfies a thirst for the Truth above all the so-called truths espoused by philosophers in every age, and we read it in the light of the Holy Spirit. The worst culprits are the churches who want to inculcate their own doctrines and insist they hold the prerogative to interpret Scripture. Since most of them are teaching heresies it is hardly surprising that many are led into error. The very institutions who should be leading by sound example are actually leading their flocks astray. The Bible has something to say about bad shepherds too (Ezekiel 34, Zechariah 11). The Bible speaks to us today as clearly as it did to the early pioneers of the church, the apostles and their followers who preached the Gospel with clarity. The faith of the New Testament is available to us today in the few uncorrupted modern translations of the Bible. For the seeker I would suggest the following: The New King James Version; The English Standard Version; The New International Version (editions prior to 2011).

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  10. Hi, Colin,

    RE: “Christianity is a heart-faith. A Christian is not bound by a code of laws. The Decalogue is now lived out in an ethic of love in the spirit of the Beatitudes.”

    I am reminded of these two Scriptures: “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life,” (2 Corinthians 3:6, NIV), and “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” (2 Corinthians 3:17, NASB).

    And to all I say, Amen!

    Cheers,
    Phyllis

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    1. Yes Phyllis – thanks for adding those very apt readings….and I would add: ‘It is the same God that said, “Let there be light shining out of darkness”, who has shone in our minds to radiate the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, the glory on the face of Christ.’ (2 Corinthians 4.6 JB)

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