We live in a culture where personal freedom and autonomy are seen as essential for human happiness. The Bible speaks of a different way- communities of mutual submission and love are where people flourish best. In Chapter 5 and 6 of Ephesians, Paul shows examples of what this looks like in different areas of life. Bible reading: Ephesians 5:21-6:9
Paul encourages the Ephesians to take off the old life of sin, ignorance, and darkness, and put on new life in Christ. This is something all Christians struggle with, and yet deep change can only come as a gift of God. In our daily fight, we can be encouraged that growing in holiness is always battle, is largely invisible, and is usually slow- yet Christ will continue his work in each one of us. reading: Ephesians 4:17-32
You won't find a group of people as diverse as the church; in a world that tends towards fracture, the church is a sign of a new humanity that God is creating through Jesus Christ.
In Ephesians chapter 4, we learn that the unity of the church is not an end to itself, but that its' purpose is that we might grow into maturity in Christ. For that to happen, each of us has a role to play. Bible reading: Ephesians 4:1-16
Much of the religion around at the time Paul wrote to the Ephesians was based on 'mysteries'- invite-only secret knowledge. By contrast, God's mysteries are an 'open secret' revealed in Christ. God's infinite grace is available, through Jesus, to all; Paul's prayer is that his readers would grasp how 'wide and long and high and deep' the love of Christ is. Bible reading: Ephesians 3
Ephesians 2 shows us three major transformations that Christians can be thankful for- from spiritual death to life in Christ, from hostile strangers into loving community, and finally into a living temple. Bible reading: Ephesians 2
When Paul prays for the persecuted Christians in Ephesus, he doesn't pray for them to stop being persecuted- he prays that they might know God better. Ephesians 1:15-23 shows how we can know God, and tells us of the hope that comes from being Christ's treasure. Bible reading: Ephesians 1:15-23
We begin our new series on Ephesians with a look at Paul's opening prayer. We unpack the blessings that Christians have in Christ- we are saved into community, we are saved into security, and we are saved for a purpose. Bible reading: Ephesians 1:1-14, Luke 12:22-32
The Ephesians are doing a brisk trade selling religious merchandise, until a growing number of Christians begin to affect their profits because they no longer buy idols. The second half of Acts 19 shows the effect that Christians can have on the surrounding culture, and gives us some principles for doing so. Bible reading: Acts 19:23-41
Paul arrives in Athens unexpectedly, and is distressed by the idolatry around him. The Athenians problem isn't that they are religious, but that they are worshipping false gods in ignorance. By God's grace, Paul is able to understand the culture, and speak into it powerfully. In doing so, Paul shows us how to address the idols of our own age, and in doing so points us to the living God of Jesus Christ. Bible reading: Acts 17:16-34
by Nigel Bennett Series: Gospel Explosions download
Paul and Barnabas in Lystra ()
Paul and Barnabas are mistaken for gods- and the response of the crowd shows their fear and anxiety. Paul shows the people of Lystra that the living God is bigger, better and kinder than they think. Whilst we today have vastly superior technology to the ancient world, we have the same basic anxieties that the ancients did- the comfort and joy of the good news of Jesus brings comfort and joy to us today.
Bible reading: Acts 14:8-20
Philip's encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch is clearly supernatural, but has some very familiar human elements to it as well. These two men were different from one another in most conceivable ways, and yet by the end of the encounter they are brothers in Christ. As Christians, we are called to demonstrate some of the same cross-cultural humility and courage that Philip and the Ethiopian show, so that we may know and share Christ's fulfilment of our deep loneliness and longing for acceptance. Bible reading: Acts 8:26-40
The coming of the Holy Spirit transforms Jesus' followers- not into uniformity, but into diversity. Pentecost re-tells the story of Babel, transcending cultural, religious and racial barriers around the Lordship of Jesus. Listening well to the world around us- especially those whom we disagree with, or want to introduce to Christ- is a key part of following Jesus in our century as much as in the first.
The Ascension is a commonly underestimated festival in the Christian year- St Augustine called it 'the crown of all the feasts'. The Ascension gives us the assurance that Christ reigns supreme, but doesn't leave us gawping at the sky- it sends us out into the world to share the love of Christ. Bible reading: Acts 1:1-11
In our age of 'DIY' spirituality, our hearts crave a meaning and purpose to life that is bigger than ourselves, but also personal. Only Christianity can offer this. After his Resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples, not as a ghost, but as a real person to give them solid hope. In this next season of church life, our hope and prayer is that we will increasingly put our trust in Christ. Bible reading: Luke 24:36-49
In Job 42, we read of Job's final satisfaction in God. Job is not given the reason for his suffering, but he does experience the blessing of restored joy in God, and riches beyond his previous fortune. Job's restoration is a tantalising glimpse of the full and final restoration of heaven and earth that will be completed in Christ. Bible reading: Job 42
The God of the Bible does not meet our expectations. When God speaks to Job, he doesn't come gently and offer him a solution or explanation for his troubles. Instead, God arrives as a terrifying whirlwind and shows Job a glimpse of his awesome glory; within the whirlwind Job finds the 'terrible and tingling atmosphere of something too good to be told' (GK Chesterton). It is good news that God is not like us, and that he is far beyond our imagination and understanding. Bible readings: Job 38-41, Matthew 8:28-34
Elihu is the last human voice to enter the conversation with Job. In his speech, he contends that suffering is not meaningless, and that God can use our pain to draw us to himself, and grow in our maturity in Christ. Suffering and pain are a certain part of life. What is less certain is how we respond. Will suffering bring us closer to God, or further away from him? Readings: Job 32-27, John 16:29-33
With Zophar's harsh and unhelpful counsel, something in Job snaps. Job doesn't want to hear another word of human wisdom- he wants God. In the midst of terrible personal circumstances, the thing he grieves most is God's presence. Whatever the cost to himself, Job simply wants to be before Almighty God. When we suffer in life, will we turn from God, or towards him?
Readings: Job chapters 11-14 (selections) and Luke 13:1-5
Job's friend Bildad is even less helpful than Eliphaz, turning Job's misery against him. Surely, all this disaster is your fault, Job? In despair, Job cries out for vindication, knowing that being counted righteous and innocent before God is his only hope. In crying out for a defence, Job points us towards Jesus- the Christians' true access to God, and our true righteousness before God's Holy throne. Bible readings: Job 8-11, Luke 23:44-47
How to Lose friends and alienate people: What do you say when someone is struggling? Job is in a pit of grief and despair, and eventually his friends begin to share their thoughts on Job's suffering. They're not very helpful. Eliphaz is first to speak, and although he speaks words of truth, he is far too simplistic and pious. The book of Job shows us that the problem of suffering is not a puzzle to solve, but a deep mystery. Bible readings: Job 4:1-11, 5:6-11, 5:17-27
The book of Job is disturbing, bleakly beautiful, and deeply challenging. In the midst of the deepest pain, Job refuses to let go of his confidence in God's sovereignty. In doing so, Job points us towards the suffering and obedience of Jesus Christ. Bible readings: Job 1-2, John 9:1-12
John the Baptist's ministry was mighty, but it was simple- he pointed people to Jesus Christ. In this talk, guest preacher John Adams (Emmanuel church, Wimbledon) encourages us to do the same. Reading: Mark 1:1-8
Christ the King of everything (including your wallet) ()
The Pharisees set a trap for Jesus, using a controversial issue of the day to try and get him into trouble. Instead, Jesus points to our obligation to give to God all that belongs to him- our entire lives. Bible passages: Deuteronomy 6:1-9, Matthew 22: 15-22
How we view and spend our money is an essential part of our response to the Gospel as disciples of Jesus. In this talk, we see how God's priority isn't our wallets, but our hearts. Bible readings: 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, Mark 12:41-44
When human beings insist on being glorified, it is deeply unattractive. What are we to make of God's command that we worship him only, and seek his glory above all others? The God of the Bible is not needy, and is glorified both by his creation and our redemption. The most soul-satisfying way to live is to cherish God's glory. Bible readings: Psalm 115:1-8, Luke 2:8-20
A talk by Rev'd Dr Mark Smith, Chaplain of Christ's College, Cambridge, and Lecturer in Church History, University of Cambridge. Mark explores the background, impact and continuing influence of the reformation.
by Rev'd Dr Mark Smith Series: Reformation 500 download
Scripture Alone: 29/10/17 ()
500 years ago, people across Europe were willing to risk being burned alive in order to read their Bibles in English. The truth that led them to do that was new and exciting to them, but dangerously familiar to us: The Bible is God's Word, given to us, and the ultimate authority for our lives. In this talk, we see that the Bible is enough, the Bible is challenging, and the Bible is personal. Readings: Psalm 19, Luke 24:13-27
Salvation is offered to us through Christ, by Grace. We grasp that for ourselves by Faith in Jesus. In this talk, we hear that Faith in Christ is reasonable, Faith in Christ is personal, Faith in Christ is a gift, Faith in Christ is life-changing, and your Faith in Christ in insufficient- but the good news is that Christ's Faith is enough. Readings: Romans 5:1-11, Luke 5:17-26
We live in a world that is hungry for grace. The Bible shows us that our need for grace is deeper than we realise, but likewise God's grace to us in Christ is bigger still, and bought at a dearer cost than we can imagine. Bible readings: Ephesians 2:1-10 (also Mark 10:13-16)
Jesus Christ claims to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Whilst this is controversial, those who put their trust in Christ know him to be their comfort, their joy, and their hope for the future. Bible Readings: Colossians 1: 15-20, John 14:1-7.