Key Text: Ephesians 4:29-5:2
- Key Text: Matthew 25:14 – 30
- Theme of text: God expects his servants to be fruitful.
- Third servant: failed to be profitable because he misjudged the character of the Master (Jesus).
- Key Text: Hebrews 12:1-2
- Theme: God takes joy in giving us gifts.
- Blocks to spiritual joy: selfishness, wrong image, legalism.
- Holy Spirit’s role is to make it possible for us to express the gifts of God.
- Key Text: Acts 2:14-21
- Theme: the Holy Spirit and gifts
- Blocks to a Spirit – filled church: OT Christianity, sin, fear, passivity, pride.
- Seeking to be a Spirit – filled church means praying to be able to testify to Jesus to one another and in all parts of life.
Look up 2 Peter 1:3- 9
Plain from this passage and what we have been looking at over the last few weeks that God has supplied us with everything we need for a fruitful life.
Question: A healthy church will be growing and reproducing. In your opinion what is the one main thing B.C.F. needs to grow and reproduce?
Look up John 12:20-26
Question: There is a pattern in this passage, what is it?
If you lose something in your life for God’s sake he will multiply it back.
The Principle of Sacrifice
What did Humanity not give God in Eden?
Question: What is on offer in the serpent’s temptation in Genesis 3:1- 5?
They would not need God to have eternal life. They would not need to depend on God for access to the tree of life that he had created and over which he had sovereignty but would have the power to sustain their own lives. They would become “naturally immortal” rather than having to depend on God for eternal life.
If this was true, they would never have to endure self – deprivation or make a sacrifice.
Sacrifice in the Old Testament
The principle of sacrifice is foundational to the Old Testament.
Look up Genesis 4:1- 7
Question: What made Abel’s sacrifice acceptable to God?
What made Abel’s sacrifice acceptable to God was the spirit in which it was offered.
Look up Psalm 51:17 “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
Hebrews 11:4 commends Abel’s faith in terms of righteousness. Faith is a form of humility. It offers sacrifice not as a payment/bribe but in an attitude that recognises no sacrifice is sufficient to act as a substitute for the offering one’s own life.
Unlike pagan religions, the Old Testament recognises that God does not need physical sacrifice (Isa 40:16; Jer 7:21- 23; Mic 6:7). The prophets understood the importance of right attitude e.g. Look up Amos 5:21-24. (v.21 literally “smell your solemn assemblies”)
The O.T. speaks in various places of sacrifices being like a “fragrant odour” or “sweet smell” to God (Gen 8:21; Ex 29:18; 25, 41; Lev 1:9, 13; Ezek 20:41).
Look up Genesis 6:5- 6 and 8:13- 21.
Question: What gave God pleasure in Noah’s sacrifice?
Before the flood God’s “heart was filled with pain” and “grieved”, he was “sorry that he had made man” (Gen 6:5- 6) because of human rebellion. Noah’s sacrifice filled god with pleasure because it came from the heart of a person who trusted and loved him.
Sacrifice is valueless to God unless it pleases him by giving him something he does not already have. What he does not have unless we create it is sacrificial love and gratitude. This will always involve some sort of voluntary laying down of life.
Sacrifice in the New Testament Church
Look up Hebrews 13:15-16
Question: In what sense can “praise” and “doing good and sharing” be sacrifices?
They make God and his commandments more important than our feelings and personal comfort.
Look up Romans 12:1
Question: Why is this one of the most famous texts in the New Testament?
It involves completely giving yourself over to God’s purposes. Do you know anyone who has ever done this? Abel, Noah…..?
The Cross as the Greatest Gift
The cross is the greatest gift that the Son could offer the Father because it is the gift of a life offered up in mortality and weakness.
Jesus perfectly fulfils Psalm 51:17, this is why his death was a “fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2).
Look up Mark 15:34.
Question: In what ways does it remind you of Genesis 6:5- 6?
Jesus is as broken hearted about the crisis in humanity’s relationship with God as God is. Bearing our sin, he struggles with God (to find him and honour him) to the same extent as God struggles with us and our sin. Until a human struggled with God as God struggles with us there could be no atonement/reconciliation.
The place where the human spirit is at its maximum vulnerability is where it needs to ask forgiveness. (No one feels powerful when they have to say “Sorry!”)
Jesus seeks forgiveness for us under the conditions of God’s wrath and judgement on our sin, where reconciliation seems impossible.
If the cross is the greatest gift that the Son could offer the Father, the resurrection is the greatest gift that the Father could offer the Son. It is the gift of immortality given to Jesus humanity by God as his Father. In the resurrection Jesus enters into the realm where there is no mourning and crying and pain, just as God always intended it to be (Rev 21:4).
All Gifts are Contained in the Cross
Question: What is the main thing the people of B.C.F. have to offer as a sacrifice to God?
Brokenness, need, struggle. These are the things that Jesus offered up to the Father on the cross.
Question: What is the main thing the people of B.C.F. have to offer each other?
Look up Ephesians 4:32 – 5:2.
These verses describe the sort of mutual support that Christians need to be able to give one another. This support draws its reality from the acceptability of the sacrifice of Christ (Ephesians 5:2). (Compare Philippians 4:18 “the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”)
Look up James 5:14- 16, it describes a community of confession and intercession
Question: Why does God heal people under the sort of circumstances described by James?
These sorts of sacrifices (confession and intercession) attract God’s favour and so the life transforming power of the resurrection. As Christians pray for each other, support one another, speak prophetically into each others lives etc. they are “the aroma of Christ” (2 Cor 2:14-16).
Blocks to dwelling in the Power of the Cross and Resurrection
Question: What do you think is the biggest obstacle in your life to living this way?
a. In relation to God
b. In relation to others
Some Possible Obstacles:
1. Fear of making a mistake and being blamed
Solution: Jesus was willing “to be hated without a reason” (John 15:25).
2. Fear of being shamed
Solution: Jesus “despised the shame” (Heb 12:2).
3. Pride and independence
Solution: Jesus always made it his aim to please the Father (John 8:29).
JY – past experiences of betrayal.
God is calling for a re-newed image of what it means to be the church. This is a “come as you are” image.
It is the opposite of the image that is increasingly dominating today – an image that is successful, televisable, entrepreneurial, prosperous etc. Because this image is not one of the cross it will cannot experience the power of the resurrection.
I want to go back to 2 Peter 1:3- 9 as pointing the way to being a growing church. The concluding verse says that if we are unfruitful it is because we have forgotten that we are forgiven people.
Look up Romans 11:29
Question: What does it mean for a church/B.C.F.?
B.C.F. grew as a church that had a reputation of reaching out and ministering to the sort of people that most of the rest of the church were not interested in. The gift that B.C.F. has to bring is not that of a “successful” group of people, but of a group that honestly and openly shares the struggles of life in the presence of God.
“Love is the deed that meets the need.” These needs are met by the supernatural presence and power of the risen Christ. To the degree B.C.F. as a church lives a visibly cross –centred life to that degree it will experience the power of the resurrection.
Go with what you sense you should do in giving/speaking into the lives of others