Tag Archives: mission

Matthew 28:19, 20 – The Great Commission

I’m sorry to have not managed to post this before now, this was from last Sunday’s sermon at the Pentecostal church.

The beginning of the service was taken up by testimonies, one in particular which was very inspiring, about listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. From my point of view as a skeptical Pentecostal, I love the idea of it, but really don’t understand how that ‘voice’ is heard or how you can know God’s specific will apart from the Bible.

The sermon went on for 50 minutes which, by Pentecostal standards, isn’t outrageously long, but a bit of a culture shock after the standard 10 minute long Anglican sermons!

The pastor outlined the church’s ‘key scriptures’, Isaiah 2, Isaiah 61/ Luke 4, and Matthew 28:19


Matthew 28:19 is of course the famous ‘Great Commission’

‘Go and make disciples of every nation, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.’


Considering it was a 50 minute sermon, I don’t have many notes, but probably because the majority of it was testimony about how the pastor had regretted not sharing the Gospel in the past and how he personally was attempting to share the Gospel in his everyday life now.

The pastor did mention 1 Corinthians 12 giftings and having different personality types, which I thought was really interesting as that had come up in last week’s lectionary linked with Luke 4.

He did warn against using the idea of ‘being prayer support’ as a cop-out excuse for failing to carry out the Great Commission yourself, letting others go out with their boots on, while we stay warm and say “I’ll be there with you in spirit” while we actually go back and watch TV. Personally I think that there is a really crucial need for intercessory prayer, but certainly it is true that it is easy to find excuses not to do the job ourselves – we feel inadequate, we feel that evangelism isn’t our gift, and maybe we are a little bit lazy because we don’t see it as a life and death priority, which we absolutely should do. (He alluded to the fact that the idea of ‘universalism’, where everybody is saved and goes to heaven regardless of whether they follow Christ or not, is not compatible with Pentecostal beliefs.)

However, the pastor pointed out that the most effective evangelism is genuine and authentic friendship evangelism, where we befriend people and just love them and help them (and effectively ‘be’ the gospel to them) without any ulterior motive, without the goal needing to be bringing people into the church.

I used to be quite skeptical about the idea of friendship evangelism because, I thought, people were being brought into the church without ever actually hearing the Gospel. But I think now that the Gospel is more than words, it is more than getting your doctrines correct, and it is more than church.

‘For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.’
– 1 Corinthians 4:20

The Pastor also mentioned that he believed in bringing children up in the faith – not assuming that they will necessarily accept that faith, but giving our children all the benefits of a ‘Kingdom’ upbringing, he would like to see a restoration of ‘Family Discipleship’ and that we all need to take that responsibility seriously. It made me think of the passage in Romans 3 where St Paul asks the question, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?” and he answers,Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (The whole passage, as is often the way with Paul’s writings, is troubling and difficult to understand, but I think in this context, it is saying that being raised in the faith can be an advantage because you know all ‘about’ God before you actually come to ‘know’ Him).

As always, I would have preferred a more scripture-rich sermon (and less showmanship to be quite honest – it’s entertaining, but I’m not convinced it is really spiritually edifying…), but I think that if I keep going to this church I will have to accept that this is just the way they do things here.

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The Anointing: Isaiah 61

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on me,
He has anointed me to preach good news to the [poor]*;
He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD…
[and the day of the vengeance of our God];
To comfort all that mourn;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified…”


 

At Elim this morning, the sermon was on the topic of “The Anointing”, based on Isaiah 61:1-2a, the first part quoted by Jesus in Luke 4:18,19, with the exception of “the day of vengeance of our god”.

I’m just going to copy up my notes without comment to begin with, and then comment at the end.


Notes:

• This passage is a ‘key scripture’ for Jesus’ life and ministry (and has been adopted as a key scripture for our church in particular).

• The anointing is crucial for ministry

• Oil, or fat, represents the Holy Spirit

• Like the armour of God, you can’t attain it by your own efforts, it has to be given by the Anointed One, ie, Jesus.

• Anointing breaks the yoke of slavery.

• Anointing can’t be lost, but it can be exercised, it must be developed.

• For the Anointing to flow, you need to live righteously.

• The Anointing is ‘attracted’ to righteous living.

• The first step towards righteous living is honesty with God, confession, truth.

• Then, the anointing will bubble up and flow over.

• The Anointing desires intimacy with the Father.

• Oil is for healing.

• We must exercise the anointing by doing the following:

-Proclaim the Good News
(not negativity) because Life and death are in the power of the tongue.

-Proclaim Liberty

-Release the prisoners

-Give Sight to the Blind

• This is the agenda for Jesus’ life, and must be the agenda for the church.

• It is the plum line for all church programs – if they don’t meet the agenda, it’s not worth doing.


Comments:

I suspect, from the sermons I have heard in this church, that this is the standard way that scripture is handled here, and I have to say that I’m feeling a little bit uncomfortable about some aspects of it.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with what was said. It was a pretty ‘fire and brimstone’ sermon, and I quite like the passion of that. The speaker is fond of shouting “Wake up, Church” when he thinks we’re not listening.

But I wish that there was a bit more careful exposition – it’s obviously a Messianic passage, but again if you look at the whole passage you can see the mention of Zion again, and there is a lot more to the whole chapter but only the first 2 verses were addressed (see previous post on Isaiah 2).

Who is the passage addressed to?
Who or what does Zion refer to in this context?
When is the prophecy to be fulfilled?

Does the fact that Jesus stopped prior to “the day of the vengeance of our God” mean that there are multiple, partial fullfillments to this propecy?
When is the Day of Vengeance?
Is it significant that some of the good things come after the Day of Vengeance in the passage?
(Again, this was not mentioned at all. Does it matter?)

The speaker said that, in the Old Testament, one individual was specially anointed (like Isaiah or Ezekiel), whereas in the New Testament, every believer is anointed (Acts 2). Therefore, you (as a Christian) already have the anointing, you just have to exercise it.

So, is the Pentecost infilling of the Holy Spirit the same thing as Anointing?

This is interesting to me, because previously I have heard sermons saying the opposite, ie that the Anointing is something special, particularly for ministers, who have a particular, perhaps temporary anointing for a specific task or work of God.

Perhaps both are true. I’m not sure, I would like to know on what basis the two different claims are made (ie, more thorough scripture proofs), as they don’t seem to mean quite the same thing.

The very word Messiah, Mashiach in Hebrew, actually means ‘anointed’. Is that relevant at all?

I have a book on my shelf (or, I suspect, currently in storage with the rest of my books) called ‘The Anointing’ by R T Kendall, which I haven’t yet read, but I would like to. I don’t know whether it covers the first or second meaning or both, or takes a different view altogether.

*Where the KJV has the word ‘meek’, the NIV has the word ‘poor’.


I don’t know whether I am being unreasonably or unduly critical, or whether that may be due to my state of mind because I’m not well, as it takes a lot out of me to get to church.

I was a little bit heartbroken today to hear that the church had purposely decided to abandon their ministry websites, so there is no longer any provision for those who are housebound to download and listen to sermons online. As far as I could see, the sermons are no longer recorded so it doesn’t look like there’s a tape/cd ministry anymore either.

I really think that churches are unaware of how devastating the isolation from the community is for people who become housebound, and that really, really makes me sad.

When I had a relapse in 2014, I had no visits whatsoever from anybody in the Anglican church in more than six months, despite requesting one, and despite every level of the church being aware I was ill. (It’s not the first church that has happened in either.)

At some point I will put together a list of resources for people who need to worship from home, as that seems to be the only option for a lot of people. But it is really not the same as feeling that you are welcomed and included in your own physical, local community.

***This, church, is part of the ministry of the Anointing, to “proclaim liberty to the captives”, and you’re not doing it.***

Wake up, Church!

Deep River of Fish

I was listening to an article on Premier Radio earlier about God speaking to us through dreams, and taking note of symbolism. I didn’t hear it all, so I’m not sure who the author was or the name of the book, but I had such a weird dream, I wanted to share it!

I was with a group looking over a cliff, down into a ravine where it looked like clear, blue water. Somebody in the group said “this is the deepest water in the world”.

Suddenly, I don’t know how I got there, I was down in the ravine with my children. Instead of clear blue water, the river was chock full of fish – some dead, some alive. It was so full that you could almost stand on top before you started to slip down. We scrambled into the corner to find a safe, rocky place.

We turned around to see several divers, in old-fashioned, metal diving suits. They were each lying as if dead on top of the lake of fish. Some had begun to sink down in under the fish.

The river seemed to end here, and more fish were flowing in constantly.

Then we noticed that there were people down there, fighting and arguing in the other corner.

A man bunjee jumped down to the people on the other side and handed a deodorant to one of the women, who said that was just what she needed, and then bunjee jumped away. That was the end of the dream.

What do you make of that?!

I thought it was a totally crazy dream with no discernible meaning but when I think of the symbolism from a Christian perspective, I can’t help seeing the fish as people and the divers as churches, and the rocky place as Jesus… And then maybe the bunjee jumper as missions coming to help people but not giving them what they need or lifting them out of the ravine.

Torah Portions and general thoughts on evangelism and fellowship

I have a question: when you study the weekly Torah portion, are you studying a week in advance or not (ie do you study the portion for shabbat in the days running up to shabbat, or start looking at it on shabbat and study it in the days afterwards)?

I’m assuming that the former is the norm rather than the latter. Not being in fellowship anymore, I have never really got into the habit of studying the portions regularly. Actually, when I did have a Messianic fellowship it wasn’t a particularly observant one anyway, so I never did have anybody to study with so it was always a challenge.

So I’m still in the wilderness – another kind of wilderness now, and I wonder whether I have the strength to carry on swimming upstream. I keep coming back to the conviction that Judaism, even Messianic Judaism (and perhaps especially so) cannot be lived out properly except in the context of community.

I am trying to connect more and more with Christians (like the Roman Catholic church, I view them as ‘separated brethren’). I do keep coming back as well to the question of where to draw the line – when and at what point must we ‘come out and be separate’? To what extent can we have fellowship? Is there anything on which we can agree, or are the two ultimately irreconcilable?

I encountered a Messianic Jewish lady this week, who appears to have moved from Orthodox Judaism straight into mainstream Christianity without a ‘Messianic’ step inbetween. Actually it would be interesting to know how many Jewish people end up in mainstream Christianity having been part of the Messianic movement. I would think the number and percentage would be very low, given the Messianic emphasis on Torah and rejection of anything even slightly reminiscent of paganism.  I am noticing, however, that my friend’s perspective on Torah as an Orthodox Jew is very different from mine as a Messianic (non-Jewish) believer, and she didn’t want to get drawn into a discussion about what constitutes paganism.

I am realising more and more as well that the Messianic movement is almost as broad a ‘church’ as mainstream Christianity. It really does vary from something approaching Orthodox Judaism on the one hand and almost Roman Catholic High Church on the other. My experience is probably different again, because I discovered the Messianic movement in parallel with the Sacred Names movement which tends to be scathing of paganism in Christianity and Judaism in equal measure.

I keep wondering about how to live out the Great Commission as part of living out Torah, and wondering whether it is possible without making use of existing structures. I am feeling particularly isolated and useless. Being Messianic surely isn’t all about living to ourselves in a holy Torah huddle while the rest of humanity is drowning.

My friend advised me that it is unwise to criticsise traditional, established church tradition. She also advised me to play down my Jewish connection if I want to have any connection or involvement with other Christians (this was in the context of Mission). I can see where she’s coming from. Even though I am not actually Jewish, I have experienced a fair amount of anti-semitism from within the church. But is keeping quiet and putting my head down really the best response, or even the right one? I have to say I feel profoundly uncomfortable about that.

 

Church Questions

I wanted to share this post because Les asks some very worthy questions and I think his answers are good.

http://lesfergusonjr.com/2014/02/06/church-questions/

I also think that questioning in general – and even being angry with God while desperately wanting to believe and to love Him – is good and healthy.

The stifling of questioning, and the lack of compassion and understanding around the issues of grief and depression are among the things that made me leave the church a decade ago; and conversely, the welcoming of questioning, and the understanding of pain and suffering (as integral to human experience in a broken world) were among the things that attracted me to Judaism.

And now, having a connection again with the church in the form of The Salvation Army, I think that its core Mission of restoring the world to God by restoring and rescuing individuals (especially those who are so low the other churches don’t want them!) answers some of those questions for me.