Gospel, Kingdom and Mission – Church Weekend Reflections

We have just returned from our church weekend in Abererch, Wales. It was a great weekend of fellowship, teaching, and fun. It was especially encouraging seeing the whole church family enjoying each other’s company, and growing in their love for God, and for one another. Even the rain didn’t dampen our spirits!

Treasure

We had three main teaching sessions, in which we looked at the themes of gospel, kingdom and mission. One thing in particular that struck me was how we are so prone to storing up treasure here on earth. We can easily become obsessed with building security for ourselves, such as in our careers, our mortgages, or saving for the future. Yet, in Matthew 6, Jesus tells us the opposite:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The truth is that one day, the treasure that we store up on earth will be gone. Companies could go bust. Our houses won’t last forever. Retirement savings soon disappear. Why invest in something that’s temporary when we can invest in the kingdom of God that will last forever? That’s the challenge I came away with and will be dwelling on for a while.

Remembering

We also had a campfire, where we sang some songs of praise and were encouraged to remember what God has done in our lives. For example, what sequence of events led you to church, or led to you becoming a Christian? Sometimes we can get so caught up in the present that we forget to look back and reflect on what God has done in the past. Even in hardships, we have to remember that God is good, all of the time. It’s so important to remind ourselves of that and to encourage each other with the good news of the gospel.

Below are some notes from the three teaching sessions. I also attended a seminar on engaging with people living with learning disabilities.

Gospel (Romans 3:19-26)

The word ‘gospel’ is mentioned many times throughout the New Testament. It grips Paul. It’s the good message, the good news. Evangelism is the sharing of that good news. In Romans 1:1-17 it’s mentioned six times. The gospel was promised beforehand and it concerns the Son. It’s the power to salvation and God’s rescue comes through it. In Ephesians it’s referred to as the truth that saves us. God has entrusted us with this message.

Adam and Eve rebelled. We reject his law and can’t live in his presence. It’s our sin that separates us from God. As it was in Adam and Eve, it is in us. At the beginning God is preparing his people for the sacrifice he was going to make. Isaiah speaks of a suffering servant. God promises a king and a sacrifice. Jesus is perfect humanity and perfect God. Jesus surrenders himself on the cross. The way is provided for forgiveness of sins. Before the throne of God how could we justify ourselves? But if our sin is atoned for, it’s not the same. The way to accept this good news is by faith. We should appreciate the gospel.

There is nothing more deep or more glorious than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Where do you go to see the love of God? Go to the finished work of Jesus. Is it as central to us as it is to God? People argue over so many small things but this good news is supposed to captivate us. Never lose sight of what God has done for us. The good news of Jesus is the power of God to rescue people, no matter who they are, or where they’re from, or what their background is.

Kingdom (Daniel 7:9-14)

What’s your kingdom? What’s the thing that sets your heart in motion? What are the things that excite you? Fun, career, enjoyment.

God reveals the future before Jesus is born (Daniel 2:44). Kingdoms are coming one after another but there will be an ultimate kingdom that will never be destroyed. The kingdom is the place where the King rules (Lord’s prayer). Jesus spoke of the kingdom. He said it’s near (Mark 1), it’s in your midst and it’s here. It’s like a mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32). It will grow.

Jesus brings in the rule of the King. He establishes a kingdom that will never be shaken. It will endure for eternity (Daniel 7:13-14). Jesus will reign forever (Revelation 11:15). What are you living for? Our actions probably give us away. Our thoughts definitely would. God is calling us to find an identity in an eternal kingdom. Don’t store up treasure on earth (Matthew 6:19-21), store up treasure in heaven. What we build in that kingdom will last forever. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (Matthew 6:31-33). His kingdom is more important than anything. It’s about knowing the blessings of God now and for eternity.

Are you part of that kingdom? What are you building for? Are you investing in the kingdom of God? Why build a kingdom for something that will last for 10 years when you can build something that will last forever?

Eternity is our retirement.

Mission (Matthew 28:16-20)

Jesus asked people to follow him in this issue of kingdom building and working under his rule. It’s about reaching out to others with the gospel. If we’re following Jesus surely we’ll do the things that he does. Seek those who are lost. Paul says the love of Christ compels him to share the gospel. We know there is this good news that transforms us and there’s a kingdom that lasts forever.

How do we make disciples? Not everybody receives the gospel with joy. Sometimes we get fearful. It might not have the response we want it to. Our labour in the Lord is never in vain.

Responding Rightly – Matthew 2:1-12 – Sermon Notes

Mary and Joseph had found accommodation in Bethlehem in a house. Joseph isn’t mentioned when the wise men arrived. Jesus was about a year old (under two). They’re described as magi from the east. We don’t know how many of them there were. They had seen a star and believed it was the star of the king of the Jews.

They went to Jerusalem but couldn’t understand why there was such a fuss. They didn’t know Herod had summoned the top Jewish leaders to find out where the Messiah would be born. He told them to come straight back. They left and set off to Bethlehem and saw the star going ahead of them. God was intervening directly to get the magi to their destination and quickly away. They worshipped Jesus and then opened their gifts. The natural way to go home was to go through Jerusalem. They had to head west and through Nazareth to avoid Herod.

The magi know the title Jesus has. It was also given to him on the cross. The whole gospel story tells us that everything is different with God. It’s not just about a baby. It’s about someone coming to rescue us, to lay down his life so that we can be made right with God.

Herod ruled firmly and ruthlessly. He murdered relatives. He built many theatres and palaces and fortresses. He was disturbed when he heard the news. He knew that the king of the Jews was actually the Messiah. Psalm 2 seems to speak about what was going on behind the scenes. Herod was engaged in a conspiracy to destroy the Messiah. He keeps the wise men and the teachers of the law separate.

The wise men were foreigners. They weren’t Jews. It’s not clear if they had followed the star all the way from where they’d come from, but they were overjoyed when they saw it. God was making it clear that this king wasn’t just to be king of the Jews.

What is our response to Jesus? We don’t need a star. We have God’s word and we have the Holy Spirit. We need to know him as our saviour.

Building – Matthew 7:24-29 – Sermon Notes

Religious people look righteous but their true heart is hidden. They look the same as true followers. Jesus is saying be careful. Look at what your morals are truly built upon.

Jesus and the teachers

Jesus was saying entering the kingdom of heaven is impossible (5:20). He must’ve known everyone listening would’ve been amazed. Jesus is teaching a deeper righteousness. It starts on the inside and it works its way out. He teaches that your actions aren’t enough to transform you on the inside. Religion only deals with the surface. All of your sin is stored up on the inside. Jesus is showing us we’re in danger. Are we religious or a true Christian saved by grace?

Wise and foolish builders

The difference is the foundations. Both religion and Christianity look the same on the surface. The house is the good works. The actions look the same. He’s talking about the ultimate storm. The final judgment. The religious person has already received their payment in full. True Christianity is working below the surface and it transforms us inside out. Make Jesus your foundation. Jesus dies the death you should’ve died. You get a righteousness that surpasses the Pharisees’.

Growing – Matthew 7:13-23 – Sermon Notes

Beware false prophets – be on your guard (v15)

A false prophet doesn’t teach what God teaches. They don’t speak truthfully. It’s a serious warning. They’re deceptive and dangerous. They’re wolves but are dressed up like sheep. It’s easy to miss if you’re not looking closely. Underneath is a vicious wolf. There is a right opinion about God and a wrong one. The trees that don’t bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. There’s a narrow road (v14) that leads to life. Jesus says to be on your guard. He wants all of us to be vigilant when it comes to false prophets.

Beware false prophets – test the fruit (v16-20)

Jesus says it will be recognisable. The fruit is someone’s character and their teaching. Jesus says the two roads are a reality. The false prophets say you can fill the easy way. Jesus’ words matter. He says what someone is will become visible. Do they show poverty in spirit? Do they obey Jesus’ words? Does your life show growing conformity to the values of the kingdom?

Beware false professions – obey Jesus (v21-23)

Jesus tells his followers that on the last day people will be sent away because he doesn’t know them and they don’t know him. Jesus says it’s not enough to say the right things. It’s insufficient evidence for real spiritual life. Real life lived in real obedience to Jesus is the entry requirement. Obedience is the fruit of faith. A good tree will bear good fruit. Turn to the one who gives his spirit to enable you to live a life of fruitfulness.

Asking – Matthew 7:7-14 – Sermon Notes

This teaching of Jesus is something you can get on board with (do to others what you would have them do to you). This isn’t just a good moral rule. It’s a summary for the moral teachings of the entire OT. This is the way to the kingdom of heaven. How can we obey that?

Prayer

The picture is of persistent asking and seeking. Maybe you feel like a lot of prayers go unanswered. We live in a self sufficient culture. You may be suffering but refuse to show it, refuse to seek help. If you want to stick to the narrow road, self help isn’t the answer. Persistent dependence on God through prayer is needed. Jesus shows us the perspective of the giver. If a son asks, his father isn’t going to give him something harmful. He’s going to give him what he needs. If you’re a Christian you can approach God because he is your father. Often with unanswered prayer it means waiting or no. God knows what’s best. He does that because he’s a good father. We’re not the only ones who have unanswered prayers.

How can it be that Jesus had a prayer turned down on the cross? The answer is in the gospel. At the cross, God treated Jesus as we deserved. The door of heaven was closed so it’s open for us. Jesus made it possible for our prayers to be heard. Why is our praying so sparse and feeble? If God is our good Heavenly Father, why do we pray so little? Prayer is the resource that you need.

Wisdom

Jesus tells us why we should follow the rule in v12. It fulfils the law and the prophets. This isn’t just good advice. How could you ever follow the law perfectly? You can’t. We need to turn to the one who did. Jesus said love the person who’s opposed to you. We find ourselves in moral situations that the Bible doesn’t address. We use the resource of wisdom. It’s what leads us to obedience to God’s word. Being a Christian is going to be difficult. Pray privately. Pray in groups. Pray with your families. Ask, seek, knock. Jesus made it possible and he made it possible for God to answer us.

Judging – Matthew 7:1-6 – Sermon Notes

Jesus tells two parables. He often puts a character out there that you’re supposed to hate.

The hypocritical judge

Jesus is giving his moral teaching. It’s easy for the morally upright to forget what came first in the sermon on the mount (blessed is the poor in spirit). Jesus wants to remind the listener no matter how morally upstanding you are, to enter the kingdom of heaven you must be poor on your knees.

Jesus isn’t talking about discerning. He’s talking about a specific kind of judging – judging other people on moral behaviour to determine if they’re a Christian or not. If you’re self righteous you’ll never really be righteous. You’ll be judged by the same standard. The implication is that there’s a higher judge than you. Not only are we not the judge, but we’re among the judged. We’ll be found guilty as charged. The problem is that we’ll never see our own unrighteousness.

The more we follow the moral teachings of Jesus the more likely we’ll start to evaluate ourselves above other Christians. We’ll begin to look down on others. Self righteous people never see their own unrighteousness. They’re not able to help others become truly righteous.

The unwise farmer (v6)

We have to assume that both the dogs and pigs aren’t wild animals. These must be animals that are cared for. If you give them something they can’t digest, watch out. Don’t be surprised if people turn on you. The farmer is being unwise towards those in his care. He gives them something they can’t chew on. We need to be humble in the way we approach non Christians. Don’t be insensitive. Sometimes people are hostile towards Christianity because of the way Christians act. We need to be wise farmers. We should be wise in the way we present the gospel.

The humble brother

If you want to help others become righteous, humble yourself first. Look at your own unrighteousness. The humble sibling is continually poor in spirit. The more you follow the moral teachings of Jesus, the more you need the beatitudes to be working on your heart. To be truly righteous you need a righteousness that’s not your own. It’s Jesus’ righteousness that we’re filled with when we hunger for righteousness. Before we ever confront another Christian about their sin, or tell someone the gospel, we must first be self critical. We must spend time confessing our own sin. The self righteous never become truly righteous or help others become righteous. If Jesus Christ, who never sinned, can humble himself, surely those of us who sin all the time can humble ourselves as we approach one another.

Worry, Worry, Worry – Matthew 6:25-34 – Sermon Notes

Is there a way of living that’s not burdened by what might happen in every area of life? Jesus says there can be freedom from worrying about unimportant things. You need to be poor in spirit.

Free in the family

Back then, most people only had enough for that day. Jesus said to the poorest that those things aren’t important (food/clothes). Life is more than that. It’s a gift from God to do something significant and amazing, to build a kingdom that will last forever. If God can be trusted to give you life, can’t he be trusted for things less than that? Jesus is assuming that the world is an expression of God’s character. When you see birds eat or flowers bloom, that’s an expression of God’s character. All humans are created to relate to God as children. God is in control, God is your father, act accordingly. You’ve got to let go of the things you can’t control. Given the truth about who God is, why not be free from that? We seem to have created a society where anxiety is endemic.

Free from the mad world

Most worry comes from what others will think of us. It’s usually because of status. Your father knows what you need. Are you worrying about something that’s temporary because our culture tells us to worry about it?

Free to really live (v33-34)

Being a Christian means there is something genuinely significant to live for. There are opportunities every day to be part of something that lasts forever. Seek God’s kingdom first. What’s the most kingdom focused thing to do today? Be concerned about making the best decision for Jesus today. If you seek God’s kingdom first it doesn’t matter if you die. You’ll have no regrets. It’s fine to enjoy life but you’re part of something eternal. Start the serious but amazing process of building something that lasts. Entrust yourself to God. To get stuff is pushing out serving God. Seek his kingdom, starting today.

Money, Money, Money – Matthew 6:19-24 – Sermon Notes

The way you become part of Jesus’ kingdom is to be poor in spirit. This is about the how. Invest in the right things. Use your stuff for what matters and yourself will follow. You can change what you do with your stuff, your money, your time.

Change your heart through your investments (v19-21)

There is somewhere you can invest where your investment won’t be wasted and there’s somewhere you can invest where your investment will be wasted. The passing things are at risk. We think we can be insured against everything. It feels risky investing your stuff in Jesus’ kingdom but it’s actually less risky. Put your time and money into the things that matter to Jesus. He’s talking about the type of lifestyle he mentioned in chapter 5. What matters to you will be what you invest your time in. Where your treasure is, your heart will be. It’s in your control.

What you desire rules your life (v22-23)

If you desire what is really good you’ll focus on what is good for the world and become a light. He’s saying it’s what you desire, long for, as much as what you do that will affect the person you become. The Bible says the love of money is the root of all evil. Being part of salt and light is self reflecting. Begin investing your stuff in what you want to love.

You can’t serve two masters (v24)

We all think storing some treasure on earth is okay. Jesus says you need to commit everything to the kingdom of God. Money is the main way we store up treasures on earth. How does one despise money? You cannot really be devoted to God whilst loving having money. We think that serving and loving having money can be done at the same time. It’s not money we love, but what money can get us. You can’t serve God and have that attitude to money. If you really want to live the beautiful life he describes, you can’t live around your bank balance staying healthy. Our eyes are on the darkness of wealth. We think we can serve God as well.

This isn’t a telling off, it’s an invitation. You’re being invited to a life without worry. He’s being radical but it’s because he wants to invite us to something better for us. Jesus says you can be free by handing your desires to the one who builds eternal stuff with it. You can be free from worry.

Disciplines – Matthew 6:1-18 – Sermon Notes

Jesus is going to work within his people so they can live the perfect life, too. What’s the motivation that drives the Christian’s whole life?

The hypocrite

When it comes to giving, we cannot impress both God and others. We have to choose who we’re doing it for. The hypocrite prays to be seen by others at the synagogue. We’re concerned about what other people think. Jesus says to be careful. He calls us to be different. Fasting was expected from a Jew at certain times. The hypocrite fasts to show others.

The pagan

The pagan is concerned about what God thinks, but his prayers reveal a lack of a relationship with God. It’s an attempt to get right with this God who he doesn’t really know. He believes the more he prays, the more God might relent and give blessings. His trust is in his prayers and not God. Jesus wants his followers to put their trust in their God.

The child of God

God can become our father through Jesus. He perfectly gave to his father and prayed constantly. He made the greatest of sacrifices and did it joyfully. We can go through life with him. He loves us and we get to love him back. What is the reward? We get to enjoy this relationship, to be approved. Here is a prayer marked by trust in a father God.

Radical Discipleship – Matthew 5:38-48 – Sermon Notes

We can use Jesus’ teaching to make us feel we’re better than others. The person who is right with God is the person who is poor in spirit, who knows their own sinfulness. You enter God’s real kingdom by rejecting the idea that you’re better. Other people matter more than you. Don’t just say it, do it.

What if you don’t have any enemies? The world Jesus is talking about is a far away world from us. You can be legally disadvantaged if you’re a Christian; no human rights. There were evil people who took advantage. The kingdom wins when they don’t react with violence. They seek to be kind and give more. Jesus is talking about situations where someone does something evil because you’re a Christian. Jesus says to look at someone who hates you and be kinder to them. Patience, kindness, generosity to those who aren’t pleasant to you.

Christians will have enemies. They’ll be sidelined and not legally protected. Jesus says there’s a different way – thinking of yourself as unimportant and to go out of your way to be generous to those who persecute you. The gospel does have enemies. You need to decide what you’re going to do about that. Someday you will need to love your enemy. If you’re not there now, you can practice. God showers his gifts on people who deserve them and those who don’t, so we should do the same.

If you’re part of a church, you give to something in which you won’t get anything back. Even the pagans loved the people who loved them. It seems some Christians don’t even do that. The kingdom is a family. God has always been a father. He is in the habit of welcoming sons and daughters into his family. Loving your enemies is hard but it is easier if you know you are loved. Jesus loved us, so we love others.