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November 2013

October 29, 2013

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Dear Friends

Preaching on Paul’s letters has proved to be a real blessing to me and I am encouraged by the many positive comments I have heard. However it raises issues that need further reflection and may well lead to a further series some time.

Firstly we need to remember that the church that Paul knew was a church made of flesh and blood not bricks and mortar. They did not have buildings but met in public halls, synagogues, people’s homes or open spaces. Consequently they did not have meetings with agendas full of finance and building matters and were free to concentrate on worship, discipleship, mission and service, pastoral care, outreach and evangelism. What can we learn from them? Do we have the courage to transform our meeting style so that in church and elders meetings more time is given to prayer and Bible study, finance and property is delegated to a sub-committee and the rest of the time is devoted developing our worship, discipleship, mission and service, pastoral care, outreach and evangelism.

Secondly the early Christians attracted opposition and persecution because their lifestyle was different to the societal norm and because they publicly proclaimed Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour whose death and resurrection had brought them into a new relationship with God and that Christianity was the one true faith. What can we learn from them? We often do our best not to offend so we attract apathy instead of opposition and persecution. Our lifestyle is not significant different to our neighbours to be worthy of comment except that it might be known that we are church goers. That in itself is significant, we are not known as Christians and how can we be church goers when we are church wherever we are. This situation can only be addressed by the way we speak and things we do, we must be Christlike at all times, then we will be noticed!

Thirdly Paul placed a great emphasis on discipleship, the discipline of becoming more like Christ. It was fundamental to his understanding of Christianity. The ten commandments were central to his thinking and, for him sexual immorality, greed, lust, anger, envy, rage, jealously, impatience, pride, sloth, selfishness and telling lies had no place in the church. Having said that he welcomed everyone into the church but he drew a distinction between temptation and practice. What can we learn from him? The Bible reminds us that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are but that he never sinned but we have forgotten the distinction between temptation and practice. Every one of us will experience temptation and it comes to us in different ways. An alcoholic will experience the temptation to drink and he is praised when he resists the temptation. Likewise with drug addicts, pornography viewers or the cleptomaniac so logically the same should be true of our sexual desires. We do not have to give in to our desires and resisting sexual temptation, outside of God given male-female marriage should be praised. Discipleship is growing more Christlike and if during my ministry here no one has grown closer to Christ then my ministry has failed.

Finally, and all too briefly, Paul was not afraid to say difficult and uncomfortable things if it helped the church and the individual grow. He knew that to avoid saying such things would lead to the decline a death of the church. We have the same choice to make.

Ian

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