The True Image Revealed: I am the Light of the World

On sunday 18th December we had the last service of 2011, what a great year! Rachel continued the teaching series on the ‘The True Image Revealed’. This series has looked at the 7 ‘I am’ statements Jesus made in John’s gospel, and the 7 signs/miracles that point to who Jesus is. The question posed is what they say about Jesus’ identity and mission, and also what it says about our identity and mission.

Rachel focussed on John 8:12 – ‘When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This statement was said on the last day of the feast of tabernacles – a week long Jewish festival in september/october, which celebrated God’s provision when the people of Israel wandered through the wilderness when they fled from Egypt.

God led them for 40 years with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. This was the defining story of the Jewish people. Every evening of the festival of tabernacles, 4 huge lamps would be lit and would fill every courtyard in Jerusalem with light, to celebrate God’s salvation.

When we think of Jesus’ statement that ‘I am the light of the world’ we often think of a little christingle light at Christmas. But the context of Jesus’ statement would have been in a courtyard with 4 massive lanterns that flooded the place with light, and in whose light people would celebrate God’s provision. Jesus’ words would have echoed with meaning, referring to the pillar of fire in the wilderness. However, Jesus was referring to a salvation far greater than the liberation from the Egyptians. He was bringing salavation from sin and darkness. Dan Carson stated that ‘Jesus’ pronouncement is clear: he is the fulfillment of all the Feast of Tabernacles anticipated’.

In the old testament the Jewish people were called to be a light to the world, Isaiah 42:6 shows this when God calls the people saying: ‘I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles’. Jesus is the true light of the world, bringing God’s presence to save and heal. This light is found through following Jesus: ‘Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’. This is not a static belief in the right thing, but an active staying close to Jesus.

Jesus stepped down into darkness and entered a messy situation – a stable in Bethlehem. He was surrounded by genocide – with Herod on the hunt to kill him. We may think that our darkness is too much for God’s light, but no darkness is too dark for the Light of the World.

In John 9:1-7 we see the sign/miracle of Jesus healing a man born blind from birth. Jesus saw this man and acted. We often are so busy in life that we don’t see people. Other times we see people not just as strangers – and respond to what God is doing around us.

Jesus sees those whom others don’t.

The blind man in the passage would have had no standing in the community. But Jesus sees him. Some of us might feel invisible – but Jesus sees, notices and loves us. He’s never left us. The disciples were oblivious to the blind man. They were more interested in a theological debate about whose sin caused his blindness? Jesus challenges them not to look at the reason why, but to look for the heavenly purpose. The message translation puts it well:

‘Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.’

In Dan Carson’s commentary on these verses, he states that ‘There is a sense in which every aspect of our lives, including our own suffering, is an occasion for the manifestation of God’s glory and his purposes.’ God doesn’t call us into suffering, but He can bring something of beauty out of it.

Jesus has a sense of urgency in his teaching and calls us to work: ‘As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me’ (John 9:4). We’ve got a job to do and need to follow the Father’s promptings. In the miracle, Jesus spat on the ground and used the dust to bring light to the blind. There is something of re-creation about this as it echoes God forming man out of the dust. In the bible the only healing of blind people were done by Jesus – this was a signpost to the Messiah – through the miracle Jesus was saying ‘it’s me!’. I’m the one you’ve been waiting for.

Light saves, but also divides. Jesus healed the blind man on a sabbath, and the pharisees were not happy about that. This completely misses the point – a blind man had just been healed and they were fixed on the sabbath rules. Light also reveals darkness and shows who is really blind: there was the man who was physically blind, and then those who were spiritually blind.

There are times when we can’t see God’s presence, and hold to tightly to our own agendas and plans. But God brings light to our blindness. May God open our eyes to see Him and to see what He is doing around us. Jesus not only offers us, but others this light and life.

In Matthew 5:14 Jesus says to us: ‘You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.’ We have a job to do – through the Holy Spirit in us, we carry the presence of God. We are called to see light come to people’s darkness. Who is God highlighting to us? God calls us to dark places to bring His light – but we are not to fear the darkness. We are called to stand with those in pain, and not to be afraid:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it‘ (John1:5)

MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

ps there is no KXC service on Christmas Day or New Years Day. But there is a walk on Hampstead Heath on New Year’s Day at 2pm, see:

https://www.facebook.com/events/161548353944971/

The next service is in 2012 on Sunday 8th January.

Merry Christmas: A Story Within a Story

On the 11th December KXC had its second ever Carol Service – and it rocked. We even had a life sized donkey parade around the congregation. Pete spoke about the way the Christmas story is a good story because it belongs to a much greater story. The Christmas story is a love story, where a young couple (Mary and Joseph) faced big obstacles, including a pregnancy out of marriage, and a King trying to kill their baby. Will their love survive?

The bible is also a love story. It starts in a garden (Genesis is the re-telling of the love story between man and God – it was written before the idea of science was invented). Love wants to find objects to place that love. The tragedy was that instead of living in God’s love, humanity chose their own kingdom to rule over. Adam and Eve played god, and since then humanity has tried to navigate back to Eden, through human progress. But we can’t conquer evil with evil. We can’t re-create Eden without the King.

The Christmas story is the return of the true King. Gerard Manley Hopkins put it perfectly:

God’s infinity is dwindled into infancy‘.

God was born at the bottom of the social ladder. If He was the King of Kings wouldn’t it be better to be born in the best palace in the world? Not so, Jesus came into the very darkest place to bring His light and love. He is the source of all life, to those who are willing to be found. Jesus said ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10). A story from The West Wing sums up what Jesus came to do:

Jesus jumps down into the pit. He comes as a messenger to show us the way out. Isaiah prophesied:

‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’

The Kingdom of Heaven is present in the arrival of Jesus. At the start of the bible we see the garden of Eden filled with love, and this is echoed at the end of the bible in Revelation, where God will dwell with creation  – ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ (Rev 21:4).

The Christmas story is a good story because it is located in a greater story: the love story of God and humanity – God’s love never quits – and He will wipe away every tear. At Christmas time, we celebrate not just history, but also a glorious future. We remember a good story and know that this points to a glorious future for all of us. Jesus came to give us life to the full – as Irenaeus said: ‘The glory of God is man fully alive’. That’s what God made possible through Jesus.

PS here’s that donkey:

(photos by Karis)

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

The True Image Revealed: I am the Gate

After some amazing christmassy cakes last sunday (4/12/11)  Pete continued the teaching series on ‘The True Image Revealed’, by focussing on the healing by the pool in John 5:1-15. The key moment in this miracle is when Jesus asks the lame man, ‘Do you want to get well?’. This could appear to be a deeply insensitive question – of course the man wants to get well, doesn’t he?

We’re all in pain to various degrees, but not everyone wants to get well. Sometimes we befriend our pain, and find our identity in our brokenness – ‘it’s just the way I am – I can’t imagine life without it – I just live with it’. We can become a victim to our pain.

Are we willing to lose a friend to embrace life and healing?

In Philip Yancey’s book ‘Soul Survivor’, he talks about the gift of pain. He draws on Dr Paul Brand’s work with leprosy. Leprosy attacks the nerve endings, so that people can’t feel pain. This is incredibly dangerous and life threatening, because without pain you don’t realise if you’ve injured yourself, and thus infection attacks the body without you knowing. Pain acts as an alarm and alerts us to the fact that things aren’t right.

What do we do with our pain?

What do we do with the alarm bell? Do we hit the snooze button, falling back into the safe hands of our pain? Do we listen or do we ignore the alarm bell? Jesus never forces us to wake up. Instead we have two paths we can chose between: either bitterness or betterness (not actually a word but should be one!). Richard Rohr said that we can either invite God into our pain to transform it, or we ignore it, and thereby transmit our pain onto others.

God doesn’t condemn us when we come to Him with our pain – instead He seeks us out and invites us to be found. Like in the garden of Eden when God went in search of Adam and Eve calling out ‘where are you?’. Are we willing to be found?

How we deal with pain will make or break our lives. It defines our existence. In the message translation of 2 Corinthians 6:11-13 Paul calls the church to live the free and expansive life they where created to live:

‘Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!’

Let’s not shrink our identities – we were created with a royal identity. Psalm 8:5 states that God made humanity ‘a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned him with glory and honor.’ We are princes and princesses, who are infinitely loved. When did we take off our crowns?

Sometimes we live out a victim mentality by elevating those around us – we put our crowns on their heads saying that they’re better than us. C.S. Lewis said that ‘idols always break the hearts of their worshippers’. We can also drag others down and our pain can blind us to the beauty in others.

Is our pain blinding us from beauty?

The remedy is to listen to the words of Jesus – He asked the lame man – ‘do you want to get well?’. He says this crown belings to you, you have a royal identity.

Going back to the story of Jesus healing the lame man: there was ‘in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda’. This pool was presumed to have healing properties. ‘The blind, the lame, the paralyzed’ gathered here and waited for when the waters stirred. When this happened people would call out to get to the gate as soon as possible to acquire healing. This is echoed in John 10:7 with Jesus’ statement: ‘I am the gate’. There are other gates out there which promise healing but don’t deliver. Jesus says that ‘I am the gate’ that leads to life.

We all have our own gates that we hope will lead to fullness of life – a promotion, a new job, money, new relationship etc… Jesus says I am the gate that will heal you – I want to bring you into a wide open space. The greek word for salvation is ‘sozo’. This is used in John 10:9:

‘I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved‘.

This can mean healing – salvation from sickness, or deliverance – salvation from demonic oppression, or forgiveness – salvation from sin. The hebrew word for salvation is ‘yasha’ – which means to bring you into a wide open space. Sin fences us in, whereas salvation breaks down the barriers.

Where are we searching for healing and fulfillment?

What do we do with our pain?

Jesus says ‘I am the gate’ to healing and fulness of life.

God’s identity is the healer and saviour. Our identity, as people made in the image of God, is to be agents of restoration to the world. We are to point people to the gate. Mother Theresa modelled this by giving dignity to the dieing beggars in Calcutta. One beggar said just before he died, that ‘I’ve lived like a dog, today I die like a king’. Our mission is to restore people to their royal identity. Jesus hunted down those who felt like nobodies, those on the margins of society, and led them through the gate to fullness of life. Jesus calls us to do the same.

2 Timothy 4:8 states that ‘there is in store for me the crown of righteousness’. Let us remind people of that truth.

1 John 3:1 says ‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’. This is the God given identity that God is calling us to live out, through the gate of Jesus Christ.

PS – tomorrow at 3.30pm is the KXC Christmas Carol service, complete with mince pies and mulled wine, yipee! All are welcome – see facebook for details:

https://www.facebook.com/events/204907962916794/

The True Image Revealed: I am the True Vine

On the 27th November Kath continued the teaching series on the ‘The True Image Revealed’ by looking at John 15:1-17. This chapter is part of the ‘Farewell Discourses’ – the important teachings before Jesus was crucified. When Jesus referred to Himself as ‘the true vine’, He was using a loaded image. Throughout the old testament the ‘vine’ represented the people of Israel, but it was always unhealthy, e.g.  ‘I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine?’ (Jeremiah 2:21).

God commissioned people to be fruitful, to be His image bearers to the world, but they settled for less than what they were created to be. Israel went off course, but Jesus restored the true human identity.Where we go wrong, Jesus stays on course.

Have we wandered off course?

Do we feel unfruitful?

Jesus says that He is here to restore us. The problem started right at the beginning in the garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve had sinned they hid from God. God went in search of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and ‘called to the man, “Where are you?”’ (Genesis 3:19). In John 15 this idea of the garden is echoed when Jesus states that ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.’ God says the same thing to us now – ‘Where are you?’.

We sometimes hide from God because we may fear that He is going to tell us off, or maybe we think that God will come to us when we’re ready. On the contrary, God takes the initiative and seeks us calling out ‘where are you?’.

In John 15:4 Jesus says that we are to ‘Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. ‘ We need to stay connected to God – the source of life. We need to be still and wait for God’s Spirit.

To stay connected we also need to be obedient to God. The word ‘Obedience’ has negative connotations to many people – it feels like a horrible word all about keeping rules, a way of inflicting us to do what we don’t want to do – this comes from a motivation of fear – we do things because we’re scared of what will happen if we don’t obey. But this is not true obedience.

With Jesus, obedience is about living life to the full. It is a choice. Obedience come from the latin – ‘ob’ meaning towards and ‘ire’ meaning to hear – i.e. to hear towards or to incline your ear towards. The greek word for obedience is ‘hupakoe’, which means to listen to, or to hearken to. It refers to the action of a porter who goes to the door on hearing someone knocking on it, to see who it is. This is beautifully portrayed in Revelation 3:20 where Jesus says:

‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.’

This is when water turns into wine. In the story of Jesus turning water into wine in John 2, we see radical obedience in action. The setting of this miracle is a wedding in Cana, where the wine runs out – awkward! The catering company are in a tricky situation and are going to get into big trouble. Jesus’ mother Mary gets involved by telling the servants to ‘do whatever he tells you’. Jesus spots six jars of water used for ceremonial washing and tells the servants to ‘draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet’. The water would have most probably been like dirty bath water! So the servants had a choice – do they trust Jesus or do they bottle it? In the end the servants go for it and the risk pays off – and the master loves it saying ‘you have saved the best till now’. In the act of obedience, water turns into wine. The miracle takes place in the act of trust, which leads to fruitfulness.

We should expect miracles when we step out in obedience and say yes to Him. We have nothing to fear for God is the source of all joy. The more we say yes to God the more we will see God move. Susan Jeffers said:

Feel the fear and do it anyway‘.

When was the last time we said yes to God, when we took a risk knowing that if God didn’t turn up we’d be stuffed! When we stick our necks out on the line, fruit, joy and miracles will follow.

Where Jesus is present there is always a party breaking out. Jesus was accused of being ‘a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners”‘ (Luke 7:34). This was because Jesus partied with the down and outs, and feasted with people who had no earthly reason to celebrate. Jesus brought restoration to the outcasts.

When Jesus turned the water into wine, it wasn’t bog standard – it was the BEST! Let us be like Jesus, and bring out the best for people. Jesus is the true human, let us be more like him – generous. At KXC we want to party in the midst of pain – even in those moments Jesus is present. God is a God of restoration – when we wander off, He comes looking for us. He is the source of life and celebration.

Restoration is available right here and now through Jesus, who comes to restore our true God given identity. As those made in His image, God calls us to be obedient to Him. We’re called to listen to God and say yes to Him, to be agents of restoration to the world

Where are we today? Do we feel lost – are we longing to be found by Jesus? God is asking ‘where are you?’.

When was the last time we said yes to God, or felt the fear and did it anyway?

Jesus stands at the door of our hearts and knocks…the invitation is to let Him in, to chose to say yes to Him and experience life to the full. When we do that we’ll see water turn into wine.

KXC Charity Gig Night

On tuesday 22nd November KXC hosted a Charity Gig night at the o2 Academy in Islington, raising money for London City Mission’s Webber Street Homeless shelter. In front of a packed out crowd, 4 brilliant bands played starting with Daniel Peterson, Elliot from the West, Moro and then finishing off with Grand Forever. Can’t wait for the next KXC gig!

http://danielpetersonmusic.com/

http://www.myspace.com/elliotfromthewest

http://moroband.com/

http://grandforever.com/

The next musical event on the KXC calendar is the Christmas Carol service at KXC on Sunday, 11th December. We’re feeling Christmassy already!!

The True Image Revealed – I am the Bread of Life

On the 20th November, Pete continued the teaching series on ‘the True Image Revealed’, by focussing on Jesus’ statement that ‘I am the bread of Life’. There are 7 ‘I am’ sayings and 7 signs/miracles that occur in the gospel of John, which help reveal the true identity of Jesus and therefore reveal who God is really like. Two questions need to be asked:

What is John trying to tell us about the identity and mission of Jesus?

What about our own identity and mission?

In John 6:1-15 we see Jesus feeding the 5,000, and after the miracle ‘Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself’. The context of this story is that the 1st century Jews were under Roman oppression, waiting for a saviour to rescue them. They were wanting someone like Moses who led the Israelites out of slavery. Since the time of King David (the pinnacle of Israel’s history) the Israelites felt like slaves under the oppression of the Babylonians and then the Romans. They were desperate for a messiah/an anointed one. Signs would accompany the coming of this second Moses, e.g. just as manna came down from heaven in Moses’ time, so too the messiah would call down bread from heaven.

After Jesus fed the 5,000, people started to believe that Jesus was the messiah who would lead a revolution to free them from Roman oppression. They wanted to use Jesus to satisfy their own desires. But Jesus had more in store for them then that.

A sign points beyond itself to someone/something more. If you were going to go to the world cup final at Wembley and saw a sign for Wembley, thinking that the park next to it was Wembley itself, you would be missing out on the real thing. You need to continue following the sign to get to the final destination. Then you’d be so glad that you waited for the real thing.

In the same way, the people who had seen Jesus’ miracle and wanted to make him king by force, were settling for less than what Jesus had come for. Look to where the signs are pointing. In John 6:35 Jesus proclaims: ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.’ In Jesus is fullness of life and freedom (not just from Roman oppression). Jesus is stating that fullness of life comes from Himself. People at the time thought that Jesus could fulfill their dream to be liberated from the Romans.

What is your dream?

Do you believe that only when you reach your dream (e.g. getting married/getting your dream job/getting signed…) will you be happy. Instead Jesus asks us to consume Him to find true happiness and wholeness.

How do we feed on Jesus?

1. Feed on God’s Word: In John 1 we see that Jesus is the Word of God. Words have power to bring life. Martin Luther called the bible the ‘cradle in which we find Jesus’. We find Jesus there.

2. Feel on Christ’s Body: In John 6:53 Jesus says ‘I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.’ Jesus is not promoting cannibalism -He is using metaphorical language. The act of Communion – eating the bread and drinking the wine – is done in remembrance of Jesus and what he did at the cross. It’s not about what we can do in our own strength, but about what Jesus won at the cross. If you want life, we need to keep the cross at the centre. Communion is also connecting with each other. We are the body of Christ, and we need to stay connected. Hebrews 10:25 states ‘Let us not give up meeting together’. We need the body to find life.

3. Feed on the power of the Holy Spirit: Jesus did everything in the power of the Spirit. In John 14: 16 Jesus promises that ‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth’. St Paul explains that ‘if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you’ (Romans 8:11). So we need to listen to the Spirit.

‘I am the bread of life’

Jesus is the ultimate liberator, what Moses is in part, Jesus is in full. Whatever is robbing you of life, Jesus is bigger than it. You can feed on other things, e.g. self help, but they’ll only partially satisfy. Only Jesus can fully satisfy. Jesus is the provider.

What does this tell us of our own identity and mission?

We’re made in God’s image, and we see the perfection of this image in Jesus. We are called to live out our true calling to mirror God to the world. How do we become these image bearers? We need to feed on Christ and take the message to the world. People are starving – physically, emotionally, spiritually. Jesus is the bread of life. We ned to proclaim that we know where fresh bread is available that will bring life and life to the full.

A great charity that does this in a practical way is the Trussell Trust Food Bank (we had a great collection for non perishable food items at KXC the other week – which was brilliant!). This charity provides emergency food packages for people in crisis. For more info see:

http://www.trusselltrust.org/foodbank-projects

The True Image Revealed: I am…

On Sunday 13th November Pete started an 8 week teaching series entitled ‘The True Image Revealed’, focusing on John’s gospel. 2 questions were asked:

1. What does the gospel say about who Jesus is and,

2. What does the gospel say about what Jesus does?

Identity precedes action. We don’t need to earn God’s love or prove ourselves. This message is the heartbeat of the gospels. Before Jesus had done anything, God pronounced that He was proud of His son from the word go. If you know your Identity, you can then be radical. Do you know that you are loved by God.

WHO IS JESUS?

Scholars say that John’s gospel was written for a Jewish audience. The first verses of John chapter 1 (‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…’) echo the creation story of Genesis 1 (‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…’). When God speaks into the darkness, new life/light is formed. In John 1:14  ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us’. The same Word that is spoken of in Genesis has become flesh and is living among us. This would have been incredibly shocking news to the audience at the time.

In John 6:20, when the disciples see someone walking on the water, they ask who it is and Jesus answers ‘Ego Ami’ – I am. This is an incredibly loaded phrase and echoes Exodus 3:14 where God revels His name to Moses – saying ‘I am who I am’. From then on the Jewish people cherish this name – and see it as too holy to even utter it out loud. Jewish scholars eventually create the name Jehovah (using the vowels of yahweh) to say the name without saying it. The point is that this name means so much to the Jewish people. Jesus actually spoke the name – this would have been a total shock to all who heard him. Jesus says my identity is God Himself – the word that spoke creation into being. St Paul also states that Jesus is ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Colossians 1:15).

I am…

John’s gospel fills in the blanks of who Jesus is, with 7 ‘I am…’ phrases:

I am the bread of life…the true vine…the way, the truth and the life…the gate…the good shepherd…the resurrection and the life…the light of the world

In Genesis we see that man was made in the image of God – this is what we were made to be – Jesus revealed what the true humanity is. By examining the actions of Jesus we see how identity overflows into activity.

John’s gospel also has 7 signs, which further reveal Jesus’ identity. In John 20:30-31 it states that ‘Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’ These 7 signs/stories show who Jesus really is, and by believeing in them you can have Life.

The author of John’s gospel is called the ‘beloved disciple’, as he refers to himself with this term. The author knew the identity if Jesus, and in turn knew his own identity:

Who is Jesus – I am

Who am I – I am loved

Do we know these truths?


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