True Devotion. New series. Watch the clip.
This Sunday we begin a 3-week mini-series in Jesus’ parables. A parable is a simple story with a deeper meaning.
Expect that characters or objects in a parable will symbolise something else.
- Look for the atypical
Jesus is often trying to draw our attention to the unusual element in each story:
e.g. it is atypical (to the original hearers) for a Samaritan to exercise costly care.
e.g. it is atypical for a father to run and embrace the son who shamed him.
- Be consistent with the rest of the Bible
If your interpretation of a story contradicts another clear teaching in the Bible, reconsider your approach. God, who wrote the Bible through humans, does not contradict himself.
- Pay attention to what precedes and what follows
It is no accident that the parables are arranged in a particular order. Often, upon close reflection, you will realise that two adjacent parables are connected.
- Seek to apply it personally
It could be easy to treat the parables as a riddle to be solved, but their real power lies in the ability to encourage, correct, rebuke and warn us.
- Remember the big picture
In all of these stories, Jesus is still on his way to the cross. Therefore, these are not merely moral lessons – Jesus’ simple stories point to the centre of his mission; dying on the cross for our sins in our place as our substitute and rising again.
Click below to download a daily reading guide
that can help you interpret the parables.
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‘What if Jesus’ resurrection was a myth?’
Couldn’t it all just be the exaggeration of truth over time by his disciples?
If you’re honest with yourself, don’t you think it’s possible that Christians are just wishful thinkers?
Coming up to Easter, these are insightful questions to be asking ourselves because an unquestioned faith tends to be naiive or weak. On the other hand, deep Christians are deeply convinced of the resurrection. They are deeply convinced that Jesus really did medically die on a Roman cross roughly 2000 years ago and then return to life. This post will not outline the evidence for Easter, but will give you two reasons why the Easter story is worth questioning. You can either to discard it as myth or to believe it wholly as historical fact. If Easter is a myth, if Jesus dying and coming alive again isn’t strictly history and if it was actually Jesus’ followers who made him into a larger-than-life hero by exaggerating his achievements, there are at least two huge implications.
1. IF JESUS DIDN’T RISE, THEN CHRISTIANITY IS NO MORE RATIONAL THAN BUDDHISM, ISLAM OR ATHEISM
Many large religions are based around a key figure making claims about the metaphysical. Buddha proclaimed the 4 noble truths, Mohammed claimed to have had direct contact with the Divine and atheism claims that Buddha, Moses and Jesus are wrong. How are we able to choose between them? Is it even possible to choose, or should we just declare it all to be too uncertain and get on with the more pressing realities of life? Against a cloudy background of competing metaphysical claims, Christianity’s assertion (that its founder was genuinely dead and then physically came alive again) is bold and gutsy. If that claim is true, then it really does differentiate Jesus and put him in another league. If it’s false, is choosing Christianity really any more rational than any other path?
2. IF JESUS DIDN’T RISE, THEN WE WON’T RISE EITHER
A ‘first-fruit’ is an unfamiliar concept to us who live in cities. To to those who were closely connected to agricultural cycles and the seasons it makes total sense. If the tree has been fruitless for the whole of winter, a ‘first-fruit’ is the first time the farmer walks past the tree and notices a shining red blob amongst the branches. The reason the farmer becomes so excited is that this first apple is just the first of many to come. A whole crop is on the way! Jesus’ resurrection, if it’s not just a myth, is the first shining blob.
There are a whole bunch of resurrections on the way! When Jesus comes back a second time, the dead will rise. If you are confident that Jesus rose, then you can be confident of that. Alternatively, if you choose to reject the resurrection, are you willing to live believing that death is the end? You can look up the ‘first-fruits’ concept in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28.
So far this post is phrased in the negative. So let’s give it something positive to finish.
IF JESUS DID RISE, THAT’S GOD’S ‘YES’ TO CREATION
C.S.Lewis (who wrote Narnia) became a Christian later in life. He explains that Jesus rising from the dead affirms the value of the physical:
‘But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.
Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour, too.’
Abraham is often referred to as the ‘Father of the Faith’. Actually, he is the father of three faiths! 2.2 billion Christians, 1.6 billion Muslims and 20 million Jews all claim him as their spiritual father. Regardless of whether you are religious or not, Abraham is an important man to understand if you want to make sense of the world we live in.
More important than Abraham, however, is the God he worshipped. After all, Abraham died some 4000 years ago, but his God is Everlasting (Gen 21:33). He is the same yesterday, today and forever. As the spiritual children of Abraham, he is our God too (Gal 3:7)! Therefore, this term we will study our Everlasting God. In particular, we are going to discover what it looks like to trust in his word of promise.
To do this, we will walk with Abraham through Genesis 12-22 and learn from him as he learns to trust in the promises of God. It is a journey with lots of ups and downs. Abraham finds faith easy at first (Gen 12:1-4), but then he falters. His faith falters when the promises of God don’t match with the harsh realities of his life (chapters 12, 16 & 20). Throughout Abraham’s journey, God is gracious and kind, confirming his promises (chapter 15 and 17) and teaching him how to live in the gap between promise and reality.
Abraham is the exemplary man of faith in the Bible (Rom 4, Gal 3:6-14, Hebrews 11:8-19). So it is right for us to learn from him. That being said, if Abraham is only an example to be followed, he doesn’t offer much hope. For, despite his failures, who could live up to the example of Abraham? Thankfully, our salvation relies not on the strength of our faith, but in God’s faithfulness to his promises.
The Apostle Paul told the Galatians, God ‘announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you”’ (Gal 3:8). He is talking about Jesus Christ. To find faith in the promises of God, therefore, we ultimately to find faith in Jesus Christ. He is the one in whom all of God’s promises find their ‘yes’ (2 Cor 1:20). He is the one upon whom our salvation rests!
So join us this term as we walk with Abraham through Genesis 12-22. Please ask God to use this series to help us find faith in our Everlasting God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and to trust him as we live in the gap between promise and reality.
If you missed the first sermon in the series, listen to it now.
What would you say if you had the chance to communicate one important thing? Grace City brings you a new mini-series from members of the launch team, who share a message they think you need to hear. Today, Brie Pattison encourages us with one idea worth sharing.
If you could say one thing, what would it be?
A devastating and liberating truth: you can’t save yourself, but there is a saviour.
What excites you about joining Grace City?
I’m excited that Grace City is a new church for a new area. Our message might not be new, but everybody in Green Square needs to hear it and we have a chance to share it with the thousands who are here already and who will be moving in over the next few years.
What’s something you’d love to get involved in within Green Square?
I’ve just joined a Zumba class. It’s a combination of disco (with pumping music and strobe lights) and aerobics (with slightly less lycra). It’s a hilariously great way to spend Wednesday night.
What’s one reason the Gospel means so much to you?
I have always wanted to prove myself: to show that I am good enough, smart enough, able enough to do anything I want. I was devastated when I realised that the Gospel meant that I could never prove myself to God. At the same time, it was incredibly liberating to grasp that Jesus has already proven himself, and he stands in my place.
What’s something you’d love prayer for?
This year I’m studying the Bible full-time at Moore College. I’d love you to pray that God would shape my heart and mind as I do that each day.
Brie is a member of the Grace City team. If you are interested in joining us on Sundays, click here for more information.
Starting May 1st (2 Sundays’s time) we will be starting our new sermon series in John 5-12 – On Trial. The series gets its name from the hostile interaction between Jesus and the Jewish leaders in these chapters. There are 3 vantage points from which these chapters can be read.
The Jewish Leaders
They thought that they had Jesus On Trial. Here was a Rabbi who didn’t follow the Sabbath (5:16), claimed to be equal with God (5:18, 8:58), and called them children of the devil (8:44). Aware that he was on trial before the Jews, Jesus points to the Father (5:37), the Scriptures (5:39), and his miracles (10:38) as things that bear testimony to who he was. Despite this, the Pharisees argued that his testimony was not valid (8:13).
From their perspective, Jesus was a problem that had to be dealt with. Their ‘trial’ of Jesus ends with a decision to kill him:
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation…. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.” (Jn 11:47-53)
In Jesus coming to earth, the world was also put On Trial. How would they respond to him? The Father had given him authority to judge (5:22) and so he testified that their works were evil (7:7). Yet despite constant evidence that he was God’s son, they failed to judge him correctly (7:24). In the end, it was their refusal to accept Jesus and his word that would bring the world’s trial to an end.
In condemning Jesus, they brought about their own condemnation:
“If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.” (John 12:47–48)
There is also a sense in which the crowds are in the jury seat watching these two trials unfold throughout these chapters. Three times we read that ‘the people were divided because of Jesus’ (7:43, 9:16, 10:19). Some believed in him; others rejected him. Some received life; others did not.
As we read these chapters we find ourselves beside the crowds in the courtroom. But we cannot simply watch as spectators. That privilege is not open to us. We are in the jury and so we are forced to pick a side. What will it be? Will we side with Jesus and believe in him for eternal life? Or will we side with the Jews and condemn ourselves by condemning Jesus? The choice is real- we are On Trial.