8 October 2017

8 October 2017

Categories:

Identity…

Working for the church is a funny thing when it comes to identity… I mean it is always a bit awkward to be at a social gathering and for people to ask “So what do you do”… I can tell you now, it was far easier being an engineer, I mean at least this was something that people sort of understood and mostly took seriously…

No matter who we are, we tend to see ourselves in terms of things like work, study, family or where we came from. These things form part of our identity, they shape the way others see us and often shape the way we behave…

Paul, the ultimate Jew

For the early church, there was a bit of a debate? Do new Christian converts also have to do all of the things that Jewish people did? For Jewish Christians, this was a huge question… If Gentile, that is non-Jewish Christians don’t have to do all the Jewish stuff to be saved, what does that say about the value of those traditions?

When we hear this passage, we need to remember that Paul was a pretty hardcore Jew. Everything about his life was something any Jew would be proud of, let alone all of it taken together… To have been born into the right family, to have been a faithful Jew his whole life, to have studied under the best scholars, to have been the person entrusted to stamp out the early church was a threat to Jewish religious purity and culture.

Paul was someone who got things done and someone who understood better than most what it meant, yet he is the one to say…

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung.

That’s pretty extreme…

What is Paul Rejecting

These things, all of the law, rituals, behaviours and practices that had been given to God’s People, had gone from being means to draw closer to God and become an end in themselves. God’s people had looked to ritual to save them, rather than God.

More than this, these rituals had become distractions. What is worse, is that for those who had heard the message of Jesus, these rituals and expectations were being set up as a potential barrier. For non-Jews hearing the message of Jesus and seeking to follow, this meant there would have been culture they had to learn, rituals to learn and for males, there would have been some invasive surgery. To say that there would present significant barriers is an understatement…

For all of this stuff, it had become a distraction, a way to distract people away from the most important message of Jesus. Paul is emphasising as much as he can, that the finished work of Jesus is enough. Any extras that we add, things that start off as optional and become compulsory, is actually a distraction, is actually worse than clutter, but the worse kind of mess that we need to keep away.

The way of righteousness, that is living as we were created to live, as God would have us live, is only possible through living in Jesus… All of these things that Paul had spent his entire life doing, all of the things that would have been a source of pride for him, the basis on which he could trust in his closeness to God, the basis of his entire identity… Thrown out, insignificant… Rubbish, refuse, dog dung…

Who are you?

For all of us here, at one time or another, there are elements how we see ourselves, maybe habits, perhaps achievements, status or family, things that feel like bonus points, that allow us to be more certain that we have earned our place within God’s family. Likewise, there may be things that feel like barriers, sources of shame, failure, brokenness that mean we aren’t sure if we can ever really belong…

Sure there may be some baggage, shame or failure that we carry from what was before, but it is no longer what defines us. Sure we may have some things we are proud of, achievements, history or status, but these aren’t where we place our hope. We may have practices of faith that shape us, grow us and focus our attention, but these aren’t what save us…

Paul reminds us that these things aren’t who you are. They don’t define you, they don’t save you, they don’t condemn you. The most important thing, the only important thing is the call to reach out towards Jesus, the one who calls you by name, who has reached out and is reaching out to you.

As a community seeking to be More People, more like Jesus, we don’t seek to grow in faith in order to earn a place within God’s family. We don’t need to qualify a place as part of the team that will run this race of faith that Paul talks about. We run this race of faith, obedience and trust because, through trusting in Jesus, we are already on the team. Paul’s motivation, faithfulness and obedience comes from his deep awareness of Jesus’ unconditional acceptance, our should too…

As a community, may we constantly, we remind ourselves of the story Gods unfolding love, draw our attention back towards the cross, and away from those things which would command our attention.

As a community, way we constantly reminds ourselves who we are as God’s children, invited into his family, forgiven, restored and made new, called to find our identity, our hope and our life nowhere other than Jesus.

As a community, may share the good news of Jesus, offer love and service and seek justice… Not because we are trying to earn God’s grace and acceptance, but as a response to having received it…

Casting Crowns – Who am I

Speaker: Rev. Stephen Rothery

I am married to Shannan and we love life in the Redlands.

 

I love tinkering with technology, have spent waaaay too much time in on-line gaming and am an early adopter of virtual reality. (Currently rocking a HTC Vive at home and GearVR for mobile) Before coming into ministry my background was in Electrical Engineering/IT which meant I spent a lot of time working with information systems and automation in factories and industry around Queensland. All of this means that I am basically a huge nerd 🙂

 

In terms of faith, I am passionate about journeying with people as they seek to follow Jesus and understand what this looks like in their family/work/community. None of us are perfect, but through God\’s grace we can make a difference as together we seek to bring hope in places of despair, love to those who feel lost or ashamed and comfort to those who are hurting.