News and Articles
23 September 2016
A few months ago, in one of our Real Lives events, we heard the amazing story of Rod Williams. Rod was trapped in a downward spiral of addiction and crime from which it seemed there was no escape. But one day, when he was at rock bottom, he met Jesus and found hope. Today his life is completely transformed.
This week, I’ve been working on sermons to begin our new teaching series for the autumn and that experience of meeting Jesus and finding hope is the common thread that binds the morning and evening series together.
The Man who is God
John’s gospel presents us with a wonderful opportunity to meet Jesus. We will be making the sermons and the services as accessible as we can to people who have yet to meet Jesus for themselves, and may be unfamiliar with church, as well as relevant to those of us who are already Christians.
John wrote his gospel to give people the opportunity to meet Jesus:
“Jesus performed many other 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 Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” – John 20:31
What John gives us is not a list of bullet points that tell us the facts about Jesus, but a series of encounters where real people come face-to-face with ‘the man who is God’ (our series title for the term). The Jesus they encounter is:
- disturbingly radical – not holding back in challenging the religious leadership of his day
- intriguingly attractive – offering living water that will satisfy forever
- spectacularly powerful – performing extraordinary miraculous signs that show who he really is
We will not cover every detail in John’s gospel, but we will see how a range of people who meet the real Jesus find life-transforming hope.
The final encounters John records are with the risen Jesus. His resurrection transformed his dejected, desperate followers into a group of hope-filled people who changed the world in a generation. One of the last of these encounters is with his failed disciple Peter, whom the risen Jesus put back together so tenderly and recommissioned so clearly.
People of hope in a challenging world
The same Peter began his first letter with these words.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” – 1 Peter 1:3
The striking thing about the letter is the disconnection between how Peter describes his readers (chosen by God, set apart by the Spirit, washed clean by Christ) and how they are seen by the society around them (exiles and strangers – perhaps literally and certainly in a figurative sense). It is a letter that seems sharply relevant to us as we feel increasingly out of step with the world around us, and aware that we do not fully belong within it.
The response Peter encourages is neither to withdraw into the comfort of the ghetto, nor to merge into the background, taking all our cues from the culture and living like everyone else. Instead he calls us to be vibrant ‘people of hope in a challenging world’ (our series title in the evenings). Our joy is invested not in our circumstances, but in the risen Jesus and what he has done for us.
In practice that means:
- distinctive and holy living that displays the beauty of God and treasures what Jesus has done for us on the cross (1 Peter 1:13–2:3)
- energetic and joyful communication of the good news of how God has rescued us from sin and darkness and brought us into his light (1 Peter 2:9–10)
- being engaged and positive citizens, committed to making a positive contribution in society in the workplace and at home (1 Peter 2:11–3:7)
- being able and willing to explain the reason for our faith, and being willing to suffer the consequences (1 Peter 3:13–22)
- standing with one another within the church family in relationships of humility, respect, and submission (1 Peter 5:1–7)
A manifesto for the people of God
It is both an incredibly inspiring and relentlessly realistic manifesto for the people of God in a difficult and sometimes hostile world. Yet for all its realism, it is shot through with hope, from the beginning (1 Peter 1:3) to the end (1 Peter 5:10–11).
I’m excited about the journey we’ll be making together this term. Please pray that many people will meet Jesus for themselves and find the life transforming hope that will help them live with joy in a challenging world.