Finding it hard to believe? (John 3:16)

If you find it hard to believe, you’re not alone.

Forty-three years ago, a bulk ore carrier struck the pylons of a bridge in Hobart, and the central sections of the bridge fell into the Derwent. Some Tasmanians still refuse to drive over that bridge. You can show them the bridge is safe and they’ll believe you, but they can’t trust it with their lives. They want to believe, but after the trauma it’s not so easy. Continue reading “Finding it hard to believe? (John 3:16)”

God’s gift to the world (John 3:16)

The gift that’s exactly what we need.

We’re reading John 3:16 as the story of the kingdom of God, the lens Jesus used. God is sovereign. The world resists him. The sovereign persists in loving his resistant realm. He does so by sending the most amazing gift.

Queue the questions:

  1. What does it mean to say God gave his Son?

Continue reading “God’s gift to the world (John 3:16)”

God and his world (John 3:16)

What do we mean by “God loves the world”?

If Jesus made the kingdom of God the centre of everything, surely we can learn to hear Scripture as he did. This lens reframes everything, even familiar texts:

John 3:16 (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Let’s ask some fresh questions: Continue reading “God and his world (John 3:16)”

Introducing Jesus (John 1:1-5)

I woke up this morning meditating on how John introduces the person who is good news.

John 1:1-5 — a meditation

1 In the beginning was the Word —
the decree of the heavenly sovereign bringing shape and significance to a formless void,
the decree bringing light into darkness,
the decree bringing life into barrenness,
the decree that makes life productive,
the decree that makes humans his regal agents.

This Word is not other than God; he has his being in relation to God.
The Word was God:  God revealed, God expressed.
2 We’ve heard him only recently, but the Word has always had his being in relation to God, from the beginning.

3 Everything exists because of this divine Word;
not a single thing exists apart from him, the ground of our being.

4 Life sprang forth from him.
His life lights up humanity.

5 Resisting the Word leaves humanity with a dark side, but his light shines in the darkness.
The darkness has not grasped God’s decree that there be light.
The darkness has not held God’s Word in the grave.

Continue reading “Introducing Jesus (John 1:1-5)”

What’s the good news in the New Testament?

What is the gospel? Ask many people in our churches and they’ll tell you it’s about how you get saved, by asking God to forgive your sins. Would it surprise you to know that that’s not what the gospel means in the Bible?

The word gospel (or good news) is used a lot in the New Testament — 125 times in the NIV translation. They’re all listed below so you can scan it and see. As you scan, ask:

  1. What is the good news about (its content)?
  2. Who is it good news for (its audience)?

Continue reading “What’s the good news in the New Testament?”

How Jesus overcomes the world’s power problem

What’s wrong with the world? What must God resolve to establish his kingdom with Jesus as ruler?

Remember the jubilation when World War II ended? Turns out Hitler’s defeat didn’t resolve our problems. SBS is running a documentary titled After Hitler, and episode 2 says:

In the five years that separated the end of the Second World War from the start of the Cold War, the world had hoped for a lasting peace, but instead found itself on the brink of apocalypse. Five years of chaos and hope for the people of a shattered Europe, who became pawns in the games of the major powers.

History keeps repeating. When people rise up against an oppressive ruler, the person who comes to power can turn out to be even more monstrous. How can we ever be delivered? Continue reading “How Jesus overcomes the world’s power problem”

Those mega-church scandals

Yesterday Steve McAlpine posted on the scandals that keep recurring in our mega-churches. He wants to help us break the cycle by recognizing the shape abusive leadership takes:

The recurring central theme to these scandals is the manner in which a concerned, godly eldership is first enervated by an increasingly toxic church leader, then replaced by that church leader, before finally being excoriated publicly by that church leader, with the new leadership on stage leading the tomato throwing exercise. …

That’s the pattern.  It’s that simple.  You could throw it in with the seven or so Hollywood standard movie scripts that exist and it wouldn’t look out of place, so step-by-step, formulaic it is.

Why does this keep happening? Steve offers two suggestions, and I’d like to take this further. Continue reading “Those mega-church scandals”

Forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47)

If the gospel isn’t a message about personal guilt, why did Jesus commission his followers to announce “repentance for the forgiveness of sins in his name?”

My friend Tim Healy has responded with a great question. We’ve been emphasizing that the gospel of the kingdom is good news of the restoration of God’s kingship, liberation of the earth through his anointed ruler (Christ, our Lord). Over the last 2000 years, the Western church has veered towards a message about individual guilt. We need to recover the blazingly good news Jesus announced and enacted.

Here’s Tim’s question:

Continue reading “Forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47)”

We need good news

“Goin’ to church twice in one weekend? Gees, you must be feelin’ guilty!” I have no idea what he thought church was — the kind where you go and confess to a priest, or the kind where you pray the Sinner’s Prayer.

What bothered me was his perception of church as people who struggle with guilt. Is that the message people hear from us? Not a message of hope for the world? Not a Saviour who resolves the injustice and sets all things right? What happened to the good news of a selfless ruler who gave his life for his people and now calls us to care for each other the way he cares for us? Continue reading “We need good news”