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Fellowship a challenge and a Blessing Rev Con Despinidic 26th June 2016

Rev. Con June 29, 2016 Publications, Sermons No comments

In Acts chapter 1 the Lord Jesus charged His followers with the task of waiting in Jerusalem. They were to wait in expectation of the wonderful promise of the Holy Spirit.
We have seen that the faithful did three vital things while they waited.
• They prayed
• They fellowshipped
• They worshipped.
These three activities are crucial for the life of the Church- this is what we should be doing in our Christian walk. Yes these three life transforming activities are important-
Last week we spent a little more time on prayer than the others.
Prayer helps us to focus on God the Father.
Prayer assists to center our thoughts on God’s will.
Prayer enables us to draw close to the Lord Jesus.
Today I would like to revisit the idea of FELLOWSHIP.

FELLOWSHIP is a corporate thing, it is also an act of encouragement- getting to know one another, helping out, listening talking, building relationships, this is important. Years ago I was blessed by Selwyn Hughes’ comments on the nature of God, particularly where relationships were concerned.
God is relational, so too the faith- we are not called into isolation, just the opposite. Now that doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when we want our space or me time, these are important times and it pays to be a bit selfish when it comes to our well-being. This is different from being isolated or recluse (loner, hermit)
The Lord Jesus challenges us to focus: Firstly on Him and secondly on others.
True fellowship is a reflection of this, John 13:34-3534 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

In the same way as God is a unity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are called into fellowship, what binds us together is the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We should go from being me centered to God centered and other centered.
Broughton Knox Principal of Moore Theological College from 1959 to 1985 speaks of the unity of God as an example for us as His people:
“The Father loves the Son and gives Him everything. The Son always does what please the Father.
The Spirit takes the things of the Son and shows them to us. We learn from the Trinity that relationship is the essence of reality and therefore the essence of our existence. We also learn that the way this relationship should be expressed is by concern for others. Within the Trinity itself there is a concern by the persons of the Trinity for one another.”
[The Everlasting God- Evangelical press.] You can’t beat what the Lord Jesus says to His followers: 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John 13:34-35

I believe that true fellowship is the expression of God’s love through us towards each other.

It is when I stop thinking about me and think about God and what God would have me think about you that the fellowship gene kicks in.
The Apostle Paul puts it in these terms:-
Philippians 2:3,4 “ Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mind set as Christ Jesus:”
It was early days on the life of the Church and it was important that the right foundations are set.
There are many passages of Scripture that deal with fellowship and mutual love, the most powerful are the words of our Lord Jesus in His prayer for his church: John 17:23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Our New Testament reading this morning reiterates the importance of fellowship and mutual love, these go hand in hand.
Romans 15
1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up.
5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

What a powerful way to put it. Congregations are made up of a wonderful mix of people- in the early church they came from diverse backgrounds, and there was much that divided them- a clash of cultures and ideologies, the rich and the poor-the socially acceptable and the rejected- prejudices that had festered for generations. Imagine Jew and gentile breaking bread together- this was unheard of!
Paul’s words in Romans 15 are like a ringing bell calling us to church.

The first two verses set the scene- 1We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.
What we think of ourselves is important; do we believe that we are strong or weak, rooted in the things of the faith or struggling with faith and understanding? So for the one who is strong in the faith- they are to make allowance for the weak and for the weak, they too are to be accepting of others. Instead of being a burden a help and an encouragement.
Never the less strong or weak we are to seek to: please our neighbours for their good, to build them up. This does not tell us to indulge or enable each other in the excesses of life or their failures and weaknesses- It does challenge us to focus on others, particularly within the fellowship of FAITH.
5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let’s not loses sight of the divine power and will to work through the lives of His people- the scriptures are an encouragement here- the source of strength, the ability to do and be doesn’t come from within, it comes for GOD 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement;
God always enable,
God always strengthen,
God always supplies all that we need.

7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Be Doers Not Hearers

Rev. Con August 29, 2013 Publications No comments
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Brief Introduction Into James

The letter of James was not received by many churches without opposition. The opinion of Martin Luther that it is a downright “strawy” letter is sad and to present James as an opponent of Paul is unfair.

This letter is full of valuable instructions on matters of endurance, prayer, humility, good works, the restraining of the tongue, contempt for the world and true faith. James condemns the ‘faith’ of dead orthodoxy, or that which is of the head and not the heart, and that of demons, while he values genuine faith (1:3, 6; 2:1, 5, 22-24; 5:15). Paul like James teaches that good works are a fruit of faith Rom.2:6-10, 2 Cor. 9:8, Eph.6:23, Col.1:4, lThess.1:3, 2Thes.2:17.

There is, also a close resemblance between the words of the Lord Jesus in the Sermon on The Mount, and those of James. James was written to the scattered Jewish Christians some of whom were about to give up, as they were facing many trials and temptations, and were oppressed by the rich (some who probably were members of the church). There were rich and poor among the congregations and favoritism, jealousy, gossip and slander had become commonplace. Christian virtues were thus being lost. Their faith was not being lived out among themselves or the world. It had become an intellectual ‘belief’ devoid of practice. James is, as it were, a sermon to exercise endurance in the midst of trials and temptations. The readers are admonished to carry on and reveal their faith in action (Ch. 2), word (a wise and bridled tongue Ch.3, and thought and attitude Ch.4). In 108 verses there are 54 imperatives. The concern for social justice and the ethical, implications of Christianity add further to the relevance of this letter for our day.

In short I would sum up James’s letter as a Holy Spirit breathed manual on how to live the Christian life.

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8 Sermons on Prayer

Rev. Con June 22, 2013 Publications No comments
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Introduction

I find it hard to believe that I preached my first formal sermon on the 23rd January 1971. As a young and inexperienced Christian I had much to learn. It is now the year 2011 and I feel the same. A lot has happened in my life since that Sunday night, many sermons have been prepared and preached but one thing remains constant: that is the need to “walk humbly with my God.”

I believe Prayer is an important key to the Christian life. What is prayer?

It is not until we truly open ourselves to the Almighty and make ours the blessings that we have in the Lord Jesus, that we can experience the power of prayer in our lives.

I do not claim to be expert or proficient in this, in fact I would rather think of myself as a simple country parson, a fellow traveller in the journey of life.

The hymn, ‘I Surrender All’, describes it beautifully. The truth of the matter is that we find it hard to surrender all to Him.
Within the pages of this booklet are seven chapters, each on a particular aspect of prayer. Prayer is the most powerful activity in which a human being can engaged in. It has great possibilities, its field is limitless. It is easy, yet it is hard. It is simple yet it is complex.

There have been many books written on prayer, many sermons preached on it.

These chapters are not exhaustive and this information is not new, it has been gleaned from many sources. You might even find these chapters simplistic.

My prayer is that this information may be of use as stepping stones to a deeper walk with God.

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The Small Church

Rev. Con June 4, 2013 Publications No comments
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Church growth

Church growth – what is it? This has been the hot topic of many discussions and the title has caused some to break out in a sweat.

The fear of criticism and the ridicule of failure are two reactions to this subject. I have read numerous church growth books and have even been tempted to write one myself!

In these books there is good material. Each, however, belongs to a particular time and place. It may be the story of how a church came into being; or the story of a church in tatters that saw the light and eventually grew.

There are other books – the “how to” books. They tell us what we are supposed to do. These are full of instruction and guidance from wise and experienced practitioners who have “been there and done that.” They are success stories that are designed to enthuse and excite the new or tired practitioner.

Many look at growth as a natural part of what it is to be a church, saying that the New Testament churches grew and so should the church of today.

Some are helpful and invaluable to today’s church leaders, but others are depressing and frustrating, particularly if you have been in the same church for many years and seem to be making very little headway.

There are those books that challenge the reader to move ahead to change his perspective on the church. Some claim to be totally biblical in their approach, while others just claim to be helpful. There is the school of thought that has what I call a “theology of experience.” “If it works, it must be good and it must be of God.”

One thing that I have observed is that each of these books emphasises church growth – small must lead to big. We are instructed with great conviction that big is good and growth is what God wants.

What is the small church?

Is the small church the disobedient brother who just can’t get his act together? We are challenged to question our very existence; if we are not growing then we are doing something wrong? Having been in the ministry for over thirty years and having pastured a number of small churches, I find this assumption very difficult to accept. In fact insulting! I have been in churches that have grown significantly. I have also experienced the frustration of seeing other churches grow while we remained small.

All these texts can be helpful in our search for the Lord’s will in our own situations. The difficulty is that sometimes we may not be prepared or willing to facilitate change. We may not be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

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Christianity – A Real Change

Rev. Con January 6, 2013 Publications No comments
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Introduction

So far we have spent some time looking at the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God and the local church are intertwined. They cannot be separated. This year I have started almost every sermon with the following statements:-

“I strongly believe that God calls people to Himself, He also calls people into the church, not just the universal church but to congregations.”

For congregations are where:

  • we are called to serve and sacrifice. It is here that we are lights in the world and salt on the earth!
  • we are part of a family and as such learn to love and exercise the fruit and the gifts of the spirit.

It should be the place where we are taught and teach the Word of God.

The Church is God’s Kingdom on earth.

It is set up in the mind, and in the heart of man, that would continue to an eternity.

The Kingdom has a “present reality and future manifestation.”

  • It begins with a spiritual birth, then it works its way throughout our lives.
  • It comes with a kit bag, all that we require to live life- we call it the Fruit of the Spirit and the Gifts of the Spirit.
  • It comes with an earthly family- the Church- the place where we learn and grow.
  • It begins in the heart of God and works through you!
  • It comes with a relationship.

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