So have just come back from the Day 1 afternoon session with Terry Virgo. I am glad to know that although I haven't been to Brighton since 2007 the wonderful heavenly-adjectives like "awesome!" and "amazing!" still very much describe this conference.
Simon Brading lead worship and I was amazed at his massive growth in maturity and experience to lead us into the Presence of God. We learned two new songs which were wonderful celebrations of the Cross and glorious ascension of our Lord and also sang the wonderful short song that I first heard Michael W Smith sing; "Alleluia, for the Lord God Almighty reigns". Amazing!
Terry Virgo then came up to speak and began as is customary for him - by recommending Dave Devenish's new book; "Fathering Leaders, Motivating Mission - Restoring the Role of the Apostle in Today's Church". Terry said;
"Laying aside the biblical role these apostles took is a serious loss to the New Testament .. I have never seen such a through Biblical approach to apostles as David's book. We have been waiting for this book for decades!".
Terry's text was Hebrews 12:1-3 and here's what he said;
We are looking at themes God brings to us as we go into unprecedented way into world mission. I have been drawn to Hebrews 12 - R T Kendall in his excellent book said;
"Hebrews 11 would have no revelance or meaning to me at all if it were not possible to do what they did".
Then we come to chapter 12. "Now therefore". There are many turning points in the Bible (Romans 12, Ephesians 4:1). The uniqueness of our faith is that we come after what God has done. "Cloud" is a better word than "crowd". We are surrounded by voices speaking to us! Watching what they have done speaks to us. The Bible is their stories.
The Bible reveals itself in relationship - not in abstract theology.
The whole deal is stimulating faith. God wants us to be affected by them. "Witness" is "bearing witness" in the Bible - not so much watching. Not sure that the cloud of witnesses are actually physically watching us like as in an amphitheatre. They have something or Someone far better to watch than us! But through deed - they still speak.
"By faith the walls of Jericho fell down". It is worth it. It is worth trusting when we don't see the answers! Hebrews 12 is also saying; "You are not alone!". They say; "Keep going - He is faithful!". As we run this race (or contest) we must realise it isn't an 100 metre sprint - it is a marathon. This imagery of conflict is there for us! "Lay aside the weights/encumbrances/everything that hinders". Get light - get free from everything that would entangle you. He distinguishes between things that would entangle and sin.
(Galatians 5:7); "Who hindered you?". When Paul left, the legalists moved in.
Legalism stops you running in the race.
Why would you put on a heavy coat that weighs you down? But there is also a danger of a misapplication of grace. It is phenomenal freedom but we can trip over that freedom! All things are lawful but will it help you in the race? Sometimes the tragedy is - we lose the race because of grace! This is another value system and it does cost.
Fundamental things like "honour your father and mother" - from a biblical perspective this is a principle but there are other perspectives Jesus brings. "Let the dead bury their dead!". Jesus' mothers and brothers were worried He was out of His mind! He was saying; "I am in the race and nice and tidy principles have to be submitted to another truth". Does this principle entangle? This isn't sin - but things that entangle. Costly choices - Hudson Taylor fell in love with a girl before he went to China but he realised that China was not in her heart. He had to go. As we move into global mission, many will ask questions like; "Will this mean I never get married?". Things that hinder - lay them aside.
"Also the sin that can so easily entangle".
Paul does NOT write; "To the sinners". He writes; "To the saints"! You are new creation people! You are now; "in bondage to righteousness". You are completely free people! "Sinner" is NOT our identity.
But ... Paul wrote of "sin that can entangle". But he also wrote of sin that can "easily entangle". He furthermore wrote of "sin that can so easily entangle"!
The world will bombard us with it's value system - we need to find a glorious freedom by which the world was crucified to me. The wisdom of this world is foolishness to us! "Demas left me having loved the present age". This was the last reference in the Bible to him. Both guys came to the end of the race but so differently. Do not let sin reign in your mortal body!
We need apostolic doctrine to show us who we are in Christ. God BROKE the power of sin at the Cross. Lay aside Satan's accusations - his chief weapon is trying to get you despondent and depressed.
He bombards you and you either take it on board and say; "I am a wretch" or you resist the devil. "We overcome Him by the word of our testimony". Satan will constantly whisper to you; "I am a dead loss". Will you listen?
Group early photographs in the Charismatic Movement can be a sobering reminder - who has left the race.
"The sin" - which sin? Hebrews has the greatest deal to say about one sin - the sin of unbelief. Hebrews 3:12; "an evil heart of unbelief". When the Israelites came to the Promised Land they said "we are not able to go in". God was FURIOUS with them and instead allowed their children to go in.
If we will press into the nations, this is the victory that overcomes. Our faith! The book of Hebrews has to do with overcoming and inheriting our promises. Live and overcome with faith. Don't draw back! Let us believe God for Rio and Delhi! Run the race that is "marked out for you". The masters of the race have marked out a unique race of each - Moses, Elijah and Noah. We don't have to build Arks necessarily but we do have to believe God.
"God delights to deal singularly with us as though there was no one else to love". (R T Kendall).
You run the race that is marked out for you. "Run with perseverance". It is possible to slip into passive mode. Don't get passive - this word has patient expectancy about it. Be imitators of those with patience and faith! The whole Creation stands on tiptoe to see the unveiling of the sons of God. Resignation is not believing any more! Elijah sent the boy to look for the cloud 8 times. But he kept believing! "Looking (ahead) to Jesus". Don't get besotted with the things in your face - this one - the pioneer and perfecter.
Jesus was handed over and brutally crucified but He perfected faith! There are a lot of people who pioneer but do not finish a work. Jesus both perfected and pioneered faith!
Crucification was not a religious process. It was foul, it was nothing but shame. It was all of that but more for Jesus - it was loss of fellowship with the Father. God completely withdrew and He was alone. Yet He held the promise that God would raise Him up! Jesus took the curse. The curses in Deut 28 are terrifying! Yet Jesus took them all for us! "Despising the shame" - Jesus ignored the shame of the Cross as almost as though it were not worth thinking about. "For the joy set before Him! He looked ahead!".
There was something joyful behind this black day. What is the prize? He came for a glorious Bride! Millions of believers reconciled to God! He will wrap it up with a new heavens and a new earth! All will praise Him! The whole earth will be redeemed and be like the New Temple - nothing unclean! Babylon will be gone. New bodies! The devil will be in the Lake of Fire. God will know us all by names and know our story! He will dwell with us and Jesus will be enthroned - He will reign forever!
He didn't take much notice of the Cross - He was so besotted with these people He was bringing in! We are the Bride! What has He got for us?
"The greatest labour of love that ever happened was possible because of the greatest imaginable joy" (John Piper).
Let's run this race and glorify Him and be to Him a joy! We are at the end of the beginning and have barely started!