St Peters Church Fish Hoek http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za To the Glory of God Tue, 24 May 2016 07:29:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Concise Theology by J.I. Packer http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/concise-theology-by-j-i-packer/ http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/concise-theology-by-j-i-packer/#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2016 13:22:50 +0000 http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/?p=3613 J.I. Packer’s “Concise Theology” is a thorough examination of the essentials of Christianity. For those not familiar with Packer, a Google search will reveal that Packer is a prolific author and considered one of the most significant theologians of the late 20th Century. “Concise Theology” is written from a Reformed and evangelical viewpoint. In the […]

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Concise Theology largerJ.I. Packer’s “Concise Theology” is a thorough examination of the essentials of Christianity. For those not familiar with Packer, a Google search will reveal that Packer is a prolific author and considered one of the most significant theologians of the late 20th Century. “Concise Theology” is written from a Reformed and evangelical viewpoint.

In the preface, Packer describes the work as “short studies on great subjects” and since the text is interspersed with a large number of biblical references, it’s a great platform from which to launch an investigation into myriad biblical topics. Despite its brevity, Packer is not guilty of oversimplification. The fact that the author refuses to condescend to his readers is borne out by the title of one of the book’s chapters: ‘Antinomianism’, which simply means being anti-law. “Concise Theology” would be a fantastic resource in fellowship groups, where difficult theological questions tend to arise often.

The book is divided into four sections, namely 1) God Revealed as Creator; 2) God Revealed as Redeemer; 3) God Revealed as Lord of Grace; and 4) God Revealed as Lord of Destiny. It contains chapters devoted to topics familiar to most such as Revelation, Omniscience, Trinity, Original Sin, Justification, Marriage and the Family. It also covers topics that are perhaps less widely discussed like Angels, Demons, Satan, Enterprise, Discipline, Unpardonable Sin, Heaven and Hell. Packer also examines complex topics that are often the subject of divergent views such as Predestination, the Two Natures of Jesus, Definite Redemption, Election, and the Sacraments. I cannot overstate how informative I found the book; I feel I’m on much firmer Theological ground having read it!

Packer states in the book’s preface that ‘theology is for… the praise of God and the practice of godliness.’ Since our church mission instructs us to bring glory to God, the relevance of Theology to us as members of St Peters cannot be doubted. As all Theology begins with thinking and speaking about God, we can be confident that these pursuits bring glory to our Father. I therefore encourage everyone to read “Concise Theology: A guide to Historic Christian Beliefs.

Review by Craig Webber

If you would like to order a copy of Concise Theology, please click on the following links…

  1. Takealot
  2. Christian Book Discounters
  3. Loot

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The 2016 Reading Challenge http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/the-2016-reading-challenge/ http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/the-2016-reading-challenge/#comments Tue, 16 Feb 2016 10:28:02 +0000 http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/?p=3487 As you hopefully know, at St. Peters we seek to motivate our church family to be avid readers of good Christian literature. This is why we have the “Book of the Term“. Yet, maybe you would like to challenge yourself this year to get into the healthy habit of reading books. If so, why don’t […]

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As you hopefully know, at St. Peters we seek to motivate our church family to be avid readers of good Christian literature. This is why we have the “Book of the Term“. Yet, maybe you would like to challenge yourself this year to get into the healthy habit of reading books.

If so, why don’t you join the 2016 Reading Challenge? Click on the following link to get more info: 2016 Reading Challenge

Find a comfy spot, grab a snack, find something warm (or cool) to drink, and start reading!

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Recommended books from the “If I were God…” series http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/recommended-books-from-the-if-i-were-god-series/ http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/recommended-books-from-the-if-i-were-god-series/#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 08:12:10 +0000 http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/?p=3480 During the recent “If I were God…” series I received a number of queries about books that might be helpful for extra reading on the particular topics that we covered. So here’s a list of some of the books and articles that were especially helpful in preparing for the series. Please click on the following link to open the list of books: […]

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I-were-God-website-1During the recent If I were God… series I received a number of queries about books that might be helpful for extra reading on the particular topics that we covered. So here’s a list of some of the books and articles that were especially helpful in preparing for the series.

Please click on the following link to open the list of books: Details of books used in the If I were God series

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Why Fellowship Groups? http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/why-fellowship-groups/ http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/why-fellowship-groups/#comments Mon, 01 Feb 2016 09:34:32 +0000 http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/?p=3441 Looking at the Bible… Understanding our privilege… 1 Pet. 2:5-9 When God rescued Israel at the Exodus, it was always God’s purpose to create for Himself a people who would be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6); a people who would be dedicated to the service of God and one another. Yet, this […]

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Looking at the Bible…

  • Understanding our privilege… 1 Pet. 2:5-9

When God rescued Israel at the Exodus, it was always God’s purpose to create for Himself a people who would be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6); a people who would be dedicated to the service of God and one another. Yet, this task of priestly service was eventually dedicated to the Levites, due to the Levite tribe siding with the Lord during Israel’s idolatrous worship of the golden calf (cf. Ex. 32). In the end, it was the Levites who “may do the service of the LORD” (Num. 8:6-26).

Nevertheless, as history progressed, even the Levitical priesthood failed in its service of God and the people; as Nehemiah laments in Neh. 9:34, “Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them.” The priests have, as the prophet Ezekiel points out, “profaned/dishonoured” God’s name (Ezk. 22:26).

Yet, according to Ezekiel 36:20-38, a day will come when God will vindicate His name among the nations, not allowing His people to continually profane His holy name by how they live. He will sprinkle them clean and cleanse them from their idols (v. 25) and will remove their rebellious hearts (v. 26) and place His Spirit within them so that they will follow Him (v. 27). According to Isaiah 61:1-6, the restoration of God’s people will take place with the arrival of the LORD’s Servant. When the LORD’s Servant appears and accomplishes His work of restoration, God’s people, “will be called priests to the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God” (v. 6).

The hope which Ezekiel and Isaiah looked forward to was fulfilled when Jesus took the scroll of Isaiah, read Isaiah 61 and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk. 4:21). God’s Servant had come to restore God’s people. Jesus had come as God the Father’s ultimate High Priest who would supersede, complete or fulfil the priesthood of the Levites (Heb. 7-8). And Jesus would accomplish what the priesthood of the Levites never could; by sacrificing His own blood as our High Priest, He “has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Heb. 10:14).

Through Christ’s High Priestly work of presenting Himself as a sacrifice of atonement (Heb. 2:17), He has accomplished what Isaiah looked forward to, “You were slain and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom of priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10). What God revealed in Ex. 19:6, was fulfilled in Christ’s work of creating a kingdom of priests (the church) by His sacrifice. Now, in Christ, we are priests to God and one another, as the Apostle Peter declares, “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). We are, as God’s consecrated people, a holy-royal priesthood who have the joy of entering God’s presence in worship and proclaiming His Word to the nations.

Having this new identity of being God’s priesthood, His church, comes responsibility…

  • Our Responsibility… Heb. 10:22-25

Knowing what Christ has accomplished for us as our High Priest (Heb. 10:19-21); the author of Hebrews gives us a series of commands that should form every Christian’s response to the Gospel (Heb. 10:22-25). What should be noted is that these commands are all in the plural, “Let us…” These commands are to the entire church. We should apply them together as God’s people.

  1. Draw near to God… (v. 22)

If Christ has indeed removed the barrier between us and God through His High Priestly work (vv. 19-21), then the first obvious response is to seize our incredible opportunity of having direct access to God (cf. Heb. 4:16). If indeed we have received a “sincere/true heart” that has complete trust in God the Father’s work in Christ in cleansing us from our sins (Jer. 31:33; Ezk. 36:26-27) then we should use every opportunity to worship God in His presence; whether it be by prayer (Heb. 4:16) or general worship as God’s people together. The Christian life, the life of the church, is a life of “Coram Deo” (living before the face of/in the presence of God).

Yet, as we draw near to God continually in our worship, we should also continually…

2. Hold fast… (v. 23)

Hebrews 10:12-14 reminds us that Jesus’ High Priestly sacrifice is final and complete. His work on the Cross has “made perfect forever those who are being made holy”. Moreover, in Heb. 6:17-18, we are reminded that we can fully trust in God the Father’s word and work in Christ since, “it is impossible for God to lie”. He is “faithful” (Heb. 10:23). The work of Christ is final, complete and unchangeable. Consequently, rather than doubting Christ’s work (Heb. 3:6, 14; 4:14), we should continually together, “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering”. In Christ we have an incredible hope of living our entire lives Coram Deo (in God’s presence). As God’s people, we should never waver in it or let go of it.

3. Encourage… (vv. 24-25)

With our faith in Christ’s work (v. 22) and our hope held unto (v. 23), the final exhortations are for that faith and hope to flow into love (v. 24). The end/goal of our faith and hope is for us as a Christian community to live lives of love (cf. 1 Cor. 13:13). Living in God’s presence (v. 22) is living a life that reflects His character of love (1 Jn. 4:15). Knowing the importance of this, the final command calls the Christian community to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (v. 24; cf. Heb. 3:13). As a church, we should continually be thinking about ways in which we can “stir up/motivate” one another to live lives of love and good works. The idea here is to deeply, passionately move one another to live the Christian life.

The only way we can apply v. 24, is if God’s people continue to meet together, as v. 25 continues, “Let us not give up meeting together”. The context for cultivating lives of love is the community of God’s people. You cannot stir yourself up to live the Christian life of love in isolation from God’s family, the priesthood of believers. You need the Christian community to live the Christian life.

Why are all these commands important? Apart from looking back at what Christ has done (vv. 19-21), we are also encouraged to look forward to what Christ will do (v. 25). We should urgently draw near, hold fast, and spur on, in the context of meeting together as God’s people, because “the Day of the Lord is approaching”. Christ will return to “save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Heb. 9:28). The judgment-salvation that took place at the Cross and the judgment-salvation that will take place at the Second Coming of Christ should motivate us daily to live lives Coram Deo as God’s people together.

Apart from the Sunday services, the goal of Fellowship Groups is to 1) enjoy our new identity of being a priesthood of believers, but also to 2) practice what we are commanded to do in Heb. 10:22-25. It is in the context of Fellowship Groups that we should exercise our priestly service of drawing near to God together, holding fast to our hope together, and always thinking of ways to stir one another in love and good works together.

Why specifically fellowship groups? To answer that we need to take…

A brief excursion in history…

  1. Reformation: 16th Century… Laying the foundations for Protestant Churches

In Calvin’s Institutes (4.1.1), Calvin explains that although God is our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier, God has chosen to work His plan of salvation through the Church. It is into the “church” that “God is pleased to collect his children, not only that by her aid and ministry they may be nourished so long as they are babes and children, but may also be guided by her maternal care until they grow up to manhood, and, finally, attain to the perfection of faith” (cf. Eph. 2:11-22; 4:1-13). This is done by the greatest treasure God has given the church, “the effectual preaching/proclamation of the gospel”, God’s Word, but also the visible word of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism, which “helps in fostering and confirming our faith”.

Commenting on Heb. 10:25, Calvin explains that it is the responsibility of every member of the church, the priesthood of all believers, to do the following, “all the godly ought by all means possible to exert themselves in the work of gathering together the Church on every side; for we are called by the Lord on this condition, that everyone should afterwards strive to lead others to the truth, to restore the wandering to the right way, to extend a helping hand to the fallen, to win over those who are without.”

Similar to Calvin, Martin Luther writes in his Larger Catechism that it is through the Church that the Holy Spirit works in forming God’s people into mature Christians, “I believe that the Holy Spirit makes me holy, as His name implies. But whereby does He accomplish this, or what are His method and means to this end? Answer: By the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. For, in the first place, He has a peculiar congregation in the world, which is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God, which He reveals and preaches, [and through which] He illumines and enkindles hearts, that they understand, accept it, cling to it, and persevere in it.” And as Luther continues, the word “church” should not be understood to be the building or institution, but the community of saints. It is through the community of saints, the priesthood of all believers, sharing God’s Word with one another that God the Holy Spirit works.

To some extent, Calvin and Luther’s position of the priesthood of all believers is summarized in the 1563 Heidelberg Catechism’s Question 55, “What do you understand by the communion of saints? First, that believers, all and everyone, as members of Christ have communion with him and share in all his treasures and gifts (Rom. 8:32; 1 Cor. 6:17; 12:4-13; 1 Jn. 1:3).  Second, that everyone is duty-bound to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the benefit and well-being of the other members (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:20-27; 13:1-7; Phil. 2:4-8).”

  1. The Pietistic Movement: 17th Century… Refining our belief… The beginning of small groups…

Although Calvin, Luther and other Reformers promoted the “priesthood of all believers”, they did not fully explore all the implications of what they were teaching. Their primary aim was to differentiate between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Yet, it was during the 17th Century that one particular theologian/pastor sought to fully apply the notion of the “priesthood of all believers”, namely Philip Spener (1635-1705). During Spener’s time, Protestantism was embroiled in many doctrinal debates that absorbed much of its energy. Within Spener’s denomination at the time (Lutheran), members were primarily expected only to know their catechisms well, attend the Sunday service and partake in the sacraments. Very little was said regarding how their catechistical instruction impacts day to day life. Yet, being influenced by the writings of Richard Baxter, it was Spener’s aim to motivate true Christian living that matches their doctrinal beliefs. In many ways, Spener sought to apply Heb. 10:24, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds”.

In 1666, Spener became the chief pastor in Frankfurt. Wanting to motivate “Christian piety/devotion”, Spener began to organize his church into small groups of people who would meet to read and study the Bible, pray together and discuss the implications of the Sunday sermon. These gatherings he called “collegia pietatis” (colleges of devotion) and considered them “ecclesiolae in ecclesia” (little churches in a church). It was in this small group context where Spener sought to motivate and apply the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.

  1. The Impact of Spener’s small groups… 18th Century onwards…

Spener’s desire to see these small groups motivate Christian devotion, groups that would “consider how to spur one another on towards love and good works” (Heb. 10:24), had an incredible impact on Protestant churches for centuries. We’ll look at two examples…

a) Count Zinzendorf and the Moravian Church

Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf was a descendant of an Austrian noble family. His father was a close friend of Spener, who subsequently became Nikolaus’ godfather. When Nikolaus turned 20 (1720), with a part of his patrimony, he purchased his grandmother’s estate Betheldorf, becoming the Count of Betheldorf. While in Betheldorf, Count Zinzendorf was approached by Christian David, a leader of the remnant of John Huss’ followers, known as the Unitas Fratrum (united brethren). Christian David asked Count Zinzendorf for asylum on his estate due to the mass persecution of Huss’ followers. Granting them permission to stay on the Betheldorf Estate, by 1727 several hundred of the Brethren had sought refuge at Betheldorf.

Count Zinzendorf saw it as his life-long mission to reorganize the Unitas Fratrum to become a great missionary enterprise that would reach the world for Christ. On his estate he designated an area where the community established the town “Herrnhut” (the Lord’s Lodge). Being an ardent admirer of Spener, Count Zinzendorf applied Spener’s principle of small groups (ecclesiolae in ecclesia) and renamed the Unitas Fratrum to be the Moravian Church, since most of them came from Moravia.

Ultimately, through the small group structure, the Moravian Church as a whole was captured by the vision to share the Gospel in all the corners of the world, becoming the first Protestant missionary movement. Through their endeavours they planted the first Protestant missions in Africa (being the first missionaries in South Africa), Asia, Greenland, Lapland, Alaska and among the American Indians. They stirred one another up to great works of love.

b) John Wesley’s Methodism

In 1738, both John and Charles Wesley became acquainted with the Moravian Church. In particular, John Wesley spent time with the Moravians and Count Zinzendorf in order to understand their church life and theology. As an evangelist and pastor, John Wesley had a deep desire to conserve and develop the religious life of every person who responded to the call of the Gospel. Knowing his personal limits, John Wesley organized all the converts from his preaching into societies (churches). These societies were divided up into classes of twelve and each class had a class leader (small groups and small group leaders). It was from these “classes” that many lay-preachers arose that John Wesley would use for evangelism as well as pastoral duties in various societies. He also wrote extensive material to equip and instruct his lay-preachers in their duties.

The impact of John Wesley’s societies-classes movement was tremendous. Secular historians have even argued that it was primarily due to John Wesley’s Methodist movement that England was socially transformed and spared from a bloody revolution, not going the route of the French Revolution. Moreover, Wesley’s work would influence men such as John Newton (hymn writer), William Cooper (the greatest English poet of his age), William Wilberforce (instrumental to the abolition of slavery), John Howard (who reformed the English prison system) and Robert Raikes (the father of the Sunday School movement). John Wesley’s societies-classes stirred a nation to love and good works.

In Conclusion…

Fellowship Groups are not merely “nice-to-have” or something we just do. Fellowship Groups are one of the best ways we can practice our privilege of being a priesthood of believers, drawing near to God together and encouraging one another in love and good works. As history teaches us, if we remain faithful to our identity (priests with Christ as our High Priest), the impact can be immense.

May God the Holy Spirit, through our fellowship groups, stir His people to love and good works, so that God the Father and Son may be glorified in this Valley! “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven!” (Matt. 5:16).

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Prayer and the Voice of God by Phillip Jensen and Tony Payne http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/prayer-and-the-voice-of-god-by-phillip-jensen-and-tony-payne/ http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/prayer-and-the-voice-of-god-by-phillip-jensen-and-tony-payne/#comments Fri, 15 Jan 2016 14:16:18 +0000 http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/?p=3364 In Luke 11:1, one of Jesus’ disciples asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray…” And I am sure that is the request many of us have as well.  We are told in Phil. 4:6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God“. We […]

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In Luke 11:1, one of Jesus’ disciples asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray…” And I am sure that is the request many of us have as well.  We are told in Phil. 4:6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God“. We are told in James 5:16 prayer-and-the-voice-of-godthat, “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective“. We would love to put into practice and experience what these verses talk about, yet we do not really know what prayer actually is or how prayer actually works. And even if we might know something about prayer and how it works, we might wonder whether our prayers actually make a difference. Does God really listen and change the course of history if someone as insignificant as myself prays?

If you are a person who would love to know what prayer is, how prayer works and why prayer is such an important part of the Christian life, then “Prayer and the Voice of God” by Phillip Jensen and Tony Payne is a must read. In many ways, “Prayer and the Voice of God” sets out to explain all the ABC’s of prayer; from what prayer is to whom the God of prayer is. It seeks to answer the questions regarding why we should pray and what happens when we pray.

Whereas the book seeks to answer all the big questions on prayer, it is also a book written in a very accessible way. Its content is packaged in such a way that it is easy to read, relate to and understand. If anything, “Prayer and the Voice of God” will motivate you to rejuvenate your prayer-life and experience the joy of prayer.

If you would like to order the book online, you can click on the following link…

  1. Prayer and the Voice of God: Christian Book Discounters 

Otherwise, if you would like purchase the book from the church office, please contact the church office (021 – 785 6682).

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Risk is Right by John Piper http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/risk-is-right-by-john-piper/ http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/risk-is-right-by-john-piper/#comments Mon, 12 Oct 2015 14:22:29 +0000 http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/?p=3193 Life is a very uncertain business. James 4:13-17 reminds us that no person can guarantee whether tomorrow will actually happen or not. No person can with 100% certainty say that their plans will work out, “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a […]

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Life is a very uncertain business. James 4:13-17 reminds us that no person can guarantee whether tomorrow will actually happen or not. No person can with 100% certainty say that their plans will work out, “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Yet, as uncertain as tomorrow might be, Jesus calls every Christian to sacrificially risk their lives for Him in living and sharing the Gospel (Mark 8:34; Matt. 28:18-20). Living the Christian life is not a risk free life, but it is the only life worth living. Yet, how will we able to walk the path of risk Jesus is calling us to?full_risk-is-right

Keeping the above in mind, John Piper’s little book “Risk is Right: Better to lose your life than to waste it” is a timely answer to this. It is a fantastic short read (just 51 pages) that deals with the age old question, “should I risk for God or play it safe, consolidate and retreat?” Throughout the book, Piper seeks to answer the question by looking at biblical examples of people in the Old- and New Testament who have risked it for God or who have not risked it for God and what impact their decisions made in the end.

Although Piper’s book is a short and easy read, its content has tremendous implications for our daily lives. In the book Piper seeks to remind us that although life might seem risky and uncertain from our side (we don’t know what tomorrow will bring), God knows everything, is in control of everything, and never risks anything (since He has determined the future outcome of everything). It is a call to every Christian to place their trust in who God is and His Word and to live a life of risk. Yet, not all risk is good or God-glorifying. The book also explores various right and wrong reasons for living a life of risk.

And here is the best part… “Risk is Right” is FREE as a downloadable PDF (which you can read on your computer, Tablet or Cellphone)! This is an incredible little book that is worth reading!

For the Free PDF download click on this link: Risk is Right 

For the Audio version of the book: christianaudio.com

For the hard copy version (which is not free): loot.co.za

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Avoiding Partiality… A neglected truth in James http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/avoiding-impartiality-a-neglected-truth-in-james/ http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/avoiding-impartiality-a-neglected-truth-in-james/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 08:53:26 +0000 http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/?p=3108 Avoiding partiality – By Sean Savides  As South Africans we are no strangers to impartiality. We are no strangers to the concept of favouritism, or its twin brother discrimination. We see partiality all around us. We see it in our country’s history, we see it in our current government, we see it in business and […]

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Avoiding partiality – By Sean Savides Church blurred

As South Africans we are no strangers to impartiality. We are no strangers to the concept of favouritism, or its twin brother discrimination. We see partiality all around us. We see it in our country’s history, we see it in our current government, we see it in business and sport, we see it in Xenophobia, and we see it in our own hearts.

The Bible is clear that favouritism is a sin and God calls us to avoid discrimination. There are a number of places we can turn to, but none clearer and more poignant than James 2:1-13.

Getting the main idea…

Here James uses an example from the early church. He speaks against discriminating against the poor and favouring the rich. This was clearly a particular problem for the early church, and still continues to be a problem today. Many sermons have been preached, and books written, about the rich and the poor from James’ letter, but two things must be remembered when reading these verses.

Firstly, James is addressing Christians. He is speaking (first and foremost) to the church about how we treat one another. In v. 1 he addresses his audience as brothers (or brothers and sisters), believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. So James is not talking mainly about how we treat outsiders or even visitors on a Sunday. He is talking mainly about how we treat one another within the body of believers.

Secondly, James is using the rich and the poor as one example of favouritism/discrimination. This passage is not only about the rich and the poor. The principle can, and must, be applied more broadly. We so easily discriminate against people based on their age, their sex, their social standing, their education, their personality, their race, their culture etc. Truth is, we show partiality based on pretty much every single human character trait. Often against those who are different to us, or do not have much to offer us, or who pose some sort of threat to us. And when we judge people based on things they cannot do anything about (the way God has made them) then we “… become judges with evil thoughts…” (v4). And when we do this we actually undermine the God who created them. We place ourselves above Him.

Of course James is not talking about sin. He is talking about neutral attributes that people possess that we (sinful) human beings then judge them on. Sinful thoughts, deeds and attributes, which go against the Bible’s teaching, are surely to be condemned and battled by the believer.

Well, James goes on the give a few reasons why showing partiality is wrong. Here are a few of the things this passage touches on:

Reason 1: Partiality is not God’s way (vv. 5-7)

James nails discrimination and favouritism by explaining that it is not how God acts. In fact, says James, God has chosen those who are often despised and he has given them faith and promised them his kingdom (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29). God shows no partiality. He uses foolish things, weak things, poor things, lowly things, despised things, ordinary things (and people) to accomplish his plans. Things and people that the world looks down on… God raises up, blesses and uses (cf. Deuteronomy 10:17&18).

James is calling on Christians to be impartial, just as our God is impartial. In fact, we are to take special care of those who are less fortunate, or vulnerable, or different to us – because that is what God does!

Reason 2: Partiality is sin – it breaks God’s law (vv. 8-11)

We cannot hide away from or cover-up our discrimination: “Look, I’ve done a bunch of good things. I give money to the poor, I help in Sunday school, I come to church every Sunday, I even try keeping the laws of the country… But, I’m going to keep thinking that some people are better than others…” All of us, if we are honest, give special attention to some people and act condescendingly towards others. Our default is to judge with our evil thoughts and we break God’s law in the process. We are all woeful sinners in this area!

Thirdly and lastly…

Reason 3: Partiality will result in God’s judgment (v12-13)

James is very clear in vv. 12&13 that those who are law-breakers will face God’s judgment. Judgment without mercy will be shown to all those who have shown partiality towards others. Surely, we cannot expect God to act mercifully towards us if we are not prepared to show mercy to others. Discrimination shows that we lack mercy and will therefore come under judgmentCross Blurred.

And notice the answer to the favoritism and discrimination that flows so naturally from our sinful hearts. The answer is: mercy. We are to treat others kindly, with compassion, and sympathy, and understanding… That’s what God does, and that’s at the heart of “loving our neighbor as ourselves”.

Notice the humdinger at the end of this section: Mercy triumphs over judgment. Those who act mercifully towards others will experience God’s mercy and they will avoid his judgment. What a profound phrase… Think about it… We cannot expect God to not discriminate against us (and show us mercy) if we are not prepared to fight our sinful tendencies to discriminate against others.

The gospel of the Lord Jesus tells us that there is forgiveness to be found in Him for the sin that fills our hearts. Pray that God will forgive our sins of partiality and that He will help us to love all His people, just the way He has made us.

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Living in South Africa Today http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/living-in-south-africa-today/ http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/living-in-south-africa-today/#comments Sat, 22 Aug 2015 19:16:35 +0000 http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/?p=2973 What do you think about living in South Africa today? Click here to take our survey.

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What do you think about living in South Africa today?

Click here to take our survey.

living in SA 2

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Book of the Term: When Grace Comes Home by Terry Johnson http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/book-of-the-term-when-grace-comes-home-by-terry-johnson/ http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/book-of-the-term-when-grace-comes-home-by-terry-johnson/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 10:34:09 +0000 http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/?p=2932 From the beginning Terry Johnson explains the aim of his book (When Grace Comes Home), “The goal of this book is practical divinity. What difference does it make if you believe the doctrines of man’s total depravity and God’s total sovereignty? Does it really make an impact upon one’s life?” Emphatically, Johnson answers with a […]

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From the beginning Terry Johnson explains the aim of his book (When Grace Comes Home), “The goal of this book is practical divinity. What difference does it make if you believe the doctrines of man’s total depravity and God’s total sovereignty? Does it really make an impact upon one’s life?” Emphatically, Johnson answers with a resounding “yes”. Throughout this small, but comprehensive book, Johnson demonstrates vividly why it is a resounding yes.GraceHome1

Pastorally, Johnson shows how the belief in the grace/sovereignty of God changes how we worship, how we view and deal with suffering; how it changes our outlook on life, our prayer life, our evangelism (witness), how we change to be more like Jesus, our assurance in the Gospel, Christian liberty, how we find God’s “will” for our lives in guidance. When taken to heart and applied, this book is a life-changing one, since, as Johnson puts it, it deals with the Gospel.

Keeping the above in mind, it shouldn’t surprise us that this book is written with a lot of passion, boldness and conviction. There is an urgency in Johnson’s writing seeking to persuade the reader that the belief and application of God’s sovereignty is not an optional belief or a “nice to have”, but absolutely essential for Christian life. In fact, not believing in God’s sovereignty, as Johnson continually demonstrates, has devastating consequences for the Christian life. God’s sovereignty makes the Christian life possible.

Although the book contains a number of Americanisms (since the book was originally written for an American audience), it is timeless in its content; as J.I. Packer puts it, “Rarely can the vitamin content of sweet, strong, classic pastoral Calvinism have been made so plain and palatable as it is here”. In many ways, this book will encourage you and challenge you, but it will not leave you unmoved. This is the Christian Faith in action.

To order, please contact the church office:

1) Email: office@stpetersfishhoek.org.za

2) Tel: 021 – 785 6682

3) Price: R 180

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Getting the right attitude Part 1: The Danger of Pride http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/getting-the-right-attitude-part-1-the-danger-of-pride/ http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/getting-the-right-attitude-part-1-the-danger-of-pride/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 13:43:05 +0000 http://www.stpetersfishhoek.org.za/?p=2448 As a student, one is often told that you need to approach a subject “objectively”, by which they mean we need to come to a subject without any hidden agendas or motives that will make us biased/prejudiced/subjective to the facts. A subject is only useful and beneficial if you actually allow the subject to teach […]

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As a student, one is often told that you need to approach a subject “objectively”, by which they mean we need to come to a subject without any hidden agendas or motives that will make us biased/prejudiced/subjective to the facts. A subject is only useful and beneficial if you actually allow the subject to teach you, rather than you judging the subject. In a similar way, when we approach the Word of God (the Bible), we should realize that we cannot approach the Bible in any way we like. In fact, there is a wrong and a right way to approach God’s Word that will determine whether you will be changed by the Bible or be a judge of the Bible.

A wrong attitude: PrideIce blurred

In many ways, sinful pride can be summarized by the serpent’s answer to Eve in Gen. 3:5, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”. Basically, an aspect of sinful pride is the attitude where we think we can know right and wrong, good and evil, truth and lie, without God or independent from God. Where we consider our own thinking and desires to be “god-like”, or we consider ourselves to be wise apart from God.

As Ps. 10:4 points out, a person who has this type of pride, generally will not even bother to know God, since he/she wouldn’t see the need to know God, “The wicked are too proud to seek God. They seem to think that God is dead.” (NLT) Pride blinds us in this way. Apart from our own proud attitude, God’s response to this type of pride is quite severe. Jesus points out that to those who are proud in their own wisdom (thinking they are wise), God has “hidden” His truth (Lk. 10:21). Similarly, Paul reminds us in Rom. 1:21-23, that people who claim to be wise in their own eyes are actually, “futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened”. For those who think they are wise, proud in their own understanding, Paul points out, “Christ crucified” would seem like “folly” (1 Cor. 1:20).

When we approach the Bible, the only way we will ever learn from it, is if we don’t place ourselves above it; if we don’t think our understanding is superior to the Bible or more “progressive” or “advanced” or “sophisticated” or “more wise”. This struggle generally comes out when we encounter something in the Bible that is not like the “wisdom” of our culture, but contrary to our culture. For example, in a culture that aims to avoid any form of pain/discomfort, Jesus’ words, “Blessed are those who are persecuted” (Matt. 5:10) seem foolish. In a culture where it is believed that all life ends after death, Jesus words, “Store for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matt. 6:20) seem foolish.  In a culture which promotes free sex and cohabiting, the Bible’s words on celibacy and marriage (1 Cor. 7) seem foolish. Consequently, every time you encounter the Bible, you are faced with the question… Who is wise? The Bible or my culture? God or me? Pride would say “Me”. Humility would say, “God”.

A right attitude: humility

Originally, when you read Gen. 2:15-17, God gave Adam a command. God told Adam what was right and wrong and Adam had to trust God’s wisdom. Here we see the right attitude: Adam had to humbly accept God’s Word, His will, as true wisdom and to humbly trust God’s Word, His will, as being good. Sadly, Adam opted for Satan’s temptation to reject God’s Word and to doubt its credibility (Gen. 3:5-6). This is one of the important differences between Adam and Jesus. Adam doubted God’s Word and disobeyed. Jesus always trusted His Father’s Word and obeyed (Matt. 4:1-11; Jn. 5:19; Matt. 26:39; Lk. 22:42).

Yet, the original pattern of Gen. 2 remains true. God’s Word remains true wisdom, “The statues of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple” (Ps. 19:7).True wisdom and understanding is found when we humbly acknowledge our deep dependence on God’s revealed wisdom, the Bible, and seek to understand it, believe it and be conformed/obedient to it; as Paul would put it in Rom. 12:2, regarding the Gospel, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. We do this by placing ourselves under the Word of God and allowing it to teach us, rebuke us, correct us and train us. Only then do we become, “…competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

River Flow blurredTo use an analogy, when water becomes solid ice, it is generally hard and resistant. It will not bend or be moved easily. At best, if enough pressure or force is applied, it might chip or shatter. Nevertheless, when water melts and becomes a liquid, it can be channeled or moved into a desired direction. In a similar way, pride in our own wisdom makes our hearts like ice, immovable and resistant to God’s Word. Yet, to know God through His Word requires us to melt our hearts in humility and be allowed to be channeled by God’s Word according to His will.

True wisdom only comes when we recognize what our own wisdom is (folly) and realize that God’s Word alone is true wisdom, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.” (1 Cor. 3:18). When we cultivate this attitude, as 2nd century church father Tertullian put it, the following will happen, “God put forth a written record; if someone desires to inquire concerning God; being a seeker to find Him, he will believe in Him and serve Him… He who will listen, will find God; and again he who will learn to understand, will be compelled and believe” (Apologeticum, 18:1, 9).

In summary, a true Christian attitude would be to humbly seek to a) understand the Bible, b) believe it and then c) submit/be conformed to it. A wrong attitude would be to arrogantly a) refuse to understand the Bible, b) doubt it and c) rebel against it. “Give me understanding and I will keep your Law and obey it with all my heart” (Ps. 119:34) should be the prayer of every believer.

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