I received a letter from my bank manager asking whether I could meet with him last week. Seeing your bank manager is like taking a trip to the dentist, you’re sure they’re both going to find a big hole and that they will come up with some pretty painful and expensive way to try and fill it.
When you read the gospels you find that Jesus has a surprising amount to say about money. It’s pretty high up on his agenda. But Jesus isn’t primarily concerned to tell us we’ve got too much money or too little, nor to advise us to spend it, save it or even give it away. He focuses in on money to show us that money and our attitude to it reveals something much more fundamental about ourselves.
In the sermon on the mount Jesus says:
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Jesus wants you and me to recognise that money and the thought of what it might buy us has a certain power over us. One survey in the US asked people what they would do for a million dollars. Forty-two percent said they would be willing to spend time in jail, never see their best friend again, move permanently to a foreign country, or throw their pet off a cliff!
1) We all serve someone
The words are so familiar it’s easy to overlook the big surprise in Jesus’ words. He doesn’t say you can either serve God or you can go out and have a good time. Jesus insists that your life is a life given in service of a master.
Such an idea runs counter to how we think of ourselves and how we would describe our lives. We prefer the language of personal freedom. We like to say we’re in control and yet here is Jesus saying, to quote one friend of mine, ‘if you will not let yourself be owned by God you will be owned by something else’.
In describing life as a decision to choose who we will serve, Jesus is saying every human being serves someone or something in the hope that it will bring a reward. The think we serve becomes to use the language of Tim Keller our functional god. It’s the thing that has first place in our hearts, has the greatest call on our time, is the very thing that we are ready to sacrifice for (maybe even our pet for!).
What Jesus shows us in the sermon on the mount is that for many people money is the thing we serve. Money has a power over us and that means money calls the shots. It has an authority over our decisions, it dictates our priorities, it rules our hearts and governs our emotions. So much so that we lose sleep when we don’t have enough, no matter how much we have we need more and we are even prepared to hate those who have more than we do.
Psychologist Oliver James’s book Affluenza highlights just what has happened to us as a result of serving money. He writes;
The great majority of people in English-speaking nations (Britain, America, Australia, Canada, Singapore) now define themselves through earnings, possessions, appearances and celebrity,
Materialism is to place our trust in money. To ask it to provide for us, to protect us, to make us happy and in return we promise to serve it.
But here’s the second surprise from Jesus. Not only do we all serve one master but it’s impossible to serve two masters.
2) We can’t serve two masters
Someone has to have the final say. Someone has to come first and Jesus says whatever that is is your God. That’s why Jesus says no-one can serve two masters – it’s not that it’s quite a hard thing to do it’s because it is a logical impossibility.
You might be able to hold down two jobs, you can have two hobbies, you can share you’re love between two children but no-one can Continue reading »
Imagine you switched on the TV to find your pastor being interviewed by a member of the congregation on prime-time TV and that the interview lasted over 5 minutes and focused on the claims of Christ from the gospel of Mark! Only in America?
Tim Keller’s new book is called King’s Cross and subtitled ‘the story of the world in the life of Jesus’. The book is based on a sermon series given at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. Having listened to quite a few of the sermons from the series I’m looking forward to reading the book. What’s more it would make a perfect Easter present for any willing to take a closer look at the person of Jesus.
According to Philip Jenkins, author of The Next Christendom and a leading authority on church trends the world is undergoing a religious revolution in which the church is growing at a phenomenal and unprecedented rate.
The Charlotte Observer newspaper reports on a recent talk he gave where he highlighted some of the extraordinary things God is doing:
In the 20th century, about half of the people on the African continent moved from a tribal or pagan religion to either Christianity or Islam. And Christians outpaced Muslims considerably, by a margin of about 4 to 1.
In the 20th century, Africa – long a continent of European colonies, with missionaries running schools, medical clinics and churches – went from 10 percent Christian to 46 percent Christian.
And then get this: From just 10 million Christians in Africa in 1900, the figures rose to something like 363 million in 2000. Projecting forward Jenkins estimates a figure of 500 million by 2015 and a staggering 1 billion by 2050.
‘They will proclaim my glory among the nations’ – Isaiah 66:19
For a helpful review of the book you might like to read this.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
CS Lewis – The Four Loves
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 John 4:9-12
NAMES, APPELLATIONS, AND TITLES OF JESUS: (taken from Naves Topical Bible)
- Adam - 1Corinthians 15:45
- Advocate - 1John 2:1
- Almighty- Revelation 1:8
- Alpha and Omega - Revelation 1:8
- Amen - Revelation 3:14
- Angel - Genesis 48:16; Exodus 23:20,21
- Angel of his presence - Isaiah 63:9
- Anointed - Psalms 2:2
- Apostle - Hebrews 3:1
- Arm of the Lord - Isaiah 51:9,10
- Author and Finisher of our faith - Hebrews 12:2
- Beginning and end of the creation of God - Revelation 3:14; 22:13
- Beloved - Ephesians 1:6
- Blessed and only Potentate - 1Timothy 6:15
- Branch - Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 3:8
- Bread of life - John 6:48
- Bridegroom - Matthew 9:15
- Bright and Morning Star - Revelation 22:16
- Brightness of the Father’s glory - Hebrews 1:3
- Captain of the Lord’s host (army) - Joshua 5:14
- Captain of Salvation - Hebrews 2:10
- Carpenter - Mark 6:3
- Carpenter’s son - Matthew 13:55
- Chief Shepherd - 1Peter 5:4
- Chief Cornerstone - 1Peter 2:6
- Chiefest among ten thousand - Solomon 5:10
- Child - Isaiah 9:6; Luke 2:27,43
- Chosen of God - 1Peter 2:4
- Christ - Matthew 1:16; Luke 9:20
- The Christ (Messiah) - Matthew 16:20; Mark 14:61
- Christ, a King - Luke 23:2
- Christ Jesus - Acts 19:4; Romans 3:24; 8:1; 1Corinthians 1:2,30; Hebrews 3:1; 1Peter 5:10,14
- Christ Jesus our Lord - 1Timothy 1:12; Romans 8:39
- Christ of God - Luke 9:20
- Christ, the chosen of God - Luke 23:35
- Christ the Lord - Luke 2:11
- Christ, the power of God – 1Corinthians 1:24
- Christ the wisdom of God - 1Corinthians 1:24
- Christ, the Son of God - Acts 9:20
- Christ, Son of the Blessed - Mark 14:61
- Commander - Isaiah 55:4
- Consolation of Israel - Luke 2:25
- Cornerstone - Ephesians 2:20
- Counselor - Isaiah 9:6
- Covenant of the people - Isaiah 42:6
- David - Jeremiah 30:9
- Daysman - Job 9:33
- Dayspring - Luke 1:78
- Day Star - 2Peter 1:19
- Deliverer - Romans 11:26
- Desire of all nations - Haggai 2:7
- Door, the - John 10:7
- Elect - Isaiah 42:1
- Emmanuel - Isaiah 7:14
- Ensign - Isaiah 11:10
- Eternal Life - 1John 5:20
- Everlasting Father - Isaiah 9:6
- Faithful and True - Revelation 19:11
- Faithful Witness, the - Revelation 1:5
- Faithful and true witness, the - Revelation 3:14
- Finisher of faith - Hebrews 12:2
- First and last - Revelation 1:17; 2:8; 22:13
- First begotten - Hebrews 1:6 Continue reading »
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