I have come that you may have life, and life in all its fullness.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Pete Hughes, XCS – Living in the story that brings fullness of life
FINDING FULLNESS – OR NOT
How can we experience life in all its fullness? What does it look like?
It looks like healing, deliverance, set free from demonic and addictive patterns of behaviour, drafted into a new community, having a cause to live for, joy and celebration – but there are also disappointments, persecution and pain. But there is a peace, a sense of purpose…
Do we agree that we fall short of the abundance?
THE EXODUS STORY starts with God’s call to Moses to travel to Egypt – God has heard the Israelites’ cries – and bring the Israelites out from under Pharaoh’s domination. Moses vacillates… Moses goes to Pharaoh. Pharaoh keeps on saying that it will never happen – right up to the crossing of the Red Sea. The Egyptian army, the most powerful anywhere, is right behind them as the water parts and then waves close on the army. After 400 years of slavery – all they have ever known for generations – the Israelites are finally free.
Moses ascends Mt Sinai and hears God tell him: “I am the source of all life, and I am choosing you as a nation. I am giving you the covenant –- that is how you stay closely connected.
Things go wrong, God is gracious, gives them a second chance. Bread from heaven sustains them.
They get to the land, they build a temple, have kings
But – they break the Torah. Not just in the desert, but all through the rule of judges and kings, and despite the the voices of the prophets. Exile threatens, and becomes reality. The Temple is destroyed. It is 400 years before Jesus, the Son of God, comes – and recalls these early events in His teaching on the mountain.
Now, back from exile, it is the Romans who are oppressing them and they haven’t had a prophet speak to them for 400 years. Not free to be the people God made them to be. So they cry out — “Send a second Moses, so we can be free!”
I have come that you may have life, and life in all its fullness
At the beginning of Jesus’s life as a child: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”(Matt. 2:15)
Contrast this with the transitions that are in Jesus’ life.
* He went to Egypt, returned from Egypt – literally.
* Came through the waters – baptism in River Jordan
* Experienced a desert period with temptations
* Taught the fundamentals of living God’s way (and reinterpreted the law) on a ‘mountain’. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn. He is pronouncing blessing (which was what the Torah was all about).
* Provision of bread in His assertion: “I am the bread of life”.
* Promised land of the New Creation, and new identity, new life as a precursor to eternal life.
The message of Matthew is: Jesus is your new Moses, the new liberator, whose Spirit – the Spirit that raised Him from the dead – is at work in us now.
JESUS HAS DONE EVERYTHING FOR US
This leaves us with a question – an important one to the 20s-30s generation. If Jesus has done everything necessary for us to experience fullness of life, why do we not see it? Or why do we seldom have the expectation of seeing it? This new life must be real, must work for us.
1. Rediscover God’s Power
We need to rediscover God’s power to save.
Egyptian culture was polytheistic, and to understand the plagues we need to understand that there was a god for every part of life – appeased by offerings. So there is the need to overpower the gods which were controlling them.
Derek Morphew, a Vineyard theologian suggests that in the first plague, the River Nile, supposed sacred abode of the Egyptian god Hapi turned to blood and so symbolised death of that god – it was about more than the water supply.
In subsequent plagues the livestock die. Bulls – which relate to the god Apis – cows, Isis and ram, Ammon. This is more than an attack on the food supply, these gods are being wiped out. Then the darkness, and the sun god Rah is blotted out. In the final plague Pharaoh’s firstborn dies, representing annihilation of Pharaoh’s deity. So the Israelites can walk out unimpeded.
How powerful is our God! But is He powerful enough to provide in the desert? Water? Giants? Promised land. Like the question we have: He is powerful enough for others around but – is he powerful enough to lift me out of my addictive patterns, my dysfunction, my shame? He is powerful enough for you!
Two journeys of liberation gong on simultaneously (N. T. Wright).
So from theology to psychology. Albert Ellis, a leading thinker in Cognitive Bheavioural Therapy, teaches about understanding the core beliefs that drive our behaviour, the activating event, the belief that ensues, and the consequences. In counselling, it it common to start with: “Tell me your story.” Then the discussion follows: “Maybe that’s why you started to believe such-and-such. Following the ABC, an activating event is found, from which develop certain beliefs, some rational and some not, which point to consequences.
This is commonplace. The one who has grown up in a broken marriage, feeling that somehow it was their fault. Maybe it was your first love and you gave yourself fully to it, but you were done over and your heart was broken. So now you believe you should hold everyone at a distance.
Pete told a personal story of how an accident with a hamster that got out and woke him up scratching on his chest led to a phobia of rats, which was unpacked using ABC. He recognised the (A) activating event and saw how it became (B) an irrational belief that rodents didn’t like him with the (C) consequences of the fear of concealed rats. He experienced healing in deconstructing irrational beliefs. Were the rats actually more scared of him? What was the worst that could happen, etc?
Jesus doesn’t say you have to deconstruct and replace irrational thoughts with rational ones. He provides a completely new activating event – His life, death and resurrection. When you begin to live in this story, Jesus’ story, it shapes your beliefs – you begin to think: “If He did that for me, He must actually like me, more than that, love me… must have a plan to use me in the extension of His kingdom and that gives me an identity, a hope and a future…
This shapes how you live life. It is a game changer.
The challenge is how you live in THIS story, rather than your story: “I’ll never be fulfilled until I am successful in my career…”, “…never be happy until I’m married…” or “…life will always be hard for me”. These are stories that rob us of fullness of life. How do we trade that story for THIS story that brings fullness of life?
1. Need to really indwell the narrative.
A story from slavery to the promised land, a story of redemptions that sweeps you along towards fullness.
Throw yourself into a community that is living in this story of Jesus – the local church. People have a fear of immersing themselves in local church –- they don’t want to be domesticated, tamed. That’s what they believe about the local church. But the greater danger is being domesticated by the world. If you follow the Lion of Judah, you will become lion-like, wild and adventurous and consumed by the vision of extending His kingdom in the world. Throw yourself all in.
And hang out with the storyteller – which is the greatest privilege of the Christian faith. Is God powerful enough for you? Yes – powerful enough to draft you into a new story.
2. Radical dependence on God
There is provision in the desert. God is trustworthy. “Give me today my daily bread…” Trust is better than backup plans.
3. Pursue the presence of God
How do we get to the Promised Land? There will be cloud by day, fire by night to follow. Seek and you will find… We have to learn to seek Him. Not being too busy to give time to real intercession.
Hanging out with God, being close to Him: We need Him. But for Him, when we do, it’s the best part of His day.