The sermon for September 30th 2018 is now available on the New Life web-site.
In this sermon, Margaret Baxter talks about Remembering Jesus
The announcement last week that Brian Houston was withdrawing his Hillsong church network from the Australian Christian Churches denomination cane as a surprise to people on the outside, but it was inevitable.
Pastor Brian Houston is a very successful church leader and founder of the original Hillsong megachurch. For a number of years he also served as state and national president of the ACC. Many ACC churches, large and small, have sought to emulate the style and success of Hillsong.
Meanwhile, Hillsong has planted churches around the world and has changed from being an Australian church with overseas churches to being a globally based organisation in its own right.
The movements have parted ways, on respectful and friendly terms. Hillsong will continue to relate to the ACC, but it is not clear how that relationship will progress.
Here are the reasons why I believe that Brian Houston is a true apostle:
I believe that the new Hillsong denomination is a part of the restructuring that the Holy Spirit is bringing to the church. Authority is increasingly flowing through personal relationships rather than man-made structures. We still need the structures but it is the father and son relationships that will increasingly mark the church of the 21st century.
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me.”
Some disciples tell Jesus that they saw a man casting out in His name and and they told him to stop doing it because he wasn’t a part of their group. Jesus tells them not to do this as anyone who is not opposed to them is for them.
It is better to rigorously remove sin from our lives, even removing parts of the body if necessary, than to maintain an intact body but go to hell.
Tribalism is strong amongst christians. We love to criticise those whom we think are less pure in doctrine than we are. Google any famous preacher’s name, and there will be a host of hate pages criticising their ministry.
I don’t like Benny Hinn’s style. There are many things that he does that make me cringe. But he has led many people to the Lord, and God has used him to heal countless people. When I am walking in that level of power and authority I might have the qualification to correct him.
Too many people spend too much time pulling other christians apart. Jesus urges us to be more tolerant.
Does this mean that we cannot ever judge ministers? Is everyone who claims to speak for Jesus above correction?
Not at all. Every pastor, preacher, and indeed every christian, needs to be accountable to the Body in some way.
Rather than being critical of people we disagree with or are not part of our group, we must focus on our own ministry, sharing the Good News with the people God has called us to. Then we can leave the judging to Jesus.
Lord, help me to be more open to brothers and sisters outside my “tribe” and to accept even those I choose to disagree with. Amen.
Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
Regardless of our situation we should pray. In hardship, pray. In happiness praise God. In sickness, get the elders to pray for you.
Confession and healing go together. Some sickness is caused by, or related to, sin. We should seek God’s forgiveness and then prayer for healing.
Righteous people pray powerful prayers. Elijah was just a man, but his prayers controlled the rain.
One of the keys to receiving healing is to make sure that we are right with God. Nobody is perfectly righteousness and so, in that sense, we can be prone to attacks from the enemy at our weak places. Confessing our sins enables the Holy Spirit to work more effectively in our lives.
When we are right with God and walking in humble obedience our prayers release the grace of God in powerful ways.
Elijah listened to the voice of the Lord, and so he was able to command drought and rain. He didn’t do things presumptuously, but always in the context of a close relationship with God.
We must turn away from sin and pursue the Lord more passionately and more intentionally, so that we are able to be channels of His grace.
This is not a religious thing where we have to live in a certain way, constantly following rules laid down by somebody else. This is about loving our Father and wanting to be about His business.
Lord, I confess my sins to you now. I ask for your forgiveness and for the ability to live in righteousness so that I can be an instrument of your grace. Amen.
Why Do Christians Fast?
WHAT THE BIBLE REALLY SAYS
Article by David Mathis
Executive Editor, desiringGod.org
At no place, in all his thirteen letters, does the apostle Paul command Christians to fast. Neither does Peter in his. Or John. Or any other book in the New Testament.
And yet, for two thousand years, Christians have fasted. One expression, among others, of healthy, vibrant Christians and churches has been the practice of fasting. However much it may seem to be a lost art today, fasting has endured, for two millennia, as a means of Christ’s ongoing grace for his church.
Why, then, if Christians, unlike Muslims, are not commanded to fast, do we still fast? First of all, Jesus’s teaching in the Gospels, particularly in Matthew, is plain enough. In addition to his own example (Matthew 4:2), and while not directly commanding his followers to fast, Jesus gave instructions for “when you fast,” not “if” (Matthew 6:16–17). More than that, in speaking about what his followers would do after his departure, he says, “then they will fast” (Matthew 9:15; also Mark 2:20; Luke 5:35). Again not a command, but a powerful promise from our Savior’s lips that we’d be foolish to ignore.
Early Christians Fasted
Beyond Jesus’s own words, we find a pattern of fasting as the early church grows and multiplies in the book of Acts. In one of the most pivotal junctures in the story, the leaders in Antioch “were worshiping the Lord and fasting” to seek God’s guidance at a key moment in their church life (Acts 13:2–3). While they were doing so, the Holy Spirit spoke to them, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). Then “after fasting (again) and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:3).
Then Acts 14 provides us with a pattern of prayer and fasting “in every church.” As Paul and Barnabas revisited the cities in which they had made new converts on their first missionary journey, they “appointed elders for them in every church” and “with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (Acts 14:23).
Why God’s People Fast
Overall, the New Testament may have little to say about fasting, but what it does say is important. And in what it doesn’t say, it leans heavily on the Old Testament. The Hebrew Scriptures do not speak the final word on fasting, but they are vital in preparing us to hear the final word from Christ. I count more than 25 mentions of fasting in the Old Testament, but it might be most helpful to look at three groups of passages with one common thread.
Inward: To Express Repentance
The first, most common, and perhaps most fundamental type of fast expresses repentance. Think of it as “inward.” God’s people realise their sin — typically not small indiscretions or lapses in judgment, but deep and prolonged rebellion — and come seeking his forgiveness.
For instance, in 1 Samuel 7, God’s people become freshly aware of their past and present idolatries (and God’s hand of discipline). They want to return to the Lord and newly “direct [their] heart to the Lord and serve him only” (1 Samuel 7:3). They assemble, under Samuel’s leadership, fast as a demonstration of their repentance, and confess, “We have sinned against the Lord” (1 Samuel 7:6). Similarly, in 1 Kings 21, even though king Ahab “sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (1 Kings 21:25), he “humbled himself” with fasting when confronted by the prophet Elijah — and God was pleased to delay impending disaster, even for such an evil king (1 Kings 21:29).
In Nehemiah 9, God’s people “assembled with fasting and in sackcloth” to confess their sins and seek God’s forgiveness (Nehemiah 9:1–2). In Daniel 9, the prophet realizes the time for the end of the exile has come. Daniel records, “I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). He “prayed to the Lord my God and made confession” (Daniel 9:4) for the sins of God’s people, in hopes of restoration. So also, Joel 1:14 and 2:12 call for fasts of repentance, to return to God from sin — as in Nineveh when the people believe the message Jonah reluctantly delivers. “They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5).
Old Testament saints often expressed an “inward” heart of repentance to God not only in words but with the exclamation point of fasting. Such fasts did not earn his forgiveness but demonstrated the genuineness of their contrition.
Outward: To Grieve Hard Providences
But fasting not only expresses repentance. On many occasions, it gives voice to mourning, grieving, or lamenting difficult providences. The seam that holds together 1 and 2 Samuel is the death of Saul and the nation’s ensuing grief. First Samuel ends with a seven-day fast of mourning for Saul (1 Samuel 31:13; also 1 Chronicles 10:12). As 2 Samuel begins, and news reaches David and his men, “they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword” (2 Samuel 1:12). It was not an expression of personal sin, but of grief at the death of their king.
When news of Haman’s edict arrives in Esther 4, “there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes” (Esther 4:3). When David prays about his friends’ betrayal of him, he says they rejoice at his misfortune, even though he had “afflicted [him]self with fasting” and mourned when they were sick (Psalm 35:13–14). In Psalm 69, David says he “wept and humbled [his] soul with fasting” (Psalm 69:10), not because of his own sin, but because he was ill-treated. Similarly, Ezra “sat appalled” (Ezra 9:3–4), and fasted (Ezra 9:5), not at his own sin, but having learned “the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands” (Ezra 9:2).
Fasting gave voice to the pain and sorrow of sudden and severe “outward” circumstances and represented a heart of faith toward God in the midst of great tragedies.
Forward: To Seek God’s Favour
Finally, we find a kind of “forward” fast, not in response to sin within or grief without, but more proactive, in a sense, asking for God’s guidance or future favour. The first explicit mention of fasting in the Bible, coming at the sordid end of Judges, has this “forward” component. God’s people not only weep for the civil war unfolding among them but also inquire of the Lord for guidance (like Acts 13:2), whether or not to go out in battle against the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 20:26). We see such a “forward” orientation in 2 Chronicles 20:3: with a great multitude coming against his people, king Jehoshaphat sought the Lord and proclaimed a fast. He pled for God’s direction, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).
David also sought God’s rescue on his knees “weak through fasting” (Psalm 109:24) and appealed for healing for his sick newborn with a forward-looking fast (2 Samuel 12:16, 21–23). “Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?” (2 Samuel 12:22).
Fasting “forward” for God’s favour played a crucial role in the preservation and return of God’s people from exile. Before approaching the king to seek his favour, Esther sought God’s favour first, with a fast:
“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16)
God answered and, through Esther, saved his people.
Even Darius, king over Israel’s exile in its final stages, sought Daniel’s deliverance from the lions (in an often overlooked part of the story) with fasting (Daniel 6:18). Before setting out from Babylon, Ezra proclaimed a fast “that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods” (Ezra 8:21, 23). Also for Nehemiah (like 2 Chronicles 20:3), fasting not only expressed grief and mourning (Nehemiah 1:4) but led to seeking God’s favor: “O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today” (Nehemiah 1:11). He prayed, and fasted. Then, in faith, he approached the king.
Fasting often served as an intensifier alongside “forward” prayers for God’s guidance, traveling mercies, and special favor.
Common Thread: Godward
This is not all the Old Testament has to say about fasting (for instance, see the correctives of Isaiah 58:3–6; Jeremiah 14:12; and Zechariah 7:5; 8:19), but the three general categories hold: fasting expresses (inward) repentance, grieves (outward) tragedies, or seeks God’s (forward) favor. And a common thread holds all true fasting together. Fasting, like prayer, is always Godward.
Faithful fasting, whatever the conditions of its origin, is rooted in human lack and need — for God. We need his help, his favor, his guidance. We need his rescue and comfort in trouble. We need his forgiveness and grace because we have sinned. We need God. He, not human circumstances or activity, is the common denominator of fasting. Fasting expresses to God our pointedly felt need for God. We have daily needs, and unusual ones. We pray for daily bread, and in times of special need, we reach for the prayer-amplifier called fasting.
Christian Fasting Is Unique
Christians have one final and essential piece to add: the depth and clarity and surety we now have in Christ. As we express to God our special needs for him — whether in repentance, or in grief, or for his favour — we do so with granite under our feet. When our painful sense of lack tempts us to focus on what we do not have, fasting now reminds us of what we do. Already God has come for us. Already Christ has died and rose. Already we are his by faith. Already we have his Spirit in us, through us, and for us. Already our future is secure. Already we have a true home.
In fasting, we confess we are not home yet, and remember that we are not homeless. In fasting, we cry out to our Groom, and remember that we have his covenant promises. In fasting, we confess our lack, and remember that the one with every resource has pledged his help in his perfect timing.
“Christian fasting is unique among all the fasting in the world,” says John Piper. “It is unique in that it expresses more than longing for Christ or hunger for Christ’s presence. It is a hunger that is rooted in, based on, an already present, experienced reality of Christ in history and in our hearts.”
In Christ, fasting is not just a Godward expression of our need. It is not just an admission that we are not full. Fasting is a statement — in the very midst of our need — that we are not empty.
From Christianity Today