What’s so good about good works?
- Written by: Peter Adam
Peter Adam identifies the good works we have been created to do.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Five lessons on good works
1. We are saved by grace, not by good works. The pressure is on to do good works: from ourselves, from ambitious family or friends, from our supervisors and employers, from God, from our heroes, from our fears, from our guilt, from our need to be needed. And there is an endless supply of good works that need to be done! People give us good feedback on good works. So it is easy to think that we are saved by achievement, by increased productivity, by success, by usefulness. We are not saved by these things: we are saved by God’s grace. I frequently tell myself that if I were to wake up tomorrow paralysed, unable to do or say anything, I would still be as saved as I am today!
Whose Feet Would Jesus Wash (and How)?
- Written by: Bp Glenn Davies
Reflections on John 13:1-17
The episode recorded in John 13 of Jesus' washing the disciples feet is usually seen as an example of servant leadership. Of course it serves this purpose well, as Jesus says: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15). However, there is more to be gained from this footwashing exercise of servant leadership.
The setting of Jesus' actions is the upper room on the night he was betrayed. John introduces the scene with Jesus' reflection upon going to the cross. With a deliberate echo of the words of the Prologue (“he came unto his own, but his own received him not - but to all who did receive him, who believed on his name, he gave power to become children of God”), Jesus prepares to return to his Father, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (13:1). Thus the immediate context is the death of Jesus and the application of that death to his disciples.
Leviticus for Lent
- Written by: Andrew Malone
Leviticus used to be the first book that Jewish children studied in the synagogue. In the modern Church it tends to be the last part of the Bible anyone looks at seriously. … “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18) is the only memorable maxim in what is to many an otherwise dull book. In practice then, though not of course in theory, Leviticus is treated as though it does not really belong to the canon of sacred Scripture.
So opens the landmark commentary by Gordon Wenham. My quest is to get books like Leviticus back on the agenda. This article is an opportunity for me to offer you a quick refresher of its contents and relevance. And the pending season of Lent is one of many good opportunities when you might do the same for believers around you, especially in ministry contexts which seek a formal, distinctive series for the season.
What follows is purely to stir up your theological enthusiasm and to set your creative juices flowing. The suggestions will work well as a sermon series, but could easily be adapted for personal devotions or group Bible studies or youth reflections. (I'm yet to trial it as a children's program!)
Amos, Faithful Ministry, and Evangelism from the Heart
- Written by: Andrew Reid
The prophecy of Amos is rich for its courage, depth of insight, and contemporary relevance. One example of this is one encounter within its pages that has some sobering words for those of us who have been appointed by God and his church to engage in ministry. The encounter is between the prophet Amos and Amaziah, a priest of Bethel in the eighth Century BC. My intention here is to explore the text of Amos 7:10–18 in the light of the obligations these two men had before God and to observe what we can learn from their encounter for our own ministries.
The larger context of the encounter is set by a series of five visions that are given to Amos. These visions begin in Amos 7:1 and conclude in Amos 9. All the visions involve God judging his people. The first vision (7:1–3) is of a locust plague which God uses to judge the wickedness of his people. The response of Amos is to mimic the prophet Moses by interceding on behalf of the people. God responds to such intercession just as he had with Moses in Exodus 32 and relents from sending disaster. The second vision is of God judging by fire (7:4–6). Again, Amos intercedes on behalf of the people and God again relents. The third vision is the famous but somewhat enigmatic one of a plumbline (7:7–9). This time Amos does not intercede and there is no relenting on God’s part. Instead, God promises a fierce judgment that will reach not only the religious establishment but also the secular, striking even the house of Jeroboam. The mention of Jeroboam is significant because until this point Amos has largely focussed on the social and religious sins of the people and has not specifically mentioned the king and it appears as though it is this mention that lies behind the events that unfold next.
Radical Values: rethinking the Sermon on the Mount
- Written by: John Nolland
There is no doubt that technological development and increasingly rapid rates of change in so many areas have made making ethical decisions more difficult than it used to be. Now that is not to say that getting agreement about the rights and wrongs has ever been easy. Moralists have disagreed through all of history. And Jesus had a hard time getting some of his core values across, even to those who were most devoted to him.
But these days self-doubt has set in among Christians, and it has set in on a large scale. Loss of clarity about a distinctly Christian ethic has become widespread. There are various reasons for this, but let me offer you just a limited list. First, there is so much that Christians have done in the past that embarrasses and shames us. Second, there are the clever things that scholars have done to give parts of the Bible a totally different sense from how they have traditionally been understood. And third, Christians have largely lost sight of the importance of the Old Testament for their faith and life.
For us who are Christians radical values for a confused society must come from our Lord. And what I have in mind to appeal to here is Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.