New Wine for New Wineskins May 2018

By , May 1, 2018 1:30 am

firstthingsfirst001First Things First (Part 1)

It is important to put first things first, because the main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.

God is a God of order. In the beginning he created order out of chaos, and he still does. You have to recognise and respect and submit to his order if you want to experience his good and acceptable and perfect will for your life.

There is an old song that we used to sing many years ago.

Something beautiful, something good,
All my confusion he understood
All I had to offer him was brokenness and strife,
But he made something beautiful out of my life.

When God places things in a certain order in his word it is important to recognise and respect and submit to his order.

Jesus said that we should love God first with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and secondly we should love people as we love ourselves.

Jesus said that when we seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness first, that all of the other things that people seek will be added to us.

First things first, because the main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.

When we come together corporately to worship – to spend time in the presence of God and be charged up – it is a very special time because Jesus said that he would presence himself right there among us.

According to Ephesians 4 part of why we gather together is to be prepared and equipped for the work of the ministry. In Acts 2: 42 – what I like to call church by intelligent design – it says that the church continued steadfastly in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayer.

When we come together as the church we experience the restoration of order from our chaos, and so there is an order of priority that we must recognise, respect, and submit to in regards to church.

I caught a glimpse of this when I was talking to someone recently. I saw that for this person fellowship and relationships with people were more important than teaching when it came to deciding where he would do church. But the first church continued steadfastly in the apostle’s teaching, and they fellowshipped around that teaching – teaching which was the basis for their covenant faith, and which was the confidence in their prayers.

Teaching, or the message, should be the first priority in deciding where we do church and fellowship, because where we do church will determine what we are taught, what we are taught will impact on what we believe, what we believe will affect how we live, and how we live will determine where or how we end up and the quality of our experience of the abundant life that Jesus came that might we have and enjoy in all of its fullness.

I have been looking afresh at Jesus’ mission statement because Jesus’ mission statement must be our mission statement. I believe Jesus released his mission statement at the very outset of his ministry.

Luke 4: 18 – 19

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the good news to the poor; He has sent Me to preach deliverance [announce release] to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty [send forth as delivered] those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity], 19 To proclaim the accepted and acceptable year of the Lord [the day when salvation and the free favours of God profusely abound].

This is Jesus’ mission statement. A mission statement is defined as a formal, short, written statement of the purpose of a company or organisation; a formal summary of the aims and values of a company, organisation, or individual. A mission statement focuses on a company, organisation, or individual’s present state while a vision statement focuses on a company, organisation, or individual’s future state.

The following is Jesus’ vision statement, which I believe is the greatest faith statement ever spoken.

Matthew 16: 18

18….I will build My church, and the gates of hell (the powers of the infernal region) shall not overpower it [or be strong to its detriment or hold out against it].

Let’s look at the mission statement of a well known international brand.

McDonalds mission statement is “to be the world’s best quick service restaurant experience.  Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.

Customers of McDonalds go there because they are hungry and they are looking to be fed. Not everyone likes McDonalds but those who choose to go there go back over and over again and rarely if ever have a bad experience.

Nobody can deny that McDonalds – whether you like them or not – have been highly successful and consistently remained as frontrunners in an extremely competitive environment. They obviously work hard at putting first things first and keeping the main thing the main thing and all those who work for them at any level are enc ouraged to do the same.I can imagine they are always looking at new ways of increasing their market share but I am pretty sure that they don’t waste time fretting over the people who don’t like them. Instead, they get on with the job of providing the best service they can to those who recognise that they have what it takes to supply their need.

Jesus worked for his Father. Even at 12 years old he was about his Father’s business, investigating and learning, and at 30 years old he began to take a more public and prominent role in the business. He went down to where John the Baptist was baptising and preaching a message that there was one coming who was greater than him, and who would baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Jesus asked John to baptise him so that all righteousness could be fulfilled. Why? Because Jesus knew that he had to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness by putting first things first and keeping the main thing the main thing. There are multitudes of believers who have not been baptised since they repented and were born again. That is out of order and will hinder some things from working.

Jesus goes down into the water and as he comes back up the Holy Spirit comes upon him and the Father speaks from heaven and says, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

Then Jesus – led by the Holy Spirit – spends forty days and nights fasting in the wilderness, in a desert place.  At the end of this period of fasting he has an encounter with the devil during which Jesus resolutely resists every attempt to draw him into sin as he is faced with the three basic areas of temptation – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – the desire to indulge, the desire to acquire, and the desire to impress. In each instance he responds with “It is written….” and he proves indisputably that the word of God and the Holy Spirit are more than sufficient to expose and to counter and repel every attack of the enemy no matter how subtle it might be.

And so, the ultimate and original worshipper in spirit and truth comes out of the wilderness in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Luke 4: 14 – 15

14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. 15 He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

He then goes where he has gone to worship virtually all of his life. As I was meditating on this and the setting and the circumstances in which Jesus released his mission statement I saw some things that I believe can be helpful for us.

Luke 4: 16 – 30

16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.  17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” 20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.  21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  22 So all bore witness to Him, and marvelled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth.
And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’”  24 Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.  25 But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land;  26 but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.  27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”
28 So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,  29 and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.  30 Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.

When Jesus went to his local synagogue in Nazareth and released his mission statement it was the best news ever, but the people didn’t like it. It wasn’t that they had never heard these verses from Isaiah read before, but when the word comes in the power of the Holy Spirit there is a difference. The Holy Spirit makes the written word a now word, makes the logos a rhema – the word that the Holy Spirit infuses with life so that it speaks to you right where you are at.

The Holy Spirit brings the word alive and makes the word relevant to everybody, and so the people that day heard the word in a way that they had never heard it before, and initially they were transfixed. But when Jesus said that today this scripture is fulfilled they didn’t like it. They didn’t like it because it was someone they thought they knew and who they thought they had figured out who was claiming it – someone whose past and whose history and whose people they thought they were familiar with.

And the prophetic words that he spoke in the power of the Holy Spirit exposed that right there among these pious religious adherents there was spiritual impoverishment, there were broken hearts, there was bondage, and blindness, and oppression, and a major lack of understanding of their spiritual inheritance – and they didn’t like it.

They especially didn’t like it because it was someone who they were familiar with who was saying that the Spirit of the LORD was upon him to help them. They didn’t like it and they didn’t like him, and they got so angry and filled with fierce indignation that they wanted to kill him. They threw him out of the city and led him to the brow of the hill on which the city was built and their intention was to throw him over the cliff.

What was Jesus’ crime? Preaching good news in the power of the Holy Spirit. Preaching good news in the power of the Holy Spirit will always make you a target because not everybody is going to like it.

Life Lesson #1 to help you:

The most debilitating and limiting thing you can activate and allow in your life is needing
people to like you.

You are not here to get people to like you – you are here to preach good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty the oppressed, and to announce the acceptable year of the LORD’s favour, the day when salvation and the free favours of God profusely abound.

That’s called putting first things first and keeping the main thing the main thing.

Preaching is the God-ordained means to open people’s eyes to the truth that sets them free. Not everybody likes that because, surprising as it may sound, not everybody wants their broken heart healed, not everyone wants to be delivered, and not everyone likes it when they hear you preaching healing and deliverance to others and setting them free.

Jesus very quickly discovered that a lot of people didn’t like him, and even some who used to like him didn’t like him any more.

John 2: 23 – 25 (The Message)

23-25 During the time he was in Jerusalem, those days of the Passover Feast, many people noticed the signs he was displaying and, seeing they pointed straight to God, entrusted their lives to him. But Jesus didn’t entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were.

Ultimately Jesus was to experience how rapidly public opinion can shift when a few short years later he made his final entrance into Jerusalem and heard the cries of “hosanna” from the crowds turn to “crucify” in the space of a few days.

Proverbs 3: 5

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart.

Psalm 118: 8

It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.

Luke 6: 26 – 36

26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. 27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

We need to get used to the fact that if someone likes you its a bonus. The need for people to like you is called peer pressure, which is basically fear pressure, and we know how damaging and destructive that can be.

Remember the blind man in John 9? He was ostracised because he got healed and attributed his healing to Jesus. All of a sudden he was on the outside of his community. Sadly his parents weren’t willing to pay the same price because they were afraid that they would be put out of the synagogue, they were afraid that people wouldn’t like them if they acknowledged Jesus’ power to heal their son.

I was interacting with someone recently who was struggling to stay afloat emotionally and I suddenly realised that this person’s problem is that they can’t handle people not liking them – they have a deep need to be liked by everybody.

People leave churches and isolate themselves because they think there are some people there who don’t like them, and they are probably right. But as a result they miss their destiny – which is not to be liked by everybody – but to preach good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty the oppressed, and to announce the acceptable year of the LORD’s favour – the day when salvation and the free favours of God profusely abound.

That’s called putting first things first and keeping the main thing the main thing.

The reality is that not everyone will like you, but if you put first things first and keep the main thing the main thing, then over time I can virtually guarantee that even some of those who don’t like you will come to respect you.

Why do you think the recent death of Billy Graham got so much news coverage, and why so many people paid tribute to him from all walks of life? Do you think it was because they all agreed with his Bible message of you must be born again? No, it was because for over seven decades he never once deviated from that message and always put first things first and kept the main thing the main thing. Do you think everyone liked him? I can guarantee you that many people strongly disliked him and everything he stood for, but even some of those who didn’t like him and his message would have to acknowledge that they respected him.

And respect can provide you with a stronger bridge than people just liking you.

What did Jesus do when he was rejected and thrown out of Nazareth? Did he retreat to some isolated place to wallow in self-pity and decide that maybe he was wrong and it might be best to stick to being a synagogue-going carpenter? No, he just kept on walking and moved to the next place and got on with the job.

That’s called putting first things first and keeping the main thing the main thing.

Luke 4: 30 – 32

30….passing through their midst, He went on His way. 31 Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths.  32 And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.

Life Lesson #2 to help you:

Never stop learning from Jesus because that’s what disciples do.

Just because everyone doesn’t like you it doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, Jesus said the opposite is true.

In Matthew 11 Jesus invites us to come to him in our weariness and with our over-burdened souls to learn from him how to take a real rest. He says his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

The root of easy is ease = absence of difficulty or effort; absence of rigidity or discomfort; freedom from worries or problems, especially about one’s material situation.

Bless the LORD O my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name, bless the LORD O my soul and forget not all his benefits.

Psalm 103: 1 – 5 (NLT)

1 Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
2 Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the
good things he does for me.
3 He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.
4 He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and
tender mercies. 5 He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

He heals all my diseases – he restores ease in my life. He removes difficulty and effort, he takes away rigidity and discomfort, he delivers me from worries and problems regarding my material situation.

He invites us to learn from him how to put the kingdom first. How to put first things first and to keep the main thing the main thing.

Matthew 6: 25 – 33

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;  29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Easy.

Life Lesson #3 to help you:

Remember – a mission statement is a statement of purpose. Jesus said the Spirit of the LORD is upon me because – and then he went on to explain the purpose.

The Spirit of the LORD is the main thing because he is the one who anoints us, and the anointing – the right and ability to do what we could never do on our own – is our uniformand what identifies us as working for our Father in heaven.

Can you imagine getting a job in Tesco, putting on your uniform, and then just standing on the shop floor all day doing nothing, with people all around you needing help and you just ignoring them? Or you are put on the checkouts and a massive queue forms as you continue to ignore them all.

Our daughter Ruth worked in Asda while she was a student.  I remember her telling me that on several occasions she was shopping in Tesco while still wearing her Asda uniform and people would ask her for directions to the teabags or whatever. She could have told them that she didn’t work there, but instead she just helped them find what they were looking for.

How many people in the church say that’s not my job, my title, my role, my function when they are presented with an opportunity to serve?

Ruth’s husband Matt also worked for Asda during his university days.  One time I was in the Asda store that he worked in and I met him upstairs walking from the direction of the hardware section.  I knew he worked downstairs in the dairy aisle so I asked him what he was doing up there and he replied that someone had needed help looking for coathangers.

He could have told them that he didn’t do coathangers because he was just the dairy guy, but part of the Asda training (their mission statement values) is that you help anyone who needs help in any way you can.

How many Holy Spirit baptised people still just show up in church and do the aerobics, but haven’t grasped that they are actually anointed to be everything that anybody needs them to be – anywhere and anytime? And so, if someone asks them for help they point to somebody else. What has happened? They have forgotten what it means to put first things first and to keep the main thing the main thing – to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Jesus is working towards his vision statement and he is building his church – the church that the gates of hell can’t prevail against. But he’s doing it through those who recognise that their purpose is embodied in the outworking of his mission statement. His vision statement is being fulfilled when we get involved in his mission statement.

It’s called putting first things first and keeping the main thing the main thing.

And sometimes that means doing the kingdom of God equivalent of helping someone in Tesco when you work for Asda and helping someone find coathangers when you work in the dairy aisle.

The reality is that some folks in Tesco won’t like you helping someone in your Asda uniform, and some of your Asda colleagues might not like you leaving the dairy aisle to go upstairs and help somebody find coathangers.

But you are not here to get everyone to like you – you are here to preach the good news to the poor; to preach deliverance [announce release] to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty [send forth as delivered] those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity], and to proclaim the accepted and acceptable year of the Lord [the day when salvation and the free favours of God profusely abound].

If someone from another church or denomination needs help and I can help them I will. Not because I’m a sheep stealer, but because I am a sheep feeder.

That’s called putting first things first and keeping the main thing the main thing.

More next time….

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