I’ve heard it said that for every person who gives you feedback, there is another ten people thinking the same thing.
Now mostly that’s really encouraging, as I’ve had plenty of very positive feedback following our recent look at the teaching of Andy Stanley - thank you if you’ve taken time to feedback!
However, when just one person says to me: ‘I’m concerned that we are being taught we shouldn’t read the Old Testament’ my alarm bells go off. So I just wanted to pen a few words to reassure anyone out there who has ‘heard’ that, as that is not the message I am sending out.
Now I do know it’s confusing at times differentiating between the Old and New Covenants and Old and New Testaments. The Old and New Covenants refer to the agreements/promises God makes to different groups of people (i.e. to the Jews, then to the whole world.) The Old and New Testaments are easy ways that we refer to the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) and the records of Jesus’ ministry and the early church (the New Testament.) This isn’t helped by the fact that the word Testament, comes from the latin Testamentum, which means….. Covenant. I know, easy to get confused.
This can mean that when the New testament tells us the Old Covenant is ‘obsolete’ (Heb8:13), or we say that the law is no longer applicable to us, binding on us, or simply not about ‘us’, it can sometimes be misunderstood that we’re dismissing the whole of the Old Testament, or Hebrew Scriptures. This is not what we’re saying, nor is it what Andy is saying in his book (see p69).
What is being said, however, is that when we read the Old Testament, it’s really really important to understand that predominantly, from Exodus to Malachi, it is set in the context of God engaging with his people under the Old Covenant. This has to affect how we read, and really importantly how we apply it to how we live today. We now live under a new covenant, a new agreement, given to us through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. This means we are free from the law , and that salvation comes through faith and grace. This new covenant (new promise with God) demands a new ethic, new standards and a promise that we are helped by the Holy Spirit. All of which is summed up in Romans 7:6: But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
So what is the Old Testament?
I believe the OT is a remarkable recounting of history, along with some wonderful poetry, philosophy and wisdom, of our loving, gracious God breaking into a pretty uncivilised culture and starting to reveal his nature, in a progressive fashion to a people - the Jews. Beginning a process of change and transformation in a people that will eventually prepare the world for the coming of the new and final covenant in Jesus. Andy Stanley referred to the Old Covenant as the cocoon into which Jesus could be introduced into the world. But the cocoon has done his job, and it’s now time for the beautiful butterfly of the New Covenant to be the real thing.
What about ‘God breathed?’
In 2 Timothy3:16 Paul states that ‘all scripture is God breathed,’ when we read that we assume he means the whole bible, but when he wrote it, only some of what we now know as the New Testament had been put into written form. So mostly, he was referring to the Hebrew Scriptures, or what we call the Old Testament. He goes on to say that these God breathed scriptures are useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (i.e. right living.) ‘God breathed’ is poetic language telling us that these writings had the breath of God in them, the touch of God on them, they were a faithful account the history, teaching, prayers, traditions of this special people, passed down often through oral traditions.
If God breathed it out, then we can breathe it in. Another word to breathe in? Inspire. They are here to inspire us. For me this is a huge part of why we should go back to the old and read it. There is something so brilliant, almost cinematic about so many of the stories we read. Moses crossing the Red Sea, Daniel in the Lions Den, David and Goliath - these stories speak to our souls that we serve a God who is mighty to save, who will be with us in difficulties. Stories passed down through the generations, then finally committed to written form, that we might read them, that we might observe the fingerprint of God upon them, and we might live more fully for him because of it.
They are here for us to learn from - wow Genesis and the creation story tells us so much of who we are, what God is like and why we are here.
They are here to teach us - the writings of Solomon in Proverbs are rich in wisdom to guide us and lead us
They can encourage us - the command to Joshua to be strong and courageous, the many writings of the prophets and especially the psalms speak such encouragement to our hearts as God brings it alive to us.
They can correct us, rebuke us and train us - even though we are not under the law, God can still use the laws they had or the principles behind the laws to challenge us on our behaviours towards God and towards others.
For anyone else who might have reached the conclusion that this series was about no longer reading the Old Testament, let me reassure you that that was no-one’s intention. Let me also say that I am so so sorry that anything that has been said has given you that impression. I know that at times I maybe used some language that was a bit clunky and might have given some cause for concern, I’m sorry to have caused you any stress.
I think we can all agree the New has surpassed the Old, but that doesn’t stop the Old being important. It gives us the beautiful big picture of the creation narrative in Genesis, then gradually unveils this God who is love and calls humanity back to himself to live in love and righteousness. We have to read it, we have to study it and allow God to speak to us through it. This series was simply, I believe, about helping us to read it more appropriately, as we read the whole thing through the lens of Jesus and in light of the New Covenant.
If any of this has shaken you or bothered you, we are here for you. The whole leadership team - Josie, Rachel, Steve, Helen, Tarzan and I. Please reach out so we can journey this together in his grace.
Hi Church Family
I really want everyone in our church to read this book! So much so, I’m buying loads of copies to give away - to YOU!
Now, I’m going to take a bit of time to tell you why…..
Over the coming few weeks, I’m wanting to draw on some valuable teaching from a well known preacher called Andy Stanley. This will be in the form of making a copy of his book ‘Irresistible’ available to all of you who will read it, and including some teaching from Andy’s ‘Aftermath’ series in our Sunday services. I believe this teaching can be helpful to all of us as we consider the centrality of Jesus to our faith and understanding just how radically ‘new’ the new covenant was and is. I personally believe that interpreting all scripture (the written word of God) through the lens of Jesus (the living word of God) is the very best way to allow the bible to form our faith.
Irresistible has recently played a valuable part in continuing to shape my faith in Jesus. Whilst challenging some assumptions, he takes deep theological truth and makes them incredibly accessible. In the process, he helps us see Jesus as even more beautiful, and his way and his truth even more freeing and inspiring than I’ve ever known.
I believe this is a book for ‘Now’ for this cultural moment that we find ourselves in. Many people are falling away from faith unnecessarily because of hard and difficult questions they have, and less and less people are even prepared to consider the claims of Jesus. Today we live in a world where our past as a worldwide church is perhaps one of the biggest barriers to people coming to Jesus and almost everything they object to are things that Jesus would object to as well. I believe this book can equip us to support those falling away, answer those questions and help people see past the history of the church to the beauty of Jesus.
I’m very aware that Andy might ruffle a few feathers, he might question some things that you have been taught were non negotiable, so I encourage you to read it with an open mind. As you know, if you’ve been around a while, we are reasonably diverse church when it comes to theology, which is something that I treasure. It’s a rare thing, and it’s very beautiful - thank you for contributing to that culture. For nearly 13 years now, we have lived out Augustine’s famous phrase: ‘In the essentials, unity; in the non-essentials liberty; in all things, charity.’ We have never been a church where we all have to see eye to eye, other than on the essential tenets of the Christian faith. (These tenets have most consistently been framed through church history by either the Apostles’ or the Nicene Creed.) So, as you read and listen I want to be really clear that as a leadership we are not saying we agree 100% with everything in the book, and we’re not asking you to either. But, we are wanting you to be even better equipped to understand the power of the new covenant, the ‘old’ that Jesus calls us to leave behind, and to love him more as a result.
So, sit back, enjoy the talks from Andy that will be profiled in our online services, and enjoy the book as it provokes the mind, softens the heart and empowers your spirit to love God even more than you ever have.
July 2021 - Church Plans for the Summer Holidays
As we head into the school summer holidays, and also the new levels of freedom, we just wanted to update you on our plans as a church over the summer in terms of meeting together on Sundays.
We are going to continue our fortnightly meetings, with once a month kids work for the rest of July and August. It is then our hope and plan that we will be gathering each Sunday in some form from September. Whilst we are still making vision filled plans for Sundays to have greater variety so we can be discipled better in the future, our sense is that as we emerge out of Covid, some elements need to feel very much like ‘back to normal.’ However we will also have other elements that will hopefully add some variety as we re-gather - more on that as we approach September.
Here is our timetable therefore for Sundays during the school holidays, and below it is some really important Covid safety advice.
Sunday 25th July
10am - Outdoor worship & Guest Preacher Linda Maslen from Fountains Church (no kids work)
10am - Online service (also with Linda)
Sunday 1st August
10am - Online service
12pm - Picnic in Roberts Park, Saltaire if weather allows
Sunday 8th August
10am - Worship INSIDE the Jubilee Centre (kids work available 4-11s)
Sunday 15th August
10am - Online service
Home Church meetings (where possible)
Sunday 22nd August
10am - online service
10am - Worship INSIDE the Jubilee Centre (no kids work)
Sunday 29th August
10am - Online service
12pm - picnic - Wibsey Park
As we are all aware the government have now lifted legally enforceable mask wearing, however they continue to maintain that masks should be worn, especially in large groups of people you don’t normally see. Now I know that there will be a variety of opinions out there, those who think the new changes shouldn’t happen this early, and those who thought that masks should never have been a thing in the first place. It’s at moments like these that we have to show the world what grace and love and care can look like, because we have been transformed by his spirit. To love the person even when we disagree with their viewpoint.
So, as we come back together, we are wanting to find a respectful way to acknowledge the continued reality of Covid, whilst also recognising that the serious risks are much lower, with many of us double jabbed, and a sense that if restaurants, clubs, bars, football etc can be open, then communal church gatherings can be as well.
Booking in for services - there will be no more booking on for services, just turn up and we will make it work. The numbers seem to be about right, which is helpful.
Mask wearing indoors - From August, therefore, we will have our two Sunday morning gatherings inside (and July 25th if weather requires it.) The seats will have some spacing between them, but certainly not two metres. We will be asking that people wear masks inside whilst they are moving around and whilst we are singing worship. We will not be enforcing this, however, I’d like to ask you to consider the reality that some people will not feel safe being in a busy room of unmasked people. So choosing to wear a mask will help others feel safer whether you think it is necessary or not.
Mingling, Chatting & Drinks - If the weather is nice enough we will be serving drinks outside, and will not be opening the doors to the auditorium until it is time to make your way in. We will then ask people as far as possible to head back outside as soon as the service is over. This means you can chat away without masks on, and makes it all safer.
Hugs - we have all missed hugs, though some so much more than others. Some people want to hug everyone, others don’t want you to hug them with a barge pole. So, we are going to be handing out GREEN stickers on your way in to anyone who is happy to have physical contact. That doesn’t mean you should hug every fellow green dot wearer, it still makes sense to keep it to a minimum, but this will protect those who don’t want a hug and mean they don’t have to explain themselves to the over zealous hugging crowd.
Normal precautions - Please also do all of the same normal precautions - wash hands, use sanitiser, don’t turn up if you think you display any covid symptoms - high temperature, persistent cough, loss of sense of taste or smell. Give people some space, especially if you are talking to them mask free (which ideally means you are outdoors.)
Jesus told us to Love one another and to love our neighbours. Recognising that we all see things differently and that’s ok is all part of loving one another, so let’s be respectful, and hope sincerely that by September we can be a bit more free from this horrible virus.