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Love one another

Some of Jesus’ most memorable words are his commandment to love others. John puts it like this:

” A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’” John 13:34-35 NIV

These words are far easier to read than they are to live out in community. But to fully comprehend them we need to understand the context in which Jesus spoke them.

They were spoken as part of the Last Supper narratives in the Upper Room just before his death on the cross. Prior to these words, Jesus humbled himself and washed the feet of his followers who were too proud to do it. Then he predicted his betrayal at the hands of Judas. Finally, just after speaking these words he predicted Peter’s denial and challenged his self-assured confidence.

Jesus’ love was uncompromising. He loved his disciples to “the end” (John 13:1). Quite literally these words can be translated as “the uttermost”. In a play on words John describes the depth and extent of Christ’s love. It gives everything to the end, even to those who betray, deny and desert him.

So, how can we possibly live like this personally or communally? The short answer is we can’t! Unless, that is Christ empowers us by the presence of his Spirit in our lives and our community. In the words of the Apostle Paul,

“the love of God is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who is given to us”.

Romans 5:5.

God the Builder

God is in the construction business. It’s a Father and Son affair. But they are not interested in bricks and mortar. Their focus is on people. As a Christian community we don’t meet “in the house of God”. We “are the house of God”. The Spirit of Jesus is building us together as a household or family of God’s people. Our privilege and responsibility is to invite others to join the family and welcome them home. Find out more this Sunday.

Jesus shared our humanity

Jesus shared our humanity, embracing death to free us from the fear of death.

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters…

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fearof death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them,[k] fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrew 2:10-18 NIV

God’s final word: his Son

Genuine trust comes from knowing a person. In fact, it is foolish to trust someone who we don’t know. So building our lives on Jesus requires consideration of his character and identity. Some relevant questions to consider are:

Who is this Jesus? What does he reveal about God? Why trust him?

The writer of the book of Hebrews describes Jesus in these words:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.” Hebrews 1:1-4 (NIV)

Firstly, he is the co-creator and owner of the universe.

Secondly, he is the “exact representation of God” and the One who sustains everything.

Finally, he is the Saviour and Lord of all things.

When we fully understand and appreciate who Jesus is and what he has done we must then consider our response to him. Will we trust him with our lives and futures or continue to live independently?

Dependence on Jesus

In a world which values individual freedom above everything, how can we build a life which is increasingly dependent on Jesus? Jesus said, “without me you can do nothing. But if we’re honest most of us believe that there are quite a few things which we can do without the help of Jesus or God.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:1-8 (NIV)

So how do we transition to a place of increasing confident and joyful dependence upon God?

To start with, we need to identify and dethrone our idols. These are things which we look to for safety and significance. They are often hard to identify as they can operate subtly and covertly. Examining our motivations can help us to uncover and respond to them. Once identified we need to discover ways of replacing them with attitudes reflective of the presence and character of Jesus.

Firstly, we’ll consider dethroning fear and developing love. Fear and anxiety are epidemic in contemporary society.

Secondly, we’ll look at dethroning pride and developing humility.

Thirdly, we’ll examine unbelief and the nature of trust.

One Foundation

What does it mean to build our lives on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ? How will we live differently if we do so, both personally and as a community of his followers. These are some of the questions which we will be exploring this term. Our opening reflection is based around the following words of the Apostle Paul:

” By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames”

1 Corinthians 3:10-15

Three questions arise from this reading. Firstly, what are we building on? What is the foundation for our lives and our church?

Secondly, what are we building with? Do the materials we are using have eternal value or are they things which will fade away?

Finally, what are we building for? In the verses which follow Paul outlines the purpose of our building as the establishing of “temple in which God’s Spirit lives”. With all its failings and imperfections the purpose of the church is to be a community of people who honour and manifest the presence of God, to each other and the world around us.

Official launch

Looking forward to seeing you this Sunday as we officially launch Camden Valley Church. We’re excited to see what God has in store for our new community as we begin the journey together. Hope you can join us.

Our morning service (9am) will be more reflective with a traditional flavour. Afternoon church (4:30pm) will be contemporary with a Kids’ Church program. We meet in the grounds of Macarthur Anglican School. Services are in the chapel and Kids’ Church is run in Exploring Tree Macarthur Child Care Centre.

You’re invited

Our first gathering is on Sunday 20 January from 4:30-6:30pm at Exploring Tree Macarthur Child Care centre. It is in the grounds of Macarthur Anglican School. Go around the circular drive past the chapel and turn left into the last carpark before exiting the school. It’s on the Northern Rd end of the property.

The Journey begins

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

Sunrise over ocean

Thanks for joining us!

 It’s good to have your company as we begin the adventure of establishing a new Christian community together. Our society has pursued the rights and freedoms of the individual to the point where many people feel isolated and cut off from others. In our pursuit of the right to “do our own thing” and maintain our privacy we have been cut off from the benefits and blessings of  community.

Even Jesus, as the Son of God, needed the companionship of others on the journey.  His follower Mark writes,

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve  that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons.”  (Mark 3:13-14 NIV)

Jesus wanted and needed his disciples to be with him.

Sal and I look forward to doing life together with you as we establish Camden Valley Church.

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