Easter Vigil 31 March 2018

Genesis 1:1-2:3

Genesis 22:1-18

Exodus 14:10-31

Ezekiel 36:24-28

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Ezekiel 47:1-12

The readings in bold can be used as a minimum.

After each reading, you could have a few minutes of silence, or a brief discussion about the passage, or a time of prayer. You should have at least one period of silence. You could also incorporate some singing at different points.

Vigils are traditionally held in the dark, except for essential lighting. If you want to follow this, you can turn off the lights and just leave one on for the Bible readings. You could also use candle light. This anticipates the sunrise that is to follow on Resurrection Sunday.

Preparing for Easter

Those who are forgiven much, love much (Luke 7:47).

When God shows us the depths of our sin and the heights of his holiness, our appreciation of his salvation is enlarged.

So, in preparation for celebrating Jesus’ sin-bearing death (Good Friday) and life-giving resurrection (Easter Sunday) it’s good to enter a season of repentance. This makes the joy of celebrating Easter even sweeter.

Use these Bible verses to help you.

Each Wednesday between now and Easter, take some time in your day to meditate on them.

Wednesday 14 February
Psalm 51:3-5

Wednesday 21 February
Jeremiah 2:12-13

Wednesday 28 February
Joel 2:12-13

Wednesday 7 March
Isaiah 30:15

Wednesday 14 March
Luke 13:34

Wednesday 21 March
Romans 2:4-5

Wednesday 28 March
Revelation 2:4-5

How to meditate on the Bible

The biblical (Hebrew) word for meditation means to mumble or murmur. 

So biblical meditation isn’t about emptying our minds and entering a zen state. It’s about taking God’s word and ruminating on it. 

When we meditate, we fill our minds with God’s truth as he illumines the meaning of the words by his Holy Spirit.

So chew over what God has to say. Let the words sit in your mouth. Consider them.

Here are a few practical steps you can follow.

1. Find somewhere quiet. Turn off your phone. The idea is to be somewhere away from distractions and disturbances, if only for a few minutes.

2. Come prayerfully. Ask the Lord to impress the meaning of the words on your heart. You might use Psalm 119:18 – “Open my eyes to behold wondrous things out of your law”.

3. Read the verses slowly. It helps to do this out loud so that you hear the sounds of the words.

4. Pause if you hit a particular word or phrase that stands out. Perhaps you read the phrase “you were not willing” and this makes you reflect on how you’ve been asserting your own will and not submitting to God’s will. Turn these thoughts into prayer and repentance before God.

5. If nothing in particular stands out, keep reading the verses slowly. It may take some repetition before you really ‘see’ something. Sometimes it helps to emphasise different words as you read. This gives the verse a slightly different feel and can trigger new thoughts and reflections.

6. End in prayer, asking the Lord to seal in your heart all that he’s shown you.

How to fast

Fasting and repentance often go together in the Bible. It can be helpful to give up meals to focus on hunger for God instead.

As John Piper puts it: “We are putting our stomach where our heart is to give added intensity and expressiveness to our ache for Jesus.”

Practically speaking, you can simply give up one meal in your day, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Or you can fast for 24 hours. This is usually done by starting the fast on the previous evening, so fasting from dinner on one day to dinner the next.

However long you choose to fast for, use the time that you would be preparing, buying or eating food for prayer and meditation.

If you fast for a day or more, try not to break your fast with rich food. Go for foods like fresh fruit (especially melon, grapes, apples, pears – better than citrus fruits) and vegetables, fruit juice and yoghurt.

Divine Hospitality

Many of us are housemates, newlyweds, or new parents and know what it takes to make room for someone else in our homes and in our lives. It takes humility and sacrifice to welcome someone into your space. Do you realise that that is what’s on offer in the Gospel? God’s hospitality invites us, not just into his home - but into himself. 

John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

We will look at the foundation of God's hospitality this Sunday as we learn more about the God who is a Trinity in Matthew 3:13-17.

Finding God in the midst of suffering

Every now and again something happens that causes us to cry out:

Do not forsake me, O Lord! 
O my God, be not far from me! 
Make haste to help me, 
O Lord, my salvation! - Psalm 38:20,21

These words come at the end of Psalm 38, after the Psalmist has endured the most harrowing experience. 

Tremendous physical pain: “no soundness in flesh”, “no health in my bones”, “utterly bowed down and prostrate”, “my sides are filled with burning”.

Overwhelming emotional suffering: “I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.” Ps 38:8

Painful relational separation:  “…friends and companions… stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off.” Ps 38:11.

This physical, emotional and relational suffering appears to signal the end of his life: “My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.” Ps 38:10.

In spite of this complex compound of suffering the Psalmist expresses this seemingly contradictory hopefulness: “But for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.” Ps 38:15. 

We don’t have the final answer as to why God allows what looks like senseless suffering to happen, but what we do know is that he doesn’t stay far off, separate and aloof from it all. On the cross Jesus Christ, the Son of God himself endured tremendous suffering. He too cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” And although it sounds like the desperate cries of a forsaken man - there is a deep, unrelenting trust in the God that he still calls “My God, my God!” Matt 27:46.

After Christ’s resurrection the Holy Spirit enabled the apostles and the church to face overwhelming suffering with this same sure hope.

For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 2 Co 1:8–10.


Our Father in heaven, suffering is a reality none of us can avoid. Many of us are going through this right now. We pray that your ever abiding Spirit will draw us deep into your embrace, reminding us that you know our frailty, that you’ve experienced our suffering and that you will answer us in our distress. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Being made in the image of God

It's a strange idea - to be made in the image of God. We might perhaps think of man standing in front of a mirror - imaging, or reflecting the image of God back to him. And although that is true, there is more to the thing than what the mirror reflects.

In the same way, all human beings image God's character and personhood to the world. Not by the way we look, but by who we are.  

  • We are creative - seeking to use and control different elements to do something cool.
  • We are collaborative - seeking to do things in clearly defined relationships with others.
  • We are coherent - valuing integrity and character in others and ourselves. 

This Sunday we will see how Jesus Christ lived up to our real identity, where we are only ever able to fall short. Read Matthew 4:1-11 if you want to see what it's all about.    

God the Lord


The word ‘Lord’ appears more that 740 times in the New Testament of the Bible. Yet if I we had to try and define what the word means we’ll struggle. Perhaps a ‘landlord’ comes to mind or someone sitting in the ‘House of Lords’, or the famous cricket grounds called ‘Lord’s’.

But in the Bible the word ‘Lord' is packed with meaning and steeped in rich Old Testament references. In fact, it’s so crammed with meaning that the saying ‘Jesus is Lord’ could be used as the shortest confession of Christian faith. This Sunday we will look at Isaiah 43.

Then, over the course of the next two months we want to dig deeper into this topic. Moreover - we want to help you shape your Theology, or understanding of who God is along the contours of the Bible. As we get to see God as Lord, we will more fully understand who we are as his image bearers. We will see how his covenants help us to become more like Him and why his Word is powerful to change us. Towards the end of June we will look at God as a Trinity.

Being a Kingdom of Priests


We’re coming to the end of the series on servanthood. We’ve been reminded that God saves believers from slavery in order to make them a church of holy and loving servants. This Sunday we will hear that God has given special gifts to the church to be what it really is - a Kingdom of Priests to serve him and to extend his love to others.

Have a read of Acts 6:1-7 to hear what it’s all about.

What will you do in heaven?


It’s an incredible encouragement to believers that heaven is a place without any suffering. We read in Revelation 21:4 that there will be no more tears, no death, no mourning, no crying and no pain. But have you ever asked yourself why that is?

Revelation 21:2 tells us why. Because heaven a holy city. The Lord of heaven is a Holy God. The angels are holy creatures. The inhabitants are holy saints.

So - what will you do in heaven if you don’t love holiness at the moment?

I hope to show you on Sunday that if you are a believer you are already made holy through Christ. Loving holiness is all about becoming who you truly are in Him.

What really makes us free?

It's easy to think that God's aim in rescuing the Israelites out of Egypt was simply to set them free. But God knows true freedom can only be found in worshipping and enjoying him.

Ex 7:15 - 16: Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the water. Wait on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. 16 Then say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert.

Thinking about identity

The start of a new year is a time to sort things out. As Stephanie and I packed out a chaotic cupboard I came across many pictures and objects that I had in my room as a student. Some of them were things I would happily put up on my walls today but others were a bit embarrassing! It caused me a slight identity crisis as I had to decide what to keep and what to bin. It seems that our personal histories just can't be trusted to define who we are today.

In this Sunday's sermon we'll see how Moses went through a much deeper identity crisis. As an Egyptian royal who was at the same time a secret Jew he had to work out who he really is - but this not from his own confused perspective, but from God's perfect point of view. Feel free to read Exodus 2 - 4 for the whole story.

Happy Christmas from Canada Water Church!

All of us will have to make an effort today and tomorrow to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Perhaps reflecting on the following verse will help:

John 1:5 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. This darkness is everywhere. Not just in war torn places like Syria, Afghanistan or the West Bank, but also in London, with armed policemen watching over crowds of Christmas shoppers. And not just outside of us - but for many of us in our own hearts as we might be going through personal or relational difficulty.

But the message of Christmas is that light came into the world. That God broke into our darkness. That our darkness did not overcome his light.

That is why it is a time to celebrate - the birth of Jesus was the beginning of a story which had it’s conclusion not in his death, but in his resurrection. And his life wasn’t just for him - "his life was the light of men" - his life was for everyone who put their faith in him. In fact, the final conclusion of his birth is still to be seen in the city of light he is preparing to make us.

So whether you are celebrating or mourning this Christmas - the message is the same: his light has triumphed over our darkness. His light, his life is triumphant over our darkness and our deaths. Let’s dwell on that this Christmas.

Please also remember that we won’t have a Christmas service tomorrow since the Culture Space is unavailable. And also remember that we’ll have normal Sunday service from the 27th, 10.45am.


Christmas at Canada Water Church

This Sunday we're essentially wetting our appetites for the message of the Carol service. Christmas is all about the incarnation - the fact that God became man and made his home amongst us. Why? So that we can make our home in him. But the question we're asking this Sunday is: do you desire, long for and yearn to truly be home in God through Jesus Christ?

Heb 11:16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

It is the carol service just next weekend, so please be thinking about who you could invite. We also have another film night next Saturday and have now announced the dates for the weekend away next year so do put that in your diary!

CWC - Evening service!

Who are you? Better yet - how do you know who you are? I am not just equal to how I look, or what I do or how I am in relationship to others. I am so much more than just my appearance, job or role.

On Sunday evening we will hopefully see that I can only have a stable identity if it is received and not achieved. If God is the one that names me - gives me my identity - only then will I be able to be who I really am.

The text will be focussing on Jacob and Esau so it would be great if you took some time to look at Genesis 25:19-34.

This is the last in our series of sermons looking at the themes of the Gospel through the Bible.

How to deal with shame

All of us experience shame to some degree - that painful emotion we experience when we compare ourselves to others, or look at what we've done and compare it to what we would have liked to have done. It's painful because it affects your view of yourself - your own identity. Shame that is not dealt with can lead to all kinds of false strategies as we try and cover our shame.

Now you will know that I am not a psychologist, not even the son of a psychologist - so I will rather rely on the Bible as it reveals to us the source of our shame, the destructive power of our shame and the solution to our shame.

If you want to wet your appetite have a look at this great little video on Romans 9 (http://citylifelondon.us1.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=bb34d28e176470dfeab2f7522&id=2d6c62a57b&e=f1a68f83fa) .

Life and death... and life

Death - that is the difficult theme we are looking at on Sunday. There are many reasons why it is so difficult, not least because it is so final, so absolute.

As I've prepared to preach on this topic I've asked various people what they thought about death. Someone very helpfully remarked that he once heard a talk at a funeral that used the imagery of a lone little boat sailing into the horizon. And just at the moment when you can't see the little boat anymore it appears on the other side, at last sailing into the harbour.

This image gripped me because the Bible shows that death for a Christian is not the end, but the beginning of something really far better. Come and hear what the Bible has to say about life and death, or death and life as we look at the theme throughout Scripture.

Apologetics 101 in Acts 17

Apologetics is still a big and scary word. Put simply, apologetics is ‘the art of Christian persuasion’ – communicating the credibility, coherence, and beauty of the Christian faith. You know the saying ‘different strokes for different folks’? Well, it’s certainly true in the context of Gospel presentation. Different people will resonate better to particular kinds of approaches and arguments. Paul didn’t have a fully scripted presentation that he gave everywhere he went. Yes, there is only one Gospel, but there is more than one way to present it persuasively. 

In Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9), Paul doesn’t simply slap on a few proof-texts. He reasons with the Jews on the familiar basis of Scripture. He ‘opens it up’ for them, explaining and making the strongest possible case that the Messiah had to suffer and be raised to life. In other words, he seeks to be persuasive. And this obviously takes patience and skill, but more importantly, it takes love. You need genuine, Christ-like love to patiently explain and reason with people, not simply throw at them a few memorized lines. 

Now, a significant part of loving people is having a sense of distress and grief in light of idolatry. Apologetics and evangelism should start from this (affective) place. It’s the lesson we learn from Paul’s visit to Athens. Looking at the rampant idolatry in the city (Acts 17:16-34), Paul is deeply distressed. He isn’t simply outraged seeing the city’s idols, but grieved. Why? Yes, he is concerned with the glory of God but, deeper still, he shares God’s heart, and is pained to see people turning to created things to satisfy desires and longings that only God can satisfy. 

You see, idolatry isn’t simply physically bowing down to a statuette. It’s also taking created things, which are good in themselves, – money, sex, family, work etc. – and pursuing them as the ultimate source of our significance, security, and happiness in life. 

From that place of genuine concern for the people, Paul begins his work in Athens, the intellectual capital of the Ancient world. It’s worth noting a few things which, given the similarities between Athens and modern Western culture, are highly relevant for us. 

(1) What does Paul do in a culturally and intellectually sophisticated context like Athens? He presents the Gospel and reasons with people unashamed of his distinctive Christian beliefs and assumptions (Acts 17:17-18, 23b, 24-31). He engages in what we might call unapologetic apologetics.

The lesson is clear: Since everybody has assumptions and a big-story on the basis of which they think and imagine, don’t be ashamed of yours. Present the Gospel narrative confidently and don’t leave your assumptions at the door! Think and argue as a Christian! 

(2) Secondly, Paul understands the spiritual condition of the city: its idolatry but also its ‘open agnosticism’ (the Athenians’ altar ‘to an unknown God’ may be taken as an admission that they haven’t completely figured out ‘ultimate reality’). In our context, it is also important that we understand our culture – its idols, its guiding stories and beliefs, but also its degree of openness, so we can more effectively adjust our Gospel presentations. 

(3) If in Thessalonica and Berea (Acts 17:1-15) he reasoned with the Jews from the Scriptures, in Athens, before a Gentile audience, Paul takes a different tack. He mounts a strong case for the nature and dealings of the living God that is philosophically rigorous, culturally intelligible, and biblically rich. 

While he doesn’t quote Scripture directly, his entire speech is drenched in biblical themes and patterns of reasoning. Moreover, where he discerns consonances with the Christian worldview he quotes from his audience’s cultural authorities (poets Epimenides of Crete and Aratus of Ciligia). 

Overall, his presentation in Athens is Scripturally faithful, contextually sensitive, culturally aware, and rigorously argued. The lessons for us are clear, so it’s worth formulating them as concluding rhetorical questions:

  • Do we know the Gospel narrative, and Scripture more generally, so well that we are able to adapt our witness to the particular people we engage with? 
  • Do we know our culture’s guiding stories and beliefs? 
  • Are we familiar with today’s cultural authorities, and can we use them creatively in our witness? 
  • Are we ‘deeply distressed’ by the idols of our city? 
  • What about the idols of our own heart? 
  • Finally, are we ready to pay the price of persuasiveness out of love and deep concern for the people?

Natan Mladin


Switching Stories

Wrong Story

“Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” (Titus 1:12 ESV)

How is London’s story shaping how you live?  Are you able to summarise London's negative impact on you in a sentence?  

That is what Paul did. Well, not actually PauI (and not actually London) but an important Cretan leader about the Mediterranean Island called Crete. Paul might as well have qouted Cicero who was even sharper in his assesment of Cretans: 

“Moral principles are so divergent that the Cretans … consider highway robbery honourable” (Republic 3.9.15)

It’s to this culture that Titus is called to start new churches and Paul is using this letter to teach Titus an important lesson: bad behaviour starts at bad beliefs. The Cretans were living in the wrong story.


A story?

What did the Cretans believe about God, themselves and others that lead to their immoral behaviour? That is what Titus needs to figure out and address with the Gospel.

In fact Paul doesn’t only tell him to address it, but to “rebuke them sharply…” (Titus 1:13). With surgical focus he needs to confront the false beliefs that lead to their culture’s degenerate behaviour. But pointing it out, even with laser sharpness will have no effect if he doesn’t propose a better belief system.  

Or story. Belief system sounds complicated. All of us find ourselves in the middle of a story we’ve not made up for ourselves. Our own story is shaped by the the city or culture we live in. This large story is dynamic, ever changing as different culture shapers have an impact on what people believe.

Paul wants Titus to help them switch stories to one that is “sound” (Titus 1:13). Their current story is obviously not “sound”. They are falling apart as they’ve become “…liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” (Titus 1:12). But merely switching to a similiar story, only now also full of “Jewish myths” (Titus 1:15) will not help them. They need to switch to “the truth” (Titus 1:15).


How to switch stories 

The strategy to switch stories is simple: show them living stories. Putting people who are like them but living the Christian story or “the truth” (Titus 1:15) in front of them is his basic strategy. People living lives that hold together in a culture that is falling apart will eventually have an impact on a city’s story. In this way Paul called Titus to live the Christian story on Crete. Titus had to call elders (Titus 1:5) who were going to live the Christian story (Titus 1:6-9) in their towns and villages. And the people these elders welcomed in to see their lives would eventually show the whole island what it looks like to be Cretans but Christian.  

This didn’t start with Paul. It started with Jesus Christ. And it didn’t stop with the Cretans. Jesus Christ is God who left heaven to become one of us. He welcomes everyone in that would admit that the best of human stories is flawed and falling apart. With outstretched arms he closed our story of being rebellious lawbreakers as he died on the cross - while at the same time inviting us to find our place in a new story. One where we are reborn, loved and called to live life-giving lives in a broken world.

Through the elders and Christians at your local church God is calling you to this life. Come and find your place in his story where nothing you’ve ever done can overwhelm his death in your place - to give you life in his. 


This past Sunday I preached on the whole Titus 1, Paul’s letter to the churchplanter on the island of Crete. You can listen to the talk over here.

The Attributes of God: His Power and Will - by Kruger de Kock

Yesterday was the second sermon in our series on the attributes of God. We looked at God’s Power and Will - or also known as his Omnipotence. You can listen to the whole sermon on www.canadawaterchurch.com/sermon (thanks to Lola for uploading it!).

But here’s a summary.

In Genesis 18 we read a remarkable exchange between God and Abraham. God promises to give the elderly Abraham and his barren wife Sarah a son in exactly a year’s time, a promise so impossible that Sarah skeptically laughed. Literally LOL…

But God’s response to her scepticism is a rhetorical question: “Is anything too hard for me?” Gen 18:14.  The word ‘omnipotence’ is from the Latin ‘Omni Potens’ meaning all-powerfull. Does this mean God can do anything?

“Can God create a rock so heavy that even God himself cannot lift it?”

Perhaps you’ve heard this philosophical question before - far from being a modern question it dates back to the 12th century. The logic goes like this: if God can create this rock but he is unable to lift it, it means he is not all-powerful. And if he can’t create it, well then it also proves that he isn’t able to everything.

This 'Stone Paradox' is surely not that serious but let me give you some good stuff I plagiarised from Prof. John Frame (Reformed Theological Seminary) to craft your own reply.  He gives us a few headlines as to what God can and can’t do. Surprisingly perhaps, he says that God can’t do anything - but that is not a disability.  He compares it to a baseball player that can only hit home runs - he simply can’t hit anything lower - is that a disability?  

God can’t do: 
Immoral actions: God is holy (Lev 11:44) and “Not a man that he should lie” (Num 23:19, Tit 1:2). Lying, stealing, coveting and breaking his promises is not something God can do. 

Actions denying his own nature as God: Making another god equal to himself, abandoning his divine attributes, absorbing the universe into his own being. 

Logically contradictory actions: Being logical is his nature and his pleasure. He can't make a rope with only one end.

Actions appropriate only to finite creatures: Buying shoes, celebrating his birthday, taking medicine for a cough. Again, God’s inability to do these things is not due to any lack of power. His “inability” exists only in his disincarnate existence. 

We will get to the more personal side of all this but listen to CS Lewis regarding questions like the Stone Paradox above. This is a good challenge to you if you’re an inquirer into the Christian faith:   

“His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to him, but not nonsense. This is no limit to his power. If you choose to say 'God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it,' you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words 'God can.'... It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of his creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because his power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.” - CS Lewis

So can God make a stone too heavy for him to lift? Apply the above ‘limitations’, especially the 2nd and 3rd one and let me know what you think.

The Reformers did well to cut through the confusion on this topic by simply dividing God’s will into his absolute power and his ordained power. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert to turn stones into bread, which according to his absolute power he could have done he didn’t because of his ordained power.  What does that mean? Every time Satan tempted him to show his absolute power he responded with what he was ordained to do. “It is written..." and then he quotes Scripture (Matt. 4:3-11). This is because God has ordained means to accomplish his ends. And his word is his primary means of accomplishing his ends. 

Look again at the line that the Lord spoke to Sarah in Gen 18:14.  Our translations say: “Is anything too hard for me?”. But a literal translation would read: “Is any word of God void of power?”. God’s omnipotence or power is directed and accomplished by his words, by his promises. Isaiah 55:11 “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Sarah learns this lesson firsthand. Twenty five years before Genesis 18 God spoke to Abraham, making a promise that  “I will make you into a great nation…” (Gen 12:1) - a promise he fulfilled in the old and barren (and skeptical) Sarah. A year later Isaac was born - and from Isaac a nation and from that nation the Messiah.  This time not from a barren old mother, but from a young, virgin mother.  Mary, like Sarah was also sceptical - but echoing the Lord’s words to Sarah the angels said: “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Not only did she have a child as a virgin mother, but that child did what was impossible for us to do - he lived the obedient life we were supposed to live and he died the cursed death we were supposed to die to bring all who believe in home to the omnipotent Father.

If we can begin to grasp and understand that his incredible power and omnipotence is at work bringing us home to him, perhaps we will begin to rest in him. Read this prayer Paul prays for the Ephesians - make it your prayer for more of God's power in your life.  

Ephesians 1:18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

The Attributes of God: Immanence - by Kruger de Kock

Click here to listen to the sermon: Psalm 27: The Immanence of God

For the month of November we will look at various attributes of God - in doing this we want to be careful not to think we know God when we’re merely getting to know some characteristics of him. You still need to act on who you know God to be by enjoying a relationship of faith with Him. 

One of issues that I hear people bring up when they’re resisting a relationship with God is that a good God cannot exist if there is so much suffering in the world. Although we might want to use this contradiction to prove that a good God cannot exist we open ourselves up to a far more unsettling contradiction - one within ourselves.  You see, we long for exactly the kind of God we say does not exist: a good God that stands outside the brokenness of this world whilst being present enough to act against the suffering of this world.

But Christians have always held these two truths together - that of God’s transcendence and that of his immanence.  That of God’s far-ness and that of his near-ness. The Bible teaches both.  

God’s Transcendence

Isaiah 55:8-9 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Psalm 113:5-6 – Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?

John 8:23 – You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.

God’s Immanence

John 1:14 – The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Philippians 2:6 – Christ, “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

The problem comes in, as John Frame explains in his Systematic Theology (p. 701) that the world defines transcendence and immanence differently than Christians would. He very helpfully provides the following diagram: 

“In the biblical understanding, God’s transcendence over the world is his control and authority, his immanence in the world his covenantal presence. Non-Christian thought, too, often acknowledges some “transcendent reality.” But on the non-Christian view, transcendence refers to a reality that is so far beyond us, so mysterious to us, that we cannot have certain knowledge about it. And for non-Christian thought, immanence means that supreme authority and power is vested in the world, not in something beyond the world. So biblical transcendence (1) contradicts non-biblical immanence (4), and non-biblical transcendence (3) contradicts biblical immanence (2). To know God rightly, we must view the world as Scripture does, not as non-Christian thought does.” John Frame

In other words - you might, or your friends might say that there is a god - a great, etherial, heavenly being that is neither knowable or present, but one that exists and that our job is not to listen to, or obey him but to disregard what is not present and to work out our problems through science, or education or military might. We could even use the phrase “spiritual but not religious” to say that our spiritual belief has no bearing on what we do with our lives. 

But the God of the Bible challenges us: he is both far and near - both transcendent and immanent - a truth that becomes especially clear when he is crucified.  As Jesus, or Immanuel (“God is with us”) died a supernatural darkness fell over all Jerusalem.  In order for the Holy, Good and Transcendent God to take us as broken, sinful human beings into himself he had to pay the outstanding debt of our cosmic treason. It cost him his life to bring us near to him.  But now he is - much nearer than you think. His Spirit lives inside of us - crying out within us - within the brokenness of the hear and now that things are not as they should be.  He is the one that points us to the deepest contradiction within: we want a world without suffering but we can’t stop contributing to that suffering by our own sinfulness. But he won’t leave us. He came to break the grip of sin and death over us and he will bring us safely home. 

To end all wars - Glen Scrivener (watch it here)

What ceases war, the pressing question? 

What can halt inborn aggression?

To end all wars and retribution

War itself is no solution

Can terror end all terror now

Brute force subdue itself and bow

Can darkness drive out darkened dread

Or death extinguish death instead

We need to interrupt the spiral

Find the anti-retroviral

The story’s told of anti-Zeus

The God of peace made human truce 

Into our world into our midst

A walking talking armistice

A King now meek

His power made weak

To stand and turn the other cheek

To take the blow

Absorb disgrace

Then rise to give again his face

In grace undimmed

And arms unfurled 

To bless and pacify the world

And you - to sweet surrender brought

Forgiveness for your battles fought

Peace to pastor every soul 

Then warfare ceased from pole to pole