The Wordless Father

Personal Matters

A few weeks ago I was privileged, a word I do rarely use for Christian meetings, to attend a seminar in the city where Letitia Shelton spoke about the ministry of City Women in Toowoomba.

This is a diverse ministry that draws resources from the Body of Christ across that municipality reaching into high schools with the message of hope and dignity, and providing discipleship, mentoring, accommodation, pregnancy services, assisting women coming out of prostitution and multiple agencies of relationally based family support.

The fruit is mature and bears all the signs of Jesus’ love (John 15:16). I had heard Letitia previously and was already aware of the unusual quality of their ministry. Given this past familiarity, and my lack of optimism about the Church in Perth picking up the message,

I was initially hesitant about attending the gathering at all. Eventually succumbing to the graces of the Spirit I did come and sensed at the seminar something that inspired my prophetic imagination. It was the presence of a quality of heart that makes this sort of kingdom activity transferable (1 Cor 11:1). The day was facilitated by my friend Nick Scott and it was how he commenced the day that broke things open in the Spirit.

The Broken Father

Nick described how when he returned to Perth from first hearing Letitia speak and attempted to convey to his wife what he’d heard he kept breaking down in wordless tears. This happened repeatedly. Being overwhelmed with emotion at the care being shown to broken and abused women is not the normal response of an Australian male; “even” a pastor. Such brokenness is however a window into the heart of God the Father, a heart indwelt by Jesus. “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” (John 1:18 NRSV).

When City Women is invited by school authorities to speak to their girls they are of course not allowed to preach about Jesus. But by love, care and compassion they show Jesus and in showing Jesus show the Father (John 14:9).

The interesting thing about this ministry is that it seems completely free of reproaching moralism towards those who don’t yet know the Father’s love.

Sexual promiscuity and like are simply to be expected from girls who don’t know about Christ; how else could it be?

The way Paul speaks to the pagans in Acts 17 is very different from how he speaks to the Church about secular culture in Romans 1 .

The former is a clear communication of the good news to the lost who Jesus came to save (Luke 19:10).

Legal repentance and Evangelical repentance.

There is a vast difference between legal repentance and evangelical repentance.

Legal repentance says: if you repent then God will be gracious to forgive you.

Evangelical/gospel repentance says: God has forgiven you in Christ, therefore turn back to him and accept his acceptance.

The legal lays the stress on what we do to connect with God, the latter on what God has accomplished for us in Christ.

Paul tried to get this through to some legalistic believers in his day;

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” . (NLT)

An old teacher of mine used to say that when people see Jesus all-forgiving love repentance is “evoked” i.e. drawn out of their hearts. If you think I am going soft in my old age there is a powerful witness to these truths in Jesus’ own teaching.

The Wordless Father

Here is a question I felt the Lord brought to my mind when I was in the City Women meeting; “What did the father of the rebellious prodigal son say to the boy when he returned home?

He said “Nothing.” He conveyed the contents of his heart by what he did; impelled by compassion he ran to his son, embraced him, placed on him a robe and ring and then spoke to the servants that they were to throw a party (Luke 15:20-24).

This son instantly knew that the self-condemnation of his miserable conscience; “‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’” was dissolved in the presence of the Father’s love (Luke 15:21).

The shameful scale of worthiness/unworthiness which holds all prodigals/rebels captive was utterly swept away never to return (John 8:34).

Wordless to his returning son the father however has things to say to the older brother who wants to rake up the record of his sibling’s sins (Luke 15:30).

This angry legalistic child actually rebukes his father and in so doing degrades his own status to that of a slave, “‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command,” (Luke 15:29).

The father’s reply is a gentle but deep correction to his oldest boy; “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”” (Luke 15:31-32).

This son was so consciousness of his own righteousness that he was totally ignorant of his father’s heart.

The story ends there, but if the history of Israelite religion is any guide the chances of the pharisaic in-house son taking the father’s love into his heart are very slim.

What is it that we, who are so often like the older brother, missing?

Raw

Letitia explained that the original impetus for City Women came from expletive laden “raw words” of a former non-Christian woman mayor of Toowoomba who challenged Christian women about taking care of those outside the Church.

The true rawness of human need should take our minds immediately to the cross.

In becoming human and dying for us Jesus fully embraced all the miseries of the rebellious in a “far country” away for the glory of his Father’s presence (Luke 15:13; Rom 8:3).

At the cross the rawness of human depravity and suffering was laid bare in the agonies of Christ.

A practical theology of the cross agrees with the sentiments of a saint much persecuted by the comfortable Established Church of his day, “Christ’s merits bought a blessing to the crosses of the sons of God….no man has a velvet cross” (John Flavel).1)John Flavel [c.1627–1691] was an English Presbyterian clergyman, puritan, and author.

Whilst the churches of today preach cushioned crosses ministries like City Women will remain rare amongst us. It is only as we suffer inconvenience and discomfort in identifying with lost children of God who have no idea what they are doing in their lives can we lead them through Jesus back to the Father (Luke 23:34).

Conclusion

Nick Scott’s tears, the overwhelming emotion of the father of the lost prodigal son and the compassionate ministry of City Women all image in action more than words that through Jesus the lost are already in the heart of the Father (cf. Eph 1:3-4).

In Christ the sin against heaven has been completely dealt with so that his Father is free from all driven legalistic negativity.

Our task is to so live like Jesus that the Spirit might restore to broken souls the memory of a Father who never rejects.

Repentance must come, but it is a repentance “evoked” by memory of the Father’s love in an unconditional embrace (Luke 15:20).

The parable of the rebellious prodigal son is a parable for our day, a day in which multitudes of lost people, old as well as young, need to discover the heart of God in actions beyond words.

Yet, how many in the church need to discover this for themselves?

References   [ + ]

1. John Flavel [c.1627–1691] was an English Presbyterian clergyman, puritan, and author.

How do I obtain Salvation

by Rev Gary Green
Four Corner Ministries

What is the first thing we must do to obtain salvation?

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John 3:18

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

John 20:31

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Romans 6:8

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

John 8:24

I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”

Acts 16:31
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.”

Romans 10:9 – 10
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.


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BELIEVE »and» CONFESS
Read the prayer   and Pray the Prayer to God
      »   The Prayer         «

1 Timothy 1:16

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

1 John 5:13
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

John 1:12 – 13
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Our first step is to believe the message of Jesus Christ; the second is to embrace the message as being for you personally; and thirdly, following actions of changing life directions towards God and living according to His ways must follow. The Bible describes this in the word (repent) from sin. Belief without corresponding actions is purely mental accent, an academic position, the biblical impact of believe will compel the “believer to act or react” to sin, the desire to disobey God should no longer be part of the believers life, in fact the consequence of becoming a believer is a desire to obey.

Can salvation be obtained by simply repenting and deciding to obey God’s laws?

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Romans 3:20-24
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Keeping the law will not make us righteous in his sight (God’s) if the Law was able to do that then what point would there be for God to send His only Son to be crucified on the cross for our sin?

(Jesus said believe that I am the one I claim to be)
click here for what the salvation prayer is

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Repentance

by Charles Slack

In Acts 2:38, Peter outlines what one must do to be saved. The first requirement is repent, meaning turn away from sinful self. The Bible emphasizes repentance: the ministry of John the Baptist focused on it to pave the way for the Jesus who also stresses it, being “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) The Bible appears to assume its readers know what it means to repent. In Biblical times people understood the concept. But these days they don’t! Repentance needs to be spelled out in detail for modern man. An itemized list of repentance items was put together in the mid 1930’s by American alcoholics desperate to stop drinking. They compiled their list by reading (and listening to their wives read) the Bible (particularly the Book of James) and then spending a “quiet time” humbly asking God for specific personal instructions.

The result of this contrite seeking and desperate desire for abstinence is called The Twelve Steps. Today millions of people world-wide, employ “The Steps” to abstain from obsessive-compulsive sins like gambling, drugs, sex addiction, stealing, cluttering, co-dependence, anger, swearing, violence, compulsive shopping, overeating, – the list goes on. Christian churches also employ the Steps but are just more specific than AA about exactly who God is. Here is a Christian version of the Steps with associated scriptures.

Twelve Steps and Their Biblical Comparisons 1)Adapted by Celebrate Recovery

We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
Romans 7:18

We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Philippians 2:13

We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. 
Romans 12:1

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. 
Lamentations 3:40

We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed
James 5:16

We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. 
James 4:10

We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 
1 John 1:9

We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Luke 6:31

We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift
Matthew 5:23-24

We continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 
1 Corinthians 10:12

We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and power to carry that out. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly
Colossians 3:16

Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore them gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 
Galatians 6:1

Of course, as Peter makes clear in Acts 2:38, repentance is not the whole story. To be saved one must also “be baptized…in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and…receive the gift of the Holy Ghost”. But God honors sincere repentance by non-Christians, animists, pagans, even open-minded atheists who earnestly want to quit some heavy sin. Nineveh repented (Jonah 3:1-10) and God spared that city; Muslim Iran has nearly 4000 meetings of Narcotics Anonymous every week; AA and Al-Anon are going strong in the former Soviet Union and East Central Europe2)See the Legacy Vol 48 / issue 2 May/ June 2011 [link pdf] Many Buddhists seem to have no problem following the 12 Steps 3)see Kevin Griffin “One Breath At A Time

As a convicted Christian, I am certain that to remain totally free from obsessions and be happy about it requires an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit as well as a constant reminder that it’s the first bite of forbidden fruit (drug, punt, swear-word etc.) that does the damage. Most churches do a good job of emphasizing the relationship with Jesus. The 12 Steps have helped me and millions of others “go and sin no more” (John 8:11).

Addendum:

Perhaps this is the time to remind ourselves that repentance benefits the perpetrator not the victim. When I say “sorry” to you from my heart, I go away justified: God restores my righteousness. What happens to you in this case is between you and the Lord. You may reject my penance, might even shut the door in my face, but if I have followed Jesus’ teaching and repented, then I will go “down to my house justified” (Luke 18:14) Of course, there may be more to it than just saying “sorry”. Perhaps atonement is in order. Perhaps I have restitution to make. Maybe I have to put money where my mouth is. If so I must atone as if “unto the Lord.” My victim’s demands are not irrelevant but they are not paramount. My victim may be greedy, or revengeful, or too proud to accept my amends. Of course my victim may also be grateful – whatever. My victim’s attitude a matter between him and God, just as my justification is between me and God. And when we are victimized, what do we do? The Bible is clear: we forgive. If we continue to bear resentment or self-pity, we are the ones who suffer most! For our own righteousness, not to mention our mental health, we must forgive those who hurt us.

Nations are the same as individuals when it comes to apologies, expiation, amends and compensation. But right now, I’m thinking about you and me not the Australian nation. When wrong, admit it promptly. Don’t worry about the reaction. That’s their problem. We simply do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

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References   [ + ]

1. Adapted by Celebrate Recovery
2. See the Legacy Vol 48 / issue 2 May/ June 2011 [link pdf]
3. see Kevin Griffin “One Breath At A Time