Being counted as a member

Church membership classes are coming soon. Church membership isn’t often thought about today. You might wonder why it’s necessary. “What benefits come from being a church member?” “I’m already a Christian, why do this extra thing?” “Is it even in the Bible?”

It’s the last question which is key, as I’m sure you agree. You might be suspicious of the concept because the term ‘church member’ isn’t in the Bible. But over the next few weeks I’m hoping to show that the concept is there, even if the term isn’t. You might not agree with every argument made, but my hope is that the weight of all the verses and arguments will convince you, not only to become a member if you’re not, but to see the goodness in it.

This week, consider the reality of verses like Acts 2:41 (“And there were added that day about three thousand souls.”) and Acts 4:4 (“The number of men came to about five thousand.”)

They were keeping count of those who joined the church. Two things had to happen to do that: 1 – a person had to present themselves as a believer (no doubt by being baptised as they are converted); 2 – the leadership had to accept them as genuine believers (they wouldn’t let those they didn’t think genuine in).

The method for how this was done isn’t prescribed, but a form of church membership in this new movement is implied. It even shows up in Acts 5:13, where the people were scared to “join” the church (a word that is more than just “showing up”, but “sticking to”, “uniting with”).

Are you willing to both join the church and be recognised as a member? We’ll build on this topic in the next few weeks.

He ate fish 

Sometimes it’s the small details that make all the difference. It’s the salt that transforms a bland meal into a delicious one. In the Easter story, one of those small details is in Luke 24:42-43, “They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.”

We might be tempted to reject the Easter story. “It must have been made up.” “It’s impossible to come back to life after being dead for that long.” “Maybe it’s just metaphorical, and Jesus was just alive in their hearts.”

But this one small event forces us to take a second look. He ate some fish. Days after he’d been declared dead he was eating fish. A ghost doesn’t eat, someone who’s “alive in our hearts” doesn’t eat. It’s an odd detail to include if you were just making the story up.

After his death, Jesus ate fish. That small detail changes everything. If it’s true, it means all Jesus said about himself was true. He really did come back from the dead, which is what he said he’d do. Which means his death did what he said it would do – bring forgiveness for all who’d trust him.

Make this Easter the time you actually think about Jesus’ claims. If this small detail is true, it changes everything – and it should change your life. It would mean his death was no ordinary death. It would mean there really is a God that you and I are accountable to, whose judgement we’ll one day face. But it would also mean this God has offered a way to escape that judgement.

That’s a lot riding on that one small detail. Why not give the Easter story another look? We’d love to help you do that.


With Thankfulness 

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col 3:16)

How can we read the Bible, and fill ourselves with God’s word, and not be filled with thankfulness? Consider what the God’s word claims for itself:

  • God’s word is true (John 17:17). Through the Bible we can discover the truth about who God is, who we are, and our desperate need for a saviour. It doesn’t tell us a nice lie that we can save ourselves, it tells us the honest, hard truth of sin and saviour.
  • God’s word makes us wise for salvation (2 Tim 3:15). How could we know the good news, that Christ’s work on the cross saves us if we grasp hold of it by faith, if not for the Bible? Praise God for this glorious message!
  • God’s word sanctifies us (makes us holy – John 17:17Psalm 119:8). Without God’s word we’d be left in the dark with no clue how we should live, no idea how to please God. But in the Bible we discover how God wants us to live.
  • God’s word equips us (2 Tim 2:16-17). Now that we’re saved, and because it’s a word of truth, God’s word equips us in how to live, how to love, what to think and believe, and in what areas we need to change. God doesn’t leave us on our own, he takes us by the hand through his word.

As we approach Easter, how could we not be filled with thankfulness at what God’s word has shown us? Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, with thankfulness overflowing to others.


“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly … singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs … (Col 3:16)

We all know how much easier it is to remember songs than to remember someone’s phone number, or even Bible verses. How often have you been able to sing a line, a whole verse, or even an entire song at church without looking at the words?

Music is a wonderful gift from God. It stirs our emotions the way ordinary words often don’t, embeds itself into our memory, and provides corporate unity as we all sing with one voice. And because of these benefits (plus any others you can think of), singing is a big part of letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly.

What are some ways we can do this as a body? It’s easy enough to sing on our own – in the shower, in the car, during your quiet time. And we do it each week during our church service. Are there any other ways we can sing together though, that the word of Christ would dwell in us richly? Here are some ideas:

  • Sing as a family – whether you have kids, a spouse, or are single, why not read the Bible, pray and sing each night? It can certainly be difficult with younger children, but it’s an excellent way for all of us, including them, to be filled with God’s word
  • Gather as a small group to sing – get together with a group from church to pray and sing some songs in praise and thanksgiving to God. Sing your favourites and try some new songs.

We should cherish this gift of music. When the world mocks, when our minds accuse, we can cling to those blessed lyrics, “Even so, it is well with my soul.”

Admonishing one another 

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom… (Col 3:16)

These words are the most awkward to obey. The idea of ‘admonishing one another’ might fill us with dread – and it doesn’t matter if we’re the ones doing the admonishing, or receiving it! But if we want the word of Christ to dwell in us richly, then we can’t put these words to the side.

The question that naturally comes is: how does admonishing each other achieve mean the word of Christ will dwell in us richly? To answer that, we need to understand the purpose of God’s word – or one of its purposes, at least. God’s word, by the power of the Spirit, changes us to be more like Jesus.

When we read the Bible, it’s not meant to merely inform the mind. It should be changing our hearts, desires, and actions. As we read the word we should make every effort to become more like Jesus and to weed out the sin that clings so closely.

So why admonish one another? Because of love. We realise, like us, they are prone to see sin in others but to be blind to their own. We mourn that others struggle with the same weakness. So in love we come alongside them, and in wise gentleness we point out their fault.

We don’t do it proudly or judgmentally. We examine ourselves to see if we struggle in this area too; if we do, then we acknowledge it as we admonish, and strive to combat sin together. If we don’t struggle in that area, we remember that we struggle in ways they don’t.

And how do we receive such admonishment? With thankfulness that God uses his people, that his word would dwell in us richly.

Teaching one another 

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom… (Col 3:16)

We’ve considered ways we can begin to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly individually. But we can’t leave it there, because the Christian life isn’t an isolated life. We’re a community. So what are some ways that we can make sure the word of Christ is dwelling among us when we meet, whenever we meet?

Teaching one another – does it surprise you that teaching is not the sole responsibility of the minister, or the elders? Paul wrote Colossians to the church, not only to the leaders, but he tells them to teach one another. How can we do that?

Share what you read from God’s word that morning – what stuck with you? How were you challenged? It might be helpful to someone else!

Share a verse or passage that you think might be helpful – are they depressed? Going through a hard time? Enjoying success? Share something with them. It won’t necessarily make a huge impact right then, but we want to bring the word of Christ into all our circumstances.

Meet regularly with someone to read and discuss God’s word – we have a Bible Study on Wednesdays, hopefully soon we’ll have more. Come if you can – but that’s not the only way to do this. Why not meet with someone from the church weekly/fortnightly, read a passage from Romans, and discuss it? (Be wise about it though! Meet with someone of the same gender!) I’d love to do this with some of the guys here. If you’re interested, let me know!

Again, this is only the start of what we could do. But we all have the responsibility to teach one another. How can you do it today?

Turn the volume up! 

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Col 3:16)

We have so much around us trying to mute or drown out God’s word. So how can we turn the volume up on God’s word? How can the word of Christ dwell richly in us? Let’s focus on the individual level now, and then look at how we do this as a group next week. Here are some basics we can all do:

Read the Bible each day – Pick a time and stick to it. Read a section or a chapter a day. That might take up to 10 minutes. Our culture suffers from biblical illiteracy – they have no idea what the Bible says. Don’t be content to be biblically illiterate.

Pray the Bible each day – What can you pray about in your reading? What did you learn about God, Christ, the world, you? Pray about it, consider it, even pray the very words back to God (“Thank you, God, that you are my shepherd, and that I don’t want.”)

Memorise the Bible each day – This is the one people get stuck on, but we shouldn’t! Take one of the shorter letters in the New Testament, and take the year to memorise. Some tips: Read one verse ten times out loud; say it from memory ten times (glancing back if you have to). The next day, recite the previous verse, then read the next verse 10 times, and recite it ten times. And keep going! Recite what you’ve learned, then add to it. When you finish the book, say it all for the next 100 days. Then move on! It won’t stay word perfect, but it’ll be very familiar! (I’m working on 1 John. Why not try Philippians?)

If we do this the word of Christ will begin to dwell in us richly.

What dwells within you? 

It’s been a dramatic few weeks, both here and abroad. In Florida we’ve seen yet another school shooting – the second worst public school shooting in US history. At this stage it’s difficult to know what motivated the attacker. Was it mental illness? Vengeance for his expulsion? Something else? What were the thoughts that were running through his mind?

Closer to home, Barnaby Joyce has been exposed as an adulterer, and now a father from that adultery. What motivated him to do this?

While there are no doubt complexities to these questions, it’s unmistakable that the answer, (at least partially in the shooter’s case), is sin. Sinful thoughts and desires. Selfishness. Arrogance. A lack of love and compassion. A desire to live for self and mould the world around them how they desired it to be.

But we can’t look down on these men. Aren’t those same thoughts and motivations in us? We get angry at others, and lash out. We selfishly expect others to serve us and our wants, and are too often thoughtless when it comes to serving in return. The sin within us is the same, even if only expressed differently. How can we battle against what is inside us?

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly… (Col 3:16)

We must replace the words of our former sinful nature with the words of Christ. Instead of listening to those words of selfishness, we must fill our hearts with the word of Christ, who speaks of service. Instead of vengeance, slander and gossip; instead of thinking the worst of each other, we fill our hearts with grace, love, truth and generosity.

Does the word of Christ dwell in you richly? Over the next few weeks we’ll explore what that might look like.

We’re all in this together

Paul, an apostle – not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead – and all the brothers who are with me… (Gal 1:1-2)

Whenever I think about it, I’m always blown away by how much is in God’s word. It’s the preacher’s dilemma that he always discovers more in the text, and thinks about so many ways it could apply to our lives, than he could possibly communicate (unless the people are willing to sit for an hour or two)!

Think about these two verses for a moment. “Paul.” A long time could be spent thinking about Paul – who he was before Christ, his conversion, his mission. “An apostle.” We could think about the task of an apostle, his responsibilities and authority. Do we treat the words of Paul as those of an apostle with authority, or as just someone else with an opinion?

We could go on, but have you ever noticed that last phrase: “and all the brothers who are with me”? When we read through Paul’s adventures in Acts, and his letters, it’s easy to forget that the great Apostle Paul was not a lone-ranger. He had men and women with him, partnering with him, in the gospel-mission.

Throughout Acts, Paul was with Barnabas, Silas, Luke, Timothy, and many others. He constantly mentions name after name at the end of his letters. Despite his calling and the revelations he received, he worked with others to proclaim the gospel.

Gospel-ministry isn’t the responsibility of one person in the church. We’re all in this together. We’re a family, meant to encourage one another and spur one another on. Gospel-work isn’t the task of the “called one” only. So are you ready to get to work? What a privilege we all have!

Please, forgive me

I wonder what you expect now that I’m here. Are you expecting change? If so, is it good change, or bad? Are you expecting me to be like those who’ve come before me? Would that be good?

There’s one thing I can guarantee you: I will disappoint you. I will disappoint you in many different ways. And for that I can only beg your forgiveness in advance. How will I disappoint you?

I will disappoint you by sinning against you. There will be times when I am rude, do not listen, fail to love you, and more. Like you I am a work in progress – a sinner saved by grace, but still a sinner. So please, be ready to forgive me.

I will disappoint you by what I change, and what I do not. My style will be different. The order of service will change. Where I stand, the length of sermons, the songs I choose will change. Some you might like, but maybe not all. So please, be ready to forgive me.

I will disappoint you by not knowing all the answers. Lives are messy and complicated. You will face challenges I have never faced, and maybe have never thought about. I’m young, inexperienced, and just out of College. So please, be ready to forgive me.

One of my prayers for our church is 1 Peter 4:8 – ‘Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.’

I can promise you, I will try. I will work hard at bringing God’s word, and loving you. I will point you to Christ in suffering and encourage you in evangelism.

Please tell me when I’ve sinned against you or disappointed you. And please, forgive me.