Christians suing Christians

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Very young children get a bit hurt when you shout at them when they're playing – like when they try to take a sharp knife off the work tops, or pull a boiling pan off the hob… parents can be very sharp in times like that – but to the kids it's mystifying why we're so angry.  We can see that she's in danger and want her to know just how close she's coming, so that she won't do it again, but she has no idea of the danger she's in.

Something similar is going on in our passage this morning… Paul get's all upset and metaphorically 'shouts' at the Corinthian church – verse one is literally Dare you, as in 'How dare you'…  and verse five he bluntly says 'I say this to shame you' when in chapter four he had been very careful to say 'I don't say this to shame you' – evidently he thought shaming them a serious thing to do.

But what is Paul so upset about?  This is nothing like as serious as last chapter where he was talking about a man having an affair with his mother in law, or the second half of this chapter where he tells them to stop sleeping with prostitutes…so why is the so worked up about a few issues in the small claims court?

Paul is like the parent who sees the danger and knows that only a serious warning will get the message through.  There is real danger here, though we might miss it at first.

So what is the danger?  This little matter in the small claims court is the tip of an iceberg that could sink their witness and their faith.  How?  At heart it represents a denial of the gospel.

Paul argues this through from the least significant to the most significant – if this were an iceberg he starts with the tip, which is bad enough, then goes on to examine the underlying ice berg, which is terrible; and then to explain the potential for ship wreck.

Let me show you what I mean.  In verse 1-6 he argues that Christians suing Christians is shocking because it undermines the gospel by buying into corrupt thinking and making the church a legitimate target for mockery;  in verse 6-8 he shows how their behaviour effectively denies the gospel of repentance and forgiveness; and in verses 9-11 he shows that they are reversing the gospel, which can only lead to disaster.

so we'll look at each of those three sections in turn under these headings:

Christians suing Christians undermines the gospel (vv 1-6)

Christians suing Christians denies the gospel (vv 6-8)

Christians suing Christians reverses the gospel (vv 9-11)

So let's start with the tip of the ice berg:

Point 1: Christians suing Christians undermines the gospel (vv 1-6)

Let's read from verse 1:

1 If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! 5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6 But instead, one brother goes to law against another--and this in front of unbelievers!

We've already noticed Paul's white hot anger here – how dare they do this, they should be ashamed of themselves!  What's the issue here?  The issue is that Christians are taking each other to court.  It appears that this civil court action – small claims court.  Verse 2 these are trivial cases, verse 3, they are talking about things of this life – matters of everyday life – food, drink, money, reputation, that sort of thing.  We're not talking serious crimes here, more likely business deals have broken down, promises broken, or reputations damaged.

And the issue is that these trivial things are being taken to the ungodly for adjudication.  Paul's just been talking about how the church should be able to exercise discipline within it's members (ch 5 – Dan spoke to us about this two weeks ago, you can catch up online if you missed it).  On the one hand in ch 5 they have been allowing serious moral failure to go on unchallenged in the church.  And on the other hand they have been calling each other out on more trivial matters – and taking each other to court to set things right.  It's a shambles.

And for the record the civil court system in Corinth was notoriously corrupt – very open to bribes, and worse when you took someone to court the best way to win your case was character assassination, and the best way to defend yourselves was to throw mud back in the other direction.  Not a good way to ensure justice.

So you have this situation where Christians are doing each other over in business and personal matters, and then getting in public slanging matches to try and set it right.  It's a right mess and they're buying into this messy system.

Paul's going to deal with the problem of ripping each other off in the second section, but here in these verses his issue is the way they're doing all this in the public courts.  They're bringing the church into disrepute.  In verse 2-5 he makes it clear that they ought to be able to sort out these minor matters – remember they're the church that's full of boasting about their wisdom and accomplishments – how can it be possible that there's not even one person among them wise enough to be trusted to judge between brothers?  And this among a group who will reign with Christ in the age to come – a reign that includes judgement on the whole earth, even over angels; if they will be included in that reign, can't they settle these trivial things?

It's not entirely clear why Paul mentions the coming judgement here – he's probably referring to OT passages like Dan 7 that imply that God's people join with him in judging the nations; it may even have been one of the things they loved to boast about.  But I think the key thing here is just to remind them that they are not acting in line with God's future judgement.  Everything will be set right by God on that judgement day, no need to be dragging people through the courts now.

Can you see the problem?  They're bringing the name of the church into disrepute, they're not acting in line with God's judgement or the gospel.  If Christianity is a brand, they're damaging the brand name.  We saw it this week in football – some Aston Villa players were out late at night drinking and got into a fight at a bar – and the manager says his players have brought shame on the football club.  We saw it in the local Government elections – the conservatives lost a heap of seats and commentators point the finger at David Cameron and say his policies and leadership put people off conservatives all together.  In the same way these people in the church taking each other to court are damaging the reputation of the whole church.

And get this – if they damage the reputation of the church it's not ultimately about the church.  It's about God and his gospel.  The church is the family of God.  If the church looks and sounds and acts like a soap opera it reflects right back to God.  They're bringing God's name into disrepute; they're putting people off the gospel.  They need to stop and think before they act because they're putting people off.  And think how bad that is – the gospel is the invitation to life, to forgiveness from God and new life in him.  So putting people off so that they can't even hear the message could be the difference knowing God and not knowing God, between being forgiven and remaining under God's judgement.  This is serious.

We need to move on to look at the next section, but before we do I just need to make two comments.

First this is not saying that we can't or shouldn't deal with criminal matters thought the courts.  There may be times when we turn the other cheek and don't pursue criminal charges.  But personal forgiveness and justice are separate things – we always need to forgive those who wrong us, but they may still need to suffer the consequences of their actions and take their punishment, for their good and the good of society.

And Second a word of application to us – we may not be dragging fellow Christians through the courts, but we need to be aware that if we call ourselves Christians then we are 'brand ambassadors' for Christ.  Whatever we do reflects back to Him – so if people know you're a Christian and they know you're a hypocrite, they're that much less likely to believe the gospel.  Just like the church inCorinthwe need to think about how our lives advertise the gospel – whether we're a good advertisement or a bad one.

So that's dealt with the tip of the ice berg – they're taking each other to court over trivial matters and it's bringing the whole church into disrepute – making them a laughing stock and worse, bringing dishonour on God, making it harder for outsiders to become Christians.  That's bad enough, but it's just the tip of the iceberg.  The worst of it is that by their actions they're denying the gospel, which is our next point.

Point 2: Christians Suing Christians denies the gospel (vv 6-8)

Have a look with me at these verses, starting at verse 6:

6:6 But instead, one brother goes to law against another--and this in front of unbelievers! 7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.

Verse six transitions from point one to point two.  The fact that they're taking each other to court is itself terrible, as we've seen.  But the bigger problem is that they're brothers, they shouldn't be having these disputes in the first place.  The church is a family – God's family no less – what sort of a family takes each other to court over a few quid or a minor insult?  What sort of a family rips each other off and trades insults?  Does God treat us like that?  Is that the family likeness?

Simply having dispute like this among them is a disgrace, a defeat, this is a lose-lose situation, both sides are losers, as is the church.

So Paul seems to deliberately take each side of the dispute to task for failing to see the implications of the gospel for their behaviour.  Have a look at verse seven:

7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?

he effectively says to the person bringing the law suit 'what about forgiveness'?  Rather than trying to tear your brother apart for your own advantage it would be more Christ-like to forgive, even if you've been wronged and cheated.

Isn't this the gospel – that we're in the wrong with God, we've wracked up massive debts that we simply can not pay, and God pays the debt for us so that we can walk free.  If that is how God treats us then we should treat others in the same way.  Just as God's forgiveness overflows towards us, so our forgiveness should overflow towards others.  I'm sure Paul would have taught them the Lord's prayer which says 'forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us'.  They probably prayed it week by week in their church services too.  How could they be such hypocrites?

Didn't Jesus explicitly teach his disciples this very lesson?  In Matt 18 Peter says to Jesus 'how many times should I forgive my brother?' and Jesus says effectively as many times as they do wrong – and then he tells the parable of a servant who's master forgives him a massive debt, so massive he has no hope of repaying it.  But as soon as he leaves the room he tracks down a fellow servant who owes him a much smaller sum of money – and he refuses to cancel the debt owed to him.  And Jesus says that the master is furious when he hears.

If we have been forgiven by God we need to forgive others.  To hold a grudge and to fail to forgive is to insult the God who forgave us.  So any time a Christian bears a grudge and fails to forgive they are denying the gospel.

But of course there is also the matter of ripping your brother off, and Paul addresses this in the next verse.  So look with me at verse 8:

(7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?)

8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.

This bloke, for his part has also denied the gospel – the gospel calls us to repentance from sin, to turn away from things that are displeasing to God and to live for him instead.  To say that you're a Christian, but to then go around ripping people off, or slandering people and ruining their reputation or what ever else they might have been doing is to act as if the gospel is simply an invitation to do wrong.  It's doubly wrong in this case – no Christian should cheat and do wrong; how much less should we do it to our fellow Christians, our brothers and sisters in Christ?

The glory of the gospel is that there is full forgiveness for sins.  Jesus has died to pay the price we owe to God.  His death brings forgives and new life.  So the invitation of the gospel is to repent and believe the good news.  But notice that the invitation is to repent.  The gospel is not simply a case of wiping the slate clean so we can dirty it again.  It is an invitation to make a fresh start, to turn away from the old way of life and to enter into a new one, a new life with God as ruler.  You can't turn away from your old way of life and keep living the same way as you used to.  That's not turning away from your old way of life!

The tip of the ice berg was the use of public courts, the ice berg itself was the Godless way they denied the gospel by treating each other so shamefully.  No wonder they made it hard for people to become Christians, they said one thing, but their actions said the exact opposite.  The proclaimed a gospel of forgiveness for sins, and called on all people to repent and trust in God.  But at the same time they refused to forgive each other and failed to repent and submit to God.

How can Paul ask them to accept being ripped off, or to refrain from defending their reputations… again it's because they trust there will be a final judgement where all things will be put right, they don't need to set everything right here, in fact they can't.  But God will set things right then, so they can let things pass. 

You can see why Paul was so upset - their behaviour was so far out of line with the gospel as to actually deny it.

This calls for sober reflection from us, because in big and small ways we do the very same thing.  We often fail to consistently think through how the gospel shapes our life, and so we live inconsistently.  The gospel calls us to live repentance and to give forgiveness and all in the light of the day when God will set all things right.

Their behaviour was a massive ice berg – revealed in their law suits against one another.  Ice bergs are beautiful, but they're deadly. If you don't see it and take evasive action an ice berg can sink a massive ship.  And that is Paul's ultimate concern.  That leads to my third point.

Point 3: Christians suing Christians Reverses the Gospel (vv 9-11)

3) Consistently living as if non Christian endangers our standing as Christian

We have here from Paul a sober warning about the direction they are heading in – people who live in those things will not inherit thekingdomofGod.

Have a look at 9:

9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders

10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

There are at least three things here that we really need to hear and be clear about.

First some behaviours or more properly some lifestyles rule us out of theKingdomofGod.  Paul is not saying do any of these things once and you can't be saved.  But he is saying if you live in these ways, if you consistently persevere in them, you will not inherit theKingdomofGod.

We need to be clear on this because some say that the gospel is the news that everyone is accepted by God.  Not quite – the gospel says that all can be accepted by God if they repent and turn to him.  Paul is emphasising here that repentance is an absolute requirement if we want to know God and be saved by him.  You can not continue in these lifestyles and be members of God's kingdom.  The two are mutually exclusive.

Look down the list – sex matters to God, sex outside of marriage is ruled out; sex with someone who you aren't married to is ruled out.  And homosexual sex is ruled out – here 'male prostitutes' is literally the passive recipient of homosexual sex, and 'homosexual offenders' is the active partner in homosexual sex.  We don't win brownie points for saying it, but it remains true that God does not bless homosexual behaviour, instead he condemns it and call for repentance and change.  It's one sexual sin among many, but like the rest it is offensive to God.

But notice that sex is not the only thing God cares about.  He cares how we treat each other, he cares about faithfulness in our marriages, he cares about failing to tell the truth, about stealing and lying and cheating and greed and drunkenness and slander and swindling.  God cares when we use and abuse others for our own advantage.  God wants what is good for us and good for others.  He wants us to love others as we love ourselves and to think of their interests above our own.  Consistently living in the opposite direction will rule us out of thekingdomofGod.

So if you call yourself a Christian and you live in any of these ways (as the Corinthians did) – then God says to you Watch Out, verse 9 do not be deceived, you will not receive the Kingdom of God living like that.  You need to repent and turn from those things before it's too late.

But the second thing we need to hear and be clear about is that the gospel is the good news that there is forgiveness for every thing if we put our trust in Jesus.

This is the gospel in action inCorinth– verse 11 that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

They had been all those things, but in Jesus they have now been washed, sanctified and justified.

They were washed in Jesus by the Spirit - by Jesus death they have been cleansed of all their guilt so that they are completely clean, free from guilt;

They have been united to Jesus by faith in him and so made holy - which is what sanctified means – that is they have been set apart for God, made fit for him.  Now God himself lives in them by his Holy Spirit;

and they have been justified – that is they have been set right with God just as if they had never sinned, restored to relationship with God.

This is a great reversal and it must be a great comfort to us – the things listed in verse 9 and 10 rule us out – but only if we keep living in them.  It's possible to be washed clean from any one of them, to be made holy despite having lived like that, to be able to come to God as if none of it ever happened.

That being so can you see how the Corinthian law suits represent a reversal of the gospel.  Swindling, greed, lies and slander are the past for Christians, those are the things we leave behind in coming to Christ.  But the church inCorinthis going back into them, they're reversing the direction of the gospel – those are the things you were, don't go back to them.  You haven't been washed and sanctified and justified so you could continue doing the things that made you unclean, unfit for God and out of relationship with him, but to know God and honour him.  Keep going as you are and you're in danger of missing out on the salvation that is held out in the gospel, and worse you keep others from believing too.

And so the Third thing we need to notice?  There is an inheritance for those who trust in Jesus.  Behind all that Paul's been saying to these guys there is the ultimate reality that God is going to bring all things into judgement.  The things that they are worried about pale into insignificance in the light of that great reality.  God will set all things to rights – so don't worry about getting a bit ripped off here and there, God will look after you, now, and in the future.  In him you have an eternal inheritance, life with him forever, so great you won't be worrying about the things you lost out on.  But that inheritance won't come to those who by their actions deny and reverse the gospel – they will be brought into judgement too.  The only escape in that judgement is trust in Jesus, so hold on to him tightly.  And the people round about them will be judged too.  Their only escape is to hear and understand that gospel of repentance and forgiveness in Jesus – so whatever you do don't make it harder for them to hear it, make it clear, show that it's real to you by living in the light of it, by shaping your whole life around the gospel.

So see why Paul is so dramatic about the Corinthian's law suits.  He's like the parent watching their child actively pulling boiling  water on top of themselves, picking up the box of matches and playing with the sharp knives all at once.  He sees serious danger for the Corinthians and serious implications for God and his honour.

As we close then let's hear the warning of this passage.  The gospel promises remarkable forgiveness and a fresh start with God.  But don't think that the gospel is a blank cheque for indulging in sin.  Sin is serious – that's why Jesus had to die to save us.  If we indulge in sin we effectively deny the gospel by our actions, and we reverse it, sitting ourselves on the wrong side of forgiveness.  So we run the very real risk that we will be ship wrecked by it and miss out on the promised salvation.  So don't indulge sin, flee from it and run instead to God, the God who graciously offers forgiveness and life. And we're going to hear more about that next week as we continue in 1 Cor 6.  For now, let's pray…

all t^et they work behind the scenes to manipulate the rest of us; and Satan sits over the top of them all, wanting to lure us into sin, wanting to keep us from coming to Christ, wanting those who belong to Christ to fall.

What else is going on here?  Paul's bravery – he wants to explain and defend the gospel no matter what the cost; He reasons that God is able to protect him from even this mob, and that the gospel is worth explaining and defending no matter what the cost – as we will see in the next few weeks.  When the gospel challenges vested interests Christians face danger.

Think of Dr Sasa. On his first visit here he stood in front of us and said he intended to go back toBurmadespite there being a price on his head; he told us that many people go missing inBurma, never to be heard of again, and that was likely to happen to him too.  But he was going back.  And on the last visit he talked about soldiers coming to shut his programme down.  What did he do – run away? Hide in the jungle? No, he prayed, and then he calmly met with them.  In the end they made a donation and left.  But who could have predicted that would happen?  It was surely much more likely that he and his team would have been arrested, or beaten, or far worse happen to them.  Soldiers from repressive regeimes do terrible things deep in the jungle.

How could Dr Sasa do that?  The fear of the Lord.  Remember what he said – after two hours with me and the holy Spirit the soldiers made a donation and left.  With the Holy Spirit.  God is present to Sasa in a way we find hard to imagine.  And so it has been for all the martyrs and missionaries and great ones of Christian faith.  They loved God more than life itself.  And so must we.

Application

All around the world Christians face danger and persecution –Nigeria,IranandIraq, Arab spring countries, Islamic cultures, NorthKorea,Burma… They are considered a threat to national security, or a threat to the good name of the false gods that enslave the people.  Militant Islam explicitly targets Christian churches in worship.  Where are we when our brothers and sisters are being persecuted?  What are our concerns and interests?  Can we rouse ourselves from the sofa long enough even to hear what's going on, let alone to pray or to send support??

We in the west are an indifferent people, lulled into false sense of security by our luxurious lives… Gospel calls us to accept suffering and alienation and rejection from our own society.  Are we serious enough about the gospel to put it all on the line like that?

Scene Three: The Town Clerk Rules Christianity Legal, Mob Illegal (verses 35 – 41)

Read with me from verse 35:

35 The city clerk quietened the crowd and said: "Men of Ephesus, doesn't all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today's events. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it." 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

We need to see this as God in his sovereign rule bringing the Christians safely through a terrifying situation.  The Bureaucrat acts, but it is God's grace that restrains the crowd from violence until they shout themselves out.

Two things we see here:

-         One; Christianity is not the problem, verse 37 – 39 there are lawful ways to object if anything wrong has been done… but these men haven't done anything wrong.  This is part of Luke's defence of the Christian faith in theRoman Empire– here is another semi official ruling that Christianity is not anti- government or anti society – the Christians have not been denigrating the goddess or robbing temples (verse 37), they have been simply living their lives. The things that have happened have been response to Christian conversion, but nothing inherently objectionable in the gospel being taught.  Implies that the Christians were good citizens and worthy members of society – which they were.

-         Two; verse 40 – The mob have in fact been acting unlawfully and need to sort themselves out, they may think they are the ones being wronged, but they are actually in the wrong.

That's what's going on on the political level.  But notice another level to this action too.  Throughout Acts we have been seeing a great contest between God and all other comers.  Paul says elsewhere that the gospel takes on all things that have pretensions to take God's place.  That's what we're seeing in this chapter – the gospel is coming up against the claims of other so called gods and goddesses and the contest is made clear.

Have another look at verse 35 and 36.  What's the town clerk say '"Men of Ephesus, doesn't all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash.'  What is he saying?  'What are you worried about?  Do you really think Paul's preaching is going to threaten the glory of our great city and our great goddess?  This Christianity can't possibly pose any real threat to the honour and glory of Aretmis andEphesus!'

That's what calms the mob down, the idea that Christianity was not real threat after all.  It seems reasonable doesn't it?

But it's dead wrong.

It took a while, butEphesuswas sacked by the Goths in 263 AD, and the temple destroyed.  It was rebuilt that time but it was destroyed again around AD 400 and never rebuilt again. Ephesuswas remembered primarily as a footnote in Christian history.  The greattempleofAretemiswas completely forgotten the site was even lost to history until it was discovered in the 1920's.

Artemis' glory was too great for the religion to fall – that was the town clerk's line.  But he was wrong.  Christianity prevails and Artemis is forgotten, just like pretty much all of the great religions of that era – completely lost today.

In our life time we've seen how quickly the mighty can fall as theBerlinwall came down and so did the power of Communism almost over night – and let's not forget how powerful communism was.  It held practically half the world and genuinely seemed to threaten to engulf the whole world.  It seemed mighty and powerful, but, just like that, God brought it down.  Look around today and there are certain powers and rulers that seem like they will rule forever – Islam; Consumerism; Democracy; Political Correctness; Big Business; Major Industry; Science and Darwinism; the list goes on and on.  And those things are powerful, they have enormous reach and influence.  But they are not God.  None of them will continue on into eternity.

In this passage we see an insight into the great contest for souls, the contest between God and sin, the world and the devil.  In that contest God is represented by little people like us.  Little people who are called on to face down overwhelming enemies with a simple word of grace – Jesus is Lord.

And we are called on to live that gospel out in all its implications, even though it will likely lead us into conflict with all sorts of vested interests – in our own hearts, in our families in our communities.

And it might seem that we are fighting a lost cause.  But we need to remember who we're fighting for.  We are representatives of the great God who made the heavens and the earth.  His purposes never fail.  We can trust him.  So let go your idols.  Let go your small ambitions to be just like everyone else.  And seek the fear of the Lord, seek the work of the Holy Spirit that will lead us to radical discipleship. And pray that God would do a work in us that makes us stand out like the Ephesian Christians, and may we face opposition with the same trust and assurance that they did, knowing that our God reigns.  Let's pray…

/spau :> pan>

As Jesus hangs on the cross for us – God on the cross, bloody and broken, beaten, whipped, and worst of all bearing the sin of the whole world, willingly dying for us – he reveals that he is a saving God, he reveals his power, his grace and his mercy, he reveals his intention to forgive those who turn to him, and his determination to deal with sin – he will not leave it unpunished, but he himself will take the pain of sin and its punishment so that we can go free.

And above all he reveals the great depths of his love for us.  From before the creation of the world Jesus knew that if he was to create the world he would need to give his life in just this way to save us.  And God the Father knew that he would have to give up his son in just this way to save us.  Make no mistake, God counted the cost, and he considered us worth it.  That's love.  So Jesus reveals God's glory – and it's this: his delight in saving us, even though it costs him and we're so terribly unworthy.

When we see God's heart at the cross we see that God wants to know us, not in the way that an author knows her creation, not at a distance, but as a Father knows his children.  He loves us, he wants us as his friends, as his bride even.  This we could never have read off the creation, surely we could never dare to have hoped for this.  But there it is, bold and clear, unmistakable.  God loves us.  He loves us more than death, with a never stopping, unquenchable love.  And he is willing to pay any price to win us.

Is that not remarkable?  This God who we hope to catch a glimpse of, who is so far above us that we could never reach up to him, who is greater than all this universe, has set his love on us, chosen us to be his, and pursued us even to death.  And this isn't a fiction, this is reality, God has done this for us. Can we know God?  Yes – he has made himself known.  Would you want to know God – absolutely, he has revealed himself lovely beyond our imagining.

So as we close, knowing God reveals there is meaning and purpose in the world.  And that is wonderful, more than the philosophers and the scientists can ever hope to find, for all their brilliance they are far behind us already at this point.

But how much more wonderful that the God who has made himself known reveals himself in love.  What we find in Jesus is not some unmoved mover, or ultimate cause of all things; what we find is a loving, personal God who goes to extraordinary lengths to deliver us from sin, to rescue us from the results of our rejection of him, and to win us for himself.  We find a God who knows us through and through, to our deepest depths – who sees all our guilty shame and who utterly rejects the evil that he sees in us.  But who loves us still, despite our dark hearts, and never gives up on us, and who graciously acts to wash us clean of our sin and guilt, to remove our shame and to set us up as his cherished possession.

I don't know about you, but I want to know more of that God.  Let's pray.

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