Logos

Logos is for the students and young workers in Carrubbers and is focused on Studying, Working and Living for Jesus

Studying, Working, Living for Jesus

At Carrubbers we have a passion for our young adults... a passion for Jesus and the Bible... and a passion to make a difference in this world for God’s mission. Logos is our weekly Sunday gathering for students and young workers to share a meal, to worship and pray together, and dig deep into the scriptures to discover its treasures.

Life with God at university and in the workplace is the ultimate adventure. At Logos we want to invest in your growth and equip you for the adventure that lies ahead, as you live and speak for Christ.

Get in touch: David.Nixon@carrubbers.org

How Logos Works

Our vision is to see the growth of life-long disciples who live for the glory of God.

Our mission is to be inspiring and investing in this generation’s passion for the Bible (God's Word) and Jesus (the Living God)

Our strategy is threefold:

  • UP - Gospel: Growing closer to God our Father
  • IN - Community: Growing in maturity together as disciples of Christ
  • OUT - Mission: Bearing the Spirit’s fruit in our lives and service in the world

The Team

The Core Team lead the ministry and are here to serve you during your time at Logos.

Sunday Nights

We meet in the Main Hall after the evening service (6:30pm-8:00pm), which we’d love you to attend before Logos.

It's a great way to get to know other people as we serve together to help clear-up after Logos.

Studies

Genesis and Science: The War of the Worldviews

GENESIS AND SCIENCE: THE WAR OF THE WORLDVIEWS

There is no doubt that science and technology have transformed our world.  We have developed medicines that help us live longer and resist deadly infections that previously killed millions.  We have developed electricity, cars, computers, the internet, space craft.

Just think back over your day: how much science and technology have you benefitted from using – from the moment the alarm went on your phone, to your electric toothbrush, to boiling the kettle for a cup of tea …

Some people hope that one day science will be able to solve all our problems and answer all our questions about life, the universe and everything.  At the same time, scepticism about the Bible’s account of creation has increased.

BRAINSTORMING SESSION: In light of science, what are some of the common questions/objections about the opening chapters of Genesis?

We’ll return to consider some of these specific issues later tonight but first I want to reframe the subject.  There is no battle between the Bible and Science.  The first scientists believed that the Bible and the natural world are God’s “two books” - they don’t conflict with each other when rightly interpreted.  Instead, there is a battle raging between two worldviews or philosophies: Theistic Science vs Atheist Science.  It is inherently a religious argument based on faith, although few scientists will admit that. 

Everyone has some belief about what came first – what is the ultimate reality – that is the foundation of their worldview.  For example, the atheist scientist Stephen Hawking once told this story:

“A well-known scientist once gave a public lecture on astronomy… At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant turtle." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the turtles standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"   

It’s a funny story, but it makes the serious point that everyone believes in some ultimate reality, “all the way down,” that supports everything else.  For an atheist the ultimate reality is eternally existing matter and energy – whereas for the Christian it is the eternal God who created all things out of nothing.  This is important to bear in mind when we interact with the theories and claims of science.  The Christian mathematician professor John Lennox has said

“What no scientist can avoid is having his or her own philosophical commitments.  Those commitments are not likely to figure very largely at all, when we are studying how things work, but they may well play a much more dominant role when we are studying how things came to exist in the first place”.

In the war of these two worldviews, the question is which makes best sense of the things we observe in nature – and the very possibility of science (of mathematics, of rational thought) itself?

HOW COULD YOU RESPOND:

“SCIENCE PROVES THAT GOD DOESN’T EXIST”?

There is nothing in science that proves or forces you to conclude that God doesn’t exist, or that goes against the idea that God created the world.  For example the atheist scientist Stephen Jay Gould once said:

“science simply cannot (by its legitimate methods) adjudicate the issue of God’s possible superintendence of nature.  We neither affirm nor deny it; we simply can’t comment on it as scientists”.

 

The reason science cannot answer the God question is because science interacts with the mechanism rather than the maker.  “We don’t find God within creation…”– just as you don’t expect to find Steve Jobs, the inventor of the IPhone, hiding inside the one in your pocket – or Henry Ford under the bonnet of your Ford car!  “but all of it points towards him!” (Michael Ots).

However, there are many in the scientific establishment (who control what gets published and funded) who have an entrenched belief system that is hostile to belief in God.  For example, here is an extremely candid and rare admission from a secular biologist:

“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs … because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.

It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door” (Richard Lewontin)

 

HOW COULD YOU RESPOND:

“THE BIBLE HAS HELD BACK SCIENTIFIC DEVELOPMENT

This charge is often made using the story of Galileo, who got in trouble with the Catholic Church for claiming that the earth orbits the sun (and not the other way around).  Rather than this being the Bible and Church holding back science, in fact the church was defending the scientific and philosophical establishment which believed the sun orbited the earth on the basis of Aristotle.  The lesson here is for the church to beware of trying to read scientific theories back into the Bible!

In fact, many of the first and great scientists like Copernicus, Galileo, Bacon, Descartes, Pascal, Faraday, Newton, Kelvin –believed in God, and their faith was strengthened by their discoveries in the natural world. 

The historian Rodney Stark asks why did the scientific revolution happen only in the West centuries after the brief rise and fall of science in China and Arabia centuries before? 

“Many societies pursued alchemy, but only in Christian Europe did it lead to chemistry; many societies developed extensive systems of astrology, but only in Europe was astrology transformed into scientific astronomy.  Why?  Science arose in Europe because only medieval Europeans believed that science was possible and desirable.  And the basis of their belief was their image of God and His creation…. It was only because Europeans believed in God as the Intelligent Designer of a rational universe that they pursued the secrets of creation”.

So that’s why the first scientists were Christians. The scientific method they developed was driven by these convictions: that we can trust our senses and reason to lead us to truth; that the language of mathematics can accurately describe the world; that we can examine the universe to discover its order and laws, because it is not random— a rational mind stands behind it, who scripted its laws and breathed life into the equations.  That’s why John Lennox writes:

“God is not an alternative to science as an explanation… he is the ground of explanation… God explains why science explains”

The atheistic worldview faces a problem to explain why science is possible and reliable.  You see if the human mind is simply the byproduct of blind physical forces and unguided natural selection, then it opens up the question whether our minds can be trusted – what if they are geared more to survival than truth.  Here’s what C.S. Lewis said about that:

“If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on biochemistry, and biochemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of the atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees.”

Rather than hold back scientific development, the Bible inspired and fuelled it!

HOW COULD YOU RESPOND: “WE DON’T NEED GOD, ONE DAY SCIENCE WILL EXPLAIN EVERYTHING AND SOLVE OUR PROBLEMS

Will science ever be able to answer every question and solve our every problem?  Some dream of it doing so – but it will always remain a dream. 

The atheist scientist Philip Goff recently released a book entitled “Galileo’s Error”.  He argues that it is naïve to believe that science can explain everything, based on Galileo’s decision that the language of science would only be mathematics – and ignore everything else.  Henceforth science has proceeded on the basis of measuring and observing how things behave and how they work.  It has been very successful – but only because it has ignored lots of other things.  This quantitative method of science is unsuitable for addressing all sorts of questions and experiences – foremost for Goff is the experience of consciousness and the mind.  For example, he points out that physical science cannot describe the experience of “the taste of mint, the redness of red, the smell of coffee” – we could add that science cannot address questions of morality (what makes a good or bad person… why is racism and sexism wrong?) or beauty (why is something beautiful or ugly) or meaning (who are we and why are we here?). 

A good example from John Lennox (“Can Science Explain Everything?”): science can test and identify all the ingredients used in baking a cake, but it cannot tell us who made it (agency) and why they made it (meaning) and whether I can eat it (morality) – that instead requires revelation from the cake’s baker!

HOW COULD YOU RESPOND: “SCIENCE CONTRADICTS THE BIBLE’S TEACHINGS IN GENESIS”

Well actually there are many areas on which science agrees with the Bible:

  • Science tells us that the universe had a beginning. Stephen Hawking has written: “All the evidence seems to indicate, that the universe has not existed forever, but that it had a beginning, about 15 billion years ago. This is probably the most remarkable discovery of modern cosmology. Yet it is now taken for granted…Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention… therefore there were a number of attempts to avoid the conclusion that there had been a Big Bang”.  The Cosmological Argument says “Anything that begins to exist must have a cause” – the universe had a beginning, ergo it had a cause.  The Bible was ahead of its time and its first words agree: “In the beginning God created”! 
  • Science tells us that we live in a universe that seems designed and finely tuned for life. Astrophysicist Dr Hugh Ross explains how unlikely this fine-tuning is due to chance: “Cover America with coins in a column reaching to the moon, then do the same for a billion other continents of the same size.  Paint one coin red and put it somewhere in one of the billion piles.  Blindfold a friend and ask her to pick it out.  The odds are about 1 in 10^40 that she will”.  Those are unbelievable odds against it being chance.  Indeed, the mathematician and atheist Sir Fred Hoyle said of these things: “it is almost as if a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics as well as with the chemistry and biology – there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature”.  The Bible describes for us the deliberate and careful design of God in creation.
  • Science reveals that the chemicals in DNA function like letters and form a complex code of information that makes life possible. But the question is where does all that intelligent information come from?  How could it arise from non-intelligent nature?  Professor John Lennox says: “A building does not emerge from the bricks nor the writing from the paper and ink without the injection of both energy and intelligent activity”.  The Bible reveals a God who is intelligent and who brought life into being.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE LINGERING QUESTIONS PEOPLE HAVE ABOUT THE GENESIS ACCOUNT OF CREATION?

Let’s look at three specific issues:

The Length of the Creation Days:

Is it seven literal 24 hour days?  Or is it seven periods of time?

Many Christians would prefer the latter, because that would better fit with the suggestion that the universe is very old.  However, what does the text say?  It numbers the days chronologically and each day has a “evening and morning” – so that implies a normal day than a long-age-day.

In fact the Oxford Professor of Hebrew James Barr once wrote:

“probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that … creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience” (although he himself didn’t believe the biblical account was true!). 

Of course it is possible for God to have created the world in seven days – He could have done it in a single moment if He chose to.  However, the Scriptures say that God created the universe in a week – and it seems a normal week as we would recognise it.

A creation less than 10000 years old vs a universe over 15 billion years old is a huge difference.  What explains it?  The ways that scientists use to calculate the age of the universe involve many assumptions and interpretations of the data.  When astronomers noticed that galaxies were moving away from us, they realised the universe was expanding – and so they worked backwards to estimate that at one time the universe was much smaller, closer and hotter – the Big Bang.  However, there are more and more problems with the Big Bang understanding of the universe and its age.  To make things work they have had to make up things like Inflation to explain how the temperature across the universe could be so uniformly distributed.  They have had to postulate the existence of things like dark matter (to explain the gravitation force that holds galaxies together) and dark energy (to explain the expansion of the universe) to explain things that don’t fit.  And now in recent months they have begun having to invent another thing (dark radiation: to explain the different speeds of expansion) – although some scientists have begun to complain that perhaps what we need is a whole new cosmological model that explains the development of the universe! 

The point is that science always changes but the Bible doesn’t – and one day, when all things are known, then what the Bible says and what Science says will agree!

The Age of the Earth

If you work through the genealogies in Genesis and throughout the Bible, then you will find that the human race (and the world) is less than 10,000 years old (interesting that modern science suggests a similar date).  However, then geologists suggested that rocks and sediment layers suggested the earth is much older than the Bible would allow.  But rocks don’t come with a label that tells you how and when they were formed.  Instead there are assumptions that govern how the data is interpreted. 

The atheist geologists James Hutton and Charles Lyell revolutionised our understanding of the history of the earth by asserting that we can rightly understand what has happened in the past by looking at similar conditions today: “the present is the key to the past”.  This is the principle of “uniformitarianism”.  They assumed that the universe is a closed naturalistic system and so things have always operated in the same way without changing.  They concluded that the lengthy time involved in laying down sedimentary layers or erosion of rocks today, must have been the same in the past – and when you look at something like the Grand Canyon it would take millions of years to form - thus the theories about the old age of the earth.  However, the Bible tells us that things have not unfolded uniformly since creation – rather there has been the catastrophe of the Fall and the Global Flood.  The latter resulted in fossils, vast rock layers, and mineral deposits all forming in a very short period of time - rather than millions of years like it would naturally take.  When Mount St Helens exploded the mountain was transformed and many features that resembled the Grand Canyon were formed – although they would look like they had been carved out and laid down over thousands of years according to uniformitarian assumptions, in fact they had been laid in minutes due to a catastrophe!

So it’s no surprise that you can make out that the Bible is wrong when you set out with the assumption that the Bible is wrong - and create an alternative paradigm through which to explain ancient history!

The Theory of Evolution

Although many Christians have argued that the theory of evolution is compatible with the Bible, it does require significant reading between the lines – and it causes problems – that there were millions of pre-hominid beings before Adam and Eve who lived, suffered and died, before sin entered the world.

Evolution is a theory, not a fact.  It belongs to historical scientific theory, but observable scientific fact.  We can observe micro-evolution, natural selection and adaptation – but never have observed macro-evolution – interspeciation: the development of simple lifeforms into more complex species over time branching out of the tree of common ancestors.  Nor does the fossil record yet contain compelling evidence of transitionary common ancestors between different species.

The theory of evolution is in crisis today – it cannot account for many things: – the first living cell, genetic information, new biological forms, and the narrow limits of change that random mutation processes can achieve.  That’s why in the big book “Theistic Evolution” dozens of Christian scientists, philosophers and theologians warned against the church trying to read the theory of evolution into the Bible in search for scientific credibility – since the theory itself is in serious trouble!  That was the very mistake the church made with Galileo – reading a secular philosophy into the Bible in the search for intellectual credibility.

Instead as Francis Schaeffer often reminded people: on the last day, when all things are truly, fully, and perfectly known – then there will be “no final conflict” between the book of nature and book of scripture.  But we’re not yet there – there are vast amounts we do not know and there are many with a sinful desire to suppress the truth and refusal to countenance believing in or bowing to anything more than the natural material world.  Until the final day, we should humbly but confidently put our trust in God and His unchanging word amid the shifting sands and winds of change in scientific investigation.  And we should never be ashamed to be Christians who are biologists, mathematicians, engineers, physicists, astronomers, etc. – because it is God who makes the sciences possible!

Quick Answers To Hard Questions

Last night, in Acts 24-26, we witnessed Paul on trial.  He stood accused of the religious crime of sacrilege against Moses and the political crime of sedition against Caesar.  Repeatedly, on all counts, he was found to be innocent.  Thereafter, we considered what accusations are made against Christianity in the court of public opinion today.  Here is a write up of some quick ways to respond  to some of the most common ones:

IT’S UNSCIENTIFIC

  • Science proceeds on the basis of an assumption (faith) in the “rational intelligibility of the universe” (John Lennox) – because science presupposes an intelligent mind of a divine creator and designer. “Men became scientific because they expected laws in nature, ad they expected laws in nature because they believed in a divine law-giver” (C.S Lewis)
  • The true conflict is not God VS Science; it’s between two competing belief systems (worldviews / philosophies): Atheistic science VS Theistic science

IT’S VIOLENT / IT’S JUDGEMENTAL

  • We don’t get our problem with violence and judgement from the Greeks or Romans – they boasted of the numbers slain in battle and were outspoken in their condemnation on those they considered inferior to themselves. Instead, a world that gloried in honour, strength, power, justice was turned upside down by the values of Jesus who exemplified weakness, humility, mercy, forgiveness and love. 
  • The very values that cause us discomfort at some things we find in the Bible are actually shaped by the Bible itself! That's why Jordan Peterson says: “The Bible is the foundational document of western civilisation”

IT’S HOMOPHOBIC

  • It’s good to stop to ask some questions in conversation:
    • What about you, do you believe that there is any sort of inappropriate or unacceptable sexual activity? (most likely yes e.g. with children)
    • How do you know that is wrong? Where is your authority for making that judgement?  (most likely it will be because this is what our culture considers acceptable and has expressed in its laws)
    • But what if our society changes its mind in future? Then something you think is wrong and dangerous today will be celebrated as good and acceptable.  Is good and evil simply a question of majority popular opinion - do you see how that could and has gone wrong?
    • Instead, we’re IKEA Christians, we want to follow our maker’s instructions, believing He knows how life and sex is meant to work best.
  • The fact is that all of us struggle with aspects of our sexuality, because these strong desires and drives, which can leave us feeling confused, frustrated or ashamed. The Bible has always seemed strange about sex – the Old Testament’s view of sex was radically different to the rampant pagan fertility religions of the day, the New Testament’s view of sex was radically different to the 'anything goes' Greco-Roman culture of the day.  But the Bible celebrates the beautiful place of sex between a man and a woman, who are covenantally committed to one another for all their lives saying: All that I am I give to you, all that I have I share with you (bodily, financially, socially, emotionally, spiritually).  Otherwise you are saying with your body something which you are refusing in the rest of your life!

IT’S EXCLUSIVE

  • The Christian faith is exclusive only in the sense that the human race is universally sick and there is an exclusive remedy – there is only one thing that can make us well again.  You are welcome to try any other course of treatment, but it won't heal you.  However, Christianity is also radically inclusive, because that remedy is made freely available to everyone!
  • Unlike all the other religions and philosophies of the world, which require you to work your way up to the gods or to pull yourself up by your bootstraps (but not everyone is smart enough, good enough, born into the right circumstances to do that); the gospel is the good news of how God has come down and done everything necessary for us to be saved in the person of Jesus – and freely offers Himself to us all (no matter who we are or what we have done). That is why Christianity is the only truly global multicultural faith.

IT’S PRO-SLAVERY

  • We are rightly concerned with equality in our society, we want everyone to be treated fairly and properly, with their human dignity respected. However, where do we get that idea of equality from – after all, naturally we are all so different in ability that inequality is the default reality?  We don’t get equality from the Greeks or Romans – they believed some people were 'born to be tools' and others 'born to be kings' – they didn’t believe men and women were equal, nor young and old – also they didn’t believe that all races were equal. 
  • The reason we have a problem with slavery, is because we live in a society that has been profoundly shaped in its values and attitudes by the Bible. The Bible declares that all human beings have been made in God’s image, sharing equally in glory and dignity in the sight of God.  Those very ideas on page one of the Bible lit the fuse that would in time lead to the abolition of the historic cultural practice of slavery! (NB: slavery in biblical times was a form of indentured service in the extended family, rather than the barbaric evil of trans-Atlantic slavery in the 18th – 19th century plantations)

IT’S INTOLERANT

  • We live in a society which has redefined tolerance and that considers disagreement as hatred (together with protecting people from challenging ideas or difference perspectives via safe spaces, no platforming, trigger warnings). But we believe that it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable. But we believe that it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.
  • The Bible teaches us from its first page that we must respect all people as made in God’s image. That respect means that we must listen and take time to understand where other people are coming from.  However, it is people who have rights, not ideas or ideologies.  We can accept all people but we cannot accept all ideas/ideologies uncritically (our culture knows that is true, because it also rejects some ideas and ideologies as being dangerous!).

IT’S IRRELEVANT

  • It is “chronological snobbery” (C.S. Lewis) to assume that something is wrong or useless simply because it is old. Instead, the Bible proves that it has timeless value because it continues to be the world’s best selling book, almost every year since the printing press was invented.
  • It addresses the issues which are explored and celebrated in our best selling novels and films (e.g. love, forgiveness, loyalty, war, peace, hope, justice, purpose, etc.)
  • It answers the deepest questions that humans have ever asked (Why are we here? Who am I?  What is the nature of the good life?  What happens to us after death?)

Logos - Getting to Grips with the Prophecy of Isaiah

INTRODUCTION

The Prophecy of Isaiah is one of the largest and most significant books of the Bible.  Some have called it: “The Bible In Miniature”.  Because it splits into two halves – just as the OT has 39 books and the NT has 27 books - likewise Isaiah ch.1-39 addresses Israel’s sin, threatens judgement and being sent away into exile; and ch.40-66 looks to the future with the promise of God bringing His people home from exile, and forgiving their sins through the work of His Servant.

The book begins with God calling the heavens and earth to be witnesses as He puts His people (Israel) on trial for their unfaithfulness; but the book ends with God creating a new heavens and new earth filled with people (from all nations) saved by His faithful Servant.

Isaiah’s name means “The LORD is Salvation” – which points us to Jesus whose name also means “The LORD Saves”.  Although Isaiah lived 700 years before Jesus, Jesus says in John 12 that “Isaiah saw my glory”.  The New Testament quotes from Isaiah at least 20 times and refers to it countless more times.  So this is an important book for Christians to drink deeply from to appreciate more of who Jesus is!

Tonight I want to share with you some tools to help you get the most out of reading Bible prophecy generally – and help you start to get to grips with Isaiah specifically.

HOOK

Whenever we open up the Bible we are going on a journey: from “OUR TOWN” to “BIBLE TOWN”.  Our Town and Bible Town are separated by a river which represents the fact that we’re going back to a time long ago, a country far away, a culture different to our own, reading a book written in a foreign language, given to people under the Old Covenant.  That means that we’ve got some work to do if we’re to get the most out of our visit to Bible Town.  Think of tonight as a kind of Guide Book for your time in Isaiah town, to help you ask the right questions and find answers that will help you see clearly what is going on in Isaiah. 

Here are the five questions which you can use for ANY Bible Study!

  • GENRE: What type of writing is it?
  • CONTEXT: When and where is it set?
  • OBSERVATION: What does it say?
  • MEANING: What is the message? [For THEM/THEN]
  • APPLICATION: So what difference does this make? [For US/NOW]

Let’s work through them together…

BOOK

(1) GENRE: WHAT TYPE OF WRITING IS IT?

You don’t have to be an English literature student to know something about genres – or different types of writing. 

Q: Shout out some examples of genres?

There are different genres in the Bible, which you need to recognise and read accordingly.  Some are easier to read than others – for example: narratives are easy to read because we love story, poems take a bit of imagination, and the prophets require us to work hard!

  1. When you hear the word prophet/prophecy – what associations come to mind?

There were two types of prophecy: Prophets weren’t just people who were given visions and messages about the FUTURE by God (fore-telling) – most of their sermons were “forth telling”.  They have been called “covenant enforcers” – their job was to speak to God’s people in the PRESENT – calling them to take seriously what it means to live as God’s people in covenant relationship with Him.  Almost like a best-man is there to tell a married man: Remember to take seriously your vows to your wife.  The prophets’ had two basic themes:

  • God’s warnings: God’s judgement is coming against the people for their sins of idolatry, immorality, inhumanity and indifference.
  • God’s promises: there is hope of deliverance from and restoration beyond judgement for those who faithfully trust God.

(2) CONTEXT: WHEN/WHERE IS IT SET?

If you read something out of context, then it can mean that you miss its true significance.  For example, let me read you an extract from a famous book – out of context… Listen and then tell me how interesting it seems…

 “In the 21 months we’ve lived here, we’ve been through a good man ‘food cycles’ – you’ll understand what I mean in a moment.  A ‘food cycle’ is a period in which we have only one particular dish or type of vegetable to eat.  For a long time we ate nothing but endive.  Endive with sand, endive with mashed potatoes, endive and mashed potato casserole.  It’s not much fun when you have to eat it every day for lunch and dinner, but when you’re hungry enough, you do a lot of things”

Does your perception of the passage change if I tell you that this is from Anne Frank’s Diary?  When put in context, what seems quite a boring piece of text, suddenly comes alive with new significance when you know that this is the account of a young Jewish girl, hiding from the Nazis. 

 

Likewise, when you put Isaiah into its Biblical Context and Historical Context, then you can begin to see its significance then and now!

(a) BIBLE STORY CONTEXT:

The kingdom that they can see with their eyes around them is failing, but the prophets call the people to have faith in the kingdom of God that is promised to come in the future.

(b) HISTORICAL CONTEXT:

Isaiah begins his book locating himself in history: The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah”.  Isaiah ministered under a succession of kings, who appear in a spiritual Hall of Shame: two-faced “Uzziah, half-hearted “Jotham, and wicked “Ahaz”.  The exception was faithful “Hezekiah”, but his son, Manasseh, turned out to be the worst of all the kings and had Isaiah murdered.  His ministry started in the year Uzziah died – 740BC.  His death marked the beginning of a period of grave uncertainty and instability for the people of God in the nation of Judah.

Discuss: In what ways can knowing these historical contexts help us appreciate the relevance of Isaiah for our situation today?

  • Spiritually: The nation of Judah was in spiritual decline – the believing community in Judah had become a minority.
  • Economically & Socially: The prosperous reign of King Uzziah had seen rising injustice and inequality growing between rich and poor – and was followed by severe recession.
  • Internationally: The peaceful reign of Uzziah was followed by uncertainty with Judah caught between two warring superpowers: a new aggressive and expansionist Assyria (to the north) and old defensive Egypt (to the south)
  • Nationally: The union between the nations of Judah and Israel remained broken and there was rising hostility between them
  • Politically: The kings of Judah had to decide how they would face these threats: through trust in God’s promises or trust in Human policies/politics?

We too live in days of tremendous upheaval and instability – no one knows what the future holds: socially, economically, politically – nationally or internationally.  So in today’s uncertain times, we need to be reminded of the greatness of God, who rules the nations and whose kingdom will prevail on the earth.

 

Also, like Isaiah, we live in days of national spiritual decline.  In Scotland, the church no longer enjoys social privilege nor cultural influence, instead we are increasingly marginalised and maligned.  Pundits confidently predict that the church is in terminal decline.  Christians and churches look like nothing in the eyes of the elites of this world.  Isaiah faced similar discouragements, but saw them from the infallible perspective of God’s purpose for history: through this small insignificant nation God was going to bring His salvation to the whole world.  Today, we need to hear what God has to say about our significant role in His plans for the world!

 

(3) OBSERVATION: WHAT DOES THE TEXT SAY?

&

(4) MEANING: WHAT DOES IT MEAN? (FOR THEM/THEN)

What makes prophets like Isaiah strange to read is that they are recording sermons, which were preached or wrote in poetry!  Poetry doesn’t just state a point or idea – rather it develops it over multiple lines and forces you to slow down to consider: what is the prophet saying here? 

Also Hebrew poetry works a lot differently to English poetry.  We like our poems to have rhyme and meter – however, the key feature of Hebrew poetry is technically called “parallelism”.  That means it repeats IDEAS not sounds across its lines!

Let’s practice reading some Hebrew poetry.  I’ll give you some examples of the three different types of parallelism – your task is to read it and tell me what is the point being made?

(a) Antithetical parallelism (contrasts ideas)

“The ox knows its owner,

And the donkey its master’s crib

But Israel does not know,

My people do not understand” (1:3)

(b) Synonymous parallelism (restates ideas)

“Ah, sinful nation,

A people laiden with iniquity

Offspring of evildoers

Children who deal corruptly” (1:4)

(c) Synthetic parallelism (develops idea)

“Your country lies desolate

Your cities are burned with fire

If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors

We should have become like Sodom

And become like Gomorrah” (1:7-8)

(5) APPLICATION: SO WHAT? (FOR US/NOW)

We have to remember that we are only ever tourists in Bible Town – we don’t actually live there and we have to return home to live our lives in Our Town.  But we aren’t meant to return empty handed – our experiences in Bible Town are meant to have impacted us and are meant to change how we live here upon our return.  There will be all sorts of things we’ll learn that are timeless, never change, and we can directly transfer to ourselves e.g.

  • Truths about God’s character, purposes, promises and love for His people
  • Truths about Human nature
  • Truths about the sins of injustice, immorality, inhumanity and idolatry which God hates

However, there will be some things that we only indirectly directly relate to ourselves. Remember that the Prophets were “covenant enforcers” of the Old Covenant.  They reminded the people that being in covenant with God involved enjoying blessings if they were obedient, and suffering curses if they were disobedient!  We are included in the New Covenant today, because the Old Covenant has been fulfilled in Christ.  It’s in the light of Christ that we need to listen to the warnings and promises of Isaiah.

  • In His life, Jesus has perfectly obeyed God His Father and so as the Messiah or King, He has won the promised blessings for His people to share with Him.
  • In His death, Jesus has suffered the curses for the sins and disobedience of Israel and the nations, so that His people might be saved by trusting in Him as their Saviour and King.

Isaiah’s message is full of the good news about Jesus, for us today!

Our final exercise tonight will be to look at some of the prophecies about the life and work of Jesus: How do these relate to Jesus and His work for us?

  • Jesus’ virgin birth (ch.7)
  • His three year gospel ministry (ch.42, 49, 61)
  • His crucifixion and resurrection to save His people (ch.52-53)
  • His gospel going out and converting the nations (ch.19, 55-56)
  • His kingdom reigning on earth (ch.9,11)
  • His new creation and the final judgement of evil (ch.65-66)

TOOK: PRAYER

John 4: Jesus is the Satisfaction for all our Desires

Where do people look for satisfaction or happiness today?

We live in a world which is full of desire but empty of satisfaction!

That’s why the Rolling Stones sang at the heights of the 1960-70s “I can’t get no satisfaction”.  That’s why Barack Obama said: “That was the problem with booze and drugs, wasn’t it?  At some point they couldn’t stop that ticking sound, the sound of certain emptiness”.

Tonight we’re going to meet a woman, who was unsatisfied and looking for happiness in the wrong places.

John introduces us to her in chapter 4, after Nicodemus is told in chapter 3 about the gift of “eternal life” available in Jesus.  The two characters couldn’t be more different: she was a woman in a man’s world.  In contrast to the Jewish rabbi, she was a Samaritan - descendants of Jews who mixed with pagan Gentiles – they were despised for having their own Temple and Scriptures.  Unlike the self-righteous Pharisee, she lived under a cloud of shame and scandal for her immoral lifestyle.  That’s why when Jesus meets her she is at the hottest part of the day, collecting water from the local well alone.  All the other women would have been early that morning in the cool, but she is isolated and ostracised from them.

Her daily journey with her water jar is a parable of her life story.  She gets thirsty, she goes to the well to fill up her jar, she goes home and enjoys the water which satisfies her thirst… but gradually the jar empties… so she has to return to the well the next day to refill it.  She lives in a desert of unsatisfied desires.  But when Jesus Christ walks into her life, that is all about to change!

BIBLE STUDY

  • What does Jeremiah 2:13 reveal about the true reason for her struggle to find satisfaction in life? How does this make sense of the solution that Jesus offers to her in v.13-14, and the question he asks her in v.16-18?

The true problem is spiritual– she has unfulfilled relationships with men – but she really needs a restored relationship with God.  St. Augustine explained it this way: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you”.

  • In light of her being exposed, why might she ask about Temple and Worship in v.20-22? (Does her response in v.28-29 help?)

“If she had guilt and shame exposed… where could she find atonement for her sins if the Samaritan worship were deficient … if that worship was wrong her hope of atonement is gone” (Noel)

  • What do you think it means in v.24-26 that true worship and relationship with God is to be “in Spirit and Truth”? (Where does Jesus fit into it?)

Worship isn’t about place but “in Spirit and Truth”.  The invisible God has made Himself known in Jesus Christ, who will pour out His Spirit into our hearts to bring us into relationship with God.  Our worship must be in accordance with the truth that God has revealed in Christ and in the Bible (the Samaritans lacked the whole Bible and had cut themselves off from the Messianic line).

  • Looking at John 19:28-30 and Revelation 22:1-2, how ultimately will Jesus solve her deepest problem and longings?

Jesus substitutes Himself into her place.  Jesus will bring us eternal life in God’s presence in the new creation.

 

  • What can we learn from Jesus’ explanation to the disciples about where He finds His satisfaction in v.31-34?

Jesus’ joy is found in serving His Father and accomplishing His will

TEACHING ON DESIRE

One of the major misconceptions about God is that He does not want us to be happy.  People fear that living in God’s ways will frustrate our desires, leaving us feel unhappy and unsatisfied.  But at the centre of John’s gospel, Jesus promises to give people “fullness of life” – what this woman lacked.

This was one of the most significant themes in the work of C.S. Lewis, who had an intense life-long interest in the search for happiness.

Our desires are telling us something:

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.

It is not wrong to desire to be happy and satisfied:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

We are relying on the wrong things to be satisfied:

“Human history is the long terrible story of humans trying to find something other than God which will make them happy”

Where can it be found?

“If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire.  If you want to be wet, you must get into the water.  If you want joy, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them… God Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other… God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because… there is no such thing…”

So God’s holy commands are not there to frustrate our happiness but rather to redirect our paths so we can find both holiness and happiness in Him.  Lewis once wrote to a friend, Arthur Greeves who wrestled with lust and same-sex attraction:

“God not only understands but shares the desire which is at the root of all my sin – the desire for complete and ecstatic happiness. He made me for no other purpose than to enjoy it. But He knows, and I do not, how it can be really and permanently attained… I may always feel looking back on any past sin that in the very heart of my evil passion there was something that God approves and wants me to feel not less but more… But the thirst will never be quenched in the way I tried to quench it…”

WE NEVER HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN GOD AND HAPPINESS; only TRUE and FALSE HAPPINESS!

APPLICATION DISCUSSION

  • How can Lewis’ reflections help you see your desires, temptations, in a new light? How could you use them to help a friend who is wrestling with a persistent temptation?
  • How can Lewis’ reflections on desire help us in our evangelism in an unsatisfied world?

CONCLUSION

Jesus is good news:

  • In the past: He can remove our sin and shame from seeking satisfaction in the wrong places
  • In the present: He can bring us satisfaction in knowing and serving God
  • In the future: He will completely satisfy our longings in the new creation

Logos: John 1 "Jesus Reveals The Face Of God"

SUMMARY: God has made Himself known in this world in the divine person of His Son, in order to invite us into His family as children

It is said that familiarity breeds contempt – and for some of us, we know a lot about Jesus, and have heard about Him for many years.  But that has also meant that we are less excited about the truths about Him, and less fired up in our love for Him, and passion to tell others about Him.  It is my hope and prayer that the Holy Spirit will do something about these problems in our lives, as we study John’s gospel this year.

Tonight, as we come to the Prologue, or Introduction, to John’s Gospel – I want to challenge you as you to read this passage, as if you’d never read it before.  And do this bible study as if you were a non-Christian coming to learn about Jesus for the very first time.  John wants to introduce us to Jesus for the first time tonight and amaze us with Him!

BIBLE STUDY

v.1-4: What do we learn from Jesus’ CV about His IDENTITY?  How can these verses shape the way you view Jesus?

  • “In the beginning was” – Jesus shares in God’s eternal pre-existence. “There never was when he was not” (Athanasius).  The echoes of Genesis are unmistakable (“In the beginning… created… light… life”).
  • “The Word” – Jesus communicates and reveals the Father’s mind and heart to us
  • “was God” – Jesus is one with God, fully divine
  • “with God” – Jesus is in intimate relationship with the Father – literally “The Word was face to face with God”
  • “all things were created through Him” – Jesus is God the Creator.  The seven miraculous signs we will see in John's gospel are the Maker restoring His damaged and defaced masterpiece.
  • “In Him was life” – Jesus is the solution to the problem of death in this world

v.5-11: What has God done and what is humanity’s RESPONSE?

  • 5-7: Sent His “light” (general revelation in creation) and His “witnesses” (special revelation) to prepare the way and point to the light (John the Baptist represents the last of the OT prophets)
  • 9-11: Jesus, the “light” of the world has come – but the “world did not know him” – even His own people in Israel did not recognise Him.

v.12-18: What are the BENEFITS that Jesus makes available?

  • 12-13: Jesus extends to us the offer of adoption and inclusion into the family of God as His children, sharing the life with God, is entered into through faith: ”who believed in His name”. The purpose of John’s gospel is to encourage us to enter into this relationship with God through faith in Jesus.
  • 14: Jesus became a human being and dwelt among us – showing that there is a way for human beings to walk and live with God again (as it was in the Garden and as it will be in the New Creation), through Himself!
  • 17: Jesus brings the offer of the grace of God to us, in fulfillment of all the OT promises of God providing salvation for the world
  • 18 Jesus has made the invisible God known, who otherwise is outside of this creation, and shown us what He is like perfectly

 

UNLOCKING JOHN

“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  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” (John 20:30-31).  Everything that John has recorded contributes to this purpose.  Each passage should be approached asking:

  • IDENTITY: What does this teach about Jesus being the Christ, the son of God?
  • BENEFITS: What does it mean to have life in belonging to Him?
  • RESPONSE: What does a right response of belief in Him look like?

OVERVIEW OF THE PROLOGUE

The way that John has written his introduction (as a chiasm) is meant to draw attention to his three themes of IDENTITY, BENEFITS and RESPONSE

v.1-4: Jesus is God (I)

v.5-8: Witnesses to Jesus: Creation and John the Baptist (I)

v.9-11: Jesus comes and is not recognised by the world (R)

v.12-13: Jesus invites us to become children of God through believing in Him (B)

v.14: Jesus comes and is recognised by the believer (R)

v.15-17: Witnesses to Jesus: John the Baptist and the OT (I)

v.18: Jesus reveals God (I)

A wonderful summary of the implications of this introduction for our understanding of God as human beings:

“For many of us, God is like the Loch Ness Monster.  Some people claim to have caught glimpses of him… but all we have to go on are a few grainy pictures that are just enough to keep our hopes up.  There’s no proof that it exists… The God of the Bible is not the god within.  He is not merely the projection of our hopes and fears.  He is the God who is really out there.  But he is no Loch Ness Monster.  The good news is that God is there and he is not hiding… when it comes to arriving at the truth of what someone might be like, our only hope is for him to come and make himself known to us.  John is telling us that that is exactly what has happened… He calls Jesus the Word.  He does it to make a point.  In the Bible, God’s Word is how he made himself known… John is saying that God has not left us guessing about what he is like.  Jesus Christ is the Word that he has spoken…In Jesus we don’t just catch a glimpse of God – see footprints or the flash of a tail – we can look into his face and see God in all his brilliance… Deep down we fear that living for God will make us less human… it turns out that God knows more about being human than I do.  And if I knew more of God, I would know more of what it means to be a human… He loves us so much that he comes to us as a man like us – not just to live our life, but to die our death” (Mike Cain)

APPLICATION

v.18: In light of all we have been told about Jesus, what do we learn about God the Father?  How might this affect the way we relate to Him?

  • Jesus has made the heart of God known. We can love Him; we have no reason to fear Him.
  • “This truth has major implications for the way we conceive God… God is always Jesus-like. God is Christlike and in Him is no unChristlikeness at all… Jesus Christ was always at the heart of God … there is no God ‘behind the back’ of Christ” (Bruce Milne)

 

How does the promise of the gospel: “He gave the right to become children of God” (v.12) affect how you think about yourself today?

  • We are secure in His love
  • We have a certain, meaningful identity that doesn’t depend on anything in us or our circumstances
  • We should be thrilled by our privileges: “Eternal life in John is not the Greek idea of the immortality of the individual soul; it is life shared – with God and with the people of God… Eternal life for John is being brought into the divine family… ‘This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’ (17:3).” (David Wenham)

What difference could this passage make for your evangelism with your non-Christian friends this term?

  • The light of God can penetrate the darkness of our unbelieving friend’s minds and hearts
  • We have good news to bring of an invitation into God’s family, because He loves us
  • Because Jesus came into this world and into history, we can be sure that the Christian faith is true – it has been witnessed by many

 

PRAYER TIME:

  • Praising God for who Jesus is
  • Giving thanks for what Jesus has done for us
  • Asking God to use us in the lives of non-Christian friends/colleagues/family to help them find out who Jesus is (three names to pray for this term) and respond to Him

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