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How might an emphasis on conformity over relationship impact a church’s health?

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Bible passage John 7:14–24

Jesus Teaches at the Feast
 14Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15The Jews were amazed and asked, "How did this man get such learning without having studied?"

 16Jesus answered, "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. 17If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 18He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 19Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?"

 20"You are demon-possessed," the crowd answered. "Who is trying to kill you?"

 21Jesus said to them, "I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. 22Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. 23Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? 24Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment."

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

Explore the Bible

Origin of genius
Last year’s 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death reawakened speculation about how a country boy who’d left school at 14 could make such an unparalleled contribution to world culture. People said the same sort of thing about Jesus (v 15).

Shakespeare’s genius was a talent within him that he developed by discipline. Jesus’ teaching ability comes from listening to and living in closer relationship with his Father (vs 15,16). He’s not in the religious elite but his teaching surpasses the most learned rabbi in its freshness and authority.

Rather than ‘policing’ the truth, he invites all to encounter God for themselves (v 17). We see that if ‘The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming’ (Hebrews 10:1), Jesus, the Living Word, is the reality. What good things are you experiencing in this age of grace?

God's way not their way
Power-loving leaders commit idolatry and hypocrisy (vs 18,19,23). In churches, controlling leaders can’t release people into intimacy with God and one another because God’s way is freedom and invitation, not pressure and obligation. How can we safeguard against undue control in our fellowships?

Spirit-led discernment, familiarity with the Word and authentic and accountable relationships will help. And let’s start by questioning ourselves: ‘Am I seeking the glory of Jesus who sends me?’ (v 18)


‘Lord Jesus, help me to resist approval-seeking gestures when you’re inviting me to share a love affair with you rooted in your glorious truth that sets us free. Amen.’

Phil Andrews

Deeper Bible study

Help us to ponder the Lord’s courageous realism – facing his death and its consequences for us.

Today’s reading jolts anyone who thinks that Jesus is always gentle, meek and mild. His two questions (v 19) send out shock waves. The religious leaders cannot fail to marvel at his astonishing authority and, again, Jesus explains how his authority comes from God and that those who sincerely choose to do God’s will therefore recognise the authority of Jesus’ truth-telling. However, his critics fail even to recognise Moses’ authority.

Questioning whether Moses has given them the Law, he brusquely rounds on their failure to perceive and obey God’s truth even in Moses’ Law. In their determination to condemn Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath they have overlooked how their application of Moses’ Law allows circumcision on the Sabbath. They permit circumcision – but they attack Jesus’ healing a whole man! Paranoid adherence to external regulations blinds them to right judgements about how God’s love and mercy work. They prejudge Jesus by ‘outward appearance’ (1 Samuel 16:7)!

Jesus then asks one of the most awful, cold-blooded questions ever: ‘Why are you trying to kill me?’ (v 19). Extraordinarily, he never asks this question again. Not in the closing week leading up to Easter as Judas kisses him, when soldiers close in, the mockery of trials continue, crowds shout ‘Crucify’ and the cross is lifted up with the hideous cackling of a bloodthirsty crowd. Not then, but here in the feasting crowd he focuses on the frightening reality that his ministry involves life and death issues. His death is unavoidable, yet it is through his death that he wins eternal life for all who will believe. The crowds don’t get it. ‘You are demon-possessed … Who is trying to kill you?’ (v 20). They are judging by appearances again! Jesus is talking about deadly serious issues about life and death.

Michael Quicke

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

1 Kings 3–5

1 Corinthians 11


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  • Song: God only wise
  • Composer: Eoghan Heaslip & Nick Herbert
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  • Album: Wonderful Story
  • Publisher: Survivor Music
  • Copyright: Copyright © 2008 Thankyou Music
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Come to Jesus
Nathan Fellingham
Copyright © 2009 Phat music
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  • Anne Mcgowan | Thursday, 18 May 2017

    BARBARA that book was the first time I saw the Bride, the first time I understood who she truly was. I agree a book not to be missed.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Thursday, 18 May 2017

    We'd do well to see the Sabbath not as a day but rather a relationship with God through Jesus. Thanks for the book title Barbara. I'll try to get hold of it.

  • Hilary Dale | Thursday, 18 May 2017

    "If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." "Rather than ‘policing’ the truth, he invites all to encounter God for themselves". Lord, may I be one who invites people to encounter God for themselves, rather than being someone who polices the truth. Not just cos that's much nicer, but because that is the core of how You lived on earth, and how You now love and communicate.

  • David Forbes | Thursday, 18 May 2017

    found this a fairly contorted exposition of the passage where the commentator seems to approach it in confrontational style ..that we should not conform almost for non conformities sake. it's hard to wriggle this out of the text in my opinion as it puts us on a collision course with our brothers and sisters. yes we should all be seeking God's glory and i think we'll agree that in any relationship it's love that changes things not confrontation. 1 Cor :13 The bit about circumcision. Yes our ancestors practiced it through their obedience to God as his chosen people. So we can see that it was instituted by God for a period and we now live under the new coventant relationship as His children. The moral law of the OT Jesus still endorces. The entire bible stands as witness to who God is from the creation of the world. Jesus quotes it as does the whole BY. it's revered by the eary church and the NT declares itself that it was inspired by God as men were inspired by the Holy Spirit. in order to have a relationship it's important know the person with whom we relate. the bible in its entirety contains that information whereby we can know Him. having that foundation we then form a relationship with our heavenly Father and to know his will we can consult His word.

  • Angela Munday | Thursday, 18 May 2017

    We have a good teaching from our Lord today - Explore:- "How can we safeguard against undue control in our fellowships?"....... Power-loving people, intent in their own understanding and agenda seek to humiliate and identify those who are different; it happens here to Jesus. There is the God-given moment to question and respond to these incidents, just as Jesus did. "Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God..." (Verse17)

  • Adam Julians | Thursday, 18 May 2017

    As usual, we have some interesting comments here today both from the commentary and our own contributions to the discussion. None of us seem to be in doubt that "Spirit-led discernment, familiarity with the Word and authentic and accountable relationships will help" with relationship rather than conformity mutual edification rather than control. Where differing views have been expressed are over confrontation and love. How, then are we to practice the gospel that both comforts the distressed and distresses the comfortable? What I know of control in the church has been when I have been on the receiving end of "you have always got to be nice", someone when being inappropriate claiming to be prophetic (while practicing false prophecy) and saying they were speaking to me that way "because God deals with the people in power in the first instance and it's men that have the power". To my own shame I know that I at times have done likewise, and sometimes only been aware of it at a later time on reflection. The ego can be very deceiving. Therefore we practice forgiveness and the receiving of forgiveness if we are to have "authentic and accountable relationships". And, in the light of that, can there ever be a time where love is expressed and there be a total absence of confrontation? And is conflict avoiding part of the problem with enabling conformity over relationship?

  • Lynda Spencer | Thursday, 18 May 2017

    I've been trying to analyse, in the light of my own experience, the question in 'Prepare' - "How may an emphasis on conformity over relationship impact a church’s health?" I found myself drifting back to the days when I was a young Christian in my teens and remembering that much of the teaching we received from the pulpit was along the lines of 'Thou shalt not ...' We did as we were told, not because we knew it was of God, but because 'the Pastor said so'. I'm sure the many restrictions placed on us were with the best of intentions, but we were definitely living more under law than under grace back then, and I don't think I really grew in relationship with the Lord until I was a student away from home. So, was my 'home church' unhealthy? I wouldn't have said so at the time, but perhaps the wrong emphases turned away people who just needed to be loved into the Kingdom? I still haven't answered the question! I suppose the answer lies in part in understanding what exactly we are asked to conform to, because God's standards haven't changed, but we need to reach out in love, and people need to feel they can belong before they are ready to believe and then let God change behaviour. Did we have it the wrong way round? May we still?

  • Barbara Sabin | Thursday, 18 May 2017

    The people questioned Jesus' qualifications saying he was not schooled. To be a Rabbi a Jewish boy had to walk in the Rabbi's footsteps virtually in his dust as he walked. Some of the finest preachers I have sat under have not been academics, they have been ordinary men and women who have met with Jesus studied His Word and lives have been changed because of them The Welsh revival came about through one quiet miner who belonged to a small Welsh Chapel. We are responsible for taking the Word to the people God will do the rest. I was challenged by a lady in our Church who was quite adamant that she thought that everyone would go to heaven. My response was that the Word does not say that. Jesus said "The time promised by God has come at last!" he announced. "The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!" Mark 1 15 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. The Bible is our manual for living, we cannot pick and choose bits to suit us, the Truths are on every page for us to find, remember the words of the angels in Luke 2 And this shall be a sign unto you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. We have to look for Jesus on every page, he is wrapped we have to unwrap and find Him and the make Him known to those who do not know Him. Confrontation is on occasions necessary when people are being misled. Teach me Thy Way O Lord

  • David Forbes | Thursday, 18 May 2017

    We're never going to find a faultless church for we are the church and we still live in a world which is largely indifferent an an enemy who is out to sow disharmony on the Church. When it comes to not conforming I tend to see it along the lines of Ron 12:2 which is in the context of our Christian lives versus that of the world and not being overy wary about our conformity as Christians. We have enough denominations and disunity among ourselves over doctrine etc and we should not strive to splinter the Church as co workers of the evil but to build one another up. Our non conformist emphasis must be regarding this world. That's where I felt the commentator got a bit side-tracked today. We cannot compare Jesus the son of God with Shakespeare.

  • David Forbes | Thursday, 18 May 2017

    Nice to remember to ask God to teach us His way.. lovely hymn Barbara.

  • Adam Julians | Thursday, 18 May 2017

    David I hear what you say about the need to be building one another up, that you feel the commentator got side-tracked and that you would like us not to splinter the church as you perceive. I take the Martin Luther approach of there being the "invisible church" that is the body of Christ as distinct from the "visible church" that is organised religion. Therefore there will be division in the church, this is inevitable and when it happens due to there being unity in the Spirit within the body of Christ and offense being taken to the gospel it is healthy and brings glory to God. If anyone is afraid of this, they must not let fear rule but the peace of Christ that he gives and the love of God which passes understanding. When this manifests I suggests that confrontation may be the outcome and at such a time there is not dichotomy between love and conflict. That the conflict is the outworking of love. And the turning of the other cheek is a subversive act, something that is proactive and not a passive giving in to being allowed to be used as a doormat in principle. Although in some cases as we know the cost of following Jesus with brothers and sisters in Christ in the world is literally to lose your life.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Thursday, 18 May 2017

    You are so right Barbara. Why we complicate the gospel is a mystery. Everything we need is in the Word and we don't need a degree we only need FAITH in the One who knows everything and leads us into all Truth.

  • Adam Julians | Thursday, 18 May 2017

    Gilvin, isn't that great that the Word works both for fishermen like Peter and academics like Paul? And therefore has universal appeal?

  • David Forbes | Thursday, 18 May 2017

    i will stand up for the gospel and the tenets of the faith and against apostasy.. I have no need to quarrel with God's children .. we may have little differences.. ie denominational ones. I fortunately have rarely been in a church which is not living . indeed there is the universal and local church. i have little experience of the institutionalised version and I feel most using this forum love the Lord.

  • Adam Julians | Thursday, 18 May 2017

    David OK good so you will stand for the gospel, against apostasy and in favour at times of distressing the comfortable. So we are agree therefore that there will be occasion called for confrontation done in love in order to achieve these things you advocate.

  • Valerie Gore | Thursday, 18 May 2017

    What has happened to Derek Forster, and his daily hymn. He hasn't posted for a few days. Praying that all is well with him.

  • Helen Humby | Thursday, 18 May 2017

    In yesterdays reading we were reminded that Jesus went to Jerusalem for the feast only when he knew it to be the right time. in todays reading we read' Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach.' so again it seems to be all about timing. How often are we impatient for answers and even go ahead with our own agendas. Jesus displayed wisdom, perfect timing and boldness in our passage today. A lesson for me certainly! I ask for prayer for Simon tonight who is desparate to get drug free and is in a precarious point in his life. His mother, Sue is also desparate. thank you

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