Earlier this year we produced copies of Mark’s Gospel with the testimonies of people in our church. Here’s one of those testimonies which we also filmed.
Here are some commendations for my latest book, Crown of Thorns: Connecting Kingdom and Cross.
This book is an absolute gift for those who want a holistic discipleship that ‘teaches them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ (Matthew 28:20) ~ Daniel Montgomery (Senior Pastor, Sojourn Community Church, Louisville, Kentucky )
…skilfully integrates and weaves together the two dimensions of Cross and Kingdom towards a healthy, scriptural understanding of Christ’s accomplishment. ~ Iver Martin (Principal, Edinburgh Theological Seminary)
…a readable, relevant, important, biblically sharp consideration of the current kingdom vs cross dynamics which decide the foundations on which we end up building our life, ministry and discipleship. ~ Colin Buchanan (Christian Children’s Recording artist and author, Sydney, Australia)
It is hard to imagine a more needed book today than Tim Chester’s Crown of Thorns. ~ Sean Michael Lucas (Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi)
… Tim Chester has done a great service in unfolding not just two key biblical themes but how they link and relate, and doing so in a warm and accessible way. The result is a rich and potent picture of Jesus the king who suffered. ~ Graham Beynon (Pastor, Grace Church Cambridge and Director of Independent Ministry Training, Oak Hill College.)
In the run up to Easter this year we produced copies of Mark’s Gospel along with the testimonies of people in our church. The idea was to encourage the congregation to invite their friends to read the Gospel with them. Last week I posted the ‘What To Look Out For’ section which I write to orient readers to the Gospel. Here’s my overall introduction. It’s written with unbelievers in mind, but I thought it might be of interest.
Whatever you make of Jesus Christ, he has had a massive impact on history. Today millions of people follow his teachings. Christians believe he is the Son of God. They believe came to earth to reconcile us to God. They believe he rose from the dead to offer us eternal life.
You may not be persuaded by these claims. But you cannot ignore Jesus.
We want to invite you to take a look at Jesus. You don’t have to believe. We’re not asking you to suspend your critical faculties. We’re simply want to give you the opportunity to meet the person of Jesus and make up your own mind.
And there’s no better way to do that than to read one of the first accounts of Jesus.
Mark’s Gospel was written just a few years after the death of Jesus. Mark was an early Christian and a friend of Peter, one of the very first followers of Jesus.
There are four Gospels in the Bible. They’re named after their writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Gospel writers were concerned to write historical accounts of Jesus. Luke, for example, describes how he ‘carefully investigated everything from the beginning’ and drew on eye-witness sources.
But the Gospels are not quite like modern biographies. The word ‘Gospel’ means ‘good news’. The writers of the Gospels wanted to convey something of the message of Jesus. So, while they wanted to describe the facts of his life, they also wanted to describe the significance of his life.
Mark’s Gospel is one of the sixty-six other books in the Bible. That’s because the story of Jesus is part of a bigger story – the story of the world. The Bible claims that God made the world. And the world that God made was good. It was a kingdom of peace and plenty. But humanity rejected the kingdom of God. We chose to live our own way without God. The result has been conflict as we each compete with one another for control. But our biggest problem is God’s judgment. God is implacably opposed to evil and evil runs through the hearts of us all. But God in his love promised to send someone who would rescue us from our rebellion and his judgment. He chose the people of Israel (the Jews) to model his kingdom. The problem was the evil in our hearts was in their hearts as well. They, too, rejected God and so they were exiled from the land God has given them. But God in his love promised a king who would rescue God’s people. When the story of Mark’s Gospel begins the Jews had returned to their land (the land of Palestine), but they were under the rule of the Roman empire. They hoped God’s king would come and restore God’s kingdom.
But Christians believe this big story is part of an even bigger story. Christians believe God is not a solitary ruler, but an eternal community of three persons, Father, Son and Spirit. God is an eternal Father. God the Father has eternally loved God the Son in the power of God the Spirit. God created the world and rescued the world to share his love and to share his joy in his Son. We get a hint of this at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel. As Jesus is baptised, a voice from heaven says: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ Mark’s Gospel is an invitation to be part of this big story.
You will notice big numbers and small numbers scattered across the text of the Gospel. The big numbers refer to ‘chapters’. Mark’s Gospel is divided up into 16 chapters. The small numbers refer to ‘verses’ which divide up the chapters. The chapters and verses were added later to help readers refer to specific extracts. A reference to ‘Mark 10:45’ means verse 45 of chapter 10.
My latest book is published today – Crown of Thorns: Connecting Kingdom and Cross. Here’s the blurb:
Within evangelicalism today it can sometimes seem there are two competing versions of the gospel. There is the gospel of the kingdom with its focus on God’s plan to restore the world. And there is the gospel of the cross with its focus on the offer of forgiveness. These two emphases create contrasting models of discipleship and mission. In Crown of Thorns Tim Chester shows how these two gospels are really one gospel – the message of the King who establishes justice in a surprising way.
In the run up to Easter this year we produced special copies of Mark’s Gospel with the testimonies of people in our church. The idea was to encourage the congregation to invite their friends to read the Gospel with them. I wrote a section entitled ‘What To Look Out For’ to help orient readers to the Gospel.
Early on in Mark’s Gospel people ask ‘Who is this?’ (4:41) That’s the big question in Mark’s Gospel: Who is Jesus and what has he come to do?
The King who must die
Mark’s Gospel begins: ‘The beginning of the gospel about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.’ Mark makes two claims for Jesus. He says Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God. The Messiah or Christ means ‘the anointed One’. The kings of Israel were anointed with oil. So ‘the anointed One’ is God’s promised King. Messiah or Christ is not a surname, but a job description.
The first half of Mark’s Gospel is full of evidence that Jesus is the Messiah. Look out for descriptions of his authority. This comes to a climax at the end of chapter 8 when his followers finally declare: ‘You are the Messiah’ (8:29).
As soon as this happens, Jesus says he must die. This is not what the Jews expected God’s Messiah would do! They expected him to defeat the Romans and restore the nation of Israel. So the second half of Mark’s Gospel is about how Jesus must die and what it means to follow him. It comes to a climax when a Roman soldier declares Jesus to be the Son of God – the second half of Mark’s opening description of Jesus. But the soldier says this as he watches Jesus die (15:39).
So Mark’s Gospel is in two halves. Part one (chapters 1-8) show that Jesus is the Messiah, God’s promised King. Part two (chapters 9-16) show why Jesus must die.
Secrets and silences
The Jews expected God’s king and God’s kingdom to come in power and glory. In some ways Jesus fits the bill. In chapters 1-2 he appears to have great power. But in other ways he’s a disappointment. In chapters 2-3 he’s opposed and rejected. Is this the kingdom of God or not? Jesus responds in chapter 4 by telling some ‘parables’ – stories that illustrate the truth. He says that one day the kingdom of God will come in power. But first he has come in a secret way. Before God conquers the world, he first offers peace.
A number of times Jesus tells people not to talk about who he is (1:25; 3:12; 8:30; 9:9). At first sight this is a bit odd because Jesus makes preaching his priority (1:38). But Jesus does not want people proclaiming him as King until they realise he is the King who must die. So look out for references to secrets or Jesus telling people not to talk about him yet.
Sight and insight
Mark often uses physical sight or blindness as a picture of spiritual insight or blindness. The kingdom is present in a secret way so not everyone sees it (4:11-12). He says to his followers: ‘Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?’ (8:18) He heals people who are physically blind to show how he gives insight to people who are spiritually blind (8:17-29; 10:35-52). So look out for references to seeing and blindness.
Fear and faith
Mark often presents two alternative responses to Jesus: fear and faith. At one point, for example, Jesus says: ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ (Mark 4:40) If you turn to the end of Mark’s Gospel you’ll notice that there an extra section that was probably not part of Mark’s original version. It seems people found Mark’s ending a bit abrupt so they decided to ‘finish’ it off by adding some more. But Mark’s ending perfectly concludes this theme of fear and faith. He finishes: ‘Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.’ (16:8) At the end we and the women are left with a choice between fear and faith.
Who is this?
Above all look at Jesus. As we’ve said, the big question in Mark’s Gospel: Who is Jesus and what has he come to do? As you read each section, we invite you to ask yourself:
- Who is Jesus?
- What has Jesus come to do?
- How do people respond to him?
- How do I respond to him?
The Puritan John Flavel identified six arguments which Satan uses to tempt as long with model responses. Here I’ve abridged and updated what Flavel says. See if you can spot the voice of temptation in your life and identify how you should respond.
- The pleasure of sin
Temptation: Look at my smiling face and listen to my charming voice. Here is pleasure to be enjoyed. Who can stay away from such delights?
The believer: The pleasures of sin are real, but so are the pangs of conscience and the flames of hell. The pleasures of sin are real, but pleasing God is much sweeter.
- The secrecy of sin
Temptation: This sin will never disgrace you in public because no-one will ever find out.
The believer: Can you find somewhere without the presence of God for me to sin?
- The profit of sin
Temptation: If you just stretch your conscience a little, you’ll gain so much. This is your opportunity.
The believer: What do I benefit if I gain the whole world but lose my own soul? I won’t risk my soul for all the good in this world.
- The smallness of sin
Temptation: It’s only a little thing, a small matter, a trifle. Who else would worry about such a trivial thing?
The believer: Is the majesty of heaven a small matter too? If I commit this sin, I will offend and wrong a great God. Is there any little hell to torment little sinners? Great wrath awaits those the world thinks are little sinners. The less the sin, the less the reason to commit it! Why should I be unfaithful towards God for such a trifle?
- The grace of God
Temptation: God will pass over this as a weakness. He won’t make a big deal of it.
The believer: Where do I find a promise of mercy to presumptuous sinners? How can I abuse such a good God? Shall I take God’s glorious mercy and make it a reason to sin? Shall I wrong him because he’s good?
- The example of others
Temptation: Better people than you have sinned in this way. And plenty of people have been restored after committing this sin.
The believer: God didn’t record the examples of good people sinning for me to copy, but to warn me. Am I willing to feel what they felt for sin? I dare not follow their example in case God plunges me into the deeps of horror he cast them.
Here are some of the commendations for my book Mission Matters: Love Says Go which is an introduction to world mission.
‘If you want to fire up your church with a vision for global mission, this is your book! … It should carry a spiritual health warning.’ – David Coffey OBE, Global Ambassador for BMS World Mission
‘For years, I have been looking for a short, approachable book which would give a thorough introduction to the biblical, theological and practical aspects of mission, something to help people understand why we do mission and what some of the key issues are. I’ve just found that book and will be recommending it very widely indeed!’ – Eddie Arthur, mission blogger and Director for Strategic Initiatives for Global Connections; Former Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators
‘Many are telling us that the day of global mission is over: the needs ‘at home’ are so overwhelming, and the dangers so great, that God cannot want us ‘to go’ as he did in the past. But God does care, and he still wants us to care with his compassion for a world of need. I am sure this book will provoke many people to respond to the challenge, as they realize that there are still thousands waiting to be introduced to the Saviour who alone saves and cares.’ – Dr Helen Roseveare, missionary, speaker and author
‘Easy to read, clear, practical and challenging, this excellent book explores the great story of the mission of the Trinity in Scripture and gives a thrilling account of how it has been weaved into the story of the Keswick Convention.’ – John Risbridger, Chair Keswick Ministries, Minister and Team Leader Above Bar Church, Southampton
ThinkIVP are offering a special offer for readers of my blog. If you buy it through these links then you can enjoy £3 off the book and £4 off the eBook. It looks like it will also be available in US here from amazon.com, but it can’t be pre-ordered yet.
I was recently asked, “How do I know I’ve received the Holy Spirit? How long does it take?”
Here’s my reply.
The big question you have to ask yourself is this. Do I believe in Jesus? For Romans 8:9 says everyone who belongs to Christ has the Spirit. Indeed no-one puts their faith in Jesus without the Spirit opening their eyes to his glory. So the first and biggest sign of the Spirit is faith in Christ.Here’s a second question. Do you pray? For Romans 8:15-16 says everyone who calls on God as Father does so through the Spirit. Without the Spirit, pray feels like talking to the ceiling. It is the Spirit who assures us that God is a Father who is willing and able to hear our prayers. So the second main sign of the Spirit in our lives meaningful prayer to God as our Father.Sometimes the Spirit does dramatic things in our lives. But these are not the norm. Nor are they the most reliable signs of the Spirit’s work. The key signs are faith in Christ and prayer to the Father.
My latest book, Mission Matters: Love Says Go, is published today by IVP. It’s a popular-level introduction to world mission and is part of Foundations Series of the Keswick Convention.
It looks like it will also be available in US here from amazon.com, but it can’t be pre-ordered yet.
Here’s the contents:
1. In the love of the Father
3. In the power of the Spirit
Part two: The story of mission
4. A promise for the nations
5. The hope of the nations
Part three: The who, what and where of mission
6. Everyone, with the church at its heart
7. Everything, with proclamation at the centre
8. Everywhere, with the unreached as the priority
Part four: The challenges of mission
9. The cultural challenge
10. The personal challenge
11. A big ambition and a big God