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Renewal in the Church [Series]

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RENEWAL IN THE CHURCH

1.      WORSHIP

 

“Let us worship God.” Familiar words, but what is worship?  J.H. Oldham has said, “Worship is the response of believing men in adoration and joyous self‑dedication to God’s revelation and to His redeeming grace.” Normal Christian life focuses on the joyous response of our whole personality to God. While we hold to the Reformation tradition that the whole of life should be worship, we are primarily concerned here with what we would describe as services of worship as we know them, for the renewal of the Church will mean a revitalizing of its worship.

1. THE GOD WHO IS WORSHIPPED:

“Let us worship God.” Who is the God we worship? What kind of God is He? God is the infinitely great Creator and Sustainer of the universe and all life. He controls the universe and is the moral Governor of man. He cares of even the least of His creatures, and this assures us of His care for man. See e.g. Is.40; Gen. 1; Acts 17:24‑28; Matt .10:29.

God’s supreme qualities are His holiness and His love. He is utterly holy and opposed to sin – Is 6:3. The Ten Commandments (Ex.20:1‑17) and such a book as Amos reveal His demand for righteous­ness in man, both towards Himself, and towards other men. To flout His will leads to judgment; and one day He will judge the whole world in righteousness ‑ Ps.96:13; Acts 17:31.

Yet in His love for humankind He wants not to judge but to save; to forgive our sins, and renew us inwardly to enable us to keep His law. He is the God of moral and spiritual renewal. This finds its Old Testament climax in Ezekiel (18:21‑23; 36:25‑27); and its full express­ion in God’s costly gift of His only‑begotten Son, Jesus Christ (Jn.3:16), and especially in Christ’s Death (Rom 5:8) which supremely commends God’s love to men.

Jesus taught God’s Fatherhood. Uniquely, God is the Father of Jesus Christ, (Matt 10:25‑27); in a subordinate sense He is a Father to men; again, in a sense, to all men, but especially to those who believe on Him through Christ (Jn.1:12; Rom.8:15‑21): in a very special way that others are not, these are God’s children.

In a universe whose vastness makes man seen insignificant, in a world where evil seems unrestrained, man needs a God who controls all these things and cares for people individually to give him a sense of security and meaning in life. Faced with his own sin and moral impotence man needs a holy God who loves him, and has sent His Son so that man may be forgiven and renewed.

This is the God we worship, into whose presence we come both privately and publicly, individually and together as a congregation, to praise and to pray and to be caught up our of ourselves “lost in wonder, love and praise”.

2. W0RSHIP IS CORPORATE:

The Gospels stress Jesus’ private life of prayer, but also His attendance at public worship. Worship is at once individual and corporate, private and public. We need the fellowship of others. “We become related to Christ individually, but we cannot live in Christ solitarily” ‑ John A. Mackay. In Acts 2:42 we read that when the penitent believers were received by baptism, ‘they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread and of prayers”. New life involved immediate fellowship, and this fellowship was mainly expressed by worship. The congregation expressed its united and corporate relation to God, realised its Christian unity and thereby bore a remarkable testimony of that unity to others. Corporate Worship is a witness to the non‑Christian world around, of the reality, power and joy of the Christian faith of the worshippers. It is in worship the Church expresses her life; sand this worship is our response in praise, adoration and prayer to what God has done for us in Christ. Then, fired by the glory of the vision, we go out into the world to live by the light of the inspiriation we have received. Worship covers the whole of life. “On our knees we put our devotion to God into words. On our feet we put our devotion to God into action”.

3.  FACTORS IN WORSHIP:

Read Isaiah 6: 1‑8. In this familiar incident of the young Isaiah in the Temple, we have prevented to us what many regard as a classic sequence in worship:

(a)        Vision and Adoration of God, verses 1‑4. Isaiah realises the holiness of the One

            in whose  presence he is.

(b)        Confession of Sin, verse 5.  Having realised God’s holiness, he at once realises his own sinfulness, “woe is me for I am undone”.

(c)        Cleansing, verses 6‑7. As we face our sin in God”s presence, so we bring it to Him to be cleansed that we might be forgiven, and because we come in the Name of the Lord Jesus, we can have assurance of forgiveness (see 1 Jn:1:9.).

(d)        Commissioning for Service, verse 8. Having been cleansed and restored to a right relationship with God, Isaish is now ready to hear the Divine summons to serve Him.

Further, in worship whether private or public, we come expecting to be addressed by the Spirit of God through the Word of God. This word is “alive and active” (Heb.4:12) and its appointed task is to correct, to heal, to release, to encourage, to instruct, to build up, to enable and to strengthen the people of God for the work of the Kingdom. This happens through the printed page and  through the Preacher.  Look at Acts 10:33 ‑ the meeting in the house of Cornelius; “Now therefore are we all here present before God to hear all things that are commanded thee of God”. This is the context in which Peter preaches. God is present. God is working. There was evident blessing - see verse 44.

Various are the elements in worship: praise, prayer, petition, supplication for ourselves and intercession for others. We come “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:24). While we should always be concerned about the fitness of thing ‑ we must also realise that form and freedom, structure and spontaneity are not mutually exclusive. elements. If brashness has no part in meaningful worship, neither has pomposity. Worship is not helped by an unthinking, frivolous attitude, nor by a stifling formalism. Rather we come rejoicing, celebrating who God is, and what He has done for us in Christ by the Spirit, and what He means to us. Then  we go forth rejoicing in His service into the world. Archbishop William Temple summed it up ‑

“Worship is the most dynamic force for the redeeming of the world. Worship is:

To quicken the conscience by the Holiness of God

To feed the mind with the Truth of God

To purge the imagination by the Beauty of God 

      To open the heart to the Love of God, and

                       To devote the will to the Purpose of God.”

DISCUSSION:

1.         Share together how you respond to one another of the quotations on worship by J.H.Oldham, John A. Mackay or Archbishop Temple.


RENEWAL IN THE CHURCH

 

2.  DISCIPLESHIP

COMMITMENT begins in Decision and continues in Discipleship. Convic­tion ‑ realising we are sinners before God, Repentance ‑ acknowledging and turning from our sin, and Faith ‑ coming in our sin to Christ; lead up to conversion and membership of the Church. Decision or even the taking of vows is not the end, but rather only the beginning of new life in Christ. This new life is Discipleship. What does it mean?

* 1.  DISCIPLESHIP MEANS DEMAND:

The characteristic of 20th Century Christianity is that it makes no demands upon usa Anything goes. This is a denial of the Gospel. Grace is free; not cheap but costly. Christ and the Gospel face us with a demand, not merely an invitation. The Cross speaks of salvation secured, of sufficiency available ‑ and of submission demanded. There can never be Renewal in the life of the believer or of the Church until this last is clearly recognized.

Discipleship is but one side of the coin, the other is the Lordship of Christ. “Jesus Christ is LORD”, said the early Church. Grace makes demands upon us because of what God has done for us in Redemption. Look at the characteristic words of Jesus in the incident at Caesarea Phil­ippi (Mk.8:34; Luke 9;23). The demand of the Lord following upon the confession of faith is that those who would follow must take up the cross. Compare this with St. Paul’s understanding of it as expressed in Ga1atians 2:20. Discipleship is our acknowledging and submitting to Christ’s Lordship. His Lordship means our obedience ‑ see John 15:10; 1 John 2:3‑6; Luke 6:46; Matthew 1. In aking this demand, God gives the grace obedience. Certainly, we cannot do it in our own strength. It is Gd working in us “both to will and to do” (Philippians 2:13). This is what St. Paul means when he speaks of  “I...yet not I” in Ga1atians 2:20.

* 2. DISCIPLESHIP MEANS DEVOTION:

Discipleship is a continuing, relationship with the Risen Lord in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Examine the call of the twelve in Mark 3:13ff. They were called to be sent out, and sent out with power for effective service; but first and foremost they were called to “be with Him”. Compare this with John 15:4 and the theme of abiding in Him. This is not mere pietism. It is realistic practical Christian discipleship – John 15:5. This is how discipleship is maintained and sustained. It is for this we have been given the means.of grace, the resources God has appointed for us to help us “Keep it up”. David Winter writes: “People often think of them as isolated aids - rather like gadgets in a modern home to make mother’s life easier ‑ whereas they are really built‑in elements of the Christian life, more like lungs, heart and arteries in the human body, conveying blood exactly where it is needed”. To change the figure, they are disciplines of devotion for Christians in training. These spiritual “exercises” include:

Public Worship ‑ not optional but obligatory upon all believers. See Hebrews 10:25.

Private Prayer ‑ Not just a good thing, but a basic activity, for we ought to pray and not faint, cf. Is.40:31. Do we have vision in our praying? Do we know how to pray? Do we use any good helps? Notice in Acts the place of corporate prayer in the life of the young Church. Bible Study ‑ Scripture is described as “milk” (1 Peter 2:2).and “meat” [KJV] or :”solid food” [NIV] (Hebrews 5:12). Are we attending to our proper diet as Christians in training?

* Discipleship does involve rigour and discipline ‑ hence the New Testament uses the metaphor of the army and the arena ‑ cf 2Tim:2:3; Hebrews 12:1f. By these means, through the gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit, Christ holds the believer in fellowship with Himself in the midst of an alien world.

* 3. DISCIPLESHIP MEANS DEVELOPMENT:

It is clear the New Testament expects Christians to grow. Such proper development, in terms of full Christian experience and character, derives from sound teaching – cf Acts 2:42.

*Carefully read Hebrews 5:12 ‑ 6:2. The passage’s thrust is “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrines of Christ and go on to maturity”. Considering the time since they had first believed, those Hebrew Christ­ians might reasonably be expected to be in a position to teach others. Rather, they need to learn again the first principles of the Faith, one of which is growth or maturity, ie a real grasp and understanding of the content of the Faith. How do we measure up in this regard?

Now look at Eph.4:12‑16. Paul has been speaking of the oneness of believers in the Church, and of the diversity of gifts and ministries. The reason for such diversity is the equipping of the entire fellowship of believers for service, and to build up the Church [12]. The goal of such building up in the faith is “mature manhood, the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” [13]. The test of such maturity is shown [14] to be spiritual perception or discernment in relation to teaching or principles ‑ cf.1John 4:1. Does this not explain why false cults and sects flourish today? They feed on ignorance of the apostolic faith, and so many professing members of the Church cannot distinguish truth from error. Can we? Have we developed in faith and understanding as we should? What are we doing about it? In understanding we are to be adults, not spiritual infants.

* 4. DISCIPLESHIP MEANS DIFFERENCE:

The purpose of discipleship is to make us more like our Lord. To this end the Holy Spirit is given as our Sanctifier. Sanctification and holiness are not merely doctrines on the circumference of Christian thought. One is the continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit within the Christian, and the other is the visible evidence of this ministry in the quality of his life and character.

Christians are to be different, but not with a difference that takes us out of the world. We are to be different within the world: We can and should be known by our fruits [see Matthew 7:20]. Our lives are not to be goverened by the spirit of this world or of this age, but by the Spirit of God: This means holy living.  New Testament holiness is not merely negative and certainly not cloying or off-putting. It is strong, winsome and wholesome. Read again the list of the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22f. The sanctifying ministry of the Holy Spirit should produce these character‑traits in our lives. Are they there? This is holiness. Examine afresh 1Cor.13. A life filled with the love of God looks like this. How do our lives measure up? This is holiness. Consider Romans 12: 1-2: It speaks of what God has done ‑ His “mercies”; and of what we must do in the light of what He has done – “present our bodies a living sacrifice”. The pattern of such a response is the outer transformation of the way of life by the inner renewal of the mind. This is what we need. This is what we seek. To be conformed to this world, as all too often we are, is to fly in the face of our Discipleship and Christ’s Lordship. In spite of the failure of our Discipleship ‑ broken vows, disobedience, immaturity, lack of likeness to Himself ‑ Christ stands at the door seeking admission [see Revelation 3:20]. He waits to bless and to renew.

FOR    DISCUSSION

1. Share with one another what you find most helpful in your own devotional life, what do you consider hinders you most in this regard?

2.      Discipleship means growth.‑ Discuss.together specific ways in which Greyfriars could and should help you grow in your faith.

3. If discipleship involves a properly distinctive way of life,  in what ways can we be in the community as “salt” and “light”?

4. Read again Romans 12: 1-2:  Share what it says to you in terms of challenge or rebuke or comfort or encouragement..


RENEWAL IN THE CHURCH

 

3. FELLOWSHIP

Following upon the momentous events of the Day of Pentecost we find that believers, the young Church, “continued stedfastly in the apostles” doctrine and fellowship and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).  Fellowship speaks of our togetherness as Christians and our relationships with another. What are have in common, what we share together, is summarised in Ephesians 4:4‑6. Thus we discover Christian fellowship is deeply spiritual, real and precious. The basis of the Church’s fellowship, the relationship of believers one to another ‑ or one denomination to another for that matter ‑ is faith in Christ as Saviour and Lord (see 1Corinthians 1:2).

* 1. THE FAMILY OF GOD:

John says as believers we have been born again by God’s Spirit, while Paul prefers to speak of our being children of God by “adoption”, but both mean we are God’s children now; we are brothers and sisters together in God’s family circle. Does this not bring real insight into our under­standing of the local congregation? Within the family circle at home we recognise our relatedness and our individuality. Among the family we can be most naturally ourselves. In the family relationship we rejoice in each one’s individual personality and gifts, recognising one another’s strengths and weaknesses. We recognise failings with understanding, prejudices with tolerance, eccentricities with good humour. In short, we seek to be ourselves and be open to others in our family group. There is the atmosphere of trust. The true family spirit does not seek to exclude others because of their strange little ways, odd habits, or divergent views. The family sees, accepts and indeed rejoices in the rich variety of insight, understanding and personality within its midst. The family relationship is strong enough and capable enough to absorb this diversity, and moreover, feels all the stronger and better because of it.

The Church is not made up of perfect people. It is composed of sinners who have come to faith in Christ. Together we are seeking to love Jesus and follow him conscious of our weakness, stumbling and failure. Because of this, we ought to encourage one another in the way of Christ (Hebrews 10:24f). The Church as a family means we accept one another as we are, and for what we are in Christ, and appreciation of one another for the contribution we make by what we are, to the wellbeing of our life together. This is fellowship. In our congregation here we have a unique opportunity of proving true Christian Fellowship in terms of the balance between the integrity of one’s own beliefs, background and experience, and respect for those of others, knowing that in Christ we have something to receive from others in the common life as well as something to give. Sharing together rather than party spirit and factional divisiveness ought to be our purpose (cf.1 Cor.1:12). 1Cor.3 is a stern warning in this regard, just as 1 Jn.3:14 is strong encouragement (cf.1 Jn.4:20).

2.  THE BODY OF CHRIST:

The notion of the Church’s unity in diversity and of the interrel­ation of the several members is brought out further in the figure of the Church as the Body of Christ [See Romans 12:4‑5,  1Corinthians 12:12‑27]. The extended metaphor of the physical body is quite clear and very much to the point. The body is a unit and only functions properly as the several component parts function properly. The proper functioning of the several parts is integrated by the “head”. Christ is the head of the Body ‑ His Church (Eph.5:23). He directs it and integrates its activity. As the physical body does not consist simply of one of the parts and no part can say to another “I don’t need you”, so it is in the Body of Christ. The Church does not consist of one member ‑ or group of members or of one function, and in the Church we need each other to be truly and fully the Body of Christ in this place. There is unity and diversity. The differences ‑ the varieties ‑ of gifts in the Church exercised by members are not matters of personal prestige, but differences in function. As we fulfil our own proper God‑given role (1 Corinthians 12:18,24) we are enabling the Body to function as it should.

* 3. THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT:

In a tragically divided world the figures of the Church as the family of God and the Body of Christ, speak of reconciliation and integration (see Galatians 3:28 cf. 1Cor.12:13 and Ephesians 2:14 ff ). 2Corinthians 13:14 uses the phrase “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit”. It means fellowship is some­thing the Holy Spirit creates and sustains among believers. It can, and probably does, bear the sense of the sharing in the Holy Spirit by all believers. The Church is the community of the Holy Spirit, for without the Holy Spirit we cannot recognize Christ as Saviour and Lord (1 Cor.12:3b). Apart from the Holy Spirit our Christian life and experience cannot be maintained. The relationship between the Church, as well as the individual Christian, and the Holy Spirit is a delicate one. We are taught the Holy Spirit can be resisted in His leading (Acts 7:51). He can be grieved by our sin (Eph. 4:30). He can be quenched by our stubbornness and self-will (1 Thess.5:19). The proper Christian attitude is to be filled with the Spirit (Eph.5:18) ‑ that is, to be fully open and obedient to His promptings and leadings and in close relationship with Him, so that we can be the agencies through whom He can work, pointing people to Christ and glorifying God. The fruit of the Spirit (Ga1atians 5:22,23) properly come under Discipleship ‑ in terms of the individual Christian’s personal development with Christ ‑ his sanctification. The gifts of the Spirit (1Cor. 12 ‑ 14) properly belong to the sphere of fellowship ‑ the Body of Christ. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are many and are given by God through His Spirit to individuals for and on behalf of the Church for its own upbuilding (1 Cor.14:12) and for service in.the world. To summarize ‑ the gifts are:

1.         Divine ‑ their source is God, not man, and it is ultimately God who gives as He will, ie, in His sovereignty.

2.      Distributed ‑ this is the literal meaning of 1 Cor. 12:14. As you would hand out a number of things round a group of people, so the gifts are shared around the fellowship.

3.         Different ‑ they are varied and diverse. It also follows in this fellowship that everyone does not have the same gift and no one has all the gifts (see 1 Cor.12:27‑30). Notice too the

range and nature of these gifts.

            Professor C. K. Barrett says: “Gifts are shared out among Christians; all do not receive the same lift, but all the gifts come from the Spirit so that there is no room for rivalry, discontent, or a feeling of superiority”. This was exactly the problem in the Corinthian Church with the gifts in general and speaking in tongues in particular.

Thus we see the Church is not primarily an institution or even a particular tradition. It is a living fellowship of people in Christ among whom the Holy Spirit dwells, over whom He rules and through whom He works – “the Church of God which is at Corinth ‑ Ephesus ‑ Rome ‑Auckland ‑ those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” (1 Cor. 1:2). Let us seek, under God, the Renewal of our congregation in this community so that effectually we shall be the family of God, the Body of Christ and the Community of the Holy Spirit.

FOR DISCUSSION

1. Read again 1Cor. 12:12‑20. Share with one another how you see ourselves as functioning parts of the body ‑ i.e. an eye, an ear, a mouth, and, a foot etc. How do the others see you ‑ maybe as something different. Affirm one another!

2. Fellowship involves our relationships in Christ with one another.  Discuss together ways in which we can foster closer and deeper personal relationships in the Greyfriars Church family.

3. Discuss C.K. Barrett’s comment on spiritual gifts. Are we flexible enough to allow for the exercise of a variety of spiritual gifts in our church (see 1 Cor. 12:27‑30)?


RENEWAL IN THE CHURCH

4. CONDUCT

Professor J.S. Stewart says “Christianity is not so much a way of thinking as a way of living”. We might say Christians ought to manifest stimulating, interesting and distinctive living. In the letters of Paul, we see how interwoven are Doctrine and Ethics. In a word, what we believe is not in a water‑tight compartment sealed off from other areas of living ‑ rather it permeates the whole of life. Creed leads to conduct; believing goes on to behaviour, profession of Christ emerges into the practice of Christianity. This is the message of the Epistle of James [see 1:22; 2:18‑20,26; 4:17]. You cannot really have faith that does not issue in works. Our lives ought to be a showing forth of our relation­ship with Jesus Christ.

In the time of the prophets, the people soon learned they were mistaken when they thought all they had to do to keep God happy was to have lovely services in the Temple. Institutional religion was booming ‑ but what they professed to believe bore no relation to their lives. They discovered that God was as much concerned with the market place as He was with the Temple. Indeed ‑ God dismisses their worship as blasphemous ‑ because they are not amending their way of life. “This people honoureth me with their lips, not their hearts ‑ their lives are far from me”. Look at the denunciations of the prophets against social injustice, corruption and oppression ‑ e.g. Isaiah 1:10‑18; Amos 5:14‑I5, 21‑24: Micah 6: 6‑8 .

 

* 1. CHRISTIAN STANDARDS:

Was it Augustine who once said, “Love God and do what you like”? This is not to say there are no Christian standards for personal conduct ‑ the New Testament makes it quite plain that there are. It means that goodness cannot be tabulated in terms of a rigorous and regimented code of action. Rather, in Christ and through His Holy Spirit, such conduct should be spontaneous and creative (see John 8:32, 36; Galatians 5:1). This is made plain in the standards of conduct taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5‑7). Notice in the Beatitudes the quality and character of life which evoke the blessing of God in terms of life truly fulfilled and happy. In every case, they run counter to the world’s understanding of happiness. The Sermon makes it plain there is more to fulfilling God’s requirements for us as His people than mere outward observance of goodness. Goodness and obedience to God have inward dimensions and qualities. This involves the inner personality which few of our fellows see and none can enter or explore ‑ our inner selves ‑ our personal integrity, notives, attitudes and reactions. These have to be brought under the mind of Christ. It seems quite clear that the New Testament treats as far more serious the sins of the spirit and personality than sins of the flesh. All too often me reverse the order. This comes under Chxistian~Conduct in terms of holy living ‑ blemishes of pride, envy, bitterness. In a real sense 1Corinthians 13 is pertinent here, for all our outward actions and inner motivations should be governed by this love. Having the right words of Christian profession is not the main thing (Matthew 7: 21) but a life of obedience in Christian practice.

 

* 2. CHRISTIAN RELATIONSHIPS:

The New Testament seems content to set out broad guidelines for personal Christian living and relationships with other people. These principles embrace the whole of life including home and family life, business dealings and social relationships. We are to be in the world but different from it, not pleasing ourselves ‑ but seeking to glorify God [Matthew 5:13‑16]. By our conduct and attitudes, we are not to grieve the Holy Spirit dwelling within us as believers (Eph.4:30). This is spelt out in such passages as Eph.5:2’I‑6:9 and Co1.3:’18‑4:1. Someone has put it concerning these passages that the distinctive feature of the Christian way of life is that obligations are mutual and rights are mutual. In the 1st Century society, all the rights belonged to the husband, the father and the master. All the obligations were due from the wife, the children and servants. As Christian husbands do we have loving concern for our wives, ever acting graciously towards them? As Christian wives do we respect our husbands? As male and female, we are different. In marriage, our maleness and femaleness in Christ are offered to each other as a precious gift for we are “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). Do our children see our regard for each other as people and not merely as breadwinner or housewife? It is noteworthy that the great verses speaking of the relation between Christ and the Church are describing the proper relationship between husband and wife. Also as families, the relationship between parents and children ought to be one which honours God. In every relationship of life, it is sin within us which deceives us into thinking that we have all the rights, wisdom and principles and others have the obligations, folly and prejudices.

* 3. CHRISTIAN CONCERN:

We see in the Gospel how easily Jesus got close to people – the needy, the distressed, the unlovely and the unloved. We ought to demonstrate a similarly outgoing concern. The warning from the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30‑37) lies in the fact that it was the religious men who, seeing the injured traveller left him as he was and “passed by on the other side”. Their failure to show the standard of loving concern for people is demonstrated by their apparent indifference. Their indictment is that they did nothing. Their failure is further highlighted because the Samaritan, the man who helped, did not share their religious values. Our Christian faith does not make us immune from the ills of society. It does not isolate us from the real world of corruption, exploitation, injustice and inequality. We share the world we live in with others. The mark of Christian commitment is not indifference to the needs of people in the real world, but involvement in them. Because we are members of the human race we have inescapable responsibilities to society. The New Testament states that if we do not love our brother ‑ ie have this real practical Christian concern for people ‑ then we cannot truly love God (See 1 Jn.4:20).

* 4. CHRISTIAN SERVICE:

The parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31‑46) brings this very point home to us in an amazing way. It speaks of divine judgment in terms of those who receive Christ’s blessing and those who receive His condemnation. The difference seems to be determined by our attitude and response to the manifest needs of the people around us. “Inasmuch as you did it” – “Inasmuch as yet did it not”.

All too often nowadays we feel the dynamic of the Gospel has been muted until it seems merely a social Gospel devoid of power to convert lost humankind and transform them into the image of Christ. While appreciating this, we must resist the temptation to think of the Gospel as being addressed solely to the spiritual dimension in humanity. It isn’t. It is directed to the whole person ‑ body, mind and spirit. Last century the institutional churches accused William Booth and his Salvation Army of peddling “soup ‑ soap ‑ and salvation”. In saying we are Christ’s, people in their various needs -  physical, material and spiritual -  have a claim upon us, for Jesus showed He considered they had a claim upon Him. Thus it is clear, we have the responsibility of serving in the Name of Christ. We must seek to return the Church and the individual Christian to the historic Biblical position of concern for people and society. We must apply Scriptural principles to social ethics and personal morality alike. New battle lines are drawn in society concerning racism, pollution of the environment, poverty, population explosion, family disintegration, social revolution. We should be in the forefront of the battle and not on the sidelines.

FOR DISCUSSION

How can churches help us enrich our marriage experiences and have fulfilling relationships? What are some of the major public or community issues at the present time that Christians and the Church should be considering?.

Why are Christians seemingly so often silent on big issues? What is the effect of ChT’l 5’,tl aY1S .’3f’‘~r ~i m^,nrti n a, l ‑ i‑h‑ ai A n a of ~n ; c•a„‑ ‘)


RENEWAL IN THE CHURCH

 

5. STEWARDSHIP

 

            Across the Church the hackles rise. Stewardship is a bad word. It is all dismissed as a “gimmick” for when all is said and done, “they” are after “our” money. It is a most sensitive area and painful to touch. Here we are concerned with what the Scriptures plainly teach about stewardship.  It is a big subject. Far‑ranging issues and implications are at stake. One writer has expressed it this way – “Christian Stewardship           does not consist of raising money; but in raising up people together with their money”. The fundamental principles behind the Biblical teaching on stewardship are as follows:

1.      Everything we have and are in this life has been given to us by God.

2.      It has been given “in trust” for God and for the world, thus not to be regarded possessively or selfishly.

3.      It has to be “used”, “managed”, “put to work”, ‑ see Luke 19:12ff  “Occupy till I come”.

4.      We are accountable to God for our integrity and fidelity in the service of His Kingdom. One day we shall answer to Him, giving an account of our stewardship.

TIME.

For a generation particularly conscious of time and the many demands upon our time, we adopt a curiously contradictory attitude in our Christian life and service. Almost, it seems, time does not matter. It is unimportant. We couldn’t be more wrong.

(a) Time is important in itself. Our attitude is one of  “redeeming the time” [KJV] or “making the most of every opportunity” [NIV] [Ephesians 5:16; cf.Co1.4:57]. The figure is one of the market place and of the eager purchaser snapping up bargain offers. The NEB version has it “use the present opportunity to the full” and the NRSV – “making the most of the time”. Certain things demand time ‑ our family relationships or doing a job well. Are we spending real time or our relationship with God in personal quiet time and in public worship? Are we using time in fostering and working at fellowship with others in the Body of Christ? It needs time for it is a precious relationship. Are we spending time on our service for Christ as office‑bearers, leaders or teachers? It needs time. Are we using the time and the opportunities given to demonstrate our Christian convictions and compassion? How are we using our time for God ‑ the little that is left after hobbies, pastimes and other interests, or is it our priority?

(b) Time is important in relation to human life. See James 4:13‑17. The Bible constantly reminds us that time is passing and life itself is brief. “What is your life? It is a vapour”. Are we using our lives as God intended ‑ to glorify Him and serve others? We constantly think in terms of “Sometime” ‑ God says “Now”! We say “Tomorrow”. God says “Today”.

(c) Time is important in relation to the Coming Again of Christ. Read Romans 13:11-4. Our stewardship is based on “knowing the time”, understanding that our opportunities for Christian service are running out as the coming of the Lord draws near. We appreciate it is high time to awake out of a long sleep of individual sloth and the Church’s lethargy. It is time to be about our Master’s service ‑ for the King’s business requires haste. In the light of the certainty of His soon coming ‑ there is a sense of urgency in all our work for His Kingdom, for as stewards we must be ready for His coming.

TALENTS

From the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14‑30, we appreciate that God has not given us all equal ability. We can recognise 5‑talent people, 3‑talent people and 1‑talent people. It also teaches we all have at least one talent and that I regard as being ourselves for God. The lesson of the parable is faithfulness in obedience and service. Judgment came upon the wicked servant because he hid his talent in the earth ‑ did not use it for the fulfilment of his master’s purposes.

This is brought out even more clearly in 1Corinthians 12:4‑11. We are each given some particular manifestation of the Spirit on behalf of and held in trust for the common good of the fellowship. Moreover it is to be used, set to work for the building up of the Church. In a sense Ephesians 4:11-3 takes it even further when it says these gifts ‑ implied as residing in and exercised by believers ‑ are for the equipping of all God’s people for work in his service. Thus the New Testament claims God gives to His Body all necessary and sufficient gifts, talents and abilities through its members both for the upbuilding of its own life and for its enterprise in the world. If this is so ‑ then plainly every congregation, our own among them, has an accumulation of frozen assets, unrealized potential, unrecognised resources. It also means the advance of the Kingdom of God can be hindered and God’s purposes for us at this time can be frustrated because we are holding out on God in refusing to use His gifts on behalf of the Body of Christ. Think about it. Locally all necessary gifts of leadership, teaching, administration ­and evangelism have been given by God and are present within the fellow­ship. In the worldwide responsibility of the Church all necessary missionary gifts are present. The gifts are present ‑ the servants need to be faithful and obedient.

MONEY ‑ POSSESSIONS

Money is something else we have in trust from God. As a fellowship, are we prepared to operate financially on the basil of faith (eg Phil.4:I9) ‑ looking to our members to practice the Biblical principles of giving.  ‑

# We should give joyfully ‑ Our cheerful giving (2Corinthians 9:7) is the practical expression of our thanksgiving to God for all His goodness and particularly for the peerless gift of His Son. It also represents the joyous giving of ourselves to His service for we regard it as a privilege to share in the work in this way.

# We should give systematically. It is no haphazard affair. It is something that has been thought through and prayed about. We have done our sums. We have worked it out in advance, not in terms.of convenience, but in terms of priority. It is planned giving in the light of our resources and in the light of the known need.

# We should give proportionately. This is quite plain from 1Corinthians 16:2.  The scale is “as God has prospered”. The basic criteria are our financial income on the one hand and our financial responsibilities for the adequate provision of our families on the other. Alongside these primary obligations are our financial obligations to the whole work of the Kingdom. It is in this area of proportionate giving by all that the Old Testament speaks clearly of “firstfruits” and “tithes” [Deuteronomy 26:1‑15].

# We should give sacrificially. The principle of the relation between our giving and what it achieves for others in terms of blessing is set out in 2Corinthians 9:6. Love is lavish and generous in its giving as well as enthusiastic. The Cross represents sacrifice and cost in real giving for others. Our giving ‑ even of our money to God ‑ ought in some measure at least to reflect this principle. It is not buying our way into the Kingdom ‑ for we cannot. It is in fact a love offering to God ‑ like King David of old: “I will not offer to the Lord my God offerings that have cost me nothing” [2Samuel 24:24 NEB]. Perhaps there is more to Malachi 3:10 than we have been willing to admit. We must give God His due ‑ in time, talents and possessions – “Prove me now herewith, if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it”. This is God’s challenge to us.

FOR    DISCUSSION

1.         “Use the present opportunity to the full” ‑ discuss together what are the present opportunities for Greyfriars and how we should be meeting them.

2.         If God provides all necessary gifts for the effective working of the Church, what “frozen assets” or unrecognised talents or under utilized abilities are there among us?

3.         What comments do you have on the Church and money: our use of it, Ol7r wr1VS nf m(lti wt’i nO’ TAnill p +n r7‑i nrc, ~nl cooc; ‑ m +h, ‑ ,‑.~ ,‑,f,‑.. ‑ f‘


RENEWAL IN THE CHURCH

 

6. MISSION

 

“GO quickly and tell” ‑ so said the angel at the empty tomb to the women. The compulsion of personal discovery ought ever to be upon us. Our responsibility is to be Christ’s witnesses (Acts 1:13; 1John 1:1-3). We are stewards of the mysteries of the Gospel (1Cor.4:1), and together we have fellowship in the Gospel (Phil.1:5-9),  that is we are in partnership together in the venture of making Christ known. Today’s Mission is nothing else and nothing less than to carry the unchanging Gospel of eternal Salvation meaningfully into today’s world. Our sin is silence – “We are doing wrong. This is a day of good news yet we are holding our tongues”. The gathering in of unbelievers into Christ and into Christian fellowship should be a constant and ongoing process. Mission is not an occasional activity. “Day by day the Lord added to their number those whom He was saving” (Acts 2:47 NEB).

* 1. PRINCIPLES FOR MISSION:

1 We go in Obedience. Our Lord’s “Missionary Mandate” is a command demanding our obedience not an option awaiting our pleasure. “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel” (Matt.28:19‑20). Moreover we go out of love for Him and because His love acts upon us as an inner con­straint (2Corinthians 5:14f.). John Stott says: “First He sent His Son. Then He sent His Spirit. Now He sends His Church. He sends us out by His Spirit into His world to announce His Son’s salvation. He worked through His Son to achieve it. He works through us to make it known”.

2  We go to present Christ as the sole sufficient means of salvation. There          is no other message we are authorised to proclaim [2Corinthians 5:18‑20] than the one which has been entrusted to us. The ambassador carries the message of His King not his own opinions. In proclaiming this Gospel we lift up the Lord Jesus in all His saving power and this is the message God blesses [Jn.12:32].

3 We go believing people are lost without Christ.  We have our Lord’s word     for this [Luke 19:10]. This lostness relates to life now ‑ shown by the search for purpose, wholeness, personal significance and meaningfulness. This hopelessness and lostness relate not only to this life, important though that is, but to eternity. This in turn gives our mission a sense of compulsion and urgency.

4 We go confident of Christ’s working in us and through us. This brings us back to our Lord’s great commission and to His promise directly linked to it, “I am with you alway, even to the end of the age”. We are not going on our own charges or in our own strength. We believe that as Christ sends ‑ so He enables His people ‑ and so He goes before them to prepare the ground for the good seed of the Word.

* 2. PERSONNEL FOR MISSION:

The Good News is borne by people.     God’s call comes to people. “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8). The glad response ought to be, “Here am I, send me”. The responsibility for spreading the Good News does not only lie with ministers, teachers, evangelists and elders alone. The responsibility rests squarely upon the whole Church – surely every Christian. Part of the local congregation’s job ought to be the teaching and training of its members to fulfil this task. At the very least we can be ourselves for Christ, and as opportunity presents we can say what we have found in Him. Like the man born blind ‑ goaded beyond endurance by all the people who tried to explain away what had happened to him, he burst out: “One thing I know, whereas I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). This is simple Christian testimony and is the minimum missionary responsibility of every believer ‑ see Romans 10:9. It is taken further by I Peter 3:15. We are to be always ready “to give a reason for the hope within us”. We should have a grasp of the fundamentals of the Gospel we believe and be able in humility to communicate it to others. This is mission. “The all‑important fact I seek to declare is the utter relevance to every man, every situation, every experience, every cir­cumstance, every problem and every need of the glorious splendour of the Gospel. You cannot take it to the wrong person or place,” ‑ Professor H. Cecil Pawson. Nothing shuts the mouth, seals the lips and ties the tongue like the secret poverty of our own spiritual experience.” ‑ John Stott.

* 3. PROGRAMME FOR MISSION:

“You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Sam­aria and to the end of the earth”. Thus Acts 1:8 outlines the programme for mission as the young church received it from the Lord. This strategy holds true today. The primary evangelistic and missionary sphere of the local congregation is still the local community. Do we have any evang­elistic strategy for our area? Are we examining and assessing various evangelistic methods? In particular have we ever fully caught on to the potential of the house group as a real growing edge for the Church? How important the Christian home was in Acts for the Church’s missionary out­reach. It was a focus for evangelism. It was a place of hospitality and for associating with believers. We should be concerned “by all means to save some” (1Cor.9:22). Let us evangelise with integrity and imagination.

We also have a responsibility towards our wider region, the evang         elism going on in our own country and missionary enterprise worldwide. Certainly we cannot all go in the physical sense but ‑ (a)   we can all be interested: So often the impression is given we couldn’t care less about the advance of the Kingdom. We should be interested in what God is doing across the world.          (b) We can all be informed.       We just don’t know what is happening. We seem to live in splendid isolation. There are various good Christian magazines and periodicals giving news of Christian activity, evangelism and mission. Do we read any of them? They can thrill us and inspire us as we read of what God is doing now.  (c) We can all pray intelligently and intensely. This is at once our          privilege and responsibility - even if we never cross the seas ourselves ‑ and arises out of our being well informed. Thus we can have a vision of the opportunities presented and a real burden for some places             or people – missionary partners or others we know. We can really share in missionary endeavour by working hard in our prayers. Information and concern should fuel our prayer groups. (d) We can all give increasingly. Part of our own missionary concern is demonstrated by our financial commitment to the denominational Budget. Yet some of our missionary interest will lie in areas of operatiom not covered by our Church. It is right we should have large vision and wide interests. As individuals and a Church could we not have a “Missionary Budget” which would include non‑denominational missionary societies, eg The Leprosy Mission, Scripture work and Missionary radio broadcasting? Thus we can reach out “to the ends of the earth”.

* 4. POWER FOR MISSION:

            Our motivation is triumphant faith in Christ crucified and risen. Our energising and enabling is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,” (Acts 1:8). The Power, that is the means to make our message effective in the minds and lives of the hearers, does not lie in us. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. “Not by might, not by power but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zech.4:6).  The clue to the early Church’s success lies in its consciousness of the Holy Spirit’s presence leading, directing and enabling and in its openness and obedience to Him. Paul said his preaching was “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1Corinthians 2:4). The secret lies in Pentecost, the sending of the Spirit into the Church and the giving of the Spirit to these believing and expectant people. It was Christians so filled, so blessed and so used by God who turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6).  Jesus said, “As my Father has sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21) in setting out the pattern of our going and our service. He said something more. He spoke of the power for our going and our service. “He breathed on them, and said, `Receive the Holy Spirit”.

FOR    DISCUSSION:

1.      Read again Acts 2:41‑4.  Can you see any connection between their life together (fellowship) and the impact of their ministry (mission)?

2.   “Day by day, the Lord added to their number those whom he was saving”. Do you think a  sense the church is always a giving Church , why?  What makes for a growing Church?

3.   Discuss together how Greyfriars specifically can action the spectrum of involvement in mission of Acts 1:   Jerusalem ‑ Judea ‑ Samaria ‑ the utter most part of the earth.

4.   Discuss together the truth, relevance, appropriateness of either of the quotations by John Stott or that by Cecil Pawson.

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