Vision Booster: To transform Australia
Good morning! We continue our look at our national vision statement today, which we’ve been looking at for the last four weeks, as we explore what this vision actually says and how we can live it out in our own context.
And this really is a Vision that can be lived out in any context:
Hardship and injustice doesn’t discriminate - it affects everyone to some degree. We all know people who are struggling, who need a little bit of extra help.
We all want to be a people who are known for our passion for living the Gospel
by being people who come alongside others and share the love of Jesus in meaningful ways.
During week one, we looked at the need for vision and how it helps us live the life that God has for us. We then focused on a different line of our vision and looked at how we can personally live it out in our daily lives.
Next week, we finish up this series and at the end of next week’s message there is going to be an opportunity for each of us to personally sign up to this Vision and commit to seeing it become a reality in our life.
Today, we continue on with the fourth line of the vision - and one that personally I absolutely love. I love all the lines of the vision, but this line really hit me when I first heard it. So our vision:
Wherever there is hardship or injustice
Salvos will live, love and fight
to transform Australia one life at a time
with the love of Jesus
That line, to transform Australia one life at a time...
The word transform comes from the same root word as the word metamorphosis. Now we all know that when a caterpillar changes into a butterfly it goes through a complete metaphorosis. Everything about it changes.
Did you know that they’ve done studies with butterflies, trying to understand what happens to caterpillars under metamorphosis. They completely change. Everything in them changes into this weird goo like substance. There is absolutely nothing left that doesn’t become goo - no internal organs, the wings aren’t hiding somewhere in the caterpillar. It transforms into this Goo, and then transforms into being a caterpillar. But what they’ve also discovered is that when they put a particular smell next to their food while a caterpillar, when they become a butterfly and put that same smell next to their food, the butterfly will fly straight to that and ignore other plants. So not only do they become completely goo, but they retain all of their memories - incredible!
And it’s similar for us when we are believers of Christ. When we become a follower of Christ, we should be completely transformed - nothing should be the same.
But my illustration doesn’t stop there today. You see, when a butterfly comes out of its chrysalis, it is actually upside down, so that the blood flows to the wings and they can stretch out and fly.
Similarly, it’s often been said that Jesus’ kingdom is an upside down kingdom. Instead of trying to hoard riches, Jesus encourages his followers to live a generous lifestyle. Instead of trying to be all powerful, Jesus teaches us to be servants. Instead of seeking revenge when we are hurt, we are to bless and forgive. Instead of selfish gain, we are called to fight for others.
In our Bible reading today, We heard about Levi, and his transformation. Now this is a story all about how his life got flipped-turned upside down, and I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, and I’ll tell you all about how Levi was transformed from an outcast to one of the apostles, from a liar and a cheat to one of Jesus’ followers, From someone who wasn’t even allowed to attend religious ceremonies to being someone who helped birth the early church.
Jesus transforms one individual
Jesus transforms one individual
It’s such an awesome story. Even though a crowd was following Jesus, he made the time to stop for one person, and personally invited Levi. And that’s really important - we must never underestimate the power of a personal invitation and how special it can make a person feel.
And Levi responds to this invitation by throwing this huge party, and invites everyone to come and meet Jesus. One person can have a huge influence and impact on a community when Jesus has been invited into their life.
I’ve shared before about my friend Max, who is mid nineties, legally blind, but is still engaged in ministry through his church, and still manages to send out a yearly newsletter (and recently has switched to an e-newsletter) which just astounds me every time I receive it. I still consider Max to be a great friend and mentor, and I still consider him to be an “honorary youth”, because when we were going through the Youth Alpha program, Max took great interest in what the youth thought. He invested into us, and that has left a lasting impact on my life to this day.
So Jesus is there at the party. And I’ve talked before about how banquets and parties in those days were public events - peoples houses were so small that large parties would be held outside, and those who weren’t invited would often be hanging around, seeing who was there and who wasn’t. And the Religious leaders are there and they see Jesus and his disciples sitting there eating with sinners and tax collectors, probably surrounded by tremendous amounts of food and alcohol, and they ask each other, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?
But Jesus, hearing their question, responds perfectly, saying: “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Too often, we don’t want to get down in the muck and the mud. Yes, we are called to live holy lives, but we are also called to go to where the people are and live life with them. To be where the light of Christ is needed most.
This is a wonderful and bright room. With the sunlight and these artificial lights, then the light of this torch does very little. But say it’s 11pm, and the power has gone out… who would be wanting this torch now?
We cannot shine the light of Christ in a bright room. We need to be willing to go to where people need Jesus the most.
Jesus already had many people following him, but he still sought out Levi and invited him personally because he knew that Levi needed his life transformed.
Is there someone in your life that might be open to having a conversation about Jesus? Is there one person who you can come alongside this week and begin a faith conversation?
When people meet Jesus, sustainable life change is possible because the Spirit of God comes to work in our lives. Who can you have a conversation this week about Jesus - about what He’s done in your life, or what He can do in their life?
All it takes in an invitation
All it takes in an invitation
In , Jesus says “go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” In those days, Levi was most definitely a sinner.
Levi was a Jew, but he worked for the Romans as a tax collector. Because of this, he was seen as a Roman sympathiser, and therefore treated as an outcast. Tax collectors generally were also seen as being dishonest, often adding extra tax to what was charged to the people, to keep for themselves and still be able to send the full amount that Rome required.
But Jesus invites him out of that corrupt system. Where as other religious people would have ignored him, Jesus reached out to him. All it took was a simple, “Come, follow me.”
Now, I recognise that it’s not always that easy. I know that I’ve had conversations with some of you where you have expressed frustration born from your own experiences continuing to reach out to people, but constantly getting turned back. So, yes, it’s not always as easy as it sometimes is made out to be. Not everyone is ready to follow Jesus. And we get some examples of this in the Gospels.
In , we hear the story of Zacchaeus. In , we hear of the rich young ruler. Both of these people were incredibly rich. Both were invited to follow Jesus. But while Zacchaeus said yes, the rich young ruler wasn’t ready and said no.
There have been countless times where I have shared my faith and the person seemed closed to God. But that shouldn’t stop us. These things take time. We have heard the story of the sower, where seeds are planted in different areas, but depending on the ground some take up, others don’t. But we should still be faithful and tend to the seeds as they are presented to us.
As you know, Annabelle has just started at school. And as you know, I love my coffee. I had a bad habit when I was dropping Annabelle at Kinder, in that I would stop off at the Elmore Bakery and get a coffee for my drive back to work. Now, Annabelle likes to walk to school, so if we’re ready in time, we’ll drive and park at the church, and then walk from here. And after dropping her off, it’s very easy for me to stop in at Mel’s to get a coffee to kick start my day. So I’ve become a bit of a regular now, and that’s meant that I have had opportunities to talk about my journey and my work and my faith with them, in a completely natural and normal way. Are they here today? No, but we never know what might happen down the track.
Transformation is a process
Transformation is a process
When The Salvation Army was formed, one of the sparks was that the conservative church didn’t want the marginalised in the Sunday Service. Booth wanted to bring the poor in, but they were forced out. But that is the exact opposite of the Gospel. God doesn’t wait to accept us when we are transformed. We don’t need to be fully and completely pure for God to accept us, God accepts us as we are, and then starts the transformative process.
In Romans, Paul writes “if you declare with your moth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved… Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.”
The religious leaders of the day could only assign labels to people: sinner; unclean; heathen. But Jesus never did that.
Do we still use these labels today? Do we assign labels to people and refuse to allow them to even hear the Good news?
Jesus never did that. Why should we? Jesus always saw a person’s potential - who they could be if they allowed God’s Spirit to transform their life.
But that transformation takes time. And we have examples in the Bible - some explicit, some less so. Peter has a story of someone who grew slowly in his faith, but was transformed to being the Rock on which the church was built. A couple of weeks ago, we heard the story of the Gadarene Demoniac, who being healed went to share the Good news with his community. Later in the gospel, we heard that many from his community had come to believe because of his testimony - but we don’t really know how long that had taken. Was it a couple of weeks, was it a a year? But the point is that transformation takes time - but Jesus remains the same. Jesus is always willing to work in our lives. Jesus never gives up on anyone.
No religious leader would have reached out to Levi - he was a tax collector, an outcast, a betrayer, a friend of the enemy. But Jesus saw his potential - to be an apostle, an evangelist, a writer of Scripture.
There is so much potential in every single one of us. When we place our trust in Jesus, that potential that God has in every single one of us can flourish.
Call to Action
Call to Action
Transformation begins with being given an opportunity. Every person has so much God given potential.
Every life matters to God and every life should matters to us. The God given potential of individuals is unlocked when we believe in Jesus and follow after his ways.
I want to encourage us all, myself included, to pray and ask God to direct us into conversations and situations where we can share the love of Jesus? Let’s be active in inviting people to Jesus? And let’s believe for Australia to be transformed, one life at a time - with the love of Jesus.
Lord God, we know that you want to see Australia transformed with the Gospel message. We know you desire all people to turn to you and receive life. We ask that you send us out with boldness, to preach the gospel and to help those in need.
We pray for the people we know, the people we share meals with, the people we work with – anyone that doesn’t know you yet Lord, bless us with the opportunity to share and demonstrate our faith, so all may come to know you.