Vicar's Voice, 6 October 2019

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I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2 NRSV). This is one of the most familiar parts of Scripture, known to most Bible-believing Christians. The implication is that followers of Jesus, seek to be faithful to our call by God to give ourselves to His service. A “living sacrifice” is literally an act of complete surrender to the will of God, so that we might glorify him in our lives. The whole point of resisting conformity to the pattern of this world is so that we can turn away from sin and evil and seek those things God wants in our lives. The resulting transformation is in body and mind and in spirit.

Our lives will be different. Followers of Jesus are set apart and don’t speak and act like unbelievers. Our actions are consistent with our words. Yet many unbelievers say they want nothing to do with the Church because it is full of hypocrites. You might be shocked when I agree with that statement. “Hypocrite” literally means play-actor. What is happening on the outside is not consistent with the true beliefs and values on the inside. Imagine what life would be like if our thoughts were displayed on a screen on our foreheads for everyone to see! So, in that sense we are all hypocrites because none of us are perfect.

The transforming though is meant to be ongoing, like a journey. We know our goal or destination is perfection in Christ and we are motivated by love for God to do our best to do that. Hopefully we get closer each day to our words and deeds becoming consistent with each other. We want to “practice what we preach.”

The apostle James, the brother of Jesus wrote many aspects of this in his letter to the Church. It would be too simplistic to say that his central message was that faith and works are inseparable, but it is what he essentially writes. Maybe a little more elaborately than that, but he does deal with many life issues that sometimes cause us to fail the consistency test (between words and deeds). 

James deals with a variety of themes, with an emphasis on practical aspects of the Christian life. Some of the subjects include: handling trials and temptations, practicing pure religion, understanding the relationship between faith and works, the proper use of the tongue and display of true wisdom, being a friend of God rather than a friend of the world, and the value of humility, patience and prayer. While these may appear unrelated, they are crucial to the growth and development of the Christian. 

I look forward to digging into this goldmine together over the next few weeks.

Alan

Vicar's Voice, 29 September 2019

When we begin what seems to be a small undertaking, we have not imagined the possibility that we could make a global or national impact. Thomas Edison who invented the first commercially viable light globe, may have understood the importance of this invention. But he put aside another invention for 10 years in 1877 to work on what he thought was more important. It was an invention that has had a far greater impact, the phonogram. This was a primitive sound recording and playback device that has led to all kinds of technology in sound, performance, radio and television. 

When the elders in the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1-3) gathered for their regular prayers the Holy Spirit led them to ‘set apart’ (dedicate, consecrate) Barnabas and Saul to go from Antioch and start new churches in places to be revealed by the Spirit’s guidance. We have the whole history unfolding in the rest of the book of Acts but could those men in Antioch have known what was going to eventuate? We don’t know the full impact or extent of the rest of the apostles’ ministry, extra-Biblical writings of the Early Church Fathers give only scant details.

Jesus mentioned “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) and I think the Antioch church sending the first ‘missionaries’ was the beginning of the global impact of the Gospel. So it continues today many years later. It has long been a tradition of missionary sending organisations to ‘set apart’ new or returning missionaries each time they venture forth in the Name of Christ. It is very humbling to know that many people have been involved in the formation and sending out, each time we have left our home.

It is the function of the local church to not only be missional in their own neighbourhood but also to have a healthy understanding and vision to engage globally. Economics has given us the saying, “Think locally, act globally” (ca. 2006). What happened in Antioch illustrates that idea quiet well from a missional point of view. Locally, Barnabas and Saul had been ministering to the congregation for over a year. Now the church had reached a level of maturity where they could hear clearly the Holy Spirit to send out these two men (Saul becomes Paul, and John Mark from Jerusalem also joins them briefly). 

Our challenge is to missionally evaluate our church. We seem to be functioning well in ministering locally. We are nurturing members of our congregations across two centres through Biblical preaching, pastoral care and small groups. Locally we are also closely engaged with our Outreach Projects. But what about the world beyond Indonesia? What is our global plan? Have we ever thought the possibility of sending and supporting missionaries to other countries in S.E. Asia or beyond? What would it take for All Saints to become truly global in its outlook?

This is something to pray about. The church here was established through the missionary enterprise of people from other nations. Initially ASJ was engaged in mission to China and other parts of Java and Sumatra. While it is true there are Christians in almost every country in the world, there are still a lot of unreached people groups (7,153 UPGs out of 17,098 total) in the world today. They will never hear the Gospel unless missionaries are sent. Antioch church started on their knees. Before we try to answer the questions above, let’s start on our knees.

In Christ

Alan