Sunday Night Live Sermons
LIVING THE WAY GOD WANTS
28th September 2003
The Uniting Church hierarchy is accepting and encouraging people who are living contrary to the way God wants and calling it "progressive" and "enlightened" and everything else except Godly obedience. The hierarchy affirmed presbyteries in ordaining homosexuals living in same sex relationships. Tens of thousands of members protested in meetings, letters and petitions but the hierarchy were not listening to them.
Instead of being intimidated, the church membership got mad, really angry! This week 73 people evangelical leaders gathered for three days in Sydney. They were lay leaders and ministers from congregations in every state and territory, including leaders from Aboriginal and migrant/ethnic communities. They discussed leadership direction, structure, and sexuality following last Assembly. The summit unanimously resolved to form a reforming alliance within the Uniting Church. It will represent up to 80 per cent of members and will work to reverse gay ordination and restore Biblical principles. Its purpose is to participate in God's transformation of the Uniting Church. The summit decided to conduct a nation-wide survey in October to determine the opinion of Uniting Church people to the issues of leadership direction, structure, and sexuality. The summit appointed an interim executive council to implement its decisions. The national president of the Uniting Church, Dr Dean Drayton, welcomed the decision of the overwhelming majority to stay and address their concerns in the church, but "I'm disappointed that it was a closed caucus that met, and that I, as national president, was specifically excluded from it."
A group of leaders had decided that the incredible shrinking President's presence would be unhelpful. Mrs Mary Hawkes, the national spokesperson said orthodox Christians, congregations and councils would be invited to join. "We're very determined. We're not in the mood for playing games and sitting round tables. We're ready for some serious action, working to change the way the church operates and to bring it back to biblical principles. If we can't get a change in leadership we'll work around them." This group were saying: measure up!
1. LIVE A LIFE THAT MEASURES UP.
Once a conference of scientists, church and world leaders decided there should be one system of time for the whole world. The standard was set as "Greenwich Mean Time". From there on every nation would take its time according to where they were on each longitude around the world. That is the standard time. People need a standard to measure up to in living. We have in the Word of God a standard on morals and ethics and how we ought to live. We either measure up or not. The church has the task to proclaim that standard, not say it doesn't matter any more. A line on the earth marked where boxers would "toe the line" Runners started from a "scratch" mark in the earth. Living up to scratch meant you lined up to a mark, a standard, something that was clear. Christians believe that in the Bible we have the witness to the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. That is our standard, our scratch. We must live measuring up to the standards that God has set us. Some people say, "I want to adjust my behaviour to how others behave about me." That is not the way Christians are to behave. We are to change the world, not conform to it.
Paul expressed it simply to the Ephesians: :1-2 "I urge you, then-I who am a prisoner because I serve the Lord: live a life that measures up to the standard God set when he called you. Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another." Ephesians 4:1 Paul, is writing to his friends from prison. The Christian church in all countries, in all centuries, agree that his word is authentic and authoritative. It is God's Word to us today. You cannot be a Christian and say, "Yes, but that was only Paul. I know better," as some within the Uniting Church hierarchy say.
Paul urges them to abide by a standard of how they ought to behave. Notice the order in which Paul puts them: You start with your belief and then follows your behaviour. You are called to get your heart right with God first and then His power helps you work it through in your relationship with other people. We are called to measure up to the standard that God sets us. Once in Paris, I visited "The Institute of Weights and Measures". On the front wall is a metal bar surrounded by a guard rail. It is a bar of platinum and iridium, an alloy which is not affected by temperature. It never grows longer and never shortens. It is exactly one metre long. This bar is the one metre standard for the whole world. Paul says you have to measures up to the life of Jesus. If you want to know anything about how you ought to live, look to Jesus. He is the standard for us all. He tells you how to measure up to His standard in five verbs: be humble, be gentle; be patient; be loving and be tolerant - tolerant of people but not their sin. We are to move away from those conforming to sin. When you are His, you "measure up to the standard God has set for you." If you are to live up to standard, you will be His.
2. DO YOUR BEST TO MAINTAIN UNITY.
Ephesians 4: 3 6 "Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all." Across Australia there is a concern about the decline in moral standards. Australia, according to many people, is slowly sinking in the west!
I visited the beautiful York Minster where half of the transept has recently been rebuilt. The Church of England had consecrated as a Bishop a theologian who said he did not believe in the inspiration of the Bible, the virgin birth of Jesus or the resurrection of Christ. Then the 400 year old minister was struck by lightning! Many people said that was an act of God! This week the Evangelical Summit was held. It was as if the Uniting Church has been judged and struck by lightning! We are to do our best to maintain the unity of the body - the Church. "Do your best to preserve the unity that the Spirit gives." Paul then writes: "There is one Spirit, and because there is one Spirit we have one body. We belong together and have one hope for the future." That is why I have said, that with all of its imperfections, I will not leave the Uniting Church. I will not leave it, but I am not content to leave it as it is! I will work to preserve the unity of the Church by correcting the immorality and imperfections. We have one Lord, and because we have one Lord, Jesus, we will have one faith and one baptism. We are told to do our best to preserve this unity, and the best way to preserve the unity is to measure up to the standards of Jesus Christ, not adapting ourselves to the world.
3. WORK TO BUILD UP THE BODY OF CHRIST.
Ephesians 4:7 12 "Each one of us has received a special gift in proportion to what Christ has given. As the scripture says, "When He went up to the very heights, He took many captives with Him; He gave gifts to people." Now, what does "He went up" mean? It means that first He came down to the lowest depths of the earth. So the one who came down is the same one who went up, above and beyond the heavens, to fill the whole universe with His presence. It was He who "gave gifts to people"; He appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. He did this to prepare all God's people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature."
God offers you resources for your life to enable you to work in His service. All you need is to receive His gift and use it in work for Him. Paul says, "Each one of us has received a special gift." God has already given it to you. Everyone who becomes a Christian receives not only God's saving grace, but a gift for service in His work. There is a difference between the gifts we receive from God and our natural abilities. Talents and gifts both come from God, but only Christians have the Spirit's gifts. Talents come when you are born, but the gift of the Spirit of God comes when you are reborn as a Christian. Where does the gift come from? It comes from God. v8 10 Paul speaks of Jesus returning to heaven. "He went up to the very heights, He took many captives with Him; He gave gifts to mankind.
Now what does 'He went up' mean? It means that first He came down to the lowest depths of the earth. So the one who came down is the same one who went up, above and beyond the heavens, to fill the whole universe with His presence." Paul is pointing to the Cosmic Christ. It is the story of redemption when love divine came down at Christmas. Jesus descends to earth and ascending once more to be with the Father, and the reigning Christ through the Spirit gives you a gift, a spiritual gift.
Note the variety of gifts mentioned in Scripture. Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, 1 Peter 4; Ephesians 4. A spiritual gift is given for serving in the work of God. There are 21 gifts mentioned in Scripture. I have divided them into four areas.
- Gifts of helping: One group of gifts is the gifts of serving others. One is giving aid, another generosity. Showing mercy is another gift. There is a gift called craftsmanship, the ability to make beautiful things. There is the gift of healing and the gift of hospitality.
- Gifts of Leading: There is the gift of administration, of encouragement, There is the inspiring of other people to faith. That is a gift of God.
- Gifts of Growing: The third kind of gift helps the church and Christian people to grow. Paul speaks about those who have the capacity to establish churches and proclaim the Word of God with authority. There is the gift of prophecy able to tell out the Word of God. There are gifts of evangelism, pastoring, teaching, exhortation, wisdom, knowledge and discernment. Do you have one of these gifts? Are you a person of wisdom, able to tell the fair dinkum from the fake? That is discernment.
- Gifts of amazing: The fourth group of gifts includes miracle working, of speaking in tongues, of interpreting those tongues, and of laying on hands to heal.
Do you know what your gift is? v11 says "He gave these gifts to mankind." Paul now goes on to say why. "And these were His gifts, some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip God's people for work in His service, to the building up of the body of Christ." Once I realised that I had a congregation that sat and sat and sat while I worked my insides out building the Kingdom. But in the Kingdom of God, there are no spectators all of us are in the arena. There are no passengers on board, every one is crew. We have different tasks and functions, but we are all part of the crew. God has given ministers the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers - the task of "equipping God's people for work in His service for the building up of the body of Christ." Part of my task is to help you identify your gift and build it up so that it can be used in the Kingdom of God.
We are to continuing working together in building up the body of Christ: until "we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature." That maturity requires personal self-discipline, moral behaviour, living a life like Christ and measuring up to the standard of Jesus Himself. We cannot have Christians not making the attempt, not behaving, and being immoral, living unworthy lives. That is why we Evangelicals have told the Church leaders to stress only Biblical commands and standards, to help believers "become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature." When you commit your life to Jesus Christ, you are to believe and behave, use His gift to you in building up the body of Christ, and become mature to His full stature.
- Gay priest rebellion in church. The Age September 25 2003 Barney Zwartz