5th December, 1999

  Doing Word and Deed
  Colossians 3:15-17

Why do we busy people gather at the end of the year in a service of thanksgiving? Surely there is still so much to do. Are there not people who right now could do with our attention? Why do we come aside to give thanks? Are we like Nero, fiddling while Rome burns? Paul gives us some guidance: Col 3:15-17 "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one other with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

"And whatever you do, whether in word..." The word comes first. That is the biggest single challenge for the Uniting Church. We must put the word first. All the difficulties the Uniting Church faces are because of attitudes that put personal stories and feelings and personal insights from secular studies before what the word of God teaches. Our conflict over non-celibate homosexuals in church leadership is because we listen to people's stories and how they feel rather than what the word of God expressly teaches. The Bible says church leaders must live a moral and righteous life with no sexual activity outside of marriage. Some say that they don't think that is fair to their own feelings and urges.

As a result, they do what the Bible expressly forbids. They advocate abortion, euthanasia, mercy killing and heroin shooting rooms. They say, "We should not allow people to go through pain even if it means taking their lives." So society vacuums out foetuses, over-doses old people, turns off life-support systems and gives others needles and clean rooms to shoot as much drugs as they like, simply to avoid the pain of living. The Bible teaches the sanctity of life. In days when we can control pain, why should we opt for killing? We should not terminate life and play God according to how we feel.

But how can people know what they should do if they are not to rely just on feelings and stories? Paul says V16 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom." We are called to allow God's word grow in our lives, to study the word, teaching and admonishing one another wisely, the significance of the Word of God. This Church has always had a deep commitment to the Word of God. We preach it. We teach it. We spread it. In our 46 services of worship held each week, through our one hundred small groups and through the Alpha courses, on radio, television, through video and film, in the printed word, the spoken word, the debated and discussed word, we allow "the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom." The word of Jesus Christ is unique because Jesus is unique. This week's edition of TIME focuses on the uniqueness of the person and place of Jesus.

The news magazine declares that of all people who have ever lived, Jesus Christ has been the most influential. He is the Man of this millennium and the millennium before this one. TIME magazine puts it like this: "The memory of any stretch of years eventually resolves to a list of names, and one of the useful ways of recalling the past two millenniums is by listing the people who acquired great power. Muhammad, Catherine the Great, Marx, Gandhi, Hitler, Roosevelt, Stalin and Mao come quickly to mind. There's no question that each of those figures changed the lives of millions and evoked responses from worship through hatred. It would require much exotic calculation, however, to deny that the single most powerful figure, not merely in these two millenniums, but in all human history, has been Jesus of Nazareth.
Not only is the prevalent system of denoting the years based on the date of his birth, but a serious argument can be made that no one else's life has proved remotely as powerful and enduring as that of Jesus. It's an astonishing conclusion in light of the fact that Jesus was a man who lived a short life in a rural backwater of the Roman Empire, who died in agony as a convicted criminal, and who may never have intended so much as a small portion of the effects worked in his name. Who was Jesus then? And how can we learn more about him?" It is precisely to answer these questions that we preach and teach and spread the Good News of His name. Our Annual Report outlines all that we have done in Word during this past year.

Our Australian Christmas at Darling Harbour this week, will be attended by tens of thousands and seen by hundreds of thousands nationally. We are telling out His word. But for many other Christians, wishful thinking and sentiment have replaced God's Word as the objective authority and touchstone of belief.

The question we must ask is, what does Scripture say? Explicit faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, rather than implicit faith in a Creator God, is necessary for salvation. Paul says: Rom 10:13 "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Peter agrees, Acts 4: 12 "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved". Knowing Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation. Jesus could not be more explicit about the need for explicit faith. "Whoever believes in God's Son is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." John 3:18 Mission is not about preaching to those who are safe. It is about going to those on death row and offering the possibility of life. This saving faith comes through the hearing of the gospel and the application of the message by the work of the Holy Spirit. But we must do more than just speak the word, even though this is of first importance. Many activists have to learn to declare first the word of God as seen in Jesus Christ. But also many Christians who declare the word of God must also learn to be practical in their faith. Like Jesus we must both speak the word and go about doing good. We must do the deed.

No other church in the world has such a powerful collection of activities undertaken by Christians to help people in the name of Jesus, as Wesley Mission. I have not enough time to acknowledge each of our 350 centres and services undertaken by our 2,350 paid staff and over 3,000 unpaid volunteers.

For the work keeps growing at a phenomenal rate. In the next eight weeks we need to find an additional 60 or 70 properties in which to open new centres of service. We will in the next 8 weeks purchase another 50 or more cars to add to our fleet. We will add another one hundred or more computers. We will employ another 200 staff before February. This week we will ask our Board to approve a $27 million building expansion in our Aged Care services over the next five years. Our budget this year will increase by more than $20 million to $100 million income. We have just signed an agreement creating a new hospital alliance. We are developing new medical centres. Today we release a new video on the young Church. We are settling up three new centres for profoundly disabled children. We have trained 38 new managers to take these places in the new year. We have new gambling counselling services about to start, and an expanded legal service. We are expanding our home care services for the frail, and providing more housing for the homeless. Our business enterprises train people to manage businesses. But this week we start training farmers in business skills to enable more to stay on their properties.

Our homeless youth programs will double in size over the next weeks, and our work in early family intervention has become a model for similar programs all over the nation. Our placing of unemployed people into jobs will increase fivefold this year. We are drug proofing families, and helping the addicted, the alcoholic, and the prisoner.

We spend much time in praise, in song and in word ministries. But our ministries in deeds match this. Paul said: "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

This is the reason why everything we do is from the perspective of our core Christian values. We hold to the centrality of Christ in both word and deed. Paul summarizes: "do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus." This means that everything a Christian does is to be undertaken in dependence on the Lord. This means that everything a Christian does is to be done in recognition of the authority of Jesus' name. This means that everything a Christian does is done as followers of the Lord Jesus. The New Testament provides basic principles of Christian living. Christian principles may be applied to situations of life as they arise. So as Alexander Maclaren, the Scottish preacher wrote that the name of Christ "hallows and ennobles all work. Nothing can be so small but this will make it great, nor so monotonous and tame but this will make it beautiful and fresh."

Our words and deeds are not only to be done in the name of Jesus Christ, but they are to be done "giving thanks." To give thanks, is why we meet together tonight. In everything we do we are to retain a sense of God's goodness and be careful to thank Him. We do this because Jesus is central to being Christian and serving as a Christian.

Our work this year has been blessed by God beyond deserving. We will continue to proclaim the Word. We will continue to practise our faith in doing good deeds. And in everything we do, we will do it in the name of Jesus Christ and we will be thankful. My sermon in this month's "Impact" Dec 99 declares that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. This is absolutely essential to the Christian faith. The uniqueness of Jesus is the key doctrine to being Christian. This is the most important message the Uniting Church must re-learn. So I close still proclaiming the word of God for the salvation of souls. For as Paul wrote: Rom 10:14,17 "And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? How, then can they call on the one they have not believed? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? For faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." If you have never received Christ as Saviour and Lord, do so now! Nothing is more wonderful than the joy of knowing sins forgiven and the gift of life eternal through Jesus Christ.

TIME December 6th 1999
"IMPACT" December 1999.

Rev Dr Gordon Moyes

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