TRA 24th June, 2001
Making People Whole
When I was a teenager, J.B.Phillips, the Bible translator produced a translation of the New Testament. It made a profound impression of me as I read it eagerly.
One of his books, "Making Men Whole" gave me new understanding of the purpose of the church, and eventually of my whole ministry. He wrote: "Many Christians suffer today, more perhaps than in any preceding age, from a sense that the world is out of control. The impact of world tensions and problems is often so great that Christians, frequently become over-anxious. We all need to be reminded that God is by no means baffled or bewildered by mankind's muddles and follies.
The writers of the New Testament never regarded the Christian religion as an "ethic", still less a performance. To them it was an invasion of their own lives by the living Spirit of God; their response in repentance and faith provided the means by which the divine could penetrate the merely human. They lived lives of super-human quality because they believed quite simply that Christ Himself was alive within them. The pressure of world events, as well as of the gentle leading of the Spirit of God Himself, is making it plain to the dimmest human intelligence that men must learn to live together as one family or perish from the earth altogether.
Thus I believe that we can say, without unduly dramatising ourselves, that we live in a time of great acceleration of God's "one increasing purpose." In Christ alone is there integration for the individual, for the Churches, and for the whole scattered human family. The purpose itself is becoming clearer, and the most important question is: "Am I co-operating with the purpose, or not?"
The problem put simply was that people were disintegrating and the solution was that Christ could make them whole. Ten years later I was studying and reading psychology in an attempt to help people find that wholeness through my preaching and writing. Among my most helpful psychologists was Dr Paul Tournier of Switzerland. His next book was entitled "The Whole Person In A Broken World". His psychological insights greatly influence me and I had re-inforced that the Good News of Jesus Christ made people whole. For the next thirteen years in a large suburban church though preaching as a form of group counselling and through a heavy case-load of individual counselling, I saw God make people whole.
I was appointed Superintendent of Wesley Mission in December 1977. I was excited at the prospect of working at the important task of making people whole in a national ministry. Through Wesley Mission's ministry in Lottie Stewart Hospital, Wesley Hospital, our new Wandene Hospital, we have been making people whole. My preaching for over 20 years on TV and radio every week, is designed to help people in a broken world find wholeness.
At our planning conference at Mangrove Mountain last week our senior managers agreed we recommend to our Board that we establish Wesley Health Services with a series of bulk billing medical Clinics, all designed to make people whole: physically, socially, emotionally, psychiatrically, spiritually. That was the vision behind "LifeLine" thirty five years ago. That is the vision that had led us to establish sixteen centres of care for the disabled. Our task: making people whole.
This Sunday, Churches across the nation have been asked to pray for the sexual and relational brokenness of our nation, our church, our lives and for those who minister healing to the sexually and relationally broken. The day is an initiative of Exodus International which in 150 Exodus ministries ministering to broken people. Many Exodus leaders have come out of lives of sexual and relational brokenness. An example of such brokenness can be seen in that in 1998 there were 26,025 cases of confirmed child sexual abuse, 52,466 divorces, 75,788 abortions, 19,581 HIV infected persons, 8,103 with full blown AIDS and 5753 AIDS deaths. 1.2 million women have experienced some form of sexual violence. There are 13,000 reported cases of sexual assault each year. These figures indicate millions of lives are broken by the trauma of abuse, death, and disease.
We read the newspapers and watch the TV and listen to the radio news, and all we see and hear is despair and death. Humans are warriors in a world when we should be at peace. We are slaves when we should be free. We are fools when we should be wise. We are destroyers when we should be builders. We are vagabonds when we should be at home. Instead of being at ease with life, many are dis-eased. Many Australians suffer greatly from alienation and stress. All of this changes if we have a right relationship with God. Instead of alienation we are reconciled. Instead of brokenness we are at peace with God, ourselves and our world. We are whole.
Professor Charles Birch, one of the world's leading environmentalists, made an incredible statement. "Mankind is alienated, estranged, disintegrated and diseased." The Apostle Paul agrees. In his letter to Christians living in Ephesus he talks about how people live in broken relationships with themselves, their neighbours, environment and God. But God offers us wholeness in all of our relationships. Eph 2:11-12 "Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)--remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world." Paul reminds his readers of the separateness and brokenness of their relationships with others.
Jews believe there are two groups of people in the world: Jews and Gentiles; the circumcised and the uncircumcised. They used that term in a derogatory fashion. Non-Jews were "foreigners". In Jerusalem, the Temple was surrounded by a wall. Every ten paces around the wall there was a warning notice. That wall divided Jews from non-Jews. Anybody who was not Jewish, who went inside the wall, could be put to death on the spot. Archaeologists in 1871 came upon one of the original signs that was on the wall of separate. I have seen the signs that were there in the days of Jesus. They were written in Latin, Hebrew and Greek. "No foreigner may enter this barrier and enclosure around the Temple. Anybody caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death."
Today only part of the base of the Temple still stands. The Wailing Wall still has a large fenced off area. Jewish men only may go to this area. There are armed guards around that wall. No female may enter. That is the wall of separation today. Around the world there are many walls of separation: of class, of economic condition, of social background, education, The Berlin Wall, Bamboo Curtain, Iron Curtain, the 49th Parallel: the world is divided by walls of separation. In a broken world those who are not Christian are foreigners, not belonging to God's chosen people, having no part in the covenants, unable to receive the promises of God, living in a world without hope. So many people without God: hopeless, alienated, rejected, separated from the rest of society, broken. That is the brokenness of being outside Christ.
v13-18 "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit."
"But now, in Christ Jesus..." Notice the difference?
Once you were apart from Christ, but now you are in union with Him. No longer are you foreigners, living without hope and without God. Instead, you are a part of God's chosen people. In Christ you are brought near to become part of the family of God. v14 "For Christ Himself has brought us peace." In Israel today when you meet an Israeli you say "Shalom". "Good morning. Peace to you" It is the greeting of every Hebrew. In the Old Testament to have peace meant that you lived your life as a unity. "Shalom" meant wholeness, completeness, salvation. In the New Testament to be at peace means to be one with God, one with yourself, one with your neighbour and one with the world around you. To be at peace with God means you have been made whole in a broken world.
"His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace." With His own body He has broken down those walls. He made us a new people, not dependent upon all these outward signs, laws, regulations and rules. He created from two races one race of people, a new people - those who are in Christ. It is a new identity. It is a church. For everyone who belongs to the church, regardless of his or her colour, is now a brother or sister; regardless of race he or she now belongs to the family; regardless of economic or social states, he or she now belongs as part of the family of God. For by His death upon the cross God has destroyed the enmity, the divisions, the brokenness. V16 "in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility." The cross is the means of bringing us back together into wholeness.
Payne Stewart, the world's eighth-ranked professional golfer who was killed with five others in the crash of a small jet this week was a member of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Florida. Payne Stewart, 42, won the U.S. Open in June and was a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team which staged a remarkable comeback for a win the world championship in September. Payne underwent a spiritual renewal in the past year. In recent months, Payne came to faith in Christ as his Saviour. He trusted God for the provision of his strength and for the needed balance in his life. Dr Jim Henry, pastor of First Baptist, Orlando, said "Payne Stewart was a wonderful Christian who had Christ in his life and somehow in his death. That brought a great sense of peace to his family in a difficult and tragic time." Stewart's faith led him to give $500,000 to First Baptist, less than two weeks before his. In a broken world, just before his untimely death, Payne Stewart found wholeness.
God is concerned about the healing of the body, the cleansing of the soul, and the perfecting of the spirit to save the whole person from sin and dysfunction, the brokenness of the world. God's "Shalom" means you can be physically well, emotionally sound, and spiritually whole in a broken world. It is Jesus who enables this to happen through His death on the Cross. This is one of the great beliefs we must take with us into the new Millennium. For the world will remain broken, until people find that through faith in Christ they can be made whole. Our purpose is to help make people whole in a broken world.
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