(January 23, 2022) Richard Winter challenges Christian commitment for 2022…
Well, it’s been a challenging and tiring time with the likes of covid-19! I’m not sure what has tired you the most but personally I’m tired of zoom meetings! Tired of making YouTube videos! Tired of not being in church like we used to be.
But… I’m also a realist and recognise that the world and even the church has changed a lot!
We may get some old things back – but it will never be the same way as before. Possibly at no other time in our lifetime, we – you and I – are being called to evaluate our commitment to Christ and His church (think local church, not just universal church) and how we will propagate the Christian faith in a world that is actively hostile to our beliefs and worldview.
Reaching ‘our destination’
Everyone is lost until saved by Jesus… so how will we accomplish the task of reaching everyone for Jesus?
God designed us with a purpose in mind… He has a specific, unique, and glorious destiny for us. When we go on a journey by car we use a GPS… when we take a wrong turn, it reroutes us, but it never gives up until we reach our destination. You can ignore it or switch it off but if you follow it, it makes your journey more enjoyable and peaceful. Eventually, it will say ‘You have reached your destination.’
Of course, this is not a perfect analogy as God is not a machine but a person who is with us on our journey. And He wants to communicate with you and has promised to guide you, indeed to guide us all the way through our lives… as Jesus assured us in the last words of the great commission: ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20b).
But how do you receive this guidance? There are five main ways in which God guides us and I want to touch very briefly on each one of them. I’ve called them the 5 CSs…
1. Counsel of the Saints
Guidance is not an individual activity. It is significant that the psalmist says, ‘Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love’ (Psalm 48:9).
The temple was where the people of God came together to worship Him and meditate. Today, the church is God’s temple for worship, instruction and learning, and receiving guidance in the context of community.
On our own, we can sometimes get things very wrong. God speaks to others, as well as to us, and it is always wise to seek advice about major decisions – indeed scripture encourages us to seek wise counsel (Example: Proverbs 19:20-21 ESV).
Acts 2:42 tells us that the early church ‘… devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’
Those new Christians came together as a community and followed apostolic teaching – we do that today when we model ourselves on the Bible and live in community as there are no Lone Rangers exist in God’s family!
2. Commanding Scripture
The Bible says all scripture is: ‘God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
We are to know God’s word to know about God, and to know what to do to fulfill God’s plans for our lives. But… the devil too has a plan for your life and none of it is connected to obeying or learning scripture. He will teach you how to avoid it – willingly – and he starts by twisting scripture!
Scripture can be used a little like statistics – you can get it to say just about anything. Know that you are being taught truth from scripture by preachers that you sit under or listen to on TV and radio! As in CS1 above, seek wise counsel if unsure about something.
3. Compelling Spirit
Luke tells us that Jesus was ‘led by the Spirit’ (Luke 4:1). We are to be led by the same Spirit. To be Spirit filled is the hallmark of Christianity. To be Spirit led is a hallmark of maturity.
When Jesus was questioned about His authority (Matthew 21:23-27, Mark 11:27–33, Luke 20:1–8) he challenged the ‘religious police’ with a question about John the Baptist’s authority – the old question to a question type of answer – as in: ‘Think it through, guys.’
Jesus is suggesting here that John received his authority ‘from heaven,’ that is, from God himself. That they had heard his preaching and teaching, and knew it was God inspired. The clear implication is that Jesus’ own authority also came ‘from heaven.’
It’s like He was implying that ‘If John got it, so should you. Look at my teachings and my many miracles. What do you make of that?Yes, this is heaven’s authority in your very midst.’
The Holy Spirit is there to help us in many ways as we journey on, even when people (or the devil) try to trick or sidetrack us.
4. Circumstantial Signs
This particular CS speaks of God being a providencial God. Providence means God is aware of what is happening in our lives. He is interested in and invests in how things go for us.
As Moses comes to the end of his life, he reflects on the way that God has guided His people throughout his life and has been their rock (See for example Deuteronomy 32:4). I know this about rocks… they are not little stones! Giant rocks are immoveable, unchangeable, they are there!
When Moses says God is a rock, he means God is solid, stable, dependable, always the same and totally reliable; he does not have his ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ as we do. You can trust in His unwavering faithfulness – He will always be there for you.
What causes me to rejoice is the fact that God never changes – what He did for Moses and Israel, He still does for us! God in his providence looked after his people, nourishing them, leading them, providing for them… signs of his presence with them on the road to the promised land.
God is still doing that for us. He still provides, still loves, still directs. Look at what the Lord has given you today… A place to live, a car to drive, food to eat, phones, computers… and much more. We are a blessed people of God, our rock!
However, a warning… God’s people, Israel, ‘abandoned the God who provided and rejected the Rock his Saviour’ (Deuteronomy 32:15,18). It was this rejection that led to God saying, ‘l will hide my face from them’ (Deuteronomy 31:17).
Sometimes, it is sin that prevents us from seeing God’s provision. Sin can lead to disaster and we must remember we should be the most thankful people of all.
As a blessed people of God, we are to care for others and in reaching out, bless them.
5. Common Sense
It is possible to be a Christian yet check our brains out at baptism!
God wants us to use all our faculties to bless others. We are to be the best at whtever we do… teachers, doctors, engineers,perhaps lawyers. Wherever we are employed we should aim to be the best.
However we know we are not perfect yet…that’s a work in progress.
When you get to heaven you will be perfect then. When we sin, stumble and fall either because of the devil or our own desire we must react quickly and not throw common sense away and wallow in self pity. Remember when you fell off your bike when you were a kid and your dad said, ‘Get up and get right back on it. Don’t be afraid… you may fall again but soon you will be riding free.’
Similarly part of God’s guidance generally is doing the sensible thing. A complaint of Moses was that the people of Israel weren’t being sensible with God’s blessing and provision – they were self-centered.
And if the church is not careful we could lose our vision for existence and think it just about me… an attitude of ‘I’m saved, thank God’ and the unsaved are forgotten! Moses said of Israel, ‘They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them, If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be!'(Deuteronomy 32:28).
God made us thinking beings; He guides your mind as you walk in a close relationship with him. Avoid a super-spirituality that expects an inward voice to guide every little detail of your life. God never has a scripture about what shirt, what colour of pant you are to wear – don’t ask God such silly questions – this is common sense.
But we must ask God what’s the mission for today? How do we implement his plans for a lost world? How do I become a better Christian and servant of God?
These ‘CSs’ in action will guard our core values
In a circular fashion I have given a summation of the Book of Acts… which really is better named Apostolic Acts.
When we are tired of covid-19 – as we all surely must be – we must remember God’s truth… it’s in the Bible: Learn from it and act on it! There are many examples in scripture that will show how to live and how not to live.
We live in community and by faith. Let’s take time to pray and ask God what he wants us to learn from these 5 CSs and how we can apply them to daily living… and to ensuring that those core values mentioned at the beginning are safeguarded and outworked!
A prayer: Father, in a changing world teach us to adapt and overcome, fill us with your Spirit of wisdom to guide our lives to fulfill your mission. And enable us to understand the divine imperative to teach your Lord, live in faith, and do this until our Saviour comes again. In His name, amen.
Dr Richard Winter pastors The Connection Church, Huntington Beach, California