Next Sun is ‘ONE’. This worship service is a profound expression of God’s miracle the church—nota club but a people made one in Christ! Sun 9.30am may not be your normal service time or style. It may even compete with your Sunday leisure-time. However, remember that our God withheld nothing to make us this miracle together. Come and bring your miraculousness (especially if you are new!). There will be a kid’s program, jumping castle, church family photograph, and cake as we celebrate Shoalhaven Aboriginal Community Church’s (ShACC) 10th birthday. Did you know that ShACC and Chinese Church are part of our diverse story? At the conclusion of the ONE service we’ll unveil a plaque recognising the indigenous peoples of the Shoalhaven. Rev Tom Slockee, south coast aboriginal pastor, will preach.
Over the last few weeks we have been praying for Gilbert, John and Graham who are now recovering. We’ve also prayed for Marion Hatter, who is now home and writes, “Praise the Lord, and a big thank you to our All Saints family for your cards and thoughts and prayers. All very much appreciated. Hope to be back soon” .
Meanwhile this week, our fortnightly Mobile Community Pantry served 20 people onWed between 1.30-2.30pm. Can you serve with this team too?
All Saints—a great church, to serve and grow in Christ.
In a facebook culture comparing ourselves to others is an everyday trap. Rusdyan Cocks from Matthias Media writes, “We compare the coffee at one café to another.We compare the coffee at one café to another. We compare one internet provider or phone plan to another. We compare one school or university to another. But we also like to measure and compare ourselves in relation to other people. At work or in our study we will compare ourselves and our performance to our peers. Trawling through social media, we can’t help but compare our life to others’ (or to what they want us to think their life is like!). Maybe you are someone who consciously compares your appearance to other people. We compare ourselves to other people all the time.
We even compare our Christianity. How often do you find yourself measuring your faith and godliness in relation to that of a fellow brother or sister—or even an unbeliever’s? How often do you compare yourself to another believer by the church that they go to or the amount of ministry activities that they do?
But when we compare ourselves to other people we fall into two big problems: comparing down, and comparing up.
When we compare down we elevate ourselves above someone else; we compare ourselves to them favourably. In the Bible we see this play out in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. This Pharisee is a classic example of someone who compares down, and as he prays we are left in no doubt as to what—or who—he measures himself against: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11).
By elevating yourself above others, you look down on them. You use a person whom you judge to be ‘worse’ as your measure. This stems from our pride and our over-inflated view of ourselves and our superiority. It’s the sentence or the thought that starts “At least I’m not as bad as…”. We do it because it makes us feel better and gives us a greater sense of self-worth, but it is dangerous and wrong. Jesus had some stern words about the Pharisee and taught that this proud attitude was not the path for those who want to be right with God (Luke 18:14). Let us heed this warning.
On the flipside, we also compare up. This is where we compare and see others as being greater than we are, or even the ultimate. A fellow human being becomes the benchmark we must reach. The Bible speaks sharply about how, in our rebellion against God, we humans have idolized and worshipped creation—including fellow humans—rather than God (Rom 1:21-23). When we compare up, we search for the ideal in the creation and not the Creator.
How often have you said or thought something along the lines of “If only I was like….” or “If only I had…”? Comparing up shows our lack of contentment and ungratefulness towards God for how he has made us according to his good design. It also shows us where we find our value: in someone or something other than God. Rather than promoting an attitude of thankfulness to God for how he has made us and the circumstances he has placed us in, we become jaded and dissatisfied with God as we chase what we have idolized.
Measuring and comparing ourselves against others, both favourably and unfavourably, hinders our trust in God.
The right measurement
When it comes to making comparisons with others, the bottom line that the Bible draws is: no-one and nothing can compare to God. When God addresses his people through the prophet Isaiah he says:
To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike? … Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. (Isaiah 46:5, 9b)
The true measurement for all things is in relation to God. The humbling truth of the gospel is that in our sinfulness none of us can reach the perfect standard of God. We fall dreadfully short because of our sin; we are not even close. But the liberating truth of the gospel is that Jesus is the ultimate one who doesn’t fall short of God. When we look to Jesus we see that the only standard and measurement that matters is who we are in Christ, not in relation to someone else. Through Christ’s finished work on the cross and his merits—not our own!—we can measure up to God.
Looking to Jesus gives us enormous comfort as we find our true self-worth in him, and leads us to far greater joy and humility than engaging in the fruitless exercise of comparing ourselves to other people.
So how can you fight the urge to compare yourself to other people? Here are three suggestions:
1. Fight grumbling with gratitude. Give thanks to God for how he has made you in his good design (Ps 139:14). Thank him for the circumstances that he has placed you in. Make gratitude a key part of your prayer life.
2. Fight jealousy with joy. Celebrate and rejoice in the diversity of gifted people who are members of the body of Christ (Rom 12:3-8). Rather than being jealous of a fellow brother or sister, give thanks for them and praise God for the unique way he has made them. Find a Christian and tell them what you are thankful for about the way God has made them.
3. Fight discontentment with delight. Find your contentment in your loving Father and all the riches he has given to you in Christ. Have a go at memorizing Ephesians 1:3-14, and marvel at all that God has given us. Or, if you’re looking for something a bit shorter but no less significant, memorize the comforting words of the Psalmist in Psalm 73:25-26.”
I will be on annual leave for the next week. I look forward to seeing you at church next on Sun23 June. FAITH | HOPE | LOVE
We’d all agree that unity is a good thing for church, right? But do we grasp that it’s actually a matter of spiritual DNA for us? Paul showcased the significance of this in Galatians last week: We are united to Christ personally in him (union) and we are united together in him (communion). Simple—Now all we have to do is live happily ever after as ONE in Christ (Gal 3:28). If only it was easy to express our unity relationally as it is to express it theologically!
Conflict happens among the ONE people when we trip over our baggage. More accurately, when we have heart issues that are precious to us, and resent it when others trample on them. We can also carry around idols—when we make “good things into ultimate things”. We can find ourselves worshipping our good thing and sacrificing our precious relationships on the alter to our good thing! Sadly, conflict mocks the ministry of Jesus, which is reconciliation. If this describes your circumstances right now, take heart, there is hope! Conflict is an opportunity to glorify God by being a peace-maker and not peace-faker. If you have a difficult situation, don’t fake it, talk with your pastors about careful, Biblical, conflict resolution. We’d love to help.
Meanwhile, 30 June, 9.30am we will celebrate ONE Service. All of All Saints in one place at one time. In fact this will be our only service on that Sunday. We do this to declare the work of Christ in our lives together. Hope to see you there!
It’s easy to imagine that the outcome of the recent federal election means we can live happily ever after with protections for Christian faith. Not so! There are still many months of careful work and lobbying to go, as the Australian Law Reform Commission, political parties and legislators work on a new act, and as local community groups express their voice.
Some Christians ask, “why fight for protection at all?Why not let secular Australia have its way and we’ll get on with being the people of salt and light?“ Here are two quick reasons why we should insist on strong legislation for the protection of religious freedom in Australia:
1. If the bill that was proposed (on the run last year) went through it would have meant restrictions on Biblical teaching in many public places we currently take for granted—even our Church Family Camp at Tabourie. There are many implications to consider.
2. Securing a Protection of Religious Freedom Act will be an expression of love for all our neighbours—both by preserving their opportunity to hear the good news, and also by protecting every other Australian’s right to express their faith. The United Nations consider this a basic Human Right.
During the week our ministry team joined with other Anglican leaders to listen to Michael Kellahan from Freedom for Faith.
Michael explains, “We are a Christian legal think tank that exists to see religious freedom promoted and protected in Australia and beyond.
We are busy making the best possible case for religious freedom. We believe Australians need to stop turning away from their differences and talk plainly. Finding ways to live together with deep differences is important. Sometimes disagreeing well is important. And religious freedom is the key to providing for the diversity of a pluralist secular 21st century Australia. We need to find ways to live together with respect, give each other a fair go, and live out the things we deeply believe”
Michael gave us many compelling legal reasons for getting a new legislation right, now that same sex marriage is a reality. One thing he did stress often is ‘LOCAL IS KING!’ meaning that what we do locally matters—our local voice to our local member is very powerful. Michael also gave three actions we can take.
2. Contact your local member and tell them this is important to you. (Politicians are all too aware of how the numbers work, and are currently doing some soul searching about how many Christian votes are there to win or lose. While you’re at it, don’t forget to thank them for their very difficult work—encourage them).
3. Subscribe to Freedom for Faith for information, progress reports, burning issues and opportunities.
It’s easy to imagine that Sun 19 May we will wake to an Aussie apocalypse. Certainly there are hard issues before the Christian community today and tomorrow. In choosing a party to vote for we must be concerned for the plight of refugees, overseas aid and care for our planet. And we are right to speak out for protection of religious freedoms against a secular tide. Also, running in the background is the harsh treatment of Israel Falou and the community’s double standard of ‘free speech’.
And yet tomorrow will NOT be the day we lose or win back Australia (or even make it great). As God’s people, we had already lost everything and we had already won everything, and tomorrow will not change that. What I mean is, as Christians we are the people who have lost everything as far as this world for the sake of Christ, and we are the people who gained eternal life by putting our trust in him. In fact, when it comes to the world Peter reminds us of our status—we are the “strangers and aliens” 1 Peter 1:1.
If you are disappointed tomorrow morning here’s a tip. Take a long look in the mirror and be reminded that everything fades. Then rejoice that “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in his great mercy has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” 1 Peter 1:4-5
Peter goes on to offer God’s people a mindset for living under every government in every age, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed” 1 Peter 1:6-7
Finally, he describes simply how to live, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2:11
Tomorrow as the media moves from pre-election speculation to the terrors of life in the future, remember that the only thing that will change tomorrow is the return of Christ—and that maybe today!
Faith, Hope & Love,
Geoff Thompson, Senior Minister
P.S. Here are some really great prayers to pray together over the next few days,
“Gracious God and Father, we thank you that are Lord of all, that in all the comings and goings of the rulers of this world, you stand eternal. From beginning to end you are God. And we thank you that nothing we ever decide can stop your plans and purposes from coming to be. Father, thank you for this nation. Thank you that with white settlement came the Gospel, and it has been shared ever since, both among the first Australians and all those who have since come. Our first prayer for this nation is that your word might continue to go forth, and bear fruit. That people might be saved before the glorious return of the King, our Lord Jesus Christ.
We commit to you this morning our (new) federal government, led by _____________.
Father, please cause our federal government to be wise, to consider the effects of all their decisions, help them to work for peace in this nation. We ask that the men and women elected to office will be of high character and good judgment. Please help them to act as servants, not as Lords. Give them open minds, humble hearts, and an unswerving commitment to think of others more highly than they think of themselves. We pray for great wisdom for our Senate, as various key questions are brought to them in the next few years.
We ask that our Parliament will especially look to the needs of the poor and needy, of the hungry, of those who cannot defend themselves, of the victims of domestic violence, of those who might be helped through our foreign aid budget
May our country continue to be a place where we can teach your truths in our schools, where we can proclaim your truth in the public square, a land of free speech, of constructive dialog, of peace, of compassion, of truth.
Please forgive us for those times, especially during this campaign, where we have been quick to speak and slow to listen, quick to become angry and slow to pray. Please make us doers of the word, and not hearers only.
And we commit to you all Christian parliamentarians, those whose citizenship is first and foremost in heaven. May they honour you every day they serve, and we pray for your hand of blessing upon them.
Lord Jesus, while we eagerly await your return, guide us daily to pray for our leaders”
The day will no doubt evoke memories and feelings for each of us differently. Regardless of whether mum was perfect or less, we recognise the amazing gift that motherhood is. Thank you mums, for the sacrifice of time and self. For kisses on grazed knees and patience and tenderness as we traversed our difficult years. Thank you God for your good purposes for us.
Faith, Hope & Love,
Geoff Thompson, Senior Minister
Mother-to-mother gospel opportunities
In a recent mothers’ group, a fellow mum shared how her three-year-old boy liked wearing dresses and she was letting him, as she wanted to support him in who he was. Her husband was embarrassed by the fact his wife let their son wear dresses to the shops. As this mother sought advice, there was overwhelming support for her loving acceptance of whomever her son was to be and disappointment over the husband’s response. In another group, I heard a mother share how her husband had left her with their children as he realized he had fallen in love with another man. This mother was grief-stricken as she reflected on the way her life had rapidly changed and unsure how to speak to her young children about their father’s choices.
There is no doubt: conversations in mothers’ groups, in school drop-off zones and in the supermarket are changing—rapidly. As a Christian, it is easy to feel confused about how to speak into this post-Christian culture: do we share our beliefs about gender, marriage and sexuality with these mothers, or do we stay silent?
Previously there was a fairly strong Judeo-Christian world view in society, so it wasn’t a huge step for people to agree with Christian morals, or even respect and encourage them. Today though, is it good to speak to these fellow mothers about how dressing her son as a girl is confusing for him, or that a man leaving his wife and children to pursue homosexuality is sinful? While our biblical world view speaks morally to this situation, these ladies are not seeking a dose of moral standards. If I share morality with them, I am likely to be left off the next group meeting’s invitation list. What these women are seeking is loving wisdom—a wisdom that we as Christians have and can point them to.
As mothers, we share our parenting troubles in the hope that someone may have relevant advice to give. The Bible tells us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Prov 9:10). As Christians, we can be confident that at the feet of Jesus we will find the wisdom we seek, and the wisdom our non-Christian friends seek.
Share the gospel
The moment my daughter was handed to me, I became overwhelmingly aware of my imperfections and failings. As I looked down at her little body and saw the blank canvas who had been given to me, I realized just how many ways I could mess her up. In the years since, with two more children joining the family, the reality of my fallenness is never far from my mind. As I talk to other mothers, regardless of their spiritual beliefs, this failure to reach perfection is a commonality.
The thing that sets me and other Christian sisters apart, however, is that we have the answer to this imperfection—and that answer is found on the bloody and brutal cross. We recognize that in our rebellious desire to be the god of our world, we have rejected the one who promises to heal it.
Each of us are responsible for the confusion in the world around us, but when we come to the cross in humble repentance we find the promise of the restoration of our very beings and of the world around us. Our world view shifts and our seeking of wisdom becomes a humble orientation of the heart, seeking God to intervene and work in and through us, transforming our minds through the renewing power of his word.
As we look for answers to a young son who likes wearing dresses, or a husband who discovers homosexuality, we see that we live in a sin-infected world, where broken people and broken parents desperately need the truth of Jesus and the impact that his life, death and resurrection makes on us here and now. We also find the glorious hope of the promised, reconciled and restored future with him. In owning our imperfection and rebellion, the gospel liberates us from them, providing light to our path in a dark and hopeless world.
If I start and end with morality, I impart a false gospel to my fellow mother. As Matt Chandler asserts, “unless the gospel is made explicit, unless we clearly articulate that our righteousness is imputed to us by Jesus Christ, that on the cross he absorbed the wrath of God aimed at us and washed us clean—even if we preach biblical words on obeying God—people will believe that Jesus’ message is that he has come to condemn the world, not to save it”.1 But as I go about sharing the fact that all these moral issues are because of the brokenness in our world, because we have rejected the God who saves, I can share with them the true gospel. For that is what they are seeking: an answer to the confusion and brokenness of their own lives and the culture around them, found in Jesus. These challenges then become an opportunity, not just to make blanket statements but to open up the discussion into our world view and theirs through asking questions.
An example could be, when this mother shared her concern about her three-year-old, I could have asked her what she thinks about it. Does it worry her or make her feel uncomfortable? Why does she feel the way she feels? Through asking questions we can help her express her deeper thoughts, rather than just seeking a remedy for the surface issue. This may then open up discussion into how I would navigate that issue in my own home, and enable me to share about my Christian world view and how my identity is found in Jesus.
Sharing the gospel, then, becomes about sharing the reality of Jesus in my life and how his word informs it. As Sam Chan says:
While the gospel is something we speak, words that communicate God’s truth, there is also a sense in which we ourselves are a component of how the message is communicated. We speak the words of truth, but we speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15).2
We need to be authentically living out this reality in our mothering and in our conversations, so that our fellow mothers see the difference Jesus makes. We need to point them in conversation not to a band-aid moral fix but to the ultimate healer. We need to be confident that God and the gospel speak to every situation we could come in contact with, and we need to be thankful that, in sharing parenting struggles with one another, we have an opportunity to point up to the all-knowing God who has the answers to our questions.
The 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World, is an international movement that began in 1993. It calls the church to make a deliberate but respectful effort to learn about, pray for and reach out to our world’s Muslim neighbors. It coincides annually with the important Islamic month of religious observation — Ramadan, a time of the year when Muslims are much more deeply aware of spiritual matters.
While Media sound bites about Islamic extremism can too easily incite anger, fear and even hatred towards Muslims, we seek to resist this temptation to generalize, and instead, resolve to respond and pray with the mind and heart of Christ.
Join the millions of Christians around the world, and churches and ministries from many denominations, who regularly participate in this largest ongoing prayer focus on the Muslim world. A new full-color prayer guide booklet — available each year in both adult and kids versions — is a proven tool to help Christians to understand and to persistently pray for Muslim neighbors and nations.
Christchurch, Sri Lanka, San Diego—Each is a site of religious motivated violence and revenge in recent days. Will we clench our fists? …or clasp our hands in prayer?
May 6 begins a special season of prayer, “30 Days Prayer for Muslim World”. Learn about Muslim countries and pray for them over this month. Booklets available as downloadable for $2.50. Place it on your desktop or login for daily updates http://www.30daysprayer.com
Faith, Hope & Love,
Geoff Thompson, Senior Minister All Saints Anglican Church
Each year a new illustrated prayer guide booklet is published in a number of languages and locations around the world. The booklet contains daily readings that focus on various topics, people groups and geographical areas of the Islamic world; each day’s subject focus is followed by prayer points. It also features informative background articles and resources for involvement.
The 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World, is an international movement that began in 1993. It calls the church to make a deliberate but respectful effort to learn about, pray for and reach out to our world’s Muslim neighbours. It coincides annually with the important Islamic month of religious observation — Ramadan, a time of the year when Muslims are much more deeply aware of spiritual matters.
While Media sound bites about Islamic extremism can too easily incite anger, fear and even hatred towards Muslims, we seek to resist this temptation to generalize, and instead, resolve to respond and pray with the mind and heart of Christ.
Join the millions of Christians around the world, and churches and ministries from many denominations, who regularly participate in this largest ongoing prayer focus on the Muslim world. A new full-colour prayer guide booklet — available each year in both adult and kids versions — is a proven tool to help Christians to understand and to persistently pray for Muslim neighbours and nations.
“When I lived overseas as a missionary, I observed that my ministry was quite different to the young mothers on our team. Without a child, I found it hard to meet locals, but once I did befriend someone it was easy to spend lots of time having deep conversations. In contrast, the mothers looking after kids had no issue meeting people—their kids were naturally cute conversation starters!—but were not as free to sit and share the Bible with them.
Now back in Australia, it’s been fascinating to see the way having a small person in tow has opened doors that I never quite seemed to crack before. Ten years ago I just could never seem to meet anyone in any of the apartment buildings we lived in. I was at work or out meeting friends rather than hanging around at home, so I didn’t have the opportunities to discover many commonalities with neighbours. They were non-entities in my life, and I didn’t feature in theirs.
Now, however, I am very visible to my neighbours: when we play outside they have a good view! They know I’m here. Every time they stop to wave at my daughter, I find out a little bit more about them, and they about me. It was pretty easy to get the Christian thing established, as it’s natural to ask someone where they’re going if you happen to be leaving the building at the same time on a Sunday.
But it does still seem hard to take those relationships further. No-one so far has wanted to come to our house to eat. People are still mostly too wary to accept invites to church (we did have one neighbour who came to an evangelistic movie night). I wouldn’t say anyone feels comfortable sharing their problems with us yet.
What they do love to do, though, is to sneak little treats and gifts into my daughter’s hands. So why not do the same back?
Last Christmas my daughter and I decorated paper bags with her scribbles and some glitter. We then tried to make chocolate balls. This failed but at least produced something akin to chocolate slice, which we then packaged into the bags, along with a handful of wrapped chocolates. Last into the bags were personally addressed Christmas cards with a tract inside (I thought The Neighbourhood VIP was fitting).
All this done, we knocked on all the doors in our stairwell. Nobody was home, but I’d thought ahead and made sure our bags had a handle, so we left them hanging.
In our next interactions, did any of my neighbours mention the tracts? Nope. But they did say thank you, what a lovely little gift, how tasty, merry Christmas. No goodwill seemed to be lost, and I felt that at least if I hadn’t been able to steer any of the bumping-into-each-other moments into a gospel conversation, I’d been able to give them the opportunity to think about Jesus when alone.
So you bet I’m now planning something similar for Easter! I think Easter is more of a challenge, as not as many gifts are distributed as at Christmas so it feels less organic, but I figure it’s hard to turn down homemade food wrapped in a child’s drawing at any time of year.
I’ve settled on a tract (The Godforsaken God), now I just need to figure out what Easter-related treat has a chance of succeeding when baked by someone who is better at making a mess than following directions—not to mention Miss Three. Hot cross buns would be the most apt but I have a troubled history with dough. Apparently in the UK there is a special Easter fruitcake called simnel cake, which would be perfect except fruitcake is only tolerated at Christmas and weddings in Australia. And giving out chocolate eggs from the supermarket doesn’t feel caring enough to go with a tract.
Whatever we end up making, I’ll be praying that our neighbours feel our genuine care for them and read the tract with interested hearts. For Christians, Easter is a wonderful time for reflecting upon the fact that the God of the universe loves us too much to leave us without a way to escape the pain and sadness we created; it would be so wonderful if our neighbours began to see Jesus as someone who can save them rather than the Easter Bunny’s sad-faced sidekick.
I’ll also be praying that my own child will embrace Jesus as her king. If so, watching her grow as his follower will be another prompt for those who glance down at us out of their kitchen window to consider the difference he could make in their lives and deaths.
In a season of life when my interactions with people are frequent but short, creating extra ways of contact feels like a fitting use of my time as a disciple-making disciple. If you too have a small but cute companion that people like to smile at, I’d encourage you to try and strike up as many conversations as you can. You never know how God has been prompting that person that week to open up to him.
And when this season is over… I’ve now got another great argument to use on my husband as to why we should get a dog”
Don’t forget, we have plenty of Easter invitations just waiting for you to wrap some prayer and creativity around!
For most adults, childhood memories become fragmented snapshots from a time that was once vivid reality. While some are useless photographs that carry no real importance, others continue to teach us as we come to see their significance in later years. As a child, I attended the same church as well-respected theologian, Leon Morris. Without really knowing it, I had the privilege of hearing him preach from time to time. Although I didn’t know much about this man, being so young, I have come to appreciate a lesson learned from him many years down the track.
If you were to ever walk through Morris’ house, you could not help but be struck by the piles of books that lay around the room. It was like a library where the shelves had long been out of space and the librarian had quit. But this was actually a reflection of a sharp mind at work, seeking to be continually filled—a sponge always ready to soak up the things of God. This scene completely aligned with the stories my father used to tell me about Morris working at all hours to complete his doctorate, often in the seat of his car as he travelled for his ministry. Leon Morris, like many great thinkers throughout history, did not see knowledge as a certificate to be framed and hung but rather as a lifelong pursuit to be completed on the day of Christ’s return.
Morris’ desire to learn about the things of God and to become more Christlike in his daily walk was perhaps most evident in his willingness to humbly listen to whoever preached in the church he was sitting in at the time. Can you imagine, as a preacher, climbing the stairs to the pulpit, notes in hand trembling slightly as you reflect on the importance of the task, only to look out to see a leading theological academic seated in the pews? But Dr Morris was never there to critique. I’ve been told that if one was to look in his direction during any sermon you would not find a man taking notes but rather a man with his eyes often closed, listening to what God had to say through the lips of whoever was speaking.
If a man of far greater understanding than most can, in humility, learn from God through whatever vessel he chooses to work through at the time, then why shouldn’t we? This attitude of becoming a sponge for God’s truth is one we would all do well to emulate.
Why is this so important? Cultures change, and worldly priorities shift to a degree, but the Word of God stands firm like an immovable stone in the stream of life. It is through unchanging Scripture that ultimate truth and wisdom are to be found in Christ. We can only be sponges, ready to absorb this truth whenever and through whoever’s mouth God chooses to speak (always testing what is being taught with Scripture itself).
The incredible thing about biblical texts is their ability to continually uncover deeper levels of understanding and insight, despite our having heard or read them many times before. For this reason, it’s a sign of immaturity to claim, “I’ve heard it all before”. Consider the words of John Stott: “God actively hides himself from some (the arrogant), while revealing himself to babies… that is, those who are humble in their approach”.1 The only way we as Christians can continue to develop a deeper and richer knowledge of God is to remain childlike in our faith, relying humbly on the Holy Spirit to minister to us. As JI Packer suggests, “The way to benefit fully from the Spirit’s ministry of illumination is by serious Bible study, serious prayer, and serious response in obedience to whatever truths one has been shown already”.2
Take, for example, a sermon I recently heard focusing on Exodus 12, a passage I have heard many times before. Through the words of the minister, God provided me with a new insight that I had not yet uncovered from the layers of richness within this story:
Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbour shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. (Exod 12:3-4)
While I understood the link between the sacrificial lambs in the Exodus story with the perfect and final sacrificial lamb of Christ, I had never noted that God had made it personal! Each family had to play their part in sacrificing an unblemished lamb to represent them. It is through this process that each Israelite would become fully aware of their part in the sacrifice, just as we all need to come to understand our personal role in nailing Jesus—the Lamb of God—to the cross, not only for the sins of the world but for our personal sin.
While my new-found insight into the Exodus account is just a small example, it highlights an important point. If we really do seek knowledge, wisdom and understanding when it comes to God, humility must play its part. We would do well to learn from Dr Morris and his like: we should never become so arrogant as to assume that we know much at all. Instead, as children of God, we should remain open to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, always being ready to remove the next layer of wrapping from the gifts God reveals to us.
1. John Stott, Evangelical Truth, Langham Global Library, 2013, p. 34. ↩
2. JI Packer, Concise Theology, Tyndale House Publishers, 1993, p. 155.↩