I do believe that we should regularly ask ourselves questions like these: “Why am I here?”; “Where are we heading?”; “What is my role or contribution?” etc.
This is often the difference between successful companies and those that seem to simply fade into insignificance over time – not as much the lack of vision, but rather the inability to clearly communicate that vision, and to instill values.
We often talk about, or make mention of our vision as a local church.
The same is vital for this local church – we all need to know where we are going - that there is indeed purpose in our meeting together; why we are heading there and also how we intend to get there.
We need to realize that our journey is as important as our destination!
Therefore we are going to be focusing our attention on the “How?” part.
We want to discuss the values that will ensure that we fulfill our individual calling and also our corporate vision as a local church.
*Our values are the fundamental building blocks, the things that we hold dear, that which we stand for and will not compromise on, our non-negotiables.
In a sense the untouchables - that which defines us. (Ex.33:15-16)
Our values are our core beliefs, not a set of religious rules or laws, nor are they traditions that have been handed down over centuries.
*Therefore, we need to regularly examine our values to ensure that they stay pure, and are not contaminated by the values of a particular age, culture or people group – they need to be Biblical values, Kingdom values, eternal values!
*We ensure that our values stay uncontaminated by asking these 2 questions: “Who are You, Lord?”
Finding Biblical answers on the nature of our God, and then asking: “How then should I live?” obviously in response to who God reveals Himself to be, through the scriptures and revelation by the Holy Spirit.
These are the questions that shape our values, our future and our lives.
What we believe determines what we will become.
What makes you different as a person, or as a family? What defines you?
It’s not your surname, or where you live, or what car you drive or even what you do for a living – but it is the set of values by which you live!
As we move ahead towards our vision as individuals and as a local church, we constantly need to adapt to a changing world and local culture, therefore we need a solid foundation to build upon.
It’s absolutely vital to realize that our first question should never be: “How should we change in order to adapt to this changing world?”, but we should rather ask:
“What do we believe and why do we exist?”
*Our answer should include a set of values that are not ever changing, not secular humanistic in nature, not politically correct in an attempt to compromise, not culture specific or New Agey universal, not even the values of a local church, or of a movement, but Kingdom values.
A modern culture may demand a fresh application and outworking of these values, but the values themselves do not change.
When Jesus said “The Kingdom of heaven is within you”, He meant that it is Kingdom values, standards and principles that should be our criteria and decision making benchmarks in life.
Our values should be the values of Christ our Lord and Saviour.
Jesus came not only to save us, but also to model the Father to us, so that we may know how to live.
Jesus said “He who has seen Me, has seen the Father.” (Jn. 14:9)
*Likewise, we hold onto certain values, determining our behaviour, because we want to model to others what our Father in heaven is like:
“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Mt.5:16)
Our entire lives should be a testimony to our Father in heaven – our values therefore come from a conviction of who God is.
Let’s look at some of these values that will help us to become a people, a church, which is so attractive, that others will want what we have; want to be what we are becoming, without us having to ram it down their throats.
Being absolutely Bible-based:
Our value system must firstly be radically, completely and permanently Word based – the Bible plus nothing and the Bible minus nothing.
This is not always as easy as it might seem:
Acts 20:27 reveals Paul’s heart on this subject: “For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.”
Deut. 4:1-2 warns the Israelites not to add, or subtract from the laws of God; “Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.”
If for some reason someone feels that these verses refer to Old Testament laws and might not be applicable any more, then read Rev. 22:18-19, which carries the exact same warning not to add to, or subtract from God’s word.
In Mark’s gospel Jesus accuses the religious leaders of teaching their traditions above the Word of God. After listing some examples, He says in chapter 7 verse 13: “Thus you nullify the Word of God by your traditions that you have handed down.”
Being radically Bible based ensures that we find the right answers to the question: “Who are you, Lord?”, for trying to answer this question from any other source, will be disastrous!
*This means that we find our theology in the pages of the Bible and we allow ourselves and our behaviour to be shaped by our theology – rather than deriving our theology from our experiences, disappointments, or circumstances, using that to puzzle together a picture of the nature of God!
We find God’s opinion, rather than coming up with our own – my opinion is as irrelevant as your opinion – what does the Bible say? (E.g. Homosexuality, living together, or divorce).
Not just believers, but radical converts!
We find examples of sinners radically getting saved throughout the New Testament.
What makes it radical, was not the experience itself, but their subsequent behaviour - being radically different to who and what they used to be.
This is a radical gospel and it demands a radical response: Lk. 9:23-26.
Paul was a radical convert (Acts 9:1-30 especially vs.20) and therefore made radical converts: 1 Thes.1:4-8. (read)
This is the normal response to the gospel of Jesus – an indifferent, mediocre response is abnormal:
Our lives should change, our vocabulary should change, our affections should change, our entire being should change, because we have died to self and were raised to a new life in Christ Jesus.
Here are some of the obvious changes:
They believe that Jesus is the Christ (1 Jn. 5:1).
They become devoted to truth, i.e. the Word of God.
They devote themselves to fellowship.
They devote themselves to Breaking of bread.
They devote themselves to prayer, both private and corporate. (Acts 2:38-47)
The old things have passed away, all things have become new. (2 Cor. 5:17)
They become obedient to the word and will of God. (1 Jn. 2:29; 3:7-10)
They have the Spirit and the Son. (1 Jn. 4:13 & 5:12)
They do not continue to live in willful sin. (1 Jn. 3:6)
They overcame the world. (1 Jn. 5:4-5)
Bottom line is – they were radically and totally different after their meeting with Christ, than before.
If nothing much has changed in us, then we have to ask ourselves whether we have had a real encounter with God, or merely a moment of remorse.
Establishing covenantal relationships:
Flowing out of the devotion to fellowship among the radical converts, we have the emerging and establishing of covenantal relationships.
This obviously does not happen automatically - it takes time and effort.
*Fellowship does not simply mean attendance – it’s not about being together in the same room at the same time – its about sharing life, about being together on the same journey, one in heart and in purpose.
It’s about developing true friendships by investing yourself, your time and attention, by making the effort, making the call, sending the sms.
It goes even beyond friendships to real commitment to each other, to accountability based on mutual trust and a maturity that includes emotional and spiritual openness.
It grows to a place where we pray for one another, serve one another, believe in one another, honour one another, forgive one another, set one another up for victory, encourage one another, etc.
In covenant there are no agendas, no points to be scored, no shadows, no manipulation, but simply wanting the very best for one another.
There are no gaps of age, or culture, or education, or economy, but there is a place for each one who wants to invest life into a togetherness under God in covenantal unity.
Priesthood of all believers:
1 Pet. 2:9 reads: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”
That refers to us – to you and me, even if you are a visitor, as long as you have been saved by Christ Jesus – WE are this priesthood, we are priests, not only those in leadership, but everyone who belongs to God through Christ.
No-one is excluded – 1 Corinthians 12 uses the analogy of the human body to show how all the different parts fit and work together to form a healthy and functioning body.
This is a vital core value, if we as the church are to be effective in our call, then we dare not leave the work of the ministry up to the leaders only, the elders and the deacons, but as the saints, we need to become the priests of God whom we are Biblically called to be.
Acts 2:41-42: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
Those who received the message and were baptised – they devoted themselves, they fully gave themselves to the gospel and to the church!
It’s all about the wonderful privilege of sharing our lives and our faith:
It's simply about daily living the truth of what we believe, in our reality; it’s about being the hands and feet of Christ in our sphere of influence – at work, at school, at home, at leisure.
It’s about showing the compassion of Christ (“I do not condemn you”), but also sharing the truth of the Word of God (“go and sin no more”).
It’s about being ready to share our testimony, to give an account for the hope within us and for the smiles on our faces: Christ in us, our hope of glory.
It’s also about the practical outworking of our faith: Praying together, sharing the life of scripture, sharing the joy of a new birth, or the tears of disappointment, suffering or heartache, sharing with those in need financially, taking meals in time of sickness - basically becoming God’s healing community.
*An effective priesthood daily stuns believers and non-believers into declaring: “God is good, and His people are kind!”
Family is a gift from God and of great value to us.
Living for the Kingdom should never result in a neglected family, ever!
Mt.16:26 asks: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, but looses his soul?”
I want to ask: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, but looses his family?”
A healthy, functional, happy family that loves and serves God, is a great testimony in our society and a great testimony to our society.
We value family – we realize that sometimes our families need to sacrifice when the Kingdom of God takes priority in our lives, but we have never seen parents devotion to God and His church, lived out in godly wisdom and balance, harm any family.
Most visitors would mention the “family feel” that we have as one of their first impressions – we have not pursued this deliberately – it is simply a by-product of who we are – we love God and people, and value family – therefore we have become family. (Ps.16:2-3)
Make every effort to get to know all the names of those around you – this is what will make you part of this family in no time!
Reality Christianity 24/7:
This refers to being real, authentic and genuine!
We value the reality of our faith and therefore we live our faith all day, everyday!
We don’t ever want anyone in Liberty to live by different values from Monday to Saturday, than on a Sunday!
This means the same values at home, at school, at work, at home cell, etc. for I live for the King and the Kingdom with every breath, every day!
We want to be those who are real in every way – living our Christianity not from meeting to meeting, but from moment to moment!
Reality Christianity 24/7 – what you see is what you get, all day, every day!
The same values, same behaviour and the same vocabulary at work, at home, on the construction site, at school, in the bedroom, in the home group, on holiday and at the office year end party!
*We live on the stage of life before an audience of One, against the backdrop of eternity!
We have mentioned the priesthood of all believers as one of our values – what does this refer to again?
It has always been God’s desire that all of His people would be in relationship with Him, and would minister before Him and to Him.
Ex. 19:6 reads: “You will be for Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.” This was not Peter's idea (1 Pet.2:9), but God's idea, even under the Old Covenant!
If the Israelites had responded to this desire of God, they would all have ministered before Him as priests.
However their response was one of disobedience (Ex. 20:18-19 “When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.") causing God to introduce the Levitical priesthood and limiting the priestly function and privilege to only one tribe.
However, the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross changed the priesthood and established the New Covenant and a new priestly order.
Hebrews 7 – 10 (see Heb. 7:11-12; 9:11-12+15; 10:5-15) describes how Jesus came in the order of Melchizedek as the New and Eternal High Priest.
The result is that every believer, from the moment of salvation, is an equal priest in the Kingdom of God!
Our functions differ, our roles differ, because our calling differs, and the authority of different functions differs, but yet in terms of the priesthood, in terms of value, purpose and unity, we are all equal.
There is a profound parallel with the trinity here, who also differ in role and function, but not in value, purpose or unity!
Every believer carries the presence of God in their bodies – not just those who are in leadership positions, but every believer. Col 1:27
This presence of God itself is the source of our ministry.
Just as the Ark of the Covenant – the symbolic presence of God – was carried on the shoulders of the Levitical priesthood, now the presence and the glory of the Lord is to be carried by the new priesthood.
This is the ministry of the priesthood of All Believers – to carry the presence, the power and the glory of God in the Church and into the world.
However, just like the Israelites, we are in great danger of not responding appropriately to the priesthood of all believers under the New Covenant.
If we are content with leaving the work of the ministry to the elders and the deacons, then we are in a sense re-establishing a Levitical type of priesthood in the church.
We are returning to an old priesthood and an old covenant, to religion and to death – due to disobedience and rebellion, or mere ignorance.
This is not what God wants the Church to be – a hierarchy where some are priests and some are not, Christ died to change this!
Every believer should rise up to their calling as a fully functioning priest – that includes you!
Every believer can and should hear from God, by themselves and for themselves, and it goes beyond this, for everyone should be able to hear and declare God’s word, this should not be left up to leadership alone.
Everyone can learn to exercise discernment, and with wisdom and understanding, minister the truth of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We want to look at some characteristics of this priesthood of all believers – what do they look like inside if we were to dissect them! Any volunteers?
I want to focus on some values of the heart:
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.” (1 Cor.13:13a)
We are a people of Faith:
Faith links our world to the heavenly, spiritual world.
This is why we read that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him”. (Heb.11:6)
We might sometimes feel faithless, but the mere fact that we are here, that we have given our lives to Jesus as Lord and Saviour and are coming together to worship Him, the unseen God, is by faith and as such testifies to our faith.
It is by faith that we believe these things and are saved (Eph.2:8).
Faith in itself is a journey – we grow in our faith, we are encouraged in our faith, by one another, from the Word and from experiencing God.
*Faith, our faith, is what “enables” God to move and work in our lives; breaking into earth with the realities of heaven, supernaturally(God cannot resist an atmosphere of faith.): Jesus healed 2 blind men, saying “According to your faith it will be done to you” (Mt.9:29), yet in His home-town, He did not do many miracles, “because of their lack of faith.” (Mt.13:58)
I shudder to think how often we perhaps go without, because of simply lacking faith and rather depending on the resources of this world and our own abilities and talents rather than tapping into the supernatural resources of heaven through faith.
We often find the faith levels of African Christians much higher that the average western Christian, because of the lack of sophisticated infrastructure, there simply is nothing to fall back on: no insurance policy, or medical doctors, or pension fund etc.
These are not bad things at all, but do they replace the provision of God and therefore our dependence on God?
Banning Liebscher shares a testimony in his book "Jesus Culture" of a young man named Aaron:
While on a conference call at work, he heard a colleague complain about her bad back and how she would need an operation which involved 8 weeks of recovery - "I'm a revivalist. What am I going to do about this situation? That question burned in me. What Am I going to do? I had time to debate with myself both sides of the question as Laury went on talking about the situation. I thought - I'm a revivalist. This is what I do! My flesh was saying - Dude, this is a conference call. This is the wrong time and place for prayer! My spirit responded, Come on, you just need 30 seconds to get her healed. 30 SECONDS! what is that compared to 8 weeks recovery time? My flesh said - you are going to be in the spotlight with people you don't even know and this is going to be embarrassing. This put me outside my comfort zone. My flesh hoped that I could sit there quietly and wait for her to finish soon, so I could forget about it. But my destiny burned inside of me. I'm a revivalist. This is what I was born to do; to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and follow His model to bring Him glory. Finally I made my choice (with a bit of resignation) I thought to myself, "Geez.... I'm a revivalist! I'm going to push all my chips into the centre of the table. I know this is going to cost me in terms of pride and comfort, but it will be worth it when she is healed and doesn't need to spend 8 weeks of recovery time in bed - 30 seconds of prayer vs 8 weeks of recovery, I had to do this for her."
He prayed and she was completely healed within 30 seconds!!!
People of faith are willing to lay it all down so that the Lord can rise up within them.
*They push aside selfish ambition, fear, pride, vanity, and the loss of their reputation so that others can encounter the touch of Heaven.
They expect Heaven to show up when they take the risk of faith by inviting people to experience God. (Corporate prayer meeting.)
As a core value we declare that we will live by faith; not by sight. (Rom.1:17 & 2 Cor.5:7)
We are a people of Hope:
Faith, hope and love are the three musketeers of the gospel:
Without faith we cannot even accept the gospel; without love for God and our fellow man, our faith is stillborn; and without hope in the return of a triumphant Christ, we are indeed the most miserable people on the face of the earth.
Christians cannot be faithless, loveless, or hopeless – for Christ in us is our hope of glory. (Col.1:27 & Rom.8:24-25)
Because our hope is not in ourselves, nor in our circumstances, but in God (Ps.42:5) – this is not a mere hope (spes) but a trust in a vested right.
“God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Father. So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”(Gal.4:4-7) Rom. 8:16-17: “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.”
Our hope is sure; our future secure, the only suspensive condition is God’s timing. Our hope is in the God of the impossible!(See 2 Kings 6:24-7:20)
We are a people of Love:
1 Cor.13:2 tells us that even if we have the faith to move mountains, but no love, then we have nothing!
This is true, for the gospel that we believe by faith is established in love for God and for our fellow man.
1 Jon.4:19 simply states: “We love because He first loved us.”
Who are you, Lord? I am a God of love.
Our theology and therefore our values are derived from the character of God.
*We cannot love God, without loving the things that God loves, this includes people, all people irrespective of race, colour or language.
To love God means to love what He loves and to hate what He hates (sin).
We cannot claim to love God, yet not love the church – His Bride.
Love is what leads to fellowship, what draws us into covenantal relationships and enables us to step out as the priesthood into servanthood – love is the underlying motivation, the bedrock of all our values.
To know God is to love God; to love Him is to worship Him; to worship Him is to serve Him.
It is the lack of love that will make reality Christianity an impossibility; only if we love can we live out the reality of the gospel 24 hours per day.
We are a people of Trust:
For our hope is in fact trust – trust in an unfailing God, in the God of the impossible.
Jesus said: “Trust in God; trust also in Me.” (Jn.14:1b)
Somehow, it would seem to be much harder to trust spiritual leaders, than to trust God.
Many people have in the past been hurt by churches and by church leadership in particular, and have therefore built up a resistance to trust (and submission).
The unfortunate reality is that we need to trust leaders before we will follow them, or allow them to lead us.
Trust is both a choice and a process, we choose to trust, and then we work out this choice daily – there is no other way in which we can assure or convince you to trust us and to invest your lives with us into what we are doing; to come journey with us.
“Trust in God, trust also in your leaders.”
We apologize for the hurt and offense caused by other leaders, and we repent for the hurt and offense caused by ourselves.
We trust that we will journey together with the full knowledge and trust that our hearts are always for you and that our motives are to do you good! (Pierre example)
We are a people of purity:
Who are you, Lord? What shall I do, Lord?
1 Pet. 1:14-16 answers this question as follows, regarding holiness and purity:
“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."
Somehow it would seem as if holiness and purity have become old fashioned and even Old Covenantal; as if they have been replaced with a generous helping of grace.
Almost as if, under the New Covenant, God is much more tolerant towards sin and has reduced His hatred thereof to a mild dislike or perhaps an irritation.
I say this because lately Christians seem unsure – have some sins been canceled and a new revised and updated list been issued?
Especially in the area of relational purity there seems to have been an adjustment:
Is pre-marital sex still regarded as sin, or is that merely an old fashioned value?
How about living together, or homo-sexuality, or divorce?
Again, my opinion is as irrelevant as your opinion, what does the Bible say?
1Co 6:9-10 “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (See also Mt.7:21)
Remember that this is not some Old Testament prophet, but the apostle Paul's writing – the apostle to us as the gentiles, the apostle of grace!
And in case you might think that he was merely having a bad day or had a bone to pick with the Corinthian believers, he wrote the exact same thing to the churches in Galatia! (Gal.5: 19-21)
He does not preach a message of condemnation, but he brings a balance or correction between godly grace and fleshly licentiousness.
Last week, I asked the question: “When last did you go home and made adjustments, actual changes, because of the preaching of the truth of the word of God?”
In the area of relational purity, the church needs to make some adjustments.
What levels of intimacy are we allowing in relationships outside of marriage?
What are we watching ourselves and what are we allowing our children to watch?
We might be ignorant of the realities out there, but this is what the Newspaper wrote this week (JIP Die Burger Wednesday 10/02/2010):
Emma Stander van die Hoërskool Randburg skryf die volgende:
Om 'n tiener te wees was nog altyd moeilik, die mites en stories oor groepsdruk word ongelukkig 'n realiteit wanneer jy jou voete in die hoërskool sit (as dit nie al voor dit is nie).
My vriendinne kom uit opgevoede gesinne met sterk morele waardes.
Waar het alles skeefgeloop?
Vriendin A: Asemrowende mooi meisie verloor haar onskuld in 'n sekonde.
'n Vreemde seun word 'n lover ná 'n paar SMS'e en toe sy haar oë uitvee, verloor sy haar virginity in 'n aantrekkamer - hoe romanties. Sy was net 13 jaar oud.
Vriendin B: Ná 'n verhouding van 18 maande waar my vriendin (15) baie emosioneel misbruik gevoel het, het die druk te veel geword en verloor sy haar virginity. Die volgende week is ons by die hospitaal want die morning after pill het nie gewerk nie - gelukkig was sy nie swanger nie.
Vriendin C: Ná 'n week in 'n passievolle verhouding het sy (14) woeps-waps haar onskuld verloor.
Ná dit het sy verplig gevoel om by hom te bly.
Daar is girls (kennisse) wat nou 16 is en al met agt, nege of tien ouens geslaap het. Hulle is min gespin oor siektes en swangerskap. "Dis mos lekkerder sonder 'n kondoom."
Wat sê die sielkundige?
Jolita Jansen van Rensburg, kliniese sielkundige van Potchefstroom, het die volgende vrae beantwoord:
Hoe vroeg is te vroeg seks?
Elke tiener het 'n ander mening daaroor. Dit hang af van jou kultuur, die wyse waarop jy grootgemaak is. Dit is egter belangrik dat elke tiener die saak met hom/haarself uitmaak en hul eie idees daaroor vorm.
Julle het seks, wat is die voorsorgmaatreëls dan?
Toets albei eers vir MIV/vigs. Indien jou ouers daarvan bewus is dat jy seksueel aktief is, kan jy 'n afspraak maak by 'n ginekoloog wat verskillende voorsorgmaatreëls sal verduidelik. Jy kan ook by jou plaaslike kliniek voorbehoedmiddels bekom sonder ouerlike toestemming.
For those who did not know, a Capetonian is the current reigning Mr.Gay World:
’n Kapenaar is die naweek as Mnr. Gay Wêreld vir 2010 aangewys.
Charl van den Berg (28), wat ’n restaurant in Kaapstad bestuur, het sowat 20 mededingers van onder meer Australië, Hongkong, China en Spanje uitgestof, het die organiseerders gister gesê.
Die kompetisie het vier dae geduur. Op die laaste dag, Saterdag, het deelnemers swemklere en verskeie kostuums op die loopplank in ’n nagklub in Oslo vertoon. (Die Burger Maandag 15 Februarie 2010.)
"‘n 41-jarige assistent by ‘n lykshuis is in hegtenis geneem nadat hy glo seksuele omgang met lyke gehad het,” het polisie in die Oos-Kaap Maandag gesê.
Die man is Sondag in hegtenis geneem nadat ‘n ander werker hom met sy broek af gevang het in die lykshuis,” het supt. Mzukisi Fatyela gesê.
“Ons het Maandag ‘n dokter gebel om die lyke te ondersoek en hy het bevestig dat drie lyke getoets is en toetse het getoon dat die man met twee van die lyke seksuele omgang gehad het.” (Die Burger Maandag 15 Februarie 2010)
“’n Gay predikant van die Metodistekerk is uit haar kerk geskors omdat sy met haar lewensmaat getrou het.
Eerw. Ecclesia de Lange, wat die Brackenfell- en Windsor Park-gemeentes in Kaapstad bedien, wag nou langer as ’n week om te hoor oor haar appèl teen die skorsing.” (Die Burger Woensdag 17 Feb.2010)
En Elton John het besluit dat Jesus self gay was: “Die Britse sanger Elton John moes die naweek mooi verduidelik nadat hy kwaai aangeval is oor ’n uitspraak dat Jesus Christus homoseksueel was.
Die Amerikaanse tydskrif Parade het ’n paar dae gelede ’n onderhoud met John gepubliseer waarin hy hom oor alles en nog wat uitgelaat het.
Sy gewraakte stelling het gelui: “Ek dink Jesus was ’n deernisvolle, super-intelligente gay man wat menslike probleme verstaan het. Aan die kruis het hy die mense wat hom gekruisig het, vergewe.” (Die Burger Dinsdag 23 Feb.2010)
Note that these clips were taken from a random fortnight and were not selected over a period.
May we be able to say with King David: “Though You probe my heart and examine me at night, though You test me, You will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.” (Ps 17:3)
May we be a people who value holiness and purity; of faith, hope, love and of trust!
We are a people of Character:
This is quite a drag-net clause; therefore, I would like to break it down into some specifics, although this is not an extensive list:
“God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (Jn.4:24)
“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (Mt.7:5; 1 Tim.4:16)
“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 Jn.1:7)
“Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’, ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
“An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” (Mt. 5:37; Prov. 24:26)
“In everything set an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who appose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” (Tit.2:7-8)
“Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Tim.4:12b)
“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’.” (1 Pet.5:5b)
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim.4:7)
“He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiders in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers – all of them master craftsmen and designers.” (Ex. 35:35)
“But just as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us - see that you also excel in this grace of giving” (2 Cor.8:7)
“Pray continually.” (1 Thes.5:17)
“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” (Mt.11:12)
m. Self-controlled / Disciplined
“…self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.” (Tit.1:8b)
n. Steward / Ownership
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” (Lk. 16:10-12)
“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Rom.12:13)
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)
“Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (Jas.5:16a)
r. Encouraging and generous
“Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called ‘Barnabas’ which means ‘Son of Encouragement’…”
“He sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet” (Acts 4:37)
“When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” (Acts 4:36; 11:23)
“That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” (Jas.1:7-8)
“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,” (Mt.20:26)
u. Reliable / Trustworthy
“And things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Tim.2:2)
“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Tim.4:2)
w. Example / Role-model
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”
“Join with others in following my (Paul’s) example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” (1 Tim.4:12; Phil.3:17))
“Men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” (1 Chron.12:32)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4)
“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy and not a burden, for that will be of no advantage to you.” (Heb.13:17)
All of these different aspects of character are not separate boxes that we tick, but rather different aspects of one godly character, being of pure heart in our love for God and our fellow man.
Christ-likeness is the goal, not a list of characteristics.
What are some of our corporate values as a Local Church?
We do also need to personally re-discover our own values:
What are the non-negotiables in my life, and for my family?
What are the values that define us, the absolutes by which we live, the criteria by which we make our decisions in life? (Values may cost you.)
*This will help us to see/discover what we have become and to make adjustments where necessary, for these values, either by determination, or by default will be what we hand down to our children and grand-children.
Often this critical fact is overlooked – that we as parents need to be pro-active and determined to instill our values into our children, rather than hoping that they will somehow, subconsciously, “pick it up as we go”!
We are faced with the media, personal time constraints and the reality of peer pressure; which all work together to make “picking up our values as we go” highly unlikely, if not ridiculously absurd!
None of us will allow strangers into our homes to spend time with our children and, in doing so, advocate their values, especially not in our absence – yet this happens daily, via the media. (Soap opera.)
We would hate our teenagers to be witness to a violent murder, or to a couple “making love”, or to homosexual activity – yet they see these on television every weekend!
As it is, our children spend 6-8 hours of every working day under the influence of teachers whom we've hardly met! (No offense to teachers.)
Add to this the effect of a peer group and the basic need for acceptance and belonging, and we can see how ambitious, if not fatalistic, it is to attempt to instil our values by default, on a “as we go” basis.
*Our values are valuable enough to rediscover, to define, to put to paper, to communicate, to discuss and to live by.
Today we focus on some of the values of the internal clockwork of this local church – the underlying principles from which our ministry flow:
Preaching the Kingdom of Heaven:
As a local church we need to constantly focus on keeping the main thing the main thing! (This is what our values help us to do!)
There are so many topics that demand our attention that we could easily neglect the preaching of the Gospel itself.
As if somehow the gospel is merely the entry gate to Christianity and that moving beyond the gospel, in our preaching and teaching, is a sign of maturity.
Please note: that which is not built on the blood stained Cross of Jesus and which does not flow from the most basic elements of the Cross, love and grace, is no longer gospel, but becomes secular humanistic morality, or religiosity at best!
We do not go beyond the gospel or the Cross of Jesus – we go ever deeper into it! (Heb.6 does not contradict this – it refers to maturity in Christ, not beyond, or outside of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of God is dependent on firstly knowing God as King.)
We have it on very good authority: In Mt.3:1-2 John the Baptist came, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.”
Mt.4:17 reads: “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near’.”
In Mt.10:7 Jesus sends out the twelve saying: “As you go preach this message: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is near.’”
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, it says that He appeared to them over a period of 40 days and spoke about the Kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3b)
This was also the message of the early church, as we see in Acts 8:12: “But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”
This further confirms that the gospel or message of the Kingdom of heaven/God is the message of salvation in the name of Jesus only!
In John 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
The message is that:
There is a King in heaven Who is infinitely offended by the sin of man. Our sin. But He lovingly and graciously offers us a full and free amnesty if we will confess our sins, repent and bow the knee to His lordship. Then He will come and be our Lord/King/Ruler/Leader and our Saviour/Rescuer. Acts 2:36-38.
It is only possible to receive Christ as Saviour once we have bowed down to Him as Lord, as conqueror of satan, sin and death.
There is only one King – Jesus confirms this, saying: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” (Mt.28:18)
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever.” (Rev.11:15)
*This local church places an incredibly high value on preaching the true, undiluted, blood stained, gospel of the risen Christ and of the Kingdom of heaven:
He is the One who lovingly formed us and gave us life.
The One whom we betrayed to His very enemy, yet He returned to set us free from the dragon’s keep, and to free us from the tower of despair, the dungeon of deception and the stranglehold of sin.
His rescue mission cost Him His life – a life for lives – His for ours; as He died to set us free.
Momentarily, seemingly overthrown, but then, instantly restored, rampantly victorious, everlastingly triumphant!
We need to preach, and meditate on, the Jesus whom we serve and whose return we anticipate, being able to hear the sound of leather creaking as He saddles up, and to smell the fragrance of freedom as He rides out, galloping through the universe on His white horse to fetch us, His bride!
Keeping believers free:
Life without freedom is no life at all – it is at very best an existence!
1. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!” (Gal.5:1)
William Wallace (Braveheart) said: “Men do not follow titles, they follow courage!” Courageous leaders fight to keep their people free!
Free from what?
Freedom from satan, from sin, from bondages, from self and circumstances, from the world, from religion and from tradition.
Now that we have been set free by Jesus, it is part of the responsibility of the leadership of this church to keep believers free from these things:
2. Freedom from the deceit, the schemes, the lies and the intimidation of satan. (Rev.20:10) Satan does not take his leave the moment that you are saved – he will continue to do his best to kill, to steal and to destroy and to attempt to limit your walk with God to “mere salvation”. God's intention is for us to have life and have it in abundance in every area of life – this is not some “name it and claim it” prosperity teaching. We have to realize that we were saved out of the kingdom of darkness and into the Kingdom of His majesty and glory – the Kingdom of light. Many come out of darkness, but stay in a gloomy twilight zone, almost like the Israelites in the desert – coming out of Egypt but not entering the Promised Land for such a long time, that the desert becomes home!
Choose life, keep walking, keep moving towards the fullness in Christ; remembering that your future can never be found in your past! * We are on a journey which includes the discovery of our authority in God. God raised Christ from the dead and “and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.” (Eph.1:20-22) And note that we have also been raised to this same place above the demonic realms: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” (Eph.2:6) Once we become aware of our spiritual authority, we can stay free from satan's hold.
3. Freedom from the bondage, the slavery, the destruction and the guilt of habitual sin. (Jn.1:29) The grace by which we are saved from sin can never be twisted to become an avenue back into licentiousness and sin! There is nothing stronger than the Blood of Jesus, nothing has the power to draw you back. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:11-13) and 1Cor. 10:13 reads: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
4. Freedom from self – from our own self-righteousness and self-centeredness, laziness, small-mindedness, arrogance and pride etc. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor.5:17) It is impossible to have a genuine encounter with the living Christ, and yet to go back to a lifestyle of same old, same old! Same ways, same friends, same habits, same vocabulary, same thinking patterns. If so, then I might have had an emotional experience, perhaps felt guilty about my personal choices, or overwhelmed by my circumstances, but I certainly did not repent of my old life and embraced the abundant life in Christ.
5. Freedom from our circumstances – the immediate climate into which we were born, with all the background noises of our past, our upbringing, our education or lack thereof, and all of life’s influences on us. I do not have to go through the rest of my life under the cloud of growing up on the wrong side of the railway line, or having had to carry a pass-book; I can choose to be free:
“I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil.3:12b-14)
6. Freedom from the world view which is constantly overflowing like a blocked sewer, endeavouring to contaminate the mind with the media’s opinion.
Compare the world’s view on marriage, on sexuality, on authority and on Christianity, to ours.
“You do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (Jn.15:19b) But unless we have our own view on things; our own Biblical, values, we will accept and live by the world view, by default.
7. Freedom from the culture that surrounds us, always pressurizing us to conform. “Everyone does it - everyone allows their children to date from age 13...” “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom.12:2)
John Stott writes: “Each of us is a cultural creature. We have drunk in our cultural inheritance with our mother’s milk. The way we think, the way we talk, the way we dress, the way we work, the way we play, and the way we do everything is conditioned by our cultural inheritance. The first step towards the recovery of our Christian heritage will be the humble recognition that our culture blinds, deafens and dopes us.”
8. Freedom from religion – the powerless pretense and formality of legalism, of godless rituals, holy days and festivals, legalistic dietary requirements and special dress codes. All of these endeavour to replace true repentance which leads to forgiveness and grace, with religious ritual, effort and performance, replacing repentance with works and humility with pride. Replacing the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit with pious ritual.
“do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.” (Col.2:13-23)
Warning: Do not become infatuated by Jewish culture, festivals, or traditions – this is a well camouflaged trap that that will suck you ever deeper, like quick-sand. Watch out for their religious ritual, for personal Sabbath evenings, for Hebrew names for God and Jesus, for traditional Jewish Pass over celebrations and special symbolic dress codes, etc. Remember: Jesus died to set us free!
9. Freedom from tradition, the status quo, the way we have always done things around here, or in our family, or circle. When I was water baptised the doctor had to make a house call to give my mother an injection, for she was having a nervous breakdown – not because she believed that what I did was unbiblical, but because it was against our tradition! “My kind jy gooi die kinderdoop weg!”
Jesus said: “They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.” (Mark.7:7-8&13)
10. Free from a powerless gospel! We need to be reminded that our God never changes – the God of the 10 plagues is also the God of the New Covenant – is still the God of the impossible! Powerless churches will become absolute – extinct like the dodo! We need to lead believers ever further from a gospel of words only and ever deeper into an experience of the Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth! A church that lives by every word and every action (miracle) of our Lord and Saviour: “Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.” (1 Thes.1:5) “Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8:5-8) We dare not settle for our limited experience, nor draw our theology from our disappointments, but we need to aggressively journey towards a powerfilled display of the gospel of life - where God's miracles become as everyday as our meetings, and testimonies of heaven invading earth supernaturally, through common garden variety Christians like ourselves, encourage us to more of God, daily!
Plurality of leadership:
Throughout the church age of the Bible (that is the period between the first and the second coming of Christ, in which we also live today); we see local church leadership mentioned in plurality:
• We find that, when the first deacons were ordained, a group of seven were chosen. Acts 6:1-7.
• Likewise, we always read of the elders of the local church in plurality: “From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church” (Acts 20:17, see also Acts 15:4 and Titus 1:5)
• Even the Eph.4:11 gifts to the church is mentioned in plurality: “It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,…”
*God never intended the leadership and authority of the local church to be vested in one man only.
At best I am the leader of the team of elders who lead this church, assisted by the deacons.
An eldership team of 2 men is also not ideal, it seems much more like a partnership, than like a true team.
We do realize that this is not ideal, and especially taking our numerical growth into account, we would love to be able to double the local eldership team by year end, if possible.
Having said this, we need to realize that each team has a leader – there has to be a “first among equals”, called, anointed and ordained to lead. (Acts 15:5-21)
*I've mentioned deacons, elders and the five fold ministry - these are giftings and functions, not titles or positions.
They are functions of service, not positions of honour or dictatorship; although these are also functions with responsibility and therefore authority.
“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Heb.13:17)
There is safety for the church in the Biblical model of plurality of leadership – run from power and position hungry “Apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher so-and-so”!
We will see in a moment or two that part of the safety-net for the believers in a local church, apart from the plurality of leadership, is in our relationship with an international Apostolic/Prophetic team.
Leadership by example:
This is obviously linked to the previous value.
These leaders are called to lead and serve by example, not by “pulling rank”:
“Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” (Phil.3:17)
“Whatever you have learned, or received or heard from me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil.4:9)
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (Heb.13:7)
“You became imitators of us and of the Lord” (1Thes.1:6a)
Sobering words for anyone in any form of church leadership!
However this does not mean that those in leadership are perfect, for we are all human, but it does mean that there should be no hidden or clouded/veiled areas, or aspects of our lives in which we dread anyone following our example.
*This goes beyond the spiritual area and includes our marriages, our parenting, our finances, our sexuality, our stewardship, our hospitality, our appetites and our character.
Leaders should know that they are being watched and that it is Biblical – Paul tells the believers to “watch and learn”, or “watch and imitate”, or “watch and do”.
*This does not give believers license to scrutinize and criticize leaders, for in the end we are all followers and imitators of Christ, but it does call leaders to step up and to measure our conduct against that of Christ afresh.
Paul brilliantly sums it up in these words to the Corinthian church:
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1Cor. 11:1)
There are millions of spiritually lost people in the world around us. (Joel 3:14)
God is desperate for each one of them to be saved. (Lk.19:10)
However, the lost do not simply walk into our Sunday morning services demanding to hear the gospel and to be saved, all by themselves!
Unfortunately, we as the church have become largely ineffective in reaching the lost with the good news of salvation in the name of Jesus.
We, as the elders, believe that friendship, or personal evangelism is the way to go – involving all of us as believer priests.
This will involve the building of effective relationships with non-Christians – if you want to enter a dog-show, you’re gonna need a dog; if you want to see the lost saved, you will have to befriend non-Christians!
Fortunately this is not very difficult, we all spend significant time, on a daily basis, with non believers at our places of employment or schools, for a start.
*We have to firstly build or establish a bridge, a relationship of trust that will be strong enough to carry the truth of the gospel, without it collapsing underneath us.
We need to become accustomed to sharing our own testimonies and faith, before we share the gospel with people - leading them to Christ.
How fresh is your testimony?
Is it still the account of how you got saved in 1974, or are you able to share ongoingly what God has been doing, and is doing in your life, on a daily basis?
*For us to keep our story, our testimony fresh, we need to trust God afresh – only when we keep trusting God will we have fresh stories of God's faithfulness to tell.
Each believer who trusted God for rain and joined in the prayer time last week, have had their testimony instantly updated by God!
Once converted, we need to be able to nurture and to disciple these new believers.
Mentoring is a huge value for this local village and something that we will revisit soon, to ensure that it becomes an everyday reality for all of us.
Bringing all to maturity:
This flows from the previous value.
Jesus did not send us out to merely preach the gospel, or even to convert the lost, but He said: “go and make disciples of all nations”. (Mt.28:19)
*Christianity is not a teaching, or a doctrine, nor is it a religion – it is life!
Therefore it is vital that every believer becomes part of a family of believers who are living in the reality of New Testament Christianity.
The reality of an abundant life in Christ cannot be taught or lectured only, but has to be caught.
Biblical values and truths should be effectively preached and taught, but should also be modeled in the everyday lifestyle of believers and in our home groups.
*Every believer should become mature enough to lead someone to God and to disciple that convert to a place of security and maturity in Christ.
Our maturity is not measured by the number of scripture verses memorized, or by the ability to recite the books of the Bible in order, but by our ability to reproduce life.
This is why the Hebrew boys were regarded as mature by age thirteen, because this was the age at which they could reproduce life.
*Christian maturity is about the ability to bring the life giving gospel of Jesus Christ to others and to disciple them to the place where they are able to reproduce that spiritual life in others by leading them to salvation and by discipling them.
Training, equipping and releasing believers into ministry/leadership:
*One might be tempted to think that we have just dealt with this point, but we need to know that becoming a mature Christian, and being able to share the gospel and to disciple someone else, is not reserved for leaders, it is the call on every believer!
Leadership, or ministry, might require special gifting, anointing and calling, but maturity is for all – just like a sub 10 sec. 100 m sprint requires special talent and training, but walking is for all except infants.
We value the equipping and training of believers for leadership.
We believe that everyone of us has a part to play in the discipling of the nations, and we realize that planting churches in every village, town, city and nation, is going to require thousands upon thousands of leaders that are to be identified, trained, equipped and released into the fullness of their individual calling.
On the camp, we have also seen that each one of us has a role to play in the local church, and that “ministry” can include much more than preaching or being a part of the worship team.
These are some of the values that underscore the day to day activity of Liberty Christian Church - some of the things that we hold dear and which define us.
These are some of the things that give shape to our future and direction to the route we choose to follow on our journey.
These are some of the things that bring security and excitement to our future together.
Lastly, we will look at some of the values that we as a people are committed to:
Commitment to local church:
*I believe strongly that what you get saved into is more important than what you get saved out of.
Jesus confirmed this when He said: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” (Mt. 23:15) (A quote from “How to make friends and influence people” by Gentle Jesus meek and mild.)
This simply means that we need to ensure that we are saved into something that will not do more harm than good. (1 Cor.11:17)
Recently, we've said that one of our values is to keep believers free - free from veering off to the left into licentiousness and sin; and free from veering off to the right into legalism and religion; free to live in the fullness of the abundant life that Jesus has promised for us. (Jn.10:10)
*We need to be saved into something that will keep us free – into the freedom of Biblical truth and power combining in Kingdom lifestyle/culture.
We see far too many believers being saved out of, but not into!
Sinners need to be saved out of their sinful way of godless living, but they also need to be saved into a local church – into the family of God’s people! Acts 2:37-41 (3000 were added to them, not 3000 were saved.)
Our God is the God who leads out of, but also into!
He did not only lead the Israelites out of Egypt; He also led them into the Promised Land!
If we only lead people out of without leading them into as well, we are abandoning them in the wilderness! (Often the place of temptation Mt.4)
Last week we mentioned our value of bringing all believers to maturity, referring to making disciples, rather than merely converts.
Part of this discipleship process is for new believers to become active priests in a local church (1 Pet.2:5&9), and active members of a body - 1 Cor.12:12-27 mentions quite a few body parts - foot, hand, ear, eye - all very functional, yet it is silent about the appendix!
None of us were called to this local body to be the appendix, adding absolutely nothing of value, but possibly inflammation!
It is not Biblical or godly for people to free-float outside of the church, as lone-ranger Christians, choosing to stay out in the wilderness.
There is absolutely no Biblical precedent for this, but in fact the opposite is true:
Following Jesus means to firstly accept Him as Lord, as Ruler i.e. the One who makes the rules – this means obedience to His word and commitment to His will. (Jn.14:15)
*It also means to love the things that He loves and to devote yourself thereto – it is not possible to love God without loving the things that He loves. (Jn.14:21 & 23-24)
Eph.5:25 says that “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her”.
Everything that Jesus did on the earth, including His death and resurrection was for the church.
*If Jesus is this passionate about and committed to the church, then how dare we be different?
Commitment to Jesus also means commitment to His church!
*The New Testament reveals absolutely nothing about dislocated Christians, unattached to any local body of believers – i.e. a local church with leadership structure, with authority and submission - not some get together of disgruntled, hurt, disillusioned, unsubmitted, unteachable, unaccountable spiritual hippies armed with tambourines and a shofah.
The Bible does however speak volumes about developing covenantal relationships within the local body of believers.
Eph.3:10 tells us that God’s “intention was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known…”
God has chosen the church to be the vehicle of His New Covenant, just as the twelve tribes of Israel were the custodians of the Old Covenant.
God’s blessing and favour, His calling rests on the church and on no other vehicle.
Therefore “let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching”. (Heb.10:25)
You are the very people for whom Christ laid down His life in the most horrific circumstances.
You are the passion of the Godhead, the pre-occupation of heaven, the crown jewel of creation and the very reason that Christ became man.
You have been saved by the grace of God when you put your faith in the sacrifice of Jesus.
Thus you have become a part of the universal church, the church of Christ, comprising everyone who has been saved by God from Adam throughout the ages to the very end of time - it incorporates those who have gone before, those who are alive now and those yet to be born!
But you are also a part of this local church: Liberty Christian Church, a local, visible body and priesthood of all believers, led by an eldership team, assisted by a team of deacons and partnering with an apostolic team, all according to the New Testament.
It is this local church, this “Global Village”, which we have the honour and privilege of leading into the fullness of our inheritance in Christ Jesus!
*You are our joy, our responsibility and our very great reward, and every one of you is a part of it, because of your commitment to local church!
Commitment to city church:
This might sound like a direct contradiction of our previous value.
However, our commitment to this local church does not exclude, or contradict commitment to the church in the city.
As a local church, we are being raised up by God as a spiritual force in our city - a spiritual force, not the spiritual force.
We are not in opposition to Christ-centred, Bible-believing churches, but in team with them, fighting together against the forces of evil and darkness, and together advancing the Kingdom of God.
Much like the re-builders of the wall in Nehemiah, we are working side by side on different portions of the same wall, with the same vision of seeing our city won for Christ.
Someone might feel that if we are being blessed and if God’s favour is resting on us, then He has to be against everyone else – this is incorrect!
Let’s read Mk.9:38-40 (893)
It’s not a case of “whoever is not with us is against us”, but rather, our heart in this regard should be like that of Christ – “whoever is not against us is for us.”
We believe that it is God’s will to see the different churches in our city working closer together, we value this and we are committed to this.
Our initiative and commitment to the corporate prayer for rain at Unity Park again proves this.
The Bible regularly refers to the church in the city of… (Acts 15:4 Jerusalem; Acts 20:17 Ephesus; Phil.1:1 Philippi), this is something that God is restoring in our time and we are committed to do this Biblically.
I regularly get together with other church leaders in George to have fellowship and to build relationships, but also to strategize and discuss possibilities of working together more closely into the future.
We want to see the animosity and distrust between churches removed. We want to see churches working together across racial and other divides, like style preferences, dress codes, titles and spiritual jargon.
*Again it is vital that we know who we are, what we are called to, what our values are, in order to be secure and not threatened by the corporate!
It is impossible to have corporate unity, before individual security!
Commitment to community:
God is very specific in what He does – nothing is simply left up to chance.
Acts 17:26 b tells us that “He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”
This means that we are here, in this city and in this community, because God has determined that it would be so for this season.
As a local church we know that we are called to the area that God has placed us into – to bring the good news of the gospel to these people in both a spiritual and a practical way.
We are involved in our community in a number of ways, primarily through the mercy ministry, again both spiritually with a prayer chain connected to Options and practically with, for e.g. a feeding scheme in Thembalethu.
Our Christmas gift boxes to the children at Bethesda were crammed with gifts and goodies - turning a value into a reality.
Our commitment to this community is causing more and more people, both inside and outside of our local church, to realize that: “God is good and His people are kind!”
We want to increase our sowing into our community, for we do believe that there is a definite and direct link between mercy and miracles!
(Why did Jesus feed 5000 people from 2 fishes and 5 buns? Because He was surrounded by 5000 hungry people!)
*We also want to become increasingly involved in life skills training, so that we can be part of social upliftment, rather than a handout centre!
Commitment to the nations and church planting:
Our calling and commitment extend beyond the borders of our community, for we are a Global Village.
God has sent us to “go and make disciples of all nations”, He has also promised “Ask of Me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.” (Ps.2:8)
This is why we regularly go beyond the borders of our community and country to preach the gospel and to train and equip leaders who will in turn be able to teach others (2 Tim.2:2).
During this year, this local church will work into Lesotho, Egypt, Portugal and Turkey.
As a church, we were birthed through a church-plant 12 years ago.
Since then we have planted Living Stones Church in Mossel Bay, and later planted Hamilton and Caroline Hemingway into New Zealand, where they have started “Solid Rock Church”, and we have regularly supported local and international church plants, prayerfully, practically and financially.
We believe that in the fulfillment of the Great Commission, there will be thousands of New Testament pattern churches planted into every village, town, city and nation, and that we also have a vital role to play in this.
Commitment to an Eph. 4:11 Team:
Once we realize that we are called to so much more than what we see around us in this venue and even in our community, then we also realize the importance of being globally linked, or connected, via an Ephesians 4:11 team. (Read vs. 11-13)
Paul travelled with other gifted men and women as he apostolically planted, rooted, nurtured and released new churches.
The New Testament reveals local churches, planted by apostolic men who then appoint elders and release the new churches under their leadership (Tit.1:5), although the relationship and partnership between the apostolic team and the local church still continued. (Phil. 1:3-6)
New Covenant Ministries International is an international team under the leadership of Tyrone Daniel, comprising almost 200 gifted and called men and women from around the globe.
We are committed to working alongside this team – inviting team members, with whom we have a relationship, into our local church on a regular basis, and in turn contributing of our resources (time, finances, vehicles and people) into our partnership.
Our relationship with this team is liberating, not limiting – we are able to do more and to be more effective due to our partnership in the gospel.
Commitment to becoming a base church:
We believe that we are called to become a Global Village - not only a local church, but a base church – a local village with a global heart.
A base church is a church that has a grip on the insufficiency of self-sufficiency; we know that we are not merely called to what we see around us, but to the community, the city and the nations.
Moreover, we are called to be a resource centre to equip and support other churches and plants who are on this same journey.
We are not there yet, but like Paul, we are “straining toward what is ahead” until his words to the Thessalonian church ring true for us as well:
“And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere.” (1 Thes. 1:7-8)
Having read this, you will understand that we are called to a much greater task than what the average believer might be aware of as they park their vehicle outside of our venue on a Sunday morning.
Your own perspective on what the local church is all about may well have changed dramatically!
We have been made aware that unless we are going to be front-footed and intentional about our Christianity, we will never live in the fullness of our calling.
Thankfully you are at a place where we value individual gifting and calling and where we realize that in team, working together as different parts of a local body, we can achieve so much more!
We can each play our part in unity, yet each feel fulfilled due to our unique contribution!
We are together on this journey and we are delighted to co-labour with God in seeing His Kingdom established in our midst and all over the world!
These values will ensure that we do not become side tracked or derailed or that we turn one aspect of truth into all truth – but that we stay close to the heartbeat of Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!