I just love weddings. And so it was with great joy that I attended the wedding of one of my many "daughters", last Sunday - both bride and groom are Adventists. T'was a wonderful affair with red and white being the dominant colours. The bride was, in the words of the young people, " just amazingly beautiful", and totally bubbling over with happiness. The groom was dressed in the latest men's fashion and made quite a statement himself and was full of confidence. And in the words of one of his mates, he described his bride as someone "full of vibes". The truly amazing thing, however, was that in the midst of all this virtual riot of colours and sparkling beauty on display, stood a groom who was visually impaired and could hardly see a thing. Talk about faith! As it takes a remarkable man of faith together with the deep love required to woo and marry a partner who he has never seen, and is confident about spending the rest of life with her.
That is what my Lord spoke to me about this week from one of the most important passages of scripture to which He led me to read and reflect. The context is St. Paul's exhortation to the Galatian Church not to be burdened and enslaved by the law, but to live a life of freedom in the spirit. And so he writes:
" It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul tell you that if you let yourselves by circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all......You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we await we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." Galatians 5:1-6. NIV
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love! We make the Christian life too complicated by taking our eyes off the cross of Calvary, as that's where abiding faith and everlasting love first revealed itself to all mankind in the person of Jesus Christ - the author and perfecter of our faith. Too many people have been turned off Christianity by all our debates about which is the right denomination, what is the right doctrine, the different church rules - clothes, and jewellery and hairstyles, the day on which we are supposed to worship and all kinds of stuff, when what we should be doing is exhibiting our faith ( not blind) and expressing our love for Christ by how we treat others with whom we come in contact. By day and by night. Privately or publicly. In what we say and how we think!
Do we really trust God when the chips are down? And have we really loved those who don't love us, persecute us, ignore us and just provoke us?
This week I had reason to reflect on those questions personally, and as part of the worldwide church of God, and a citizen of my nation. Even more so, as I spend time in the USA with relatives, the land not just of the brave and free, but also of the " plenty. And as I reflect on God's mercy on me and on my family, on the wife of a friend for whom many of us have been praying and who just had a miracle wrought in her life this week, as I reflect on the profile of a young man, as written in a local newspaper today, who in a spasm of violence snuffed out the life of a young school boy last week and reportedly fled to the USA. " Allegedly known by and known to senior members of both political parties and the police force.....alleged links to the infamous Dudus Coke....the owner of a private jet.....a multi-millionaire......aged 30 yrs."
As I reflect on the state of the church and its influence, or lack thereof in these United States, and in my own country. As I reflected on a conversation I had with a good friend about the story of the sower and the seed, and what happened - the devil took away the seed from some; trouble and persecution stymied the growth of others; the pleasures of this world and the deceitfulness of wealth affected others; while those who persevered produced good fruit. All, according
to my friend, is about the different type of " soil" where we sow God's word. All about the fact that there is nothing wrong with the Word, the seed, and what, therefore, we are called to do is to be faithful in sowing the seed in how we live and what we proclaim. Not to worry about the results, as that is God's business. All of which reflections led me to write the following message to my church this week, and now to the larger ministry to which the Lord has called me.
THURSDAY - I read the following meditation this morning and prayed for the church and my country, guided by Daniel's wonderful prayer of repentance in chap 9:1-19 NIV .
" O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and rebelled, we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings.........Lord you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame -......Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand (and out of slavery to the British with a mighty hand) and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. O Lord, in keeping with with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger from Jerusalem your city.......our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of your scorn to all those around us. Now, our God, hear the prayers of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary.......we do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! For your name sake, O my God do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name." And Daniel was heard because he was " highly esteemed".
The question then arises, " are we the church, highly esteemed?" And so assured that the Lord will hear us and save our nation from the kinds of madness taking place on the roads because of rage, the madness that cause a little girl to be murdered and possible raped and thrown into bushes, and the kind of madness which purports to be wisdom because it flows from the pages of the Gleaner editorial this morning - that because New York and other cities have approved same sex-marriages, and are gaining economic benefits from it, and dressed up in a thinly disguised human rights cloak, they are suggesting that we too should too.
That question is posed in the meditation from one of the all time great preachers A. Z Tozer. And if as a church we cannot claim to be the True Church, if we do not resemble the description that Tozer paints, then like Daniel we have a lot for which to repent and to pray.
WHAT IS THE TRUE CHURCH
A. Z. Tozer
Verse: 2 Thessalonians 1:4 " Therefore, among God's churches we boast abut your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
The true church is ....composed of regenerated persons who differ from all other human beings in that they have a superior kind life imparted to them at the time of their inward renewal.....
They have espoused the cause of a rejected and crucified man who claimed to be God and who has pledged his sacred honor that he will prepare a place for them in his Father's house and return again to conduct them there with rejoicing.
In the meantime they carry his cross, suffer whatever indignities men may heap upon them for his sake, act as his ambassadors and do good to all men in his name.
They steadfastly believe that will share his triumph, and for this reason they are perfectly willing to share his rejection by a society that does not understand them.
And they have no hard feelings - only charity and compassion and a strong desire that all men may come to repentance and be reconciled to God.
......are we really willing to share his rejection by a society that does not understand us....and do we have no hard feeling - only charity and compassion and a strong desire that all may.......
Lord have mercy on us as we have sinned exceedingly in thought word and deed. It is a tremendous tribute to freedom of the press that Father Richard HoLung's very penetrating article on the state of the nation and the world, appears on the other side of today's very "worldly" editorial. I hope we all read it and reflect on it.
This then is the esence of faith expressing itself in love. At a wedding and in the wider society about which we are all concerned. Faith in One who has been rejected by this world. And faith expressed in our love for all for whom Christ died.
Adam's helpless race, best expressed in St. Paul' profound words to the Corinthian church.
" For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again". 2. Cor. 14-15, NIV
If therefore Christ's love compels to move in any other direction; doctrinal purity, diocesan approval, fulfilling church rules, trying to justify ourselves by the law, possessing certain gifts.....among other things, then we would have missed the mark, and our "gospel" will have no power to effect any change in our society. But God is faithful and sovereign and will sustain and empower and work miracles in and through those who do not try to " empty the cross of its power", and have learned to depend on Christ and Christ alone. For love and for mercy. Amen