1 John 2: 28-3: 24 (TM)
– Psalm 127: 1 unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain. I commented in September 2006 that perhaps Manners, the builders, need to know this! Since then the conviction has grown and grown and be borne out by testimony. Putting it straight it’s how churches are bult and grow: Psalm 133: 1 says where brothers and sisters dwell in unity there the Lord commands the blessing! Our goal back then was to establish a dynamic evangelical witness on Gosforth High Street, which wuld become dramtically public in March 2008. Relationship would be the how, unity the key and grace embodied in the Body of Jesus the way.
1 Corinthians 3:11 states it in a NT way: for no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. The new Trinity Church, Centre and Cafe may be built with bricks and mortar and set on a cement foundation but at its heart the Body of Jesus Christ, which is Trinity Church, has only one foundation: JESUS. So our foundation is sure, our anchor is firm, if it is purely Christ: not congregationalism. Presbyterianism, Methodism or any other -ism – no mixed foundation, just Jesus.
On that Foundation, the Lord can, will and is building His Church and He chooses to do so in a very specific way, a very human and frail way, a way that was His idea from the start of creation when he said of Adam: It is good for the man to be alone (Genesis 2: 18).
Relationship! God created Human Beings not Human Doings : most of us would do much better if we spent more time on being: building relationship, than doing 1001 things, most of which would not stop the world if they were not done!
Relationship with God!: our supreme task is to have a dynamic relationship with God, which begins with salvation and helps us to grow more like Jesus. Our reading encourages us: we are Children of God! (God has no grandchildren!) We must stay with Christ and live deeply in Him. Then we will be ready when He appears, ready to receive Him with open arms. Children who share in the glorious inheritance of all the saints, children who have a birthright (which includes re-digging the wells dug so deeply by John Wesley and others into the spiritual fabric of Newcastle in the eighteenth century and children who know the father’s embrace, who has given us the template for all relationship restored.
True God-likeness is not a turn-off but the supreme pinnacle for human beings: Men of God desire it in their women and Women of God in their men. The God-Chasers of this generation have emrbraced the secret of life in all its fullness! There should not be an ounce of side to the believer: but there is need for a huge dollop of humility, for although we are forgiven we are far from perfect this side of heaven. Keeping this relationship with God: Father (through prayer, study of the word, and walking by faith), Son (through absolute trust and obedience in following and making him known) and Holy Spirit (developing fruit, exercising gifts and letting Him lead) is utterly crucial and the measure to which you and I do this will be the measure to which we are effective in His Service.
Gosforth does not need a bunch of Pharisees or a band of elder brothers reacting as in the prodigal son it needs Jesus and the only way it will see, touch and experience Him is through you and me, who call ourselves the Body of Christ. So water this relationship with the Restorer and Lover of your Soul daily in the quiet place, on the streets and with your neighbours: just as Jesus made no secret of his relationship with the Father nor should we: a relationship is demonstrable and true.
Relationship with one another: If our relationship with God were the whole story then we would end up like the early ascetics sitting on top of a pole in the desert meditating on Him or in a monastery or abbey in seclusion praying all day. If it were the whole story, then it’s really: beam me up Scotty as there is no point for us to tarry further in the earth when we can more fully and completely worship and serve Him around heavens throne. But we are saved to serve: and not in isolation like the lone sniper seeking to pick off the enemy from his safe nest. No we are called into relationship with one another: the CHURCH. Suddenly we have in excess of two billion brothers and sisters in Christ, suddenly we have been brought through the Cross back into God’s family, for God’s purpose in Psalm 68: 6 is to set the lonely in families.
The NT is littered with ‘one another’s’: love one another, encourage one another, confess your sins to.., serve….etc. Someone once said that if believers simply did all these ‘one another’s’ revival would be the outcome for the world would see such a difference in God’s people that it would be drawn to Christ as a result. Church is people: forgiven sinners who by grace are being made saints but part of God’s way of achieving this is by joining us to each other (Romans 12:5 we belong to each other!) Relationships are likely sandpaper to make us more like Christ, so thank God for the challenge of marriage, the blessing of children, the difficult people he sends across your path, for all and more are to make you more like Christ!
Our passage underlines this relationship: the original message was and is: love one another! (v11). Even to the extent of laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters (v 16/17) and ensuring that needs are met if we can: no cold shoulders in the Body of Christ! (v16/17). Talking of shoulders, Zephaniah 3:9 describes the revived people of God: ‘Then will I purify the lips of peoples, that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord and serve Him shoulder to shoulder’.
Our relationship with one another will determine our fruitfulness: God knows nothing of the lone ranger Christian. It will determine how Gosforth reacts to us: will they be able to say: See how these Christians love one another? If there is one thing that destroys relationship and that the New Testament clearly labels as sin it’s gossip. Never speak of any believer behind their back: never say anything about another that you are not prepared to say directly to them! I have always dealt with gossip quite simply: byt asking the gossip to come with me and say what you are saying to the person! Another thing that is so clearly sin is pride: pride that arrogantly believes their way alone is right and doesn’t care who is trodden on in the process of getting there: the Lord will no doubt judge harshly those who have destroyed congregations as a result. We are joined together as the Bride of Christ: pure and spotless is our goal for His return. We belong to each other, we will be together for all eternity, so let’s begin here on Planet Earth that one dynamic life of Jesus together.
Our relationship with the world: If again our relationship with God and each other were the full story we would be a kind of Christian ghetto: hatches battened down against the big and bad world out there. Such sadly is the attitude of many traditional churches and such is the main reason for their demise. As Jesus reminds us: we are not of the world but we are very much in the world. We are all called to be the light on the hill that cannot be hidden, the yeast into the dough, and the salt to season. We are all called to be Witnesses to the amazing grace God has bestowed upon us.
We need to relate to those who are not-as-yet Christians not least those in our own households and families. Many Christians seem ashamed of Christ: at least that’s the impression they give as they never speak of Him (it leads others to conclude that their confession is not a dynamic one but a dry add on amongst many things vying for first place in their life) We need to spend patient quality time with others gradually opening their eyes to Jesus and His Love. Our lives need to be transparent, an open book for all to see so that what we say is what we do and who we are with no side. They need to see that Jesus is the Centre, the Source, and the Guide: as the song says.
So often the ethos of Churches has been to focus almost exclusively on the Sunday worship services: everything else is subordinated. However we need a new and biblical paradigm for today’s church: Sunday and or our Small Groups (Life Groups being Church as much as Sunday) become the filling Station where we refocus on the Lord, receive the renewing power of His Holy Spirit, set Christ on the highest place in worship, and receive from Father His now Word as the Bible is preached and tault to equip us for the task of mission. This only makes sense if we then serve Him 24/7 in the mission field He has given us: be it our workplace, school, neighbourhood, High Street or the called area of ministry we are engaged in. If we don’t do this we just become fat with knowledge of God because we have not become doers of the word also.
Our passage underlines this: ‘My dear children, lets not just talk about love: lets practice real love’ (v18) & v19/20 tell us to stop the disease of introspection (criticising ourselves constantly) and get on with serving God!
Gosforth / Newcastle needs to see believers involved in every level of its life: political/social/educational/commerce/ etc.etc.
We need to hear the call of God to serve in the many mercy and helps ministries: to the poor/homeless/refugees/asylum seekers etc. I am thrilled by how many are already involved in such ministries at Trinity but we need to do more.
Ultimately our relationship with the World has but one purpose: to introduce people to the Saviour: every believer should be able and deserves to have the thrill of leading another to Christ. And mark my words that if you do, you won’t see me muscling in the take the credit: you have helped birth them and you must now nurture and care for them. We are called to be disciples: to be disciples and to disciple others: when you were born physically you were mothered and fathered: so we too must be spiritual mid-wives/husbands and mother/father new believers in Christ: I guarantee that as with the physical experience there is no greater spiritual privilege!!
Conclusion: So this is the Relationship Trinity Triangle: one relationship (called being a Christian or called following Jesus) expressed in three ways: all crucial, all demonstrable, all dynamic and real. Such is the Church with the exclusive Jesus foundation the Lord is building today and such a Church will become God’s agent of real and lasting transformation in Gosforth, on the High Street, and in our City.
I John 3:21-24
January 8th 2012.