From the earliest days of his ministry Jesus called followers.
He gathered people around him to learn what he was doing so that they might continue his ministry of the Kingdom of God.
It was however never apart from him because Jesus knew that his followers didn’t just need training - they also need power. He has promised to be that power for the church if we abide in him. Jesus calls lifelong worshipers, but he also says I will be with you even to the ends of the age. Listening to his voice is the key to discipleship.
Caring for the poor is one of the major themes of the Bible. God showed Moses that He ‘defends the cause of the fatherless, the widows and foreigner living among you” (Deut 10:18). It is one of the identifying markers of the church that Jesus built. Jesus even used our care for the poor as a indicator of our faith in him in his end-time parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt 25:31-46). Today we will hear about the ministry of Mukti Australia, and meet Malvika Akhade and Chhaya Mhankale from the Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission (PRMM) in India. We will see how Jesus transforms lives and communities through the care of his people. May it inspire us to be a people who really do care for the poor.
Reading through the Bible we discover that the church is a very different community from those around them. The early church saw themselves as aliens and exiles in the world (1 Peter 2:11) but citizen of heaven (Phil 3:20) with a deep love for God’s world and the people around them. They saw themselves as Spirit empowered servants of God, a sign of the kingdom of God, and ministers of reconciliation and justice.
Which makes me think? Is what we do, what we call church today what Jesus has in mind?
I think Yes and No.
We live in different days and although we have the same Spirit and the mind of Christ we need to let him constantly renew us. And he will as we continue to be a people focused on Jesus.
This Sunday we hear from two leaders in our Youth Ministry.
Seg Phiri and James Francis will be sharing on the theme of “Being Church’ in Part 2 in our series. Far from being the church of the future, our children and young people are the church with us today.
We eagerly listen to their voice because we pray that through their testimony we meet Jesus. Our young people will bring valuable, unique and challenging words for us to hear. That’s so good. It all an important part of us being Church.
God is love but this is not abstract. It is personal. He has set His heart upon you. His kingdom and power, His care for creation, his rule over the world, His intervention in the affairs of human history, His authority over evil and His conviction of our sin… is all an action of His love. You are the beloved. Let this penetrate your heart. It affects everything we do.
We come to the last instalment of our teaching on the book of Revelation. It concludes with a vision of perfect love and union with God with a whole bunch of people. Through symbolic pictures it seeks to capture the wonder for which all our hearts long. A life of people together, with no sorrow, no pain, no injustice, no evil, no darkness and the love and Glory of God at its centre. It is a new heaven and a new earth redeemed by the blood of Jesus where everyone is welcome. However, it is an invitation to be received. We may we refuse the invitation, but in doing so we reject love and life for eternity.
Revelation 20 is one of the hardest passages of the Bible to understand. But it also one of the most encouraging when understood correctly. It contains what is called the millennium, and also the final conflict, the lake of fire, and the last judgement. From the present reign of Christ to the time when God will be ‘all in all’ it is good for us to have a revelation of what’s what now, and what will be at the end.
Revelation 19 shows us two contrasting suppers. One is the marriage feast of Jesus and his followers at the end of time. Its an empowering vision and hope for us. It is a time promised to the world, when sin, grief and evil is finally ended and we are united face to face with God as his beloved bride. All our hopes for justice, peace and love come to realisation in this marvellous supper. But there is another supper in this chapter. A supper that symbolises the destruction of all who defy the kingly authority of Jesus, the Lamb of God.
We are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. Let make sure we’ve got our wedding clothes on.
Revelation is a book of hope. It’s a word from God to his church to remain faithful, seek wisdom and patiently endure the trials that Christians will face living in the world. The hope that we have is that Jesus has come to us, saved us, and He will secure us in the storms of life for God’s ultimate purpose. Some of these storms will come in the form of other people and worldly systems who do not know the love of God and God’s kingly authority in all things. They will seek to humiliate and marginalise people of faith but this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Neither should Jesus’ ultimate victory. God has a plan and he is at work in the world for good. So let our Hallelujahs resound. Jesus is Lord.