Today I enjoyed preaching in a much more intimate setting at St Andrew’s Church in Benton. Around 40 people or so, some good singing, a few laughs and a coming together around God’s word. I could talk about Jesus til the cows come home, I never get tired of it.
I used to be a big fan of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir…they made a fantastic and overwhelming sound with some good lyrics. One of my favourite of theirs is a song, taken from the words of Paul, entitled ‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel.’ Here it is:
This particularly meant a lot to me when I first started to follow Jesus, back at school, in an environment where following Jesus just wasn’t done. There just weren’t that many Christians around where I grew up. This song became one that expressed a keen determination. Going through the process of being converted daily to the ways of Jesus, there were many decisions to be made day by day to live for him.
And you know what? coming up to nearly 20 years later, its the same. Sure, the questions are different, the temptations are different, but its Jesus for me. I don’t get the same things wrong, I’ve learned, but I get other stuff wrong. Yet, his grace is there…picks me up when I fall and teaches me how to avoid stumbling again.
Following Jesus, however, is not just about ‘sin management.’ God has transferred us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the son he loves. We’re on different ground, we’re in the business of seeing God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. ‘Making heaven on earth is our business’ William Booth used to say. The Jesus who hung on the cross and rose again is the same Jesus who calls us to love our enemies. The Jesus who partied with sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes is the one who calls us to go to the sick, because they are those who need the doctor most. The Jesus who reserved his harshes criticisms for those perpetuating enslaving religious and political systems is the same one who calls us to recognise that our Christian faith is not about a system, but about a person.
When Paul planted churches, he did not plant a theology, a doctrine, and idea or an ideology…he planted a person. To say I’m not ashamed of the gospel is to own Jesus as rightful King, Lord, Saviour, Rabbi, Friend, Master, Guide, Redeemer and at the same time, one who got stuck in and put some skin on. What Jesus DOESN’T do, is come into our lives and leave us unchanged, unchallenged. Life in him takes a completely different turn from everyone else in the world…the call to incarnation is the call to live as his body, fleshing it out for those who need to taste and see that the Lord is good.
Can’t do it? You’re in good company:
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor 12: 9 – 11