Listen to the message
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Series: The Renewal of the Mind
Sun am 31 August 2014 – Justus Swart
Acts 17:28; Lam. 3:22-28; Matt. 10:8; Luke 5:15-16; Ps. 119:145-152; Heb. 10:25;
John 13:34-35; James 5:16; Ps. 38:18; (1 John 1:10); Rom. 10:8-10
Listening to God is the very first and most important thing that we need to be dedicating ourselves and our time to. He is the source of all things. In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28) and the simple act of sitting before God to listen is often overlooked. We over-spiritualize our lives and say, “God is with me in everything I do, so why do I need to sit down and take separate time with God?” How would it work if you tried doing that with other relationships in your life, with your spouse and your children, with your best friend or even your employer? We need to nurture our relationship with God. It is something that is alive and has to grow and be fed. It is something that demands attention. He is a jealous God and He wants all of you.
The importance of receiving from God cannot be overstated. There is no way to have a relationship with God that does not require you to pursue Him constantly. Your life in God is a wild adventure of you pursuing Him in everything that you go through in life, to make Him the goal, to make Him the purpose of everything. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him (Lam. 3:22-28). Spend time being thankful towards God for His mercies are new every morning.
If you agree that we need to spend time with God, my question is, are you doing it? Is God the centre of your focus? And if it isn’t, we need to make a change. “One cannot simply read the Bible like other books; one must be prepared to really enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer shall we receive it” (Bonhoeffer). The most wonderful thing is to find God in the Bible. It is not enough to ask for our day to be blessed, but we need to offer ourselves daily in service to God and others. It is our duty to receive first and then give to others; to be filled up and then emptied again (Matt. 10:8). That process has to be done every single day. Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:15-16). Even Jesus had to do that. He knew He could not be effective if He did not spend time with God. In everything we should endeavour to be like Him. Ps. 119:145-152 is a fantastic psalm to spend some time reading and let it wash over you.
Being committed to community is another essential habit but it is difficult and it requires a change in our life. “Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing” (Heb. 10:25). Part of our Christian life is being surrendered to the Body of Christ. O often we have questions for God, but surely we are the ones being questioned by God? God is asking the question, “Will you be faithful to Him”? Without a community embodying all of these essentials, the gospel and all of its goodness loses it claim and it does not make sense. Christians who reject the Church and think they can do so while still loving God place themselves in a very difficult situation. Christianity has less to do with just Christian truths; and more to do with God reconciling your humanity for His glory. Your brokenness glorifies Him if you are surrendered to Him. God Himself is community, Father, Spirit, Son and we need to exemplify this community. We need to be committed to one another. We are going to hurt one another, we are going to upset one another, that is what it is like living together, but we never cut off from each other. We are committed to one another; we are committed to this journey of glorifying God in our lives. For those who love God it is simply not an option to walk away from the Church as if it is an optional extra. You invalidate the very gospel you preach if you are separated from the Church. The Church is what God wants to point to and say, “Look at them, how they have embodied My presence in this world.” We must stay committed to one another (John 13:34-35). How we love one another is the biggest statement we make about our God. God is asking us if we will be of service to Him. Will we be His hands and His feet; will we be His Church?
Think before you speak – the art of confession. Some of us only know confession in the strictly Catholic sense. However, confession has two manifestations in the Bible. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (James 5:16). James urges Christians to share their burdens with each other. The other person does not take the sins away, but the sharing is for the purpose of prayer for one another, for the sake of standing alongside your brothers. It is the recognition that we are not our own salvation. From time to time we need others who will pray for us when we feel like we do not have the strength to pray. That is where we find our safety and security. You are not an island; you do not need to carry your struggles on your own. It is calling God into a situation on behalf of someone else. It is breaking the loneliness that plagues and separates us from community. I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin (Ps. 38:18). Anyone who says he is without sin is a liar (1 John 1:10). It is the worst road to be on when you feel you are carrying something alone. It is the Christian burden to walk along side one another. We are designed to live in community and rely on the strength of others when our strength is failing. We find safety and healing in the Body of Christ.
“Where a people pray there is the Church, and where the Church is there can never be loneliness” (Bonhoeffer). We need to be a community that is accepting one another, embracing one another. When someone opens up to you, listen to them, do not be quick to speak or to prescribe the answer. Listen to their pain and simply be with them.
The second form of confession is confessing the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We need to make habit of thinking before we speak negatively over situations in our life, in our families and especially our country. The newspapers do not have the final say over our future, God does. But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved (Rom. 10:8-10). Speak good things over your life and over this country. Jesus Christ is Lord, this is His earth. He came and died for it, He is the only one who paid the price for it and it belongs to Him. Find someone you trust, someone who cares for you, someone who will pray for you, somebody who will love you. Do not go through anything alone.