Rev’d Jonathan Gale
Someone came to me the other day with a concern. They were about to be promoted in their company but were not sure that one particular individual (who had the skills for the position but had declined it) would accept them in it. I said, if somebody new walked into the office and you were introduced as the new incumbent, would they believe in your capability? The answer of course is ‘yes’.
You see this person had actively sought their employment in that company because she had wanted to work there. She had come to that company because she liked what it stood for and she felt welcome there.
It wasn’t long before she had come to believe in the values of the company, hence in her ability to perform well in it, and soon she was performing well; and enjoying her work.
Both the Kingdom of God and the Body of Christ are a bit like that.
We too need to:
- to come
- to belong
- to believe, and
- to perform
Perhaps I should demonstrate in mime.
(I beckon towards a friend who comes to me, we stand side by side with arms across each other’s shoulders, they begin to nod and smile at me, and I send them out with a task they respond to positively)
Did you notice how Deepak came to me, felt accepted by me, agreed with me and was willingly sent out by me? Come, belong, believe, perform.
In the New Testament reading this morning:
- Come to him, says Peter in his letter.
- 5like living stones, let yourselves be built* into a spiritual house – belong
- 7To you then who believe, he is precious – let your belief be more than head knowledge
- that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light – perform the work of God, with God.
In the Gospel reading from John this morning:
- And this is active coming: I will come again and will take you to myself says Jesus. – cooperate with him – come
- so that where I am, there you may be also. – belong to his community
- 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; – the Trinity is a community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Allow your sense of community to lead to belief.
- the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do – allow your belief to energise you for the work of God.
It’s always been like that. When Jesus called the disciples he welcomed them with a promise: I’ll give you a job to do. Leave your fishing, follow me and I’ll make you fish for people. They didn’t know enough to believe in him. They followed him, he made them feel at home, they came to believe in him and he sent them out to preach the gospel, heal the sick and cast out demons.
Here’s the challenge I present to myself, and I need to be honest because we are talking about matters of life and death when it comes to God.
- Have I come to Christ – I mean really chosen him above all else? It‘s not only the weak and heavy burdened that Jesus calls to come to him. The rich young ruler was called and didn’t make the commitment. Paul tells the people of Athens 30While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, (Acts 17: 30)
- Do I belong to him – I mean am I at home in his company and the company of the others he has called to come and be with him? The Hebrew Christians are exhorted 24And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10: 24 – 25).
- Do I believe what he says – I mean to the extent that it drops those nine inches from my head to my heart and becomes part and parcel of my identity? Again from Hebrews: And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11: 6).
(2 Peter 1: 5) For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith virtue. Is my belief changing my very character?
- Do I perform with him – I mean am I obedient to the Great Commission – go out and make disciples of all? (James 2: 14 and 17) 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters,* if you say you have faith but do not have works? & 17So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
The old formula was: believe, belong, behave.
That is Gnostic. It assumes that all that is important is that we get to heaven. It assumes people will believe before they are lovingly made to belong. It assumes that obedience to moral virtue is paramount. It assumes that we do not need to invite people to come, merely shove a so-called gospel message at them. All wrong!
- Few will come who in not invited to do so.
- Few will belong unless they are practically and lovingly included.
- Few will believe unless they can see the consistent and authentic love of God’s community in practice.
- Certainly few will perform – have the courage to bring other people in – unless they have been formed as a disciple in community.
It’s this last point that is the difference between a consumerist approach to religion (in other words “I’ll take what I feel like every now and again – I certainly won’t put myself through any inconvenience in my faith.”) and a genuine discipleship that has learnt to love God and love other people.
And having challenged myself, I leave you today with a challenge:
- Have you come? i.e. left behind your old life.
- Do you belong? i.e. associate regularly and wholeheartedly.
- Do you believe? i.e. in Paul’s words, have a mind renewed by God’s Word and exercise faith in all that you think and do.
- Do you perform? i.e. actively seek to bring others to a place of belonging, belief and performance.
Now if this all seems a little too challenging, don’t worry. I remember Faith’s Aunt reading The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee, and saying, “If this is the normal Christian life, there’s no hope for me!”
And yet there was hope for her. We noticed signs of change as she grew older. We noticed her pouring her life into caring for other people.
Each step in this process anticipates the next:
- Our coming is assisted by God and is in response to a glimpse of loving community.
- Our belonging in community is assisted by God and is encouraged by a glimpse of belief that is a reflection of that love, of a context that has a coherent set of meaningful values
- Our belief is assisted by God because it is linked to something real and active: a work to do in a concrete community of belief (in the church) and unbelief (in the un-churched world)
- Our performance is assisted by God because it is an overflow of all that has gone before: passionate discipleship – following Christ; and God deals with each of us uniquely because we are each gifted differently and called to different ministries.
Let’s bow in prayer. I’m going to invite you quietly to respond by affirming your discipleship this morning. Not out loud. This is between you and God.
Do you come? Are you constantly moving towards Christ in a secular culture where the mainstream pushes in a contrary direction? – I come to Christ
Do you belong? Are you seeking to maintain engagement and priority in Christian community providing a practical context for your faith? – I belong to Christ’s Body
Do you believe? Are you allowing Christian principles to shape your thinking and hence your character? – I believe Christ’s every word
Do you perform? Is your passion to see others engage in this same process? – I help others to come, to belong, to believe and to perform.