A Higher Calling
Paula writes that we have a higher calling than conforming to the world - to be obedient to Christ. She demonstrates this through Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and through highlighting the importance of studying the Word.
Communication is key
I love words - reading, writing, listening to stories and talking with others.
Communication is key in every aspect of our lives and mine is no different. It is necessary in my work as a Speech Language Therapist, in my marriage, in the parenting of my children, and in fact all relationships - especially my relationship with the Triune God.
Sometimes when we hear a word for the first time we say it wrong because we don’t understand it.
I remember a German friend seeing a squirrel for the first time calling it a squiggle. I remember the first time I heard the word Beatitudes in Sunday School, I called them The Beautifuls.
I recently did a deep dive into Jesus’s first sermon of His ministry which contained The Beatitudes. They are, indeed, beautiful.
I now see my beautiful Saviour Jesus speaking to his newly appointed disciples sitting on a mountain top in Matthew chapters 5-8. These chapters are famously known as The Sermon on The Mount but do we truly understand these words spoken by Jesus?
The Sermon on The Mount
It was Jesus’s first message and longest recorded so definitely worth sitting up and paying attention to as much today as back then.
Jesus was teaching His followers how to live like citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven and the character that is required to follow Jesus.
The disciples were expecting Jesus the Messiah to free them from Roman oppression, that He would be King and restore Israel to its former greatness. So when he started with the Beatitudes they would have been puzzled I’m sure. But, when Jesus finished the sermon at the end of chapter 7, it is recorded that the crowds were amazed at His teaching.
That same teaching is amazing today because, as believers, we have entered into the upside down Kingdom which is a totally different way of “being” than the world’s values.
The important of our internal posture and attitude
The sermon is preaching against self reliance and saying we are utterly dependent on God.
True obedience is to conform to the image of Christ and leads us to ask: how do I look like Jesus Christ? Do I value what He values? Do I live as He taught?
Jesus taught we need to be concerned with the internal emphasis of obedience: the motives of our heart, not external practices like the religious leaders at the time. The Pharisees outward obedience was their hallmark with the purpose of making a big deal of themselves.
Jesus taught in these well known chapters that we have a higher calling. More than the Scribes, more than Pharisees (who were viewed as the most religious people at the time), we are called to a deeper obedience motivated to make a big deal of our Sovereign God .
It is not enough to have right actions but, instead, we need to have right motives AND right actions.
The importance of our outward behaviour
Once the sermon addresses who is a citizen of heaven and the character required, it moves onto the influence of a citizen. Things like how to be salt and light, and what is the right way to live as a citizen of heaven.
This deep obedience is a contrast to the shallow Christianity we have become accustomed to in our western context today.
I wonder if the well intentioned belief to become more culturally ‘relevant’ has caused us to lose the love of truth and the belief in the sufficiency of God’s Word.
I suggest these chapters in Matthew are a great place to start today with any new disciple. Our young people in particular need to be taught essentials of the faith which become the sure foundation of how they live.
Knowing God’s Word
Theology is not boring but life giving because of who God is and His Word is alive and active.( Heb 4:12)
Unwittingly, it seems some leaders may have more confidence in their competencies and their giftings than in the Scriptures and and the transforming power of The Word. This ultimately leads to the burn out of many.
In order for me to be a true follower who seeks to follow Christ who is “The Way The Truth and The Life”, I need to read and be taught the Scriptures. These reveal the details of the Christ who was promised in the Old Testament, and the Christ who came and who will come again in the New Testament.
In some churches, the question seems to be how do we keep people rather than how do we mature them. I believe the church is the place to form deep disciples of all ages. This, in turn, leads to church growth and influence within the world. To some extent, we shouldn’t need to go to Bible College to learn the foundations of Biblical theology.
Of course, Bible College is a great place to dive deeper into theology. But, the church should at least give congregants the building blocks.
The transforming power of Scripture
I love this prayer Paul prayed for the church in Philippi whom he loved:
“And this is my prayer that you love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-to the glory and praise of God”
In Romans 12:2 Paul also writes “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - His good pleasing and perfect will”
It is through knowing who God is in His Word - His plan from Creation to the Recreation (Genesis to Revelation) - that our minds and hearts are transformed.
I have made the decision that the Bible is going to be central in my life. I need to view the Bible not as a point of reference, but the context of my life.
The Scriptures are to teach what man is to believe concerning God, and reveal what duty God requires of man. It isn’t quick or easy to study the Bible. However, each minute adds up. I have found that as my understanding of doctrines and the broader themes of the Bible have increased, so has my devotion to God.
JT English (Pastor and author of Deep Discipleship) sums it up well when he says: “When doctrine dwindles disciples limp”.
He believes the next generation needs more of the Bible and more theology; I tend to agree. Just imagine a generation of deep disciples living out what it means to be citizens of the upside down kingdom, and how that would change our communities and, further, our world.
My prayers for the Church
My prayer for the Church is that the Word will capture our affection so that we are more concerned with who we are becoming, than what we are doing in our churches.
I pray that those with teaching gifts are sought out and step up to teach what it means to follow Christ and grow in understanding of the Bible within our churches. I pray that doctrine leads to devotion.
As we become more Christlike, I pray our character will eclipse our abilities and stand out to a world that needs to know how to be blessed and belong to the kingdom of heaven.
I pray that I live out this Higher calling motivated by joyful obedience in order to become more like Him who will return one day to another mountain top.
Paula is a speech language therapist with pre-schoolers who have a disability. She and her husband, Jim, have been part of Windsor Park since moving from the UK 20 years ago.They are parents of two teens and are team leaders for year 10 youth. Writing is a new thing but one which she is enjoying as a way of expressing how God speaks and leads her in everyday life. // Photo: Rebecca Hoverd
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