Last century John Stott was a famous Bible expositor based at All Souls Langham place in London. He had a global writing and preaching ministry and was a great evangelist. His books are well worth reading today.
In his book on the Sermon on the Mount, Stott suggests that ‘there are only two kinds of ambition: one can be ambitious for oneself or for God. There is no third alternative.’
Once we have decided to forsake our own glory and be ambitious for God, Stott then challenges us to be as ambitious as possible!
“Ambitions for God, if they are to be worthy, can never be modest. There is something inherently inappropriate about cherishing small ambitions for God. How can we ever be content that he should acquire just a little more honour in the world? No. Once we are clear that God is King, then we long to see him crowned with glory and honour, and accorded his true place, which is the supreme place….”
It is the default to have low ambitions for the impact of Christ in our lives, in our families and in our city. Instead let us have great and godly ambitions for the name of Christ to ring out to the masses of Casey and Cardinia. May our church and the churches of our region be filled with the most Bible loving, the most prayerful, the most sacrificial and the most ambitious Christians in our city.
This week at Berwick Anglican Church we start a new sermon series on the book of First John, called ‘Travel Tips for the Christian Journey’.
John wrote this book because he was concerned about false teaching that was creeping into the Christian communities he looked after. This false teaching was causing splits and conflicts. John wanted to reassure the church that they already had the true gospel of Jesus Christ and to help them combat that counterfeit ‘gospel’ in their midst.
Bible scholars have noticed three key themes in First John that are often called John’s ‘Tests of Life’ with which Christians can recognise and combat false teaching. First John teaches that we can recognise true Christians by their:
- Having right beliefs about Jesus: e.g. ‘If anyone acknowledges
Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God ’ (NIV)(4:15);
- Keeping God’s commandments: e.g ‘We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands’ (NIV) (2:4); and
- Practicing love for one another: e.g. ‘We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death’ (NIV) (3:14).
We too can use these Tests of Life, both to encourage one another in our Christian walks, and also to help us distinguish genuine spirituality from the false.
Rev. Ben Soderlund
All the surveys of public opinion said the same thing: the vast majority of Australians agreed it was good idea to ban single-use plastic bags from our supermarkets. It’s a great reform! A no-brainer if you will. Getting rid of plastic bags removes a major source of pollution for relatively little economic cost. Of course we want it happen! Get on with it supermarkets!
But then it happened. And both in store and on social media people have been… outraged! Thoughts of the environment have quickly faded.
- Its such an inconvenience!
- Its too hard to bring our own bags to the supermarket!
- How dare they make me do it!
- Who do they think they are!
What is a good idea in our minds, can be easily transformed into an outrage in our hearts, if its implementation dares to challenge one of the major idols of our age: convenience.
In a self-centred culture like ours, we feel entitled to have our preferences and our needs and our desires at the centre of all activity. And even small challenges to that can cause outrage – which is what we have seen at check-outs around the nation this week.
Beware of the sinful heart that grumbles at minor inconveniences, especially inconveniences caused by good changes! Christian discipleship is often inconvenient. After-all, we follow a crucified Lord who tells us to pick up our crosses and follow him. And in a growing and changing Church like ours that seeks to grow and change even further for the gospel, sometimes we will face inconvenience. But when we do, let it be an opportunity to put aside our own interests and instead come together in grace for the benefit of Church and the gospel.
Jesus presents himself first and foremost as a Saviour. He famously said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to calls the righteous, but sinners to repentance“. (Luke 5:31-32)
The analogy of a doctor is very helpful. We are helpless before doctors, all we can do is rely on them to perform the correct surgery or medical procedure to make things right.
It is sometimes said that the church is not a school for saints but a hospital for sinners. This is true, and Jesus is the head physician. Anyone and everyone can receive salvation through Jesus, because he came to call even the worst of sinners to repentance.
Consider for a moment the humble honesty that we need to follow Jesus. Jesus is not looking for competent people. He is not offering tidbits of spiritual advice for people who think their lives are basically okay. He’s got nothing to offer you if you think at heart you are a good person.
However, if you know in your heart your greatest need is forgiveness of sin, and you repent of that sin and turn from it, then the great Saviour, Dr Jesus, is calling you!
This week I have been praying for the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem. Lee Gatiss, the director of the UK church society, has called this week the biggest ever international gathering of Anglicans. There are over 2000 people, about half clergy and half lay leaders, from all across the world representing the majority of Anglican churches.
The theme of the conference is “Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations.” You listen or watch the talks by going to online, or just searching on Google.
There are many Archbishops at the conference, including Archbishop Okoh from Nigeria who said that the GAFCON movement has “has served to awaken the sleeping giant of orthodox Anglicanism around the world.”
Please be praying for Anglican churches to stand strong on our heritage of the authority of the Bible and salvation through Jesus Christ alone. Please pray that momentum would increase for global evangelisation and courageous godly orthodox leadership to lead the way across
Anglican churches and provinces.
I am proud that BAC is represented by Ben at this most significant missions event in Jerusalem. May we play our part in defending the historic Christian faith and proclaiming Christ to our corner of the globe.