In a message on the last Sunday of a tumultuous 2020 we could be tempted to dwell on many things Covid. Things like, have I changed, has society changed, has Church changed? How have external restrictions affected us all internally?
Are our life priorities different now?
Equally today, in our new building for the first time, we can look around and be inspired by the potential of our new facility, which again is only an external improvement – as exciting as today is!!
Today, I want us to consider our ultimate responsibility as individual Christians and as the Church in 2021.
Our responsibility is “to make a difference – as in the great commission.”
To be salt and light in our world but not of it, making people thirsty for what we have and guiding not judging.
To be change agents in our world. Facing challenges with a clear mandate for action. Speaking up against injustice and unafraid to challenge the status quo.
To re-present Jesus to a lost, dying and very confused world.
A world confused about sexuality, morality, truth and basic biblical understanding. This confusion sometimes finds its place even in the Church when some people don’t understand our responsibility to make a difference.
Cause, community and corporation must be in balance in a healthy Church.
So how do we make a difference?
It all starts in the unseen.
Ephesians 6:10-20 (NIV)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
If we think we can do life and make a difference without a battle in the heavenlies being waged, then we are deluded and probably have a form of godliness but without power.
The best 2021 resolution we could all make would be to upgrade our prayer life because I am certain that the enemy is taking things to a new level too.
We live in the end times and so the battle rages at an increased level of intensity as the coming of the Lord draws near. For example, bills going through state parliament telling Christians what they are permitted to pray for with people seeking their help. Christian foundational truths are being eroded away!
Christmas greetings being replaced with holiday season best wishes.
Jan and I pray together and agree together in prayer each day and this year it too will move to another level. I encourage you to do the same. Maybe seasons of fasting in whatever form that takes for you. Maybe extra time with God.
Passion inspires and compels others. It flows from the heart and not just the head.
True love is passionate and intimate, a longing to be with and in sync with the one you love. It’s the same with our relationship with God. I remember our early days of discovering this Pentecostal experience, we couldn’t wait to be in services where God’s power was manifest.
Passion takes us to new and even scary levels of faith. It propels us to God’s best! A new building is a scary level of faith but says something to our city.
We must never become stoic religious beings, satisfied with our own spirituality, but rather passionate warriors determined to see “thy Kingdom come!’’
Yes, even seen as “over the top’’ in our passion.
Romans 5:1-5 (NIV)
5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
This attribute is a key to making a difference, it’s the ability to continue to pray, to continue to believe when we have to walk by faith and not by sight. When all things aren’t working for our good as we see it regardless of what Romans 8:28 says. When heaven seems silent to our prayer invasions.
It’s knowing that the hope we have which is inspired by the Holy Spirit, will not disappoint. (vs 5). We don’t walk by sight, we walk by faith!
Its Kingdom first in our words, actions and intentions. Its establishing life patterns based on biblical truths and weighing every choice through that biblical view! Not on worldly opinion and trends.
Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)
25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
It’s sticking with Church attendance when worldly trends say otherwise. It’s serving when the world says look after yourself first and if you have time serve!
It’s generous living and generous giving; putting our finances under God’s direction. Priority partnering with God in the tithe. Serve God in a different way. Keep refiring, not retiring.
By applying the above four keys we establish the credibility to “make a difference”.
We persuade by showing a better way:
Aristotelian Logic is widely accepted by philosophers worldwide and reflects our method of “making a difference”.
- Ethos – Credibility – how others observe our life. Is it a congruent life?
- Pathos – Emotion – Are we passionate enough to persuade and move people emotionally?
- Logos – Logic – Do we know what and why we believe?
When these three are in line and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, then we are ready to make a difference!
To be sent out as Jesus did for the seventy in Luke 10:1-9 (NIV)
But remember, as Jesus found out in his hometown, people are fickle and unpredictable in their responses.
Luke 4: 14-28 (NIV)
4 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. 16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. 23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’” 24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
Christianity does not ride on a wave of popular opinion!
They loved His words of grace but not His words of truth!
Being prayerful, passionate, persevering and showing Kingdom priorities, doesn’t mean those in our world will embrace us and join us!
They went from loving the fact that a boy from their “neck of the woods’’ in Nazareth spoke such gracious and wise words to not long after trying to push him off a cliff to His death in their fury.
They were furious at his words because he accused them of rejecting him as a prophet, secondly, he compared them with the hard-hearted people of Elijah’s day and then implied that two gentile “dogs”, a Sidonian woman and a leprous Syrian Army Commander, were more worthy of God’s favour and ministrations than them. These things really changed the attitude of his town’s people.
Truth can offend even when we don’t!
We are in an amazing position to make a difference in 2021 and beyond.
To pray more intentionally, be obviously passionate, to persevere and display Kingdom priorities as an ambassador of the King.
To go into the world as sheep among wolves, but also in the authority that we have in Christ, building credibility amongst those we meet and displaying genuine love regardless of how we are received.
Popularity is not a guarantee or even a by-product of making a difference. Make a difference with grace and truth.
Today in this new facility let us, as the Church and as individuals, make some life changing decisions.
To pray with greater purpose and intent, to be passionate in our relationship with Christ, to persevere despite what is happening around us and to review our priorities in the light of these days.
Suggestions for discussion
- How do you plan to make a difference in your world?
- Passion inspires and compels people. Discuss how you can show this to the people you do life with.
- Have you got the perseverance to push on regardless of the circumstances in your life at the moment?
- Do you need to change your priorities to have a better relationship with God?