Our aim, as our mission statement says, is to fulfil God’s will in love, word and power helping people to become fully committed followers of Jesus”.
Pious sentiments – but what do they mean in practice?
fulful God’s will…
We believe God publishes his manifesto for our lives in many ways: through Creation, through human history, through our consciences, through everyday circumstances and an inner sense of guidance. But there are two supreme ways he has revealed his character and his purposes for us:-
- The Bible, a collection of 66 books written by divine inspiration over a period of more than two thousand years, and speaking about life from the dawn of history to the end of time.
- The teachings, character and life of his only Son, Jesus; particularly his death and resurrection.
Through these we can know both God’s overall plan and purpose for the world, and his individual will for each of our lives; indeed we can come to know God himself.
Knowing is the easy bit. Living it is a different matter. Many a modern-day atheist will claim that they live by the Ten Commandments – conveniently forgetting the first, that we must love God above all else, committing our hearts, minds, and physical resources to serving him. Many a Christian aspires to live by the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ ruthless exposure of the hypocrisies of his own day: not noticing that we are just as hypocritical.
Given our blindness and deafness, what hope is there of us fulfilling God’s will? The starting point, says Jesus, is to repent and believe:
- repent: to accept God’s verdict on our character, and surrender ourselves to his justice; and to stop singing “I did it my way”, and as an act of will, turn from our own ways to God’s way.
- believe: to trust his mercy and love, and believe that when Jesus was crucified, it was as our scapegoat – that his death was a sacrifice which satisfied in full the universal law that sin leads inexorably to spiritual death.
When we do so, we receive from Jesus the Holy Spirit. He becomes in us a wellspring of the water of life, cleansing and refreshing us. He leads us into the truth and reshapes our thinking. He enables us to let go of our pride, take up our own personal crosses, and follow Jesus. He gives us special gifts and insights, and replaces our natural selfishness with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-discipline. We find ourselves naturally fulfilling the will of God, not because we are specially virtuous or holy, but because Jesus himself is living in us.
..love, word and power…
How does fulfilling God’s will show itself in our lives?
In love: practical care and concern for each other, from little everyday acts of kindness, through intelligent giving and addressing social needs, to large-scale issues such as pollution, third world debt and the politics of globalisation.
In word: challenging ourselves and each other with God’s word. Studying, applying, teaching and preaching biblical truth, even when it goes against the grain to do so. Speaking out on social injustice, political corruption, internet pornography and the like. Broadcasting God’s desire to set us free from our pointless lifestyles and show us the meaning of true life.
In power: engaging in spiritual struggle through prayer, and invoking God’s power to heal the sick, influence governments, and restrain evil in society. Praying for liberty for those who are held captive through ill-health, addictions, bitterness and so on.
..fully committed followers…
Though we are changed from the moment we believe in Jesus, there is also a process of ongoing growth in commitment which continues throughout our lives. Career ambition, earning potential, the ‘right’ to happiness, personal space, financial security, etc – we may be called on to surrender any or all of these. Learning to hear God’s voice requires attentive listening and the willingness to obey when he does speak.
Faith must produce change in our lives, or it is merely self-deception. Meeting regularly with other Christians and seeing how God is changing them, helps us to stay ‘on message’ and to grow more like Jesus. We need to develop self-discipline in our own spirituality, setting aside regular time for personal prayer, Bible study and reflection. The accountability created by meeting in small housegroups, helps this process of growth.
We can expect to find the Holy Spirit leading us into new ways of living out our faith as the years go by. Some will develop overtly spiritual gifts such as preaching or teaching or pastoral care: others may have more mundane but equally important gifts such as organisational skills, the capacity to give generously, or the gift of hospitality. The church is a living entity, and needs every member’s strengths if it is to reach its full potential.