home > Pastor’s Desk > 2017 > January 19th > Pressing On


Mount-Oakleigh-bushwalkPlease don’t tell her, but when I was able to go bush-walking with Kim, I was able to experience what Christ commanded His first disciples to do, and what the first disciples would then go on to describe as they exhorted others to follow Christ as well. When Christ told His disciples, “Come! Follow Me!” He was telling His disciples, that Christianity was never merely going to be an event – like joining a church, filling out a ‘Decision Card’, or merely ticking a Question Box on a Census Form! Rather, following Christ was going to require, walking, tracking, listening, serving, watching, learning, and keeping up.  After Christ ascended victorious back to His Father and Glory, the Disciples would describe Christianity as “a walk”. And if you have embarked on this walk, you will have come to know that this spiritual walk with Christ involves twists and turns, ascents and descents, obstacles, and adverse weather. But most commonly, walking with Christ involves overcoming the temptation to stand still – or worse still, to keep going while looking back.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:4

A few years ago I had a momentous birthday. It was a time of reflection for me. I realised that in many ways I had stopped growing. I knew that unless I took deliberate steps to stretch myself out of my comfort-zone, I might never be willing or able to do so as I got older. I set a goal to earn a particular academic award. This involved me undertaking some formal classes in learning Biblical Greek. On December 10th, 2016, after three years of study, I completed my tenth Biblical Greek Exam (5 exams for Greek Level 1, and another 5 for Greek Level 2). Trying to fit this study into a life that was already too busy, was extremely difficult. The temptation to quit was constantly overwhelming. But I knew that this was a season that would pass, and that I needed to press on.

¶ Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.
Ephesians 4:17

When I have been bushwalking with Kim, I had to press on. It was emotionally, physically, and emotionally and physically draining (and did I mention that it was emotionally and physically?) draining. These walks, and my Greek studies, were metaphors of our life following Christ. There a times of ease, times of learning, times of difficulty, and times of challenges. In our spiritual development, there should be no quitting. Like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim, we too must press on. This means, that if we are following Christ, we are not now who we once were – nor are we who we will be if keep following Christ. The Christian walk changes us. But as we clock up a few miles, it’s too easy to slow down or lose the passion for the journey. The seasoned apostle Paul wrote toward the end of his life, that he too had to press on.

¶ Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12, 14

Two verses before this startling example of what it means to follow Christ over a long time, the Apostle gives us a glimpse of the motive and goal for doing so. And I wonder, if we, and I mean those of us who have been following Christ for decades, can begin realign our walk with Christ to this motive and goal as well?

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
Philippians 3:8-10


Pressing On Looks Like

I’m not an expert at pressing on, but from the little experience that I have had in recent times with this necessary trait of Christian maturity, I can advise those starting out in their walk with Christ that it will look something like this:

  • Despite the best of intentions to practice the core daily disciplines of following Christ through His Word, quiet prayer, reflection and witness, there will be days when this doesn’t happen. (See Proverbs 24:16)
  • There will be days when you won’t want to practice these disciplines. (2Cor. 5:7)
  • Tiredness will seek to be your master and excuse you from the essentials of following Christ (daily Bible reading, Sunday church attendance). (See Gal. 6:9; 2Thess. 3:13; Heb. 12:3)
  • Doing the Christian disciplines out of a sense of duty.
  • And, having to intentionally remind ourselves that the One we follow is the Ultimate Example of what it means to press on.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  ¶ Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Hebrews 12:2-3

Thus, pressing on with Christ doesn’t happen when we feel like it – otherwise it might never happen. In fact, if we always felt like practising the spiritual disciplines in being a follower of Christ, the Scriptures would have no need to exhort us to press on. Just as with a bushwalk where you’ve been trudging up hill and over dale, through rivers and swamp, around boulders and over fallen trees, for hours on end, and daylight is running out yet the camp site is still hours away, you must press on. In life it’s the same thing. Challenges come, distraction lure us away, weariness entices us to stay in bed, the work we’ve brought home persuades us to make it our priority rather than being in church that Sunday, are all the obstacles on our path to walking with Christ. Christian maturity can only grow when we press on. “Consider Him” wrote the writer to the Hebrew Christians who, after three decades of telling their Jewish brothers and sisters that Jesus was the Messiah and that His death had brought an end to the Old Covenant, were now having doubts themselves whether this indeed true. Press on! The Hebrews Author tells them, although he used one word to say it: “Endure!” (Heb. 12:3)

Our walk with Christ transforms us as we press on. It shapes us into people who are more like the One we follow and love. It transforms us. The more we press on with Christ the more concerned we become for others (1John 4:11-12) and ironically, the more we are enabled to care for them. If you have stalled in your walk with Christ and have become spiritually stagnant, then it’s time to get back up and press on. May we each press on to know Christ more richly and thereby, be enabled to make Him known more sweetly.


Your Pastor,


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For those unfamiliar with the story of the Bible who may be seeking to remedy that unfamiliarity, I would recommend that they start reading in the New Testament. It is there that they will be introduced immediately to Jesus who is the central character of the whole Bible. For many novice readers of the Bible who then attempt to read the Old Testament of the Bible (its first 39 books), it initially seems like they are reading a completely unrelated story which seems to describe a completely different God. But with a little patience and persistence the reader will begin to suspect that this is not a different story but is in fact the prequel to the New Testament. Then a strange supernatural thing happens as they continue to become acquainted with the lives of the patriarchs, judges, kings and prophets, as these characters interact with enemies, giants, angels, strange heavenly beings, and GOD Himself. The reader begins to see in a similar way to what a photographer could not previously see clearly until his camera’s focus was adjusted to make the picture clear — the GOD who created, acted, spoke and judged, frequently referred to Himself as ‘us’, ‘we’, ‘our’, and at times seemed to have conversations with divine characters identified as ‘the LORD’ and ‘Me’ and ‘His Spirit’ (Isa. 48:16). And this all begins to sound very reminiscent of the GOD described in the New Testament as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. With a growing knowledge of the Bible and hunger to understand it, the follower of Christ discovers that literally for thousands of years prior to this day there have been many many others who have also walked the journey of discovery through the mysterious pages of the Bible and have each made a startling discovery about the human Jesus’ pre-existence throughout the pages of the Old Testament.


The One who spoke the world into existence entered materially into His World and “split time in half”. He came to rescue the world because a great betrayal occurred. One of His chief agents was filled with self-deception and conceited envy and manipulated a serpent to his bidding in destroying the very last and highest of the Lord’s “very good” creation. Disappointingly she fell for it – and her husband who supposed to protect her failed in his most basic of responsibilities. Their fall from innocence and into grace plunged that was momentarily and formerly under their vice-regency. The world had now gone rogue. When the Eternal Son of God submitted to His co-LORD, the Holy Spirit placed Him into a virgin’s womb by uniting his consciousness and sinless essence with the ovum of this young virgin. In doing so, Immanuel relinquished none of His sovereign power or prerogatives but chose to lay aside His glory and become fully human. And for those who came to recognise who He actually was, it ever caused them to fall down at His feet in adoration, or shrink back from Him in terror. The side-effect of those who who adored him was a new ability to sleep. If you have trouble sleeping because of worries, you too can discover how an acquaintance with the Lordship of Jesus the Christ can also help you to sleep better. 


Today, “Jesus Christ is Lord” sounds like a bumper sticker or part of an ancient church liturgy but when Christianity was founded if someone uttered these words it could literally mean death! ’o christos ’o kurios “Christ is Lord” was a risky thing to declare when the only safe thing to declare was ’o kaiser ’o kurios “Caesar is Lord”! Yet it was upon these words that the earliest confession of the Church was founded. For the early Christians, this was not a glib, throw-away line uttered during a church service or something stuck on the backside of your donkey (or chariot if you were wealthy).  


I really dislike the expression ‘moving forward’. So many people say, ‘moving forward’ from the meeting, the experience, the…. whatever! Has anyone stopped to think that time continues. We can’t go back. Even if we are reflecting, or for that matter mulling, we are in the continuum of time, and unless we have a mythical time machine, we just can’t go backwards in time. Our only option is to ‘move forward’.


I have long said that my primary role as a shepherd-pastor is to help people to die well. To do this, as I have often said, requires that we learn how to live life well. Of all the normally uncomfortable subjects that Christians find it difficult to talk about, death should not be one of them. But it is. This is because, of all the world religions, only Christianity has a positive view of death. After all, we have a divine Saviour who confronted and conquered death. As a result the original apostles mocked death.
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
¶ The sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law.”
(First Corinthians 15:55-56)
These apostles refused to be intimidated by death which was ultimately evidenced by their martyrdoms. The apostle Paul could look forward to his death with the obvious lament that he would no longer be available to help those he had led to the Lord (Phil. 1:23-25). But he could face his impending death with the assurance that it would mean that he would immediately be in the presence of his Lord — and so should we! And like Paul, we too should be be able to talk about death in a very different way to those who do not know what we know.


A suburban home in Australia is shrinking in land size even though the average house size is headed in the opposite direction. What hasn’t changed is fencing around the block of land in order to separate it from a neighbour’s property. Broken fences, overgrown hedges and pets jumping fences are a known source of conflicts. We value our privacy. Those fences are boundaries. To go over them without permission will be trespassing. Renting, owning or owned outright – our home is our safe haven. When we chat with neighbours across the fence, there is a sense of security that comes with standing on our own patch of land. A little piece of Australia over which we have custody, albeit temporal.


Each of these uncomfortable topics in this brief series of articles are uncomfortable because there they carry a sense of embarrassment or even shame attached to them. But this particular topic also carries a good deal of pain associated with it – in addition to any feelings of embarrassment or shame. This pain may involve a sense of failure, betrayal, rejection, and humiliation. Divorce rarely effects just the two people involved in ending a marriage. Divorce can scar people like little else can. It can scar socially, financially, emotionally, relationally, and even a person’s physical health – and sometimes do so permanently.


All of us feel sad at some point – even people who are usually happy most of the time. Usually though for most people there will be some understandable reason for it. This might include the loss of a loved one, a certain disappointment, an accident, or sympathy for someone. This kind of sadness is temporary. But there is a kindness of sadness that lingers which leaves a person drained, teary, thinking dark thoughts, and feeling desperately lonely. This is usually when we consider someone is experiencing ‘depression’ and it is one of those things that Christians find difficult to admit to or even talk about.


There are some things that Christians can’t and don’t talk about – but probably should. So, I would like to pastorally share some thoughts about this taboo topic of doubt in what will be part 1 in this short series of pastor’s desk articles of four taboo topics that Christians can’t talk about.


Resilience was one of the predominant character traits of the early Christians. They called it being steadfast. For these early Christians being ‘resilient’ meant being able to keep going despite set backs, discouragements, betrayals, unforeseen circumstances, lack of energy, motivation, and resources. Like a weary hiker looking down a long road that leads to the mountain range they must walk over, being resilient in life means putting one foot in front of the other, and then doing it again, and again, and again, and so on. God knows that today, in what many are describing as “Post-Christendom” (and the resilient among us prefer to think of as Pre-Christendom) to be resilient is to live with a purpose, to stay focused, to live for others, and to strive toward a good, honourable, goal. With so many reasons to lose sight of the true purpose of life the tendency is to be tricked into believing that life right now is too hard. But the truth be told – people need to know how to be more resilient. Leaders especially need to be resilient right now. Churches assuredly need to be resilient at this time. With the recent interference into churches by government through the measures they said was “to keep people safe” — it has actually depleted people’s ability and willingness to be resilient! Here’s what leaders, people, and churches can do about it.