home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > November 19th > It’s Complicated

It's Complicated

A complex system of roadsSometimes the obvious is little difficult to recognise. That’s why you might not have recognised that over the last few decades we have been transitioning out of our old world into the new world that we are now living in! We will remember the old world as the time when the world was much simpler, less connected, and international travel was restricted to the wealthy. You might recognise our new world by noting that it’s much more complex, much more connected, much more technological, much more instant, and much more travelled. Added to this, the old world was when things took time. When you ‘wrote’ to someone overseas it took weeks for your ‘message’ to be delivered. In this new and complex world you can communicate with someone on the other side of the planet instantly and even do it by live video! Back in the old world, power was centralised – movies used to come out Hollywood, software used to be developed in Silicon Valley, all fashion originate out of Paris, and the world’s financial powerhouses were all based based in Wall Street. In today’s new world, the most watched moving pictures are made by teenagers on their smart-phones, software is now called an app and is made by someone with a laptop sitting at their kitchen table, and a twenty-two-year-old Tasmanian RMIT fashion student now designs clothes that are admired all around the world. This is no longer your grandmother’s world and the portal we are all about to walk through into the new world will also have spiritual implications as well.

Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled
and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
Matthew 9:17

 

HOW THE NEW WORLD OF COMPLEXITY BEGAN WITH THE MOON

In 1969 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon it marked the dawn of the coming new world of complexity. The moon landing was an amazingly complex operation. NASA stated that it involved 400,000 people to enable it to happen! But the efforts to get Apollo 11 to the moon and two of the three astronauts on the moon spawned a raft of new technologies including satellite communications which would eventually transform television, radio, telephony, and the development of global positioning satellites (GPS). No longer would the world need undersea communication cables to communicate with each other. Thanks to this satellite technology, news could now be reported from anywhere on the planet to anywhere on the planet. The lunar landing proved that what was once thought of as unimaginable might well be possible if an array of experts in their field cooperated together under clear and visionary competent leadership. In 1969, unprecedented complexity had begun. 

And He said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven
is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Matthew 13:52

WELCOME TO YOUR NEW WORLD OF COMPLEXITY

The new world is a complex world — and we had better get used to it. It is a world made much smaller by affordable international travel, instantaneous global communication, the accessibility of the information, facts, knowledge, and opinions via the world wide web, electronic and digital financial capabilities. We once lived in a world where events on the other side of the planet had little bearing on events in our neighbourhoods — but not anymore — the world is now our neighbourhood. Perhaps this point has become nowhere more obvious than what started in the “Wet Markets” of Wuhan China. We watched the TV reports of this mysterious virus sweeping through a city in China that most of us had, up until then, never heard of. We discovered that this particular Chinese city, Wuhan, has a population of nearly a third the size of the entire population of Australia! When then saw something remarkable, which social commentator, Pastor Mark Sayers, described as emblematic of the new world we have now nearly fully transitioned into: the building of a one-thousand bed state-of-the-art hospital in just seven days!

The 25,000-square-metre (30,000 sq yd) Huoshenshan Hospital, was built by the Chines in just 7 days

The 25,000-square-metre (30,000 sq yd) Huoshenshan Hospital, was built by the Chinese in just 7 days

Mark Sayers describes these two events (COVID-19 breaking out in Wuhan and the Chinese hospital building projects) as emblematic of the new world that we are now in. He reasoned that the virus outbreak which happened in Wuhan travelled around the world in a matter of days – not years (as it might have done in the ‘old world’). Thus, in this new world we are each connected with people around the world more than we realise! Secondly, China’s response to the health crisis by building these hospitals in a matter of days (rather than the years it used to take in the ‘old world’) involved summoning the best earth-works operators, the best engineers, the best architects, the best medical equipment suppliers, the best medical personnel, to build a hospital from scratch in just 7 to 10 days! In the new world, Sayers argues, things can be done far quicker, more efficiently, and safer, than the way it used to happen in the old world. He even stated that this was especially evident with the development of the mRNA vaccines which he said involved the same principles of the Chinese hospital construction projects (a large team of the world’s best virologists, epidemiologists, and bio-chemists – all working cooperatively around the clock to produce this new world vaccine).

No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it,
the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins.
If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins.
But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”
Mark 2:21-22

 

THE IMPLICATIONS FOR THE CHURCH IN THIS NEW WORLD

These various events are described by Sayers as the indicators that we are now well into the transition from the old world into the new world of complexity. In the old world where life was relatively simple, and all good things took time, it might cause an old world native entering into this strange new world of rapid change, global interconnectedness, and breath-taking technological advancement to be a little overwhelmed. This is certainly the case for many churches who have struggled to navigate through all of the upheaval that this transition has forced upon them. This is why I think that it’s good for Christians to remember these great truths:

(i) God is sovereign. He is LORD of lords and KING of kings (1Tim 6:14-16). None of what is happening has caught God off-guard or taken Him by surprise. In the midst of so much upheaval and change, one thing is certain: God does not change.

(ii) Complexity is not at all difficult for God. God knows the name of every mosquito and every sparrow in the entire world (Luke 12:6). He knows the entire sequence of your genome – in order! (Luke 12:7) While most women can do what no man is capable of doing (do two things at once), God can do 7 trillion things at once and give of these tasks His full attention. We can trust God to manage this manage this complex universe (Luke 1:37). 

(iii) What is ‘complex’ and unknown to us is not to God. God knows how much to entrust to you with and has determined that you are capable of handling the part He assigns to you in what seems like His complicated and complex plan (Phil. 2:13). 

(iv) Churches are going to have to become used to being comfortable with little more complexity than they were comfortable with in the old world. The new world is a digitally connected world where community has taken on a new meaning. While some churches may have been slow to embrace live-streaming of their services or even reluctant to do so, those churches who have — and have worked at doing it well — have frequently found it to be very fruitful and effective in discipling people. In this new world, screens are here to stay (at least for the moment until hologram technology catches up). In this complicated new world the LORD will assign His people to the “lane” that best suits them and our role in this complex world is to stay in our lane (Matt. 16:18). 

(iv) Churches will have to increasingly learn how to connect with each other to pool their effectiveness. I’m one of these rare pastors who actually believes that God has ordained denominations as part of His complex plan for world evangelisation and discipleship. In the new world, one of the keys to success will be the ability to connect. Not only will congregations have to learn how to connect with other congregations, but they will also have to learn how to connect within their own congregations and perhaps utilise new technology to do so (Eph. 4:1-2). 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Second Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, fellow followers of the Christ let us not get too nostalgic about the passing of the old world and neither let us become too daunted by all that this new world introduces. In one sense while I am forecasting that our world has become and is increasingly becoming a complicated world, if we keep our eyes on Christ, and do what He calls each of us to do, we can trust that He has this complex world firmly in the grasp of His hand and will ensure that His Father’s plan of redemption will reach its climax at just the appropriate time.

He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole wide world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the little bitty baby in His hands
He’s got you and me brother in His hands
He’s got you and me sister in His hands
He’s got everybody here in His hands
Songwriter: Love Geoffrey, 1927

Amen!

Your pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

2 Comments

  1. LYDIA

    Little did I know that the landing of the moon by a human being, seen on a small television screen while standing in a corner shop way back in Adelaide SA, could change the world as we now know it today. As I looked at the different photos here I thought they sure looked impressive and what then can be done if ALL have the same aim! Then I smiled as I thought that God is so much bigger than a world surrounded by satellites. Yet its the fourth point Andrew that was an eye opener as I had always been taught about the pluriformity of the churches and that the sinfulness of man caused so many. What I never gave a thought to though was that – and I quote you here: ” God has ordained denominations as part of His complex plan for world evangelisation and discipleship.” We think with such little minds that robs God of His supreme aim to bring His children to Himself and He will use anything or anyone. By something negative, it is turned into a positive. Everything else might be changing, yet God cannot change. Looking at so many complicated visuals, God makes it so simple! Its so good He is in charge!

    Reply
  2. Bob McKay

    Thanks for this Andrew. I think this is an excellent article. One of your best!
    The complexities are known by God and (I think) are part of his plan and purpose. They reflect his decreed will…..there’s my latent Calvinism rearing its head again. We can know some of the the reasons for some of the complexities, especially when we are connected to them by seeking to follow God’s commanded will as part of their outworking.
    Full disclosure! I intend to engage in some plagiarism by using some of this in a sermon in a couple of weeks.

    Reply

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JESUS ATE with SINNERS!

This confrontation of the All-Good meeting face-to-face with Serpent-breath in the wilderness didn’t go the way the Dragon had become accustomed to. Even more baffling to him was what the Eternal Son did next. Rather than going to the supposed ‘rulers of this world’ He went to the despised and inconsequential: the people of His hometown, Nazareth and those in the socio-economically challenged region of Galilee. 

¶ And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and He stood up to read…When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.
¶ Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him, and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that He was the Christ.
Luke 4:16, 28-29, 40-41

Even more baffling to the Satan was that instead whipping up the mobs and leading a rebellion, the Christ went to the shunned, the despised, the broken, the humiliated, as their dinner Guest! It seemed like an odd strategy, especially to those who had been longing for so long for the arrival of the Promised One…

CHRISTIANITY IS A PROPOSAL NOT AN IMPOSAL

I do not want to give anyone the impression that Christian is just a set of intellectually propositions. It is much more but it is certainly not less. One of the propositions that we Christians make is that Christianity is a spiritual transformation of a soul. While its propositions are true, they are not just true, they invoke a miraculous transformation in a human being. Jesus described this as being “born again” (John 3:3). The New Testament describes the moment this happens as being a transaction with God where we surrender our life and our sin to Him and He gives us His life and His pardon (1Jn. 1:8-9)! This transaction includes a hope that goes beyond the grave. God the Father adopts all those who turn to Him. It results a new way of seeing life and the world. The things that once troubled us no longer do, because we have a growing confidence that God has a plan and is currently outworking that plan. If you have never surrendered your life in a transaction with God, you can now. You are just one prayer away from peace with God and purpose for your life – both now and beyond the grave! The choice is yours. We can’t impose this offer from God on you, but I do have a proposition for you.

DIVINELY PRECIOUS TRIPLETS

Some of the profound truths in the Bible are expressed in just three words. The late J.I. Packer, one of the world’s most respected modern theologians, was asked to sum up the gospel message. He did so in just three words: “God saves sinners.” Many of the most eloquent prayers ever uttered have consisted of no more than three words: “Help me Lord”, “Thank You God”, “God save me”, “Please heal her.” One of the greatest royal invitations only consisted of three words: “Come unto Me.” Three words is all it takes to start an exciting journey: “Come and see.” Many of these three words statements, prayers, and invitations, have become divinely precious triplets that have rescued a lost soul, repaired a broken relationship, and replenished the worn-out.  

ETERNAL LIFE IS NOT JUST MERELY A MATTER OF TIME

The beauty of John 3:16 is that it is so simple it can be understood even by a child; and yet, as a believer’s knowledge of God and His Word grows, he or she will come to discover that there is a wealth of spiritually-satisfying treasure to be mined! In its simplest form, Jesus died so that all those who turn to Him in trust will go to heaven after leaving this life. Dig a little deeper though, and you also discover that the eternal life on offer is not merely about a location (‘heaven’) or a duration of time—but a quality of life and status of existence that elevates the believer into a glorified state with God Himself (Rom. 8:17; 1John 3:2). Our lives are now the training ground for our status as co-regents and co-rulers with Christ over all of His redeemed creation (1Cor. 6:2-3)! 

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU FOUND A NEWBORN BABY AT YOUR DOORSTEP?

What would you do if you found a newborn baby that someone had left at your door? Hopefully your answer sounds similar to “I’d take care him or her.” What if it wasn’t a baby? What if it was a young child or a teenager, or an adult, who turned up at your door requesting to be helped? I hope that each of us would also be prepared to help whoever it was. What if it was not an abandoned child, a youth, or an adult? And what if it was not your front door? Instead, how might we each respond if it was a spiritually abandoned, and spiritually hungry, person who turned up at our church seeking help to know how to be saved? While you might feel a similar compassion as you might have felt for the child at your door, you may not be as confident in how you would spiritually help this person seeking a spiritual connection for God through Jesus Christ. “Where would I begin?” “How could I be an effective discipler of a new believer?” you might ask. Well, I’m glad you’ve asked. For any Christian to effectively disciple a new believer it must involve an individual, a small group, and a congregation.

A DECREASING VISION

There is one sin that is worse than all others. It is the worst because it is insidious and imperceptibly deceptive. It is always at the root of all other sins. It was the original sin. In C.S. Lewis’s classic book, Mere Christianity, it warranted an entire chapter (“The Great Sin”) and Lewis claims that it is the greatest threat to any person – including the Christian – and their standing before God. Thus, to be truly spiritual, Spirit-led, Spirit-empowered, and spiritual, demands that the man or woman of God be on guard against what Lewis called “spiritual cancer” — pride. To have any chance of guarding against the spread of this deadly spiritual and character blighting ‘cancer’ requires that we adopt a decreasing vision of ‘greatness’.

THE WIND BLOWS WHERE IT WISHES – SO IT IS WITH THE SPIRIT

This week I have heard of yet more stories of people who had no knowledge of Christianity as they grew up, yet had an almost sudden conversion to Christ. This has included the stories of several Muslims (now ‘former Muslims’) who knew nothing to very little about Christianity, and had always been taught that Islam was the one true religion, who then heard a Christian explain the gospel and were then supernaturally converted to follow Christ. (Several of these Islamic converts to Christ also had supernatural dreams where they claimed that Jesus appeared to them!) I also heard of an atheist scientist who been taught that science could explain away the need for believing in a God, who then heard the gospel and was resoundingly converted to Christ. The other story I heard was closer to home and involved a young lady who had grown up in an atheist home where her parents were actually hostile to religion and forbad her from anything to do with Christianity. Years later, she ventured into a church one Sunday morning, heard the gospel, and was converted to Christ. Each of these stories confirm what Jesus taught about the work of the Holy Spirit and His mysterious and surprising dealings with people to undergird the church’s preaching of the gospel.

I WAS IN THE SPIRIT ON THE LORD’S DAY

A year earlier all hell had broken loose when the tyrant emperor Caesar Nero had outlawed Christianity; and now, the last surviving apostle of Christ had been banished to Patmos Island. All looked bleak. The youngest of Christ’s apostles, John was just a teenager when he witnessed the brutal and protracted execution of Jesus. John, now in his fifties, had many reasons to feel disappointed and even disillusioned with God. His apostolic colleagues had each been martyred – having been put to death in often gruesome ways including: crucifixion, flaying, and beheading. On this barren rocky island, separated from the woman he had pledged to her crucified Son that he would look after, and away from the people that Christ had shed His blood for, John was alone. Ever since Jesus had risen bodily from dead, these life-time faithful sabbath-keeping Jews now recognised that Christ had sanctified the first day of the week, Sunday, as His day. It was also on this sanctified day that Christ poured out Holy Spirit on his gathered disciples. Ever since that day, no matter how he felt or the circumstances he was in, John had made it his custom to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. And his first Sunday on this island of banishment was no exception. He was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. While some weak Christians find disappointment with God an excuse to forsake God, John did not. While some weak Christians allow their excuses for disappointment with God to walk away from their church family, John did not. John’s example has something to teach us. 
¶ I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…
Revelation 1:9-10a

NEVER BE AFRAID AGAIN

Fear can be crippling. Being afraid is often the result of not what is happening, but what we fear might happen. Such fears make each of us vulnerable to withdraw, give-up, hide, or excuse ourselves from ever trying something new. The result of this happening is that we each become less than who God has created us to be and in the process we deny the world the benefit of what God can do through us. In the Bible there are many stories of many heroes who learned the secret of overcoming their fears by trusting God and learning how to ‘fear’ Him despite their circumstances or fearful expectations. We read of how Kings led their vastly outnumbered army to defeat immensely more powerful and ruthless enemy armies by fearing the Lord. We read how previously unsure, uncertain, unable people became fearless, decisive, and confident and able to solve previously insurmountable problems by simply fearing the Lord. We read how the arrogant were humbled and transformed into gentle and caring souls when they experienced the fear of the Lord. Then in the early chapters of the Book of Acts when becoming a Christian could cost you your life, we read of the numbers of Christians exploded across the Empire because they also no longer had a reason to be afraid because they learned what it meant to fear the Lord.

THE FRUIT DIET WORTH MORE THAN MONEY

How different would your life be if you were filled continually with the Holy Spirit? This seems to have been the experience of at least the first Christians. We know that Jesus told His disciples after His resurrection to “receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20:22) which may have been the moment that they were “regenerated” which is a fancy way of saying that they were born again (Jn. 3:3). But then Jesus told His disciples to wait for the outpouring of the Spirit (Lk. 24:39; Acts 1:4) which was yet to come. The effect on the disciples when this happened was dramatic — especially in the Simon Peter (Acts 2:14). He went from being a cowering timid fearful backslider to being a bold courageous fearless leader of the Christ’s Church (Acts 2:15-39). Then some days later, as Peter was about to bear witness before the rulers of Judaism, he was filled afresh with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8). When Peter met again with the other believers to pray, all of them were filled with Holy Spirit again (Acts 4:31). Thus, being filled continually with the Holy Spirit seems to have been the usually experience of the early believers. As the Church grew and spread, the early Christians’ understanding of who the Holy Spirit was and what He wanted to do in each believer and church also grew. They discovered that the Spirit didn’t just fill them to be bold proclaiming witnesses, He also enabled them to bear witness to the power of Christ by how they lived. The apostle Paul called this, the fruit of the Spirit.