home > Pastor’s Desk


One of the dire warnings that Jesus gave to those who would be His followers was that the time would come when people would live like those during the “days of Noah” when people were oblivious to God (Luke 17:26-27) and went about their daily routines — eating, drinking, marrying, raising a family — without regard for God or His commands. Even though it was couched in surprisingly mundane descriptions perhaps leaving the original hearers to wonder why Christ would be so concerned about this, as we read on in this passage we discover that Christ is warning that it is when such ‘ordinary’ activities are done without regard to God and His commands, we are in eternal peril. Even such routine things as eating and drinking, the apostle Paul later stated, should be done “to the glory of God” (1Cor. 10:31). When such cares of this life consume all of our attention and hinder us from gazing upon the face of Christ (2Cor. 3:18; 4:6) and end up distorting our priorities (Matt. 6:33) we are in divine peril. This peril is even greater for those who are nominally religious because chances are they are completely unaware of the risk they are taking and Christ’s dire warnings to avoid it. The answer is not to be more religious but to be truly religious by embracing what Christ taught about a relationally vital religion… 



If we were to think of our lives as being a bicycle wheel and each spoke represented an aspect of our life, which part of that wheel would be dedicated to God? The kind of Christianity that Jesus described, to use the wheel metaphor, involved a commitment to Him being represented as the hub and the rim of the wheel. In that way, every spoke flows out of Him to Him.  

And whatever you do, in word or deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Colossians 3:17

For those nominally religious people whose “Christianity” is just a spoke in their life-wheel, God is largely irrelevant, the bible is a largely unfamiliar book, and church attendance is just an occasional (and optional) duty. This concept of religion is known as formal Christianity. It’s referred to in Second Timothy 3:5 – having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. ‘Formal Christianity’ stands in complete contradistinction to the way of life that Jesus called His followers to.

¶ Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me,
let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.
Matthew 16:24


This concept of Christianity as described by Jesus is known as ‘vital’ (from the Latin vitalis meaning “life”) Christianity. Because this is so starkly different to formal Christianity these followers of Christ often shy away from describing their vital Christianity as a religion and prefer to describe it as a relationship. This preferential description may baffle a formal ‘Christian’ who has little idea why anyone would describe their religion as a relationship. This is because they are probably unfamiliar with the biblical exhortations to refer to God in prayer as Abba” – Daddy (Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). Jesus actually stated in a prayer to His Father that the only way that someone could truly be His follower was to know Him and His Father (John 17:3), and apostle Paul described this relationship as his highest pursuit – 

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
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
Philippians 3:7-8

Timothy Keller distinguishes formal Christianity from vital Christianity preferring instead to use the words religion and gospel. This is how he sees the distinction:

This is a particularly helpful distinction for those who have been deceived into thinking that formal Christianity is actually Christianity. Understanding what Keller calls Gospel Christianity should lead a person to see that Christianity is both a relationship (with God and His people) and a vital religion. It should also change the way a person understood life and their place in this world. 



The emblem of Christianity is the Cross. It reminds us that God reached down to us in love through giving mankind not just His written Word — but also through His Living embodied Word — His Son. Christ taught us that peace with God was a vertical relationship with the Father made possible because of the Cross (Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20). The evidence of a person in a vertical relationship with God is their horizontal relationship with their church family. The vertical and horizontal aspects of being a vital Christian are expressed in Matthew 22:37-40.

Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.
First John 2:10

 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
First John 3:10

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
First John 3:14



True, vital Christianity is indeed a relationship, it has a power religious element to it as well. As Keller has pointed out, we do not become religious to get right with God — we become religious because we have been made right with God by God (Eph. 2:8-9). The Bible prescribes that the child of God exhibits “true religion”.

¶ If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction,
and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 1:26-27

True, vital, religion is grounded in a delightful devotion to God through Christ (Rom. 16:27). It is active, relational and heartfelt. It takes seriously both of the two greatest commands of Christ in Matthew 22:37-40. Thus, obeying Hebrews 10:25 is a sacrifice they are more than willing to make. This sacrifice is gladly made when they meet together with God’s people to worship God (Heb. 13:15) give heed to the preaching of God’s Word (Rom. 16:25), going into their closet to pray for their brothers and sisters and the lost (1Tim. 2:1-3); and continually seeking the Kingdom of God as their first priority (Matt. 6:33). These are all the reasons why biblical Christianity is a  relationally vital religion.

Your Pastor,


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.


  1. LYDIA

    Vertical and horizontal. Its been many many years since I have heard that analogy. Relational Christianity. It stuck with me then and it was great to see and read it now. If we remove either part then we have nothing. If the one isn’t right the other cannot flourish. Thanks for putting that picture back into my mind Andrew.

  2. Archibald Norman Macdonald

    In a word , challenging.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This year we have been laying a foundation for knowing God and then each Sunday building upon it. Throughout June we are focusing on how knowing God enables us to find our joy in Him and consequently to discover that He enables us to find joy in our relationships with others. But sadly, for many people who have vowed to love, serve, and follow Jesus, this has not always been easy to do. This is why the current sub-theme of humility is critically important if someone desires to truly experience joy in each of their various relationships with others. 


In the past few months, we have been hearing in Church and also by reading the Pastor’s Desks that through the Psalms and by the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, we can know God more. The Psalms show God as our Shepherd, God’s character is unchanging, we can be still and know Him, and that He is poetic. The Fruit of the Spirit reminds us that God is faithful, gentle and kind, and that we need to stay close to Him in the same way a baby gets nutrients from its mother through the umbilical cord. Knowing these things, we can become more like God as He helps us outwork His character in our lives. Philippians 3:10 challenged me in this regard some time ago.


What comes to mind when you hear the word Rules? For some, it is a welcome relief to all the chaos surrounding us. Rules can provide comfort, safety, stability, predictability and protection. But for many others, as soon as you hear the word rules, it causes you to sigh loudly, followed by the instant urge to do the opposite. It can cause an immense sense of frustration along with that feeling of being boxed or caged in. Then some rules are plain silly as they make no sense, or there appears to be no apparent reason for why the rule/s exists in the first place. 

The Vine and the Umbilical Cord: Life, Abiding and Bearing FruitThe Vine and the Umbilical Cord: Life, Abiding and Bearing Fruit

Jesus’ allegory in John 15:1-17 of the vine and the branches provides a beautiful picture of the intimate and living relationship available to those who would abide in Him, the true Vine; and it illustrates how naturally the Holy Spirit is able to produce fruit in the lives of those who are willing to be branches abiding in the vine.

Knowing God Through The Fruit Of The Spirit

I’m sure you can picture an occasion where food delicacies are served and someone is there who has lost all sense of decorum to the point of being rude to get to the food before others and is unable or unwilling to engage in any level of conversation for the sake of finding the choicest of foods. Maybe that was you or me on occasions. Or an All You Can Eat challenge restaurant. It is a picture of complete lack of self-restraint (especially if Homer Simpson is involved). Whilst we are away, I am looking forward to visiting a town (Kenilworth) with a bakery tourist attraction that sells 1kg doughnuts. I’m not sure what will happen there, but I can imagine many have risen to a challenge.


Australia is now grappling with a national crisis — the violent abuse of women by men. Every four days in Australia a woman is being murdered [Source]. The sad probability is that she was murdered by “a current or former intimate partner” [Source]. But added to this alarming statistic is the even greater and more horrifying statistic of number of women who are experiencing abuse – physical; sexual; verbal; financial; psychological – daily. In fact, it is so prevalent that most people working in this arena know that most domestic abuse incidents in Australia are not reported. Abuse is oppression. And since the Bible is so clear and consistent in its condemnation of oppression of the vulnerable you would naturally assume that this national crisis was being thundered and denounced as a great evil from the majority of pulpits around our country at the moment. This assumption is further reinforced by the guesstimate that one-in-four women in every Australian church is regularly abused in some way by a man. But I suspect that it is not.


My cat, Lola, had a beautiful, fluffy, soft coat. I had her for 13 years so I knew her very well. She loved a cuddle and snuggling at night sleeping in the crook of my arm. She loved me but with others she could be a rascal, hissing or swiping her claws. She never scoffed her food but was a grazer. It was common to hear her crunching her biscuits for a midnight snack and she loved ice cream. She loved hiding in cardboard boxes or in the pantry. She particularly hated the car evidenced by her continual mournful meowing til she got out. As I knew her, she also knew me. She knew I would feed her and give her pats or cuddles. When I called her she knew my soft voice, my touch, my smell. She knew my growly voice when she had done the wrong thing. When I’d take her to the vet she would be still in my arms as the vet examined her and vaccinated her. If she was injured or sick I would look after her.


The Bible is an amazing book. As we look through the book of Psalms we can so unbelievably clearly see God at work. And also most poignantly, this Psalm – Psalm 22 – prophetically points to, and closely mirrors Jesus and the events of the cross mentioned in the New Testament. This Psalm is well over 1000 years prior to Jesus.There are some well known passages of Scripture that stand out as being prophetic promises of the Messiah. These prophetic words show us that God is Omniscient; He knows everything. The first Messianic prophecy shows that the seed of the woman would eventually defeat the devil.


home > Pastor's Desk > 2024 > April 12th > THIS IS HOW AN EXPERT SUCCESSFULLY FOUGHT SPIRITUAL WARSThe distance between the spiritual dimension and our earthly-material dimension is a lot thinner than most people realise! This means that there is a direct...


So many thriller movies are just funny. Of course they are not meant to be and many people would find them more like nightmare material. The producers would be horrified to see me giggling at some of their ‘scary’ bits, but it’s just the way I’m wired. I see more of the special effects than the story line and I see the absurdity of the scenes that lack the necessary rules of consistency instead of the fear factor they hope. I once watched a movie where the victim lay dead bleeding from the mouth but the make-up blood had not dripped to the ground with gravity, but rather, accidentally dripped up. The whole movie just became hilarious from that point on.