home > Pastor’s Desk > 2022 > JUNE 3rd > UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY

UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY

UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY

I have a thing for bags. Not shopping bags or lady’s handbags, but manly bags – functional bags. A few years back I became fed-up with the number of bags I was wearing-out, patching-up and hoping that I could extend their lives a little longer, only to accept the fact that despite all of my attempts, I had to throw them out. It was then that I made a life-changing decision. I decided that would stop buying bags and begin to buy luggage that was guaranteed to last. Since that moment, I have never had to throw out a bag or a case. As you could imagine this required a huge change in what I was prepared to spend on luggage. But the reason I value good luggage is not because I like carrying or wheeling bags and cases around — it’s because the right luggage enables the right things to be packed for the right journey. This is how I see Christianity. It is a journey because it requires packing our life luggage and following Christ as we walk with Him. If we were to unpack this life luggage we would find three essential items, and this what we will discover now as we unpack Christianity.

¶ Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,
rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught,
abounding in thanksgiving.
Colossians 2:6-7

PACKING FOR THE JOURNEY WITH CHRIST

The Bible describes following Christ as a “walk” (Col. 2:6). It is a journey, a life-long journey. There are many people in our church who enjoy going on long hikes. Some of these adventurous people introduced Kim to the joys of bushwalking for days on end through forests, along rivers, through streams, up steep hills, across inlets in small row-boats to continue walking through the bush on the other side. After Kim had tasted of the joys of walking through the gorgeous Tasmanian outdoors, she insisted that I join with her in a walk from Melaleuca to Cockle Creek so that I too could become enraptured by the incomparable pleasures of strolling in the sunshine through the Tasmanian countryside.

To go on this stroll from Melaleuca to Cockle Creek would require proper walking boots, gaters, a raincoat, a walking pole, and a hiking backpack, Kim said. But then, she explained, we would also need to pack certain things to make our journey possible. Possible? Yes, possible. We would need to pack food, a tent for shelter, and some emergency supplies. Emergency supplies? I wondered. Why would anyone going on a little stroll through the Tasmanian bush need emergency supplies?

To commence this journey required a small plane trip. We were dropped off at Melaleuca (about as south-west as you can in Tasmania). We unloaded our packs from the plane and set out. I discovered that this was not a stroll, nor was it an overnight stroll. This journey usually takes 5 – 7 days. It involved walking over the Ironbound Range and traversing through some very muddy rough bush. Now that I think about, this journey has many similarities to our journey through life. And, as Kim said, we really did need our hiking backpacks. And, as Kim said, we also really did need to pack the three essential items in our backpacks to make the journey possible. This also is just like being a Christian, because being a Christian is not merely an event, or even a moment, it is a journey that requires packing our ‘life bag’ appropriately.

¶ Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers,
strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church.
You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.
3John 5-6

 

THE THREE ESSENTIAL ITEMS TO PACK FOR YOUR JOURNEY WITH CHRIST

Food. Emergency communication. Shelter.

Following Christ is a journey, an adventure, a trek. It’s a journey that comes with a map, sign-posts, and travelling companions. It’s journey that comes with a complimentary “hiking backpack”. Into this spiritual hiking backpack you need to pack your inexhaustible food supply: God’s Word. The new Christian feeds on the goodness of God’s Word in the same way that a newborn baby feeds on his or her mother’s milk (1Cor. 3:2; Heb. 5:12, 14; 1Peter 2:2). Packing the Word of God into your pack involves reading, listening, pondering, study, and applying. It is in the learning to apply it that the growing believer begins to enjoy the “solid food” of the Bible.

Into this spiritual hiking backpack you need to pack your communication device. The new and growing believer discovers that they are never alone. They discover that they can talk with their Creator. While non-believers mistakenly think of prayer as the way to control their ‘gods’, the growing believer comes to understand that prayer is talking with the One who has saved and adopted them into His family. Whenever I prepare a couple for marriage, the first and main thing that we work on together is communication. It is in communication that develop intimacy and trust. On the journey with Christ throughout your life you will grow closer to Him by learning to pray. You discover that prayer is not giving God a list of demands, but a means by which you can pour your heart out to Him just as you would with any person you have committed your life to and are increasingly becoming transparent with.    

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
¶ “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do,
for they think that they will be heard for their many words.
Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.”
Matthew 6:6-9

Into this spiritual hiking backpack you need to pack your shelter. God has provided shelter for each of His children. It is the local church — their new family. It is in the church that every growing believer finds that they are welcomed, accepted, and belong. It is not just the house of God it is the believer’s spiritual home. God plants His people in a spiritual home where they can be sheltered, protected, nurtured, and nourished. When Jesus told His disciples of His mission to save people from eternal lostness, He described those whom He would save as being formed into His church. The local church is what every growing believer belongs to and makes a priority in their life.

And He [the Father] put all things under His [the Son] feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church…
so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities
in the heavenly places…to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 1:22; 3:10, 21

Over the next few Sunday evenings I hope to unpack and explain these spiritual backpack items to several growing Christians. It is my hope that you will join with me and our team to welcome people into our church family and show them their spiritual backpacks and what Christ has put inside each of them. We kick off this Sunday night with a welcome and introductory dinner, then the following three Sunday nights we will ‘unpack’ Christianity together. I hope that you will be able to sit across the table, enjoy some light supper, and be an encouragement to those who are just starting out on their journey with Christ.

 

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.

1 Comment

  1. Marko

    Well done team Kim!
    The hike would have taken longer by Kim dragging baggage along.
    Hope you all got back safely.
    Not for the faint hearted, well done to you all.
    Regards and God bless you all.

    Reply

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CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.

HOW TO OPEN LIFE’S LOCKED DOORS

When I turned 50, I decided to do something really difficult. I enrolled in a university course to learn Biblical Greek. And, trust me when I say, this in no way is a brag – because I struggled through it and took far far longer than the average Biblical Greek student ordinarily takes to complete this course. I had to do twenty translation tests and then two major translations exams of the New Testament’s Greek text into English. I scraped through the course and somehow managed to pass it. I can testify that learning another language later in life is really hard! This is why I have the utmost respect for non-English-speaking migrants who come to our country and manage to learn English. Learning languages is not the only thing I find difficult. I envy those people who do the things easily that I find difficult to do or understand (like quadratic mathematic equations for example). Over the years I have pondered why it is that different people doing the same task can result in a person finding it incredibly easy who then gets it done quickly, and why another other person finds it next-to-impossible and as a result gives up trying to do it. I have discovered the answer to this conundrum lies in the “mat” principle. 

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.