At the beginning of a New Year thoughts often turn to the things we want to achieve over the next 12 months. It might mean getting our life in order (doing the overdue filing or a real stock take of where/who we really are), looking for a new job or perhaps going to the gym more often with the express intention of losing a few pounds or dropping a couple of dress sizes.
Even with the best of intentions some resolutions don’t survive the first week, let alone the year. We may lack the will or the staying power but it’s more likely that the goals we’ve set are just too tough or we haven’t found the right support to give our plans a realistic chance of being followed through.
It can sometime seem that whilst the dreams we set ourselves are tough enough, the bar set through God’s Vision for His church is higher still. We have the Great Command to embrace (“Love”) and the Great Commission to enact (“Go”): it’s a wonderful dream, it’s God’s plan but how will it all become reality?
Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and revering him. (Deuteronomy 8 verse 6)
Today, even amongst Christians, there can be found much of that spirit that wants to give as little as possible to the Lord, and yet to get as much as possible from Him. …what He is after is that we pour all we have, ourselves, to Him, and if that be all, that is enough. (Watchman Nee)
The decision to grow always involves a choice between risk and comfort. This means that to be a follower of Jesus you must renounce comfort as the ultimate value of your life. (John Ortberg)
Pause for thought
- What do you find hardest about being a disciple? Why is that?
- It has been said that the church exists to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. How might this be reflected in the Great Command and the Great Commission?
- In what ways does Deuteronomy 8 verse 6 help us to understand what God expects of us?
Deuteronomy paints a picture of the relationship (Covenant) between God and Israel. The laws it describes are those appropriate to the circumstances required of a new nation state.
It’s a very personal statement inviting the people to consider the relationship they have with God – to live in the light of who God is and what He has done for them. Looking back brings perspective to moving on: don’t forget God – whether we have enough or too little, whether we are looking back or straining forward.
To think about
Changed from within (Romans 12: 1 – 8)
- Please read Romans 12 verses 1 to 8. What is God asking us to do and to become?
- How can we have a foot in both camps – in the world but not of the world?
- In what ways can we use the distinctiveness of the Christian faith to emphasise the Great Commandment?
- How can we encourage one another both as members of the church community and in using our gifts in an effective and pastoral manner?
- What barriers might there be to unity and how do we overcome them (see verses 3 to 5)?
Don’t just go to church, be the church. It’s easy to write or to say that but if we are to be the community God wants us to be, we not only need an intentional mindset (we decide that we want to be a community) but we also have to back that up with practical steps.
In verses 1 to 8 Paul’s outlines the necessity of an inward transformation as well as showing how this is expressed through our being committed to working together to God’s ends He now goes on to consider (in verses 9 to 21), the kind of approach we must adopt if we are really to honour God.
To think about
Being the church, living as the Church (Romans 12: 9 – 20)
- Please read Romans 12 verses 9 to 20. What practical steps to developing community life does Paul list in these verses?
- Which of these is especially distinctive?
- How do we maintain our commitment to God (“spiritual fervour” vv. 11) when times are tough or when the dream seems too elusive ?
- Harmony (verse 16) suggests trust, affirmation and unity. What do we need to do to make this happen?
- Imagine you are talking to a new Christian who has recently joined the church. Taking this passage as a whole, how would you summarise what God expects of us, to enable us to grow in our faith and understanding?
Community Care: living as church
- let your transformed life be the means of transformation for others
- show that you want the best for everyone
- seek what’s good, overcome what divides, root out what destroys