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Friday, September 12, 2014

From the Pastor's Desk

 News Events in South Africa in the past Week and our Christian Discipleship

11 September 2014


Dear JohnWesleyProject.com Family,

Three stories have found there way into our newspapers this week that I have felt the need to comment on because they speak into our journey of discipleship. The first two are worth considering in the context of our Gospel readings from the 7 September (Matthew 18:15-20) and 14 September (Matthew 18:21-35).

The first was a story in one of our leading Sunday papers under the heading:

Why Dale Steyn won't forgive Michael Clarke

"It's the mysterious sledge that enraged the world's best fast bowler and set the scene for a fiery start to the Australian summer. What did Michael Clarke say to Dale Steyn on the final day of the Cape Town Test, which so offended the South African pace great that he still holds a grudge months later?" 


The second was in a leading daily paper under the heading:

Hugs as police apologise to Khuli Chana

"Sanity has prevailed. We asked for a public apology and a settlement in October 2013... we had not incurred any expenses then," Chana's lawyer Cliff Alexander told reporters. “Now we're receiving what we asked for and are happy with the outcome."


Last Sunday we looked at Jesus teaching about going and telling a person when they sin against you in the hope of bringing them to repentance, because if they aren't going to apologise to you, they certainly aren't going to see the need to apologise to God. This week we look at Jesus teaching regarding how many times we must forgive someone who sins against us. Both the above stories speak into these important and non-negotiable elements of Christian Discipleship.


Of course the main story in the news this week has been the Oscar Pistorius judgement, and I turn to that now because, Yes, it too has much to teach us about discipleship.

Your and My Judgement Day

This is in no way meant to point fingers at Oscar Pistorius, I use this picture because I see in it a picture of myself and I see in it a reminder of the judgement that I, and each one of us, saved and lost, will face.

Today (11 September 2014) in South Africa is being called Judgement Day, with all eyes and ears on the Oscar Pistorius trial and the judge who will begin delivering her judgement, which we are being told could take up to two days.

This has me thinking, I wonder how long my judgement, as a disciple of Christ, will take, bearing in mind Jesus' words:

I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken Matthew 12:36.

and

On that day, he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left Matthew 25:31-46.

Of course, on that day it is not just my words that will be judged, but also my deeds, my actions, my good works. Remember,
  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do Ephesians 2:8-10.

Did you hear that?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do

You and I are created (saved, redeemed, born-again) in Christ to do good works.
Have you done today's good works...the ones God uniquely prepared in advance for you to do today?
Did you do yesterday's good works?
Are you preparing for tomorrow's good works?
or........................do you not give a damn about whether you are doing the things God planned in advance for you to do?

So, Jesus tells us that we, disciples of Christ and saved by faith, will face judgement, based on our works.
Paul tells the readers of his letters the same thing: 
This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares Romans 2:16

Unsurprisingly, Peter tells us the same thing: 
For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And,
If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 1 Peter 4:17-18

Can you see why Scripture tells people who are saved by faith to:
...consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, Hebrews 10:24

You see, faith without deeds is dead, and you and I cannot be saved by a faith which is dead.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? ...... faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds..... You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?.... You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone......As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead James 2:14-26.
So, what are good deeds? For a general description of what the LORD requires, Micah is a good place to start:
The Lord has shown you what is good.
    He has told you what he requires of you.
You must treat people fairly.
    You must love others faithfully.
And you must be very careful to live
    the way your God wants you to. Micah 6:8

For specifics, consider this: The great Jewish prophets, the forerunners of Jesus, coined a mantra which ran something like this: The quality of your faith will be judged by the quality of justice in the land and the quality of justice in the land will be judged by how "widows, orphans and strangers" (biblical code for the three most vulnerable groups in society) fared while you were alive.

Jesus wouldn't disagree. When he describes the last judgment at the end of Matthew's Gospel, he tells us that this judgment will not be, first of all, about right doctrine, good theology, church attendance, or even personal piety and sexual morality, but about how we treated the poor. Somebody far wiser than I has said: "Nobody gets to heaven without a letter of reference from the poor." Jesus and the great biblical prophets make that clear and in Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus emphasizes by repetition that what we do and don't do for the least among us is going to form the basis of our case on Judgement day.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

So, the news this week has been a wonderful reminder to us of the importance of living out our discipleship in the world around us. The world needs the witness of Christian disciples daily doing the good deeds that God has planned for them to do. Let us all “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” If these Scriptures convict us, let's be driven to our knees in repentance and then empowered by the Spirit for the life He calls us to. If these Scriptures affirm us, let us in gratitude thank God and pray for His Spirit to continue to fill us and empower us for the life of discipleship. 

Much love, 

  Cedric.

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