We are again at that time of year when we remember Easter – the most significant event in history. I have purposely described Easter simply as an event, rather than a series of events, because as with so many sections of Scripture you cannot see them as separate events, but as parts of the whole. Easter includes the Triumphal recognition of Jesus as King in the events of Palm Sunday; his rejection by the crowds; his crucifixion; death and burial and his powerful declaration of victory over death and the grave in the Resurrection. To some extent even though it was separated from Easter by 40 days we could also include Christ’s Ascension. The price of Sin has been paid and accepted in full, removing God’s barrier and opening the One Door into God’s presence, confession of sin and profession of faith in the Lord Jesus.
These events did not just happen. It can be rightly argued that Jesus came to die. At the announcement of His birth Joseph was told to call Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins (Mt. 1:21). The decision for Jesus to die then was made before He came into the world; the AV translation of Rev 13:8 says “… the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”, implying that even before the world began Christ had offered Himself to redeem fallen humanity. He came with a vision or purpose. That vision had different emphases at different times, e.g. in Mk 1: 38 the emphasis was clearly on preaching ‘And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is what I came for.”’ By Mk 10:45 the ultimate purpose of dying on the cross was being openly declared – “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus had a purpose or vision for living and that reached its fulfilment at Easter. It was after that event that He then made clear to His disciples that He had a purpose for them and for the church in all time, until His return. Mark records that purpose in this way, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mk 16:15); while Matthew puts the emphasis on making disciples and teaching,- “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19f).
In May, a month after Easter we will be holding our Annual General Meeting. We can do that to fulfil the requirements of the Charity Commission, or we can do it because Baptist Churches have always done it or we can do it to consider and develop our vision as a church. We usually give reports of what we have done in our various ministries in the past year, but this year I want to ask the leaders and workers in each area of ministry to give time to prayerfully think about where they believe God is leading them; what are the goals of ministry and how those goals might be fulfilled. By doing that we as a church will be able to pray in an informed way and at the same time God might use it to show other church members that their gifts and skills might be used.
This does not have to be done simply within the organisation of the church, but in our personal lives we can ask the question “Lord what do you want me to do this year and how can I achieve that?” God has given each believer the Holy Spirit so that we might serve Him and each other.
I want us to prayerfully consider the ‘vision’ that God might have for our church in this coming year. Remember the verses of Scripture that have undergirded our recent weeks of prayer,
Him we proclaim, … that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. (Hosea 10:12)
I have underlined those words so that we shake off complacency and look for the felt presence of God to make his way clear to us. Christ must be central to all of our ministry, so that daily we might be matured by God. We are living in a culture that is increasingly throwing off the restraints of grace, therefore we need to be prayerfully asking God how we can best reach our generations in a similar way to those who have gone before us.
For His glory,
Bernard Lewis April 2015