Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Beautiful Giving | Colin D Cruz

This message was preached by Colin D Cruz at Word of Grace Church  Pune, on the 27th October 2013. 
 Every year we have a Gift Day when we bring an Offering to help fund all we do in this nation and Regions Beyond. 
Why should we give? How should we give? Should the church be talking about money?
Read and listen to this  message.
To listen to the AUDIO please CLICK HERE

When it comes to money, many are hesitant to talk about it. We consider it a very personal matter and quote “don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is giving”

But notice that Jesus felt no such compulsions and He spoke openly, intentionally on money and greed. 15% of what Jesus spoke about was on possessions and giving. The bible has more to say on giving than on prayer, heaven,hell and discipleship.
What does this tell you? Its significant and it matters.

Let’s look at what are God’s thoughts on giving.

Mark 14:1 the Alabaster Jar. Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead and now he is visiting again. A dinner is prepared in his honour at Simon the leper’s house. Simon must have had leprosy but has since been healed. Mary comes with the Alabaster jar and breaks it at his feet. This got people’s attention.

What was the jar worth? One year’s wages (v5) think of how much you earn in a year. But she just took it and expended the whole thing on Jesus. She was lavish, extravagant and generous. This shocked the daylights out of everyone. The strange thing is that the others rebuked her and criticized her harshly.

John12:3  She is expressing adoration and devotion She was not thinking with her head but doing it with her heart.

1    .    Mark 14:6 “Leave her alone” She has done a beautiful thing to me. He did not think it was a waste but recognized it as worship. The poor you will have- but there is a time for worship.

2.    So it was not just beautiful but was a prophetic action and Jesus recognized it. She was preparing him for his burial. This happened two days before his death.

3.    Therefore our giving should be timely. Make 26, Luke 24 They went with spices to embalm the body of Jesus verse 2 there was no body to anoint now. They missed their chance. So let’s not miss out on the chance to give . You don’t know if you will be here next year.

4.    Mark 14:9 What she done will be told – she is immortalized for this act.

5.    But here we also have a betrayer. Judas. He feigned worship i.e a kiss of betrayal. Both doing acts of love: one was genuine and the other not.
We can go through the motions of giving but it’s not heartfelt.

2013  Beautiful giving. Is our giving beautiful? i.e we are giving our first fruits and not our leftovers. She did not give something she got in month. She must have saved this over some time and she gives it all.

Jer. 17:9 “the heart is deceitful” We need to put things in perspective. We can spend on ourselves, buy a phone worth 40,000 and give a fraction to the offering. Remember where your treasure is there your heart will also be.

A framer sows looking forward to harvest. 2Cor 9:6  So also as we sow, we will reap. God loves cheerful giving without any compulsion. Jesus will look at it and say it’s a beautiful thing. You can give via cheque, NEFT or an IOU that you will redeem in time. I want faith to rise in our midst this morning.

Jesus said we store up for ourselves treasure in heaven when we do this.

       Word of Grace is an Evangelical (Born Again),  Spirit filled (Charismatic), Reformed, English speaking church in Pune that upholds the Bible as God's inspired Word for life. We are a church community that have people from every part of India and parts of the world. We are here to put the Great Command and the Great Commission into practice by equipping and releasing every member into works of service. To know more about us please log ontowww.wordofgracechurch.org.

    English Language Service Sundays at 10am. Please check google maps for directions!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Family Matters Part 7 | Marriage - 3 | Colin D Cruz

This message was preached by Colin D Cruz at Word of Grace Church  Pune, on the 20th October 2013. 
This is part 8 of a series called Family Matters. and is part 3 on Marriage.  What  is marriage? Why should we marry? What is the blue print for a good marriage?

Read and listen to this life changing message.
To listen to the AUDIO please CLICK HERE

The last message in this series on Marriage we saw  how God created the entire universe and also created MAN, gave him MISSION. He then provided him a MRS, initiated MARRIAGE.

 A MARRIAGE is one of the primary building blocks of society. It’s so significant that Jesus says that it is a picture of himself and the church.  He calls it a MYSTERY. Marriage was God’s idea and today we are going to look at the creator’s instructions for MARRIAGE.

Marriage is not just a good thing it is a God thing. In our first message on Marriage, we saw how God was the one who initiated marriage by providing Adam the first man a suitable partner fit for him. When God placed Eve the first woman before Eve, Adam was all ecstatic and poetry flowed from his lips when he saw the companion God had given him.

So God created MAN, placed him in a beautiful garden, and gave him a MISSION to take care of creation have a relationship with God and to equip him to do that he gave him a MISSUS – that resulted in the first MARRIAGE .

In our second session we saw that the CREATOR gave certain instructions to this newly married couple on how to live harmoniously as Husband and Wife.
God commands a man to LEAVE his parents and be JOINED to his wife in
God's blueprint for a successful marriage: Leave your parents, be joined to your wife to become one flesh and be intimately connected in every dimension of life.
This is the divine recipe for success in marriageThe ingredients and the method, both are important, just like in a recipe.

We looked at the importance of LEAVING our parents. When you tie the knot, you cut the cord. Just as a newborn baby is detached from the mother and is a unique person, so also a newlywed couple needs to detach from both sets of parents and forge a new unique identity.
So many problems are caused when the couple or the parents do not realize this and follow this.

Q. What does it mean to leave?
At one stage we were all in our mother’s womb. At that stage we were one with our mother. Then comes a time when the baby is born and the umbilical cord now needs to be cut. The umbilical cord is tied and the cord is then cut.

Tie the knot and cut the cord”. At marriage we tie the knot and we have to cut the cord. For many years we were connected to our parents but now you are a new unit. The relationship dynamics will now change though we still love each other.

·        Physically: not necessarily living in the same house under the same roof. How do we do this? In case of old infirm parents we do look after them but we must establish who is in charge. Often the husband sides with his mother.  Mothers can play the emotional card and emotionally blackmail the son. This causes a lot of conflict. When a husband stands up for his wife 9 when it is needed), it gives great security to the wife and forges unity. Sometimes the in-laws try to dominate on other issues as well.

·        Financially: when you get married, you should be able to provide for your wife.  It is the responsibility of the man to provide for his family. Your wife may or may not work- she only supplements the income you bring in. Men must study hard, work hard and get a good job to be a good provider. In India often we see a reversal of roles where the wife slogs it out while the husband drinks and gambles all the money. Don’t depend on your in laws either.
      Dowry is a big curse in our country just like child marriage and Sati was. Sadly many Christians also give and take dowry. Can I challenge you to stop this evil practice? Young men, can I challenge you not to ask for dowry at the time of your marriage. You can stop it and change the culture.
     Another curse is the Big fat Indian wedding. Lakhs of rupees are spend on this one evening that often leaves the wife’s family in a huge debt. Let’s change the culture. We need to be thermostats in our nation where we set the tone in our culture and not be thermometers that merely reflect the cultural trends. Let’s be Biblical in all we do.

·       Emotionally: Whenever there is a problem, we are not running back to dad and mum. In all this we honor our parents but we are separate. Remember your first priority is not your mother or sister, but your WIFE. You need to learn to share with your spouse and lean on each other and not anybody else. Your best friend now is your spouse, not another man or woman and certainly not someone of the opposite sex. This doesn’t mean that you can never talk with them again. What it does mean is that your allegiance needs to change. Your loyalty now belongs to your spouse -- your partner should never have to compete with your parents – or anyone else for that matter.

You have to leave your college buddies, your girlfriends, and everything that can come between you and your new best friend.
Don’t do anything that will put a wedge between you and your wife.

·       Spiritually: Now the husband must lead the home spiritually. So men, build yourselves up in the faith. Even how you bring up your children is the responsibility of the parents and not the grandparents. Men must be able to lead their wives spiritually. Often wives are more spiritually inclined. Husband you need to shepherd your family. You need to pastor your family first.
    Remember you are not a really man by what you consume but by what you contribute. It’s not whether you can hold your drink but whether you can hold your job.

Women – look for a man who can lead you and feed you.
Men – look for a woman who will respect you and follow you.
Today we will look at the aspect of being united together to form one flesh. What does that mean?

Be United

24 So a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one body.
Genesis 2

The word “united” literally means to be glued together -- “to melt 2 separate entities together to form a permanent bond.” The word you may hear in some weddings is “cleave”. It has the idea of being bonded or welded together. The union is so strong that it takes something extremely violent to dissolve it.
There are four bonds that are to be nurtured between a man and a woman.

What is joined together?
(1)         A man and a woman- today this needs to be over stated.
(2)         A believing man and a woman 2 Cor 6:14, 1 Cor 7:39 A relational prohibitions
 The Message Paraphrase says it this way: “Don’t become partners with those who reject God.”

Different in values, aspirations, compass pointing true north and the others is pointing south.
Affects every area of life – relationships with inlaws, bringing up children, handling money, what to do on Sundays, etc.
Deuteronomy 22:10 in mind when he wrote these words: “Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.” 
People have disregarded this command to their own peril and destruction. Their spiritual growth has gone down the drain and they are rendered in effective for the kingdom. Often they are not allowed to fellowship with believers and it’s a very sad situation. They are forced to compromise on what faith the children are brought up in.
(3)         What happens if you have married and unbeliever or you were unbelievers and you have now come to faith
1 Cor 7:12,13 – do not separate. Pray like mad. If you are not yet married please do not consider this as an option.

What does this unity look like?

Unity implies permanency. to try and separate it will involve damage to both . do not have a back door mentality. Measure twice cut once. This unit is a covenant.

Who does the joining? Matt 19:4-6. “What God has joined…” So it’s an amazing thing when a man and woman say “I do”. God is present and supernaturally joined them together.

How does this work out?
1 Priority – this relationship takes priority over every other relationship. Your spouse becomes your best friend. Its above your own children and parents as well.

2.Joint Ownership -  not my money and her money, it’s our money. This creates oneness and security. You need to foster that kind of trust. 

3.Its joint decisions, in marriage. Decisions making should shared. The husband is the head but he does not take unilateral decisions. Often the wife will have greater wisdom on the subject don’t let your ego get in the way.
This needs to be communicated to the children as well so they don’t play one against the other. This is true of the in laws as well. Do not let your mother ask you to keep secrets from your spouse. Protect your wife from wild accusations that may be thrown at her.
      When we take care of aged parents, we need to treat both the in-laws equally not just the husbands’ parents.
    Imagine if India began to put this into practice. Can you imagine men all over taking their rightful place in the family, what a difference it will make to the entire society and to the nation?
    Let’s be thermostats and not thermometers and change things in our won families, our culture, community and nation. Amen! 

       Word of Grace is an Evangelical (Born Again),  Spirit filled (Charismatic), Reformed, English speaking church in Pune that upholds the Bible as God's inspired Word for life. We are a church community that have people from every part of India and parts of the world. We are here to put the Great Command and the Great Commission into practice by equipping and releasing every member into works of service. To know more about us please log ontowww.wordofgracechurch.org.

    English Language Service Sundays at 10am. Please check google maps for directions!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Can I become wise? | Inder Pawar

This message was preached by Inder Pawar at Word of Grace Church  Pune, on the 13th of October 2013. 

Read and listen to this life changing message.
To listen to the AUDIO please CLICK HERE

How wisdom is critical for decision making !
Decisions require great wisdom. It begins with the most important decision, i.e. acknowledging Jesus and placing our faith in him.

1 Cor 4:14 tells us that the God of this world has blinded our eyes. And Eph 2:9 says that God makes us alive in Him.
1 Cor 1:30 says Jesus has become to us righteousness and we receive power for change and has become wisdom of God for us.

We have all made foolish and wise decisions and they have consequences. No decision is without consequence. To make Godly decisions we need help.

Wisdom is a skill needed for living with God and for God. Wisdom is taught and can be got. We need to pursue it. 

Proverbs 4:8 says, “Prize her highly- she will exalt you.” Solomon writes on how we can get wisdom and how to live wisely.
In verse 23 he writes, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flows the springs of life.”(ESV)

Jesus always pointed to the heart- out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. The battle to guard our heart is the biggest one.

There are 4 fences that we can use in front, behind, left and right.

1.      Personal responsibility for the state of your heart. Romans 12: 1-2. What we put into our hearts will come out. The world always wants to squeeze us into its mould. We need to take responsibility for transformation.

Irresponsibility started in the Garden of Eden. Men tend to abdicate this responsibility and need to be alert to it.

What are my motives; am I joyful or distracted and is my heart away from God’s purposes? Ask these questions. We expect the pastor to help us out- No. We have to take responsibility.  V. 23- “keep your heart”. The onus is on us.

2.      Be Alert- vigilant- there are times when we are tired or a season of success and we let our guard down- we need to be alert.

1 Peter 5:8- Be sober minded. Be alert. Don’t get carried away, neither get too disappointed.

Not being alert can cost us years and seasons of our life. The devil is no push over but neither do I want to frighten you. We need to know our enemy. Competitiveness is very subtle and can get to us. This will lead to striving and move us away from God’s will. This is true even for good things. Thank God that we have the Holy Spirit to help us. He prompts us all the time. So learn to connect to the Holy Spirit 24/7.

3.      The discipline of examination- Verse 26 says, “ponder” or make level paths. Think about what is the way you can go forward. The way we think shapes the way we live- that’s why we need to renew our mind with the word of God. 

     How do we do this?
This requires development and time. We need time to pause and ponder and think and pray and wait on the Lord. 

1 Cor 11:28- “examine yourself”- we are not talking about introspection but we need healthy examination. We need to hit the pause button in our lives. The Psalmist said, ‘search me O God, and see if there is any offensive way in me.”

In our quiet times, let’s not rush into the word but pause. Pastors need to be careful and learn to press the pause button.

4.      The fence of community- this is becoming endangered in our individualistic world. Throughout proverbs, there is a practical intentional emphasis on community- verse 20- “my, son”.  Proverbs 13:20 – “he who walks with the wise will be wise.”

Word of Grace is a community, a family. Get into the life of the church and value it for however many months/ years you are in Pune. The community of God is precious because you get loved, encouraged, rebuked…

Make decisions that keep the local church at the center of what you do. When you stray from the community of God, you also stray away from the purposes of God.

   Word of Grace is an Evangelical (Born Again),  Spirit filled (Charismatic), Reformed, English speaking church in Pune that upholds the Bible as God's inspired Word for life. We are a church community that have people from every part of India and parts of the world. We are here to put the Great Command and the Great Commission into practice by equipping and releasing every member into works of service. To know more about us please log ontowww.wordofgracechurch.org.

    English Language Service Sundays at 10am. Please check google maps for directions!


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

An apostolic people| Q& A Part 2 | Steve Oliver and Stephen Van Rhyn

This is part of a series of messages that were preached at the Regions Beyond  India Leaders meeting at Igatpuri . This message  is a Q&A with Steve Oliver and Stephen Van Rhyn on what is the role of the apostolic and leadership in a church . This is part 2.Regions Beyond, is a part of Newfrontiers Intl. You can listen to the audio by clicking here.
Q 6. What are the different roles of leaders in the church?/ what is the difference in the role of elders and deacons?
A. Leadership is a gift given by God. This is a great group of people that God gathers for a purpose.Elders- primary responsibility to set doctrine and practice in the local church. They govern, oversee the local church. The role of the elders is restricted to men. If the elder is married, there is a teaming that effects and makes an important contribution to the local church. So we appoint the man but pray for the couple. There is a one flesh we act and enjoy.
Deacons- can be men or women. In its essence is delegated pastoral responsibility. The elder oversees the whole. The deacon will oversee a section. In Acts 6 we think that it’s just waiting on table- but there is a huge pastoral issue and a potential split on ethnicity lines.

1 Timothy 2 lays down the requirements for an elder and deacon- they are almost exactly the same. Only the elder can’t be a recent convert and is required to teach.
Therefore, maturity is required for serious responsibility.
Women can be deacons- gives women a line on which women can run authorized by the elders.

Q 7. What happens when there are no elders?
A. Then the apostle has a big role in it. We need to raise up good leadership, or else we will multiply into weakness.

Q 8. There seems to be a lot of different requirements for eldership among us.
A. because we are at an early stage it will take time to establish it. Don Carson says an Elder is remarkable by being unremarkable. The requirements for every Christian is that which is required of an elder except for being a recent convert and able to teach.
The heart of being an elder is to be an example not an exception. In a celebrity culture we want our leaders to be exceptional. The call is to bring out normal Christianity amplified a bit.

Q 9. In a male dominated culture how does a woman step out and do what she should?
A. every culture has good, neutral and bad things. If your culture tells you that women are inferior that culture is communicating something negative and a lie which is not true.
Gen 1:27- Male and female he created them. We see radical equality right in the beginning. Both image bearers of God and both created for God’s glory. When we look at sacrificed death on the cross, we see that Jesus died for both men and women.
Women are co-heirs with Christ.
First we try and pioneer examples. For some that will be easier to do than others. An urban setting will lend itself more to this. Urban centers will become more and more open to women taking a vital role. As parents we look to develop our daughters as fully as sons.
Genuine submission can only take place in an environment of equality. Anything else is slavery. It’s the same in an eldership team and at home. The final leader takes the call and we all submit out of our relationship with Jesus.

Q 10. Can a woman be a leader in those 4 level?
A. Eldership is male but all women should conduct themselves as elders. Women have good ideas too. So the best idea wins. Women can be deacons. Women can advance the gospel.
Paul’s Macedonian man was a woman i.e. Lydia. Lydia was the door through which Europe was reached.
Within Regions Beyond we want to see everybody participate. Men make room for the women and be Godly. The woman issue has always been there. There are some circumstances where the women really need to be raised up.
French enlightenment undermined scripture and leadership outlined. The puritans did not like celebrating anything. We can swing from one extreme to another. The Post-modern culture tends to deconstruct truth. The way to go about this is to go back to the Bible- the truth. If we don’t run to scripture, we will miss it. So don’t let our culture answer the questions for us.

Q 11. Why did you bring Steve van Rhyn with you? Is he the only voice in Regions Beyond?
A. There are many other apostolic gifts that we look to for input. Steve theologically is one of our keenest minds. So I want to make sure that we are on a Biblical foundation- because one day I have to bring forward all that I have built as pure gold. This is how we ensure that.      


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

An apostolic people| Q& A Part 1 | Steve Oliver and Stephen Van Rhyn

This is part of a series of messages that were preached at the Regions Beyond  India Leaders meeting at Igatpuri . This message is a Questions and Answers session relating to apostolic partnership and leadership in a church. This is Part 1.Regions Beyond, is a part of Newfrontiers Intl. You can listen to the audio by clicking here.

What are the characteristics of an apostle?
     1.      An Apostle is to go into a new areas and open it up for the gospel.
     2.      Other apostles would recognize them.
     3.      Local church would receive their ministry  .      
     Apostolic ministry is invited in by the local church and not imposed. So you don’t have a ‘national’ apostle and that’s not what we see in the Bible.
4.      There were signs and wonders that accompanied them. It’s a reminder that we depend on God.
5.      There is never ever any apostolic succession that is passed on from one apostle to another. It’s God given.

Steve Oliver’s heart is for the multiplication of the apostolic gifts but it takes time. It would be a mistake to call something apostolic when it’s not. So we have apostolic delegates and see how it goes before we call them apostolic.

The apostolic gift is not one distinctive- not exactly the same. Steve Oliver is an apostle who leans more towards prophetic. Stephen van Rhyn is an apostle who leans more towards teaching. So it comes in various shades.

At the moment, Steve Oliver is the sole recognized apostle but there are others emerging and Steve’s role is to identify them.

Q 1. How do you communicate the Apostolic Partnership to new church plants where no direct apostle is seen?
A. Do Phil 1- we are a people who are in a bigger narrative and speak of how you are connected into Apostolic Partnership. If you are building it yourself, they will not know about Apostolic Partnership.
When you go back, gather your leaders and share the things that God has impacted you for the next season so that you get them caught up with it.

Steve Oliver would travel 13 hours to spend time with Simon Petit. Simon Petit came to their church only twice but the whole church knew him. At any opportunity they would take as many people along with them and would pray a lot for Simon and Lindsay- they stayed in touch with Simon. Feed stories to the church all the time.

Q 2. What level of involvement should the Apostle have in the day to day working of the church?
A. remember that it’s relational. Paul knew the people in the church. In Colossians he wasn’t directly involved but only spoke about a few people whom he must have met.

We have to have our levels of expectations real. We believe in the autonomy of the local elders. Because God has appointed them, I trust them. When I am with them, they will ask questions. I have a gift of faith for some people and help to unlock that but the local leaders are responsible.

You can ask Apostles about nuts and bolts but it’s really the eldership role. Apostolic ministry is there to cast vision for the future, provide us a plumb-line for doctrine and catches us up in vision. Nuts and bolts is not priority. Ray Lowe is a nuts and bolts guy and is great at that.

The Apostle is not a head office. It’s a relationship- they must be accessible.
New Frontiers is not into titles, which makes us normal people. When you add a title you get a separation.
We go forward- we want to see many master-builder gifts being raised up. We also want key gifts (not apostles) raised up who can carry more weight beyond the local church so that the local church becomes a base for influence for the area around.

Q 3. Which apostle needs to recognize an apostle?
A. When Terry recognized apostolic gifts there were other apostolic gifts raised. When Paul went to Jerusalem, the apostle gave him the right hand of fellowship.
In Regions Beyond when I recognized other apostolic gifts I will call other friends to help recognize them before we set them apart public ally.

Q 4. Ephesians 4 speaks about Apostles and Prophets. How do we work out the building foundation with the prophetic? Do we have recognized prophets?

A. in Ephesians 4 it is not speaking about the prophets of the Old Testament but the prophetic gift of the New Testament. The prophetic gifts amongst us is key to apostolic ministry. So even in these days we have given a lot of importance to the prophetic.
In Regions Beyond the prophetic is a constant friend. I want to hear what God want to say- then we can fulfill it. So the prophetic is key.

(Steve R) 1 Cor 12: This is an important scripture. It’s not saying Apostolic is more important than the prophetic. Apostolic ministry creates the context in which we prophesy. The relationship between the two is really important. I am encouraged by the prophetic gifts that tie in with the apostolic ministry. Keep prophecy in the apostolic ministry. It’s good.

We have one or two really good emerging gifts. Gavin Northcote is very prophetic. Over all, we have work to do. For a season as we have multiplied into regions we have concentrated on the apostolic. We need to see more prophetic. Terry echoes the same theory- we need to see prophets raised up.

For all the gifts- don’t get caught up with a recognition moment but just keep doing it. Create an environment where the gifts are encouraged.
One of the things Paul did was always scouting for gifts with the local leaders and those gifts need to be drawn together for training and equipping.

At the HUB we want all with the prophetic gift to meet in the morning to stir up these gifts. I did not just happen. I was preparing for 5 years with Terry Virgo- learning and debating.

Q 5. Can you explain a little more on New Frontiers India- 2 different spheres?
A. When I invited Stephen van Rhyn to come I encouraged him to go and spend time with Vinu and others. Within New Frontiers, we had one recognized apostle, Terry and maybe a few more. Then we multiplied into many a BIG change took place.

Before everyone was in Terry’s apostolic sphere. But when Terry stepped aside, 17 spheres emerged. We said to the churches the way an apostle works is through relationship and not geography. So churches are aligning with the apostle you have a relationship with.

So you have a apostle with Vinu and us, which have mission and calling together. Because of gifting it will express itself differently. So we must learn to work together. People will try and work against each other- be careful.

There might come a time when we will release some churches into another apostolic sphere for the purpose of gospel advance. The key is that it’s all for Jesus. We are not the only show in town. That’s how cults work. It’s destructive. So let’s celebrate each other and speak positively about each other. 

Diversity- Mark Jones | One New Man Conference

In August, Regions Beyond which is Steve Oliver's   Apostolic Sphere (which is a part of Newfrontiers ) held a Conference in the UK .At the conference Steve O and others shared on what the the apostolic, what is Regions Beyond and how do we relate as different apostolic spheres that share a common history, vision and values. This series of blogs is very useful to helping us understand who we are, what vision shapes us and what the future holds for us.You can find the mp3 audio recording the sermons that we will be summarizing here by  City Church Gloucester website. This  is message by  MARK JONES.You can listen to the mp3 by clicking here.

The strap line for Regions Beyond is “diverse family of churches joined in apostolic partnership”.

I want to unpack just one word from this strap line- Diverse.

We’re a diverse family of churches. To understand this we need to catch the heart of God regarding us. This is living in God’s narrative and not our own where we are defined by God’s plan and God’s will. In doing so our opinions and practices are based on knowing him and not our experience, our history- however good that might be.  Unless we go back to the heart of God to understand what we are about, the message keeps going weaker and weaker through generations. Jesus said, “I do what I see my father doing and the father loves his son so much that he shows him everything that he himself is doing.”

Revelation must precede our methodology. If we start with methodology, we will find that we are lacking to do the tough stuff. We need the revelation of the Holy Spirit. We need to hear from God- the very depths of God’s heart which the Holy Spirit searches and makes it known to us.

If our starting place is not God’s view, then the end result will not be biblical transformation but instead creates cultural uniformity. That’s not God’s plan. We are to find the heart of God which is to transform societies.  The Apostolic ministry is to promote diverse cultural expressions of the Christian faith.

This is probably what Paul meant in Romans 12: 2- Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”And it goes on to say, “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” 

Transformation of the mind is not just about your choices but a whole new worldview. Unless this happens, we will have created Christian communities that would have sifted out anything different from us.That is not God’s purpose. If we start doing that we will have black or white churches instead of mixed churched; hearing or deaf churches instead of bended churches; young people churches and old people churches instead of churches of all ages. We cannot separate according to our preferences. If we don’t have a clear transformation, that’s exactly what we’re going to do. God never separated them from the beginning and he is never going to separate them. That’s wrong. We need to be one new man in Christ and declare Christ as our head.

In the early church in Acts 6, when there was an issue regarding the feeding of the widows, an apostolic wisdom came in when the disciples said, “Choose from among you to serve.” So the leadership was multi-cultural. Nicholas wasn’t from that place yet he was chosen because he had the right heart.

Unless this transformation happens, we are in the danger of having outreach programs that look great on the surface but will not know how to integrate them into the life of the church and it will ultimately crash and burn. This causes disappointment in people because they are lifted for a time only to find the same old issues in front of them. God’s plan is that all things are brought under one head- even Christ.

God’s commission from the beginning of time was to multiply and fill the whole earth- this means building culture and reflecting God’s glory on earth. This has never changed. In Babel when the people gathered in one place to be alike- in language and culture etc, God shows his displeasure and he scatters them to the ends of the earth. God doesn’t want us to consolidate.

This purpose of God is to be later seen in the promise given to Abraham. He says that through him all the families of the earth will be blessed and that his descendants will be more numerous than the stars of the sky.

In Galatians 3 Paul referred to Jesus as the offspring of Abraham. We’re not just a people of Abraham or People of Christ. We are one new man in Christ.
In Psalm 2 it says, “Ask me for the nations as your inheritance and I will give you the ends of the earth as your possession” we are diverse because the true church consists of every tribe and tongue under one name of Jesus Christ. In fact, we are not complete until we are diverse. As Steve Oliver said earlier nothing puts the Gospel in display more than the diversity in the church.

In Christ, a wonderful mystery is unfolded and a beautiful transformation happens and we have one new man. To build a family that represents the nations of the world. Dave Devenish said, “One new man in Christ is the message of the gospel- not an optional extra for those who like that sort of thing.” It’s not just for those who are passionate about it. If we are not, then we have missed the heart of God. In our church as well, it’s not enough to notice the people who go to different places on mission but we are to engage ourselves in what is going on around us. Some go and the rest enable them to go.

We need to move from the place of being inclusive to being integrated. In the Old Testament the Jews created an opportunity for the poor to offer sacrifices. And as they reached the temple, they would be turned down by some official person and calls them unacceptable. So, they are included, and then excluded. This is worse that completely excluding them.

We need to challenge ourselves, our methodology as church- are we doing the same thing? Do we call diverse people groups into the church and then they are saying, “I can’t worship here.” Are we pulling them in and then pushing them away by saying, “I’ve got a heart for the poor! Only if they don’t swear, only if they don’t ask for anything, only if they bathe…” This is not one new man in Christ. This is one man/woman, deciding what is acceptable and what is not. 

In Jerusalem, there were the courts of the gentiles where they were allowed to come and worship God. But it was filled with so much stuff! Sometimes our lives look like that where we just have so much stuff that when God calls us to the Nations, we are not able to go because of this clutter and we exclude the nations from the gospel. Jesus makes God’s will very clear. He fashions a whip and drives out all the people and cattle and says, “How dare you turn my father’s house into a market.” This is reflecting the heart of God to not just include but integrate all people groups to come and worship him.

Q. How many people do we welcome and then push away?
We’re diverse when we understand how to embrace people into the family without expected them to be the same. There is something precious about people coming together without segregation. Psalm 113 says, “Gods raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash-heap.” There is no full stop after that. God doesn’t just want to bring us up and let us down. it goes on- “to make them sit with the princes of His people.” The gospel transforms us, not just feed us. It lifts them and seats them with princes. So let’s give them opportunities to grow in leadership, develop in their God-given gifting and not hold them back because they don’t have an education. Let’s lift them because that’s what the gospel does. We want them to be transformed.

Peter stood after the spirit was poured out and said this is what the prophet Job spoke about- that My spirit will be poured out on all flesh. He understood the theology and even spoke in the language of the nations, but he needed a transformation of the heart to fully understand what it means. He gets a declaration from God “what God has made clean don’t you dare call unclean!” But even when he goes to Cornelius’ house he is wrestling with this. As he goes on and the Spirit is poured out, he says, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” He now has a transformation of the heart. I wonder how many of us need to search deep within our hearts and say this- how many need this transformation.

Now that Peter had the transformation moment he now needed the integration moment. He says, can anyone withhold enough water to baptize them who have received the Holy Spirit.  He embraced them into what was special to him. He did not just hold them at arm’s length.  The Holy Spirit is the mark of salvation. If you are not filled with the Holy Spirit, how do we know?

Galatians 3 says, every dividing wall of hostility is removed and now we are one new man in Christ. Our challenge this morning is to examine our hearts- that we don’t lose our own identity but we do not insist on others becoming like us. Let them come to Jesus and let the gospel transform them. Embrace them into your heart and not just your actions. We will reach the nations because God’s wisdom is now being known by this one new man in Christ.