1. The Real World
Have you ever had that feeling that what we do here in church is somehow disconnected from the real world ‘out there’? That there’s something impractical about the faith we profess in here with regards to the life that we live out there?
What we sing and pray and talk about in church seems somehow irrelevant to the classroom or the office that we walk into on a Monday morning.
The old saying about Christians might seem true sometimes: that Christians are so heavenly minded that they’re of no earthly use.
For true Christians, this is a misnomer. It is based on a false image, false information, false perception.
The ministry of Jesus was profoundly practical. Just ask (if we could) the cripple who was healed, the blind man who was given back his sight, the hungry people who ate the miraculous bread, the disciples who were spared a drowning in their boat when the storm blew up, the lady at the well who was received, the lady caught in adultery who was forgiven – just ask if the work of Jesus in their life made any practical difference and I’m sure they would laugh at the absurdity of the question.
But it needn’t be so dramatic.
Ask the children who were blessed, the people who were taught, the hypocrites who were challenged, I’m sure they’d give a similar response. The work of Jesus in the life of a true disciple is entirely practical and wholly life-changing.
The same is true of us today – and certainly should be: where the Holy Spirit is allowed to move, the sick are still healed, the needy are still provided for, the ostracized are still loved. In everyday terms, the kind words produced by the Spirit in us to a person who has been harsh with us, still can have profound practical implications. Forgiving those who’ve wronged us, turning from a sin habit, standing up to an injustice is far, far from useless and impractical but rather is meaningful, relevant, transforming and beautiful.
But what’s the mechanism that affects these practical changes in our lives as Christians?
This is crucial.
What’s the difference between the useless Christian with an impractical ‘deedsless’ faith and the powerful Christian with a faith that changes the world around them? Of course the Spirit of Jesus is the correct answer but I want to offer something more tangible as a mechanism for enabling the Holy Spirit to move in our lives.
Here it is: reading the Bible and praying.
I hope you’re not disappointed with that answer. I wonder if you were hoping for more. Something different. Something more extraordinary.
You don’t need anything more or different or extraordinary. By reading the Bible you listen to God and by praying you speak with Him. And there is the basis of the relationship that brings life-changing faith into your life. Fellowship and outreach are the overflow of this relationship but it’s the good old quiet time that is the basis for this relationship which affects the practical movements of God that we seek in our lives.
Col 3:1-4 Set your hearts on things above…set your mind on the things above. Don’t mistake this for some sort of pie in the sky, escapism from the realities of this world. A deeper look tells us that by setting our hearts and minds on the things above – through reading the Word and prayer – our lives gain a perspective and a foundation upon which we build lives which affect the world we live in and sets us right with God so that He can work in and through us in the most common ways and the most unexpected.
2. Dirty Jokes
We can learn some very serious theology from dirty jokes. I’m not kidding. (Chad will be very pleased.) There’s something about dirty jokes that teaches us a lot about our fallen nature.
Most dirty jokes (in English at least)- and there are many – are based on either excretion or reproduction. There’s something amiss with the human understanding of these things which theologians trace back to the Fall. Somehow we’re embarrassed by these most natural bodily functions and so we either blush (a uniquely human reaction) or we joke about it.
Think about it. We don’t normally blush or tell jokes about digesting food or falling asleep.
And animals don’t feel the need to be embarrassed about being uncovered or their bodily functions. If cows could talk, I’m sure you’d never hear one say to another, “Hey Bob! Ha ha! Frank just did a big pooh in the middle of the field!” Or one dog confessing his sexual hangups to another.
Our tendency to joke about these things is one sign that deep down, something has gone wrong with our nature. The humans that we are, are not the same as the humans that God originally created.
Yet when we are reborn in Christ, we are re-created in God’s likeness. Our original created form is restored to us. We are made right with God, our Spirit is one again with His Spirit and our minds are transformed into His likeness. This is why the Bible instructs us on thoughts and behavior which are in keeping with the new life that we have in Christ.
3. Profiling (which really means prejudging)
Look at these photos and tell yourself honestly what you think of these people.
Would you befriend them? Why or why not?
Would you allow them to stay over in your house? Why or why not?
Would you trust them? Why or why not?
Each of these people I have shown you are Christians. They are your brothers and sisters in Christ.
What did you see when you looked at their faces? Did you see colour? Age? Likeness? A troubled past? Beauty? Ugliness? Gentleness? Danger?
Scythians, by the way, were the roughest of the rough, the lowest of the low in the world at that time, often thought of as little more than animals.
Look around you. We often talk about the variety in our church. We talk fondly about our different nationalities, languages, cultures, religious upbringings and that’s okay when we’re talking predominantly about the past. But what we should be seeing is not German or Canadian, not high education or basic education, not rich or poor, or any other distinction but rather Christ!
This passage appears under the heading “Rules for Holy Living”. I want us to see these instructions as wonderfully practical and life-shaping. To see them as conditions for us to live lives that are pleasing to God and healthy and happy for ourselves and our church.