Rev Dr Edgar Mayer;
For more sermons and other writings check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org
Jesus is coming. The whole season before
Christmas is about Jesus and that he is coming. For a long time the people of
God had waited for a Saviour to come. And then 2000 years ago in the small
Jesus is coming. When he was about thirty
years old, he began to preach the
Jesus is coming and he is offering peace with God forgiveness and a cleansing from sin. We can have this gift of peace today Jesus is willing to come to you even now if we only accept him put our trust in him and submit to him. When Jesus rose from the dead, he gave a commission to his followers. While he would ascend to heaven for a time, they were to continue his work on earth in the power of Gods holy Spirit until he would return with judgement and salvation bringing our current existence to an end and ushering in eternity a new life in heaven. Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming. Receive him now and be with him when he returns at the end of time.
This is the Christian message in a nutshell. This is what Christmas is all about. However right now lets be practical. How do you become part of the good news of great joy? How precisely can Jesus become your Saviour and how can the message of Jesus is coming be exciting to you?
The Bible is clear in its answer and I wonder how we feel about the answer. Gods radical instruction to you at Christmas can be summed up in one word, that is: REPENT. And the word repent means: turn your life around, stop sinning and do good. God knows that you cannot do this in your own strength and he is willing to help you in this but the instruction is binding and bids no compromise: REPENT. Commit to change and obey God. This is the number one key to enter into the things of God.
When Jesus first started preaching, this
was his message Mark (a summary statement):
Now how do you feel this message? In church history this has always been on the preaching agenda in the time leading up to Christmas get ready repent Jesus is coming but do we want to hear this today? Are you not getting weary? Its been a long year. The whole nation is looking forward to the Christmas break summer school holidays many businesses closing down for a few weeks. This is good and this is what we need even in the church. Its been a long year. Therefore, please no more pressure with any talk about repentance. Not now. At least this is how I have been feeling in preparation of this message.
2009 has been an absolutely amazing year
for us as a church. In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined what we
experienced. And now at the end of the year I am absolutely grateful over the moon but
also in need of a rest. There has been one intense emotion after another. In
February a third of our congregation broke away from Living Grace and then we
had to look for new worship premises leaving behind the
In March I had preached on acceleration we spoke prophetic words over our church speeding up and the ride became very fast. For the first time as a church we preached on fasting and practised fasting. We began a weekly Friday night prayer watch. Then, Greg Storey fell ill and was diagnosed with cancer which made us step out in faith and courage believing for his healing. We even shouted in warfare like the people of God in the Bible. Healing came and faith renewal came for Greg with joy. He was falling in love with God. The cancerous lesions disappeared and the tumor shrunk. But then there was blood poisoning and more and more pain and in time Greg passed away (fighting to the end but with the sure hope of a Christian) and eight hundred people came to his funeral. How would we cope with that? It made us stronger in our faith.
This was such an intense time joy and grief wrestling with the healing message of Gods word disappointment confusion resolve. We would not lower the standard of Gods word to the level of our current experience. We would keep going. Healing testimonies among us became more frequent Lenna: healing from emphysema, Helen: healing from painful shoulder deterioriation, Rob: healing of the knee, (two weeks ago) Susan: healing from leukemia but there was a new fight against cancer in Deborah Dolling and against MS in Angela Lemin.
God made 2009 intense and fast. I have never experienced the presence of God in church like this year and I have never heard so many astounding testimonies in our own church as in this year. Not only have many new people come to faith, there have been experiences of angels, victory over the demonic, the audible voice of God in prayer, gold dust on peoples faces and hands, the mist of Gods presence at a Friday night prayer watch. Absolutely wonderful the highs are intensely glorious but then there was also the constant warfare which always happens when you are in mission and where God wants you to be. Even last week eggs were pelted at our building and a few weeks before that a car wheel was stolen from our carpark. There have been defamations and even death threats. Many of us experience what the Bible calls wrestling with the powers of this dark world. And God himself is processing us in dry periods. (As a pastor sometimes this is hard to watch.) A new discipline of holiness is required from us because any sin makes us vulnerable to the devil. David Challenor always says in the middle of the onslaught: But I am encouraged. Its a good sign that the devil doesnt like what we are doing. However, sometimes there seems to be too much of such encouragement.
2009 has been amazing. Weve lost a third of our membership but God has added so many new people to this community. Hes weaving and knitting us together. The pledges and generous weekly offerings are another source of amazement. Where is the money coming from for this church? Weve started a new Jubilee Ministries in Townsville, conducted Holy Spirit seminars in Ipswich and Ashmore and a Healing Week at Toowoomba City Church. There is a new Acceler8 childrens ministry, a new worship band, weekly video recording of our services and lots more. I stop here.
Do you agree with me? 2009 was like no other year so fast, so amazing, so intense. And if you are feeling like me, you are absolutely grateful but also dont mind the coming of Christmas and the summer break. Therefore, how does todays message sit with us: Repent. Stop sinning and do good. Commit to change and obey God. Is this more pressure? Are we getting weary?
God is not against us having a rest. If you are able to go away for a few days and sit on the beach somewhere, God is all for it. God does not want anyone to burn out. He doesnt require us to save the world. Thats his job. However, why would we experience the call to repentance as an unwelcome pressure on us? Repentance simply means that we are turning toward God and dont we think that this is a good thing? Could it be that deep down despite an amazing 2009 we are still harbouring suspicions about God, saying: Hes always asking too much of us. God is never happy with our efforts and is always asking for the impossible. I want some time off. (And, therefore, many people do over the holidays and, therefore every year some of them do not make it back after the holidays.) What is going on with us?
Did you notice that in the Bible reading all the practical examples of repentance had to do with money? I read again some of the verses: every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. What should we do then? the crowd asked. John answered, The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same. Tax collectors also came to be baptized. Teacher, they asked, what should we do? Dont collect any more than you are required to, he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, And what should we do? He replied, Dont extort money and dont accuse people falsely be content with your pay.
Do we react to this kind of repentance because money in particular is our weak spot? The Australian dream is to earn as much as you can in a very short time and then retire early. The dream is to have enough so you can put your feet up in a beachside mansion with international traveling as a welcome leisure diversion. Even if we have no chance of achieving that standard of wealth, my hunch is that many of us are sharing the dream. Then Jesus comes and says: No. Repent. Share with others. Be content. And it dawns on us again that Jesus is not sharing our goal for an early retirement. There is work to do in his service. At the end of 2009 how are we hearing this?
A short time after Greg Storey died, Mandy spoke to me on the phone. In the time of Gregs sickness the business suffered. The intention was to sell but no buyer could be found. Mandy struggled to get involved. Everything was new and with the declining income the regular bills became more of a challenge: school fees for a large family, servicing of debt, and so on. I felt for Mandy but then she told me how she had been selling some farm equipment when God challenged her about tithing the proceeds. She resolved to give one tenth of the sale price to God. Only some more bills came in and she couldnt. She told God that she would give the amount, if the money came into her account and with emotions of joy in her voice Mandy celebrated that the exact tithing amount did come in unexpectedly. So she tithed.
On the phone I was taken aback. I had a word with God: God, first you take away her husband and then when everything is tight you increase the pressure by putting tithing on the agenda. Is that nice of you? Yet, Ive missed it and you may miss it too. Repentance is not wearisome and is not horrible. It is beautiful. There is so much joy in coming to God.
Mandy had learned the most important lesson, that is: God is always good. God is always good. She recognized Gods loving hand in Gregs journey the renewal, the healing of so much, the legacy of faith and she kept trusting God and his goodness in everything including the tithing of her (diminishing) income. So many times we make our faith and our trust dependent on whether God performs to our expectations. We have a check-list: life-style, health, marriage, and if any of our requirements are not met, then we have issues God, how mean of you to disappoint me and we may even retreat from him. We say: Enough of Bible reading and praying. Whats the use? Resentment sets in and bitterness. And no matter what the years been like there is no longer any favourable attitude when the talk comes to repentance. What I have to repent? It is God that has to change his ways. He cannot have everything.
This is missing it. Last week Bill Johnson gave an interview and in the midst of a church experience where incredible miracles happen, he shared that their church also experienced the worst losses ever real tragedies but every single household that was affected by loss was actually thriving. This was strange to see. Previously when something devastating was happening, people did become devastated families would break apart and so on. However, not so this time. Why? Every single family ten families in the last 18 months before the crisis hit had established a firm cornerstone in their lives, that is: they became overwhelmingly convinced of Gods goodness. They did not start blaming God and also they did not start blaming themselves (beating themselves up about not fasting enough or praying enough). They maintained this rock of absolute trust in God and therefore were thriving in the midst of tragedy. God was bringing them through. (If you want the peace that passes understanding, you have to give up the right to understand.)
When I talked to Mandy on the phone, she demonstrated to me the same kind of bedrock faith. She had the established cornerstone that God was always good. And I ended up being challenged.
Repentance is not hard. It is what we want. Money doesnt make you happy and a closer look at our Bible reading confirms the freeing character of repentance. Who would want to live in a city and nation where people do not follow these simple practical instructions: The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same. Dont collect any more than you are required to, Dont extort money and dont accuse people falsely be content with your pay. What if no one shares and people go hungry and are not clothed? What if no one shares with you? Would we want to live among people who cheat and extort money from others a cut-throat environment? How do we feel about people who are taking advantage of us overcharging us or not paying what they owe us and then how would we feel about ourselves, if we behaved in the same way? Dishonesty leads to self-loathing and living with an attitude of me-first and me-second, hardens our hearts to loving others and receiving love from them. Its not a good path.
Jesus says: Repent. Trust me. I give you a different life. The real key to bouncing back after an intense year 2009 is to repent letting go of absolutely everything that is pulling us into self-reliance and selfishness. The closer we draw to God, the more rest and joy and peace and love we will find. The lesson for this Christmas and holiday season is to go away and relax (by all means) however with God and not without him. We dont need some time off from God. We may need some time off doing stuff but we dont need time off from God. On the contrary, we need to rest in God soaking in his presence. Therefore, maybe this holiday season we are careful with what we do in our leisure time not filling ourselves up with too much entertainment but withdraw into quietness becoming still before our God and drawing strength from him.
In the Bible the aspiring king David had one of the worst times in his life 1 Samuel 30:3-4: When David and his men came [home], they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. 1 Samuel 30:6: David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters This was more than a bad day in the office. Yet, David did not begin to take a break from God and he did not withdraw from him in resentment. On the contrary, this is what he did 1 Samuel 30:6: David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. This is what we will do over the Christmas break. Use the spare time to draw closer to God and recharge our batteries in his presence.
Heidi Baker American missionary in Mozambique used to be a very stressed woman. She said: You would be stressed too, if hundreds of orphans call you Mama and you get shot at. But then she went to the T-place (Toronto Airport church) and God pinned her to the floor for seven days. She could not move and in that time God processed her. When Heidi was unable to do anything she could not move any of her limbs other people had to carry her to the bathroom God taught her that mission work was in his strength not in her business and striving. Our service flows from God flows from his rest and his power. After seven days Heidi had learned the lesson. She is now working as hard as ever but she is also praying more than ever drawing rest from this time strengthening herself in the Lord and thus in her own words she is enjoying a no sweat revival the planting of thousands of churches in the easy flow of Gods power.
Herman Ruyters one of the local pastors in Toowoomba had the same experience. When he was pastoring another church, a guest-preacher prayed for the presence of the Holy Spirit in the worship service with the result that Herman was overcome by the Spirits power and was also pinned to the floor. When he first told me the story, he said: It looked a bit untidy with the senior minister lying on the floor of the sanctuary. After a good hour or so I was able to crawl slowly under a pew somewhere. Then he said: In this time on the floor God was speaking to me again and again. It is not by works but by my grace. It is not by works but by my grace. Salvation is a gift from God to us. Our work is a gift from God to us. Everything is in his strength not ours. We only have to come. We only have to let go of our own stress, that is: repent with joy.
This is good news. 2010 will be as fast
as 2009. We will not slow down. I dont want to slow down. For so many years we
have waited for the experiences that we are enjoying now. For so many years we
have waited to be fruitful bringing
people into the
This church is going to slow down over the Christmas break but we are going to rest in God. Yes there is repentance but it is not going to be hard because God is refreshing and therefore we come back for another year 2010 which will also be so fast, so amazing, so intense. Amen.