WHAT DOES GOD EXPECT OF US?
What does God expect of us as His people to be fruitful in life and ministry? What I am going to share is what God has taught me over the years from His Word, from my observations as I related myself to various people in different situations, and as I search my own life.
In II Peter 1:3-11, we read that our Heavenly Father has given us His divine power and promises so that we may take part in His divine nature. More than once, the word Godliness occurs in this passage. Godliness is the Christian character that embraces holiness, righteousness and love. What is needed in our church today is leaders of godliness. We may be bishops, pastors, seminary teachers, church planters or lay leaders; what is expected of us is godliness.
The author of the book of Hebrews reminds us that we are in a race and that we should "throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles" and that we should run with perseverance, fixing our eyes on Jesus, "the author and perfector of our faith." Fixing our eyes on Jesus and keeping Him as our goal is growing in holiness, righteousness and love, and that is, allowing the Holy Spirit to mould us to be godly. "Godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come" (I Tim. 4: 8).
II. The Word of God
In Psalm 19: 7, 8, 10 and 11, we read, "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making the wise simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes…they are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey than honey from the comb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward."
In the first meeting of the Evangelical Fellowship of India in 1951, Dr. Frank Kline, the Founder-Principal of Union Biblical Seminary, made a clarion call: it is in the Word we must centre. The deed must lead to Word, never take the place of the Word. He said, "The top priority is revival in our churches. One such special revival emphasis concerns our pastors. Our long-range training involves the training of future ministers. They must have a true evangelical faith, a profound confidence in the Bible as the Word of God, a real knowledge of the Bible, an ability to apply it to life, a deep and growing personal spiritual life, an understanding of the needs of their parishioners."
In his book Christian Handbook, Peter Jeffery, rightly points out, "The Reformation would have been impossible if God had not turned men back to the Bible to see it the only authority for Christian doctrine and church order. Because the church had become so interwoven with the state and politics, it was inevitable that any reformation would come into conflict with politics. But the Reformation was not a political movement; it was a great movement of the Holy Spirit.”
How true it is that the Word of God has the power to transform people and societies! One of the outstanding Indian missionaries was Godhula from Assam. Burdened by the need to take the Gospel to North East India and constrained by the love of Christ, he went to a village in Ao area up on the hills and first proclaimed the Word of God through singing the Gospel hymns in Assamese. As days went by, he learnt the Ao dialect and preached the Word to the Ao people. God rewarded his faithfulness to Him and to His Word. In November 1872 he took six new Ao converts with him to Assam where E. W. Clark, an American missionary, baptised them. That was the beginning of the spread of the Church in that area. We must preach and teach the Word with the conviction that it will accomplish God's purpose for humankind.
III. Reconciliation II Corinthians 5: 18 & 19 say, "All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation." James Packer explains reconciliation as, "bringing together again persons who had previously fallen out; to replace alienation, hostility and opposition by a new relationship of favour, goodwill and peace; and so to transform the attitude of the persons reconciled towards each other and to set their subsequent mutual dealings on a wholly new footing."
The Christian faith is relational. If there is no proper relationship in our midst, we ridicule our faith. All our talk on salvation, justification, regeneration, sanctification is vain. There is so much of fragmentation and hostility in many families, churches and organisations. We divide ourselves on the basis of caste and language.
There was a time when the Kukis and the Nagas in Manipur were in violent conflict with each other in Manipur. A few of us from the Evangelical Fellowship of India went there to organise a Seminar on Reconciliation in Christ. About one hundred pastors from both sides attended the Seminar. It was a moving experience to see the participants, two by two, a Naga and a Kuki, standing and holding hands together and praying to God to forgive them and to give them grace to live in right relationship with each other. Whatever the gifts and ministries God has given us, our primary ministry is the ministry of reconciliation. We are reconcilers in Christ.
IV. The Body of Christ
The Word of God makes it very clear that "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men….The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we are all given the one Spirit to drink" (I Cor. 12: 4,5,6,12,13).
See what happens today? We have divided ourselves into various denominations and organisations, and we keep dividing. We recognise certain gifts and ministries, and make much of them, and ignore other gifts and ministries. Partnership has become one sided. Those who have money power have more to say and do. We adopt any means in our evangelism and missions to achieve the end. We talk on unity and networking at the top level, and are in unhealthy competition at the ground level. There is lack of accountability and transparency in our midst.
Be sure, on the basis of the Word of God, each one of us is unique in Christ, and our ministry in Him is of great importance. Some are in limelight and many are unknown. But, all of us are His 'treasured possession' and all of us are equally important to Him.
All of us need each other and all of us must work together in harmony to make the body to function as a whole and effectively. Before He went to the Cross--Jesus poured out His concern for His followers in relation to the spread and fruitfulness of His Kingdom. He prayed to His Father, "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved them" (Jn 17: 23).
Thank God that there are some among us who are deeply concerned about the disunity in the Church and work steadfastly for unity.
V. Incarnational Commitment
"Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to every one, to win as many as possible….I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all things for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings" (I Cor. 9: 13). Let us hold on to the content of the Gospel, but be flexible in our approach to reach the people, and be where they are. We must be open to new avenues of evangelism. There is no place for "parachute evangelism" and "five star hotel exclusiveness." They are not of God. We are not marketing executives, promoting a product called "Gospel." In our reaching out to our people, we must love people as they are, familiarise ourselves with our socio-economic and political context, and be sensitive to the receptor culture and point of entry.
A few months ago, I read a book entitled World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman. I am glad to know that this book is a reading requirement in our Seminaries. Friedman points out that we are in the midst of lightning changes taking place in the areas of information technology and communication. Out-sourcing and off-shoring, and knowledge skills are transforming the world economically. So much so, the world is becoming flat. But at the same time, there is a part of the world which is un-flat, afflicted with poverty, ignorance, cruel exploitation and incurable diseases. Those of us, who live in the flat world and enjoy the privileges therein, must reach out to the un-flat world.
In serving the people, there must be acceptance of them with love, and incarnational identification and unwavering commitment to holistic ministry based on the Word of God. All our efforts will be in vain unless we live by the Holy Spirit, and constantly depend on Him for His strength and guidance.