Declaring His praises!

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light…” 1 Peter 2:9

It is not uncommon today to hear people described as ‘privileged’ or as ‘underprivileged’, usually with reference to the socio-economic position that they hold in society. We hear of ‘underprivileged’ communities living around our major cities or in the remote areas of our country, people without access to basic needs such as housing, clean water, health care, education, etc. And we hear of the ‘privileged few’ who have easy access to such things and who generally have far more than they actually need. Understandably we also frequently hear that since Government cannot meet the demands of all, it is the moral if not legal duty of the ‘privileged few’ to share with those who are in need. And given that by world standards the majority of us are in fact well off, it is important for us to think about the many who do not have what we have and to work toward improving their situation, whether through job creation, training or acts of charity and generosity.

Sadly we seldom think of ‘privileged’ or ‘underprivileged’ people in spiritual terms. And if we did we would find a very different picture being drawn. When it comes to spiritual privileges those who have much in material terms are often impoverished and those who have little in the world are in fact often rich in the things of God. And here too there is at the very least a moral and spiritual obligation for those who have to share with those who do not. It is precisely this obligation, the obligation to share from a position of privilege that Peter has in mind in the passage quoted above. Speaking to believers in Asia Minor many of whom would have been socially and economically marginalised because of their faith, Peter first reminds them of what they do in fact possess - the spiritual privileges that they and we enjoy as believers in Jesus Christ.

First, every believer has been chosen by God to belong to God’s own people. This privilege of course belonged to Ancient Israel in the Old Testament, but now it has been transferred to Christians. And it is this idea of special belonging that Peter has in mind when he describes Christians as a royal priesthood and a holy nation, terms that God used to describe Israel’s great privilege as His people after He had rescued them from Egypt (see Exodus 19:1-6). Though these terms spoke of the responsibility that Israel had, they were in the first place a description of the unique and very great privilege which they enjoyed – a people belonging to God because of His grace at work in saving them.

It is precisely this saving grace that Peter then goes on to mention in the verses that follow. Christians, says Peter, have been called by God out of spiritual darkness and into His wonderful light (vs9). Christians have been brought by God’s grace into His family even though we were by nature outsiders, excluded from all of His great blessings (vs10). Christians who were lost and unforgiven outside of Christ have now been shown mercy by God, so that in Christ our sins have been forgiven and we have been set free from condemnation. As Peter puts it elsewhere in the letter: “Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are the truly ‘privileged few’ of the world, and as such we share an obligation to those who do not have what we have. In Peter’s words in our text, we possess all that God has given us by His grace “so that we may declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful life.” Rather than judging ourselves by the standards of this world or bemoaning how hard things are we should start to see ourselves in the light of God’s grace and enrich the world with our declaration of His praise!

How are we to do that? Well certainly with our words, not just our words of song but also our words of testimony – testimony to the greatness of God’s mercy and grace in Jesus Christ and to the wonder of belonging to His people - Gospel words spoken to a world in desperate need of good news. From our words would people know that we are Christian and that we are glad to be Christian?

And Peter goes on to say that we declare God’s praises in the way that we live – by doing good in this world, even when our good deeds are misunderstood or rejected (vs12). There are all sort of reasons for doing good in this world, but for Christians the primary one must surely be so that God may be praised and so that those who are the spiritually underprivileged (both the rich and the poor by the standards of this world) might come to share the unique privilege which is ours.

Written by Mervyn Eloff

St. Thomas Heideveld Mission Trip to George

Do you get excited about - kids hearing the gospel; a church reaching out to its community; Christian teenagers being trained in ministry; churches working together in gospel partnership? Well then you would have loved to be at Christ Church George (formerly St. Philips) in the first week of October this year. Six teenagers and two leaders from St. Thomas Heideveld met up with a teen and a leader from Emmanuel PE to run a holiday club with Christ Church volunteers.

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Over the course of three days the kids who came heard the gospel presented clearly as we celebrated Christmas in October and learnt who Jesus was through the stories surrounding his birth. As normal the message was reinforced through quizzes, silly games, talks, crafts, worksheets, dramas, and through the testimony and example of the leaders. Children from Christ Church itself as well as many from the community heard the gospel.

Coming from St. Thomas we are used to opening our gates and having a flood of children pour in during the school holiday. We discovered things are a little different in George. Rev Shaun Hunter had to work hard to advertise the club, through local schools, in shopping malls, and even in an interview on local radio. But that exemplified the attitude of the members of Christ Church that we met, eager to reach those in their community with the momentous news of Jesus Christ. So much so that their weekly kids club is run by two of their ‘recycled teenagers’ (now enjoying retirement) who are convicted that God wants children to hear the gospel and that he commands his followers to tell them. They will be able to follow up the children that we made contact with during the week.

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At St. Thomas we regularly give our senior teenagers the opportunity to serve at the holiday clubs we run in Heideveld. However the mission in George stretched and developed them further than ever. Firstly they needed to work cross-culturally. Coming from the Cape Flats to the suburbs of George they had to think about how to relate and communicate in a different cultural context, and how they could remove all barriers to the gospel. Secondly we trained them to take responsibility for their own small groups, to reinforce the message of the day, get to know the children, and encourage them personally. Serving the Lord out of their comfort zone really forced them to trust him and develop the gifts he’s given them.

Finally although none of the teams from the three churches knew each other beforehand, and came from different backgrounds, we were instantly united as partners in proclaiming the Gospel of our Lord. Members of Christ Church put us up for the week, baked cakes for the kids, and will do the follow up work. The children’s and youth workers from Emmanuel PE put together the club material. The teens from St. Thomas led with enthusiasm and skill. It was great knowing that as we served, prayed, taught and played together we were one family engaged on our Father’s business.

Please join with us in prayer for:-

 - the weekly kids club at Christ Church and their work of discipling children

 - the continued growth of young leaders from St. Thomas and Emmanuel

 - many more gospel partnerships between church families to reach the lost of our country

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Seeing People God's Way

Seeing People

In 2 Corinthians 5vs16 Paul makes the very striking statement: “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view”. The statement is made in the context of Paul’s urgent appeal to the Corinthian Christians (and of course to us) to understand the times and to see both ourselves and others in the light of two divinely ordained events. The first of these events, described in 5vs10, is the future day of judgement, a day on which “we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ” to give an account to the Lord “for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad”. Commentators are divided about the exact nature of this judgement. Is it the judgement of believers with a view to the giving or withholding of rewards for service done to Christ, or is it a more general day when all will be judged according to God’s righteous law? On balance it is probably correct to say that Paul has the general judgement of all people in view and that it is precisely the threat that this day holds out for the unforgiven person which motivated his urgency in his appeal to them to be reconciled to God. As a believer, Paul knew what it was “to fear the Lord” (5vs11), and because of this, he took both the reality and the seriousness of divine judgement to heart, especially for those who though created in God’s image and thus accountable to Him, were nevertheless ignorant of His love.

The second event, referred to in 5vs14-15, is the death and resurrection of Jesus. “We are convinced”, says Paul, “that one died for all…” Later in the paragraph (5vs19-21), Paul spells out the great significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. By His death Jesus dealt with the guilt of sin with the result that sin is no longer counted against believers in Christ. But by His death Jesus also dealt with the hostility that existed between people and God because of sin so that through Jesus, we who were God’s enemies can now be reconciled to God. Because of the grace and love of God in Christ, a wonderful exchange thus takes place – “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (5:21). As Paul says elsewhere of Christ, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4vs25).

According to Paul, these events - the death and resurrection of Jesus in the past and the Day of Judgment in the future – should have a radical effect on the way in which we think about ourselves and others. By nature, we see and evaluate ourselves and others from a worldly point of view - in terms of gender, personality, appearance, relationships, gifting, socio-economic status, culture or occupation to name just a few. By nature, and perhaps also as a result of present cultural pressure, we shy away from conversations that encourage people to think about their relationship with God. We may believe in Jesus, but we are reluctant to talk about Him to others. But, says Paul, those who have come to see the truth about the love of God shown in Christ to a world which is under His judgement cannot think or act in this way any longer. As Christians we know what it is to fear the Lord (5:11) and we know the love of Christ (5vs14). As Christians we are convinced that Christ died for all so that no one need remain unforgiven and at enmity with God. And thus as Christians, it is essential that we no longer see people from the world’s point of view, but from God’s point of view and that we therefore “try to persuade men” (5vs11) about the truth of the gospel and implore them on God’s behalf: “be reconciled to God” (5vs20). What is more, the burden we feel for those who are lost is itself a God–given burden, for Paul reminds us that as we speak for Christ to a lost and dying world it is as if God Himself is making His appeal through us!

What an extraordinary salvation Christians enjoy – sins forgiven and relationship with God restored. What an extraordinary privilege we have, to be Christ’s ambassadors holding out His saving message to a world in need. And how urgent the task, for as Paul concludes: “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation”. May the Lord grant that each of us who name His Name, may come to share His burden for the lost, seeing them not as the world sees them but as God Himself does.

Written by Mervyn Eloff