Hi everyone, it’s Mick here and welcome to Friday’s Podcast and thanks for staying the course this week – it’s been so good to share these Bible reflections with you. Slightly different podcasts in this first week of 2020 with a focus on our vision for this year – ‘Join Us for the Better Life’. Back to our usual rhythms next week as Liam begins reflections on Philippians. Tune in, it’s going to be great!
On Monday we considered what this Better Life is as we reflected on the Lord’s words in the Great Sermon – ‘steep your life in God…’. Tuesday to Thursday the implications of this truth in how we use our time, engage with our work and express God’s love in our daily lives. Today, a longer reflection on the values that shape our lives as followers of Jesus.
Values are important – they are the principles or standards of behaviour that shape our lives. They define what is important to you and how you live your life. As Christians, our values are defined and shaped by Jesus Christ and are expressed daily in living out his Better Life. It’s a whole new value system he offers, a whole new way of life!
The New Testament constantly reminds us of this new value system we live by as disciples – it says, this is the old life with its values and here are the new values of the Better Life of God. Read Paul’s letters and you will see this contrast practically everywhere between the old and the new; you once lived this way, and now you live another way; your life was once shaped by the standards of the world and is now shaped by the values of God’s Kingdom. The city of Ephesus was the most important city of its time; an exciting, vibrant, cosmopolitan place yet pagan in its culture. This is where Paul made his base for two years and planted a small Christian community that would change the whole region. In his letter to this church he says this ‘we were once in darkness but now are the light of the Lord’. In that same letter this new value system is summed up so well.
Ephesians 2:19-22 MSG
You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all— irrespective of how we got here— in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day— a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.
So, as Christians, we are part of something new God is building – a new Kingdom with Jesus as its Lord, a new community built on Godly values – values which set us apart from those of the world. What are these values, these standards, these principles that now shape our lives as we follow Jesus? If you are part of the STC family, we covered many of these values in our Grow Project last year; kindness, generosity, hospitality, honesty, loyalty, honour, commitment, forgiveness, trust, justice, faith, hope, love … the list goes on.
Here is one way of summarising our core Christian values; as disciples of Jesus we endeavour to live under God a life of Simplicity, Purity and Accountability. A Simple life based on giving not getting; a Pure life with Godly disciplines defining what we watch, say and do; an Accountable life both to God and to others. My life is no longer my own if Jesus is Lord of my life.
Does it really matter that the values of our personal lives are reflected in the “public square”? That is, in our jobs, with our colleagues, with our friends and neighbours, etc. many would say no – they are private and for Sunday only! This is the challenging call of the life of a disciple of Jesus because his life had no such distinctions: he lived one holistic life, of grace and truth; of Simplicity, Purity and Accountability. This is the resurrection life; this is the Better Life.
I am challenged by these words from an amazing church leader and theologian called John Stott in his 1984 book called ‘Issues Facing Christians Today’:
Our Christian habit is to bewail the world’s deteriorating standards with an air of rather self-righteous dismay. We criticise its violence, dishonesty, immorality, disregard for human life, and materialistic greed. ‘The world is going down the drain,’ we say with a shrug…
If society deteriorates and its standards decline until it becomes like a dark night or a stinking fish, there is no sense in blaming society; that is what happens when fallen men and women are left to themselves, and human selfishness is unchecked. The question to ask is, ‘Where is the Church? Why are the salt and light of Jesus Christ not permeating and changing our society?’
Society changes when we, the church, embrace the Kingdom values that Jesus gives us: we say tolerance is always framed by grace and truth; we seek Godly judgements without being judgemental of others; we understand the struggles of life and the temptations it offers, but always encourage holy lifestyles; we see love not as a selfish desire but as sacrificial service on behalf of others. Here are three lifestyle actions to consider and put into practice.
- Be Intentional. Pursuing Biblical discipleship and not drifting into ‘cultural Christianity’, should be at the core of church community. A liberal theology encourages ‘cultural Christianity’. One aim of the Grow Project last year was to help us be more intentional as we go deeper into our faith with Christ.
- Be Relational. Telling people what to do really never works! The Jesus model does work, and this is, through our own lifestyle, to model to others how to live differently. This is relational discipleship and true Godly apprenticeship. Godly lives always affect others for the better.
- Be Jesus every day. Remember the 6 characteristics of a disciple in the Grow Project? Here’s a reminder. UP – Bible, Prayer, Sunday church. IN – Midweek community, Money. OUT – Service (in the church and to the world). We let the Holy Spirit guide us as we look to live the Jesus life every day. That’s why this Podcast is so important!
As we invite others to join us at STC this year to explore, receive and experience this Better Life it’s also an opportunity for each of us to reset our lifestyle compass; to be aware of the Lord’s call to live lives built on his values, lives of Simplicity, Purity and Accountability. Jesus is building something new and all are invited!
Here are some words from our worship song this week to finish
And I will build my life upon your love it is a firm foundation
And I will put my trust in you alone and I will not be shaken
STC, get ready … it’s going to be an amazing and exciting year!
Lord, help me to live the life you have called me too, a life of Simplicity, Purity and Accountability. Let your values be my values this new year. Change me Lord, and start today! Amen