One of the most famous Bible chapters is Philippians 2. It tells the incredible story of the divine Son leaving heaven to take the form of a servant, to die for our rescue, and then rise into eternal glory to the praise of God the Father.
The chapter goes on to call Christians to “shine like stars”, living pure and blameless lives in a dark and depraved world. We are to hold out the Word of life, being filled with glad rejoicing.
In such a rich chapter it is easy to miss something that could significant. A verse in Philippians 2 that has convicted me recently is: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing” (2:14 NIV). Another translation has: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings”.
It might just be my problem – if I give into grumbling then I miss out on all the other good promises of this chapter. Please pray for me that I would not give into temptation to grumble. Whatever our mood or tiredness or situation, God has commanded us: do not
This term we begin a new sermon series on the second half of Romans. One of the great topics Paul addresses is God’s sovereign goodness in choosing people to receive salvation. This is sometimes called election or predestination.
Our Anglican doctrinal confession in the 39 articles calls us to embrace this Biblical doctrine:
‘Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour.’
We are encouraged in the 39 articles that this doctrine is joyful to consider:
‘As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons…’
However the 39 articles also warn that this concept can be easily misunderstood or misused:
‘for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God’s Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.’
Let us embrace Christ together without fear. We have full security in God’s electing love.
Over the past few weeks while we have been looking at the book of Philemon, I’ve been struck by just how radical the fellowship of the Christian church is. Within Christian fellowship, people who have wronged each other and were once enemies are reconciled, and very different people who have very different self-interests are joined together as one family. This was true for the church of Philemon and Onesimus, and it is true for us!
But at the same time I wonder if this fact is somewhat lost on us, or if we take it for granted. Indeed, I’ve been wondering if I myself could be more actively enjoying Christian fellowship in my own life. That we are one family in the Church is a great comfort in a world where people are often hard and cold to each other, and it is something we should all make an effort to enjoy!
Take some time this week to ponder on the remarkable unity and fellowship we share at Berwick Anglican Church, and across the worldwide church as a whole, because of our common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps take some time to also enjoy getting to know your brothers and sisters more, either after our worship service or other Church activity, or maybe by invite somebody out for coffee and prayer.
By the time you read this, Australia should have a new federal Government. Across different political issues, we each at BAC will of course have different views from one another on some things, which is how it should be in a large and diverse community such as ours that lives in a democratic country. But this also means that it is possible that roughly half of us will not have got the result we may have wanted!
But whatever the outcome of the election, as Christians we have a responsibility to pray for whoever forms Australia’s next Government. As Paul encourages us his first letter to Timothy:
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV).
God is pleased when his people pray for those in authority! And he desires that we do so, in order that the church may enjoy peace, and that our mission of proclaiming the salvation of Jesus Christ is not impaired. So let us pray often for the men and women who will sit in Australia’s parliament and form the next government. May they have wisdom, uphold righteousness and justice, and be a blessing to the people that they serve.
We are rightly thankful to live in a democratic nation. The freedom we have to peacefully choose and change our government is precious. Christians have had a significant role to play in the formation of democratic nations. There is a great cost made by those who stand up to serve in political office in order to serve us. We are greatly blessed by democracy.
However we must be sober enough to realise democracy has many limitations. CS Lewis wrote of the assumptions behind Western democracy:
‘A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government… The real reason for democracy is: Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows.’
The Bible commands we pray for and honour those in governing authority. God often uses elections to give us better than we deserve. The perfect system of government has not yet arrived – the full and visible kingly reign of the Lord Jesus Christ over a transformed creation with a redeemed sinless humanity. Come Lord Jesus come!