The emerging message
Our call to a holy and godly life – but not as we have known it
What does a holy and godly life look like? Awe, reverence, a pattern of life by which believers are distinctive – many different expressions of this have had their season. Here are some of them:
- The early Christians faced the risk of death with the joy of being counted worthy to suffer — quite possibly in martyrdom (the word martyr has the root meaning of ‘witness’).
- The monastic movement was based on communal life around the discipline of 24-7 worship.
- Religious Christianity grew up as the early community-based Celtic tradition gave way to a more disciplined and church-based Roman practice which emphasised obedience.
- The Reformation 500 years ago challenged this. Priest became pastor (shepherd) with a return to Scripture as the foundation of faith, and salvation as a Scripture-informed choice to put faith in Jesus.
- John Wesley, an Anglican cleric who had experienced a profound encounter with God, preached to huge outdoor crowds but relied on discipling new believers in small groups in homes for mutual discipleship and spiritual growth. This ‘high churchman’ actually declericalised the church by equipping ‘lay’ people.
- Revivals have been born in a discipline of prayer and repentance, from the 100-year-long prayer meeting in 18th-century Moravia onwards, through Georgian and Victorian England to more recent times.
- The priority of taking the Good News and its lifestyle into the streets and pubs of the poor and needy of the expanding cities took Wesley’s values forward and presented church as a radically alternative mission army for social, as well as spiritual, transformation.
- The Pentecostal and charismatic renewals of the 20th century brought a new understanding of relating to all three Persons of the Trinity and believers being empowered by the Holy Spirit for lives of intimacy with God and engagement in the mission of God.
- More recently, traditional streams which grew up from all of the above have given way to highly contemporary forms of church and new expressions of church, with the beginnings of a fusion of formerly separate, competing institutional silos into an organic movement.
How does this answer what does a holy, godly life looks like? None of these ‘flavours’ offers more than a part of the answer. All are needed, complementing each other. The holy, godly life in a (longish) sentence comprises:
Being who the Lord says we are as His children, working this out by engaging with the world, prepared to witness at personal cost, practising worship in all of life, loving the renewing Word and loving the selfish world with Jesus’ love, empowering and direction – and proclaiming the kingdom of God over and above the claims of man’s understanding of church.
God’s announcement of His intentions through Isaiah look far ahead through the coming judgment and exile which Isaiah ‘saw’ but did not experience, to a time of restoration and preparing for the new era of the Messiah’s coming. God wants His glory to rest in the land. Therefore He has promised the peace of ongoing salvation to those of His people who fear Him, Psalm 85:8-9 , and sent John the Baptist as a herald of His Son who is the bringer of peace through salvation. Jesus, having completed His mission on earth, and ascended to His place of authority in heaven, will return, unannounced, to affirm those who are continuing in His way, with inevitable judgment for those who are not.
Our mission is no more or less than to join God in His mission: to announce His Good News for all who will receive Him, prepare the way for His present working and future coming with encouragement for people to turn back to Him. All this, with the forebearing and loving patience of our gracious God who is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”, 2 Peter 3:9.
All the discussion starters
- What are the obstacles, or obstructions, to God coming to us again and showing His glory?
- How do we do our bit to make straight… a highway for our God?
- In what ways do we need God to revive us again?
- What does He look for, to be able to do this? What does this psalm tell us, that holds back revival?
- Is this turning to Jesus one particular, memorable life event? Or are there many turnings, some particularly life changing and significant, others which are more of a regular course correction?
- Can it be that simple? Why is it that we feel more comfortable engaged in practices and actions that amount to earning favour with God?
- Are we, like God, lovingly patient and persistent with those who are not yet in a place to turn to God and confess their need of Him?