Movement 3

When will you become like us? Or should we be asking when will you become like Jesus?

News March 25, 2024

25 March 2024| St. Albans UK [Adrian Peck with tedNEWS]

When will you become like us? When will you eat the right things? Avoid those trips to the sea-food restaurant that inevitably sees bottom-feeders end their miserable journey on your plate? When will you make toasts with unfermented grape juice or put an end to your vaping days? When will you keep the Sabbath like we do? No TV. None of that partying on a Friday night. When will you give up that extra bit of work you do that encroaches on the Sabbath hours? When will you dress properly to attend church services as we do? Have you considered, as appropriate, a knee-length skirt or a smart suit, perhaps? When will you be a faithful member of a Sabbath School class? When will you learn all of our songs and hymns? When will you schedule the surgery to remove those unsightly tattoos?

When will you get with the programme by understanding what we mean by the ‘Lord’s Supper,’ ‘potlucks,’ ‘Divine service,’ and why we call each other ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ even though we aren’t related? When will you start to return tithe, or give towards the local and Sabbath School offerings? When will you sign up to the 28 fundamental beliefs such that we can ensure you have the correct understanding of everything from the Trinity to the atonement? When will you be baptised? When will you agree to be accepted into membership? When, oh when will you become like us?

Or should we be asking…?

Or should we be asking when will you become like Jesus? When will you have a life-changing encounter with God as seen in both your own life and as experienced in community with others? When will you benefit from that transformative relationship that involves conversion, repentance, and forgiveness? When will you experience the power of the Holy Spirit as he fosters the fruit of the Spirit within you? When will you receive the gifts of the Spirit designed specifically for the building up of the church? When will you love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind? When will you love your neighbour as yourself?

When will you benefit from that transformative relationship that involves conversion, repentance, and forgiveness?

So, which set of questions should it be? Maybe you think that both are tricky or problematic. Often, they are the sorts of questions that remain unspoken. Even so, they reveal where our focus is. Are we focusing on the boundary or the centre – for that is our choice? Look to the first set of questions and we are focusing the boundary – we are concerned with what identifies us as Adventist. We want to know how to pick out the fellow Adventist in the crowd. We also need to understand who is a member from an administrative point of view because members get to vote others in or out as members, approve budgets, and have a say in who gets to claim the title president. Boundaries are important if we are not to descend into chaos. However, again, where is our focus?

Towards Spirit-led discernment.

The second set of questions means our focus is on the centre. What lies at the centre of the Seventh-day Adventist Church? We have The Core of Adventism programme that might persuade us it is our distinctive beliefs. However, go back to the second set of questions and you will see they are not about beliefs or behaviour as such, but relationships. This is not to suggest that beliefs and behaviour are not influenced by our relationships, but, again, it’s about where our emphasis lies.

If we were, with Spirit-led discernment, to focus on the centre, we might find not only Christ, but the Trinity in all its fullness. In Ephesians 2, Paul describes the Church post Christ’s ascension as enabling you and I to ‘have access in one Spirit to the Father,’ such that we are regarded as ‘members of the household of God’ ‘with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.’ So, what about a focus on what God in Christ through the Spirit is doing in, through, and for us? For surely it is from within a relationship with the Godhead that we are transformed such that our character and practices are impacted?

What about a focus on what God in Christ through the Spirit is doing in, through, and for us?

Seeing beyond the externals.

The issue is that we are human. No big reveal there. However, it does mean we focus on what we can see. Unlike God, we cannot see into a person’s heart to understand how their relationship with him is progressing… or not (ref 1 Sam 16:7). Hence, our eyes are naturally drawn towards the boundary. However, if we focus on the boundary, we will more readily judge by its limits. We will evaluate other’s spirituality on the basis of what time they turn up to church services, how they are dressed, whether they have studied their Sabbath School lesson that week. More fundamentally, we will assume that as long as you are a baptised member in good and regular standing that you have therefore made it across the boundary and so are the same as any other member.

Alternatively, we can focus on the centre. Where focusing on the boundary can be restrictive and constrictive, looking towards the centre allows us to appreciate that everyone is on their own journey either moving towards or, at times, away from God. Focusing on the centre encourages us to see God’s miraculous working in other’s lives in ways that move beyond surface issues. By looking to the centre, we are reminded of the Gospel that suggests broken humanity is being transformed and restored as the children of God.

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All images: Shutterstock

Excerpts from Peck’s book, Church on the Move – From Isolation to Community, recently published by Stanborough Press, features  in every regular edition of tedNEWS from January to September 2024. In doing so, we’re inviting you to become a fellow traveller with Peck. Interestingly, his book offers ‘movements’ rather than ‘chapters’ to encourage a sense of the reader ‘being in transition’. If there was a book that could have been specifically written to wrestle over the meaning of the Trans-European Division’s three strategic values to Extend Love, Grow Lifelong Disciples, and Multiply Communities, it is this one.

Copies of Church on the Move are available from Life Source Christian Bookshop (the retail outlet of  The Stanborough Press). The book is also available as an eBook for Kindle. [Photos: Stanborough Press (featured image)

 

 

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