It seems counter cultural to work really hard to call people to Christ, build them in faith, grow a body of believers – only to then send them away!
Over the last few weeks we have done both.
As part of ‘Hello Neighbour – Jesus is…’ we have in different ways called people to Christ, invited them to find out more with the intention to help build them (and one another) in faith. The result is that folk have joined our church – this local body of believers. Praise God. But, while we have been doing that, we have sent people away. Caroline, Karen and Amy left us to go to India. There are also members who have or are recently relocating (e.g. Richard and June, Phil, Suz) and our prayer is that they will be a witness for Christ wherever they might be. Last Sunday we farewelled others to go as Global Partners overseas. Call people in only to send them away – insane!
Well, not really. It is however a demonstration of what it means to be set apart for the Lord.
If we took a self-centered view in all we did, then there would be no reason to leave the relationships and friendships which we, humanly speaking, most value. We could meet together like a social club and share common interests and mutual pleasures. But, that inward looking view would be a curse and would eventually lead to our implosion, because invariably our self-centered sin would drive us away from others.
The gospel calls us to what is best both for our own selves, and for others whom we seek out.
Psalm 4 last Sunday, in a couple of ways showed both views.
You have the self-centered men who love delusions and seek false gods (Ps 4:2). I take it that the only reason you would love something that was fake or seek something that was false was because you thought it gave you something better than that which is real and true. Tell yourself what you want to hear, and then follow it. That is a self-serving and ultimately unhelpful view.
David in writing this Psalm gives the alternative. First he says ‘Know that the Lord has set apart the godly (one or ones) for himself and he will hear their call (Ps 4:3). Second, he says, check your attitude or motivations to ensure you are not simply telling yourself what you want to hear – so search your hearts and be silent (Ps 4:4). Third he says offer to God what you should and trust him (4:5). Each of these alternatives ask the person to give of themselves. And David’s testimony is that God has indeed heard the prayer of the godly and given David an even greater joy than what the men thought they could have (c.f. Ps 4:7-8). What is the guarantee? There is none! But the difference is that David has chosen to trust the Lord rather than himself.
Being set apart for the Lord means going with God before going with someone or something less.
Friends, it is because folk have decided to go with God that we so often get to send those from among us. Give thanks every time someone from us does this even through that will be painful for both them and you. We send people out because we want to call more people in. We do this for God, for others and in the long run for ourselves.