Church Wake Up!
Are you sleep-walking through life? Are you going through life on auto pilot, hardly aware of what is happening around you? This lack of consciousness to the needs around us is something that Jesus does not want for His Church. In the book of Revelation, Jesus speaks to the church in Sardis and says:
"To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of Him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” Rev 3:1- 3
Jesus twice says to the church in Sardis, ‘Church – wake up’ and it is clearly linked to our deeds. Twice in this passage, Jesus speaks about the church's deeds. To the outsider, our churches may look awake – full of activities and programmes with plenty of people on a Sunday morning. But in reality most of us are sleeping-walking in our walk with God. A sleeping church, according to Jesus, is one which has not got doing deeds right. How do you tell if someone is sleep-walking? They look like they are awake but they don’t engage with what is going on around them, they don’t get involved – they are in a dream world of their own, not involved in reality. God is shaking the Church in South Africa awake and saying to us that we must wake-up out of our nice Sunday church and repent from our lack of doing deeds. We have to engage in doing our Christian Faith, as an outworking of the gift of salvation that has come through God's Grace.
Christians are often guilty of ignoring what goes on around us in our sleep-walking daze. Jesus says,’ Church – wake up to what is going on around you and walk the talk of compassionate caring.’ In the last issue of JOY! Magazine, we looked at two of the conditions we need to fulfil to see an amazing revival which is described in Isaiah 58. Those conditions related to the need for us to engage in advocacy work on behalf of the poor and needy. However, the prophet Isaiah goes on and shakes us awake as he says we need to engage in compassionate action deeds as well, before God in His Sovereignty will send us this wonderful revival.
In order for us to have this ‘goose bumps’ revival, Isaiah 58:6,7 says there must be:
· loosening the chains of injustice,
· setting the oppressed free,
· sharing your food with the hungry,
· providing the poor wanderer with shelter and
· clothing the naked
The issues of feeding the hungry, providing shelter and housing and clothing the naked are what I call – compassionate action. We have divorced the Gospel from compassionate action. The missionaries of 100 years ago and more, really got it right. They brought the Gospel to those who were needy with hospitals, food and education. Somehow, since then, the Church has been lulled into a deep sleep and forgotten to do these deeds. Jesus responded to the needs of the whole man and so must we. We cannot allow this separation between faith and action to continue any longer.
Where did you often find Jesus in the New Testament? He was with the poor, the hungry, the sick, the down-trodden, the oppressed, the broken and the sinners. Christians today don’t like hanging around the poor, instead we try and avoid the beggar and ignore the broken shacks all around us. For many Christians, the only level of compassionate action which they do, is to give away their old and often dirty, tatty clothes.
Jesus begins His public preaching ministry in Luke 4:17 by quoting Isaiah 61;1, 2. He says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” Very significant that in the first sermon Jesus preached, He said that He had been anointed to preach good news to the poor. It is also very significant to see what Jesus’ last sermon was to the general public. In Matthew 25, He preached His last sermon and it had the same theme with which He opened His ministry. The last sermon Jesus preached related to the poor and needy. Also significant that somewhere in the middle of Jesus’ ministry, when John the Baptist was in prison he sent a message to Jesus questioning whether He was the Messiah. “Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.’” Matt 11:4, 5
Look at Jesus’ final sermon to the crowds a day or two before He was crucified. It was a look into future reality, called the Day of Judgment
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Matt 25: 34-40
Jesus final sermon to the Church of His time was all about the poor and needy and practically caring for them. In Matthew 25:35 Jesus deals with six issues that all Christians must wake up and do.
· For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, (food)
· I was a stranger and you invited me in, (housing)
· I needed clothes and you clothed me, (clothing)
· I was sick and you looked after me, (compassionate action)
· I was in prison and you came to visit me.
Remember what Isaiah says for a great revival to come there must be:
· loosening the chains of injustice,
· setting the oppressed free,
· sharing your food with the hungry, (food)
· providing the poor wanderer with shelter (housing)
· clothing the naked (clothing)
Jesus adds two more responsibilities to Isaiah’s list of ‘must do’s’. He adds visiting those in prison and looking after the sick.
So, Christian, wake up, step up and do it. The Church has the moral and Biblical responsibility and the practical ability to bring about change. Jesus trafficked amongst the lepers of his day. Church, this could be our finest hour. Let’s break the separation between what we believe and what we do.
I deeply regret that during the first 20 years of my serving the Lord in full time Christian ministry, I was asleep to the Word of God and the opportunities around me in terms of the poor and needy. I did not understand what is God’s heart for the poor and needy and I am amazed by my blindness and sleepiness in not understanding God’s purposes for the Church to be involved with the poor and needy, the alien, the homeless, the hungry and the oppressed. God gives the Church the mandate of the poor. God has no other system to change poverty other than the Church. You cannot be neutral about God’s purposes for the Church to be welded to the poor and the needy as we preach the Gospel in all its fullness. My longing is that you will serve the purposes of God as you understand God’s Word for us at this time.
Imagine God’s Church moving out all over suburbs, stimulating the economy and bringing hope to the hopeless and bringing us to repentance and faith in Christ, having built a relationship of compassionate care. It’s no good doing medical work only. We need to do more. It’s no good doing social work only. We are not called to do good works but God’s works. We know what His Will is. It is clear on the issue of the poor and needy. Church …wake-up…fulfil God’s plan. Church, wake up and make your dream of a mighty revival come true by doing deeds of compassionate action.