Destiny is an important topic. Last week we looked at Caleb and the faith he had to move ahead into his destiny. He stood on the brink, saw the obstacles for what they were and made a conscious decision to bravely step into his God-ordained destiny.
Numbers 14:24 (ESV)
But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.
Here at the start of 2021, I challenged all of us to have the same faith. That we should in this year, pledge to move ahead in Christ, and to take new ground.
Hebrews 3:12-15 (ESV)
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
Today at the start of 2021 we face a choice… To harden or to harken.
WHY DOES THE CHURCH SEEM SO IRRELEVANT IN 2021?
Australians have never really seen the church as integral to their world. The church and indeed God seem somewhat distant and irrelevant to our society, and never more so than today. In our fast paced, ever changing, morally fluid world Christians are accused of being a pack of wowsers from another era, inflexible and against freedom and equality for all.
So why is the church perceived like this in Australia?
1. SEEN AS COMPROMISED LEADERSHIP
First you would have to say Christian leaders. Anglican minister Father Rod Bower said, “You can’t superimpose those ancient texts over a modern understanding of human sexuality… you have to read them in context.”. Roman Catholic priest Father Kevin Burke says, “We have moved on a lot since the Old Testament,” he said. “We can’t afford to always be black and white … there are grey areas.”
Many Christian leaders, while not actively supporting sexual reforms, have remained silent, avoiding and teaching that which might upset perceived public opinion.
Ezekiel 3:17-18 (ESV)
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.
The challenge in 2021 for Christian leaders like myself is not to compromise the Word of God but also to not harshly judge, and to proclaim both truth and God’s love, not one or the other.
2. SEEN AS BEING VOCAL AND OUTDATED
It is now uncomfortable to express any opinion contrary to the government and the media. Soon it will be illegal, punishable by fines or imprisonment. Christianity has previously been seen as a comfortable religion for upper middle class people, outdated and irrelevant.
An ABC survey found that, while around 60% of Aussies hold some kind of religious belief, and while 71% believe religious discrimination happens occasionally in our country, more than 60% of Aussies would prefer religious people to keep their views to themselves. But God says we are salt and light…
Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
3. SEEN AS BEING NOT SERIOUS ABOUT THEIR BELIEFS
Perhaps the single greatest reason why the church is perceived as irrelevant in 2021 is because we as Christians prefer to bend to what society demands instead of standing for what we believe. We would rather profane than proclaim. We don’t live what we profess. Hypocrites. In fact is, most Christians are trying to squeeze the Bible into modern standards. As I was once accused…
Darin, the problem with you is that instead of looking at the Bible through society you insist on looking at society through the Bible. YES!
Philippians 3:7-8 (ESV)
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
It is good to have God’s Word; it is even better to hear God’s Word; but the greatest blessing of all is to heed God’s Word.
James 1:22 (ESV)
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
THE THREE PHASES OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH
Many Christian will fail to shine for Christ in 2021 because they are just stuck in a rut. A rut is just a grave with the ends knocked out, it is not where you want to be. God is looking for His people to stand in the gap for their wayward society, but we sometimes seem intent on papering over the gap.
Ezekiel 22:30 (ESV)
And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.
As I pondered Caleb and his faith, and as I contrasted the 10 spies who brought a bad report, I began to recognise 3 phases of spiritual growth. In our main passage from Hebrews, the writer quotes Psalm 95
Hebrews 3:8 (ESV)
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness,
These passages speak of Israel’s period of forty years in the wilderness after departing Egypt. Numbers 13–14 recount how the Israelites refused to listen to God and enter the promised land of Canaan because they feared the inhabitants. As a result of that rebellion, God made them wander in the wilderness where they continued to rebel. God was angry because his chosen people did not choose Him and did not know his ways.
Hebrews 3:10 (ESV)
Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’
The Bible teaches that God’s ways with his people include three stages: deliverance, development, and destiny.
First, Israel experienced deliverance when God set them free from Egyptian bondage. Similarly, when he saved you—caused you to be born again in Christ—he delivered you.
John 8:36 (ESV)
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Galatians 5:1 (ESV)
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Many people, when they recognise sin in their life, come to Christ and are happy to be set free from the bondage of sin, from the guilt, the shame, the destructiveness. If you have sin in your life, it enslaves you. Temptations, addictions, compromises, they are sin enslaving you, but Jesus died to set you free from such slavery.
But God’s involvement in your life doesn’t end there. The second phase is
Development is when He brings you into a deeper relationship with him. This includes the trials and tests of life, and the disciplines of the faith, and there’s no development without these experiences.
Most of the Israelites in the wilderness failed in the development stage because they wouldn’t trust God to provide for them. Happy to be saved, but crikey God, don’t ask me to put effort into the relationship! Just save me and let me float along, please.
Hebrews 3:12 (ESV)
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
If there is no development in their lives, Hebrews argues, the believers could miss out on their own inheritance just like a while generation of Israelites did. Their loss was not a physical Promised Land, but the the spiritual blessings God has for them in history and in eternity.
You can be saved but refuse to develop. In other words, you can end up in the bleachers rather than on the playing field. If you stall in the development phase, you never grow. You’re a Christian, but that’s it. The devil may have lost your soul, but you are no threat to his kingdom in any way.
In terms of your spiritual progress and kingdom rewards, then, I urge you, don’t have an evil, unbelieving heart that allows sin to disconnect you from fellowship with God.
Colossians 1:9-10 (ESV)
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Third, the developmental process changes and develops your character and leads to destiny. This is where God wants you to step up. Moving into all that God has for you. Shining brightly in this dark world, full of holiness, for of love, full of holy Spirit power.
We admire those who are spiritually mature in Christ. We listen to them, we applaud their influence, we celebrate their faith, but we want the quick, cheap easy road, not the hard work, discipline or pain of trials.
But you see you can’t go from deliverance to destiny and skip development.
God swore that the people would not enter His rest.
Hebrews 3:11 (ESV)
As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
The “rest” mentioned to here is a way of referring to the Israelite’s inheritance. Because of their continual rebellion, they forfeited living in the land of Canaan.
One of the primary purposes of the local church is to create an environment in which believers can help each other persevere through development into their destiny. This is why the New Testament emphasises (and why churches should emphasise) the exhortations to care for and encourage each other.
Hebrews 3:13 (ESV)
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
2021- A YEAR OF DESTINY
2020 was supposed to be a year of vision. For me it was a year of God reshaping my vision, changing my vision into His vision. I believe 2021 will be a better year than 2020. It’s a low bar, but I believe 2021 presents an unprecedented opportunity to move into our destiny. If we want to be those who partner with Jesus in His kingdom agenda, we must serve and hold firmly until the end. To do that, we must help one another avoid sin’s deception. We need to walk through life’s challenges with unity, love and support for each other.
Hebrews 3:14-15 (ESV)
For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
WHAT ARE WE GOING TO BUILD IN 2021?
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (ESV)
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
Let’s make this clear, salvation is not in question here. It is the foundation of the building, but those who accept Jesus as Saviour and stop there are just the slab. Nice piece of concrete, but not ideal to live on. But drafty, a bit wet.
But then we move to the development stage. This is where all the work happens. It takes time, effort, discipline, faith and perseverance, but we can choose what we will build on the slab.
We could choose to develop as God wants us to. We might choose to build things of eternal value… gold, silver or costly stones. But is is easy and more comfortable to build wood, hay and straw on our salvation foundation. The choice is ours.
Joshua 24:15 (ESV)
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
DESTINY GROWTH BEGUN IN 2021
So how can we begin the development phase and grow towards our destiny? What practical choices can we make today that move us towards our God given destiny? Remember, destiny is not determined by fate or luck, but your choices.
1. PRIORITISE READING GOD’S WORD
Most of us read the Bible at some point, but usually when we are desperate. The key to growth is to prioritise reading God’s Word. Most of us squander time every day, watching TV, reading Facebook. Try giving up just 5 minutes of that time to read the 2 chapters from our Bible Reading Plan. It’s so simple, so easy, but it requires discipline and commitment. If you’re too busy for God, you’re just too busy. Be like the Christians at Berea,
Acts 17:11 (ESV)
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Prioritise reading God’s Word daily, and you will develop into your destiny
2. PRIORITISE COMING TO CHURCH
1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
We are a chosen, royal priesthood, and we are better together. God doesn’t condone lone wolf Christians, He ordained the church because He knows that
Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
That’s why Paul urges us to keep going, keep persevering, keep taking ground and pushing on, but to do this together. To not let petty preferences, doctrines and agendas drive wedges into our unity…
Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
3. PRIORITISE LOVE AND HOLINESS
This is where 21st century Christians get it wrong so often. We sway to one side or the other. We think that loving someone is giving in to them without a word, letting them do whatever they want without reproach. Or we harshly judge and condemn them.
1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)
but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
One of our foster girls came to me and said “I’m becoming a man. Do you live me and will you support me?” I said yes and no.
Yes I love you. I will always love you, my love for you is not dependent on what you do or say. However, I do not agree with your decision, do not believe it’s ok with God and I believe it is foolish and something you will forever regret.
See what I did. I proclaimed truth, but did so in complete love. Is stood for God’s holy standards, but shared His Holy mercy. I still to this day will meet with her, have her in my home, and I would lay my life down for her, even though I strongly oppose her life choice.
For too long Christians have proclaimed truth with harshness and prejudice. Not they proclaim love without standards in complete defiance to God’s Word.
Make your defence, but do this with Gentleness and respect.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
WELCOME TO YOUR YEAR OF DESTINY
After 2020, I believe we have a unique opportunity to move into our destiny. The old encumbrances are gone, your life has been reset, ready for thus to be your year if destiny
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Destiny is not some random thing that happens to you, it is determined by your choices. 2020s for, the reset is five, and now it’s the time for moving forward in your personal life, you’re your with God and as a church.