Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Right Side Up - Pt 5
Down to the 'tin tacks' of what a new Christian needs to know: the role of the Spirit, Bible, church and prayer in the life of a believer. Paul keeps breathing new life into well worn roads – how well he explains church in chapter eight! The observation of how the word itself means something entirely different to us now than when the Bible used the term ‘church’ helps the new Christian to completely reorientate both their expectations and their understanding of why they should join up. I think I've been talking at cross purposes for years when it comes to issues of church, seeing things from the perspective of someone who's been attending church for nearly 20 years now. Paul has managed to get into the non-Christian head, see what they might be thinking and deal with their issues. And he even explains the place of music with clarity!
Meanwhile who says 'we' (Sydney evangelicals) neglect the Spirit ...? In chapter seven He even gets a second look, and is said to be 'vital' for turning our lives right side up. And so He is! The Trinity is further explained here too, of course, and Paul is unapologetic and clear as he states 'in a way that we do not fully understand, each person is fully God and yet together they are God' (pg 114). He differentiates between what the Bible tells us and what it doesn't explain. There are plenty of lessons there for the rest of us – don't let what you don't know deter you from explaining what you do. Page 114 is really a packed page! What with observations such as 'Christians are never alone' (which I found to be such a profound thought as a single person who lives alone) and his remark that every Christian has the Spirit, Paul tackles the uncertainties about the Spirit’s work in the individual that can often hold new Christians back, especially in some Pentecostal churches. I do hope this book makes its way into these churches! – which has got me thinking about a whole new idea, why not pray that this book, and similar treasures, bear much fruit in the places that would most benefit from them. Yeah, maybe I'm just slow on the uptake and you've all been praying this for years but if not, will you join with me in doing this? We could start something big!
Being in fulltime Christian ministry I couldn't read Right Side Up without thinking of specific people and the conversations I've had with them in the last little while, which has made me realise the enormous value of this book. It's also made me think of how well-equipped we are here in Australia! I've been giving people copies of books like John Chapman's A Fresh Start for years now. It's so exciting to have another book that is so clearly helpful. Sometimes far more helpful than what I've said in the past – the bit on what to look for in a church in chapter eight reminded me of that I'd reduced my explanation to 'one that teaches the Bible well'. Paul's four criterion are far more adequate, as they not only tell the new Christian what to look for, they tell the church member what their church should be. So practical, and challenging, he tells us to go to church AND get involved, well worth saying from the very beginning! Once again, this is a resource not just for follow-up but also for training a Christian in what to say to those you're discipling, and even how to correct a few lapsed opinions on the basics of Christian living.