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Going on to Maturity

 

 

Dr Hugh Osgood

 

 

 

 

 

By Dr Hugh Osgood
Church In Communities International Ministries 

 

 

 
Foundation Scripture: Matthew 9:14-16

Sunday 13th July 2014

 

I am in no doubt that God has an emphasis on newness; the reason why I am taking a closer look at this passage in scripture and sharing this message with you. God wants us to live a new life and a new expression of the new life. I am also aware that there is a need to go on to maturity.


We often quote from Psalm 8:2, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and young infants, you’ve commanded strength (praise)’, but if after attaining maturity, we still are expressing our praises to God like an infant will do, is it possible that we need to reassess our level of maturity? It will be imprudent to assume that maturity comes automatically in the Christian world. It doesn’t always arrive spontaneously in the work place either. It is not surprising for time to have flown past, and yet an individual has not grown in wisdom. We really need to start seeing wisdom in our lives.


Our foundation scripture today challenges some of our thinking; on shrunk clothing, fasting and new wine, and I want to take a look at these three pointers in this message.


There is a sense of celebration in the phrase “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” This reply must have been quite an unexpected one to the ears of John’s disciples. Jesus implied that his presence among his disciples at that time made fasting a non-necessity, but as soon as he leaves the scene, then his disciples will inevitably have to start fasting. And we are fully aware that the disciples went through agony as soon as Jesus was arrested and crucified. Although, he had spoken about his resurrection a couple of times, this had not really been fully understood by the disciples, then. On the occasion where Jesus rebuked Peter for his comments about his death, it is most likely that he did not pick up the fact that Jesus would rise again; all he heard was Jesus’ death.


Those days of sorrow after Jesus died, even though it did not last long were transformative. Some of the lessons the disciples learnt during those three days of fasting continued to be with them. In their experience of church life, the fullness that they received in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit surpassed anything they had known when they were physically with Jesus. They also discovered something about fasting that actually releases the power of the cross into a person’s life. When Jesus died on the cross, something within each of them died with him. Conversely, every one of us who believes in Jesus has been crucified with Christ. This is not just a theological statement; it is something that should have dawned on the inside of each of us, that there is a release of God’s power when we deal with self-centeredness. In other words, when self-centeredness is crossed out in our lives, there is a release of God’s power.

 

Those three days before Jesus resurrected, a transformation as a result of their grief took place that changed their relationship with him significantly when they beheld him in his glorified body. As you read through the books of Acts, you will notice the remarkable difference in their lives. They realised that there was something in self-sacrifice that released greater power. Jesus had told them, ‘Take up your cross daily, and follow me’, but they did not fully understand what it meant. As much as there were deprivations, and they had to put up with sparse conditions when on a missions trip with him, their joy of being with Jesus at that time far surpassed their inconveniences. However, when Jesus died on the cross, they felt the pain even more, especially because they had been in close proximity with him. They knew in that moment, they needed to come in close contact with the power that Jesus spoke to them about. They also knew that there was something about depriving self that released God’s power, ultimately leading to maturity. A church that knows how to lay self aside goes on to maturity. Christian maturity can simply be defined as more of God, and less of us.


As a Christian you still need your personality though, you don’t need to lose out on this, in the bid to become ‘more like Christ’. It’s more to do with making those big choices for Christ, saying ‘It is not I, but Christ that lives within me’. The work has already been completed on the cross, but the application of this finished work of Christ has to be worked out day by day in our lives. Remember that one of these days, we will be rewarded for how much like Christ we become (Hebrews 9:27). Whatever we’ve done here on earth will determine the kind of reward to be received. Jim Elliot once said ‘he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose’. So the disciples had to learn to fast.


Let’s talk briefly about new wine. I was so excited when ‘New Wine Church’ began. I got to know Dr Tayo during those early days. Indeed some of the things that God was doing in those days needed a fresh perspective – new wine. New wine requires new wine skins; matured wine can fit into any wine skin, and actually sells at a higher price commercially. This is because, new wine requires expandable wine skin while fermenting, but matured wine can be kept in any container. Is it possible that while God is doing fresh things in our churches, we have become familiar and comfortable with the status quo that any new changes frowned at could be pushing God out? One mark of maturity is your ability to fit anywhere. We need to get to this point, because one of the things that make me sad is that we lack cross-generational strengths in our churches. It is happening because we are increasingly finding it difficult to gather everyone together – young and old, rich and poor, different cultures and nationalities. We seem to be looking for our own wine skins. The greater the wisdom we have, the greater the patience that we should possess. As you grow older, will you become more flexible? I am really excited about any fresh expression of the body of Christ. I have learnt to become what Anglicans call ‘liturgically multilingual’ – it means I can cope in any church setting situation. So new wine needs new wine skins but as the wine matures, it should be easily decanted and be a blessing in various places, leading to encouragement, unity and maturity.


Let’s take some time discussing the third point – shrunk cloth. Here is Matthew 9:16; "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse”. One of the great expressions in the book of Isaiah is ‘people who are repairers of the bridge’. I know it’s great to have everything new and living in a disposable society like ours doesn’t help any form of repairs in any way. It’s so easy to say about any faulty equipment ‘let’s get rid of it and buy another one’. In the church, we need people who can repair the bridges, close the gaps and make a difference. Pastor Paul Yonggi Cho was once asked ‘How come your church is the largest in the world?’ He said ‘We are a church that has never witnessed a split, despite the many opportunities to do so’. To apply this verse in our lives, let’s move closer home, and repair the bridges in our families – where there is animosity among relatives and siblings; and churches, where congregations have fallen over each other on petty things.


We need shrunk cloths to repair the patch. If you are going to repair a garment, the shrunk cloth you are going to use must have been through the wash many times, to the point that it would not shrink any further. Some of the circumstances you’ve been through personally, as painful as it may be, have been used by God to shape you into a person that can close a gap. The bigger the gap, the more shrunk that cloth has to be to ensure that the rip does not get worse.


To summarize all I have said so far, I am looking for those who are going further in maturity. It goes beyond giving advice, and actually putting yourself in those situations in order to close the gaps. Remember that God cannot use un-shrunk cloth to repair a gap, so your co-operation with God is vital to ensuring successful reconciliations (2 Corinthians 5:18). God will usually start this journey with you from a small beginning – before David slew Goliath, he had to deal with the lion and the bear first. You must however, be willing in your heart and have a desire to make the  necessary sacrifices.


Let me round up with Gideon’s story, which you may be familiar with: He was given a seemingly impossible task of delivering Israel from the Midianites – a nation that annually raided their fields, destroying their crops in the process. God made a choice of a man who made an effort to gather whatever harvest he could, before the enemies struck; he was God’s ‘mighty man of valour’.


Gideon had his doubts as to whether he was equipped to save the nation, so he puts a test to God. He lays a skin before God all night, representative of himself. He asks, ‘Lord, can you make the fleece wet, when the ground is dry?’ God responds with a positive feedback. Gideon asks again ‘Lord, can you make the ground wet, while the fleece is dry?’ to which God gives another positive feedback. Everyone who starts out in ministry need to have these tests concluded in their hearts. ‘If I’m ministering when the atmosphere seems so dry, is it possible for me to experience your presence, Lord?’ Or secondly ‘Can your people experience your presence Lord, even when it seems that I’m dry?’ The reality is if the blessing of the Lord is dependent on the feelings of the preacher, the church stands the danger of losing out.


It’s worth going on to maturity, so that in maturity we can celebrate with the new wine skins and be a part of something that isn't as flexible as it used to be, and also worth letting God work in our lives, so that we can,  like shrunk cloth be available to repair any ripped garments.

 

  

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