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October 2014 – St Mary’s Great Chart & Singleton
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October 2014

This month’s blog is by Martin Lees, our recently-licensed Reader.

Autumn is such a beautiful time of year – a time of changing scenery, when the leaves turn from green to brown, red and gold before starting to fall and provide a multi-coloured carpet.

Of course every season of the year brings change – change is the one constant in life! As disciples of Jesus we too should expect to be continually changing as we allow the Holy Spirit to work within us.  The fact of being a Christian is a constant, but once we have come to faith we are also called to become more like Jesus; our initial Christian commitment is just the start of a journey which should last the rest of our lives.

Encountering Jesus should prompt us to want to change, to become more like Him. Our current sermon series is about people whose encounters with Jesus were triggers for change (although its not always clear whether they responded to that challenge!) The cheating, greedy tax-collector Zacchaeus became generous;  a woman who had lived a sinful life became Jesus’ most ardent servant, overflowing in gratitude for her forgiveness;  Peter’s faith was, at first, far from “rock-solid” but ultimately he was prepared to die for the gospel; a rich young ruler was challenged to give up his wealth and live more modestly.

The mission of our church is to enable people to encounter Jesus, not just as a one-off experience but as a permanently transforming presence in their lives.

When you look back to the person you were before you came to know Christ for yourself, can you detect much difference? Can others who know you see much difference? Sometimes conversion is accompanied by a significant immediate change in behaviour: after I “went forward” at an evangelistic “Crusade” as a sixth former I just naturally and immediately stopped swearing like a trooper – it was no struggle to do so. But how much have we evolved subsequent to our own initial “big bang” experience?

Transformation doesn’t generally just happen. Although God wants to work in us, we have to make ourselves available and willing. So we need to be intentional about growing more like Jesus, taking steps to enable the Spirit of God to go to work. A field beside a great river need never suffer drought, but the field’s owner has to go to the trouble of digging irrigation ditches so that the life-giving water can flow where it is needed.

So what irrigation channels can we dig? Joining in worship and hearing a sermon once a week are unlikely, on their own, to do the trick. Certain regular practices have been found by many Christians through the ages to be helpful in spiritual development. Developing the ability to slow down and step back from our hurried lives to listen to God regularly – in good times as well as in emergencies – is important. Both confession and thanksgiving can helpfully become more regular personal habits, rather than merely something we do together on Sundays. And we can practise being available more to others, even when it is inconvenient to our own plans.

Underpinning these habits, of course, we should aim to make personal prayer, and studying and reflecting on Scripture, regular practices if we are to fully understand what godliness looks like.

God doesn’t call us to give up our individuality – He made each of us as a special unique person. But He calls us to be better versions of who we are. As the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote “Now, with God’s help, I shall become myself” – just as a tree, when it sheds its old leaves and then, in Spring, sprouts new ones, is the same tree, but with a new set of clothes.

So when we are kicking the leaves this autumn, let’s consider how much we have changed from our old selves and resolve to carry on allowing God to transform us towards spiritual maturity.


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