Growth

GROWTH
liverpool uniting

 

 Uniting Prayer and Fasting has as one of its missions for each person involved to become like Christ.    This only happens by the grace of God. God’s grace and what He accomplished in the work of Christ is.

THE GRACE THAT TRANSFORMS   

 Our central belief can be summed up in Ephesians 2:8-9   

 â€œ[8]  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— [9]  not by works, so that no one can boast.”

 We believe that we are saved by grace through faith. It is not by our own efforts that we can have an intimate relationship with God, and  be saved from evil and death. It is only by the grace of God and what Christ has done. This includes not only Christ’s work of paying the punishment for our sins on the cross, but also the victory over death in Christ’s resurrection. Our part is to repent and  have faith in what Christ has done and invite him to be our Lord and Saviour. It is then we receive forgiveness of sins, eternal life, membership into God’s family and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  

 Values that are important

 Each person  who has received this gift of grace is also encouraged to GROW to become like Christ. These become our values and how we live individually and corporately in the prayer movement. Our growth in these areas is also brought about by the grace of God actively working in our lives.  Our part once again is repentance and faith.

 The primary Christlike value that we adhere to is love – love for God and love for our neighbour. This comes from Mark  12:30-31  

 [30]  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  [31]  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 

 This love is expressed in the following values

 1.   Intimacy with the Father through prayer and worship (love of God). 

 2.   Study and knowledge  of the Holy Scriptures especially in their witness about  Christ and sharing this with others who don’t yet know these truths – to know Christ and to make Him known. This is summed up in the passage from Matthew 28:19-20    

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in  the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (love of God and love for the world). 

 3. Holy personal and corporate lifestyle (love of God and love of neighbour).

4. Works of compassion and justice to all people regardless of creed or race (love for the world flowing out of love for God).

 5. Importance of unity and love with others who also believe in Christ as their Lord and Saviour, and expressing this love in the sacraments Christ has given (love for fellow Christians).

 6. Filling of the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish all that is good (power of love).

EXPLANATION OF DIAGRAM

A goal of Uniting Prayer and Fasting  is to become more like Christ.   We aspire individually and corporately to be like Christ, and to live like Christ.     

Rather than beginning with action and our own effort we begin with the centre.  The centre of our whole faith is  the love of the Father.On our picture you can see a heart that is in the cross. This love is best shown in the well-loved verse â€œFor God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”  John 3:16. God has shown His love for us, in sending Christ to die for us upon the cross that our sins might be forgiven, and that we might be in right relationship again with God.    

We cannot become more like Christ in our own strength.  We cannot even be right with God in our own strength. In our own strength, we fall short of the glory of God. If all God sees when he looks at us is someone deserving punishment for sin then he can’t transform us into Christlikeness. What we need first is to be made right with God, by having our sins forgiven and to be declared righteous. God has made a way for this to happen. This is not something we deserve in any way but is only because of God’s grace. The cross in our picture symbolises the atoning work of Christ. He shed his blood upon the cross to take the punishment for our sin.  

To accept this gift of grace and to be made right with God, each of us needs to repent of our sin. This work of repentance is brought about in our life by the work of the Holy Spirit, convicting us of our wrongdoings, and opening our eyes to the truth of the gospel. In our picture, the Holy Spirit is symbolised by the dove in the centre. This is also the dove of the Uniting Church in Australia of which we are part. It is the work of the Spirit that makes the atonement effective. Now we are in Christ,  we don’t  just have a clean slate, but  we are now declared righteous. This is called justification.  

When we repent and receive God’s forgiveness we die to ourself and rise with Christ. The cross not only represents Christ’s atoning sacrifice, but also our own dying to self. The heart not only represents the Father’s heart, but the new heart he gives us by His Spirit.  We are given the power to love.      
 
 We love only because God has first loved us (1 John 4:19). It is God’s work of love  through the Son and in the power of the Spirit. Our part is to say “yes” in faith to this sacrifice, and with the Holy Spirit’s help , repent of our sins. God then begins the powerful and wonderful process of sanctification, in our own life as we are made disciples of Christ, and become more and more like Him. It is the ongoing work of the Father’s love  in our life, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit that transforms us from glory to glory into the likeness of the Son. Repentance continues to have a very important role for believers in this transformation but now we know we are God’s forgiven children, yet still being aware of our sinful nature (see John Wesley’s 14th sermon “Repentance for believers”).

   Uniting Prayer and Fasting  has a short 3 week introductory course to Christianity called “Centre Spot” which was developed at Liverpool Uniting.  

To become more like Christ, we need to develop the very Character of Christ –  Christlikeness, Humility, Prayer and Unity. We have a 6 month course in our church called “In Christ’s image training”. This course has been developed by Francis Frangipane and is designed to help people powerfully grow in the area of Christlikeness.  

To become more like Christ we also need to grow in the fullness of Christ.   When we first gave our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, and said “yes” to His gift of love,  we became   â€œrooted and established in love”    Ephesians 3:17  .   However Paul’s prayer to the church at Ephesus then becomes our prayer at Liverpool Uniting,  that  being  â€œrooted and established in love,  we  may have power, together with all the Lord’s people,  to grasp how wide and long   and high and deep  is the love of Christ,   and to know this love that surpasses knowledge  â€”that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”     

The church through history has sought to grasp and know the love of Christ in many different ways. Richard Foster in his book “Streams of Living Water”, describes these ways as traditions of the church.   He calls the whole movement â€œrenovaré” which is latin for renew or restore. He says that the time is coming when the different streams of the church will come together in a mighty  â€œMississipi of the Spirit”. This is a process of integration of faith and maturity.   

Foster says that the way Jesus lived his life on earth provides us with an example on how we should live our lives. Although focusing on  Jesus’ death and resurrection is very  important, it is also important to focus on his life. Jesus lived in the same broken, painful world we live in. He obeyed God through his suffering and temptations, and he did not sin. Romans 5:10 says we are saved through Jesus’ life as well as his death. Although we will never achieve Christ’s level of perfection in this life, we are called to become more like Christ and to  walk ‘in his steps’ (1 Peter 2:21). One of the most important things we can do is to encourage each other to read and learn the Gospel stories. This will help us apply the life of Jesus to our own lives. Through his life, Jesus perfectly demonstrated different aspects of Christian living which Richard Foster calls traditions.  

The traditions of the church that he names are:  the contemplative tradition – the prayer filled life;  the Holiness tradition – the virtuous life;  the charismatic tradition – the spirit empowered life; the social justice tradition – the compassionate life; the incarnational tradition – the sacramental life.    Richard Foster encourages us to look at the life of Christ and the way Christ lived in each of these traditions and to follow his example.   He also looks at people in the history of the church, and in scripture  who lived strongly in these traditions, plus looking at strengths and weaknesses of each tradition and how to live today in this way. .   

 We are calling the 6 ways of grasping and knowing Christ’s love :  Sacramental – Embodiment of Christ’s love;  Holy Spirit-  Power of Christ’s love ; Word – Truth of Christ’s love;  Compassion – Kingdom of Christ’s love; Holiness – Purity of Christ’s love;  Prayer – Intimacy of Christ’s love.      

Our prayer is that when,  through the power of the Holy Spirit, we grasp and know how wide and long and high and deep is His love, we will be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.    

 Understanding and valuing the different ways the church has sought expression to understand and know Christ’s  love also helps us to become one, not just as a prayer movement within the Uniting Church,  but with Christian believers around the world in time and place.  Our second prayer is that  we  will also  â€œreach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God  and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”   Ephesians 4:13. While it is important to value different ways of knowing Christ’s love, it is of primary importance that these ways flow from the central doctrines of our faith as our picture portrays.