Saturday finished with a surprisingly emotional evening of deep conversations, unattractive tears, long prayers and lots of laughter. I can safely say that our church day away had a big impact on me.
Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?'
The theme of our time together was ‘Moving Forwards’. Jonty spoke from Mark’s Gospel about discipleship– quite simply following Christ. In this passage Jesus talks about what it means for us to follow him. The question I’ve been left with is am I willing to say no to self, pick up the cross, and pay that cost? Jesus gave everything for me; he gave his life so that my soul could be saved, so that my name would be written in heaven. Now he says ‘I want you to walk my way, and you are going to see that it is better.’
We cannot do in our own strength; on our own the path is too hard to walk. Instead we rely upon the strength of the one who faced death on the cross for our sake and bore the burden of our sin. It is God that enables us to grow and Christ’s work on the cross that makes it possible for us to move forward and follow him.
Through the day we were challenged to pray, ‘Jesus, how do you want me to take one small step forward as a follower of you?’
I was challenged during the day away not to be satisfied with where I am now, not to ignore the need for growth as a Christian. As I look at myself it is obvious how far I am from the image of Jesus, and a long way from complete maturity as a Christian. During the day people spoke practically about moving forward in different areas. I was particularly struck by the idea of meditating more on God’s word.
Often I’ll read through a chapter, maybe pray a couple of sentences, maybe not, then move on. I read amazing truths in the morning and forget them the moment I close my Bible. Linda spoke about how Proverbs describes the Bible as ‘hidden treasure’ and storing up this treasure inside ourselves. Linda suggested taking a smaller passage, exploring the truth that we are reading and applying it to our hearts because ‘relationships aren’t built on brief encounters.’ I need to read shorter passages, then think and pray more. Here are three questions that I’m going to start asking each morning as I read the Bible and take it into the rest of my day:
- What does it tell me about God?
- What does it tell me about the cross?
- What difference does that make to me?
In the final session we turned to how we could be moving forward as a whole church. Jonny read from Ephesians, exploring how Paul describes a mature church, and the goal we should be striving for. We spoke about the encouragements and the signs of maturity as a church. We spoke about where we were challenged, and where growth was needed. We spoke about what changes could be made and were reminded of the importance of small steps in the long journey of growth.
Here are the things that struck me as our day drew to a close:
Our Goal: Paul describes a church where individuals look out for others interests before their own. Everybody has a role, working to serve others, to build each other up, to love each other. The church serves as a body with Christ as the head, it’s a church that speaks truth and always with love, a church that longs to see people saved for Christ.
Our Encouragements: It’s easy to be discouraged comparing what Paul describes and where we are. We discussed where are doing well as a church; I was reminded again of the powerful witness of those suffering in our church family. They’ve been steadfast; trusting God in their trials.
A Challenge: We can’t stop moving forward- we must ask what could be better? We talked about how the church could grow by being a place of openness and vulnerability. I was challenged by this question thinking how costly and sacrificial are the friendships I make? How willing are we as a church to be vulnerable for the sake of building others up? Costly friendships, and continuously placing others interest before our own is core in being a follower of Christ.
A Step: How can we move forward? In conversation I was struck by the need for a greater culture of prayer. Praying together encourages openness and neediness, it reminds us of our shared dependence upon God and our unity in Christ. I want to work towards more time praying with my Focus group and being more intentional to meet up in order to pray. We’ve got to keep moving forward together. What is a step that you could take yourself?
Following Christ is costly, is self-denying, it can mean great suffering. Jesus is clear about this and yet there is so much joy that comes with being a follower of Christ, so much joy as we grow in our faith. There is joy in day to day life and joy in seeing people coming to the saviour as we faithfully witness to them of the hope we have. The life of following Jesus is a life of joy, sometimes through tears, but it is joy.
All the sessions from Globe GetAway were recorded and you can listen back to them now on the GetAway page.
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