| • Every Methodist personally renewed in his/her first love for Jesus
• Every Methodist congregation revived as in the Book of Acts
• The Methodist Church to be refocused and reframed after the Word of God
and the Holy Spirit
As we enter into the new year, we gratefully thank our God for the past and make peace with all that has come and gone in 2016, knowing that the Lord Emmanuel is with us in the present. We now look forward to the future knowing that the sovereign One, who “is the image of the invisible God” [Col 1:15] and “Who can do far more than what we can ever ask or imagine” is with us [Eph 3:20] and is ahead of us.
As we enter the new 2017-2020 quadrennium, the Lord has led the Methodist Family at the 11th General Conference session [20-23 September 2016, Sibu] to pursue the theme of A Church after God’s own Heart - with every Methodist personally renewed in his/her first love for Jesus, with each of our Methodist congregation revived as we see powerfully transformed local faith communities witnessing and doing ministries as in the book of Acts, and a widespread movement which is focused, framed and circumscribed by the Word and the Holy Spirit.
As God’s beloved children, we believe that we must individually and personally know the desires of God’s heart so that we can, like David, a man after God’s own heart - fulfil God’s purpose in his own generation [Acts 13: 22,36]. By this we thereby accomplish the chief aim of humankind of glorifying God and enjoying [and being satisfied] in Him forever.
This calls for intimacy with God, so that we personally take heed of the warning given by the Lord of the Church to the congregation in Ephesus in Rev 2:4 – “You have forsaken your first love.” We are vulnerable to the multiple forces at work each day that make us lose the wonder, sweetness and joy of our relationship with our Saviour that “struck” and claimed us when we “first met Him” and placed Him first in life. Each one of us has to constantly renew that willing, full surrender of total love of Him that is reflected in a life of discipleship. The taking up of our cross to follow Him Whom we love will be visible as we personally put Him first - daily.
The church at Ephesus was rightly concerned for the truth of the Gospel, but she forgot that at the very heart of that Gospel is love – firstly, a preeminent love for the Saviour that issues forth in obedient and zealous “works that you did at the beginning” [Rev 2:5]. In the early church, “love” was something you did, reflecting God’s own self-giving love that gave hospitality and practical help in a non-ethnic way to all and sundry who were “the last, the least, the lost and the locked in.”
As a local congregation of God’s people, we must remember how the early church in the book of Acts really experienced the sovereign and powerful Holy Spirit working in the midst of a people who had a first love for the Lord Jesus. They were a people who experienced “revival” in which innumerable local and cross cultural conversions and church planting took place. In addition, the social transformation impact of their ministries to the poor, needy and sick was undeniable and was acknowledged by the people around them.
The early church revival not only meant that the congregations had more power to witness, they also performed miracles and made the world sit up and take notice. But they were also empowered to “have great endurance and patience” [Col 1:11] as they faced hostile political leaders like Emperor Nero and Emperor Caligula who mercilessly martyred many of them. Revival meant having the power to be resolute, "full of faith" and to remain true in the midst of fierce antagonism, persecution, prolonged disappointments, political reversals and victimisation, onslaught of setbacks, opposition and frustrations.
This early church revival meant that inspite of severe opposition at work against the Church, Paul was clear about respecting the authority delegated to civic rulers and authorities as established by God, the source of all authority [Rom 13:1-4]. He has emplaced civic authorities great and small so that His world remains ordered and not chaotic. Governments are meant to maintain truth and what is good, in a world where evil flourishes when left unchecked.
The early church movement was focused on the life of Jesus Christ, framing and enclosing their lives after the teaching of the Living Word and the written Word. They had a biblical view of the world and how to live in it - based on the sufficiency and supremacy of Christ -“For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him” [Colossians 1:16].
They knew that if everything is created by Christ and for Christ – then all of creation is designed to work His way. The way of Christ is not only printed in the texts of the written Word but also written into the texture of the whole of creation. His stamp is upon the whole of creation – framing and encompassing the whole of creation.
Professor K.S. Latourette of Yale University, an expert in social ethics and mission wrote a seven-volume work on the history of the expansion of Christianity that ended with these words: ‘No life ever lived on this planet has been so influential in the affairs of men and nations as the life of Christ. From that brief life, and its apparent frustration, has flowed a more powerful force for the triumphal waging of man’s long battle than any other influence in the world.’
Hence, the more we get into a deeper relationship with Christ, the Living Word and to get God’s written Word into us - the better, the deeper, truer and satisfying will be our life. And He has given us the Holy Spirit to empower us and to “fill us with the knowledge of His will” [Col 1:9] as we live by a biblical world view as taught in Scripture.
The Holy Spirit empowers and always has more to teach us about the will and the way of God. He renews our minds after the revealed Word so that we can have “the mind of Christ” as our focus to frame every aspect of life – the family, work, environment, human relationships, politics, economy, racial issues, terrorism etc.
We then substantially “bear fruit in every good work” [Col 1:10] as the life of God flows through our Methodist Family, and we glorify our Father in heaven as a General Conference.
The Methodist Church in Malaysia seeks God’s sovereign work to be a Church after God’s own heart. Like the early church, we pray and proactively seek Him in a “normal church life”, one that is not trouble–free. The church today has to face persecution, problems and puzzles in the areas of money, ethics, clashes with political and religious authorities, intra-racial tension, crises over leadership etc. Notwithstanding that things are not “plain sailing” for the church in our land, and at this time in a very troubled and uncertain world, we can experience the same energy and excitement God gave to the early Christians. They found the Sove- reign Lord doing new things all over their localities and even learned to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world!
May our gracious Sovereign God be with His people called Methodist, working in us so that he can pronounce the same about us as He did of David: “I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do” [Acts 13:22] so that we serve God’s purpose in our own generation just as David did [Acts 13:36].