Christian Library Australia

...because God cares about you

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home Church Planting/Missional Worthy to be made known: A Reproducing Church

Worthy to be made known: A Reproducing Church

E-mail Print PDF

Worthy to be made known: A Reproducing Church        

By Chris Taylor

In the 1980’s the name Gerald Ratner was synonymous with success – at least in the UK.

He had inherited a small jewellery business from his father and built it up to be a $150 million a year company - one of those discount jewellery chains.

He had a salary of $650,000; he owned houses in London, a boat and a helicopter. He had a chauffer driven Bentley, holidayed in the best resorts and rubbed shoulders with Prime Ministers.

By all accounts Gerald Ratner was a successful man.

So it was no surprise that he was invited to speak to 6000 businessmen at the Institute of Directors on April 23, 1991.

During question time after lunch, he was asked how he it was possible for his company to sell a sherry decanter complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray, all for £4.95?

And in one stunning moment of stupidity, Ratner answered "because it's totally [rubbish]".
But he hadn’t finished. He went on to say that some of the earrings sold in his stores were "cheaper than a prawn sandwich, but probably wouldn't last as long".

Virtually overnight, as the media got hold of the comment, the value of the Ratners' group plummeted by around £500 million, which very nearly resulted in the firm's collapse – To stave off bankruptcy, it was forced to change it’s name to avoid any association with Ratner himself. In fact, he was eventually fired from his own company and lost everything he had known.

Ratner really does disprove the old saying “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”.  

Now if the company chief executive and owner of the company could think so little of his own products, how could the public think any better of them.

And the same goes for the church.

Now we are not spruiking a product, but we are meant to be spokes-people for God. We are ambassadors of Christ, aren’t we?

Now I wonder what you would say if someone asked you “how come you are a Christian?”  “How come you are so keen to trust in this Jesus guy?”

Now we are not likely to say “because it’s all totally rubbish” – at least I hope you won’t.

But are we going to be left with the next worst answer: an awkward silence as we struggle to give a credible reason for why we believe;  Unable to think of any basis as to why you call yourself a Christian or why Jesus is worth all the so-called effort.

Now it’s a fair question to ask, I think, as we conclude our series on the Lord who is Worthy and as we look today at the Lord who is worthy to be made known;

As such our goal that is in focus today is to be a Reproducing Church.

Each week so far we have looked at one of our goals for Grace. From being a Learning Church to a Responding Church to a Relational Church.

And in doing so, we have not so much focused on the goal, but rather we have painted a picture – or at least tried to – of a God who is worthy.

So to be A learning Church we need to appreciate a God who is worthy to be heard – simply because He is before all things and He is knows all things and is all wisdom and knowledge.  We are fools to ignore God when he speaks.  And he has spoken; and in words that we can understand. He is made himself known to us. And we have the privilege to learn from him.     

The we looked at the Lord who is worthy to be loved.  Here is a God who left his glory in heaven and condescended to humanity in order to save humanity. This is the God who so love the world that he gave his only son as a sacrifice for the sin of his people. Who died in their place. This is love, says the apostle John, “not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”. And it is this love, writes Paul, that compels us and motivates us to be a Responding Church.  


And last week we saw how God was worthy to be known – making himself known to us through relationships, establishing a covenant with us  making us members of his family that we may call his father – adopting us as his sons and daughters. And so we are to be a Relational Church, reflecting God action toward us as we love and serve one another.

Now of course this is not an exhaustive list of all that God is and what he has done.

We need to develop a big picture of God. We need to develop a picture of a big God! The God that has been revealed to us in his word.

We meed to sit up and listen – really listen and learn from him alone. We need to grow in our understanding of who he is and what he has done; we need to cultivate the relationship he has established with us…. So that we can make this worthy God known.


Let’s turn to our Bible reading from Psalm 96 .

There are two things that this Psalm does. Firstly it speaks of God character and actions. Let me read the first 6 verses again.

Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.  
2 Sing to the LORD, praise his name (that his character and qualities); proclaim his salvation day after day.  
3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.  
4 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.  
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.  
6 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.


It’s a great picture of God, isn’t it?

This is the God the Psalmist says deserves our worship.

This is the God who is worthy all honor and glory.

SEEN IN JESUS

Now we are going to come back to Psalm 96 .


But for now, as we push through to the NT, we see God’s salvation, his glory and marvellous deeds ever so clearly in Jesus, don’t we?

In Christ, God is seen. And to use the three qualities God we have developed over the past weeks – in Christ we hear God speak; in Christ we see God’s love demonstrated; In Christ we see God revealing himself more fully.

God’s greatness and goodness; hi majesty and power are all seen in his Son.

Hebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being.

Colossians 1:19 “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him”  and in 2:9,   “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,…”

Here, if nothing else, is the Lord who is most worthy.

Listen to 1 Peter 2:4-7 and notice the way he describes Jesus:    

“As you come to him, the living Stone-- rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-…...   For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."  7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious.

Unlike Gerald Ratner, we are not forced to promote a piece of rubbish, are we?.

Here Jesus is regarded as “precious” – something of value something of worth. Indeed of infinite value and infinite worth.

But do we really believe all this?  

Indeed, do we value Jesus as one who is precious and of great worth? Do we believe in a God who is great and who does marvellous things?

To put it ever so crudely, do we really believe in the “product we are selling”?

Are we convinced that this Jesus is the one and only true life-changer? And that without him all men are eternally lost. That this Jesus is the only one to give life  - life eternal?

Are we so convinced in his majesty and power; in his love and mercy – indeed of the great value and preciousness of in Jesus that we cannot help but “declare his praises” as we read in 1 Peter 2:9 ?

The word “declare” is most often used in regard to public worship and particularly of Temple worship in the OT.   

Thus the idea being that when we publically declare God’s praises we make known all of His glorious deeds and qualities - especially to those outside the people of God.

In fact, according to this text in Peter, it would appear that the precise reason we have been called by God to be his chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God is not merely to enjoy such a great status with God, but rather to declare the glories of God.

Our job is to proclaim God in all his fullness.

That’s what Peter is saying.

As God own people – the church – we have a wonderful privilege of making God known.  

Many of the Psalms were sung in the Temple for this express purpose.

And Psalm 96 , our Bible reading is one of those Psalms.

Not only does is speak to God’s great qualities and character, as we have already seen  - But the second thing this Psalms does says is that these praises are to be proclaimed “among the nations” and “among all peoples” according to verse 3.

And again in verse 7 the Psalmist says to “Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the nations” and verse 10, Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns." The nations being gentile nations.

The God who is worthy to be praised and worshiped is the same God who is worthy to be made known.

In fact, The Court of Gentiles in the temple grounds was established so that non-Israelites could come and hear these exact praises to the one true God.

In effect, it is the overflow of Israel’s heart as it worships God was meant to woo the gentile nations to God.

That’s what Peter had in mind when he says we ought to “declare the praises of God”. Make him known in all his glory and majesty to those outside.

Now you might be wondering why aren’t we unpacking Matthew 28 and great commission or Acts 1:8 ?

And the reason is we must start with the “praises of God”.

That is, we must start with the wonderful qualities of God.

We can only declare God when we have been so taken and enamoured with God in the first place.

We can only proclaim his glory when begin to value God himself.

That’s the whole point this morning.

And this is precisely the angle that John Piper comes from in his book Let the Nations be Glad.

I have reprinted an excerpt from this book on the front cover of the newsletter. He says:  

“Worship is also the fuel of missions. Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching…. And listen to what he says next: You can’t commend what you don’t cherish. Missionaries will never call out, “Let the nations be glad!” who cannot say from the heart, “I rejoice in the Lord...I will be glad and exult in thee, I will sing praise to thy name, O Most High” (Ps 104:34, 9:2). Missions begins and ends in worship.

Now that is a confronting statement, isn’t it?  “You can’t commend what you don’t cherish”

If we don’t cherish God; if we are not satisfied in him, then it is going to be hard to declare his praises, isn’t it?

Thus, our evangelistic endeavours are secondary to our worship – that is, our love of God.

Mission must flow from our love for God. This is our greatest concern.

Jesus says the same thing in Matthew 22:36-37 when he was asked "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"  

Jesus didn’t reply – “Get my message out to the whole earth”. This is the first and greatest commandment”.

No, Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.

That’s worship. Loving God with all our being.

Elsewhere, in the same article Piper says “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him!” (Piper). And again, “For God's glory is most reflected in us when we are most delighted in him.

We are only able to declare God’s praises to the extent that we are completely content in him alone.

Now it doesn’t take too much to draw the dots here.

If was want to be an mission minded church; of we truly want to get the gospel message out to the world; if we truly want to be a reproducing church that desires everyone everywhere to turn back to God and acknowledge his Lordship over their life – as our fourth goal states -   then we must start with our adoration and devotion to God first.

We must start with our own worship;

We must start with our own love for God and with cherishing Jesus Christ.

We must at all costs find satisfaction and delight in him alone.

This is our starting point for all our gospel work.

I wonder if our mission activities are in fact thwarted because we are not entirely satisfied in God himself and that we are not delighting in Jesus – indeed, that our satisfaction and delight come from anything but God.

And I wonder if our evangelistic endeavours are being stalled because our love of God himself and our zeal for Christ has faded.

That deep down we really find the whole Jesus/God thing “totally rubbish”, to quote Gerald Ratner. That we don’t really believe in supreme quality of God in Christ.

So if we are totally committed to be a Reproducing Church and thus reaching out, both locally and globally, we need to become a worshipping church.

A church that is passionate, not merely about sharing the good news with other, but passionate about God himself and so recapture the first and great commandant “to love God with all our heart soul and mind”.

And then, and only then will we be fit to proclaim the gospel to others. Only then will we be ready to declare the praises of God.

But Why don’t we delight and find satisfaction in God?  Why don’t we love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all your soul and with all your mind?

Perhaps…

WE DON’T WANT TO (desire)

That is, we have lost any desire for God. We have sunken into a kind of spiritual depression that fails to find delight in God. In fact, God has become a distant memory. He no longer holds sway in our life. We no longer feel like we can pray to him. And so the downwards spiral continues until our hearts are hardened to the thing so God.

Do you need to regain a desire for God himself today, I wonder? Do we need to go back to square one in our faith?

Now for many this wont ring true.

WE DON’T HAVE TIME TO (priority)

For many here today, we desire, in theory at least, to know God. The problem is time, we say. We just don’t have time to cultivate a healthy relationship with God.

Our lives become too busy

We fill our lives with events and activities, with sport and TV, with social engagements, with church activities – some good in and of themselves  - but too often crush God out.

Because when we have finished with all these activities we are too tired to consider God.

This is a matter of priorities, isn’t it? You see if God was that important to us, we would make the time, wouldn’t we. And so we need to ask the hard question of ourselves – is God that important. Do I really value him; do I really appreciate all he is and all he has done.  

WE DON’T THINK TO    (too many distractions)

The third reason is we simply don’t think about God enough. That is we have too many distractions. There is always something  - be it an urgent activity or a some life-trauma or some issue or whatever, that screams louder than cultivating our relationship with God. There will always be something seemingly more urgent that gets our attention. So our prayer life gets hurried away; our Bible reading gets sidelined. And we realise all too soon that we have not considered God, we have not contemplated Christ and his all his goodness, for a week, a month a year – maybe more.

The problem with all these possibilities is that we have loved others things over and above God. We have simply broken the 1st commandment with a myriad of idols finding their way into our lives that promise to satisfy us and bring contentment.

But all they do is distort and disrupt our relationship with God. They blind us to who God is and what he has done. They stand in the way of our true and proper worship of God.

And to this end we must repent of this sin and turn back to him. We must admit that we have forsaken our first love. That we have not considered Him worthy; that we have not loved him with all our being.

> Recapturing the worthiness of God

There’s a second part - a kind of postscript - to the Gerald Ratner story.

He was able to bounce back form his fortune destroying speech of 1991.

In fact he eventually returned to the jewellery business in the form of Gerald Online. It is now the largest online jewellery shop in the world. Commenting on the success of his new business, meaning that people are now knowingly still buying rubbish, Ratner said, “It’s perverse, isn’t it?”

And, yes, it is.

And yet, isn’t just as perverse for the church to fail to recognise and appreciate the worthiness of Christ Jesus.

Isn’t it just as perverse to fail to make known his glory and majesty, his salvation, his grace and mercy to the nations because we have forgotten and failed to worship him as Lord and to love him as our God with all our being.

That’s what we need to recapture in our hearts today – a Lord God who is infinitely and manifestly worthy to be made known.

Only then will we be ready to declare his praises to the world.

Again to quote John Piper (as printed on the newsletter cover):

When the flame of worship burns with the heat of God’s true worth, the light of missions will shine to the darkest peoples on earth. Where passion for God is weak, zeal for missions will be weak. Churches that are not centred on the exaltation of the majesty and beauty of God will scarcely kindle a fervent desire to “declare his glory among the nations” (Ps 96:3).

Here’s the real challenge for us today as we consider being church that will reproduce itself through gospel work.  

It’s not to read and re-read Matt 28:18-20 and Act 1:8 and be smitten with guilt that we are not evangelising enough. It not my job to drum into you a deep sense of missional fervour to reach the lost.

Our challenge today to so be smitten with Jesus Christ and to find such a deep satisfaction in him so that we cannot help but “declare his praises” to every nation – including our own!

Amen

 

Follow us on Twitter