On this Remembrance Day weekend it’s been good to take time to reflect on the freedom we enjoy in our land — in large part because many were willing to literally lay down their lives while fighting against the enemy of freedom. Though the echoes of the atrocities of war tend easily to fade amidst many other preoccupations of our lives, Remembrance Day is an opportunity for us to think about the values we hold and the ones upon which we are willing to stake our lives. Without giving careful attention to the pursuit of good values we may easily find ourselves once again overcome by world-wide conflict.
Remembrance Day offers the opportunity to reflect on themes that are intertwined with the very nature of the Christian faith. Just as there have been those who were willing to lay down their lives for their countrymen, so there was One who was willing to lay down His life for the sin of the whole world. The Enemy of our souls was absolutely eternally defeated by Jesus’ death for our sins, and by His resurrection from the dead. It is in remembrance of Jesus’ death through participation in the communion service that we are reminded often of this central truth of the Christian faith — that Jesus died for our sins.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1 that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because “…it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” It still remains that it is in the communication of the good news of Jesus (his life, death and resurrection) through preaching, teaching, good deeds and friendship that people come to experience the power of Christ’s salvation (redemption) in their lives. I was reminded of this today in our worship service by the testimony of a new believer who was in attendance. Recently, through the influence of relatives in her native Brazil, she came to realize the need for a personal faith in Jesus Christ. I first met this young woman through an inquiry by e-mail through the church web-site. Today, I saw her for the first time when she identified herself as a new believer during the preaching of the sermon while I was making the point of someone’s recent response. It was a special moment of God’s evident grace in the worship service. What a beautiful thing for a church to experience the joy of seeing people come to faith in Christ.
Recently in a denominational gathering one of our leaders made the observation that the church is not prospering in Canada as it did in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s. Growth in our churches has plateaued and is actually on the decline. This phenomenon affects churches’ efforts to plant new churches. This leader’s realistic assessment is that these different times in terms of response to church ministry may call for different measures of ministry. I agree that issues of church life and ministry today certainly appear to be more complex.
There have been many influences in popular culture that have tended to push church life and ministry to the periphery of peoples’ interest and attention — at least in the ways it has existed. But I can’t help but come back to the significance of Paul’s words in Romans 1 where he spoke of the gospel and its power. Perhaps one difficulty is that we are missing a proper regard for the nature of the gospel and its power.
But I realize there are many other factors including issues related to leadership, theological understanding, cultural understanding, spirituality, and organization. It is true that the many voices of this information age make it harder for people to want to pay attention to biblical truth including the good news of Jesus. At the least, it seems to me that we need to be renewed in our conviction concerning the nature of the gospel, its application to our own lives, and its relevance to our times.