Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Healing Ministry Sunday" Message at St Andrew's Kirk, Chennai, 12/10/2014

St Andrew's Kirk, Egmore, Chennai (via Wikimedia)

Last Sunday, (12th October), I was honored to be invited to speak at the Sunday service at St Andrew's Church, Chennai. The occasion was 'Healing Ministry Sunday'.

We drove down as a family on Saturday night, and stayed at the church guest house.

I spoke on the topic, "Working together with the King". The Bible reading was from the creation account, Gen 1:26-31.

I do not usually read out my sermons, but did so on this special occasion. I have decided to put it out on my blog with the prayer that God may be pleased to use this sermon to accomplish His great purposes in the lives of many who read it.

Working Together with the King

Thank you very much for the warm welcome into your community this Sunday. I am indeed honored to be invited to speak to you today on the occasion of ‘Healing Ministry Sunday’. Last night, as I drove in with my family, and my children saw this beautiful church for the first time, (“Wow, look at this beautiful campus! Wow, look at the beautiful windows! Boy, did you see that steeple?!”) I began, again, to be overwhelmed by the thought of speaking in this beautiful building, and from this pulpit, which has seen so many great men of God over almost two centuries. This sense of inadequacy has only grown as I have sat here listening to our voices fill this place, together with the sound of the famous pipe organ. Last night, I sat wondering if I should change my message, or re-write it into something spectacular and eloquent, and was reminded of the story of David going to meet Goliath. Probably aware, like I am, of his smallness in the face of the significant occasion, he tried on Saul’s armor, and found he was unable to move. Finally, as you know, he went back to his simple stones and sling. Like him, I stand here today, feeling terribly humbled and inadequate, and yet, I pray that God will use my simple thoughts and phrases to glorify His Name, and accomplish His purposes in our lives, and in His church.

Let’s pray:

Father, as we look together into Your Word, I want to thank You that You are here, as You have promised, in the midst of us. I pray that You may speak to each of us today, according to our need, with clarity and authority, drawing us to Yourself, glorifying Your Name, and accomplishing Your purposes. Your Kingdom Come In and Through us, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us eyes to see what You are doing in this land, and hearts that are soft and receptive to You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Working together with the King

If there is any one theme that unifies the entire Bible, it is the theme of “The Kingdom of God”. This theme runs through the Bible from cover to cover. I was surprised to find that the phrases, “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of heaven” are mentioned more than 50 times in the book of Matthew alone.

The story of this Kingdom starts on the first page of the Bible with the Creation account. We read of how God stepped into a world that was formless and void, creating beauty, life, and all that we see. He spoke, and things came into being….sun and moon and stars, land and sea, plants, animals….all created by the power of His words.

And then, there is a change in the pace of the story. We read of the small conference that took place within the Trinity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Talking among themselves. “Let us make man  in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Steve Jobs introduces the iPhone (via)
When I read this passage, I am often reminded of the iconic video of Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone. Up until this point, the phone was bulky, with a clunky keyboard. The touch screen, accessing the internet on a phone, the elegant interface, the ability to take photos, and store all your photos and music and books on one device: what Steve Jobs was introducing was going to change forever the mobile phone industry. And as he held up his iPhone, and talked about it, we got a feel for all that this incredible new phone could offer.

As God unveils His masterpiece, the culmination of creation, we see, in this account, a description of all we were created to be. We see that we were created for three purposes.

Firstly, We were created out of a relationship. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Perfectly relating to each other, working together to create this relational being, Man. “Let Us create man in Our Own Image”. God tells us that we were created for relationship. Created to be related to God, and to each other.

Secondly, We were created In His Image. Created to reflect His Glory, His infinite beauty, His divine nature. Created to display Him on the earth.

Finally, We were created to fulfill a task, to act as His representatives, and care for all of creation on His behalf. To care for, and steward the world we live in, and to care for each other.

The Garden Of Eden in the Vatican Museum (via)
Think for a moment about these two human beings in the Garden. We often have this romanticized, Westernised mental picture, based on the images we have seen, of two blonde, fair people in the garden. I wonder how likely that was. These two were the peak of the un-corrupted, human race. All the races of the world were going to develop from them. Between the two of them, they contained the entire richness of the human genome. I think it is entirely possible that Adam and Eve were actually quite dissimilar. Perhaps one was black, and other was white. Perhaps one looked Mongoloid. I don’t know. I think, however, that it is quite likely the first marriage was actually inter-racial.

Original Glory

Think of how it might have been in the Garden of Eden if Adam and Eve had not sinned. Human beings in perfect harmony with God and each other, with no differences on the basis of gender, or race, or caste, or community, displaying the beauty of God’s divine nature, and caring for each other, and for all of creation as God’s representatives. 

This was our Original purpose, our Original Glory. This was what God intended for us. John Eldredge, the American author and speaker, says that we move too quickly from Genesis 2 to Genesis 3, from Original Glory to Original Sin. May we think often and long about God’s purpose in creating us, the beauty of how it might have been!

Goldsworthy describes the Kingdom of God as “God’s people in God’s place, under God’s rule and blessing”, and certainly, the Garden of Eden is the best picture we have of the Kingdom of God.

The Fall, and God's plan for Redemption

But then, we read Genesis 3, and the story of the Fall, and how all these three purposes of God for man were affected. Man’s relationship with God was destroyed. Where previously they had enjoyed fellowship face to face, they now ran to hide. They immediately began blaming each other, and pointing fingers at each other. No longer were they displaying the beauty of God’s divine nature and character. And no longer were they stewarding the world as God’s representatives. One of the first things they did after the fall was to cut a tree down, and use its leaves to cover their nakedness.

But, right there in Genesis 3, just as we read of the way human beings were going to be punished, we read of God’s plan for Redemption, of the Seed of the woman who was coming to set things right.

Through the remainder of the Old Testament, we read about the nation of Israel. Jesus referred to them as the ‘sons of the Kingdom’. Israel was meant to be a picture of how the earth would look like if nations submitted to the God’s Lordship, and followed His commands. As we know, Israel never really lived up to its purpose.

We keep hearing, though, of the coming Messiah, the King who would reign forever, who would restore the Kingdom.

"There is a Redeemer!"

And then He came. The promised King. In Him, we find redemption of all that God had intended for mankind.

Our relationship with God can be restored. “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12). “Behold what kind of love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 John 3:1). We are now related to God as our Father. We are also, therefore, related to each other. If I am a child of God, and you are a child of God, that makes me your brother. You are now my family.

Our image can be restored. Through Jesus, we experience transformation, little by little and day by day, from glory to glory, into His likeness. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” Romans 8:29.

Our vocation can be redeemed. Once again we can do good, as God’s representatives, acting on behalf of the King to steward the earth. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” Eph 2:10

What is Success?

May I suggest to you that our lives are not going to be evaluated on the basis of all that this world counts as success. Ultimately, we will be truly successful if we achieve the purpose for which we have been created. Are you related to God as your Father? How is your relationship with the rest of God’s family, your brothers and sisters? Does your life display the beauty of divine nature? Are you being transformed into His likeness? Are you performing the specific good task God has prepared for you?

The Gospel According to Jesus

When He began His public ministry, Jesus announced the arrival of the Kingdom of God. “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. Later, when He sent His disciples out, He taught them to preach the same message. “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”

"The Proclamation of the Kingdom" (via)
Jesus called for a change in loyalty and allegiance.

God is ushering in His Kingdom. The King is at work! Come and be a part of this Kingdom. Come and be a part of this fantastic thing that God is doing. Come under His Lordship. Stop being so preoccupied with your own small agenda and interests. Come, live and work for the King!

Unfortunately, these days, we have made the gospel all about ourselves and our personal benefit. Repent, we hear, so that your sins can be forgiven, you can enjoy God’s blessings, and go to heaven when you die. And yes, all this is true. These are some of the spectacular personal benefits we enjoy when we become a part of this Kingdom

Ultimately, however, the gospel is not all about ourselves. Jesus’ gospel was an invitation to come and become part of something awesome and big, the great canvas that God is painting, His Kingdom coming all over the world. This Kingdom is advancing. It cannot be stopped. Come join this mighty movement of God. Come and find your part in the Kingdom of God!

What does all this have to do with Doctors on 'Healing Ministry Sunday'?!

We live in the gap between the already and the not-yet. 

The King has come! The King is coming again. The Kingdom is here and now. The Kingdom will be seen in all its fullness when Jesus returns again, with a new heaven and new earth, which will be like the Garden of Eden again

In this gap between the already and the not-yet, we are called to live as salt and light, ambassadors and regents of the King, acting as powerful agents of transformation, bringing the Kingdom into every area of human existence. As Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian and journalist who became Prime Minister of the Netherlands said, “There is not one centimeter of human existence to which Christ who is Lord of all does not say, “That’s Mine!””

The 7 Mountains of Culture

In the early 1970s, three prominent Christian leaders (Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth with a Mission YWAM, Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, and Francis Schaeffer, one of the greatest Christian thinkers who has ever lived) began, almost independent of each other, to talk about 7 mountains of human culture. They taught that if the Kingdom of God is to come in a culture, and if any culture is to experience transformation, it is necessary for the Kingdom to impact 7 mountains of media, arts and entertainment, education, family, religion, business and government. Now, Seven is just a number. The idea is that the Kingdom of God must engage with, and influence every mountain and sub-mountain of human culture.

7 Mountains of Culture (via)
My friends, as we pray, Thy Kingdom Come, let us remember that if the Kingdom of God is to come in India, transforming not just individual lives, but also ‘every centimeter’ of our culture and society, each of these mountains must be impacted for the Kingdom.

As Christian doctors and healthcare professionals, may we think of ourselves as Citizens of the Kingdom of God resident on the mountain of health, living and working for the King, and ushering in the Kingdom of God on our mountain.

What would it look like for God’s Kingdom to come on the mountain of health?

I think this is what God’s Kingdom on the mountain of Health would look like.

Christian healthcare professionals, acting as salt and light, would be affecting every part of medicine. There would be a development of the Christian worldview of health (shalom) and sickness. Doctors would treat their patients as whole-persons, and as members of community, and not merely as disordered organ systems. They would work for wholesome healing of the patient, and not merely aim for a short term cure. There would be a Biblical understanding of the beginning and end of life. Research too would be done with the firm foundation of a Biblical worldview. Christians would seek to know more about the body, (which God has created), and use the insights God gives of His Truth to find newer, more efficient, innovative ways of healing. The poorest and most marginalised members of our community (such as the disabled, chronically ill, mentally ill, and terminally ill) would be valued, loved, and cared for. Systems would be set up to ensure a just and fair distribution of resources, so that nobody is neglected and left behind. Healthcare professionals would be advocates for the weakest members of society such as the unborn. There would be a recognition that all new and exciting discoveries come, in reality, from God, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”.  Members of the healthcare system would work together as a team, with greater respect for each individual, servant leadership, larger investment in wholistic leadership development, and more dependence on God.

Kingdom Citizens on the Mountain of Health

Last week, I met a private practitioner from Mumbai. He is a physician, and owns a small hospital. About 10 years ago, he became a Christian, and began to realize that this system of giving kickbacks to doctors who refer patients to you was unethical, and responsible for escalating patient costs, unnecessary referrals, investigations and interventions. What he did was elegant and an example of strategic thinking as a Kingdom Citizen. He wrote an open letter to all the doctors who used to refer patients to him. He titled this letter, “Reclaiming our lost glory”. He wrote something like this, “My friends, all over India we doctors have become the butt of jokes. People look down on us, and make us the subject of numerous exposes on TV. They think of us as unethical scoundrels trying to make profit out of the misfortunes of others. We need to reclaim our lost glory, and become known, once again, as caring people who have the best interests of our patients in mind. For this reason, I have decided to stop giving kickbacks to you if you refer a patient to me, and encourage you also to do the same. However, please do not think that I want to stop being friends with you. Since I cannot help you with these kickbacks anymore, I will help you in many other ways if possible. For example, I would like to organize some sports and recreational activities in which we can all participate. I will organize some leadership development programmes, marriage enrichment seminars, financial planning meetings and so on, for all of us to learn and grow together. Let us continue to be friends and help each other”

Do you see what this doctor did? Without using any spiritual jargon, he was powerfully impacting his area for the Kingdom of God. In addition to forcing his colleagues to think about the unethical practice of kickbacks, he was opening new avenues to build relationships, blessing them and impacting them as a strategic Kingdom citizen.

As Christian doctors, we are a small band in this corrupt system that is now called a Healthcare Industry. As Kingdom citizens, however, we function as salt and light, and like a little leaven which affects the entire lump of dough, our influence is much greater that anything we could explain. We think strategically, making small but crucial decisions within our Circle of Influence, while networking with and supporting Christian healthcare professionals who are doing their bit in the field of health. And as His Kingdom comes on the mountain of health, the other mountains too, of business, politics, education, religion and so on will also experience the impact of transformation.

Let us remember, however, that medicine is not ALL that we are. 

It is so easy for medicine to define us, to become our identity, as we are consumed by our work. May we remember that God wants to work through us to impact many other mountains as well. Martin Luther taught, in his doctrine of vocation, that God works through us in four vocations. He takes care of our families, caring for our children, and teaching them about Himself through our vocation in our home. God enacts just laws, caring for the most under-privileged and marginalized members of our society through our vocation in the state, as we elect good governments, and work with them for a fair, compassionate society. He builds His Church through us, as we fulfill our vocation in the church, finding the specific role and ministry He prepares for us. And He takes care of our neighbors and random strangers we meet, just as the Samaritan cared for the wounded stranger lying by the side of the road, as we fulfill our vocation in what Luther called “the common order of Christian love”. Our ordinary, everyday lives are suffused with significance and meaning.

As Einar Billing said, “In all our religious and ethical life, we are given an incredible overestimation of the extraordinary at the expense of the ordinary. We look for miracles, spectacular events and mountain top experiences. Meanwhile, the spiritual significance of everyday life gets overlooked. Vocation, though, transfigures our ordinary mundane experience, charging it with spiritual significance, and with the very presence of God”.

Integral Mission by a Missional Church

Let us also remember that God’s Kingdom is not merely a medical one, and our mission is not merely a medical mission. This is, ultimately, the mission of the entire Church. We want to see every tongue, every tribe, every nation, "every centimeter of human existence" come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Let us, as members of Christ’s Body on earth, play our strategic role on the various mountains on which we are situated. Christian teachers, businessmen and women, politicians, artists, journalists, administrators, authors, singers, Bible scholars, housewives and so on: holding hands, supporting each other as we usher in change on our respective mountains, listening to the Holy Spirit who is our Mission Coordinator, and marching on in step with Him, to see His Kingdom come, and His will done on earth as it is in heaven.


Possibly related posts from the past:

1. Why Do I Exist?
2.  Lose Yourself in the Bigger Story


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