God is calling us to move forward into His future. He's calling us to move forward with Him. He's calling us to move forward for Him. How are we to move forward with God? How are we to move forward for Him? If we are to move forward with God and for God, we must listen to those who have gone before us, and we must learn from them. Let us look back to the prophets and the apostles. Let us look back to our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us listen to them. Let us learn from them.
We begin with one of the prophets - Jeremiah. After that, we will look at the apostles, at the beginning of the book of Acts. Then, we will listen to Jesus, our Saviour, and we will learn from Him. After we have learned from the apostles, the prophets and the Saviour, we will return to the question: How are we to move forward with God and for God.
Jeremiah's call to serve God seems to come as a bolt from the blue. He was completely taken aback. He was surprised. He was shocked. He was totally unprepared for this. He didn't know how to handle this. What was he supposed to say? What was he supposed to do?
To Jeremiah, it may have seemed completely new, but this was not new to God. He had been planning it for a very long time. God had a great future planned for Jeremiah.
Jeremiah looked at the past and the present. He said, "There's nothing special about me. I am only a child" (Jeremiah 1:6). God was already looking on to the future. He said, "Jeremiah, you will be a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5).
We look at what we are. God is already looking at what we are going to become.
Jeremiah said, "I do not know how to speak" (Jeremiah 1:6).
God said, "You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you" (Jeremiah 1:7). We look at what we can't do. God says, "This is what I am going to do." God says, "I am going to do a mighty work in you. I am going to do a mighty work through you."
What do we see in the call of Jeremiah? - We see the upward look and the outward look.
* Jeremiah is looking up to the Lord. He is receiving his message from the Lord. He was a man with a message.
* Jeremiah is looking out to the world. He is taking his message to the people. He was a man with a mission.
The upward look and the outward look - this is what we need today. We are not only to be the Church within these walls. We're to the be the Church without walls. We're to be the Church that is reaching out beyond these walls.
At the beginning of the book of Acts, we see the importance of the upward look and the outward look. We need both - the upward look: looking up to God, and the outward look: looking out to the world.
The book of Acts begins with waiting on the Lord - "wait for the gift My Father promised" (Acts 1:4). It moves on from there to witnessing to the world - "you will be My witnesses" (Acts 1:8).
There is, however, something else - something which lies between the waiting and the witnessing.
Here it is, in Acts 1:8: "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you."
Acts 1 is the beginning of a journey.
This journey begins in Jerusalem: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised" (Acts 1:4).
The journey does not end in Jerusalem. It goes out to "the ends of the earth" - "you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
Waiting on the Lord and witnessing to the world - we need both, not one without the other. It's not to be all waiting and no witnessing; and it's not to be witnessing without waiting.
We must never forget the call to worship - but we dare not think that the call to serve the Lord is about nothing more than what happens within these walls of the Church. We're called to be a worshipping Church - and we're called to be a serving Church, a Church without walls, a Church that reaches out with the love of Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
When we gather for worship, we should pray, "Lord, give us the upward look. Help us to reach up to You." We should also pray, "Give us the outward look. Help us to reach out for You."
Jesus was a Man of prayer. He was also a Man among the people. God heard His prayers - and "the common people heard Him gladly" (Mark 12:37).
In Jesus, we see the upward look and the outward look: looking up to God and going out to the people.
If we are to be true followers of Jesus, we must do what Jesus did - praying to God and working for God.
We must look at the life of Jesus, and we must pray, "Lord, help me to become more like Jesus."
In Jesus, we see both spiritual commitment and social concern, not one without the other.
How are we to move forward with God and for God?
Our social concern is to be grounded in our spiritual commitment. It is to be shaped by our spiritual commitment. We are to tell people that Jesus loves them. We are to show them that Jesus loves them. We are to love people because we love Jesus. Our social concern is to be a way of expressing our spiritual commitment.
In today's Church and today's world, we need this loving and powerful combination - spiritual commitment and social concern.
* Our spiritual commitment is always more than a spiritual commitment.
* Our social concern is always more than a social concern.
We're called to understand the Word of God and to change the world of men and women.
We're to be set apart for God, but we're not be set apart from people.
God is calling us to believe the faith and to live the faith. We are to people who believe the Gospel. we are to be people who live the Gospel.
Let us pray for wisdom to know God's will and courage to do God's will.
Let us give ourselves to Jesus.
He will make the difference in our life - our whole life, not just a part of it.