This morning began with a meditation on Eph 4:17–6:9 and a sermon by Calisto Odede, senior pastor of Nairobi Pentecostal Church in Kenya. He provided an excellent, expository yet deeply practical exposition of this passage, reminding us of Paul’s call to not only know the truth but “walk” in it (2:2, 10; 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15). If we preach the gospel without living the gospel, we will only be noisy vuvuzuela blowers. We can easily become convention junkees, but we must think hard about how the theological information brings practical transformation in our lives and world.
Christopher Wright followed up with a powerful call to the church toward humility, integrity and simplicity. Christopher Wright is the head of Langham Trust, an organization begun by John Stott with all of the proceeds from his considerable book sales and provides doctoral level education for Christian leaders in the majority world (outside of the West). The Congress has discussed a number of great obstacles to the gospel in our generation—such as pluralism, persecution, and other religions. However, the Bible presents God’s people as God’s biggest obstacle for world evangelization. The prophets repeatedly lambast God’s people in the Old Testament for failing to live out their calling as a holy and distinctive witness in the world. Idolatry, not only in the world but especially among God’s people, is the single greatest obstacle to world mission.
The idolatry of pride must be overcome by humility through repentance. So often the church is concerned with status, but we are called to humility. The idolatry of popularity and success must be destroyed through integrity. This idol leads to foundations of dishonesty, of statistics and numbers to make ourselves look better than we are. However, God’s kingdom cannot be built on foundations of dishonesty; so often questionable numbers come from a heart bowed to the idol of success. We must repent and pursue integrity instead. Finally the idol of greed and wealth must be taken down by a life of simplicity. Isaiah saw a culture of greed and covetousness and called the people back to simplicity.
We can only accomplish mission to the ends of the earth if that mission extends into the darkness of our own human hearts. If we want to change our hearts, we must change our own hearts and our idolatrous ways. We must seek the Lord again in humility, integrity and simplicity.
I am thankful for the reminder that the greatest obstacle to mission is our own hearts. Programs alone are not the answer. Better strategy and greater funding alone will not solve the world’s problems. It is only the Spirit of God working through the brokenness of people’s hearts that we will see God’s purposes fully accomplished in the world. I see the seductive lure of the idolatries of power, success and greed. May God work in my heart – in our hearts – as we return to the cross daily in broken repentance and humble dependence upon Him. He is the vine, we are simply branches called to abide in Him (John 15:5).