The Whole of Life for Christ
Thousands gather in the Lake District town of Keswick for the 2015 convention which explores the challenge of living the Christian life. Preacher: Jonathan Lamb.
Thousands gather in the Lake District town of Keswick to grapple with the challenge of living the whole of life for Christ (this year's Convention theme); including work, leisure, community, public and home life, and our responsibility to care for creation. Reading: 2 Corinthians Chapter 5. Preacher: Jonathan Lamb (Convention Chair); Music Director: Steve James. Producer: Katharine Longworth.
This script cannot exactly reflect the transmission, as it was prepared before the service was broadcast. It may include editorial notes prepared by the producer, and minor spelling and other errors that were corrected before the radio broadcast.
It may contain gaps to be filled in at the time so that prayers may reflect the needs of the world, and changes may also be made at the last minute for timing reasons, or to reflect current events.
Radio 4 opening announcement
BBC Radio 4. And time now for Sunday Worship which was recorded at this year’s Keswick Convention in Cumbria. The music is led by Steve James and the preacher is Jonathan Lamb, Minister-at-large for Keswick ministries. The service, which looks at the nature of discipleship and explores the theme of the convention “The Whole of Life for Christ”, is led by Anna Putt.
Leader (Anna Putt):
Welcome to Keswick, in the heart of the English Lake District, and to the 140th anniversary of the Keswick Convention! Since its early beginnings on the lawns outside St John’s church, each year thousands of Christians from different denominations, generations and countries join together to hear God’s Word, to celebrate God’s gospel, and to enjoy God’s creation.
This summer we welcome over 12,000 people of all ages to look at the theme ‘The whole of life for Christ’, because we’re persuaded that commitment to Christ calls for all that we have and are, and means living out our discipleship in every area of life – at home, work, and in the community.
In today’s service we’re going to look at the big reasons for Christian discipleship. What is it that has driven people the world over to establish hospitals, care for orphans, fight against slavery, work for justice, cross frontiers to proclaim the gospel and care for the neediest in our world? And not only what is it that has motivated them, but who?
Our preacher is Jonathan Lamb, who serves as the minister-at-large for Keswick Ministries, travelling to many parts of the world to teach the Bible and encourage the church. As we look at living the whole of life for Christ, Jonathan will introduce three themes about the person of Christ which call for our commitment to Him: we are loved by Jesus our Saviour, we are responsible to Jesus our Judge, and we are sent by Jesus our King.
The seventeenth century hymn writer Joachim Neander urged us to be wholehearted in our worship: Praise to the Lord! Oh, let all that is in me adore Him! All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him! Before we sing that great hymn, we pray together:
‘Our Father, as we gather to declare your praise, we ask that by your Holy Spirit you will unite us in worship of Jesus Christ and encourage us in committed devotion to Him, in whose name we pray. Amen’
Song 1 Praise to the Lord the Almighty
Jesus Christ has many admirers, but far fewer disciples. And perhaps this is because Jesus was uncompromising in his call to discipleship. He urged his listeners to count the cost before following him, as Matthew reminds us in chapter 16 of his Gospel.
Reading: Hannah Roberts (Matthew 16:24-27)
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
George Verwer is known worldwide as a wholehearted disciple of Christ who is passionate about the cause of mission. He is the founder of Operation Mobilisation, which works in over 110 countries, helping to plant and strengthen churches, especially in areas of the world where Christ is least known.
George has given his whole life to serve Christ, and he still travels the world encouraging people to give everything for the cause of the gospel. He tells us why he has given his life to this cause …
George Verwer segment:
As we have heard about that call to global mission, we sing together about the hope of the nations, the Saviour of the world, to whom we surrender our lives in joyful service.
Song 2 Everyone needs compassion,
Leader : Anna
In his famous book on Discipleship, the German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that, when Christ calls someone, he bids them come and die. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul explains why the true disciple gladly gives their whole life to Christ. Our preacher, Jonathan Lamb, will reflect on what Paul is telling us but first let’s listen to his words from 2 Corinthians 5.
Reading: Hannah (2 Corinthians 5:14-17)
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!
Sermon segment 1: Jonathan
I often drive into London on the M40, and if you make that trip you’ll know that, shortly before the M25, the traffic gets heavy and often comes to a stand-still. I sat in the traffic jam for a while the other day, and noticed a field to my left, bounded by a high fence. And on the fence a graffiti artist had written a large and thought-provoking message to the commuters stuck in the traffic. It was just seven words:
Why do I do this every day?
That’s not a bad question. Why do we do what we do? What motivates us, what shapes the way we live? What determines our priorities?
And what are the reasons why, this year at Keswick, we are calling for wholehearted commitment to Jesus Christ? Why give our lives to him?
The apostle Paul was being criticised by some people in Corinth who suggested that he was involved in Christian service for nothing other than personal gain. He was trying to build his own reputation; he was building a power base for his growing personal empire, they said. So in 2 Corinthians 5 he gives three fundamental motivations, three big reasons for living the whole of life for Christ.
First, we are loved by Jesus our Saviour. Paul explains in verse 14, For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all.
The first reason for wholehearted discipleship is because we are loved. It is not in the first instance a sense of need, or a sense of guilt, or a sense of personal fulfilment or self advancement. We are pushed forward in our work by the compulsion of Christ’s love.
I once took a canoe trip which began gently on a wide lake. Soon the lake narrowed to become a stream, and as the banks moved closer together the water accelerated, lifting the canoe and taking it forward. The banks exerted a gentle pressure, and the canoe inevitably accelerated forwards. And this is Paul’s emphasis: the love of Christ compels us, pushes us forward. The logic is described by Paul in verses 14,15.
‘For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.’
The centre of gravity in our life is no longer our old way of life, our sinful, self-centred life, but the service of Jesus Christ who has given everything for us. He gave himself for us when he died on the cross - he gave everything he had. And that calls for a wholehearted response. As one Bible translation expresses it, ‘The love of Christ leaves me no choice.’
So the first big reason to live the whole of life for Christ, the first motivating force in Christian discipleship, is that we are loved by Jesus our Saviour. We now sing of that love, found in Jesus himself, who lay down his life for us.
Song 3 When Love came down to earth
The call to live wholeheartedly for Christ is founded on his reconciling love for us. And having been reconciled, Paul now shows us that our lives must be devoted to proclaiming the message of gospel reconciliation to others, as good stewards of all that God has given us. We read again from 2 Corinthians 5.
Reading: Hannah (2 Corinthians 5:10; 20-21)
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad …. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’
Sermon segment 2: Jonathan
Here’s a second big reason for living our lives wholeheartedly for Christ. We are responsible to Jesus our Judge. We’ve read Paul’s urgent reminder in verse 10 that ‘we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ.’
Here Paul describes a future reality that shapes our present motivation. He’s referring to a judgment which Christians will face. It’s a practical judgment on our stewardship, as the rest of v10 makes plain: ‘That each one may receive what is due to him for the deeds done while in the body, whether good or bad.’
Jesus said the same in the Matthew passage which we read earlier. When Jesus returns he will reward each person according to what they have done.
So what are we living for?
A letter appeared in one of our newspapers recently, written by a father who was working with his daughter on her homework when she received a text from her mother which said, ‘What do want from life?’ This was an unexpected and profound question, and the father and daughter debated various answers – wealth, fulfilment, love, perhaps?
Five minutes later, she received a second message, blaming predictive text: it was not ‘what do you want from life’, but ‘what do you want from Lidl.’
But Paul is asking a serious question. What are you giving your life for? How are you building?
The judgment of Christ to which he refers is not a judgement concerning our eternal destiny, because by his grace we are saved from God’s wrath through Christ’s work. But Paul refers to a time for giving an account of how we have lived our lives. It’s a judgement on our stewardship. In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul wrote about the importance of ensuring that our lives are built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. He is the one foundation who will withstand all tests, and if we have built our lives on him - if we have trusted his saving work - then we are absolutely secure, now and for eternity.
But the question remains, how will we build on that foundation? Will we build with those things which are short lived - wood, hay, straw - or will we build with those things which are of lasting value - gold, silver, precious stones? Because one day the quality of our building work will be tested, and on that judgement day will it survive or will it disappear in a cloud of smoke?
So how you build matters. How you live your life counts. Whether in business, or in home life, or in the cause of Christian mission as George Verwer has described, Paul says that in all of these things we must live for God’s purposes and priorities. We are responsible to Jesus the Judge, and that judgement day is a stimulus to wholehearted service, a reminder of our obligations to live for Christ.
It's a call to be wholehearted in living for the values of God’s Kingdom. We are to live your lives with that future in view.
We are loved by Jesus our Saviour, we are responsible to Jesus our judge, and finally, we are sent by Jesus our King. Paul writes that ‘we are Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore on Christ’s behalf - be reconciled to God.
Having been reconciled to God through Christ’s work, we are now ministers of reconciliation, and Paul uses the illustration of the ambassador, the king’s envoy. It’s a bold analogy. As he explains, it is as though God were making his appeal through us! We are speaking on Christ’s behalf.
Christians are called to proclaim that Christ died for all, and the basis of their authority is that they speak on Christ’s behalf. He is the King, the Lord of all. Of course, this must be done with humility and with sensitivity to the culture in which we live, but the ministry of reconciliation is founded on the fact that we are sent by Jesus Christ, the Lord. Since Christ died for all, our task is to take that Good News to a world broken by sin, and to do so with the wholehearted commitment of those who are sent by Jesus our King.
Let me conclude. The comedian Spike Milligan was once taking a train journey when someone asked him where he came from. ‘From London’, he said. So his fellow traveller replied, ‘Which part?’ To which Spike Milligan replied, ‘All of me.’
It’s a good answer. We’ve seen that in the light of all that Christ has done, He wants all of me.
So we return to the graffiti writer’s question: Why do I do this every day? And here are the three big reasons for living the whole of life for Christ: we are loved by Jesus our Saviour - we are responsible to Jesus our Judge - we are sent by Jesus our King.
Isaac Watts captured both the wonder of Christ’s work, and the committed response which that calls for, in the final lines of his well known hymn. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
Song 4 When I survey
We now turn to prayer, remembering Jesus our Saviour, our Judge and our King.
Prayer - Mel Lacey:
Dear Father, we thank you that Jesus is the Saviour who gave his life to reconcile us to you and to one another. We thank you that He is the Saviour of the world, and that his love extends to us all, whoever we might be. We pray for those who need to hear the liberating news of the Christian message - that whilst we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We lift to you those who long for forgiveness, restoration and reconciliation. May they know the truth that those who seek you with all their heart will find you.
Congregational response: Lord and Saviour, hear our prayer
Prayer - Patrick Fung:
Father, we thank you that Jesus is the Judge, and that trusting in his work on the cross we are free from condemnation, and are able to live our lives responsibly before him. We pray that we will be good stewards of the lives you have given us, serving you and others in a world of need. We pray for those who seek justice in their lives or their nations, and pray this morning for the nations of ……… … …… knowing that you are the judge of all the earth, to whom every government, every leader, and every individual, must give an account. We pray for those who live under the tyranny of brutal regimes, and ask for your mercy for them; we pray for those who are persecuted because of their faith in you, and ask that, though now under pressure, they may live in the sure hope that you will come as Judge to restore all things.
Congregational response: Lord and Judge, hear our prayer
Prayer - Mel Lacey:
We thank you that Jesus is the King, and that one day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord. We pray for his rule in our nation, our government and opposition parties might live under his rule, governing with righteousness and peace for the good of all. We pray for the town of Keswick and for this county of Cumbria, for its residents, its civic leaders and its church community, praying for your will to be done, your gospel to advance, and your church to continue to grow in its effectiveness.
Dear Lord, our Saviour, Judge and King, help us to surrender our lives to you, in whose service s perfect freedom, and by word and life, declare your love and kingly rule in every sphere of life.
Congregational response: Lord and King, hear our prayer
As part of our prayers, Yvonne Lyon sings about a prayerful response which expresses our wholehearted devotion to the Lord. What matters most to God is that we live a life surrendered, obedient and true; to love as we have been loved, and to give as we have received.
Song 5 Yvonne Lyon When the things I crave are worthless
We join together in the prayer that Jesus taught us:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours.
Now and forever.
In the light of all that God has done for us through Christ, we declare our wholehearted allegiance to Him in the words of our closing hymn: Thou and Thou only, first in my heart, High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
Song 5 Be Thou my vision (Rend Collective version)
Anna - Closing prayer:
Our Father, as we remember all that Christ has done for us on the cross, and all that Christ will do on that final day when every knee will bow to Him, grant us the grace and strength to live our lives wholeheartedly for Him. Send us out in the power of your Spirit, to live and work to your praise and glory. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
MUSIC - Band play out