I always find our Annual Meetings most encouraging. So many people are involved in our church life, and they prove to me the power of God as he works through us all to his own glory. I find Annual Meetings present a great opportunity to say thank you, first to a few individuals who have worked hard for us in one ministry or another, but second and more importantly, to God who is the architect and energy of our Church life. Permit me to remind you of my opening thoughts at both Annual Meetings in these recent weeks:
1 Timothy 4:16 says ‘Watch your life and doctrine closely.’
That is a command from Paul to Timothy, and particularly applicable to church leaders. They especially must watch their life and their doctrine, but they must do it in order to help us all do it.
In Lincolnshire recently, my family and I strolled along a canal and saw hares, barn owls, a white egret, some geese and a heron. If you are a birdwatcher, you need your binoculars, and you need patience, concentration, and two good steady eyes to watch closely.
But Paul says ‘Watch your life and doctrine closely’. Now here are two birds we cannot afford to take our eyes off. First, your life. Watch your life closely. That means watch to make sure you are living in a Christian way. If our Christian faith is to mean anything, we must all of us hold ourselves to the highest standards of life. Are you honest? Truthful? Loving? Generous? Hospitable? Pure in thought? Honourable in word? Charitable in deed? Compassionate to the most struggling? How do you treat your spouse, your children, your friends, and those you find difficult?
But the second bird is called doctrine. Watch your doctrine closely. Doctrine is the body of beliefs that you hold in your Christian faith. This bird too needs very careful watching. It is so easy for us to drift away from a firm hold on the simple central truths of Christianity. Are you individually, and are we together sufficiently centred on Jesus, sufficiently in awe of the salvation given to us at the cross? Are you individually, and we together sufficiently grateful for the new birth by the Holy Spirit, for the word of God to us in the Bible, for the certainty of Christ’s return in glory, for the ultimate hope we have of the new heavens and new earth where we shall live in physical resurrection bodies? Are you gripped by these things? Or are you losing your grip on them?
We dare to call ourselves a church at St. John’s, and at St. Andrew’s. But do you know what a church is? ‘The household of God, … the pillar and bulwark of the truth’ (1 Timothy 3:15).
Do you see how a church is to watch its life and doctrine closely? – we are God’s household and so how we conduct ourselves truly matters. And we are the pillar and foundation of the truth, so what we believe truly matters. Let us pray for God’s help, that we may watch our life and doctrine closely, and persevere in them.
With my best wishes – James.