INTRODUCTIONIsaiah 43 is about the Israelites being given the opportunity to start all-over again. The Book of Isaiah is about God preparing Israel for a REBOOT - a redemptive hope for the future.
Why is REBOOT needed? It is initiated when things are ‘getting no-where’, and sometimes it is initiated to bring freshness. A ‘Spiritual Reboot’ - is initiated to shake the church out of our comfort to a new level of faith with God, and to be refreshed by God.
ASE has worked hard for the past 40 years and we have achieved much. But our growth has plateaued and our prayer life is in the decline. There is also the question of whether we are aligned as a church. The outlook of the church for the next 7 years is not optimistic - if we were to keep status quo. We will have an aging congregation, with few children and youths.
We need the REBOOT!
#1 AVOID THE PITFALLS
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!…I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19a & 19c)
1) We Cannot Depend On Past Victories To Sustain Us
“Forget the former things.” The Israelites had many past victories that they could be proud of. But no future can be sustained by past victories.
When we depend on our past victories, we become complacent - we will stop growing and we will stop improving (Story of Kodak digital camera).
2) We Cannot Allow Past Failures To Possess Us
The Israelites were disobedient to God, as a result they were exiled.
Failure has a way of stopping us on our track - it locks us into our past and causes us to live in fear. But God is saying, “Do not dwell on the past.” (Story of Henry Ford - overcoming failures).
3) We Cannot Live on Yesterday’s Faith
“See, I am doing a new thing!” If we live on our yesterday's faith we will become lazy and complacent in our expectations of God and in working on our relationship with Him. We will box God up and we will "stop expecting the unexpected of God.” God is, “making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” He is bringing light into darkness and hope into hopelessness.
“If there’s anything 2016 has taught us, it’s that Singapore needs to expect more of the unexpected.” - Panelists of Channel NewsAsia’s World Review Special. As believers we should expect more of the unexpected of God.
#2 COMMIT TO THE PROCESS
“Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19b)
(‘Perceive’ = in Hebrew it means, giving of oneself totally to the other as in a marriage.)
1) We Need To Put God First Before Self
Our relationship with God needs to be our number ONE concern. We need to go back to the basics - to make time daily to pray and to read God’s word.
Putting God first also means surrendering the idols in our lives. Isaiah 44 - worshipping God and not idols.
2) We Need To Be Aligned With God’s Plan
We need to align with God’s plan & align with the leaders whom God has placed over us - e.g. the people responded to Nehemiah’s leadership to rebuild the wall.
Alignment requires us to let go of our personal preferences. Unity is forged when we agree to disagree, but not disengaging from working together to fulfill the common goal.
Alignment requires us to relook at our relationship with one another as a family, and how we get things done. We need to improve our processes and our communications.
3) We Need To PRIORITISE God’s Commission - Discipleship & Evangelism (Growth)
We need to prioritise God’s Commission to the church. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us, we must get it right by getting our priority right.
We are to focus on discipleship and evangelism. DISCIPLESHIP - to be a true follower or disciple of Christ, and to be a disciple-maker. EVANGELISM (Growth) - to actively and boldly share the gospel.
We need to especially prioritise prayer as a church (story of an Anglican church that prayed and doubled in attendance from 150-300 in the last 18 months). A praying church is a growing and lively church, acting with the power of God.
“Too often, we give God only the tired remnants of our time. If Jesus Christ had given us only the remnant of His time, we would all be on our way to that darkness that knows no morning…. some of us give God only the leftovers of our money and our talents. But Jesus Christ gave us all…” - A.W. Tozer (The Crucified Life)
In Luke 5:1-11, when Jesus called Peter to let down the nets for a catch early in the day, Peter politely responded to the Lord with his cognitive mind, “we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” Peter was an experienced fisherman who knew the best time for a catch.
Nevertheless, Peter responded also with faith, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” The outcome was an amazing catch beyond human expectation.
As God calls us to REBOOT:2017 let’s approach the new year with faith. Be prepared to be shaken out of our comfort, to a new level of faith, and to experience the Amazing Growth that God will bring.