I’ve had such joy in my heart the last few days – of the real kind – during the NCMI Equip South Africa 2013 time in Johannesburg. Some of you reading this blog won’t know what Equip is, so I best let you know. Basically, it’s a gathering of churches from around South Africa that partner with New Covenant Ministries International (NCMI) in strengthening and planting churches and myriads of other things relating to the mission Christians have on this planet.
If you don’t know what I mean by the ‘mission Christians have’ then you can send me an email and we can reserve that for another discussion 🙂 For now, let’s get to why I’ve had such joy.
A key scripture for me during this time has been Ezekiel 46: 9 (this came up in our worship time together yesterday morning).
“When the people of the land come before the Lord at the appointed feasts, he who enters by the north gate to worship shall go out by the south gate, and he who enters by the south gate shall go out by the north gate: no one shall return by way of the gate by which he entered, but each shall go out straight ahead.”
When people come in to worship God, who can really be known by us personally (an amazing truth), they should never be the same when they leave. This is what God does, little by little, every day – he changes us and conforms us to become like Jesus Christ. If you’re not a Christian and you’re reading that, I can understand you might not be sure of what I mean. Basically, part of what God wants to do in us is he wants to transform us into new people. The Scriptures put this so strongly that in 2 Corinthians 5:7 it says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
This is both a one-time event (when you put your faith in Jesus, God changes your heart) and its an ongoing event, as we become more like Jesus in our hearts, which affects our thoughts, which affects our actions.
This is how I’m feeling this week. Sometimes this transformation is a slow process – a slog can be an apt word. Then there are these moments, very many times in events like these where so many Christians get together, when there’s a fast-track of the process. When you leave, you really aren’t the same.
This year’s change
The amazing thing about these EQUIP times is they’re often like this for me (they happen every year). Last year I felt God had finally done a transforming work in my heart around my ambitions. One of the upshots of that transformation has been a certain discernment where I can start easily picking up when I’m going down that road again, and I can do what I need to do to not go down there. This was a big deal for me. My ambitious nature makes me incredibly restless. And restless is not what God wants for us.
After God’s dealing with my heart on that issue, it seems at EQUIP this year he’s reminding me of many of the things He has spoken in the past to me about that I should be involved in. The brilliant thing is, this time I’m seeing them without the cloud of ambition and restlessness, but in clarity and joy. The first night of EQUIP was a ‘fresh commissioning’. This is for us as a group of partnering churches and partnering people. But I’m feeling this for my own life, and this is how God works – both corporately and personally. It’s one of the most amazing things about Christianity – God works with His church as one body; but he also works with us and speaks to us so personally.
The colour and vibrancy of the Christian life is starting to become a reality for me again. I feel very much like I did in my 20’s. Full of faith. But I was also full of idealism in those days. This time, however, this faith is coupled with my real-world experience of suffering and the knowledge in my heart that the Christian life is also filled with hardship and hard work.
I have the joy without the idealism. I have the commissioning without the ambition. Now this is gold.