Welcome to Brooklands Digital Church!
Today, Pastor Karl continues our New Year series of talks entitled “Four Reasons to be Thankful”.
The Bible readings are taken from Psalm 19 and Romans 12:1-8.
The service starts with a 15 minute countdown, where we share some news and announcements. Please use the scroll bar to skip straight through to the service/message if watching the recording.
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I just love watching Sir David Attenborough and his programmes about the natural world! I am sure you must all have seen ‘The Blue Planet’. Did you watch the most recent programme called ‘A Perfect Planet’? Attenborough said, ‘There is one planet where every element has fallen into place perfectly; planet earth!’ (You can still watch it on the BBC iPlayer).
It was, ironically, out of this world! Perhaps you are like me, because when I walk through a beautiful natural habitat, I often miss most of it. Are you like that, walking blind in a world of incredible beauty? If only I knew what to look for! The Lockdowns have enabled us to do two particular things; firstly, we watch more TV and secondly, we go for more walks.
I was taken by two programmes about teenagers who were just blown away by the beautiful things they discovered in nature – simply because they took the time to look. Both spoke like mature educators about the natural world. These two young people had discovered the miracle of nature! In this, the second of this series of our ‘Reasons to be Thankful’, I wanted to draw your attention to the Transformation we see, firstly, in…
1. The Physical World
And I have to say – Didn’t He do well! Our God did such an amazing job of creating everything that we see and cannot see. This includes all the things we know about, and the multitude of things we know little about, and the countless things yet to be discovered. The Psalmist writes:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies [we can see above us] proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1–2) Then he writes, “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:3–4)
The world around us has a voice, and it is God’s Voice! ‘Their words’ are everywhere if people stop to listen. I have always wondered: Why are biologists and explorers not all Christians? And: Why do naturalists like David Attenborough, and quantum physicists like Brian Cox not acknowledge the existence of God?
Although, I did hear David Attenborough admit he was not an atheist! And Brian Cox admitted he did not believe another planet like ours existed in the Universe! And more recently he stated that science does not give us all the answers.
If you compare our planet with countless others, it is perfectly alive and beautiful. I believe it is true to say that – God transformed our planet from a lifeless rock into a life-sustaining, beautiful environment. But sadly, the spiritual world, which we cannot see, soon matched the broken physical world, because, for all its beauty, there was – something wrong! The Bible calls it ‘sin’ and you find it prevalent at every turn.
Sin is like a virus, and no one is safe. There is a real, dangerous conspiracy theory around, and it says that there is no such thing as ‘sin’. But sin does exist, and sin is infectious; sin can kill a soul, and just when you think it can’t happen to you – it strikes hard and without mercy. In our physical world of outstanding beauty, things break down. This is where we come to something every believer can be grateful for – Transformation in….
2. The Christian Mind
If Psalm 19 speaks of a loud declaration and proclamation from nature, then Paul, in Romans 12, speaks of a ‘mind’ that is – utterly ‘transformed’. While it is important to offer to God ‘your bodies as living sacrifices’, it is done with our minds! This is what Paul is saying: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
Paul is telling us about the mind of a Disciple of Jesus, which is the way we think and see things; it is our perception of the world around us. In another letter Paul writes, ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…’ He writes about us being ‘like-minded’ (with Jesus).
Then Paul amplifies what that means… ‘having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose’. This results in having a similitude of attitude. This, dear friends, is ‘The Christian Mind’ to which we all aspire! It is not about being identical, but it is about being Radical. I enjoyed reading John Stott’s book entitled, The Radical Disciple. He writes, ‘So many of us avoid radical discipleship by being selective, choosing rather those areas in which commitment is appealing, and steering well clear of areas where it will be costly.’
One of the reasons for us habitually meeting each sabbath is to keep our minds focused on Christ by, ‘approving what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ I think that I am understanding Paul’s words aright here. Christian acts are found in the mind before they are carried out physically.
We need to keep our eye on the ball today. By ‘Ball’, I mean a down to earth reality. This beautiful blue planet is a sphere hanging in space, designed and placed in the perfect position to the sun in our solar system so we don’t burn up or freeze.
And did you know that without the earth’s 23.5 degrees tilt of its axis, life simply could not exist – for there would be no seasons! Did you know that every leaf is like a solar panel? Did you know that the sun is our personal nuclear reactor at a perfect distance of around 93 million miles?
And along with that amazing balance, there is something even more miraculous. Just as sunlight gives life to our world, Jesus ‘The Light of the World’ also transforms the world of our mind and how we see things. Just as there exists a physicality to our world, so also there is a spirituality to our existence.
God created us with a mind to think, plan, create and build; and with that same mind, we can believe and perceive what God has done for us in Christ. And that singular truth cannot be observed, like looking at something in nature; no, it can only be realised with our minds.
On Sunday night, ‘Songs of Praise’ featured Steph Macleod singing and sharing his testimony to the transformative power of Jesus Christ (I first heard him sing at Keswick). His testimony song was simply called, ‘When I found Jesus’. Verse one begins, ‘When I found Jesus, He was holding on to me!” That is a profound revelation. He was once a drug addict living on the streets – and the moment he came to faith, he realised Jesus was ‘holding on to him’.
The second verse starts, ‘When I found Jesus, He was standing over me… There were times I could have died, but the Lord was by my side… I didn’t know then, but I’d been saved by the blood of Jesus’.
I wanted to tell you this morning that the biggest transformation begins when we see Jesus as He is! For Steph Macleod, it was the fact that Jesus was in the gutter with him specifically to save him.
For Saul of Tarsus, the Person who saved him turned out to be the very Person he was actively persecuting. Jesus did not prevent him going to Damascus; instead, he Transformed the man who was on the road to Damascus. The persecutor was turned into a preacher of the same Gospel which he had before tried to eradicate.
When the encounter with Jesus is genuine, so is the transformation. This is seen in the verses which follow (Rom. 9 – 21), there are, in fact, twenty-four exhortations (all good things to do). All of them can be summed up in the first one ‘Love must be sincere!’ (Rom 12: 9). Arguably, Paul’s Damascus Road experience may well have contributed to the deeper meaning of these words.
On a personal note; as I was thinking about this Transformation’ as part of our faith, I could not help but think of many of you.
When you have known people over years and sometimes decades, you can’t help but see the transformative nature of the Gospel in their lives. We can’t always see it in our own lives, but others do.
And that is always a cause to offer gratitude to the Lord, which I gladly do whole-heartedly this morning. I wanted you to know that you have often been the cause for others giving thanks to God!