The One Thing

Theatre of His Grace  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Starting a new series - entitled “Theatre of His Grace.’
I have to say that this series was devised before the the rain bombs caused immense flooding on in the eastern states. Before we saw houses and main street of towns, totally under water. Before we saw cars an animals taking refuge on the highest landmark around, the arch of a bridge. This series was created in a world were there was only rumour of wars, not full out war itself. Before we saw the devastation, the missiles, the pain suffering the families fleeing, the death that comes from the theater of war. Yet in a way this makes our series even more urgent.
12 days ago, I along with Maciej and other Seventh-day Adventist pastors in South Australia, were gathered together in pastors meetings. One of the presenters, Pr Brendan Pratt, concluded his presentation, and then acknowledging the challenges that Covid has brought to the church and to society he said this.
What better time can their be to lead during this time?
What better time to be light in the darkness?
What better time to be an Adventist Christian and spread hope into our community.
What better time be a part of God's church.
Give all that has gone on since then, what better time, to talk about the one thing that matters most to God, “Theater of His Grace”
Lets pray
To the best of my knowledge the term “Theater of His grace” first appeared in the early hours of the morning of May 30, 1896.
We know it was early for the term appeared in a letter in which the author said it was written in the morning by “Lamplight”.
The letter was written in a residence known as Sunnyside, in Coorongbong New South Wales, and the author was Ellen White one of the founders of the Adventist Church.
She was writing to another church leader S.N. Haskell.
She mentions that by the time he receives this letter it W W Prescott would have begun his work in South Africa. It would have been good if he could have continued to minister in Australia, but also understood the needs of building up the church in other countries. But indeed his work continued in Australia as this is the same Prescott, that our school system here in SA is named after.
Then she talks about God and his love, how we all need to rely more on the Holy Spirit to work through us, and how the church members need to know from experience what the Holy Spirit will do for them. She said it is sad that every soul is not praying for the vital breath of the Spirit. She reflects on the first few scenes in the book of Acts, and she talked about the church. (She laments the fact that in some churches of her day, that some men were “keeping alive the spirit which ran riot at Minneapolis (a meeting that had happen in 1888) which is an offence to God.” Some people were rejecting this message and not taking it to heart).
Part of what she wrote would a number of year later go into her book called acts of the Apostles. Let me open by quoting from there.
Acts of the Apostles Chapter 1—God’s Purpose for His Church

The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world. From the beginning it has been God’s plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency. The members of the church, those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth His glory

Acts of the Apostles (Chapter 1—God’s Purpose for His Church)
The church is God’s fortress, His city of refuge, which He holds in a revolted world. . . .Through centuries of persecution, conflict, and darkness, God has sustained His church. Not one cloud has fallen upon it that He has not prepared for; not one opposing force has risen to counterwork His work, that He has not foreseen. All has taken place as He predicted. He has not left His church forsaken. . . All His purposes will be fulfilled. His law is linked with His throne, and no power of evil can destroy it. Truth is inspired and guarded by God; and it will triumph over all opposition.
Acts of the Apostles Chapter 1—God’s Purpose for His Church

During ages of spiritual darkness the church of God has been as a city set on a hill. From age to age, through successive generations, the pure doctrines of heaven have been unfolding within its borders. Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard. It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts.

Did you get that even at times when it seems like the church is ineffective, week, or feeble, it is still the one thing that God holds dear. It’s where he delights to transform hearts. It is a fortress, a city of refuge.


God took a risk, and from a human point of view most would say it was a big risk.
Jesus came to show us what God was like. Jesus full of grace and love, and life. He wanted to convert the hearts of mind of people, to show them the way of salvation. He died to show the extent of his love, rose again and with the promise of the Holy Spirit ascended into heaven.
And with the help of Holy Spirit, he left the task of expending the Kingdom of God to us flawed humans. There was no Plan B, he left it to the church. That’s you and me.
No wonder then that is it the one object upon which God gives his supreme regard.
In the Bible the word church comes from the Greek, ekklesia.
The term in secular Greek also signified a gathering of people. Yet the greek comes from two words ek- “out” and kaleo “to call” the called out ones
The church followers of Jesus are to gather, yet at the same time they are the called out ones. The ones that Jesus has appointed to make a difference in the world for his kingdom.
In the Greek translation of the Old testament the first time the term is used is in
Deuteronomy 4:10 NIV
10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”
Notice the getting together Assembly, to hear Gods words, to worship God and to teach the next generation about God.
The first time the term in used in the NT is in Matthew.
If you have your Bibles turn with me to
Matthew 16. Here Jesus is asking his disciple who people say that he is. They answer some say Elijah, Some say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Then he asks who do you say I am. Lets pick up the story in
Matthew 16:16–19 NIV
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Jesus said that He is the one who will build his church. He builds it on people who declare and follow and believe and live out the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord.
No matter what is thrown at it, no matter how under attack the church is, no matter how enfeebled or defective it may appear, it will not fail.
The church is the one object the one thing, that God gives his supreme regard. The gates of hell will not stand against it. It is God’s theater of His Grace.
We see this in the book of Acts, where the church was continually meeting together to worship, and support each others needs. To offer hope to the community. And when persecution started, when it seemed that everything was going against it, when King Herod Agrippa Killed one of the key leaders James, and put into prison Peter, and the church seemed down and out - we seem them gathered together in prayer. And God moved in amazing ways, chains fell off, prison doors were open, and the message of Jesus and the church continued to grow.
So all this leads me to a question.
If the church is so incredibly important to Jesus. If it is the agency of which he has empower to show Gods love . . . .
Why does it seem that less people are associating with it. Of making a commitment to be a part of a local congregation, that less people even bother of coming to church.
Now let me, clarify a few things before I continue.
As an organisation that is called to gather, train and then send out - things have been tough over the last couple of years. And indeed, with restrictions easing and we hopefully see the wave start to dissipate, it is still a real factor. That there are genuine reasons people who have had Covid, who have to isolate or for health reasons can’t come right now.
Also I need to say that here at Morphett Vale we are in the process of planting another church. As this is ramping up, we have a number of people from this church who currently are meeting every second week, getting ready to plant. We will tell you more about this at the beginning of next month.
Yet the question remains.


Last week Author and Pod-Caster, Carey Nieuwhof posted a blog entitled - The Real reason people aren’t coming back to church.
Using data mainly from churches that worship on Sundays in America, he noted that many churches have experienced a 30-50% drop in people attending services.
He says first we wondered if it was the lack of vaccines, or the different variants, or if people were just fearful?
Yet he notes that, “Many people who can’t find their way back to church have no trouble finding their way to Target, a (sports) game, dinner out, a tropical vacation, family reunions, or a concert. What gives?
Admitting that he is not a psychologist or a social researcher, he continues
So here’s the theory. What I’m picking up from people who haven’t gone back to church (and even among some who have) isn’t fear… it’s indifference. They know what church is, and after the habit disruption that happened during COVID, they grew indifferent to in-person attendance.
Indifference is defined as a lack of interest, concern sympathy, or importance. They don’t hate in-person church; there is no surge of strong emotions. Its just no longer important. Many former regular church attenders aren’t mad, nor are they afraid. They’re just indifferent to whether they come back to church or not. It’s like they’ve assessed their life, reconsidered what matters, and decided that attending church just wasn’t that important in the end.
Not that important - Have mercy. This is the one thing!! The one object of God’s supreme regard. Its what Jesus died for, that he guarantees, that no matter what else happen it will not fail.
Yet could Neiuwhof be correct? Could it be indifference that keeps people away?
It’s interesting that every now and that I get people telling me, that they don’t feel as close to God as they use to. Yet I note to myself that they I don’t see them making this regular appointment with God a priority. Sabbath mornings become filled with other activities regularly. And church, just doesn't get the same priority as it use to?
Now I know I’m preaching to the choir, but let me ask - it this you? How much do you priorities this meeting together, this weekly appointment with God?
When you think of church have you become indifferent? I hope not.
In the Bible there was church that was described like that. It name was Laodiea and its problem was clear.
Revelation 3:15–16 NLT
15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!
The advice for this church was to go back to basics. To exercise strong faith - like Gold refined in fire. To rediscover grace, like the white garments that God covers us with, and get ointment for your eyes so that one can really see what is going on.
Revelation 3:19 (NLT)
So be diligent and turn from your indifference.
There is that word again. Turn away from indifference.
How do you do that? If you find indifference seeping in, how do you turn away from it? Well we have partly answered it saying going back to basics of your relationship with Jesus.
In the article mentioned above Neiuwhof, states The Antidote to Indifference is Passion! You are never indifferent to things that you are passionate about.
And one of the great ways to increase passion is to serve to get involved, to help make a difference in the world around you in His name? It is not just about coming to church and filling a pew, its also about serving about being church, showing love and grace. As a church we are called to play our part in what is known as “God’s theatre of Grace.”


In his Book Couragoues leadership, Bill Hybles tells about the time that he was about to board a plane in the mid-80’s.
He was reading a newspaper, but noticed that two young boys started squabbling with each other. The older kid - probably about 8 years old was starting to hassle the young one. He didn’t think much of it until
Whack! The older boy had just slapped the younger one across the face, the small boy was crying, a nasty welt already rising on his cheek.
The immediate thought was where are the parents - scanning the crowed to find the responsible adult to stop this violence.
Then he says, the entire gate area was silenced by a sound that none of us will forget for a long time. It was the sound of a closed fist smashing into a face. The big boy, had punched the little boy knocked him off his feet, and then started to pound his face into the tiled floor, Bam, Bam, Bam.
Hybles says he raced over pulled the two off each other and kept then well away from each other. Unfortunately he didn’t have the chance to follow up for the ticket agent came to him and said he had to get on his flight. Keep those kids apart and find their parents he pleaded.
Settling in the plane, he was flooded with thoughts about what that kids life would turn out be be like. He wondered where his parents were, if anyone in his life offered him, love and guidance and hope. He wondered what the future held for that kid?
What was going to be the trajectory of that kids life? He said in his mind he scrolled through the options.
A really great government? - They can pass some pretty important legislation but they can’t change a human heart, heal a wounded soul. They cant turn hatred into love. They can’t bring about repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation.
He scrolled through every other option he could think of, considering what they had to offer.
Business can provide sorely needed jobs. Wise educators can teach useful knowledge of the world. Self-help programs can offer effective methods of behaviors modification. Advanced psychological techniques can aid self-understanding. And all of that is good. But can any of it truly transform the human heart?
He then writes
“I believe that only one power exists on this sorry planet that can [truly transform the human heart]. It’s the power of the love of Jesus Christ, the love that conquers sin and wipes out shame and heals wounds and reconciles enemies and patches broken dreams and ultimately changes the world, one life at a time. And what grips my heart every day is the knowledge that the radical message of that transforming love has been given to the church.” (21)
No wonder its the one thing, the one object. If this message has been giving to the church its been given to you and me.
We get to play a part in this amazing theater, that with the holy spirits help, changes lives.
Turn with me to
Ephesians 1:22–23 NLT
22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.
Christ is all. He is the head of the church and the church is the Body of Christ. That is all the individual members . The Bible tells us that we are the body of Christ and we each have a part in it. The best way to discover your passion is to find your gift and get involved. Flick over to
Ephesians 4:11–12 NLT
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
See what we are called to do? His work. The work that Jesus has given us. This is something that we are to do together. To build up the church and make a difference in the community.
On Tuesday night, the church board here at Morphett Vale met. One of the questions that we looked at was what do we want to see accomplished by the end of the year. Many noted that as restrictions were eased, as hopefully the Covid wave was decreasing, this is what we want to do , build up the church so we can continue to make a difference in the community.
The text says we do this by equipping Gods people. You remember how we did this past year with the BLESS. To impact your community, Begin with Prayer, Listen to People, Eat with them, Serve them, Share your story.
We want to dig down in the serving and help you discover your SHAPE for ministry.
The S stands for Spiritual Gifts, the H stands for heart of Passion. (A = abilities, P = Personality, E= experience). God has wired you up in a unique way to serve, he wants you to make a difference for him and serve. If you don’t know where and how - in a moment we are going to show you how you can be trained in this area as part of SHAPE. (From Wed March 16). God equips us and places us just where he wants us. Look at verse 16.
Ephesians 4:16 NLT
16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Imagine all in the places where God wants us, serving in the way God wants us to serve, growing and sharing and serving in love. There is no indifference here.
Again from Courageous leadership.
“There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited. It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community. It builds bridges to seekers and offers truth to the confused. It provides resources for those in need and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden, the disillusioned. It breaks the chains of addictions, frees the oppressed, and offers belonging to the marginalized of this world. Whatever the capacity for human suffering, the church has a greater capacity for healing and wholeness.” (23)
Our world is in incredible pain right now?
It is unimaginable what is going on. For two years we got sick of hearing the word unprecedented. Yet it is a word that we have heard time and time again this week. With floods and wars.
The stories we hear - just break your heart.
(* Of the Cafe owner in Lismore - who brought the Cafe in March 2020, only have have covid restrictions for the last two year, with some of the final restrictions lifted last Friday. Only to have it all wiped out.
Heart is just broken as you hear stories. Stunned man - standing by his destroyed house from a rocket that killed his wife. I’m going on is because of my parents and daughter.
From journalist reporting from their bathroom floor, as shelling is happening all around them and they are trying to keep safe, and trying to remain professional - but we hear their voices crack and their tears well up. )
From those fleeing a country being devastated by war. We see hundreds of thousands - fleeing the war.
Yet we also see something else. We have seen the worst in humanity, but also the best. People helping, praying taking in refugees - doing whatever they can to help. Showing love, showing grace.
This is the only thing that will transform hearts. The love of Jesus.
What better time to be light in the darkness?
What better time to be spread hope into our community.
What better time be a part of God's church.
So here is my Appeal.
One the screen is a QR code. Its the same QR code we use for the connect card. If you don't have a phone, you can sign up to these things at the back.
For some of you this may be your first day here, and you are thinking wow this whole Church thing sounds interesting, I would like to know more. There is a place on there where you can indicate this.
For others, some of you have been attending for a while, and haven't made that decision. You may love Jesus but haven’t taken that step to join and be a part of his body. Box there that says I want to become a member of this Church. Of course the way you do that is through baptism - I want to be baptized.
3. For those of us who are part of the church - whats your indifference level? Hot? Cold? Somewhere in between? How committed are you to showing up each week? IF you were to rank your passion right now where would it be.
And what is the next step you need to take?
Where are you showing the love of God to others. Where are you serving?
* We want to help you discover you gift
SHAPE training - indicate on the form that you would like be a part of it. Also indicate if you are available for a couple of Wednesday nights from March 16.
When I fill out my SHAPE profile, one of the spiritual gifts that it indicates I have is leadership. When I did my masters I started my thesis with these words.
Why did God invest the leadership gift in you? In part it was so that you could make a contribution towards leading and building one of these supernatural communities that would defy all of the sadness and hopelessness in this world, and that would one day result in groups of fired up people, loving God, loving people and solving problems and caring for the poor. Still to this day, I’ll say it, There is nothing like the local church when the local church is working right.
Oh the church. It is
The church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard. It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts.
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