Standing as a City on a Hill
5th October 2022
Dear City on a Hill family and friends,
I want to take a moment to connect and share my personal thanks and appreciation for reaching out and offering your words of support, prayer, and encouragement.
It has been a difficult couple of days.
As many of you will know, Andrew Thorburn resigned his post as Essendon CEO, after his role with our church as Chair of our Movement Board was deemed a conflict with his job. You can read his statement here.
Andrew is a remarkable leader. He has been and continues to be, an incredible gift to our church. I am incredibly thankful for Andrew and his courage, humility, and love. He is a man of great character, and I am inspired by his conviction and integrity. It is these very character traits that would have made him a great success at Essendon.
Despite media grabs and comments from our Premier, City on a Hill has always been about Jesus. Knowing Jesus and making Jesus known is the heartbeat of our church community.
Jesus loves all people and is the author of life. He invites all people to experience his love and walk in his life.
It is this life and love that guides our church which today welcomes hundreds of people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds. I’m committed as ever to sharing Jesus’ love with all people in all places and at all times. I’m thankful to God for the way that he continues to be merciful to our church.
In this time, I wanted to share with you a few encouragements from Scripture.
Firstly, it is important to remember, the gospel continues to be good news of great joy for all who believe.
In times like this it is easy to be disheartened. It is confronting to see the increasing pressure upon Christians to compromise their faith. It is disheartening when the gospel is misrepresented or distorted. It is important, however, to remember that the gospel we proclaim is good news.
“Fear not” said the angel to the shepherd, “…for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)
Jesus came into the world as a light in the darkness. He entered a world set against its Creator, to make a way for the forgiveness of sins, and to bring new life. He died, he rose from the grave, and ascended into heaven. He is now the reigning and ruling king who invites all who would come to him in faith to enter into his life, and to enjoy his love.
Secondly, Jesus is for everyone.
Jesus’ life was one of radical love – he spoke in the synagogues and in the square, but time and again we see his heart to offer hope to those who society shamed and pushed aside. The tax collector, the prostitute, the leper, the widow, the “unclean”.
You and me.
None of us come to Jesus with perfect lives, with it all figured out, each of us fall at the same cross because we are all sinners, and seek the same forgiveness in his name. Jesus calls each of us to repent and trust in him. Jesus’ sacrificial love changes each of us in profound ways. Jesus’ sacrificial love is for the mother faced with an unexpected pregnancy, the mother who is suffering and confused. Jesus’ sacrificial love is for the man or woman struggling with their own sexual identity, the man or woman looking for belonging and acceptance and love. Jesus’ love is for the man and woman who has failed to love others as they should have. Jesus’ love is for all of us. As the Bible says, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 8:13)
Thirdly, Jesus calls us to hold firm to God’s Word.
In the end, our battle is not against flesh and blood. Our battle isn’t against any one individual, any organisation – or any footy team for that matter. Rather, the Bible tells us that our battle as Christians is a spiritual one. In this world, Christians wrestle ‘against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.’ (Ephesians 5: 12)
How then do we live out our faith? How do we continue to persevere in the way of Christ? Not by compromise, or anger, or bitterness, or defensiveness. Rather, we persevere in righteousness. We stand firm in the gospel of peace. We take up the shield of faith. We continue in the way of salvation. We hold fast to the life-giving Word of God, and we pray.
Fourthly, we trust in His goodness.
As Jesus is preparing to depart from his disciples, he instructs them with these words:
“…do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26).
As creatures and as Christians, we stand in the hand of a sovereign and mighty God. This God is not only cosmic, but also close. He is a loving Heavenly Father who cares for those he has made. His good graces are new every day.
As those who are secure in the hand of our Heavenly Father, Christians are to be a people marked by trust and dependence. We are to depend on God’s goodness and grace for all that we need. We are to entrust ourselves to his ongoing provision and love. This is true in moments of prosperity, but it is also true in moments of challenge and hardship. Indeed, it is these more challenging moments when our dependence on God is not only most tested, but when his loving kindness shines most brightly. It is these moments where God’s provisions of strength, peace, love, and faith shine through his people like a city on a hill.
Finally, we shine the light of Christ.
Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).
We are not people of darkness. We are people of light. As those who have been brought into the life of Christ, we are now called to shine his light into the world. In the face of injustice, we must offer hope and life to all. In the face of opposition, we are to extend love. In the face of lies and the distortion of truth, we must continue to hold out the Word of life with conviction and faith. In the midst of fear, we must rest securely in God’s grace and be people of courage, integrity, and hope. And as we gather this week in our churches and in our Gospel Communities we must pray – we pray for boldness and for love.
The good news? We do not do this alone. When Jesus sent his disciples out on mission, instructing them to “make disciples of all nations”, do you recall his final words?:
“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).
Jesus has not left us to our own devices. No. He is with us. His Spirit is amongst us.
What does this mean? It means that we need not fear. Amid the chaos of this world, amid opposition and pressure, amid our own sin and struggle, Jesus continues to be at work. He is leading his mission. He continues to teach, to heal, to convict, to protect, to open doors for the gospel, and to make his light and love known. What a privilege to be included in his mission and to be secure in his love.
City on a Hill, I thank God for you.
I thank God for the Spirit of Christ in you. I thank God for the mission we are called to and share in together. Would you join me in praying that together we might continue to shine as a city on a hill.
“A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
Love and blessings,