There once was a village of geese who could talk. Every Sunday they waddled to church, where they listened to a goose preach. The gist of the sermon was: What a high destiny geese have, to what a high goal the creator had appointed geese. With the help of their wings they could fly away to distant regions, blessed regions, where they really had their homes, for here they were but alien sojourners.
It was this way every Sunday. Afterwards, the assembly dispersed and each one waddled home to his family. And so to church again next Sunday, and then home again – and that was the end of it. They flourished and grew fat, became plump and delicate, were eaten on a festive occasion – and that was the end of it.
This story by Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard has always captured my imagination. I picture the geese in church nodding their heads as the preacher spoke about how God had given them wings to fly! Wings to fulfil their God-given destiny! “Amen!” they honked. And then they all waddled home.
The truth they heard each week in church made no real difference to their lives once they stepped out of church. How easily we can all fall into the same trap. As Pastor Edmund Chan puts it, “Truth doesn’t change lives. Truth applied changes lives.”
We can listen to sermons, do Bible studies and devotions, read Christian books and articles, yet not see transformation in our lives, not fulfil our God-given purpose in life. We may know truth, but until it is applied, it makes no difference. As James 1:22 puts it clearly, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
The truth and principles from God’s Word need to be applied to our personal lives, our relationships, our marriages, our parenting, our home, school or work life.
We can know about God’s forgiveness and grace, but until we ask for and receive it for ourselves it is just a concept. Until we choose to forgive others as the Lord has forgiven us, it is just a theory.
We can say words of repentance, but until we do something to turn away from sin and avoid putting ourselves in situations where we will probably fall into sin, they remain just words.
We can talk about loving God and loving our neighbour, but until we put that love into action, sacrificing our time, energy and resources, it is just a catchphrase.
This is what it means to live the gospel. To experience God’s grace and truth through our Lord Jesus Christ, and let him be the one who directs our lives.
It means asking, Lord what would you have me do in this situation? And then to do it.
Making disciples flows out of this. As we live the gospel, we share what Jesus has done and show what a difference it makes in our lives. It will become evident to others that God’s truth is not mere words, and people around us will want to experience His truth and grace in their own lives.
Will this be easy? Whether in our own lives or as a church community, we know it will not. But God promises that His grace is sufficient, and his strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9). It is only in obeying and applying God’s truth in our lives that we experience God’s empowering grace.
To quote Kierkegaard again, “Christ says: Do according to what I say – then you shall know. Consequently, decisive action first of all. By acting, your life will come into collision with existence, and then you will know the reality of grace.”
By Jan Choo, Assistant Pastor (YCKC Bulletin 31 August & 1 September 2013)