NWA08 – Hugh Palmer on Treasuring Christ and the Call to Service

Earlier today I interviewed Hugh Palmer. Tonight, in typical wry self-depreciating humor, he began his talk by saying that we would be moving from the American passion we saw demonstrated last night, to the British understatement we could expect to experience now.

Hugh PalmerHe began by telling us that we don’t tell people the gospel for one of two reasons—either because we don’t believe the gospel or because we don’t love them. Hugh says he still struggles with evangelism and is looking for a third option, but can’t find one. We saw in Romans 8 “from no condemnation to no separation.”

Hugh pointed us to the heart that Paul had for his countrymen. Too often we don’t really share Paul’s attitude—which was “curse me, not them.” It’s like Moses when the people had worshipped the golden calf. Neither Moses nor Paul can be cursed for others or blotted out of the book. Only the innocent Christ was cut off for others’ sins. There is a curse for those who turn their backs on God. It is Christ-like to long for our friends to know what we have known. If we don’t recognize ourselves in this attitude, does it mean we don’t love or we don’t believe the gospel? We need to pray that God will give us the evangelist’s heart—actually the Christian’s heart.

God has given over people to disobedience so he can have mercy on them. We are urged by Paul to present our bodies to God as an act of worship. It is striking that he uses ritualistic cultic language, but then he ignores it all. We have an empty life full of guilt without God, which Jesus fills. We don’t deserve God’s love, but because of his mercy he loves us. Gripped by the mercy of God, we are then to offer our bodies. He doesn’t ask us to give just our hearts to the Lord, but our bodies. Don’t try and keep God in the so-called “spiritual” part of you. It’s carried around in our bodies. All the rest comes with it.

In the temple, sacrifices would be living, but end up dead. Here it’s the other way around—we are to offer sacrifices as those who have been brought to life. We worship by driving for Christ, by resting for Christ, by working in our workplaces for Christ, etc.

Evangelists are awkward people once things are going well. Suddenly they want to plant a new church! They throw all the pieces up in the air and leave the pastor to put them back together. But we are all to have the heart of an evangelist.

We are to be transformed. It is our minds that have to radically change. Beware of comfortable Christianity! Hugh said he was respectably godless before his conversion. But he discovered that his existence was shriveled. In the Christian body we have different parts with different functions. We are committed, we belong, we are serving. When people say they don’t feel they belong, it’s often because they’re not serving. It is about putting people before ourselves as more important than we are.

Be willing to associate with people of low position. Relate to people who are different to you. There are 55 different nationalities represented at All Souls Church. May the gospel define us—it’s more important than Anglican versus Free Church, old versus young, excited versus understated. Be careful about being too settled or the job is done now. Whether we move or not, we should have a godly restlessness.

We need the Spirit to take his word and re-tune our thinking to be more like him as we read our Bibles. Only then can we test and approve what God’s will is. It is only then that life will feel like a round peg in a round hole. What attracted Hugh to Christ was not the preachers, but a Christian friend who wasn’t like everybody else. He was like nobody else Hugh had met before. May we be among those who won’t settle for anything less than a radical change. In view of God’s mercy, let’s offer him our bodies.

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