Author: Gareth Russell Date: Sunday, January 21, 2018 Campus: Monkston

Final Talk
Sunday 21st January 2018
Grand Union Vineyard Church

So, it turns out when you are preparing a talk that is your final preach for a church you have led for almost 8 years and you can speak on anything at all, it can put a bit of pressure on the preparation process.

You think about the expectations of those listening, you think about leaving with a message that is memorable and compelling and transformational, you think about what does God really want you to leave with those you are saying goodbye to?

Then I thought, sack it. Pray. Then write from the heart. And that’s what I’ve done.

The past 8 years have been the most incredible, life changing, challenging, sometimes scary and inspiring years of our life.

When we first started leading the church with around 25 folks in the Fox Milne building, we could not have imagined the journey that God has taken us on. There have been so many incredible people join the GUV family - some have stayed, some have moved on. There have been miracles, we have seen growth, we have seen heartbreak, we adopted Netherfield Chapel, we moved to Monkston, we have set up and seen the development of our charity, MK Storehouse, and most importantly we have seen people who had no knowledge of what it means to know Jesus come to know Him and live in the freedom that only He brings.

There are so many things that we have learned during our time as Senior Pastors - enough to fill a book rather than a 20 minute talk, but there are some things that this morning Andi and I felt God really wanted to leave with this amazing community.

Before I talk about those two areas, let’s read Ephesians 3:14-20:

“14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And  I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

The first lesson we have learned is that pursuing Jesus is more important than winning a popularity contest.

If you read the national press, you can often get the impression that the church in the UK is on the decline. Those stories are influenced by the fact the government and the media don’t register new church movements like ours (Vineyard) or New Frontiers in their stats, but in some ways it doesn’t matter.

Pursuing Jesus should not be dependent on whether everyone else is following Jesus. It should be because we are convinced that Jesus is who He said He is and that because of that, He is worth giving up the constant and ultimately futile pursuit of trying to find success and happiness through accumulation of stuff, relationships and acceleration of career.

Jesus said He was the son of God. As a result, He cannot be accepted simply as a good man or wise teacher, because if I was to say I was the son of God right here and now, you would have a choice - either to believe me or to recognise I was clinically insane.

The proof is overwhelming that a man called Jesus existed. The history books tell us this is fact. The Bible then tells us who He claimed to be.

And because of that claim, everyone has a choice to make. Categorise him as insane or believe him to be the son of God.

I believe Jesus is the son of God. I believe he was born, he lived here on earth, and died on the cross at Calvary. I believe that I am a sinful human being. I have done so much in my life that I regret and I have felt shameful of.

That sin required a cost to be paid. Because God is a holy God He simply cannot come into contact with sin. He wants relationship with us, but His perfect holiness cannot encounter sin. So when we sinned, we fell short of his glory. A price needed paying and God knew that.

But God chose that we should not pay that price, despite each sin being our choice and our responsibility. He sent Jesus, and Jesus took on our sin at the cross and he died in our place. Three days later he defeated death, he rose back to life and he bought our freedom.

That is why Jesus is compelling. That is why he is worth leaving behind all the world can offer and following Him instead. Not because the crowd are doing it, not because it is fashionable or will improve our chances of a job promotion, a better car, or a healthier bank balance…

But because God took the place for our sin and now has bought freedom for us in this life and eternal life for us in the next.

And when we decide to follow Jesus we have are not just given freedom but we have been given authority and access to the supernatural. And this is the second lesson. We need to pursue Jesus but we also need to practice the Supernatural.

Now, I think the supernatural might need a rebrand. I don’t know if you are a Christian here today or not, but when you hear the word supernatural you probably start putting me back in the box with the crazies and ghost hunters.

I don’t know how else to label it, but what I am talking about is seeing the power of God working in the present day

I’m not just talking about coincidences and that time I thought I’d dropped my Krispy Kreme but I managed to catch it before it hit the ground.

And I am not trying to convince you with a compelling argument or a well thought through theological statement.

What I am saying is that during the last 8 years, I have seen with my own eyes people who have been in impossible situations, who have then been prayed for and those situations turned around.


I have seen a man who having been confined to a wheelchair for 23 years, after we prayed for him at the centre:mk, managing to stand up, walk out of that wheelchair and push it away.

I have seen a women who had one leg shorter than the other and when we prayed for her, the shorter leg grew healing the incessant back pain she had been experiencing for years.

I have seen people get pregnant who thought it impossible, others receive financial provision, some find favour in the workplace and many come to know Jesus for the first time.

I have also seen a lot of prayers unanswered. In fact, I personally have seen many prayers I have prayed not answered in the way I had hoped.

But, the unanswered prayers have not diluted my enthusiasm to see more that will be answered in the future.

If I have seen people healed and miraculous intervention, why would I not want to continue praying? Why would I not want to see more?

We have only seen a small percentage of what God wants to do through this church. Are we hungry for more?

Is your fear or discomfort in offering to pray for someone or share your journey of faith more important than their eternity?

This world needs an active church. It needs hope. It needs love. If we are not willing to step into the supernatural ways in which God wants to work, He will just move on and use someone else who is willing.

Why would we not want to partner with Him in seeing His restorative plans for this city, this country and this world becoming a reality?

Some of you will have heard Liz Dallas’s story a couple weeks back of how Good nudged her to speak to someone words of encouragement and the incredible impact that had of stopping him taking his own life.

That is the power of partnering with God. We might feel an inkling to extravagantly give money or food or clothes to someone, or offer them a home cooked meal - a few years back as a church we chose to give away £10,000 in one month to those who needed it most. The impact of that generosity was incredible to many individuals and organisations that has continued through to the present day.


It might be you feel a nudge to offer to pray for someone in discomfort or pain. What’s the worst that could happen?

It might be you feel a call to leave your job and go a different direction serving the community of our amazing city in a completely new way.

There is power in both the small and big things when we choose to partner with God.

Jim Elliot says, “God always gives His best to those who leave the choice to Him.” Andi & I have been challenged and encouraged by this quote over these past few weeks at the start of the new year and as we enter a new season.

And he doesn’t wait until you are fully trained, he says go out. Do it. Pray. Act. Give. Now. Today.

When Jesus called the disciples they were out doing the stuff almost immediately, the same with Paul following his conversion.

God does not called the equipped, he equips the called, those who offer themselves to him to be used and leave him to make the choice.

We were never equipped to lead a church, we had never done it before and we didn’t even really feel fully called to it in the beginning. But God had other plans. Plans to prosper us and not to  harm us and so our calling, impact and experience grew, only because of God’s grace and leading and allowing ourselves to be used by him.

And he has the same plans for you.

Whether you are a Christian here today or not, God sees you. He loves you. And I want to remind you today no matter what you think of yourself, that he has a plan and a purpose for you.

It will not necessarily make you more popular. It will not necessarily make you rich or successful in the world’s eyes.

In fact you may face greater persecution or challenges as a result - you’re going against the norms of what the world says is the way to live your life.

But what it will give you is absolute peace knowing you are loved by an Almighty God and that even when you mess up, which we have done on a regular basis, he has enough grace to pick you up, dust you down, and walk with you as you live the life he calls you to.

And that life is not just about getting by. This is not pie in the sky when you die, but steak on the plate while we wait.

We often talk about God meeting us in our need. We talk about our fears and failings and how Jesus understands those and loves us despite them.

But that is not the full story. God is a provider but not only a provider - Jesus said that he came to bring life and life to the full.

If we only preach a gospel for the needy, we only share half the story.

Jesus does meet us in our need and in our darkest moments, but if you consider yourself comfortable in life, if you feel you have succeeded by the world’s standards, and if you don’t have any perceived need then you could be missing out on what God has for you, as Jesus did not  only come to meet us in need, he came to bring life in all its fulness.

Any life lived without Jesus is a life half lived.

That is not a statement of arrogance but a statement of experience. Because the world’s success can only ever partially satisfy.

There are countless accounts of celebrities, film stars, and musicians who say the same. Money, fame, adulation, it never fully satisfies.

Jesus came to bring life and life to the full. No half measures.

With Jesus life has real joy, real peace, real purpose, and real love. These cannot be diluted by life experience, they are real and true despite our circumstances.

Life without Jesus is like having a Maccy D’s. It satisfies in the moment, and it is quick and easy. But after a while you get hungry again.

With Jesus life is like having a big old steak, or for you vegans, a big old roasted cauliflower and being truly fed. Truly satisfied.

Our hunger is not a physical hunger, it is a spiritual hunger and that can only ever be satisfied with Jesus.

This morning, we are not doing any thank you’s or goodbyes, the emotional stuff can wait until this afternoon’s lunch.

But this morning, we want to leave you with what has impacted us the most.

That Jesus is who He says he is. That his grace is enough for you and nothing you have done has made you too far to reach and you can be restored and used for His glory.

We have found that his supernatural power is available to all of us every day and if we step out in faith he will be with us and the impact could be life saving.

And finally that Jesus came not just to meet our needs, but to bring us fullness of life, not just in Heaven but here on earth and that He has plans for your life that are immeasurably more than anything you could ask or imagine.


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