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Out of Bondage

When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water’. Exodus 2:10.

On this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not stand against it”. Matthew 16:13-16.

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2.

All our readings this morning are significant in that they introduce three mighty stories; each of which draws the people of God out of one or another form of bondage.


From the Book of Exodus, we read of the amazing story of Moses’ birth. God chose him, and in time he would lead his people out of bondage in Egypt, to the land of promise. In the wilderness, God established the First Covenant with the children of Israel, when Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from the Mountain. (Ex. 19-24).
Centuries later, Jesus and the disciples travelled to the region of Caesarea Philippi, as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel.

Archaeologists tell us that in Caesarea Philippi there is an enormous mountainside of rock, like a solid wall stretching straight up to the heavens. At its base there was a cave, which used to be a source for water for the Jordan River. At the entrance to the cave stood a temple to the god, Pan. As Jesus and the disciples approached Mount Hermon, quite probably they saw this temple, for it was famous. It was in Caesarea Philippi that Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?... Who do you say that I am?” And Peter gave his answer: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God; followed by Jesus’ response: On this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not stand against it.
Some twenty-seven or so years later, with the infant church established and growing, Paul, greatest of the Apostles, wrote, probably from Corinth, to the Christians in Rome, urging them not to be subject to the ways of the world. Do not be conformed to this world, he writes; but be transformed, by the renewing of your minds.


The Letter to the Romans has been called by theologians as possibly the most important Christian document ever written. Within its pages lie the foundations of Christian theology.
It was a time of increasing tension for Christians. The great persecutions that were to begin with the mad emperor Nero, lay only six years in the future. Already there were sporadic persecutions. The world around them was polytheistic. People believed in many gods. Caesar was a god. Christians who refused to engage in emperor worship became a religio illicita or an illegal religion, leading to persecution.


By refusing to bow the knee to pagan gods, they refused to conform to the world in which they lived, but sought to transform the world around them.
In the sixteen words of our text, written by Paul, the brief of the Church’s role today was succinctly written.


Paul wanted to visit Rome but first wrote this letter, which was like an introduction as to who he was and what he believed. Here in chapter twelve he gives the Church at Rome sound advice.
For the first eleven chapters, Paul used every means at his disposal to tell the Romans that in Jesus Christ Christians belonged to the New Covenant. They were the first witnesses to a new age; first citizens of the New Covenant, based on love, not law. "Don't be conformed" the Apostle writes; “You don't need to be. You are somebody. You are precious to God. He loves you.
Love is genuine. It hates evil, and clings to what is good, repays no one evil for evil. You are God's beloved. That’s who you are. Act like it.
Be who you are, wrote Paul; namely, those who are in Christ are a new creation. Deal with others as God has dealt with you. Transform the world around you.


We can’t really grasp, today, what a staggeringly different message that was, from what was generally believed in Paul’s day! People were in bondage to fear of what the gods could do to them. Paul told them that they were to present our bodies, “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” That alone was revolutionary. The ancient world believed that body and spirit were separate; in fact that the spirit was a prisoner of the body, which is corrupt.
In direct contrast, Paul presented the Christian view that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are called on to serve God in body, mind and spirit.


“So,” wrote Paul, take your body, take all the tasks that you have to do, at work or at home or wherever you may be, and offer it all as an act of worship to God.” Real worship lies in offering to God our everyday lives.
One day at Lake Macquarie, I saw a large sea slug, moving across the shallow waters by the shore. As I looked, it passed over a patch littered with little shells and before my astounded gaze, it disappeared.
For a moment I was mystified. Then the penny dropped, as they say.
It was a chameleon! It could change its colouring to suit whatever the colour of the bottom of the lake it was passing over.
Sadly, some people are like chameleons. In life, they simply become invisible. They follow whatever trend is fashionable and have no real values of their own. The Apostle tells us that we are not to adapt our values to the values of the world. Rather we are to change theirs to ours.


Paul told the Christians in Rome that they must not conform, but must endeavour to transform, the world around them.
Paul wrote his letter to people just like us, and perhaps battling many of the problems Christians around the world, still face. Human nature does not change.
Today, the major rival gods we battle are not dissimilar to the ones of Paul’s day: Materialism, greed, selfishness, anti-Christian secularism. People are in bondage to the things that perish.
As in Paul’s day, these gods flourish in every level of society and if they are enemies of Christ then they belong to the anti-Christ. Paul says to us, Do not be conformed to this world… Christians face the challenges of the false gods and as in Paul’s day, winning the world for Christ is based on commitment, prayer and perseverance


Paul wrote that the Church is the Body of Christ, and as a human body has many parts.
We as the church on earth have many gifts, according to the grace God has given us. We are called to use these gifts in the service of the Kingdom.
Paul wrote of Good News in a fear-crazed world. The Good News is available to all, he wrote, to rich and poor male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free. No wonder it was accepted with joy.
And so nearly 2000 years ago, Paul lists a number of gifts that members of the congregation may have, to make available to our own fear-crazed world, and concludes with those words:
Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God… Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…


The gifts back then are the same gifts God gives us today. We don’t use them because we want to increase membership, as if the Church was a club. Ours is a desperate message to take to a dying world, to people running hither and thither, clutching at baubles, as if they would save them. We do these things because God loves people. He wants them to be free, and the only freedom we can have is being made captive to Him. That paradox represents true freedom.
God takes what we give Him in our service and in our prayers and blesses them, and uses them to His glory. Let us pray:
O God, Our Heavenly Father, keep us, we pray, in perfect peace. Help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together as families, bearing one another’s burdens and sharing one another’s joys, and so fulfilling the law of Christ, until that day when all Your children will rejoice in one common bond as the family and Household of God. We ask these things through Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

The Rev Tony Lang is a retired Presbyterian minister. He provides regular preaching support to Presbyterian congregations in Newcastle and the Hunter as well as Uniting Church services at Wangi, where he lives. Tony has also been a regular preacher at TUC, when he and Janet have been visiting Bill and Jenny. Tony is also a poet and writer.

Quote for today

...But you know Him, for He lives with you, and will be in you. John14:17

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Comrie Street
Wanniassa ACT 2903

PO Box 423
Erindale Centre ACT 2903 

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About Our Church

Our faith community began in 1975 as a small ecumenical gathering of people who settled in the new Canberra township of Tuggeranong. We have grown with the Tuggeranong Community, and our parish centre is the hub for our work, as a place of worship, of gathering and ministry.

We aim to help people have life to the full. We welcome people into a our Christian community where they can connect with God, with one another and with opportunities to make a difference in our changing world.

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