Volume. XXX, No. 42
Sunday, 10 April 2016


From The Pastors Heart: The Gospel, the Hope of Mankind (7)


As I continue to talk about the gospel, the current poor conditions of Christian churches, and the privatization and fragmentation of professing believers of Jesus, I need to return to one common misunderstanding of Christianity and the Christian religion.  Many people tend to relate Christianity to Christian culture in their societies and countries.  Thus, when they see the decline of so-called Christian culture, they understand it as a decline of Christian religion.  I think that there is a serious flaw to such a thought.  I could see this flaw from two sides.  One, Christianity and Christian culture are not to be identified with each other.  It is possible that any dominant thoughts, ideologies, or religions could influence on our societies, which results in certain cultures.  However, we ought to refuse to identify the Christian religion with Christian culture.  It is because the Christian faith and religion are far bigger than any culture; the Christian religion actively existed even without Christian culture.  We think of the Roman Empire, which declared Christianity to be its official religion.  Thus, lots of Roman cultures were formulated according to Christian ideals afterwards.  We know that this empire has gone a long time ago.  Christianity did not share the fate of Roman Empire at all.  The empire died, but Christianity flourished later.  Think about even the British Empire which had sent out missionaries to all over the world.  Today there is only a shadow of Christian faith found in the heart of the British and its subjects.  However, Christianity has not gone anywhere but is still with us.  In fact, the Christian faith has been growing in Asia and Africa.  Empires came and disappeared, but Christianity has not perished as some people have wanted and predicted.  We may say that the medieval culture was Christian, but we cannot say that its Christianity was pure.  Reformation was needed not mainly in culture but in religion.  Two, fervent and sincere believers think that the decreased influence of Christianity in social contexts and cultures is a sign of the coming demise of human civilization.  Thus, they become dooms days evangelists.  It is true that the world is going to get worse as the Day of the Lord comes nearer.  However, we also need to understand that the existence or survival of culture or civilization does not depend on Christian religion, either.  Before there was a so-called Christian Roman Empire, there was also a pagan Roman Empire.  The famous Greek culture and its renowned philosophers were not the products of Christian religion, either.  Think about Babylonian, Persian or even Chinese cultures.  They all enjoyed their glory in the past, but they were not Christian at all.  Therefore, identifying any culture or civilization with Christian religion wholly could endanger and jeopardize the genuine value of Christianity.  Being a minority in one part of the world does not mean that Christianity is about to disappear.  In fact, true Christian churches have always been a minority.  We must be cautious not to put Christianity and Christian culture on the same plane and judge the former in the light of the latter. 

Then, some of us may be wondering if we can find a significant role of the Christian faith  in this world.  At this point, we need to think about the key elements each society needs in order to keep and maintain peace and progress.  A society consists of people, i.e., individuals.  These individuals have different preferences, lifestyles or interests.  How can any culture, civilization, community, and country unite all of them together under one banner?  Though this question looks complicated, the answer is relatively simple.  The uniting force of any human society, culture or civilization is not physically tangible, but rather mental and spiritual in nature.  For example, the world today is divided over religions.  There are many conflict zones from the Middle East to Asia, and from Africa to the Americas (North, Central, and South America).  They fight because they believe in different religions (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and many more) or different economic systems and ideologies (capitalism, socialism, or communism).  If we go into deeper level, there are more branches of thought in religions and economics.  Humanists may want to argue against this explanation, but they are also a part of ideologies or belief systems.  Hitler united his people with ideas of eugenics, the superiority of German race and the necessity to eliminate the Jews.  His messages of hatred united his people, not his tanks or riches.  What Yuvan Noah Harari says in his book is true.  He says, “Only a sophisticated religious or ideological system could sustain such efforts [to unite people]” (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Penguin Random House, 2011, Kindle loc., 1381).  Though I do not agree with him on many points in his book, I cannot but agree with him on this. 

Os Guiness says the same thing in a slightly different way in his book, Renaissance, “Behind every civilization lies a vision and a worldview, and none is greater or more lasting than the strength of its vision” (Kindle loc., 715).  What we believe and think determines our culture and civilization.  In this regard, we understand that though Christianity may not be visible in secular society, it does not mean that society becomes irreligious or non-spiritual.  It is simply against Christianity but still religious and spiritual in different ways.  It means that the world loses biblical values and perspectives by taking some other perspectives and worldviews.  Thus, it will be a great loss to the world, I think.  Christianity has contributed to the understanding and improvement of human rights for minorities, women, children, and even slaves.  Compassion for the needy, widows and children, orphans or the sick is an incomparable attribute of Christian faith.  Christianity has exalted heterosexual monogamous in love and marriage.  It has emphasised a lasting and exclusive relationship between husband and wife.  Education is another area greatly improved by the teachings and influence of Christianity.  Governments and law and order have been established on ideals of righteousness and justice as the Bible teaches.  We cannot forget that basically the fathers of all fields of science were Christians.  Science was not an enemy of the Christian faith and Theology was known as the crown of all sciences in the olden days.  We cannot forget the ideas of free enterprises, freedom, morality and work ethics directly coming from the Bible.  Through the Christian faith and institutions, art, architecture, music, and literature have experienced their growth.  Despite all such benefits that mankind has enjoyed from Christian values and religion, we cannot ignore that the world has rejected it anyway.  The easiest way for professing Christians to explain the reason why is to say that the world is evil and man’s heart is corrupt.  The world is too dark to see the light coming from Christ.  I am sure that this spiritual darkness of the world has contributed to its rejection of Christ.  However, I am not going to dwell on this point now.  I want to turn our attention to our role in its rejection of Christ. 

Romans 2:23-24 say, “Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? 24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.”  Paul is speaking to the Jews who have the law of God, the truth.  They even boast of their privilege of having the law of God.  They despise the Gentiles because the latter do not know the law of God.  However, they have failed to glorify God, though they have, believe, and confess the law of God.  Instead, the name of God is dishonored and blasphemed.  What is the cause?  Is the law of God a problem?  Is God a problem?  Interestingly, Paul argues that through the Jews themselves the name of God is blasphemed.  The world does not see the law of God, or God Himself.  It sees the confessors of God, or the believers of the truth.  Then, the world responds to them, their religion, and their God with derisions.  Doesn’t it sound very familiar?  I have read and heard one same comment quite a few times, which is, “I love Jesus the Bible speaks about, but I do not love Jesus you confess.”  Or, some people say, “I think that Christianity is good, but I do not like the kind of Christianity Christians have shown to me.”  In other words, the believers of Christ have not lived up to their confessions of faith.  Their life has been neither salt nor light.  They are not different from the people without God in terms of integrity, kindness, love, patience, compassion, or sacrifice for others.  Christians are selfish, proud, and judgmental.  It is also possible that Christians have departed from God to mammon.  Mega churches have many wishful followers of Christ for more money, prosperity, success, and health.  They have firmly believed that success in business is a token of great faith.  Christians try to persuade the poor, the needy, and the sick that they can be rich or richer and healthy if they believe in Jesus.  It is true that their god is not God but mammon.  It is no wonder that even the world is laughing.  Only professing Christians do not know it.  How foolish . . . .

Lovingly,
Your Pastor

More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

Kitchen Roster - Helpers this week: Bro Phil Surman; & Sisters Seong Yeng Chu & Natalie Gan.  Helpers next week:  Bro William Song; & Sisters Marion Chan & Jasmine Tanuwijaya.
*2016 Church Camp media order form available on the sideboard outside Sanctuary. Closing date for orders: 1 May. Please note: Messages (audio-only) will be available on the HBPC website for public access, but will be of lower quality.
*30th Anniversary Thanksgiving Dinner will be held at Park Lok Restaurant: 130 Grote St, Adelaide. Prices for members & regular worshippers: Adults- $20; Seniors, Students & Non-working Adults- $15;  Children (Junior-Senior Sunday School)- $10; SS Toddlers: free. Friends of members & regular worshippers: $35. Coupons available for purchase from Sis Serene Wong at the Bookshop area.

Praise & thanksgiving
Journey mercies: & others arriving safely at their destinations.
Visitors & new worshippers.
God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.
Church activities in past week.

Prayer Items
Health & God’s healing - Pastor Ki; Dr Gary Cohen (USA), Dr SH Tow (S’pore); Rev Patrick Tan (S’pore) & Rev George van Buuren; Rev Edward & Sis Lehia Paauwe;  & others in affliction.
Special Prayer
iSketch & Tell Ministry: Pr Hai Seng Lim’s ministry in Melbourne.
Cambodia Missions:
Batam Missions:  Filadefia BPC; orphanage, kindergarten & school.
New Life BPC (London) - God’s guidance & encouragement for congregation.
Youth & Assistant Pastor for Hope B-P Church.
Providence B-P Church, Mawson Lakes - Ps David & Sis Susan Weng, & congregation.
Journey mercies: all those who are travelling.
Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.
Jobs: Those seeking for jobs in Adelaide.
God’s guidance & provision of new church property for worship, office & fellowship activities.
Hopefuls working away
Persecuted believers in Islamic & Communist countries.

 

 

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PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063