Volume. XXXI, No. 10
Sunday, 04 September 2016


From the Pastors Heart: The Gospel, the Hope of Mankind (16)


I stressed the importance of the Spirit of God in the affairs of the world in the previous article. The reason is rather simple: it is because man is not the master of the universe. He is not even a master of his own life. The God whom we serve is sovereign, and is able to do all things according to His will and nothing can frustrate His will from being executed. 

For too long, man has claimed his power to form a culture. Thus, his life story begins and ends with “I will” as Lucifer did in Isaiah 14. He believes that he can make anything according to his plan, purpose, and intention. I admit that he may be able to achieve something for a while. However, what he aims at may exist for a while but not forever. It is because human knowledge is not complete, and he does not understand everything. Incompleteness of his knowledge and understanding inevitably causes his achievement to be brittle and eventually shattered. Rather, culture is a composition of many small things energized, activated, and worked out in every corner of human society over short or long periods of time. Of course, if man follows his interest and instinct, he cannot but reflect his sinfulness in his culture, and every bit of this same trend from the world brings forth a large scale of its own culture, which is sinful. The point I am trying to make is that culture is not necessarily a product of designs and intentions of any particular individual’s plan or movement. It also cannot be a product of man who masterminds it.

From this small thought, we can move on to a bigger, useful thought, to understand the role of the Gospel and individual believers’ roles in this ungodly culture and society. In Matthew 13, we find many parables about the kingdom of God. One of the characteristics of the kingdom of God in the parables is that it has a small beginning but grows to full maturity. There are two important thoughts we must have in relation to the kingdom of God and Christian culture.

First, we must not focus too much on our dreams, purposes, or intentions to make Christian culture possible through our efforts alone. There have been many movements to change the world, or to bring Christian culture into the world. However, they have been short-lived. Whenever they have died out or suffered with diminished influence, both Christians and the world have seen them as a failure of Christian faith and religion. We have failed to see that we cannot mastermind world affairs. Even if our desires to change the world and to nurture Christian influences in culture are noble and commendable, we must recognize that we cannot depend on our desires, efforts, intentions, huge organizations, or movements to bring forth the kingdom of God. We must forsake our self-help and self-reliance spirit. Instead we must depend on God and His wisdom. Psalm 127:1 says, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”

Second, we must see the importance of the faithfulness of individual believers. This thought begins with the fact that the kingdom of God grows. Sowers sow seeds, and they grow bigger and bigger till they provide enough branches, leaves, and covers for birds to make their nests in them. Interestingly, there is a parable of wheat and tares. They are growing together till the final separation has to be made at the harvest. T. S. Eliot aptly insisted: “Culture is something that must grow; you cannot build a tree, you can only plant it, and care for it, and wait for it to mature in its due time; and when it is grown you must not complain if you find that from an acorn has come an oak and not an elm tree” (Christianity and Culture, New York: Harcourt, 1976, 196). OS Guiness explains it: “as the seeds of faith ripen in countless lives into the fruit of the Spirit, and the people of God grow, ripen and bear more fruit in ways that defy all expectations” (Renaissance, Kindle Loc., 1494). His further insight is commendable: “Put differently again, Jesus tells his followers to seek first God’s kingdom, ‘and all these things will be added to you.’ We are to trust and obey God, and to follow his call in every inch of our lives, in every second of our time, and with every gift with which we have been endowed. And we are then to leave the result as well as the assessment to God” (Ibid., Kindle Loc., 1505). 

The second point is quite crucial to our understanding of the believers’ roles in culture. It has been a common wish and desire of all men and women that they become the best in the areas they make in their lives. If we limit our thoughts to Christians only, we can see the issues and problems of such thoughts. Of course, there is merit in it. Who would say that it is wrong to be the best in our fields of work? Who would say that we should not pursue being the best in our work and specialities? Problems come when this desire is the only goal and purpose of life. Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” The noble thought to become the best in the fields of our work eventually pushes us to become self-serving people, which is a way to idolatry, envy and jealousy, and even obsession. We will end up either arrogant or regretful. Christian parents tell their children to become the best, while forgetting to tell them that their chief end must be to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. They have forgotten to tell their loved ones that they must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. They have forgotten to tell them that, if they seek first the kingdom of God, then He will add all these things to them. We lose our smart and capable young people because, though they have potential to be great, they fail to be faithful to God.

We have tried (at least our churches or certain segments of Christian camps have tried), to change worldly culture, and to form Christian culture to be influential, by doing all kinds of innovative and creative projects, programs, and even using propaganda. However, we have forgotten a simple truth again and again that the Gospel is the power of God. We have used many other powers to change the world and its culture, but have not used the power of God much. With the pretext that we need to change our worldly culture, the Gospel has been modified, diluted, and even mutilated. Too many Christians are concerned that the rigid preaching of the Gospel repels the people from coming to church. They often argue that we should accommodate them by offering things more to their liking, from music to soft talk. Instead of being faithful as individual believers of Christ by holding onto the Gospel and its power, we have given way to the tempting thoughts of the world. We have again forgotten that God will bless us and our works when we live, do, and work according to His will. We have not considered seriously that what is required of us is faithfulness to God.

Let me introduce you to Guiness’s remarkable story: “One of the newer Oxford colleges is Linacre College, founded in 1962 and named after Thomas Linacre. He is hardly known today, but in his time in the sixteenth century, he was the pre-eminent Renaissance scholar in England, court physician to King Henry VIII, founder of the Royal College of Physicians, and the honored teacher and friend of both Erasmus and Sir Thomas More. As a scholar and fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, Linacre was well versed in both Greek and Latin, but he lived before the Reformation, when the Bible was restricted to the clergy. So he had never read it in depth. One day a friend who was a priest gave him a copy of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and he studied them in full and in the original language for the first time. Linacre thought for a while, and then handed them back to the priest with the remark, “Either these are not the Gospels, or we are not Christians!” Not long afterwards, Linacre’s brilliant student Erasmus made the same point in his scathing and subversive indictment of Christian corruption, In Praise of Folly. And it was not much longer before, in 1517, a young Augustinian monk (Martin Luther) hammered ninety-five theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg to protest the same gap between Christ and his Church, and the protest movement that became the Reformation began.”

Lovingly,
Your Pastor

More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

*Kitchen Roster - Helpers this week: Bro Kevin Low; Sisters Jen Xin Li & Jun Lin. Helpers next week: Bro Phil Surman; Sisters Natalie Cheng & Jun Lin.
*Welcome to Rev Edward Paauwe to our pulpit today & Mrs Lehia Paauwe.
*YAF & AFG Combined Activity– please see your fellowship leaders for details.
*Helpers needed for Holiday Bible Club. Please see Dn John Wong if you can help.

Praise & Thanksgiving
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: Mr Ballan Sanders (ICU).
iSketch & Tell Ministry: Pr Hai Seng Lim’s ministry in Hanoi, Vietnam.
New Life BPC (London) - Dr Carl Martin; God’s guidance & encouragement for congregation.
God’s blessing on Rev Alfred Ngoma’s chaplaincy in Wagga Wagga.
Theological studies for Dn Sung Hyun Ma & Bro Kevin Low & families.
Youth & Assistant Pastor for Hope B-P Church.
God’s guidance for Covenant, Ebenezer, Hope & Providence BPCs to form an Australian B-P Presbytery.
Journey mercies: Pastor Okman & Sis Myung Ki (S’pore); & others who are travelling.
Safety in final weeks of pregnancy: Sis Maritas Mangco (HoH, Cebu).
Postnatal health of Sis Emily Zhang & baby son.
Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.
Year 12 students preparing for exams: Bros Timothy Gan & Benjamin Wong; & Sis Emily Kour.
God’s guidance for settlement of new church property.
Australia - Salvation of Australians & for our politicians not to pass any legislation that is against God’s Law.

Prayer Items
Journey mercies: Pastor Okman & Sis Myung Ki (S’pore/Bandung); Rev Alfred & Bro Timothy Ngoma (Adl/Wagga Wagga); Rev & Mrs Mathews Abraham & family; Elder Stephen Lim (Melb); Rev Mark Chen; Elder & Mrs Jimmy Orchard (Perth); & others arriving safely at their destinations.
Visitors & new worshippers.
God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.
Church activities in the past week.
Calvary Jaya B-P Fellowship (Malaysia) - 32nd Anniversary.
Fruitful fellowship of Pastors & Elders from Covenant, Ebenezer, Hope & Providence BPCs (Adl) last weekend.
Remission - Sis Siew Fong Cho.

 

 

 

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PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063