Volume. XXXII, No. 6
Sunday, 06 August 2017

How Firm is our Church Foundation? - Part 1

How wonderful that we have moved into our permanent new Church premise and have dedicated it to the Glory of God. As we have been so busy with settling in and planning for works that needs to be done, it might be worthwhile to reconsider the firmness of our Church's foundation. I am not alluding here to the physical bricks and mortar of the Church, but to the true Church, the Body of Christ - we the congregation and members of the Church - which is of far more significance than the Church building. There have been and will be many changes as we try to put our plans into action. Some will be successful, some may have to be delayed, and some may have to be set aside due to circumstances beyond our control, limitations in our resources or because God has deemed it so. Whatever the change (whether adapting to the new building, procedural or organisational changes, new groups or ways of doing things, greater expectations, and so on), as creatures of habit, there will be stress in facing the challenges of change. It is exactly in times like these that we need to be especially careful that changes do not affect our Church spiritually, in our relationships with God and with fellow brothers and sisters-in-Christ. Build Our Church on the Solid Rock of Christ! This parable of the wise man and foolish man who built their houses on entirely different foundations is well known to many of us and often we find personal applications in it for us as individuals. However, this is equally applicable (and maybe even more so) to the Church as a whole. If an individual sadly falls, it is only an individual that is affected; but if a Church should fall, everyone in the Church is affected (not to mention the testimony of God we present to the world). Although such a possibility weighs heavily on the Church leadership, it should also be a shared concern among members and the congregation as we will all be affected. And so let us actively seek to make sure that our Church is built on the sure and everlasting foundation which is the Solid Rock of Christ. What then is expected of us as a Church to ensure that we are building on such a solid foundation? In Matthew 7:24, Jesus tells us that "whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them ... [builds] his house upon a rock." The emphasis here is on hearing and doing what Jesus says, for without doing, no one is benefited. The "sayings" that Jesus refers to here is His Sermon on the Mount starting in Matthew 5. There is so much in the 3 chapters over which Christ's sermon spans, that is not possible to cover all of it in this article, but let us focus on some specific ones that we can directly seek to put into practise to benefit the Church as a whole. Be Peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) As God is the God of Peace (1 Corinthians 14:33), Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) and peace is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), is it any wonder that as His children we are to be peacemakers? The word peacemaker implies a broken relationship existing between two or more parties. We could be the victim or the culprit of the broken relationship, or we could be called to mediate between the parties. Whichever we are, it is worth remembering that the message of the Bible is reconciliation - Christ came down to earth to give His life that we might be reconciled to God. This says a lot. In whatever we try to accomplish in the Church or in our interactions with one another, we must try to live peaceably with all men as far as possible (Romans 12:18). If we have been offended, we might have to learn what it means to surrender the hurt to God, to forgive and give up our right for justice in order to restore our relationship with the one who has hurt us, even as Joseph did when reconciling himself with his brothers who had sold him into slavery. If we have offended, then God would have us confess what we have done, and in repentance seeking forgiveness from those we have hurt. Maybe our pride is stopping us, but we are called to "Confess [our] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that [we] may be healed" (James 5:16). Or maybe we are called to the risky role of a mediator. It can be a dangerous and thankless task because the mediator could be subject to abuse and hostilities from the estranged parties. Nevertheless, even as it was for love that Christ willingly mediated between God and man, so we must also have such love for fellow believers to be willing to mediate despite the risks and we must follow after Christ. I believe that if our motives are out of love and concern, God will honour our efforts regardless of the outcome. Be Light to Those Around Us (Matthew 5:14-16) Whether as Christians in an unbelieving world, or in the Church, let us strive to be lights to those around us; let us be good examples of what Christians ought to be in thought, word and deed. Let it be genuine that our testimony may confirm that we are truly disciples of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and children of the Almighty God. A single lit candle might appear dim, only lighting up its immediate vicinity, but the sliver of light can be seen afar off in the darkness. As others are drawn to the light and if more candles are lit by that light, eventually the multitude of candles will shine brightly giving much light where it is needed. In the same manner, good influences more goodness, and even the wicked can be influenced for good. Can we not be like this within the Church in our relationships with one another, edifying one another and provoking one another unto love and to good works (Hebrews 10:24)? Do not be Unjustly Angry (Matthew 5:21-24) What a struggle it is when things don't seem to be going according to plan or when our patience is tried sorely causing us to lose patience with others. Here Jesus likens unjustified anger to the breaking of the sixth Commandment - "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13). If Jesus takes it so seriously, then it is something we should consider seriously. If we have been unjustly angry towards a fellow believer, we need to quickly resolve the issue with our brother or sister; otherwise how can we come to worship and fellowship with God? Ephesians 4:26-27 says, "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil." There is no place for unjustified anger within the community of believers for this gives the devil a foothold to start his mischief within the Church. Let us guard against this and let us not be the vehicle the devil uses to create such mischief. Continue Loving Those Who Hurt Us (Matthew 5:38-48) We hear this often, we know this very well, and we even agree that we need to love even those who have hurt us. But we usually affirm this when we are not experiencing any hurt. However, when we are slighted or in the midst of hurt, we become blinded to Jesus' words, and almost immediately we retaliate (if not physically or verbally, then in sullen resentment and hatred of those who have hurt us). We might retaliate by gossiping or highlighting negative things about that particular person to others. We might not wish to speak with that person and might even make it evident that we are avoiding that person. But Jesus is telling us to love especially those who have hurt us (those who may be enemies in our eyes), and these are not merely empty words, for Christ Himself set us an example when He prayed even for those who crucified Him, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). The impulse to retaliate is because of our sinful pride and human nature, but in a Church context it is ever more essential that we practice love for one another regardless of how we have been treated because we are testifying of Christ to this fallen world and we ought to be one in Christ. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35). Perhaps on the flip side, we might be the ones causing the hurt. May this also remind us that we need to be careful not to do so to our brothers and sisters-in-Christ, whom we ought to love. If we realise that we have hurt anyone, be a peacemaker and seek reconciliation, for love requires it of us. To be continued

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