Friday, March 30, 2012

Living the Gospel-witnessing Life

In Acts 5, we read of the Sanhedrin forbidding Peter and the apostles to preach the Gospel. However, the apostles, despite the risk to their lives, refused. Providentially, through Gamaliel’s intercession, they were not killed. Instead the Sanhedrin decided to whip the apostles and then release them. What was the apostles’ response after the flogging? “They left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (of Jesus)” Acts 5:41. Even after being whipped badly, they continued their task of proclaiming the Gospel as v42 tells us. To them the Gospel was worth suffering and dying for.

I remember an extraordinary woman whose story I read years ago. Many have heard of Wang Ming Dao, unofficial architect of the house church movement in China during the middle part of the 20th Century from the 50s onwards. Despite oppression and persecution, the house churches in China grew, led by men such as him and others. His wife was Deborah Wang or Auntie Wang as friends called her. When Wang Ming Dao was sentenced to prison for so-called “anti-revolutionary activities”, his wife also followed him into prison. For twenty years, she was in a Northern Chinese prison where winters were extremely cold. Despite insufficient food and winter clothes, seeing her husband only three times in that twenty years, she never complained and never lost her Christian faith. After their release, their home continued to be used by their Christian friends. Even after her husband died, her spiritual strength never diminished and she said, “I will not be lonely; I was not lonely before.”  What a remarkable woman!  She too rejoiced because she had been found worthy of disgrace for Jesus.

You may not have to suffer for your Christian faith like the apostles or Deborah Wang, but you can be sure that the world will always examine Christians hyper-critically. You may not be jailed or beaten but you can be sure that you will also be ridiculed and disliked as you faithfully live for Christ. That’s normal since sticks and stones are only thrown at trees bearing fruit. That is what God warned us of in 2 Tim3:12 where Paul writes, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus WILL be persecuted.  So when you live out your faith by refusing to cheat on your homework or stand up against the school bullies or refuse to victimise the weaker ones as some of your school mates do, you will make some people unhappy. When you refuse to pilfer the company goods like your colleagues do, lie for your boss or work on Sundays, you will upset your boss or colleagues. When you do these things, you can be sure that people will not be happy and they will look for ways to make your life difficult. Be encouraged, the lesson we learn from Easter, which we will celebrate next week, is that we have a risen Saviour. His commendation is far more important than any hostility or adversity that we have to bear here. This life on earth is not all there is. We have a far better one awaiting us in Heaven. It is there where, if we have walked in obedience and lived our lives for our Lord, we will hear his commendation, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come now and share your master’s happiness.

May the Lord’s grace empower and bless us to witness and live for Him as so many others before us have done for our Lord and Master Jesus.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Fear of the Lord

"Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing." Psalm 34:9-10

What does it mean to fear the Lord? The fear of the Lord is submission to our Lord God. It is absolute surrender in will, mind and desires to our Lord God. A result of our submission is that we obey our Lord. Here, David says that a person who fears the Lord lacks nothing. Isn't that a wonderful promise? Even more, Proverbs 9:10 promises the blessing “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Those who walk in the fear of the Lord are not untouched by trouble but will rise above it. Although evil happens to good people, this general guideline is that if we walk with God faithfully, we will have a peaceful and contented life.

So David says, “Come, children, let me teach you a subject of extreme importance: the fear of the Lord.” Do universities teach you the fear of the Lord? I understand Harvard, founded as a school for training ministers of the gospel, used to do this but no longer do so. A number of sophisticated universities in the US and Europe used to teach the Bible and they used to teach about the fear of the Lord, but they do not do so now. Do churches teach this profound subject called fear of the Lord? Not all. Many churches say, "Come and be entertained. We have great programs that show how God loves you. Our sermons are getting smaller and lighter. Come and be happy.” That is not teaching the fear of the Lord.

Many claim to belong to the Lord. Yet how many confess that they fear him? To fear the Lord does not mean that we must be fearful and cringe before the Lord in fear that he will strike us dead. Rather, because he loves us unconditionally, we have great veneration of him and fear grieving him. A healthy fear of our Lord leads us to honour him above everything else. We demonstrate the fear of the Lord in our humble attitude and our genuine worship of him. We can only have the good life if we truly learn what it means to fear the Lord. The Bible always connects the fear of the Lord with obedience of him. So in Psalm 34, David is telling us that if we truly fear the Lord, then we will not lie but do good, turn from evil and promote peace (vv13-14). It is more than just sitting quietly in a pew to hear God's message and then singing a few songs. It involves obeying God in the way we speak and in the way we treat others.

That is the good life. The good life is not about self-fulfillment but walking faithfully with God according to the principles of his Kingdom. It is no point talking about how one’s own money, health, power, influence, position, etc., brings about the good life. It does not. The media has many stories about rich and powerful people of the world who are not having a good life. The good life is lived by those who have learned the fear of the Lord. Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter ― Pastor Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God