Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Believer’s Work – Witnessing (Acts 5:32)

 
 
What do we do with the Gospel given to us?  What did the believers in the book of Acts do with it?  They proclaimed it.  In Acts 5:32 verse 32, Peter’s response to the High Priest was, “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” 
 
Peter calls himself and all the believers “witnesses”.  The word witness in the book of Acts is used about 12 times and its synonym “testify” about another 9 times so we know it is a key word in Acts.
 
What is a witness?  Basically, he is one who testifies of what he has personally seen and directly heard.  In a musical staged by HPC some 9 years ago, “The Witness”, all the songs spoke about the characters’ interaction with Jesus as he walked on earth.  All they said was what they had seen Jesus do and say. That is what a witness does, one who tells of what he has seen and heard.
 
In the same manner, if I only saw John holding a knife as he stood over the corpse of a cat, I cannot go to court as a witness and testify that John had killed the cat. After all I did not see him stab the cat. As a witness, I can only testify that I saw John standing over the cat holding a knife.  As to my opinion on whether John had done the killing that is for the court to decide. All I can do is to be a witness of what I had seen.
 
So maybe when pastors talk to you about “soul-winning for God’s Kingdom”, “evangelizing the lost” you may find that a bit daunting.  You may be right. However, while only some of God’s people are called to be evangelists and apostles, all of God’s people are called to witnesses.  And you can be a witness to what God has done in your lives.  Your story as a Christian has power.  There are people everywhere who need to hear about Jesus and how He can change their lives. You only need to talk to them; what happens after that is up to God. But your part is crucial, since God designed His message to flow from person to person.
 
Your story has power.  First, it's personal.  You don't have to memorize Bible verses, or worry about telling it correctly. You only need to share on how Jesus is at work in your life, helping you to bear with the challenges of life. Second, it is conversational.  It's not a sermon.  It can be shared over a cup of coffee or after a round of golf.  Third, no one can dispute it.  If you have joy, peace, and love in your life as a result of knowing Christ, that will be evident.  Fourth, it is interesting.  It's natural for friends to want to know more about each other.  Even if your friend is antagonistic to the Gospel, he or she may still be interested in why you value your relationship with a man named Jesus.  So be encouraged and be a witness even if you are afraid of being an evangelist.
 
We have been given a glorious Gospel of grace. The Christians of the early church, as seen in Acts, were given the same glorious gospel. They were willing witnesses to the Gospel of Christ. May we also be ever so willing to be witnesses of the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Friday, September 21, 2012

True Worship

 
 

Ex 20:3-5a "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…”
 
When we talk about worship, what do we mean? Once, while studying the meaning of daily worship in a group, one person commented that he saw no point in discussing worship. To him, worship was what we did together in church on Sunday. Is that all worship means to us – gathering together and singing on Sundays? What is the short answer we can give to what worship means? I am sure we all have some idea but what is real worship? The answer will help us to understand what false worship is.
 
‘Worship’ comes from an archaic English word ‘worth-ship’ meaning ‘to ascribe worth or value to something or someone’. We worship someone or something because that person or object is valuable to us. That means, in the world everyone, Christians, non-Christians, atheists, politicians, millionaires, students, teenagers, etc. worships. Politicians worship power, millionaires worship money, atheists worship themselves and others may worship a force or a way of life. Thus, worship is a universal phenomenon. The only things that do not worship are animals because they have no sense of the spiritual. So for human beings, it is not whether we worship or not because everyone does, but what or who do we worship? Who is the pre-eminent object of our affections, the centre of our very lives and hearts? Either we worship the true God or we worship another god of our own making.
 
True worship is to attribute worth to a real Being, one who is truly there and also truly worthy of worship. False worship then is to attribute ultimate worth to an illusion which is not really there or it could also be a material object like a car, that dream home or money that cannot respond to our worship. It could also not be worthy, like another human being, who has the same frail and depraved nature as us.
 
Therefore what is true worship? I hearken back to a song which goes, “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about you, all about you Jesus…” Worship is all about God and his son Jesus. It must always be directed towards God and God only. As the above text commands, worship is to be expressed towards God because of who He is, what He has done and His worthiness.
 
We must then ask does worship help me experience God's presence in beauty and power in a manner consistent with his Word. In worship, am I in touch with the real God? We can have worship experiences that do not reflect the reality of God. They may reflect God in a distorted way. They may affect our emotions yet leave us empty once we exit the sanctuary. We may have swooned to the music and amen-ed our way through the message but yet exit without learning anything about the real God. True worship will send us out knowing we have been in the presence of the real God because we know something more of his greatness, his mercy, his compassion and his love. It will prompt us to respond by wanting to testify, by word or actions, in our daily lives, what he really means to us. Will this be your experience today?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Our Life Together

 
 
In 1st Thessalonians, as each chapter ends, we see Paul’s reminder that Jesus is coming again. First, he affirms and encourages their faith, then he challenges them to grow in righteous living on the basis of this truth – Jesus is coming again. We who have trusted in Christ have nothing to fear when he comes again. However our proper response to this prophecy is for us to note, as Paul reminds the Thessalonian Christians, there is a practical side to it. Christians are to live as children of the light, not children of the night. In I Thess 5:25-27, we can see some practical examples we are to apply to our life together to help us grow as a people of God awaiting Jesus’ return.
 
Intercessory Prayer (5:25). In the early Christian Church, prayer was a very most important practice. It should also be so in the life of every church. As every church faces challenges and pivotal moments, prayer should be of prime importance in the life of every believer. Acts 4 teaches us that corporate prayer unleashes the power of God. Paul, the Christian leader and apostle, needed the rank and file believers to pray for him. He knows that church leaders too are human and prone to sin. Surely we too can emulate this example. Satan desires to bring God’s church down and dishonour God and what better way than by bringing the leader down thereby stumbling many other people. Therefore, we too must pray together to ensure our leaders stand firm, people grow and the church prospers in its mission to build God’s Kingdom.
 
Fellowship with one another (5:26). What is our immediate reaction when worship ends?  Do we quickly gather our children and leave hurriedly for lunch and for the day’s errands?  Paul here reminds us that we are to spend time to get to know each other. In those days, the men would greet the men with a kiss and likewise the ladies with one another. I guess our modern application is that we should shake hands and take the time to fellowship with one another, especially those that are new. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul calls them “brothers” about seventeen times. They were family and so are we. What does a family do but spend time with one another. Our vertical relationship with God should translate into a horizontal relationship with our fellow believers. So we should make efforts to someone we do not know. Make friends with them and tell them we look forward to seeing them next week. There will always be people around who do not mind our fellowship.
 
Read the scriptures (5:27). Paul charged that this letter be read to the Thessalonian Church. He also gave the same instructions to the Colossian Church and these letters are today part of our canon of Scripture, God’s inspired Word to us. In this letter, Paul had written on some very important matters and so he instructs the Thessalonians Church to read it out when the church gathers in worship. The Word of God governs our life. It is the most important thing in our spiritual lives and we must always ensure that it is read and it is taught in our churches.
 
Blessings (5:28). Paul ends his epistle with a simple prayer: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen" (v28). Grace is the means by which God’s goodness like peace, salvation, forgiveness, maturity stirs in our hearts and enable us to follow him – it is all grace.
 
The Christian life is not a list of do’s and don’ts although in his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul has mentioned many specific responsibilities for every believer in the local church. But behind all the instructions and commands, lies the question, “what is our main priority in life?” On reflection, I think the key word here is submission. Are we willing, as children of a loving and kind Heavenly Father, to submit to His Will, to accept that he knows what is best in our lives and live lives that will please Him?  If we can accept this, then his instructions to us are not burdensome and we will eagerly look forward to what God is telling us to do.