26 May 2013
Living in a world of deception
All right, this morning's topic is on deception. We live in a world full of deception. The time that our common ancestors, Adam and Eve, decided to obey the deceiver; from that time on, this world's ambience, this world’s atmosphere, is one of deception. The devil is the master deceiver. The Bible tells us he deceives the whole world. Every one of us whether we know it or we don't know it, everything around us is designed by this master deceiver. Things that look so beautiful, so wonderful, are not as wonderful as they seem. Things that seem to be good for us are not as good as they seem. And so throughout our lives, we live in this world of deception. We actually cannot trust anybody. That is life! If there were no policemen around and there were no lawyers and no judges, I do not know what this world would be. Everybody would be swindling and cheating each other. It would be rampant. Today, when you buy a product, you're not even sure, you know, when it says 100% this or 100% cotton. Is it really 100% cotton? Is it even cotton at all? Nobody knows. The whole world is full of deception. We can trust nobody. Being deceived is bad but being self-deceived is much worse. If the devil deceives us, well, that's pretty sad. But actually, the best and in fact, the most effective deceiver, is ourselves. We deceive ourselves. Our heart is deceitful above all things, desperately wicked - “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). We listen to things that we like to hear, not the things that are true or good. We don't want to hear the things that we don't want to hear. We choose what we think is good for us but sad to say, because of that desperately wicked heart in us, we choose the wrong things. So we have a deceiver outside and we have a deceiver inside. Wow, this is serious. And these days, the Bible tells us, in the last days, 2 Timothy 3:1 (“while evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived”), something even more amazing is going to happen. People will become worse and worse. Your gurus, your teachers, the people you look up to will become even more deceived. Once upon a time, maybe we could trust our doctors. Today, I'm not so sure. Are they in it for your health or for their wallet? I'm not sure. You go to a doctor and 90% of people will go to someone and say, “I think I need a second opinion. I'm not so sure if he's really telling me the truth.” I mean, these are the gurus. These are the people who are supposed to put our trust in. Maybe in time past people actually believed their pastors and actually would listen to them and say, “Ah, okay, I'll go to our Pastor for some counseling and hopefully, I will get the truth.” And probably I'll get it. These days, even with these people, you worry. We don't trust our government, we don't trust anybody - and rightfully so. We live in deception. We are surrounded by deception. We are filled with deception. Who do we turn to? Where is truth then? If the gurus, the guys who you look up to to tell you truth can't tell you truth then where is truth? Where do you find truth? Is there such a thing? If you say truth is what is commonly believed, then that's wrong because the world is deceived. So what is truth? Where is truth?
God’s Word is the biblical definition of truth
Thankfully there is still the best definition for truth that I can find. It is not in a dictionary because a dictionary is, that which is commonly held to be truth is truth. And then years later you find that was wrong. As a doctor, we have all this, you know, this cholesterol is bad for you, this is bad for you, that is bad for you, and then years later, “Sorry. That was all wrong.” What is truth? Thy Word is truth - “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). That's it. That's it. Anywhere else, question mark, question mark. So today, I hope that we will look at God's word and ask ourselves some questions.
Deception in the church
Now, are we here today to look at deception in other places? “Ah, that church is being deceived. That congregation is being deceived.” I think today, we will look at ourselves. Today we're going to look at deception in modern times, in our midst and not somewhere out there. You know, the Bible tells us a very interesting thing about judging. And this has been one of the most misquoted passages of Scripture, all right. Every time you judge something as a Christian, some well-meaning Christian, will come up and say, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” So we are under the impression that as a Christian, you cannot judge. Because if you quote Matthew chapter seven, verse one, “Judge not, that ye be not judged”, so don't judge. That's taking a text out of context. The context is a little longer than the first verse. So let's just read that and see what it is about judgment because you and I are going to face that from many people. “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.” Are we not to judge that our brother has a speck in his eye? Are we not to help a brother if he has a speck in his eye? Well, if you just read verse one, if he's got a speck in his eye, it is not my problem. Don't judge. You got speck in the eye? That's your problem. No, no, no. At the end of the passage, and then you can see that speck in his eye clearly and you can tell him, “Eh buddy, you got a speck in your eye. It’s not good for you. Let me help you take it out.” Does this specialist tell you not to judge people? Or does this specialist tell you to first judge yourself then stop there? Don't judge anybody else. Don't help anybody else. Don't tell anybody else you're wrong. This is what this passage tells you? I'm sorry, I don't see that way. You judge yourself so that you can be a better judge of others. You know, when people tell you that as a Christian, we shouldn't judge others, that's the most ridiculous statement I heard. As a Christian mother, do you tell your kid, “Be careful of the friends you go out with. Be careful of the magazines you read. Be careful of the programs you play with on the computer.” Don't judge? Every day you better judge. In a world of deception, you better judge. You better be a good judge or you will be dead. Every day we have to judge - from the food we eat to the friends we make, whatever. If you don't judge, you are in deep trouble. But don't judge without first judging yourself. So today, we hope we will do that. Let's judge ourselves. Let's ask ourselves how we are doing before we go and say, “How's that church doing? How's that church doing? How are other Christians doing?” How are we doing? And hopefully we know how we are doing then we can help others who need help. Alright, so please don't let anyone intimidate you with Matthew chapter seven, verse one, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”. My friends, if you don't learn to judge things in this world, you'll fall into the ditch every day. You eat all the wrong stuff, make all the wrong friends, join the wrong company, study the wrong things. Every day you are judging evil from good and good from better. And judgment, discernment, and wisdom is so important, all right? So don't be intimidated by people throwing a text out of context, which is probably one of the most popular things to do today.
Five areas of our life
Now, today, let's look at five areas of our own life. As a church of this kind, how are we doing in these areas of knowledge, education, organization, comfort, and finally, what we call, church? How are we doing in these areas? Alright, so this is pertaining particularly to people like us here.
The area of knowledge. You know, knowledge is so highly exalted today. Maybe in more basic societies, it's not about your knowledge, it is about your strength. You’ve got strength, you're the big guy in the community, you rule and you command people. Maybe in a slightly more progressive society, skills are very important. The guy with skills will hunt more, catch more fish, whatever, grow more rice; he is the big guy there. His hands can do skillful things. But in our knowledge-based era that we live in, it's all knowledge. The guys that will rule you are the guys who got more knowledge than you. The President scholars will rule this country. The other scholars will rule the companies. It is all knowledge. Knowledge is lifted up in this era. The more knowledge you have, everybody looks up to you. Come to the church? Same. We are children of our culture. We are children of the context we live in. Knowledge is highly revered. You want to get a pastor? The first thing you ask, you know, which seminary did he go to? Did he get a Master’s or just a Bachelor’s? Preferably you want a guy with a doctrine from a seminary. Knowledge is everything. It is not about character, not about skills, not about other things; knowledge first! When you want to join a company, show your paper first. No paper, no talk. No qualifications, no talk. In the church, very much the same. The scholars rule. We equate knowledge with wisdom. The world does that. In a church, we create knowledge with spirituality. If he's got a doctorate from a seminary, he is a spiritual fellow. To me, if he's got a doctorate, it means he's a smart fellow. That's it. Whether it's spiritual, I don't know. The doctorate just tells me, or his Master’s just tell me that he can study. But no - knowledge in the world equals wisdom. Wisdom to rule men, to do everything. In the church, knowledge equals spirituality, etc. So what does the Bible tells us? The Bible tells us, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22). You can go to seminary and listen and listen and retain and regurgitate and do extremely well in exams and top your class every year. Does that mean a thing? It means one thing. If you didn't do what you learn, you are self-deceived. You were a PhD in deception, self-deception. You know, the Bible is not for knowledge, folks. The Bible is for life change. The purpose we study anything in the Bible is not so our head will get bigger with more facts, but our life will be humbler with more Christlikeness. That is what we study the Bible for. You know, there's a lot of Bible knowledge going around. And the more knowledge a Christian has in this generation, the more spiritual he thinks he is. Is that what the Bible tells us? No, the more deceived he is.
There is a lot of lust, there is a lot of desire for more knowledge. Is that bad? No, it's not bad. But at the end of it, you have to measure what this knowledge has done to you. Has it changed your life? Has it? Are you doers of the word? Or hearers only? Your measurement is not how much you learn at Bible study. It is how much your life has changed after Bible study. You know, there's a huge deception going around that - “Wow, the churches are full and there is more knowledge!” There has never been so much knowledge as in this era, and yet, Christian lives have never been more messed up. Never! There is a dichotomy between the two. There is no relationship between this vast increase in knowledge. You thought, “Wow, Christian life will also follow.” No, you were deceived. The more and more Bible studies; take a look at Christians, they are less and less like Christ. How come? How's that? So knowledge does not equal growth, unless you think of growth as a Pharisee. Satan knows the Bible. I'm convinced he memorizes. I’m convinced he knows all the facts behind every Bible geography, Bible history, Bible archaeology, Bible everything. He knows it all. Does it make him better? Does your Bible knowledge make you better? Are you a better person? Check yourself. All right, I hope that we will not be a church of Pharisees who are actually feeling we know more and actually looking down on those who know less. It is so common to do that. Hey, when you do well in school, what do you normally feel? I'm smarter than those fools down there! I'm in an elite school, man! I'm smart! What about when you know more Bible knowledge? How do you feel? Wow, I know so much! Wow, I studied my Bible for four hours a day. Does that make you a better person? I hope it does. I am not against Bible study. I'm not against knowledge. But how do you measure at the end of it? Is your head bigger or are you more like Christ?
Alright, so number two. Let's move on to education. We are obsessed with education. We are a culture obsessed with it. So what's wrong with that, Pastor? Do you have a problem with that? I don't have a problem with that. But what do we mean by education? How do you rate what's good education? First, a good teacher, good teaching methods, good curriculum - that's what makes a good teacher, that's what makes a good education. So we do that in the church. We find somebody who is able to teach the Bible, with the right methods and make it interesting. The right content, use the right curriculum and be it Sunday school, be it Bible study, be it whatever - if we have this, good teacher, good methods and good curriculum, “Wow, we're on the way to spiritual growth.” Is that true? Is it like that? Does it work out like that? The Bible says no. “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Do we need good teachers, good methods, good curriculum, or do we need Spirit-led teachers? Generally, that's not even an issue. You want to teach, you can teach. This is your curriculum, teach. I came from a Mission School. I did religious knowledge as one of the subjects in school and it was taught by, I guess, people who have been trained in the Teachers Training College of those days, trained in the Methodist Church of those days. I was from Anglo Chinese School. I passed all my religious knowledge and did fairly well in them. I knew the facts of the Bible. I didn't know the principles. I knew all the writings of the Bible. I didn't know the writer. Because those are spiritually discerned. For years, I went to religious knowledge. I went to Sunday school. I went through all those things and actually thought I was educated spiritually. But the Bible says spiritual things can only be discerned by Spirit-led people, not qualified teachers, not hard working teachers, not diligent teachers. Those are not enough. You need the Holy Spirit. When you read the Bible, how do you read the Bible? In a quiet place where you can focus and oncentrate? Is that how you read the Bible? That's good. Is that enough? Are you Spirit-dependent? Are you opening the Bible and saying to God, “God, I know with my best effort, the best teachers around me, I'll never see spiritual truths in this until you, by your Holy Spirit, open my eyes.” Only spiritually discerned. It does not take a PhD to understand the Bible. In fact, you will think the Bible is boring. Spirit-led teachers and Spirit-dependent students. You know actually when we try to educate people in the Bible, we might be missing completely what Bible training is all about? Because Jesus had a different method. The Bible further says that the more you give of the Bible, the more you give the Bible without the Holy Spirit, the letter kills. In 2 Corinthians 3:6, “who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”. It's not that the letter just bores. It's not that the letter just is neutral. The letter of the Bible without the Holy Spirit kills. It kills you spiritually. You know, you can go to plenty of Bible studies with well-meaning teachers, great curriculum, but if there is no Holy Spirit in it, don't study the Bible. Don't study it. Because it will not just leave you at square one. It will spiritually kill you. So much for religious knowledge in schools, so much for learning versus as an academic exercise, as a mental exercise. The Word of God is powerful, that is true, when it is attended by the Holy Spirit. The Word of God is not powerful when it is not attended by the Holy Spirit except it is powerful to kill you. It has power too, but wrong way power.
Yesterday I was with, no, Friday, I was with believers. One of them told me they came from a church where every Sunday the kids were tested on verses, verses, all the memory verses. And when the kids didn't get it right, the parents got it. What did it do to this couples’ kids? What did it do to the kids? They hate the church. Maybe they hate God. The Word of God is powerful. Yeah, it's a two-edged sword. They can kill you, cut out all the bad things in your life or cut out the good things. Alright, so I hope today as a church, we will have Spirit-led teachers. Everything we do, every Bible study we do, every time you open the Bible, your best effort will kill you. A little dependence on the Holy Spirit will give you life. It's not like studying your exam subjects, folks, where you grit your teeth and go. It is very different. What is the Bible? What is Christian education? What is the crux of Christian education? What is the number one teaching method of Christian education? Fill your brain with facts? Sit in a classroom and jam your head with facts? Well, Jesus didn't do that. Jesus told his disciples that if they wanted to learn, follow him, not hear him, not listen to him, but follow me, look at his life and see what he does. In Matthew 4:19, “And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”. See, Christian education is not about the brain now. It's about educating your life. And you cannot educate life in a circle sitting around a book. The best way is a life transferred to another life - it is called mentoring. It is called sharing your life. How do you talk to your wife? How do you talk to your father? How do you treat your dog? How do you talk to your maid? That is Christian education. “Follow me”, Jesus said. There is nothing wrong with sitting around a Bible and discussing the nuances of the Greek and all the background. There is nothing wrong with it, but it is not enough. And if it is not Holy Spirit-dependent, it is deadening and it is killing. Right, so I hope today we check the way we are educated. First, how do we measure ourselves? With knowledge? Wrong. Wrong measurement, folks. Second, how do we educate ourselves to be better Christians?
Alright, number three, organization. You know when you want to get a pastor - I've set up ordination committees helping churches who are looking for a pastor, they say they want a few things. Number one, he must graduate from a good seminary - good. Number two, he must be able to teach and articulate truth and must be a good talker - good teacher. Rule number three, he must be a good manager - he must manage the church properly. I have very seldom heard, and to be honest, I have never heard a church telling me that the most important thing is that he must be a man of prayer. I have not heard it yet in 33 years in ministry. Does it make sense? Wow. Seminary, right seminary; can talk on the stage, sound good and impressive; and then can go into office and manage the whole church. Wow, three great qualifications! You ask people who are laymen, “How's your pastor? The preaching good ah?”. “Wah good ah! Where did they graduate from?” I have never heard laypeople ask, “How's your pastor's prayer life?” I've not heard of it yet. “Is he a man of prayer?” I have not heard it yet. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” What is that weapon that we have that pulls down strongholds, that break through barriers? What is that weapon? Organizational skills? Articulateness on the pulpit? A brainy from the best seminary? No! The weapon is called prayer. The breakthrough is prayer. May God give us good Pastors and I thank God for good Pastors. What's the criteria? How's your prayer life? I'm a surgeon. I would ask, if I want a surgery, I would ask the surgeon, “How's your surgery? How are you with a knife?”, not how many points you scored in your Edinburgh exam. Were you the top student of your school? No, no. How's your hand with a knife? That's what counts. A chef? How's your char (referring to frying skills)? Not, “Wow, you came from this Culinary Institute? Top boy ah? Gold medal ah?” What about Pastors? How's your prayer life? How's your relationship with God?
You know, we are so taken up with organization. There's nothing wrong with it. It is good. It is a good means, a good tool. I'm not running down education. I'm not running down knowledge. I'm not running down organization. But is this the criterion? Are we being deceived? Have we got our eyes focused on something else? We are being deceived. Every time a new guy gets ordained here on this platform, you all should ask, “How's his prayer life?” You guys ordained this pastor. How's his prayer life? That is what you want to know, first things first. You know, as a servant of God, we will devote ourselves - Acts 6:4 “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”. In the King James, it says that we will give ourselves continually to prayer. That's what matters. How are you as a mother? “Wow, I can cook good food. I give the best tuition. I take care of my kids.” Sorry, you missed the point. Do you pray for your kids? How are you as mothers? I'm not talking about vis-a-vis standards. I am talking about God's standards. How are you doing? How are you as a father? Do you just feed them? Social Welfare can do that. This is the criteria. Don't be deceivedm folks. Don't let the peripheral cloud out the primary.
Next, comfort. You know, we have this idea that all's well. Everything with this church is well. We have no problems and everything's going smoothly. So, God is blessing us. Sorry, folks. That is wrong. It may be true and may not be true. Comfort, the level of comfort we have is not a measurement of the level of how much, how pleased God is with us. That is health and wealth, folks. In fact, it may make us wonder a little. 2 Timothy 3:12 “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”. How are we doing? Hey, we are persecution-free, folks. I'm not saying we go and look for trouble, purposely go and disturb people to get persecuted or give tracks to a person of another religion purposely? I'm not saying that. He didn't say those who live foolish will suffer persecution, but those who live godly. Are we godly? Are we just living a life to be comfortable and out of trouble? Is a beautiful, seamless, comfortable life a picture of God's blessing on us? I wonder. I don't like suffering and none of you like suffering. You know, it is weird, you know, we don't look for it. But if you look for God, suffering will look for you and follow you. 1 Peter 2:21 “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” How's your comfortable life and this suffering? How does that tie up? You want a church that can be very comfortable and come to church every Sunday? I want a Christian life is totally comfortable, trouble-free, etc. and then I say, “Hallelujah!”. Really? We should say, “Wow, are we missing something? Are we missing something? Are we not doing something we should be doing?” So we get ourselves out of trouble. Don't get me wrong, I'm not into purposely going to look for trouble. Don't get me wrong, alright. You must be wise as serpents in doing things. But even when you're godly and wise as serpents, problems will come. Because the world doesn't like what we are doing and what we should be doing.
You know, the Christian life is kind of a paradox, alright? It's a paradox of no comfort zone around you but a comfort zone in you. The world looks for a comfort zone and tries to build a comfort zone around it - that's how the world operates. We want a comfort zone. I want a comfort zone. You want a comfort zone. We all want a comfort zone, but our comfort zone is not around us. It is in us, alright? And let me just show you a verse - John 14:26,27 “But the Comforter (which is another word for the Holy Spirit), which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace (or call it comfort) I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart (not your life) be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Focus on the second verse. What are we looking for? We're looking for peace around us. Peace - that's the life of everybody. Everybody responds to “What do you want?” with “peace”. You should have peace here (referring to the heart) and not there (referring to the world around us). Here, not there, alright? Because you have total peace around you and you can’t sleep at night, that's no good to you at all. If everything is so beautiful around you but inside you feel so uncomfortable, empty, meaningless, pointless, then what's the point of all these beautiful things around you? That is why the Bible says, “Peace I give unto you, not as the world.” The world gives you peace around you! Don't fight ah, don’t quarrel ah, everybody be happy, happy, okay? At home ah, nice music, waterfall, alright. You can buy all those things, dripping sounds - that's peace of the world but that's not the peace God gives you. The peace God’s gives to you is not what the world can give you. The world can give you peaceful surroundings but God gives you a peaceful heart. Let not your heart be troubled though your life may be troubled, though your surroundings may be troubling. But you have a beautiful piece, that in the storm of life, when everybody persecutes you, you sleep like a baby, even standing up. I've seen godly men sleep like that. There is nothing to do with the bed. There is nothing to do with the hotel. There is nothing to do with whether you fly budget airline or sit on a motorbike. It is about the heart. How's your heart? How's your heart? Are you worried every day? Worried for children, worried for job, worried for this, worried for that? And yet you have such a beautiful home, such a beautiful church! Look at these chairs - all white. The air conditioning is just right. How's your heart? How's the thermostat in your heart? Don't let all this deceive you, folks. Check your heart today. Are you in the right place, right job, right relationship with your wife, your neighbor and your friends? How's your heart? Alright, for ‘Comfort’, I come to the next part. I had a little chat with a friend who was dying of cancer. She gave me permission to share her name. Her name is Elizabeth. Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer and it was so bad that she wrote a little book. And then she gave the proceeds of the book to Goducate. Then after that, before she said, “Before I die, I want to do a talk show.” So she did a talk show. She used to teach in NJC and in those days, NJC was where all the smart guys went; they are all ministers and all that. There were all those students and she had this talk show and they were all there and they raised a huge amount for Goducate. Recently, she came to me and said, “I'm going to die. Can you do my funeral for me?” I said, “Sure.” She was a very unique person. Finally, I told her, I said, “Liz, I don't want to do your funeral. Why don't you just take the message and you preach on your own when you're in a coffin?” She said, “Are you serious?” I said, “I am very serious. Why should I talk about the peace that you have? I don't even know. You better talk yourself.” Then she said, “Actually ah, Doctor Chu, you're correct. My friends told me I need to have a ten-night wake, ten nights, because so many people will come.” I say, “You want me to preach ten nights ah? Cannot la, preach ten nights, I die la. I cannot preach ten nights. I don’t know what to say about you.” So I said, “You take the message.” So if you go to the wake, it'll be amazing because she'd be lying there and then there'll be a video where she'll be preaching to you. But this is what she said to me - she said, “I'm dying now. My cancer is not getting better. There are bags and all kinds of stuff.” And she said, “You know what? All these foolish people come to me and say, “Oh, how is your cancer ah? How are you? Better?” And you know, but nobody ever asked me about my heart. They always asked me about my stupid bag here. My whole life is just one bag ah? She said, “Nobody ever asked me.” She said, “If anybody ever asked him, I can tell him that my heart is beautiful. It's totally healed. I have comfort nobody has. I have a piece of God nobody has.” You see, she had it right all the way up. She said most people have nice bodies but broken hands. I have a healed heart! Why doesn’t anybody care about that? I said, “Preach on that!” Ten nights, alright? So she will come up with a beautiful preaching on the healed heart. Today, how's your heart? There is no ECG or no MRI can test that piece in your heart. But nothing beats it - the peace of God that passes all understanding.
Now we come to the last one: church. We like to compare churches, just like how we like to compare knowledge, compare about our Sunday school education, or whatever. Let's compare churches. What do people typically know about a church? For most people, a church is a building, right? For most people - I will give you a little bit of background; again, I will give you a bit of background. The word church in the New Testament comes from a Greek word called Ecclesia. ‘Ekklesia’ appears 115 times in the New Testament. Every time it appears it refers to people. People, alright? Every time; 150 times, okay? It is never used on a holy building or a place. But the word ‘church’ today, when we think of church, we think of a place right? A special place, not people. In the Bible, 115 times it appears the word ‘Ekklesia’ 112 times is translated church which means building. It is as a terrible translation. Only three times it refers to what it should refer to people, okay. For example, this one of the three you see the word assembly. Alright, assembly is people ah; people assembled together. Another time is a second example. Assembly - the word of ‘Assembly’ is ‘Ekklesia’. Acts 19:41 “And when he had saidthese things, he dismissed the assembly.” These are the only three times the word ‘Ekklesia’ is translated as people. All the rest is translated as building. When the first English Bible was completed; the column Tyndale Bible or 15, something. The word for ‘Ekklesia’ was congregation. Slowly, the word ‘congregation’ was changed to church, which means place or building. A building for holy purposes. Basically, that what it means right? When King James came up, King James was the head of the Anglican Church, Church of England. And he made an edict, a command, that when the word ‘Ekklesia’ appears, it should be translated as church. Because as a King, you know, it's easy to control a meeting in a place but hard to control a congregation. Where is the congregation? People are hard to control. What takes place in a building is easy to control. You can say, “Alright, in this place, you cannot do this, do this, do this.” But when people go out, they do everything. Right? Just like in Malaysia, the elections ah. It comes out and you don't know where they're gonna have a rally, right? So King James insisted that the word ecclesia should be translated as a building. That's why we have this idea today that when we say a church, immediately our mind thinks of ‘Ekklesia’ . “Oh, wa you got a very nice church ah. Wa your church very big ah. Your church is very convenient ah.” We think of a place. So for many people, the idea of a church is a beautiful place.
Now I'm not against us taking Punggol. Don't get me wrong, alright? I'm sad we did not get it. The reason, of course, is I have confidence that when we move even to a nice building, a church to us is still people. A building just makes it easy to congregate people together. And because it's so hard to get places of this size nowadays in Singapore on Sunday mornings, because weddings are taking away hotel auditoriums, hotel ballrooms, alright? So for us getting a place is not because we believe a church is a place but out of sheer necessity. Okay, now for some of you, a church is how we approach our church because we use certain version King James or whatever. You know, for me, you know what's the best version of the Bible? The best version of the Bible is the one you read. Are you with me? Wa, a lot of people say “I got King James” or “I only use King James”. I say, “Do you ever read it? Or you cannot understand?” What is the point? Is this a talisman? Is this to chase Dracula away? Or to chase a vampire away? You know, the more holy the Bible, the vampire runs faster. A Bible is only as good as what you read. If you can't understand thou, thee, thy, hitherto, then what's the point? I read King James. Why? I grew up that way. I was a cultured man, you know? I studied Shakespeare before, you know. You got study Shakespeare? I know all the funny funny words they use, you know. You guys, you read ghost stories, read SMS, Facebook - how can you understand King James? You can’t even spell straight, most of you. Now, the best Bible is the one that you read comfortably, alright? Otherwise, you won't read. Some will say, “Well, a good church is one where the music is right.” Right for whom? For you? No, I mean hymns! Really? Is God a fan of hymns? God is a Western God and you must play hymns on an organ? You know something? The more I'm going to missions I realized God is a God of all kinds of people. God likes Indian music, let me tell you, when it is sung by Indians who worship God. God likes any kind of music that is from a heart that loves Him, that is appropriate and loves God. God is not a westernized God locked in the 17th century and only sings those kind of songs like, ‘A mighty fortress is our God’. Some will say, “Well, a good church is one that has good programs, 2:7 or whatever. That's good. I am not against those things. Some say that a good church is one that preaches the gospel every week. Every week they preach the gospel - Christ died for your sins, paid the price for your sins, and whosoever believes in Him shall not perish. Good; those are good things. But today I want you to watch a little show, a little video. Before you set your mind and be prejudiced, I want you to watch this video with a very open mind. It is only seven minutes and I believe that this video expresses what a church really is. Okay, so with open minds, please, because you can be offended along the way. The guy in the video is not a very handsome guy. He is botak (meaning bald) and quite ugly, and he does some pretty strange things. But the message, I hope, will touch your hearts.
If you go to Honolulu from the East Coast, those of you who have been there know that you wake up like at three o'clock in the morning and you can't get back to sleep. And um, I’m hungry and I went looking for something to eat. And even at that wee hour of the morning in a bustling city like Honolulu, you can't find a place that's open but up at Side Street I did find a place. I went in and sat down on the stool. It was a greasy spoon. No booze, just a row of stools in front of the counter and this fat guy with a dirty, filthy, greasy apron came out, pulled his cigar out, put it down and said, “What do you want?” I didn't touch the menu. It was one of those plastic menus and grease had piled up on it. And I knew that if I opened it, something extraterrestrial would crawl out. And so I got a cup of coffee and a doughnut. So he poured the coffee, then he wiped his hands on his shirt, and he picked up the donut. I hate that. So I'm sitting there at 3:30 in the morning, drinking my coffee and eating this dirty doughnut. Into the room come about eight or nine prostitutes and they sat down on either side of me. And I tried to disappear. And the one of my immediate right said, “Tomorrow's my birthday!”, she said to her friend. “I'm going to be 39!” and the friend said, “So what do you want me to do? Sing ‘Happy Birthday’? You want a cake? What should we do? Have a party for you? You're going to be 39!” The first woman looked and said, “I'm not expecting anything. Why do you have to put me down?” And then she said with a crack in her voice, “I've never had a birthday party my whole life. I don't expect to have one now.” That did it. I waited till, you know, till they all left. And when I was the only one left, I called Harry over and I said, “Do they all come in here every night?” He said, “Yeah.”. I said, “The one next to me?” He said, “Agnes.”. I said, “Tomorrow's her birthday. What do you say, we decorate the place and when she comes in tomorrow we have a birthday party for her because I heard her say she's never had a birthday party in her whole life?” He said, “Mister, that's brilliant. That is brilliant. Jane!” He called his wife out of the back room. She did the cooking. “He wants to throw a birthday party for Agnes.” I thought, “Jeez, this is great.” She comes out, she grabs my hand and she says, “Mister, you wouldn't understand this because of what she does, you know? But she's one of the kind people in this town. She's one of the caring people in this town.” I said, “Look, can I decorate the place?” She said, “To your heart's content.” I said, “I'm going to bring a birthday cake.” Harry said, “Oh no! The cake’s my thing!” I thought, “Oh jeez, my god.” So I got there the next morning. I got there the next morning at about 2:30. I bought crepe paper at the Kmart, strung it across the place and made a big sign that said ‘Happy Birthday, Agnes’ that I put on the mirror behind the counter. I had the place spruced. Jane who does the cooking got the word out on the street so that by 3:15, every prostitute in Honolulu was squeezed into this place. I mean people, it was wall-to-wall prostitutes and me. At 3:30 in the morning, the door opens and in comes Agnes and her friends. I got everybody poised, everybody ready, and the minute she walked through the door, we yelled “Happy Birthday, Agnes!” and everybody started cheering like mad. I've never seen anybody so stunned in my life. Her knees buckled. They steadied her and got her and sat her down in a chair. And we started singing, “Happy birthday! Happy birthday! Happy birthday, dear Agnes!” And when they brought out the cake, she lost it and started to cry. Harry just stood there with the cake and finally he said, “All right, Agnes. Knock it off. Blow out the candles. Come on, blow out the candles.” She tried, and she couldn't. So he blew out the candles and handed her the knife and said, “Now, cut the cake. Come on now, cut the cake.” She sat there for a long moment. And then she said to me, “Is it alright if I don't cut the cake?” She said, “What I'd really like to do is take the cake home and show it to my mother.” I said, “It's your cake.” She stood up. I said, “Do you have to do it now?” She said, “I live two doors down. Let me take the cake home. I'll bring it right back. I promise.” She picked up the cake. She pushed through the crowd and out the door. And as the door swung slowly shut, dead silence. The whole group was stunned. I didn't know what to say. Finally, after a few uneasy moments, I said, “What do you say we pray?” It's weird looking back on it now - a sociologist leading a prayer meeting with a bunch of prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning in a diner in Honolulu. Was it the right thing to do? And I pray that God would deliver her from what dirty filthy men had done to her, usually starting, you know, when they're about 12 or 13, and then they're ruined and hurt. And when I finished praying that God would make her new, that God would give her back everything that had been taken from her, I said, “Amen.” and lifted my eyes and Harry was right in my face. He said, “Hey, you told me you were a sociologist. You're no sociologist. You're a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?” And one of those moments when you come up with just the right words. I said, “I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning.” I thought that was a clever answer. I'll never forget his response. He looked back and he said, “No, you don't. No, you don't.” He said, “I would join a church like that.” Wouldn't we all? Wouldn’t we all join a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning? I got news for you. That is the kind of church that Jesus came to create. He came to create a church that was filled with people that move out into the world and bring celebration and joy into the lives of those who have nothing to celebrate and have no joy to bring celebration to those who are brokenhearted and beaten down, to lift them up and give them some joy in their life. That's what you are called to do. You are called to be agents of God to spread His love and His joy into a loveless and joyless world. That's what you're called to do. And if you surrender to Christ and let Him cleanse you and let the spirit fill up within you, His spirit will constrain you, says scripture. He will constrain you and drive you to do loving and joyful things in a world devoid of joy and love. Do you hear me?
Well, you might not like some things about this video but I believe in these little seven minutes, I believe that in these seven minutes, he brought us back to what is church. Today, church has a tendency to be a club, a club where smart people like us, filled l with Bible knowledge, educated in the most beautiful, sanitized ways, around the most beautiful materials, living in a very comfortable place like this, nicely organized, neat and tidy. We look out at all the world out there - tsk so terrible, these people. They are not like us. We are so much better. You know what? Churches have become clubs. Clubs are places where people have made it, joined it and keep out those who haven't made it. Before I became a Christian, I spent my time in clubs. Every day I was in a club - cricket club, golf clubs, looking down at the non-elite. And shortly after, I got saved. I said, “I'm giving it all away. I'm resigning from every one of these clubs, selling my memberships.” I don't want to be a member of a club. I want to start a church that reaches out. I hope today we will be at a church; a church that's not ashamed to throw parties for prostitutes at 3 am. I hope we will never be so sanitized, so clean, so smart, so organized, that we look down on these people. Christ came to save the lost, the last and the least.
Let us pray. Father, thank you for this time. Thank you for reminding us again what You came to do - to reach the lost, the last and the least; to reach those the world rejected. Help us Lord, to have your heart and to build your kingdom on this earth. Help GLCC never to be a Gospel Light Christian Club, but to be a church of Jesus Christ. Hear our prayer, Lord. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
More Episodes from Pastor Paul Choo:
18 Jun 2023
12 Mar 2023
27 Nov 2022
20 Nov 2022
24 Dec 2021
16 Jun 2021
20 Sep 2020
13 Sep 2020
Episodes from other sermons:
23 Jul 2023
18 Jun 2023
28 May 2023
07 Apr 2023
12 Mar 2023
25 Dec 2022
20 Dec 2022
11 Dec 2022