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24 Apr 2022

Food Offered To Idols [1Corinthians 8]

Overview

Food offered to idols. It was a problem in the Corinthian church because some of them are having fellowship meals over food offered to idols in temples!  This can stumble other Christians, especially former idol worshipers when they are encouraged to also now eat food offered to idols. But the culprits allege that eating food offered to idols is no big deal because "they all know that there an idol has no real existence and there is only one God. " Paul, therefore, sets out to correct their thinking- It's not just  "I can", but that "I care. " We must act in love towards others. We should aim to build up, and not tear down or stumble. He points out that their knowledge has only made them puff up when they should build up (others). This sermon helps us see how we can apply the principle to everyday issues like drinking, smoking, tattoos, religious rites, and funerals. We will also address how we are to channel our theological knowledge to help others and not bash others up. And finally, we will explore how we can act in love towards others, being mindful of how Christ loved us and gave Himself for us.


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This week, we are resuming our book, our study in the book of 1st Corinthians and we are looking at chapter 8, and about food offered to idols.

I grew up in a family that worships idols, my parents would occasionally go to the temple, I would follow them. And we had idols even at home, where food will be placed before the idols and that will be used for worship. When I became a Christian sometime later on in my life, I ... I could recall that there will be beautiful dishes of steamed chicken and roast pork on the kitchen table.

And I would want to snitch some of it even before the meal time, but my helper would see me approach the food and she would say, "Jit gay bai guay eh, buay sai jiak." That's Hokkien for saying, "This one has been ... this food has been used to worship and you cannot eat it."

The question I want to ask you is - Can I eat it? Wah, so clear ah! (laughter in congregation). Then my follow-up question is - Should I eat it? Wah, so clear ah! (laughter in congregation). Well, I think we can dispense with the sermon today, let's ... let's go home.

Well, I think this is a rather straightforward answer for most of us, but I think it is worth the while to take a little deep plunge into 1st Corinthians 8. Actually, Paul deals with this question of food offered to idols from 1st Corinthians, 8 all the way to chapter 10.

Now, when I was preaching through the issue of schism or division in 1st Corinthians, I thought it would be a breeze, but I was pleasantly surprised to look at the various nuances and angles and perspectives, that you have journeyed together in chapters 1 to 4.

So likewise, I would ask you for some patience and also anticipation, that we will take a deep plunge, we will exegete the text here in 1st Corinthians 8. Draw out some of the principles, understand the context, understand the situation that the Corinthians were in, so that we may have a richer grasp of Christian principles, even from an issue like this.

So to do that, I think it is very important to get verse 1 correct. Chapter 8 seems easy, but it's really not that straightforward. And the key to it, I think is to be able to get verse 1 with its various links to the rest of the verses, that I think it becomes clear. I think it's easier demonstrated then explained, so let me just get right to verse 1.

Paul says, "Now concerning food offered to idols:" When he uses the word, 'now concerning' he's probably shifting gears, going onto a new subject. So if you recall our journey through the book of 1st Corinthians thus far, Paul has dealt with really three ... or two major subjects.

The first subject is that of schism or division in the church, four chapters were devoted to that. Then you could say that chapters 5 and 6 and 7 were really about sexual sins, with a segue to singleness and marriage. It's rather related. So you could say he has dealt with schism, he has dealt with sexual sins, now, he's going to go on to the problem of stumbling, especially with regards to offering or eating food that has been offered to statues or idols.

So Paul says, "Now concerning food offered to idols:" [1 Cor 8:1] What's the real issue about food offered to idols? The issue is really given to us in verse 10. "Because there are some people amongst the Corinthian church, there are some church goers who are eating in idol's temple."

Now, this is bizarre! Why would they do that? Why would they go to another idol's temple, sit there and eat the food that has been offered to those idols? Were they invited as guests? Were they thinking that just because they were invited as honoraries or dignitaries, they can do that? We are not sure but there are people who are at least thinking about that, and probably already doing that.

So, Paul says that there are people eating in idols' temple. And the issue here is when other Corinthians, when other Christians see these Christians doing so, "They will be encouraged to also eat food offered to idols." [1 Cor 8:10]

Now, when they do that, the danger is that they will be stumbled. The word, 'stumbled' there is a word to mean caught in a trap. In other words, they will be stuck, they will be trapped, they will be in a place they do not want to be. They have been emboldened by others to eat this food offered to idols, but it has done them no good. It will do them no good, they will be disturbed, and they will be tempted to maybe even go back to the worship of idols, which they had used to do.

So this is the issue here, with regard to food offered to idols. Some Christians are somehow eating in the idol's temple, and there's a danger of others seeing that, copying that and therefore being tripped up by that.

Now, for those who are eating in these idol's temples, they however have an excuse, they have a reason, they have a retort to Paul saying you should not do this. They say, "We know that "all of us possess knowledge."" [1 Cor 8:1]

Now, what is this about? Well, first of all, I want to tell you, that when you read your English Bible, you have all these punctuations, but when the original Bible was written or the original manuscripts were written in those days, they did not have punctuation. So the punctuation for example, the open and close inverted commas are not in your original Greek text. They are added by the translators.

And here is that challenge here, I think the open inverted commas should not be at "all", but earlier at "we". Now, I'm not saying we are changing the Bible. How dare we! Nobody should change or alter anything of Scripture. But punctuations are added not by God, but by translators, and I suggest to you that the punctuation or the open inverted commas should start there, because this is what the Corinthians are saying to defend themselves.

And Paul later on is saying, "No, that's not true!" in verse 7. Now, you probably, if you're interested, have to research further when you go back home. That's what I'm going to tell you now, and the technicalities you have to sort it out. But I think this is the most straightforward way to understand and to approach this text.

Paul is dealing with this problem, which the Corinthians are retorting and defending, saying, "No, it is okay for us because we know that "all of us possess knowledge". It's not a problem if we should eat in the idols' temple, we know it's okay! No big deal! It's fine, Paul! Because we have knowledge, we know something."

What do they say they know? Well, they say, "We know ..." This is jumping to verse 4. That's why I say, verse 1 is critical. If you don't get these linkages, it seems like a blur. But verse 1 is saying, "We possess knowledge, and the knowledge we possess is that we know that "an idol has no real existence," and that "there is no god but one.""

You know what they're saying? "Why can't we eat in the idol's temple? Because we know that there is no other gods but Jehovah, Yahweh. So, these idols are nothing! So, for us to eat there, no big deal! Because we're not worshipping, there's no other god, but Jehovah God."

And then they go on to say, also in verse 8, "We also know that when we eat food, it does not make us better, neither does it make us worse. Food will not commend us to God, God does not... food does not make us more spiritual or less spiritual. We are no worse off if we do not eat and no better off if we do."

"So Paul, chill! Relax lah! Why so Kan Chiong? There's no real worship what! It does not make a sinful what! It does not make us idolatrous what! Because we know there's only one God." So this is the defense of the Corinthians.

To which Paul then says, "This "knowledge" puffs up, but love builds up." [1 Cor 8:1] "Hey guys, I know you know. I know you very smart, I know you know your theology, but all this knowledge only makes you proud. It only makes you arrogant. It only makes you puffed up. But what is lacking is love, because love is not puffed up, love seeks to build up."

In other words, love thinks about others and that's what is missing. "You know what is right for yourself, but by your actions, you are going to stumble others, instead of building them up, you are tripping them. You're pulling them down and the real problem is that you lack love. You're not building them up, you're stumbling them."

So just a recap, verse 1, I say it's critical, after that we will fly, it's very fast, alright. Now concerning food offered to idols, the problem is some in the Corinthian church are going to eat at idols' temples. They participate in those fellowship meals, in those other religions.

They are potentially tripping up fellow Christians who are seeing them do this. They may be encouraged to eat likewise and after that, they will be so disturbed and they may be so tripped up, that they may return to their idolatrous ways.

Paul says, "This is a problem," but the Corinthians who go to the idols' temple say, "No, it's not a problem! We know that we possess all knowledge, it's eating food offered to idols does not make us better, nor make ... nor make us worse." To which Paul then says, "You're arrogant and you're lacking in love, because real love seeks to build up."

"If anyone ..." Paul says, "... imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know." [1 Cor 8:2] "You think you're very smart, actually, you don't ... you're not very smart. You think you know a lot of theology, actually you don't know enough theology. Because all you know is to be puffed up, but you're not building up. You lack love!"

And therefore he says in verse 3, "But if anyone loves God, he is known by God." The distinctive of the Christian life is not a head packed with theology, but a life that is manifesting love — love for God and by inference, love for God's people too. "If anyone loves God, he is known by God." In other words, he is God's man, she's God's woman, he is God's child.

So, the distinctive of the Christian life is love. And the Corinthians who are going to the idol's temple, they are not demonstrating this in the least bit.

So, this is their theology, verses 4 to 6 explains further their doctrine. And you can't really fault them in their doctrine, they are correct to say what they say, ""An idol has no real existence" and "there is no god but one."" [1 Cor 8:4] And Paul would agree. "For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth — as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"-" [1 Cor 8:5]

Now, they are not ... Paul is not saying that they are real gods and real lords, apart from God, the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. But he's saying that there are many gods and lords that are believed upon, the so-called ones. But to those who are in the faith, "There is only one, one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist." [1 Cor 8:6]

Now, it's a rich text. I think for theologians who are very interested, you would see that wonderful reference, "From whom and for whom", you can go to town, explaining or diving into the depths of the meaning there, but I don't think that's what we can do today. We are just focusing on their theology, so that we understand the issue at hand — food offered to idols.

So this doctrine is not wrong, it's correct. Paul is here affirming their doctrine, but Paul says, "However, not all possess the knowledge" [1 Cor 8:7] "This is the issue, you know, you deeply understand this, but not everyone has the same understanding. So when you eat and think it's okay, others may eat and not be okay. Not all possess this knowledge."

Now, I'm sure this is not just about intellectually understanding, but this knowledge is not integrated into the hearts and consciences of people. In other words, there are many who are emotionally struggling with idolatry and food offered to idols. They can be easily disturbed, because, especially, "For those who were former idolaters." [1 Cor 8:7]

So Paul says, "Some, through former association with idols ..." [1 Cor 8:7] These people who are now in the church, they used to worship idols. And for them this is a deeply emotional matter. "You guys are so chill about it because you have the right doctrine, perfect! But there are others who are not like you, they're very disturbed, if they should go anywhere near the idolatrous practices."

So for them, "They eat food as really offered to an idol, their conscience being weak ..." [1 Cor 8:7] It's not established, it's not so clear for them! "... gets defiled." To them, eating food offered to idols is tantamount to idol worship. It's tantamount to going back to their old ways. So for these people, when they eat it, it is deeply troubling.

"You think you have all knowledge, and therefore you can do whatever you want? Well, that's not loving, because there's a whole group of people who will be very disturbed by what you're doing and they may be tripped up."
"Yes, you say, "Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do." [1 Cor 8:8] You are right in that sense. "But take care ..." [1 Cor 8:9]

So we know verse 8 is what the Corinthians are saying, because Paul says in verse 9, "But take care," he's replying to their excuse. "Take care that this right of yours ..." This word, 'right' is the word, 'exousia' which is authority or the right to action. And Paul is saying, "You have a right to do, because you know that it is nothing, "But take care that this right to do does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak."' [1 Cor 8:9]

"You have knowledge, you have gnōsis, you have exousia, you have rights, but make sure you do not use your knowledge and your authority or your right in such a way that can cause a stumbling block to the weak."

"For if anyone sees you have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?" [1 Cor 8:10] They may be just emboldened by you to take that.

And now the word, "eating" is interesting, the word, "eat" is not the usual word, "eat" like the second "eat", you see in verse 10, the last line. The first "eat" highlighted here is a word that means to recline to eat. It's a word that describes fellowship meals. So there are Christians going back to the temple's idols and heartily participating in those idol worship fellowship meals.

Stunning! Shocking! Bizarre! But that's what they're doing. "And so by your knowledge, this weak person is destroyed." [1 Cor 8:11] Now, the word, 'destroyed' is a strong word. It's a word used elsewhere to refer to eternal ruin, damnation, if you want that word.

"So the danger, the stakes are real high. You think eating is no big deal? That may be true for you, but for some who were former idolaters, they would eat the food, there will be a dissonance between their head and the heart. There will be a deep emotional struggle, they will be stumbled, they'll be caught in sin, they may fall and eventually perhaps, even stray away from Christ and have their souls destroyed."

This is serious! And this is so serious because "This person is for whom Christ died." [1 Cor 8:11] "Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ." [1 Cor 8:12]

"It does not do anything to you personally, but because it stumbles another, whom Christ died for, wow, you sinned against Christ!" And the stakes are high and Jesus did say, right? "It's better for a man to have a millstone hanged around his neck and to be plunged in the depths of the ocean, than for him to stumble one of God's little ones."

Verse 13, the last verse, "Therefore," Paul says, "... if this food makes my brother trip up, sin or fall, caught in a trap, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble." [1 Cor 8:13] "I will not eat of that food."

The word, "never" here, is a double negative, ou mē, "never no" or "never, never". So it's a very affirmative, very clear resounding no from Paul. "If this food, even though I know it doesn't do anything wrong to me, doesn't make me less loved by God, however if it causes another person to stumble in sin, I will never, no never eat this food."

Now, that's the end of chapter 8. We've finished this entire chapter real fast. But let me end off with some thoughts.

[A] Precaution
Number one, I think this text reminds us of a precaution.

So when my helper said, "Jit gay bai guay eh, buay sai jiak."
Question is - Can I eat? Eh, now the answer different ah? Can I eat? Wah, can. Wah, the can is even more comfortable can! Of course, no problem! Should I eat? Depends.

The reality is this food that has been used to worship idols, if I should eat of it, does not make me more Christian or less Christian, it does not make me more loved or less loved, it does not make me more secure or insecure in the Gospel. Idols, according to the Bible are nothing, they are no gods, there is no power there, in that sense.

So in a sense, if I have gnōsis, if I have knowledge, I can exercise the exousia or the right or the authority to eat. But the follow-up question is - Should I eat? Well, though I can eat, I should not eat if it causes others to be stumbled or to be disturbed.

Now in this case, my helper is not a Christian. I am not strictly speaking, stumbling a brother in Christ. But I think the principle applies, that if I would send a wrong signal or give a kind of wrong representation to my faith in God for her, then I should refrain from it. Because she might assume that, "Oh, you're Christian God is the same as other gods, since you fellowship all together, you eat of the same meat!"

For that reason, I reluctantly say, "No." I always wish I can snitch a bit before she catches me doing that. Because if I eat it without knowing, it's fine, but if she knows that I know, then it's not so fine. So, I wish she's always not there and I can just steal some.

But you see, this principle is not just about food. How about 清明 [qīng míng], which is a commonly celeb.., I won't ... I'm not sure if I should use the word, "celebrated" but commonly observed festival or ceremony here in our country. Many people are Chinese and during this period, you would go to the grave, to the cemetery to offer incense, burn papers in a kind of tribute or even worship to ancestors. Should we go? Can we go? I leave you to decide, I let you think.

There are many principles involved but the one principle that is being spoken of here is that of being a stumbling block. Is it anything to burn some sticks? Not really! Is it anything to burn some papers? Not really if you know that there's nothing! But not everyone understands it like that, there are others who would perceive it differently and we need to be mindful.

How about funerals? I'm sure many of us have family members who are not believers, and they are respected elders in our homes. And if they should be, if there should be other religious' funeral services conducted, can we be there, can we participate? What does the Scripture say?

Well, that's the principle you have to consider. These are things probably you ... you can and should discuss in your Care Groups, in your Bible Study Groups, in your Discussion Groups.

But shifting away from such religious examples, how about smoking? Can Christian smoke? Well, I asked you, can and should, can Christian smoke? Well, this one laugh ah, don't know can or cannot ah! Can Christians smoke? This one very ... I can't even hear distinctively at all! Well, does the Bible talk about smoking in the Bible? Does the Bible talk about smoking? No! There is a verse, Revelation 15, "And the temple was filled with smoke."

You are the temple of ... ah, ah OK, that's going too far. Well, the Bible, I mean there's no cigarettes during those days. The Bible does not explicitly talk about smoking, and there will be some who would defend their position based on that. And I'm not here to criminalize or condemn smokers, but there is this principle of stumbling, which you have to be mindful of. So I'm not saying yes or no, I'm giving you a principle that as a Christian, you think about. You can, doesn't mean you should!

How about alcohol? Wah, this one wah! This one, chugging it down ah! How about alcohol? Can we drink alcohol? This one a bit clearer, hah! Can we drink alcohol? Wah, so many in Gospel Light say, "Can ah!" Well, to be fair, the Bible does talk about it. I think the Bible does allow for alcohol, but the Bible does not allow alcoholism, addiction to it, drunkenness.

The Bible does not encourage that at all, forbids that. It is a sin to be drunk. But, I have to be saying what the Bible says, there's no verse that says alcohol, taking of it, in and of itself is sinful. Drunkenness is sinful but the object itself is not, and there are even verses that talk about it. But again, there is a question on stumbling. And again, I'm not saying this is an absolute no or yes, you just have to bear that in mind.

How about the next issue, tattoos? Can? Wah, this one a bit ... sorry, a bit drastic lah, ah! Maybe I should have just drawn one snake one or whatever it is. Can a Christian go for tattoo? No. How many of you have tattoos? Okay, you won't raise hands. Okay, maybe a simpler question - How many of you tattoo your eyebrow?
All the no ones you better justify ah!

Jialat lah, all of you better repent then! A lot of you tattoo eyebrow, you think I don't know ah! I greet you at the door, I see. You wear masks also can see. Now, you're not being fair, right? You say, cannot tattoo but you go and tattoo here. "But Pastor, it's a matter of number." Where ... the Bible gives you a number meh? Percentage of surface area?

Well, to be clear tattoos are forbidden in the Old Testament, together with piercings, in relation I think, in the context of idol worship. I don't think it is a clear forbidding of tattoos. You have so many pierce here, pierce here, pierce everywhere. Earring here everywhere, it's piercing. And nobody says, "You are pagan."

So we got to be again, clear that these are not things that are strictly forbidden, but the message of stumbling. The danger of stumbling again has to be borne in mind. Now, I know these are very controversial subjects, but this is why I say it's a precaution. It's ... it's not that you definitely can't but you really need to be mindful.

Just last week, it was very interesting that after the sermon, there was a "Meet The Pastors Q&A" as usual. And someone asked, "What do you think about a worship leader, leading worship with long hair?" I thought that's a very good question, I wanted to say, "No problem what, He's a Nazirite! Bible also say good to have long hair, in that sense."

But I didn't say that, I said, "I totally agreed that appearance makes a difference." I said that, "If the next Sunday I come to church with purple hair, and all these kinds of tattoos and all these, how would ... I may preach exactly the same way, but you look at me in exactly the opposite way." So I said, "It's important, but I don't think we can judge just based on that one thing alone, the context is important too, so need to consider."

But for the person who is leading worship with long hair, you've got to consider for yourself is that the wisest thing to do? Will you cause stumbling? And for that matter, it's not just about worship leader, it's about any one of us who serves Christ.

So, I think this is a principle I want to leave with you. We don't just do things because I can, I think it's also important to factor, do I care? Not just "I Can", that's not the slogan of the Christian life, it's not Nike - Just Do It, don't care. You can do it. Just do it! No, you got to think about others. So not just "I can, but that I care", because knowledge puffs up but love builds up. You care.

[B] Peril
A second thing I like to consider is the peril, the danger that is being highlighted throughout the book of 1st Corinthians.

And the danger that we could obviously see and smell from the text here is that of selfish pride, that's what Paul is talking about. "You guys, you think you have knowledge, you think you possess all knowledge, but you don't really know. In fact, I think you're missing the mark, because if anyone loves God, he's known by God, and you are not demonstrating love for God, nor love for His people."

The peril there is of selfish pride, and this is a theme that cuts through the book of 1st Corinthians. You remember how we all began when Paul says that, "Some of you are all caught up in this arrogance, when one of you says, "I ... I follow Paul, this is the ... this is the original apostle. I follow Apollos, a great teacher or I follow Cephas, the leader of the Jerusalem church? You are playing sides! You're priding yourself in the gang you belong to. It's arrogance!"'

He goes on to say in chapter 3, "There is jealousy and strife among you." [1 Cor 3:3] Symptoms of or signs of selfish pride. And then in 1st Corinthians 4, verse 7, "You boast," and so now we come to chapter 8, "This knowledge puffs up." "You guys are proud people." [1 Cor 8:1]

I think you could clearly tell and later on, when we go to the issue of spiritual gifts and tongues and so on, same, same problem. They were a people plagued with the sin of selfish pride and in this case, they are priding themselves in their knowledge, because they know, they become arrogant.

Now, I think in time past, it's not so easy to tell arrogance because of theology. It's not so easy to tell arrogance from someone who thinks he knows a lot. But in our day and age, in the recent years with the advent of internet, social media, Facebook and so on, forums online, I think selfish pride is surfacing and manifesting in a more obvious way.

Have you been to some websites, forums, social media platforms where people engage in theology? Oh, sometimes it's so rich and beautiful and wonderful, but at other times, it is very depressing. Because all you see up there is people pontificating, or parading their knowledge of Scripture. And you ask yourself in the way they write, I'm not saying the truth they write. The truth may be good, the doctrine may be solid, but it's the manner in which they write, that is deeply concerning. Because you ask yourself - Where is the love?

These people are just bashing each other, one another up. They are acting like school bullies, just that they are now intellectual bullies or theological bullies. They use language that demeans the others, that mocks others, that embarrass others. And I don't think that's the way Christians should carry out dialogue, in face to face conversations or even online.

And I think that's very sad, we do things, not to prove one upmanship, not to parade ourselves, but that we may build up. So I want to encourage my brothers and sisters here. You have doctrine, you have theology, that's beautiful! But consider the motivation why you post and consider the manner in which you post. If it's just to show off, refrain.

If you really want to help someone, then write it in the most loving and helpful way, because the Corinthians here, demonstrate a problem of selfish pride and I think we will do well to learn from it.

[C] Priority
Finally, I want to say a priority that is highlighted in this text is that of love. Paul says, "If anyone loves God, he's known by God."

This is not about knowledge, this is about the heart. It's not so much about the head as it is about the heart — a heart of love. And really from now onwards, Paul is going to actually, you could probably look at chapter 8 all the way to chapter 14 as one package, because what they lack is love and what Paul encourages is love.

Right at the end in chapter 14:1, Paul would say, "Pursue love." And that is the priority, and that you could say is a deep lack in the church in Corinth.

The principle is this — "You may have gnōsis, gnōsis is the word for knowledge. You may have knowledge, you may have exousia, this knowledge gives you the right, you know what is right and wrong and you think that just because you know what is right and wrong, you can exercise the authority to do what you think is appropriate. But don't forget the next ingredient in our equation and that is agape and that is love."

Paul again summarizes, "Knowledge puffs up but love builds up." So this should be the way we operate, not just I can, but that I care.

You would see Paul, exemplify this in chapter 9 next week. That's how chapter 9 is linked to chapter 8, and how it fits in between chapter 8 and chapter 10. Paul is not digressing to talk about himself, as if he would like to talk about himself, but he's using his own life, of how he gave up rights, even though he had the rights, but he gave up his rights because he wanted to live and to serve in love.

I will not dwell too much into it because that will be for next week, but I want to say in our church, I think this principle of refraining from just doing what we want because we want to consider others needs is very well-seen I think even in the realm of praise and worship.

We are a church that has very conservative roots. We are a church that uses only hymns, and in particular from one particular Hymn Book, anything else is taboo, anything else is a compromise, that perhaps was our position in the early days. But as we grew as a church and understanding of Scripture, we understand that, "Hey, maybe that is not too fair a position because God never said that you can only sing from the Revival Hymnal."

"Thou shalt sing only from this book!" If there is I will do that, but there isn't! And to then immediately and automatically frown on other genres would not be quite biblical, as well. So we ... we want it to be more in line with principles of Scripture, and so today you see in our worship, there's a blend of genres. There's a mixture of older hymns and modern songs.

At all times, the songs we use must be biblical. That ... there is no question there! But as to style, genres, I think there can be some freedom and latitude to it. And I want to say that for the past, I think it has been 15 years, when we made such a significant positional change with regard to praise and worship, you have been a very generous people.

Because I absolutely understand, many of you, when you are singing these songs, it's not quite your cup of tea. When you sing particular genre, you're very excited, "Wah, this one my style, I like it man! Can sing with all my heart. Ha! Ha! Ha!" But ... but when you sing the other types, you say, "Wah, this one, tsk, tsk, tsk." But you don't have to shake your head, because nobody shakes her head. You just ... you just stand there and kwai kwai [obedient in Hokkien], be a good boy, good girl.

And I totally appreciate that because, you know, for me, I'm the same, I'm exactly like you. There are some favorites here, favorite genres for me and I ... I totally get connected in these songs. But there are some songs that I, ugh, ugh, just not my style, but I look around and I realize not everyone is me. There are other brothers and sisters in Christ who may be more connected to these songs.

Now, I ... these are not wrong songs to begin with. It's preference, it's comfort, it's familiarity, we understand that. And so I want to appreciate all of you, that you do not insist on your ways. "Pastor, I like this song, you must sing this more. We can only sing this one." Wah, if you're like that I very kang kor [put in a difficult position in Hokkien]

Because one camp will say this, another camp will say that, tell me how to do, how to decide? I can't! But if we all understand we are here to worship God biblically, and we all have our preferences, but we can differ to one another's preferences, we can do that which is loving, a lot of problems in church can be solved, and I think worship and praise is one great example.

I want to thank God for many of you, who have stepped up to prepare for a decisive move as a church towards a new norm. It's not easy! After two years of hiding at home, after two years ... I hear ... I hear, after two years of lying in bed, with your breakfast tray, naked, watching PJ when you like it, and fast forwarding when you don't, it takes quite a bit to come back, I understand.

And it takes more for you to come back to serve, but I'm thankful for many brethren here, who are not thinking about themselves. They're thinking about God and they're thinking about serving others. I find it remarkable that within a few weeks, I think it is four weeks that we now would have Food Ministry next week onwards.

You know, Food Ministry is no small matter. It's an Army Logistical Exercise, you know, I think so lah! From the conceptualization, to the purchasing, to the cutting, to the cooking, to the serving, to the washing. It's not easy! It takes a lot of time, a lot of coordination.

But I'm so amazed with God's people, you step up and you say, "We want to serve." Now, you can exercise your right to come to church and enjoy worship and go home. Very clean, very easy, very convenient, but you don't! You want to roll up your sleeves, pull out the cloth and wash feet. I think that's remarkable!

I thank God for our Worship Team, our AV team, many of you who served even during those pandemic periods, safe entry and so on. Many of you DG, CG leaders, you are not thinking about yourself, you're loving others, and I think that's what Christianity should look like. Not theological, big heads going around punching people down, but people who will humble themselves and wash the feet of others.

So I'm thankful for all of you, many of you serving, the Sunday School Ministry, it's phenomenal, I mean for two years, the volunteers. We only have one full time staff in Children's Ministry, and it takes a whole army of volunteers and thankful for all you volunteers, who are saying ... who are not saying, "Oh, you take care of my kids." But no, "We will help take care of the kids of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ," stepping up to serve.

Well, that's what love should be, because that's what Jesus did, isn't it? He did not think about Himself, He left aside heaven's glories and came to take on the form of a servant, to wash our feet. He gave His life, so that we might have life, you might have life. That's what love is! Not just about knowledge, He knows all things, but He builds up, He gives Himself up for us all. And may we as a church, follow the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let's bow for a word of prayer together.

The Christian message is a message of self-sacrificial love and that's what Jesus did. He gave His life on the cross, so that you and I who are absolutely sinful and helpless in our sin can find eternal life. And Jesus did not die in vain because, just as we remembered last Sunday, He rose from the dead, signifying that He's victorious over sin, death and hell.

This morning, I want to encourage you to come to the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus does not conquer by force in His first coming, but He comes to win our hearts by love, by showing us that He is the Lamb, the sacrificial Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. My prayer for you is that you will be humbled at the foot of the cross. Repent of your sin, repent of your self righteousness and to believe in Jesus Christ, God's Son, who alone can save you from your sins.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I speak to you too. Maybe you have always lived a life that says, "I have my rights, I want to exercise my rights." And it is true you have rights, it is true that when you know somethings of the Bible, you can do what is right and wrong, but there is a greater way to live the Christian life, there is a greater Christian ethos, and that is not just that "I can" but "I must act because I care".

Think about the brothers and sisters around you, maybe today there is something in your life that is stumbling others. Maybe it's time for you to honor God, worship Him in a way that loves others and builds up others. May we as a church today, endeavor to be more like Jesus. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Let us be slaves of Jesus Christ. Let us find that deep fellowship and joy in following Jesus and serving His people.

I pray for a church, an army of servants of Jesus Christ. And may we all one day get to hear those words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter into My rest." Cook, teach, serve because one day, you'll be glad, real glad you had the opportunity to do so.

Father, thank You again for this morning that we can worship You, in hearing Your Word. May we continue to worship You in doing Your will.

We pray again for salvation for those around us who may not know Jesus in their hearts as yet. Please have mercy upon their souls. Build up this church, may we be filled with Your love, a grasp of Your love for us, that we may love others. If anyone loves God, he's known by God, may that be seen in our lives we pray, Jesus' Name, Amen.


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