22 Jul 2012
Today I am going to share with you a simple message that reminds us how to keep moving forward in the will of the Lord. I would like to share with you a message on how to keep moving forward for our Lord, Jesus Christ. How to keep moving forward for our Lord, Jesus Christ? Have you ever been to a place where you know where you are supposed to go from where you are, but somehow you can't seem to get there? I remember I went on a visitation trip, because a lady in our congregation was ill and I got to the place, I thought I knew where it was. I got off from the multi-story car park somewhere in Sengkang and I began to move forward to where I thought her block was. Then when I got there, I found that it was the wrong block, and so I backtracked. I thought, “okay, just go back to the multi-storey car park and start over again”. So I went all the way back there and then I ended up at the wrong car park this time. And then I said, “Okay, nevermind, nevermind. I think I know where it is”. And I tried again, and I spent half an hour going round in circles. But I knew where I'm supposed to be. Until I stopped and I took out my iPhone, turned on Google Maps (thank God for technology) and it told me I was wrong. I was not where I'm supposed to be. And so I followed the instructions on the Google Map and finally got there. When I arrived, the lady said, “I thought you were supposed to be here half an hour ago?” And I said, “I was supposed to be but I got lost”. I couldn't keep moving forward because I needed help.
Same in our Christian lives - you have heard many truths, heard many messages; maybe you have been doing your devotions and have been reading God's word; you love the Lord and you want to serve him, but you can't move forward. I'd like you to turn your Bibles with me this morning to 1 Peter chapter one. 1 Peter, chapter one gives us a simple command that teaches us how to move forward. You know, when we want to move forward for the Lord, we don't take out our Google Maps. We take out our Bibles, because our Bible gives us clear instruction in His Word on how we are to move forward for the Lord.
Now if you turn in your Bibles to 1 Peter, chapter one - I'm going to give you a bit of background; allow me to do so. In 1 Peter, chapter one, verse three, it tells us that we have “a lively hope”. This is in old English and it simply means that we have a living hope. We have a living hope, a hope that is alive, because our God is alive. Our God is not a philosophy, he is not a religion, he is not a set of rules. He is a person who is alive and well, all powerful, all mighty. He has risen from the grave to tell us that what he says and promises us is true. And because of that we have a living hope, we have a lively hope. And Peter goes on in 1 Peter chapter one, verse four, to tell us that we have “an inheritance incorruptible”. We have a hope in heaven, my friends. This is not all there is to it. There is more than meets the eye. And it is not Transformers, the cartoon. But it is the reality in the Bible, that there is a hope in heaven and we look forward to what God has prepared for us. No matter how hard you feel life is taking you down a tunnel journey into, we have an inheritance incorruptible. And 1 Peter chapter one, verses six to eight tells us that we can have joy in the midst of trials. Isn't that amazing? You don't have to be bitter, you can be better. You don't have to be angry and sad; you can have joy and you can have hope. And that is because the Word of God gives us the hope and comfort found in our Lord Jesus Christ. He takes us by the hand and walks us down the hardest path - joy in the midst of trials. And in 1 Peter, chapter one, verses 10 to 11, the Scripture tells us that we have a tremendous salvation. Have you ever sat back and thought about that? It's not about fire insurance out of hell to heaven alone. It is something that the prophets have studied all their lives to understand who this Messiah is. The angels peered over the shoulder, in the original, it gives us that picture to understand what God is doing in your life. You thought that the angels are fascinating? The angels find you fascinating; they find me fascinating! Because God's salvation is working itself out in our lives to His glory for all eternity - a tremendous salvation. And you know, friends, some of us may already know this but still we end up going around in circles. Why is that so? Why is it that we can't keep moving forward? When we come to verse 13, the Scripture says, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ”. The word ‘wherefore’ here introduces to us the turning point in the passage. It is the pivot where he moves from explanation to application, from what we must know to what we must do. It is just as Pastor Jason has carried you guys through to the book of Romans. You have learned great theological truths but that cannot stop there. It moves on to application. Paul says, “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God” - from explanation to application. Without application, it is all talk, it is all a theory, and there is no reality. And in the same way, Peter tells us that we must go forward. And he tells us here in this command, what we must do if we are to move forward in our Christian life based on what we know.
First, the Scripture tells us that if we want to go forward in our Christian life, keep going forward, we must set our hope aright. We must set our hope aright. Now, if you understand the way Peter has written this particular verse, you will need to know that this is the key command in the Bible, in this verse. This means that this is the central reading idea. If you miss this command, you miss the whole idea completely, and how the rest of the chapter ties in together. So I'm gonna take a bit of time to explain to you how this command works itself out in our Christian life. What does it mean to hope to the end? I want to share with you from the New American Standard Bible that it means to fix your hope. In other words, you have to make a decision on what you are going to place your hope on. Now, if you were to read from the ESV, the English Standard Version, it means to set your hope. Now the King James Version says “hope to the end” and that's the English from a hundred years ago, and it does give people today the idea of holding on for your dear life. Hope till the end and hope you make it, right? It is like you're on a roller coaster or one of those Viking ships. I remember when I was young, I sat on one of those Vikings ships because my sister said it was very fun. The last thing I found was that it was fun, because I was holding on to the end. And I couldn't even scream - my whole face turned pale and I could not wait to jump off the ship. Why is that so? Because I was hoping to the end; I was clinging on for my dear life. You know what, friends? Peter is not saying, “hold on for your dear life”. He's not saying that at all. He's not saying, “if there's nothing else to do, just wish for the best” or “hopefully tomorrow will be better”. No, that's not the idea at all. The idea here is to set your hope. See, like a flood of Canadian geese that is flying in a powerful ‘V formation’. There is a geese at the head of the formation. At the head of the formation is this verse, “set your hope” (1:13). This is the central leading idea, the key command. If you obey this command, then you begin to move forward. And balancing the ‘V formation’ that progresses is the knowledge that you have a lively or a living hope (in chapter one, verse three) and this hope is not an empty hope because in chapter one, verse 21, the Scripture tells us that your hope is in God. In other words, if you were to obey this command, then you find that you begin to advance. It is as simple as that. So what does it mean to set your hope to the end? What does it mean to set your hope aright? Now the phrase here “to the end” means completely (NASB) or fully (ESV). It means you cannot be indecisive about it. You see, if you are indecisive, for instance, when you are driving - ‘Should I turn here? Should I turn there? Should I go forward? Should I brake?’ - you are very likely to get into an accident, isn't it? And so in the same way in our Christian life, if you are not decisive, if you have not hoped completely in the Lord Jesus Christ, then very likely you're going to get into a spiritual accident. Because you will make the wrong decision at a critical juncture. Your hope shows itself at the junctions of our lives. So Peter tells us to set your hope fully. Don't be half-hearted and don't be uncertain. Now, the Scripture tells us also that we are to hope. Now the command here to hope is, as I mentioned earlier, an imperative. It means it is a choice, a decision that you have to make. It is not, “I wish things will be better” or “I wish to get out of this situation”. No, it's not based on your feelings. You may feel good or bad after the service based on what the Lord has done in your heart, but you are still to make that decision. Where are you going to place your hope in life? What is the goal and the direction of your life? You see in the original language the word ‘hope’ is a military command. It means the soldiers may be looking around, “Do I have this in my place? Have my sword ready? Have my shield ready?” and they are talking to their friends and a command says, “look up”, and they have to look up. And then the officer says “march forward”, and because they look up, they can begin to march forward without getting tripped over. My friends, in the same way, God is saying to you, “Look up, stop looking around, stop looking at yourself and stop looking at your partner. Stop just wasting time around. Decide! Are you going to look up to what I have to say and start moving forward, or are you just going to drift along?” So that is a decision each and every one of us have to make.
In other words, your outlook determines your outcome. Your attitudes determine your actions. Where you are looking determines what is going to result in your own life. It's very simple. And it's very practical. It's very true. You see, if you want to graduate from a local university, then that is your outlook. You are going to work towards it. Whatever regulations are set, you're going to stick with it and make sure you pass it in order to make it to a local university here. Your outlook will determine your outcome and your attitudes will determine your action. Let me illustrate this with a story in the book of Genesis with a man by the name of Abraham. Now, those of you who know your Bible, you will know that Abraham is called the father of faith. And he is a man whom God called to look up and to move forward. And his faith is exhibited in the fact that he obeyed the Lord, even though he didn't know where he was supposed to go exactly. He began to set his hope aright. And the Scripture later commented that he looked for a city whose builder and maker is God. But he had a nephew, remember? His nephew's name is Lot. Now, his nephew Lot also was traveling with him and his nephew Lot also knew about this God of the Bible, the amazing one who made the heavens and the earth. He had all the Bible knowledge, he saw His reality in Abraham's life because God continued to supply and meet with Abraham. But you see at a critical juncture of life, when they had to part ways, Abraham continued to look up to what God has to say and he moved on, the scripture says, to leave all his life’s intents.
Now, I just came back from China yesterday from a Leadership Camp. On the last day of the camp, we went out to this deer farm, which is a mountain and we camped out there. It was a wonderful night, evening, because after having taught them all these principles on leadership, they are hungry to know how to live and not just make a living, and they had many questions. And the Christians among the campers just began to worship. It's almost like having a worship service, you know, impromptu, and it naturally flowed out to sharing the gospel. One lady shared with me that she shared the gospel more in that one night than an entire year of her life. So it was a tremendous work that Kay Hong and May are doing, and I encourage you all to pray with and for them. But you see, after all the wonderful sharing and decisions made for the Lord, we had to retire to tents. I don't know whether you have sat in a tent before but the tent is pretty thin in material. When it began to rain and the wind begins to blow, it gets a bit chilly. It is not exactly comfortable. But we are not going to be there forever so it is okay, we bear with it. We bear with it because the next day we are going back to places with concrete roofs. You see, the Bible tells us that when we look up, God may want us to live in a tent. He may not provide you with the most luxurious condominium in this country, on this island, or a little off this island in a place called Sentosa. Right? And so you know, He's not going to give you everything you desire. He may or He may not. But you see, you are not going to try to enrich yourself in this life because your goal is not to fill your tent with things. Your goal is to keep following the Lord Jesus Christ. And that's what Abraham did, but not Lot. What did Lot do? Lot looked over to the other side over his shoulder and saw Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember, outlook determines outcome and attitudes determine action. And Lot saw Sodom and Gomorrah, and he said, “Wow, this place is so lush, so rich!” I don’t know if there is a lake that overlooks the mountain and he thought, “wow, it'd be nice to tie a hammock there. You know, have some nice coffee. You know, just shake leg and relax.”. I don't know what he was thinking but he was so attracted to what is here and now that he set his hope on the temporal, although he knew about the eternal. And as a result, the Scripture tells us when God’s judgement came, he barely escaped, as by fire. And though he could take his family out of Sodom, he could not take Sodom out of his family. And that is a sad commentary of a man who refused to look up and to set his hope aright.
My friends, where are you now in your Christian life? Maybe you know all these truths. Maybe you have read your Bible. Maybe you've even been to Bible School. Maybe you pride yourself as having grown up in a church and know everything. But that's not the point. The point is where is your hope, and that is the reality that will determine the outcome in your life and in mine. But Abraham, he clung on to the Scripture. He clung on to the Word of God. He set his hope on the on the Lord, and the Lord told him that your descendants will be as the stars in the sky, and in him shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because he set his hope aright, upon the Lord Jesus Christ. He looked up and he moved forward though he didn't have everything that a man could wish for in his life. Today, seated right here are people from different lands, different congregations - the Abrahamic covenant is fulfilled right in our midst. Why? Because the man here looked up, and he moved forward for the Lord. God said, “I want to bless you and the nations through you, Abraham, if you would just follow me. In the same way, my friends, God wants to bless your family, bless your friends, bless your colleagues, bless this land, and bless wherever He is leading you, if you would only set your hope aright and follow Him.
How to move forward for the Lord? Peter says, “Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ”. You see, we are to live with the view of Christ's return in mind. Now, for some of us, this may seem to be very nebulous. It may be very vague, obscure. It may seem to be something kind of far away, and you're not quite sure, not certain if this really works out. But you see, if you think carefully about it, all of our lives, we are hoping and looking for something that will happen in the future.
Let me give you an example. Let's say some of you are going to get married. You set a date; on this day, I'm going to get married and I'm gonna say my vows. I'm going to live life with this man or with this girl that I love. And so what will you do? You are going to start making changes in your life, making priorities based on that hope. Right? You're not married yet but you have the hope that on this day, when I arrive there, I'm going to walk down the aisle and the pastor will marry me and I will say the vow and I will move out with my man, my prince Charming, and we'll start life together. And so because of that plan, because you know that day is coming, you will not be taking a trip to the moon - if that is not supposed to be your honeymoon, right? You will not be taking off on a work trip to New York, no matter how much the boss wants to pay you because you want to be around for your wedding, right? You see, we adjust our life based on our hope, based on what we have planned for the future. And that's exactly what Peter says; it is very reasonable, it is not mysterious, super spiritual, floating emotional thoughts. No, nothing like that at all. He says, “if you really believe that the day will come and Jesus will return, you are going to adjust your life.”. You're gonna make plans and changes so that you are ready when He comes, at the revelation of Jesus.
I like this picture. Because this lady, obviously she's not married yet because she's still wearing a singlet. I hope nobody wears a singlet to get married, right? You have a nice wedding gown and all that, right? Okay, but she is in her jeans and her singlet but her bridal headdress is already put on - imaginary, I think. In the same way, the Scripture tells us that the church is the bride of Christ. The church is not the building, right? The church is us. And he says, you know, we need to move around in life, realizing that we're the bride of Christ, and the bridegroom is coming for us. Plan and hope, with the end in mind. Have a long term view of life, Peter is saying. Because if you have a short-term view, you're going to get tripped over time and time again in your Christian life. And notice with me that Peter goes on to explain, “for the grace that is to be brought unto you”, hope to the end, set your hope aright, fully, completely, for the grace that is to be brought unto you. Do you notice if you read your Bible carefully, the scripture does not say set your hope on the amazing phenomena at the return of our Lord Jesus Christ? Because none of us really know exactly how that will turn out. I know there is a lot of explanation, TV channels and cameras shooting to the sky and we are capturing the amazing events, and there have been paintings throughout, but nobody really knows so you can't really have a clear picture. The scripture doesn't tell us to set our hopes on the rewards either. What are the crowns like? What shape does it take? What color? What material? We don't know because that is not the most important.
But what does Peter tell us to set our hope on? He says to set our hope on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, we are to set our hopes aright on God's grace. What is God's grace? It is our total unworthiness in contrast to God's abundant provision. We first taste it at salvation. When we trust the Lord, we know we are unworthy, we are sinners, we have broken God's law. What we deserve is eternal separation from a loving and living God. But yet, His grace came into our lives and we trusted Christ, and He saved us from our sins. We all know that as Christians. And Peter says, “because you know that, I want you to know that there is more grace when you finally enter into His glory”. It is likewise due to our unworthiness, yet of his abundant provision. And he is saying, “you know that, you have tasted it, and there is more to come”. And each day, as you set your hope on that grace in your struggles and your challenges, you are not going to go forward because of how good you are but because of how good God is. Not how clever you are, but because of how wise God is. You will not be going forward because you have all these experiences packed under your belt, but you're going to go forward because you have God holding you by the hand. Even though I'm unworthy, I thank God that I can set my hope to the end completely, for that grace. I'm going to taste more and more of it. And then I'm going to find out on that day how amazing, how glorious, how eternal that grace is. And that's why we will sing His praise forever. Isn't that a glorious thought? I get excited just thinking about it.
Live with a long-term view in mind
But let me sum it up for all of you. This Central Command, it says, “hope to the end”. Make a decision in your life completely, fully. Don't waver for the grace, for what God wants to do in your life and my life, daily, right to the end, that it will be fully revealed when Jesus Christ comes again. To put it in a nutshell, Peter says we have to live with a long-term view in mind. A long-term view that has present, accessible resources. It is not, “I hope” and then I just suffer and struggle, and I just want to make it somehow. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. If you feel unworthy, yes, I'm unworthy - all of us are unworthy. So let's not talk about who is more unworthy, alright? We are all in the same boat. We are all equally unworthy, inferior. You know, there's nothing good in us. But you see, God says, “Don't worry about all that. Just hope in My grace, just trust in Me.” And you will begin to move on. Live with a long-term view in mind that has a present, accessible resource called God's grace.
On January 5th this year, I chanced upon a news event that kind of surprised me. There were some robbers that finally made it to break through the ATM machines and they actually got away with tons of cash. And according to the report, there were about 200 customers who reported unauthorized withdrawals and the average amount is about a thousand Singaporean dollars. And I remember the news, when it broke and I read it, I shared it with my wife and I didn't know how it would develop yet. How I felt that these folks, these guys, they are so foolish. They are not wise at all. And I shared with her how I felt. I said, you know, in the past when you rob a bank, you know, you put on your ski mask, you put on rubber gloves, you know, you carry a gun and you say, “your money or your life”, right? And then they give you the money so you keep the live. So you run away in the car. So when you run away in the car, you ditch the car, you take out your gloves, and hopefully no one catches you. That's in the past. But today, using electronic transfer, everything is traceable, right? Where is your entry point, which card did you use - everything is recorded. How are you going to run away? What's worse, they have actually offended, not just the ATM machine, but they offended the entire bank, the entire banking industry, the safety, the security. They have challenged not just DBS, they have challenged the government of Singapore, that this is no longer a safe haven. Your money is not safe. Guess what the government is going to do? Oh, you are so clever. Can you show me how you can do that? No way. They're going to mobilize all the resources to make sure that these chaps get caught. And true enough, about eight days later, January 13, the news broke that they were caught in Geylang, in a hotel, counting their cash. You know when the money is coming out of the bank, they may think, “Wow, this is good! This is good! This is so exciting! Wow, more, more, more, more, more, more.”. But you know what, they forgot that they don't live in a vacuum. They don't live on an island. There are powers that will be brought to bear when you activate and you're going to be caught. In the same way, Christians you don't live in a vacuum. You don't live on an island of your own. You don't do your own thing, do your own stuff and go, “Wow. So much, so much. Wow.”. And enjoy it all and hope to get away with it. Because you know what? We don't descend from animals. We don't come from monkeys. You know, the world did not begin with a big bang. There is a God who holds every man to whom He has given life accountable. Believers and unbelievers alike. And Peter says, live with a long-term view in mind. Your soul is eternal. It is worth more than all you can accumulate in this day and age, in this life. And one day, you will have to account for everything. I will have to account for everything I do in my life. And Peter says, hope to the end - hope completely for the grace that will help you to rise out of a short-term view of life, to understand and to live in such a way to please God and not offend him. So let us take God's Word to heart.
But we mustn't stop there. Because Peter didn't stop there. Remember, I told you that “hope to the end” is the key imperative. It is the key command; that's what it means. It is the central and leading idea. But he didn't stop that because he knows that it is not wishful thinking. There are practical things we must do if we are going to hope to the end. And the second thing we must do is to gird up the loins of our mind. If we are to successfully set our hopes aright, Peter tells us that there are two actions we must undertake to support this decision. And the first is to gird up the loins of our mind. Now, this is a Old Testament description. Okay, to gird up the loins of your mind is an Old Testament description. When I was preparing this message, I actually borrowed a towel or a curtain for my wife. So I tied it around my waist like a sarong and then I put on a belt, I tried to tuck it in to demonstrate. When I was done, I looked at myself and my wife looked at me and said, “I think that doesn't look very good”. So I won’t show you that in demonstration, but I'll show you a picture instead. Okay, I will show you a picture. This is what it looks like. You see, because in those days past, the men wore flowing robes. They wore flowing robes and so when they walk around, you know, they looked very cool, you know, because all these flowing as the wind blows, you know, so it looks very good. But you know, it's not very good for activities because they are flowing robes. You know, ladies, you all still wear skirts so you understand, right? The nicer the skirt, the more I have to be careful. So when you have to work, what a man does is he reaches under and he pulls the skirt and he tucks it into his belt. Why? Because he has to get to work. And so in the New Testament, the scripture uses that description of what the men in the past often do to describe what we must do in our mind. Let me run you through some verses to give you an idea. The scriptures tell us in Exodus, chapter 12, verse 11, “And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’s Passover.”. You see, when Moses was sent to Egypt to deliver the children of Israel, the final plague was the death of the firstborn, it was called the Passover. After that, the pharaoh will finally give up and issue the command to release the Israelites. At that point, because their hopes were set aright towards the promised land to obey the command of God to move out, they need to be ready. They need to be prepared to move out. And so the first time this phrase appeared in the Old Testament is here in Exodus, chapter 12, verse 11, “gird up your loins”. In other words, be prepared to move out. You see, Christians, sometimes we know God's word but we seem to want to sit back, relax, you know, and try to take it easy, shoot the breeze. And then God says, “Child, move!” and we say, “Huh? Really? Are you sure? Let me pray first.” You know, you lose the momentum entirely. You're not ready to obey because you're not prepared. You did not gird up the loins of your mind.
Now, the scripture tells us in 1 Kings, chapter 18, verse 46, that “the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel”. If you understand the background to this story, there was an incredible battle between the false prophets of Baal and the prophet Elijah, and the prophets of Baal were slain. And after that, because the people repented at that moment, God decided to give them rain. And he wanted to send him to announce that to the people, and in order to do so, when he finally saw the rain clouds appearing, he girded up the loins that he had, and he ran before Ahab, who was travelling in a chariot. Can you imagine how fast that is? He must be a very, very fit man or he must be really running in the power of the Spirit. Sometimes we think that just because we are walking in the Spirit, we can do as we wish and not be prepared to obey. But that is not true. Even though Elijah was running the power of the Spirit, he had to gird up his loins in order to move fast. In the same way, my friends, you may love the Lord and want to serve him. But you know what, sometimes we get tripped over because we are so entangled with the things of this world. Peter says, “gird up your loins of your mind”. Don't let your mind wander and get tripped over.
Now in Job, chapter 40, verse six to seven, the Scripture tells us that that's another Bible character called Job. Now Job was not running or going anywhere, but he was just suffering with trials, with difficulties in his life. And he began to wonder in his mind and questioned the workings of God. Finally, he got very frustrated, and he says, “God, if you appear before me, I want to ask you why this happened to me”. At that point, he was so frustrated because he couldn't find any answers and couldn't find any reason at all. And when God finally spoke to him, he said to Job, “Gird up your loins now”. It doesn't mean to tuck in his robe; it means prepare yourself mentally because now I am going to answer you. So that figurative description is now applied to our minds. Are you with me so far? I know I've been talking for quite a while. This is a chance for you to respond. Are you with me so far? Very good. Thank you very much for your support. Okay. Now, it is applies to our mind. In other words, it is not a physical thing. It's a mental thing. It is where the battle is fought. You see, a lot of times we have all these wishes and dreams of what we want to do for God but we are not disciplined mentally. We allow our thoughts to run all over the place, think of all different things; we want to feed different desires. And as a result, we are not ready to move forward. That's why Peter says, “gird up the loins of your mind”. He knows that if we don't do that, we are going to get tripped over even though we want to move forward.
During Chinese New Year this year, I took my family to the Merlion Park because my kids haven't seen the Merlion yet. And then from there, we took some pictures and pretended to drink the water. You know, I put that picture on Facebook too. And we walked from there all the way to Marina square. And when I looked back, I saw this poster and it was quite stunning, I must say. It caught my attention. So when I prepared this message again, I thought, “wow, that is quite a picture”. So I got my wife, we drove all the way back there just to take this picture for you folks. Now, this is a picture of a lady who is dancing, and she has flowing robes behind her and it's really kind of beautiful. You know, and if you notice very carefully, it takes the shape of a BMW. Isn't that cool? I don't know how they did it. I don't know how to adjust the fans and all to blow just in the right direction. So it is really very lovely. But then I thought about it as I was preparing this message. As lovely as it is, if someone were to just step on a corner of the robe, the moment she tries to take a step forward, what's going to happen? She's going to trip and fall. And that's exactly what Peter is saying. In our lives, there are all kinds of desires and thoughts flowing in and out of our minds and hearts. Now, if you have them, it's normal, alright? But it is not always good if you are not disciplined. That's what Peter is saying. Life should be full of colorful thoughts and desires that are healthy. But Peter is saying that all that has to be disciplined. It has to be tucked away. If not, you can't move forward. It only looks nice. It makes you feel good. But it doesn't help you to go forward. That's why in Jeremiah, chapter one, verse 17, the scripture says, “Thou therefore (speaking to the prophet Jeremiah) gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them”. Even for a man of God, even for one who is serving God, if we are not prepared mentally, to do all that we are called to do, then when we meet with difficulties, we are going to be taken aback. We're not going to be ready. And when that happens, God will not be pleased with us. That's why we fall and we're not able to move forward and keep doing so. Hence, in Ephesians, chapter six, verse 14, the scripture gives us a simple summary. It says, “stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness”. Are your desires and thoughts each day tucked under the belt of truth? Are you living and submitting to the authority of God's Word? Do you obey what God tells you to do? Because if you don't, it's very hard to set your hopes on the right thing. Because your desires lead you in the opposite direction. Others can simply play on your heart strings and pull you and influence you to float in the opposite direction to where the Holy Spirit is leading you. That is why we all need to gird up the loins of our mind. Otherwise, we cannot set our hopes aright. Now John Maxwell is a man who writes and teaches on leadership for about 10 years. I didn't like his writings because he doesn't quote the Scripture. He doesn't use the Scripture. But 10 years later, his books are still around so I thought, there must be some good in it. So I began to read it and I found that in this other companion book, ‘The 21 minutes in a leader’s day’, he actually shared the biblical stories behind each of these leadership principles. And in one of the stories, he shared his personal testimony, and he shared that when he was a young pastor, he was very excited. In the first two years of his ministry, he spent most of his time wanting to be liked by people. So he spent his time wanting to win friends and influence people. And so one day when there was a member of his congregation whose brother was in hospital for a terminal illness, he walked into the hospital and spent the entire time chatting with him about baseball, about sports and all that. They had a really good time and he walked out of the hospital feeling really good about it because he thought, “Here is another potential member of my church, you know. If he likes me, and he brings more people, then I'm going to start building my ministry. I'm gonna get going.”. But the next day, he received a phone call and he was told that this member's brother had just passed away. At that point, he shared in his book that he was broken and humbled. He was very sorry and sad for what he did. As a pastor, he knows the Bible. He knows the gospel, but he didn't tuck away his desires and his thoughts under the belt of truth, and obey the Word of God at the right moment. And so he spent more time trying to build relationships and get people to like him, rather than share the good news at a critical juncture. Isn't that the same with our own lines? We all know the word. We all know the truth. But at a critical juncture, at moments of crisis, we act like the unsaved because our desires and our fears are not tucked away under the bell of truth. And Peter is saying, gird up the loins of your mind, be ready. It is not a playground; it is a battlefield. If you're not ready, you're going to be tripped over before you even know it, and you cannot move forward at that point. So that is why, in order to set our hopes aright, number one, we must gird up the loins of our mind, and number two, we need to be sober. We need to be sober.
I mentioned two actions that support our decision to set our hope fully upon the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. The first is to ‘gird up the loins of our mind’. The second is to be ‘sober minded’. Now, literally the word ‘sober’ in the original Greek means to be clear-minded. In other words, there is a contrast to ‘not being drunk’, the idea of not losing control of your thoughts and actions. And so if you were to see how this phrase or this word is being used in the scripture, in the New Testament, for instance in 1 Thessalonians, chapter five, verses six to seven, it says, “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do”. I understand if you're feeling tired today because at the work long hours yesterday or you had things to attend to; you just finished your shift and came into church, and you feel sleepy. Now that is normal, okay? It is more abnormal if you do all that and still are wide-eyed. You know, probably your mind is drifting elsewhere, which is more dangerous. The sleep here is a spiritual slumber. What spiritual slumber? Spiritual slumber means that they are looking at me now with wide, open eyes, a nice smiling face, but you are thinking to yourself, “When is this over?”, “I wonder how are the refreshments later.”. You know, you're not interested, not concerned at all - that is spiritual slumber; that is not being sober-minded because God has His word for you today. It may not be what you like to hear. But you know what? It is what God knows you need. God has a word for you today. And you know, he says, “Be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunk in the night”. So there is an explanation by contrast, isn't there? Those people who are sleepy, they can't think clearly. Those people who are drunk, they have lost control of their senses. So by contrast, the Scripture is saying, you know, don't be messy in your thoughts. Don't be so confused in your thinking. Be clear in how you ought to respond.
And in the parable of the ten virgins, Jesus told us the story in the contrast between the five wives and the five foolish virgins. I want you to trace this story through very carefully, because the Bible tells us that the ten virgins all came with the hope of meeting the bridegroom at the bridal party. They're kind of like bridesmaids. They want to be part of the celebration. They want to be part of all this happening in the cultural context. So don't get the wrong idea - they're not all ten going to marry one man. Alright? Okay, so they are going to be part of the party and part of the celebration. So they are all waiting, they are setting their hopes at the coming of the bridegroom. Okay, now that five wise virgins, they not only brought their lamps, but they brought their oil. So they have clearly thought it through about what they need to do. But the five foolish virgins brought their lamp, and it was lit, but not the oil. So in other words, they are not really prepared. The story went on that because the bridegroom was delayed, they all fell asleep. And both the wise and the foolish fell asleep, right? So sleeping is not the problem here - it is your mind, your clear-headedness. When they all awoke, the bridegroom is here! What happens is the five wise virgins found that their lamps, the oil in the lamp had not lasted, but they brought extra so they topped it up and they could begin to go forward. But the five foolish virgins, they turned around to the five wise virgins and they said, “Hey, give us some of your oil.” But you see, the wise will be wise to the end, and they looked at them and said, “We can’t share with you because if we do, we may not make it. So why don't you go to the store and buy some? Maybe if you go and knock at a door in the middle, they'll give you some.”. So at the moment of decision, the wise ones moved forward because they are sober-minded, and the foolish ones move backwards, because they were not prepared. You see why we need to be sober. Because you know, when God tells us to move forward, we don't know when or how, but we need to be ready. And if you have not thought through what needs to be dealt with in your life, what needs to be done in order for you to be prepared, then you'll find that when the moment comes, you are not ready to do it. And I thank God that in our Christian lives, we don't have to wonder because the Scripture tells us clearly what are the things that we ought to do. So that's the verse for you.
And I want to share with you this other illustration that highlights how when we refuse to heed what God says and what we need to do, we actually don't move forward. Again, here's a Nike advertisement. I kind of like it. Because it says, “yesterday, you said tomorrow”. Think about that. It's about exercise right? About running. So why didn’t you do exercise? “Oh, tomorrow I'll do it.” You know, you buy new running shoes, you put on your running pants, your running T-shirt or whatever, all ready and then you say, “Ah, tomorrow”. And then the next day, “tomorrow”. And then the next day, “tomorrow”. Isn't that why we all grow fat and not lose weight? Because we are often giving ourselves these excuses. We refuse to do what we're supposed to do. In the same way, in our Christian lives, you know, you're supposed to read the Bible and pray, but you’re so tired. You know, so much has happened and you’re so sleepy. You turn on the TV, sit in front of it, and you say, “Oh, tomorrow”. And then you look back and say, “I wonder why I haven't grown for the past two years in my Christian life”. I can tell you why - because yesterday, you said tomorrow. You're not moving forward. Because you're not sober minded. You didn't pack away all your desires and think through what you must do to grow as a Christian to serve God effectively. So my friends, don't fulfill this human prophecy, alright? Don't do this. Don't say,
“tomorrow, I'll do it instead”. And the scriptures in Matthew, chapter six, verse 33 to 34, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God” - again, here is a verse that tells us to set our hopes aright to move forward for the Lord - “and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for tomorrow”. What else could hinder our sober-mindedness? It wouldn't be just sleep or drunkenness, it could be worry or fear. How often do we refuse to invest our time and energy to seek the Lord because we fear that if we do so we're going to lose out in life? We feel that if we do so, we're not going to make it in our careers. If we do so, we're not going to advance in our finances - we will lose our financial security. And so we are constantly gripped with fears, fear for our health, and so therefore, maybe I shouldn't go on the Philippines mission trip because I heard I got to be very gung ho. You know, wake up early in the morning, pray, pray, pray, and then preach, preach, preach and I have never preached before. And so you get all fearful because you are not able to trust God with it. Again, an example of the lack of sober-mindedness. Why? This time is not tomorrow. This time is all your fears, your worries, your anxieties, that grip your heart and cloud your thinking. And the Scripture tells us in Matthew, chapter 24, verses 48 to 49 that there was an evil servant who knew that the Lord was returning but was delayed and so he began to smite his fellow servants and eat and drink with the drunken. Now what I want to share with you here is that you may think that your lack of sober-mindedness is your own problem. But the parable tells us that is not true. When as a Christian, we are not moving forward because we didn't gird up the loins of our mind and we are not sober-minded, then we begin to show in our actions and in our companions. What do I mean? You see, the Scripture tells us that this man, though he knows that the Lord is returning, says, “Well, tomorrow” and “Well, maybe not today. It doesn't matter.”. So what he decides to do at the very point, he decides that he can now bully someone else. He decides that he can now beat someone else up. And don't we do that too? Sometimes we stop and say, “How can he talk like that? How can he act like that? I thought he's a Christian!” I tell you why he can talk like that. It is because he is not sober-minded. That's what Jesus said. He forgot that the Lord is coming again. He forgot about the hope that will reveal God's grace at the revelation of Jesus Christ. And because he is not sober-minded, not thinking very clearly about his role in his career, in his job, in his home, he begins to act abusively and think it doesn't matter. And not only does he act abusively towards others, he begins to keep the wrong company. Why? Because he finds that Christians are too stuffy, and they all seem to say “Hallelujah, praise the Lord”, you know, “amen”. And then you know, if you do anything wrong, they say, “Aiyo, why like that?” But my non-Christian friends? Nevermind, they love me and I love them. They curse and swear, I curse and swear also and they don't blink an eye. And also, I like to be with them. You know what, they're not loving you. They just wallow in the mud together with you. And if that is what you want, it reveals again that we're not sober-minded. It reveals again that we have lost sight of the hope of the grace that is revealed to us at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So my friends, in order for us to hope to the end, we must not only gird up the loins of our mind, but we must also be sober-minded. In 2 Timothy, chapter four, verses three to five, it says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itchy ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things…” - to watch thou in all things is the same Greek word that means to be sober. So what is Paul teaching Timothy here? He is saying, if you have bad company, it is going to cloud your thinking. If you think that Christianity is all about health and wealth, that is going to cloud your thinking. If you think that Christianity is like praying to God and rubbing the genie in the bottle, it is going to cloud your thinking. You're going to lose perspective. Keep away from the wrong company because you know Jesus is coming. Gird up the loins of your mind and you know what, be sober. How do you stay sober? Stay out of the wrong company. Let the word of God speak to your heart - that's good company. Let the people of God who are Godly, counsel your path - that's good company. And when you do that, what's going to happen is you find that, “Hey, I can set my hopes aright. I can begin to move forward.” And that's exactly what Peter wants us to do.
Now, here is a news article I read, by our minister mentor, Mr LKY, this year, February 4th, where he says that Singaporeans have to understand the need for immigrants. When I read this, I was quite impressed with his courage and with his sober-mindedness. Because as you are aware, in our last general election, there was a tremendous uproar against the influx of foreigners. And as a result, the people voted, not only that but some other issues as well, and voted, and the entire GRC in the history of Singapore, Aljunied, was lost to the opposition party. Now, some of you rejoice, some of you, you know, do not. You all may not know but my constituency is Aljunied. And I remember that night where I was gripped in dread and fear, because I felt we have come under the interdiction. You know, in the past, the Roman Catholic Church had interdiction, you know, for those who don't obey. So you know, I thought, “Oh, no. Am I going to be in trouble? Is my lift going to be clean? Is the rubbish going to be cleared?” You know, there's this sense of dread coming over me. Oh, no. Are we going to be okay anymore? But even with all the uproar, even with all the popular opinions against the government's policy on foreigners, Mr LKY, he continued to explain. Number one, Singapore faces a shrinking population, in this article, because of lower reproduction among citizens. Number two, Singapore does not have a large enough reserve like Japan to withstand slow growth. Number three, increase population or face economic stagnation and the problems that come with it. Therefore, his conclusion is: welcome the immigrants. Now, I do understand that we do face certain challenges in our public infrastructure, etc, in welcoming foreign immigrants in such large numbers. But you see, here is a man who is thinking for the future of Singapore and he is refusing to allow even the loss of a GRC to affect how he thinks for the future of this nation. Whether you agree with him or not is a different issue. I remember when I shared this message there was a member who said, “How could you talk about Mr LKY?” You know, I don't agree with everything that he says or everything he does, alright. But you do have to respect him for the fact that he's clear minded. He's sober when he thinks about the future of Singapore. He can't see any other way out of this.
And you know what, if a man who thinks for the country needs to be sober-minded, how much more should a Christian be sober-minded when we think of the eternal kingdom of God? And you know what we'd like to do ti da apa, you know, boh he hei ma ho (which translates loosely to ‘it is alright if we do not have fish, prawns are good too’), you know, no fish prawn also good. You know, anything also, “Oh, God bless. Nevermind”. And so we think we can just go about carelessly in life when the Bible tells us that no, if you want to move forward, set your hopes aright and gird up the loins of your mind. Be sober minded. Think through what you need to do in order to keep on advancing. Don't allow others to influence you in the wrong direction. Don't allow others to trip you over. Don't succumb to pressures at work that will cause you to constantly change direction because if you do so, then you will not be able to hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Adoniram Judson, when he was asked, he was a missionary to Burma about 100 years ago, on how bright are the prospects of reaching the Burmese for Christ. You must understand that at that point, he had not led a convert to Christ. You know, and they suffered poor health, struggled with the language, nothing seems to be going forward. And he answered as bright as the promises of God. He is a sober-minded man. He is not letting the circumstances of his life affect him or derail him from the hope that is to be revealed at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. And as a result, Adoniram Judson moved forward for God and in that nation, people were reached for Christ, eventually. In the same way, God has a plan for each one of your lives. He didn't save you to let you wander around my friends. He has a will and a purpose. He has called you, not just to save you, but to help you to grow and to fulfill a calling in his eternal kingdom. But if you want to keep moving forward, you need to start your hope aright, gird up the loins of your mind, and you need to be sober-minded.
Let us pray. Our Heavenly Father, we thank you for your word. We thank you that we are reminded today that there are definite practical things we must do if we are to be going forward for our Lord Jesus Christ. Forgive us for the times when we have slackened, when we threw it to the wind and hope that somehow we get carried along. But today we realize that if our hopes are not set upon our Lord Jesus Christ and His grace that will be that will be brought to us, then we will move in the wrong direction, no matter how much we dream of being a better Christian. So help us this morning to open our hearts of afresh and anew to the Word of God.
I'd like to invite all of you to continue to bow your heads and close your eyes and just spend some time communing with the Lord. We all live very busy lives and soon we'll be rushing about the next events or activity. I don't know how the Lord has spoken to your heart but I know He has, because He said His Word will not return to Him void. And there are issues that you need to deal with today. Maybe your hopes are set awry in the wrong place. Maybe you find yourself living like Lot and courting disaster, rather than living like Abraham seeking the kingdom of God. Why don't you deal with that right now in your heart?
Maybe Christian, you have said your hope aright but you have allowed the desires and parts of your life to continue to trip you over, time and time again. And so you seem to be taking two steps forward, three steps back. And God says, gird up the loins of your mind. Don't let those flowing robes trip you away anymore. Tuck them away, find out what they are. Maybe it's a hobby, maybe it's an interest, maybe it's a relationship, maybe it's a dream, maybe it is a fad, a fashion of this world that is coming between your soul and the Savior. And God's will says to you today, tuck it away. Tuck it under the belt of truth. It may not be a bad thing but it is hindering you. You need to put it away. Deal with that in your life right now, if God is speaking to your heart that way. Maybe you have done so but you haven't been sober-minded. You have allowed your friends to influence you. Everytime tell you about what holidays they are taking, how their kids are doing, what schools they are attending, what trips they are taking, you get shaken. And you thought, “I just need to earn more. I need to get that better job. Otherwise, I can't afford what my friends are doing.” And God's word says, “Don't be like the drunken. Don't be like those who are sleeping. Be sober.” God will provide. You don't know when and how but He will. You trust him and you can move forward.
So let's spend some time dealing with these issues in our hearts and lives. Because the heart is the fountain of life. If the fountain is polluted with the things of this world, with the thoughts of man, life will be polluted and it will not be pure and pleasing to God. So friends, let's spend some time asking the Lord to search our hearts and help us to move forward and to keep doing so today.
Our Heavenly Father, we thank you that though we are so unworthy, you love us so much. You have not only given us an eternal assurance of salvation in Christ Jesus for all who believe and receive you as their personal Savior. You have given us even more grace. Grace that we can live on, grace that would give us victory and help us to move forward. May you help us to make the right decisions, to obey and follow our Lord; not to push the blame and responsibility to someone else for our own lives but to make Spirit-led decisions to live for Christ today. We ask this in Jesus’ name, amen.
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