28 Mar 2021
We are saved by grace when we believe in Jesus Christ and what He has done on the Cross alone. But a man who is saved by grace will not remain the same, for he will also be changed by grace. God's grace not only justifies us, but it also purifies us. Jesus said in essence that salvation is like being born again. John says it is passing from death unto life. So, let's look at the marks of grace, that you may examine yourself to see if you are in the faith: 1. Generosity. A born-again man has God's love abiding in him. He will give, love, serve and forgive. It is not that he does all this perfectly, but he will do all this more and more. 2. Humility. A born-again man acknowledges his bankruptcy before God. He is not self-righteous in his works. He knows deeply that except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. 3. Loyalty. A born-again man loves God, and won't want any glory to be stolen from God. He lives to uphold, extoll and praise the glory of God. Once again, these are not things we do to be saved. These are things that we will see when we are saved. These are marks (not an exhaustive list of course), not means of one's salvation. May we all come into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ through repentance and faith.
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Last Sunday, one of the newcomers in the 'Newcomers Chit-Chat Session' asked, "What does it mean to be saved? Does it mean that I have to go to church?" And I thought that's a great question because it's one of those questions everybody asks. What does it mean to be saved? And does going to church have anything to do with getting saved?
You see, that's a common assumption by the everyday guy on the streets. Everybody thinks that, "If you go to the temple, you are a Buddhist. If you go to the mosque, you are a Muslim. And if you go to the church, you are a Christian." But we often say here in Gospel Light, "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian, just like going to McDonald's doesn't make you a hamburger."
We don't think that the way to becoming a Christian is coming to the service, attending a service. As if the mere participation in this service is going to make you a Christian. We believe, in this church, that salvation is about having a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. That's our mission! Our mission is not to bring more people to the service. Our mission is greater, more than that - it is to be leading generations into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.
And I think one of the best ways to answer the question - "what does it mean to be saved?" - is given by Jesus himself. I think he spoke about that in John, chapter 3, when he says, "A man must be born again." To be saved is not just saying a prayer, going to church, reading a page of the Bible. Getting saved is really to be born again.
So it's not just something you do on the outside, it's something that happens from the inside-out. You're given a new life. You were previously dead in sin and now you're alive to God. You're born again! That's what it means to be saved.
And when a man is born again, he will display characteristics of a new life. This morning, I like us to consider this subject of the marks of grace, the evidences of grace, the proof that God has indeed given you new life, that you are indeed born again. And we're going to look at this from an interesting point of view, from the story of Abraham.
Now, we're going to look at Genesis, chapter 14. I pity John who had to read all the names to you, it's difficult to pronounce that. And I think it is a long chapter but it's really offering us a snippet of Abraham's life. And we're going to see Abraham and his character traits. I don't think that God is writing these things to extol the natural traits of Abraham, but it's allowing us to see a glimpse, catch a glimpse of what happens when a man believes in God. What are the marks of grace? What are the evidences of faith?
So that's the approach we are going to take, and we're going to see three things about someone who is truly born again, who is saved, who is marked by grace. Alright?
First thing I noticed in Abraham's life is that he demonstrated generosity. He was a generous man. Um, the story is that Lot, his nephew, who took that opportunity to choose first, settled in Sodom and Gomorrah, or around that region. But war broke out in that region and Lot is now captured. So we see in verse 12, "They ... took Lot, the son of Abram's brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way." "Then one who had escaped came and told Abram ..."[Genesis 14:13]
"Abram, your nephew Lot, 'kena' [to be at the receiving end/suffering of something unpleasant in Malay] captured! He is a prisoner-of-war." And you know, I might have thought that Abram might, would have said, "Hah, it was Lot who chose that land! He was the one who wanted to go there. I did not tell him to go there; it's his own business! So, I'm going to mind my own business, he's going to mind his, don't tell me about this."
In fact, I might have sup, supposed that Abraham, behind the scenes, might go, "'orbiguat' [serves him right in Hokkien dialect], he go and choose the land, he 'kena' now." But, you know, there was none of this from Abraham. When he heard that his nephew is getting caught, or is caught, "he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan." [Genesis 14:14]
So without hesitation, Abraham kicked into action, gathered his troops, gathered his people, and risked his life, used his resources to go on a rescue mission for Lot. So there was no grudges whatsoever; there was no unwillingness whatsoever. He was out there to save his kinsmen, he was out there to save Lot, and I think he demonstrated generosity. I think Christians should be a generous people, don't you think?
A story is told of a preacher, an itinerant preacher who was preaching in a church. After he preached, the pastor of the church suggested that they gather a love offering for the preacher. So being a cowboy town, they didn't have much, the pastor asked for the hat of the preacher and passed the hat around to gather offerings. When the hat was taken back again, to their surprise, there was absolutely nothing in the hat. No one gave anything to the preacher.
And so, the preacher just bowed his head and prayed, "Dear God, thank you so much that I at least got my hat back." Now, we laugh at something like this because it's not common! God's people, the church, is generally, I think, marked with amazing generosity. And I think that's the teaching in the New Testament as well, that God's people are a people who are generous with one another.
"We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers." [1 John 3:14] That's John saying, John, in the first Epistle of John, says that this is one of the ways, this is one of the marks, this is one of the evidences of a Christian, of a man who is saved, of a man who is born again, of a man who believes God, of a man who has passed from death into life.
He was previously dead in sin, but now he's spiritually alive, he's saved, he's born again. How do you know? Because he loves the brothers. And he doesn't just talk about it, because in verse 17 it says, "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?" [1 John 3:17]
So the mark of a man who is born again is that God's love remains in him, and he is generous. He doesn't hold back, he's generous to the needs of those who are around him. And that's the mark of a Christian. He doesn't bear grudges. He doesn't hate the person forever. He's not living in unforgiveness, but he loves the brother.
In the early church we see that in the book of Acts. The people in the book of Acts, when they came to faith in Jesus Christ, had difficulties because they suddenly are dislocated from the Judaistic communities. They might be kicked out of their homes; they might have lost their jobs for not being like the rest in rejecting Jesus Christ.
So obviously there will be many needs amongst the people there, but the Bible tells us that the church rallied together. They were "together," they had "all things in common," they sold their "possessions and belongings" and they distributed "the proceeds to all, as any had need." [Acts 2:44-45] They were generous!
When we read the book of Acts, we are often enthralled with the coming of the Holy Spirit, with thousands of people coming to faith. And we are excited about all the action that's going on but don't miss this! God is saying that, "The early church is marked with amazing generosity." That's church! That's Christianity for you!
And then, we are told that "they received their food with glad and generous hearts." [Acts 2:46] This is not communism. This is not imposed upon them. This is not forced upon them. This is something that they're willing to do, glad and generous hearts.
And then, we see again in Acts 4 that "they had everything in common." [Acts 4:32] And then in Acts 4, uh, verse 36, er 34, "There was not a needy person among them." Why? Because they were generous, they shared [sic: one with another].
One of the most fascinating verses for me in the Bible, which is an interesting verse to be fascinated about, is Ephesians 4:28. I've mentioned this several times before. This is an amazing story of life transformation, just one verse: "Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his ... hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need."
So Paul is talking about a real case, probably, in the church at Ephesus. There is or there are thieves amongst the congregation, or at least they were ex-thieves. They were thieves who ... who lived or survived based on their skill to steal. They were professionals probably. This was the thing that they did all the time. But Paul says, "Now, that you've come to faith in Jesus Christ, let the thief no longer steal. Don't steal anymore!"
Wow, what's going to stop a thief from stealing, man, except for the Gospel, except for the grace of Jesus Christ! "Let the thief no longer steal," but now let him work hard. He used to be lazy, he used to just want to steal off people, but now let him work hard and not just so that he can get rich, let him work hard so that he may have something to give to others.
That is the power of the Gospel! It's not just about going to church, reading your Bible. It's about God giving you new life, born again. Dead in sin, now alive to God! Totally different person! There is generosity that brims over in his life.
Romans, chapter 12, tells us that generosity is not just about money all the time. It's more than that! It's to "[c]ontribute to the needs of the saints, and [sic:to] seek to show hospitality." [Romans 12:13] Now I love this verse because, I love to explain this verse because, there's so many hidden details that you don't quite grasp in the English. It says, "Contribute to the need of the saints." We, we, when we think about contribute, we think about giving, but actually the word 'contribute' is more than giving.
The word there may surprise you, it's the word 'fellowship'. The Greek word is 'Koinonia'. And the word here is to share in the needs of the saints, have something in common with the saints. What in common? Their needs. It's almost like saying, "Step into their shoes, get under their skin, be with them in their need." So it's more than giving, it's feeling as they feel, seeing as they see, going through as they go through, share in the needs of the saints, in such a way that you would give generously to them.
So it's not something that is, by the way, give $1, $2, but it's really feeling with them. So Paul says, "This is how you live out the Christian life. You share in the 'needs of the saints', and you 'seek to show hospitality.'" [Romans 12:13] The hospitality here is a love for strangers. It's a welcoming of people you may not know very well, but because we are all part of the same family of God. You ... you love them and you treat them well.
And the word, 'seek', wow, it's a word that means to pursue! In fact, elsewhere in the Bible, it's translated 'persecute'. So you're chasing the opportunity to serve others. That's what Christianity looks like! Isn't it sad when we don't quite see that amongst the people of God? We ask, "Why?" Could it be that maybe there are many who join in church services, but their hearts have not really been born again as yet.
And maybe for yourself, you say, "Well, all this generous, or generosity thing ... not for me!" Could it be that, to you, Christianity is just a CCA? Something that you come for but it doesn't change your life? The Christianity of the Bible is about being born again. It's about having new life, and it will manifest progressively - not perfectly - but progressively over time in such marks of grace.
1st Peter 4 again tells us that we are to "serve one another" as God has prospered us in our spiritual gifts, we are to use [sic:it] to serve one another [1 Peter 4:10]. So, reality check, this is not a sermon that should make you very comfortable. It should be a comfortable, it should be a message that causes you to examine yourself. Am I really saved? Has there been a change in my life since I profess faith in Him? Am I generous? Not that I'm super-duper generous, all of a sudden, but am I growing in generosity? Am I still bearing grudges against my brother- or sister-in-Christ? Am I harbouring bitterness and unforgiveness? Well, a Christian man is generous.
That's what Abraham did. I think I noticed that he immediately, without any grudges, went out of his way to save Lot.
Second thing we notice in this text is, I think, we see humility in Abraham. Now I'm going to talk a bit more, um, in a while but just looking at these verses, we noticed a focus on this man, Melchizedek.
So, the Bible says, "And Melchizedek, king of Salem brought out bread and wine. ([sic:He was priest of most...] He was priest of God Most High.)" [Gen 14:18-20] I want to take a 5, 10 minute diversion break, if you allow me. Uhm, this is going to be a bit complex, this is a little bit 'cheem' [profound in Hokkien dialect] and if you are sleepy, you did not sleep well last night, last night, you can sleep now. Because we're going to talk about Melchizedek, which you say, "What in the world is this all about?" And so you can sleep now, alright? I'll wake you up 10 minutes time.
We're going to look at Melchizedek for a while and the name, Melchizedek, simply means 'king of Righteousness'. So it may not really be his name, it might be his title. So he's called king of Righteousness; he's also king of Salem. The word 'Salem' means peace. So he's king, righteousness, and peace, and he's also called the priest of God Most High. So it's very interesting, this amazing character is both king and priest.
We are not very familiar with such dual roles today. Um, in England, the Queen is not priest, in Singapore our Prime Minister is no spiritual leader, he's our economic political leader. But in many cultures in ancient times, their leader takes on both military-political and spiritual leadership roles.
For example, the Pharaoh is seen as not just a political-military leader but also a spiritual leader. Caesar of the Roman Empire is also both a military-political and spiritual leader. And for many who are Chinese here, you will know that the emperor in time past is also not just a political leader but a spiritual leader.
The emperor, one of his chief functions, is to pray for the nation of China. He goes to the '天坛' [tiān tán], I think regularly once a year at least, to pray for the people of China。 He is seen as God's representative. He's priest here for the people first and foremost.
So when you come to Melchizedek, it is not surprising that he is both king and priest. Now, this character is a great character, a powerful, superior character, because even Abraham had to give him something. He had to give Melchizedek a tenth of the war spoils from Sodom. And notice that in the Bible, there is no mention about the birth or the death of Melchizedek and that is by design.
So knowing all this, we come to a second passage that mentions Melchizedek. Melchizedek is mentioned only 3 times in the Bible. First time in Genesis, second time in Psalm 110, and the third time in Hebrews. But it is only in Genesis that we read of a story of Melchizedek. The other two passages talk about Melchizedek but do not explain more or give us more details about his life.
So, this is the historical record，that's why we have a kind of diversion, but let's go to Psalm 110 that says, “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, 'You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.'" [Psalm 110:4] What is this all about? Now, go back to Psalm 110 and you would read in verse 1, “The Lord said unto my Lord." Wah, 'tao tiah'! [mind-boggling in Hokkien dialect]
What do you mean "the Lord said to my Lord"？Well, we understand it later on in Hebrews that it is the Father, God the Father, saying to God the Son，Jesus Christ. So Psalm 110 is a Messianic Psalm; it's a psalm about the Messiah, about Jesus. And in this Messianic Psalm, God the Father has sworn and will not change his mind, saying to Jesus, "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." [Psalm 110:4] So this is very interesting！God is saying, "Jesus is Priest, but of a very specific order, not the order of Mosaic, uh, Levitical priesthood, but a different order - the Melchizedekian order."
”Where do you get all this, Jason?“ Well, all that I said is not novel, it's not new; it's already stated for us in the 3rd passage that mentions Melchizedek, Hebrews chapter 7: "For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham" and so on and so forth [Hebrews 7:1-2]. You know the story, Genesis 14.
Then the Hebrews author begins to unpack, and explains, the significance of this event. He says, first of all, Melchizedek means "king of righteousness." "[K]ing of Salem" means he is the "king of peace” as of what I've said. There is no mention of his birth and death because, as it is written here, “He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he continues a priest forever.” [Hebrews 7:3]
So God deliberately does not give us those details so that Melchizedek could represent, may be a symbol of the priesthood of Jesus Christ in this way. That there is no beginning or no end to His priesthood; it is eternal. Very interesting！ So, way before Jesus came, God already sent this man, Melchizedek, to be a kind of a foretaste, foreshadowing, picture of what Jesus will do.
I would show you further verses, skipping some verses in Hebrew 7 so that it's easier for you. "See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils!" [Hebrews 7:4] So this man is greater than Abraham because Abraham had to give a tenth of the spoils.
Besides that, "It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior." [Hebrews 7:7] So Abraham also was the one who was blessed by Melchizedek. Melchizedek blessed Abraham. So who is greater? Melchizedek. Who is the blessor? And Abraham was the one who is blessed.
So we conclude, Melchizedek is greater than Abraham. Now, the significance then is the comparison of the two priesthoods. "One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes [sic:to], through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him." [Hebrews 7:9-10]
You know that the Jews give tithes, the Jews give a tenth of their income. To who? To the priests. And who are the priests? The Levites. The Levites were the priests and the Levites collected tithe from all of Israel. But the author of Hebrews is saying, actually, the Levites themselves also gave tithes. To who? To Melchizedek. How? They were not even alive. Well, their great, great, great grandfather, Abraham, gave a tenth to Melchizedek.
So even though Levi was not yet born and the Levites were not yet born because their great, great, great grandfather gave to Melchizedek, they, in a sense, also gave to Melchizedek. So who is Mr. Big Boss? 谁比较大 [shuí bǐ jiào dà] [who is greater in Chinese]? Melchizedek or Levi? Obviously, the point is Melchizedek is greater! So Melchizedek represents a greater and [sic:more superior or, or] superior priesthood. Isn't it？
Now, look at this also, the Levitical priesthood was actually quite impotent, impotent with regards to saving anyone. The Levites could never atone for the sins of the people who they served. They could not！The Levitical priesthood was actually a priesthood more for remembrance - remembrance of their sin - but it was not for the removal of their sin. They couldn't do it！
The Hebrews author is saying for "if perfection [this cleansing; salvation] had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood, what further need would there [sic:be] ... for another priest to rise after the order of Melchizedek” [Hebrews 7:11]. If the Levitical priesthood could have saved people, then there's no need for another priesthood. There is no need for Jesus Christ, who is after the order of Melchizedek.
But the fact is, the Levitical priesthood cannot save anyone from their sins，therefore Jesus had to come. "For it is witnessed of him, 'You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.'" [Hebrews 7:17] Where is this from? You all know, right, I'm sure? From ...? Psalm 110. Thank you very much, verse 4.
So ... so you see the author of Hebrews is leveraging on Genesis 14, Psalm 110, and concluding that Jesus is "the guarantor of a better covenant." [Hebrews 7:22-24] Why? "The former priests were many in number," the former priesthood of the Levites, many, many of them, many, many generations [Heb 7:22,24]. Why? Because "[t]hey were prevented by death from continuing in office." They all die. They can't save anyone to the uttermost.
"[B]ut he [that is, Jesus] holds His priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently [this is the end result], Jesus is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him; since He always lives to make intercession for them." [Hebrews 7:24-25]
Jesus is of a greater, superior priesthood. He is able to save those who come to him to the uttermost because he lives forever as our perfect High Priest. The Levitical priesthood can never do that! So, the Hebrews author wrote all this so that the Jews who turn from Judaism to believe in Jesus will not feel shortchanged whatsoever, but they, they will know that they have made the right choice to believe in Jesus Christ.
Alright, you can wake up now, for those who were asleep for the Melchizedek discourse. We come back to the point that we were looking at Abraham's life - how he manifested generosity, how he manifested humility because when Melchizedek came to Abraham, Melchizedek did not praise Abraham at all. But Melchizedek says, "Blessed be Abraham, [sic:my] ... by God Most High, Possessor, Possessor of heaven and earth ... blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hands!" [Genesis 14:18-20]
Now, Abraham could have said, "No, it was me! I was the one who was brave, I was the one who had the soldiers, I was the one who came up with master tactics, I was the one who risked my life, I saved my nephew!" But no! When Melchizedek said, "It's all God," Abraham acknowledged it. And he acknowledged it by giving a tenth of everything. I think Abraham was demonstrating humility. He was not self-infatuated, he was not self-engrossed. I think he demonstrated simple humility from a simple act like this.
When I think about humility, I, I think about, and what the Gospel does to change a man from arrogance to humility, I think about Nebuchadnezzar, you would have recalled this man in the book of Daniel. I think Nebuchadnezzar, according to the Bible, is probably the greatest human king ever, apart from Jesus. Because he was pictured as, or his kingdom is pictured as, that head of gold in the vision that God gave to him in a dream about the subsequent kingdoms to come - Nebuchadnezzar, great, powerful king.
But he was full of himself, he was arrogant. Because he said, "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by [sic:my majesty] ... my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty." [Daniel 4:30-31] So he was strutting his stuff; he was full of himself.
And as he was doing so, "[w]hile the words were still in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, 'O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you ...'" [Daniel 4:30-31] Alright, you're lifted up in pride, you're gone, out of the picture! And he was struck with this strange disease that he became insane, literally. He became like an animal - nails grew long and he was walking or he was crawling in the jungle floor all by himself. He became mad!
Well, what was God doing? God was teaching Nebuchadnezzar a lesson. And after this period of humbling, the Bible tells us, "At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted [sic:up] my eyes to heaven and my reason returned to me ..." [Daniel 4:34] And this is what he said, "... and I blessed [sic:or I praised] the Most High and praised and honoured him who lives forever" [Daniel 4:34]. He goes on to say, "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honour the King of heaven..." [Daniel 4:37]
Realise today, he is no more saying, "How great I am as king." But he's saying, "How great is God, the King." I think when a man comes to know God, he is humble. He does not depend on himself; he is not proud of himself. He knows that he is nothing but dust. He knows that he's a sinner, and he is thankful and humbled before God Most High.
The Bible says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom" of God [Matthew 5:3]. There will be no self-righteousness in the Kingdom of God, because God's people are a people humbled by grace.
Now, let me move on. Abraham was a man who was generous. He was marked with generosity, he was marked with humility, and finally, I think he's a man marked with loyalty to God.
So this is seen in the encounter he has now with another, another man. He now meets with the king of Sodom. The first one we looked at, he met with Melchizedek - king of Righteousness. Now, he meets with the king of Sodom. If Melchizedek was the king of Righteousness, the king of Sodom is the king from hell. He's ... he must be a wicked man because his city was absolutely wicked.
So the king of Sodom meets with Abraham and says, alright, "Give me the persons, but [sic:you can keep] the goods..." [Genesis 14:21] "You can keep the spoils, you can keep the stuff for yourself. Let ... let it be a reward. Let it be a payment for what you have done for my city."
And perhaps if it was me, I may just say, "All right, thank you very much!" But not for Abraham. "Abraham said to the king of Sodom, 'I have lifted up my hand to the LORD [He, in a sense, swore to God] ... I would not take a thread or sandal strap or anything that is yours.'" "I won't take anything from you." Not that he did not win the war, and rescue the people, but that "I do not want you to say or anyone to say, 'I have made Abram rich.'" [Genesis 14:23] "I don't want anyone to think that this victory is anything but from God alone."
Now, I think, there must have been a lot of riches for Abraham to take. We are told in Ezekiel, chapter 16, that, Sodom was a place of excess. They had "excess of food"; they had "prosperous ease." [Ezekiel 16:49] It was a desperately wicked people but they were very rich. But for Abraham to deny all that must be quite remarkable.
He says, "No! For the sake of the glory of God, for the sake of His honour alone, I'm not going to take anything from you!" This is a man, I think, who demonstrated loyalty.
Now, I sort of let the cat out of the bag, but I think everyone here, or most of you here, would be familiar with the recent fiasco regarding our National Day song in 1986, "Count On Me, Singapore". Remember the song? I mean it's still a favourite up till today. "Count on me ..." and so on. We all know that, right?
But recently, just a couple of weeks ago, there was someone from India who wrote, or at least he claimed, he wrote a song that is almost identical to the song we had in 1986. Joey Mendoza is the composer, who said he wrote this song, "We Can Achieve." I mean, and the lyrics are almost similar but it's not Singapore but India and so on, and he said he wrote this song in 1983. And when asked for evidence, he said it was all washed out by a flood.
So, of course, this caught the attention of many Singaporeans and our Government got involved. Um, MCCY got involved and MCCY pressed Joey Mendoza to substantiate his claims, to furnish evidences, that he was the one who wrote this song, "We Can Achieve."
Checks in India turned up no evidence or records of him having any rights to "We Can Achieve." Thankfully, he subsequently changed his position, following its correspondence with MC ... his correspondence with MCCY and, "The Indian composer has 'unconditionally and irrevocably' withdrawn any claims to the song, it added."
So in a sense, Singaporeans can now ... now heave a collective sigh of ... aaah ... relief because we just ... if you love your country, we just don't want anything to be taken from the country. Isn't it? You don't want anything that belongs to us to be stolen from us. Now this, of course, has riled many people, um, many people can be very upset.
One of which is Tay Ping Hui, who is a local Singaporean actor and I know about this because it was reported in the media. He said, "I am ... pissed because this charlatan [sic:have] stepped on our national song #taypinghuisayone #buaysong." He's just not happy! Now, would you be happy if the country you love has things stolen? No, you won't! But I think that is the simple principle we have. If you are born again, you know God, you love God because you know His love for you, and you won't want anything to be taken from God. You won't want His glory to be taken by another, isn't it?
Just a practical example, it's about our church building here at Punggol. When our building was complete, we wanted to conduct or hold an opening ceremony. And we wanted to invite a guest of honour - [sic:an] MP, a minister. Now, I want to explain right up front, we didn't want the opening ceremony and we didn't want [sic:an] MP or minister to show off. We didn't want to do this to bring fame. We didn't want this to say, "Oh, this is such a special church with the MP coming!" Not at all!
We only wanted to do that so that we can publicly, kind of, introduce ourselves to our community and say that, "We are here to serve Punggol. We are here to be a blessing." So we thought that will give prominence, not to show off, but to serve. I hope you get that context clear.
So, we ... we floated the idea of having a minister, someone who is a VIP come and grace the occasion, so that we can, kind of, uh, rub shoulders and get in contact with the community centers here, the family service centers here, and the various governmental agencies and bodies here so that we can serve.
But when this was floated, we were somehow informed that if we are to get a MP or minister, then we would be expected to make a plaque that will state that this building was officially opened by so and so and so, and it will be placed somewhere in our church building enshrined there, and people will come and see it. When we heard that, I think as a leadership, there was no hesitation, collectively we said, "Absolutely no!"
It's not necessarily a wrong thing, by the way, but for us we just felt that, "This is a building that is given by God, and this is a building that must be dedicated to God alone. No other names in this building!" And so if you check our building up and down, there is no room, brick, floor, door that is attributed to anyone. This building is for the glory of God alone. That's the heart and desire of your ... the leadership here.
Now, to clarify matters, well, the MPs and ministers are not what we thought they ... are not what was suggested. They were willing to come, even though there was no such agreement whatsoever. And we achieved, I think, our goal of just introducing ourselves to the neighbours here in this beautiful town. But I think that's what loyalty to God looks like. We won't want to rob God of any glory, and we want all glory to belong to Him.
You know what's a false teacher? A false teacher is one who does things so that he ... he may have the glory and he enriches himself. A true minister, a true Christian, labours and serves in such a way that no glory goes to him or her, but to God alone. Like Paul, he would say, "I was jealous with a godly jealousy so that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ, your Bridegroom." His goal is for the purity of the church alone, for the glory of God alone. That's the heart of someone who is born again.
So let me ask you today, "Are you saved?" We are saved by repenting and believing in Jesus Christ. But if you're saved by grace, you will also be changed by grace. And you will demonstrate, I think, a generous heart towards those around you. You will love the brothers. You will demonstrate humility, you will not be going ahead in self-righteousness. You will not be full of yourself. You ... you live now purely for the glory of God.
But I do want to say, again, I'm not saying that, "A Christian is perfectly generous, perfectly humble, perfectly loyal. There is still the flesh in us, and there's a lot of work to be done, but the seeds of it are there, and the progression should be there over time."
If you today will be honest with yourself, perhaps this might be the day, you can truly humble yourself at the foot of the cross and come to Jesus Christ to be saved. Don't hide behind church attendance. Don't hide behind the things you do. Ask yourself, "Am I born again?" That's what it means to be saved.
And if you today are already a Christian, a child of God, and these evidences are what is seen in you, would you pray to God and ask Him to help you to develop more in these areas? So often we think Christianity is about how many great projects we can boast to others. Nope! I think Christianity, boil ... boiled down, is as simple as that: that I'm a sinner saved by grace, and God is changing my life for His glory. May that be true for you.
Let's bow for a word of prayer together.
Father, I do pray that a simple message like this, could be lovingly received by the hearts of all who are gathered, so that we do not reject these things, nor would we ignore these things, but that we would wisely use these traits and marks to assess our own spiritual health and walk.
If there be any today who would be humbled to see that there is absolute no change in their life, despite their profession of faith, I ask that they will today humble themselves and come to Jesus in brokenness, in repentance, in faith. So dear God, be pleased to save.
And I pray for my brethren, who clearly could see these marks in their life, that they will abound in assurance, in joy and thankfulness towards you. And I pray as a church, whilst we are generally very attracted to spectacular works, may we today realise the importance of spiritual growth. Help us to be a generous, humble, loyal congregation people that we may glorify you. So bless your people, We thank you in Jesus' name. Amen.
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