23 Feb 2020

Skin-Deep Holiness [Matthew 23:1-12]


Jesus hated hypocrisy. He fiercely exposed the scribes & Pharisees so that people may be warned against their deception. 1. The Condemnation - Though the scribes & Pharisees were teachers of the Law, they do not practice what they preach. They laid heavy burdens on their followers, but they would not move them with a finger. Today, teachers of God's word must prioritise the practice of God's word, and not be absorbed only with the preparation and the preaching of sermons. Spiritual leaders must not be abusive nor demanding, but lead by example. 2. The Motivation - Jesus revealed that the scribes & Pharisees loved to be seen by men. The reason they wear big phylacteries and have long fringes is that they loved to be seen as godly or pious. They were engineering their whole lives to milk maximal praise and adoration. Herein is their double sin - not only do they not love God, but they also deceive people by pretending to! Today, we need the gospel - for it is only when a man is touched by grace in the gospel and has tasted the love of God, that he can truly love God and serve Him out of a pure heart. 3. The Instruction - Instead of always promoting oneself to gain praise, God's people are to prioritise the needs of others and serve them. The way to greatness is the way of service. Jesus Himself came to give His life a ransom for many. May we be grateful to His love and follow His example of servanthood. May we be freed by the gospel from being grabbers to becoming givers, and look to the hope of glory that is to come!


Sermon Transcript

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I’d like to bring us to the book of Matthew. We have taken a long, seven weeks’ break, and we are coming back to Matthew chapter 23.

So I remind you that Matthew, chapters 22, 23 onwards, really record for us the last few days of Jesus on Earth. So He's preparing to go to the Cross, He's going to be sacrificed to save His people from their sins.

And He is the fulfilment of the type, the foreshadowing that was intended via the Passover lamb. Years ago, God has already said to the people of Israel that a lamb, a lamb without blemish must be sacrificed for every household, and the blood smeared upon the doorposts to avert the angel of death.

So Jesus is that ultimate Passover Lamb, that who will save us from our sins. But in order to be that fulfilment, He too will be inspected so that He will be a lamb proven to be without blemish.

So in chapter 22 of Matthew, we read of how the Scribes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees came with difficult questions in order to find some fault with Jesus.

But like the expert kung-fu master, He expertly deflected all their blows, answered their questions in such a way that there is no fault to be found in Him whatsoever. And like the expert kung-fu master, not only does He block their blows, He turns the tables around, and now inflicts a mortal wound upon His enemies.

So in chapter 23 of Matthew, we're going to see Jesus pronounce an indictment and denouncing the wickedness, the evil of the Scribes and Pharisees.

Now, Matthew 23 is a long chapter, 30 over verses, we're not going to cover all that today. We're going to split this chapter, at least to three parts. I'm not sure about next week, but at least today, we just have time to look at verses 1 to 12.

And really, the book of – or, the chapter here gives us some neat divisions. Verses 1 to 12 really focuses on the Warning - first “W” - Jesus gives to the disciples and to the crowd. Then from 13 onwards to 30 plus, it gives us the woes. The woes that are pronounced upon the religious leaders. And then finally we see Jesus weeping; His heart that aches for the nation of Jerusalem.

So all that being said, we're then just going to look at verses 1 to 12 today - a warning.

1. The Condemnation

What's the warning about? Well, it's obvious. He gives, first of all, a condemnation about the Scribes and Pharisees. He's going to expose their wickedness. He's going to point out their grave mistake.

So condemnation here, it begins with verse 1: Jesus saying to the crowds, and to His disciples [Matthew 23:1] - I hope you realize also that this is the last public address of Jesus in the book of Matthew. From henceforth, He’s going to speak only to the disciples about the secret things, about the personal things.

This is the last public address and He is pulling back no punches, He's going to expose the Scribes and Pharisees and warn people against them. And He said to them: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat.” [Matthew 23:2]

Scribes, what are they? Scribes are the experts of the Law. They are the ones who copy the manuscripts. They are the ones who are to study the Bible, study the Law of God and teach the Law of God. And they are the professionals. This is like their full-time job. They spend their whole life doing exactly what I've just said.

Then you have the other group of people, they are the Pharisees. The Pharisees, what do they do? What does it mean? The word “Pharisees” means separated ones.

So they too, are people who dedicate themselves to the learning of Scriptures, but they are not quite the professionals. The professionals are more the Scribes. They generally are lay people. They are business owners, land owners, tradesmen. But they do dedicate themselves to the learning and the teaching of the Word.

It is said during the times of Jesus, there are not more than six thousand Pharisees. They are a sect, a religious sect, dedicated for the Law. Known to be very strict with the observance or the teaching of the, of the observance of the Law.

So, this two groups of people, Jesus warned about, and said that they “sit on Moses' seat.” [Matthew 23:2] What does it mean, he sit on Moses' seat? Is there a chair Moses sat on? Is there a throne? No, we don't read of that in the Bible.

But what this means is that they continue the work of Moses. They take up the capacity that Moses used to take up. They play the role Moses used to play. So they are like the teachers, the authoritative teachers of the Law, during their times. Just as Moses was the revered teacher, they now sort of continue that work.

And so Jesus said: “Do and observe whatever they tell you”. [Matthew 23:3] As long as they are teaching the Law, as long as they're teaching the Bible, as long as they're teaching God's Word, you follow, you do. If they teach you: “Do not have any other gods” - you do that. If they say, “Do not commit adultery” - you do that. Because they are in the capacity of Moses.

However, He also continues to say, “…but not the works they do.” [Matthew 23:3] So follow what they teach you, but don't follow what they do.

Now, that's strange! Why? This is the problem: they teach or they preach, but they do not practice. [Matthew 23:3] So they are a group of people who are experts at dissecting the Law. They're experts that tried to give the many, many implications of the Law, but they themselves don't do it.

I was having a conversation with some of our family or young family, young parents here. And we talked about, I think I've mentioned to you before, when we should have allowance for our kids to date. My son is twelve, seven, and it will not be long before he will ask the question, “Can I date?” So is there a, is there an age by which we say you can't date, or you should be able to date?

So we had a conversation. Some say sixteen, some say eighteen, some says twenty one, some say twenty four, some say forty. I do not know, you have different ages that you may allow your kids. Maybe you say, “I'll never let my kids date, I want them to stay with me forever in my whole life.” I don't know about you.

So they asked and I, I, I, I gave a number. I, I can't remember what number I gave, but I said twenty four. And then they asked me, “When did you date?” And I’ll say, “Sixteen.”

So you can imagine a scene at home, right? Shawn or Matthias comes to me and says, “Dad, I want to date this girl.” I say, “No, you can't. You're sixteen, not yet.” “But Dad, when can I date?” I say, “Forty.” Ah, no, no - I mean, “Twenty four”. And - “But Dad - well, it's not fair! You dated at sixteen! You dated mommy when you were in secondary school or JC. Can you be so unfair?” I say, “Son, I don't care. Do as I say and not what I do.” Double standards, alright.

Now, it's funny in the case of this dating thing in my family. But it's not quite funny when it comes to the Scribes and Pharisees, telling people what to do in all the minutiae of the traditions, but they themselves won't do it. They preach, but they do not practice.

They instead “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” [Matthew 23:4]

Now Jesus didn't quite elaborate exactly what is it that they did not do. Perhaps, it's about offerings and giving, that might be something that is spoken of later in the woes. It might be something to do with Sabbath observances.

But it's clear, it's well known, it's well understood, even in the Jewish society, just that nobody dare to talk about it. But Jesus openly say, “You know them! They tell you what they want you to do, but they themselves, don't do it. So don't follow their works.”

Jesus here, therefore gives the Scribes and Pharisees a clear condemnation. And it is found in this statement - they preach but do not practice.

I think that's the hardest thing about being a teacher of God's Word. What's the hardest thing about being a preacher? What's the hardest thing about teaching the Bible? “Oh, it's because it's so difficult to read the commentaries - so thick, so many words, words so small.” Let me tell you, it's not hard anymore. You can enlarge the print on your computer. It's easy, much easier now. You can do audio, there's so many ways.

And personally, I think studying quantum physics is harder than reading the Bible. You had all these subjects when you are in secondary school, JC, whatever. It's so hard! Bible, reading it, understanding it - actually, intellectually, not that hard. Some things do require more research. But we cannot say that’s the hardest thing. At least for me, it's not the hardest thing.

What's the hardest thing about being a preacher? “Oh, to stand on stage and to preach, preach to crowds.” Perhaps. But I think the hardest thing and the most important thing about being a preacher is not the preparation, is not the preaching, but it's in the practice of the Word of God.

Jesus says this about the Pharisees, and James also tells us about the danger of being a teacher. He says: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” [James 3:1]

I know some of you have a passion for God's Word. Wonderful! I think it's such a precious gift. If you're someone who is loving the Bible, passionate about God's Word, and you want to teach it, you want to share it. I say there's, in my mind, nothing better than that desire. Great!

But instead of devoting yourself just to the hermeneutics or the exegesis or the skills of interpreting the Bible and filling your mind with all the knowledge - whilst that's important, don't get me wrong, I think is even more important that you should be diligent and faithful in conducting your life in a worthy way.

Too many preachers are clever and slick and eloquent, but their life is in a mess. And you know, at the end of the day, God will judge us with greater strictness. It's terrible to be a preacher without at least the desire to practice.

Now, I'm not saying preachers are perfect in their obedience to God. Far from it! Often times when I preach, the first person I want to preach to is myself. Because I'm so far from what I'm saying here. But I think the desire and the due diligence to watch over one's life - his conduct, his practice - is of a higher importance to me than the mere mechanics and skill of preaching.

That's what the emphasis is, when it comes to the selection of elders, right? Who should be an elder? Well, it's sad, if we choose elders based on their economic status, or their intelligence, or their skill in interpreting the Bible.

I'm not saying interpreting the Bible is not important. It is, but that's not the main thing, you know. Because in 1st Timothy, we see this whole list of qualifications to be an elder. [1 Timothy 3:2-7]

You see nothing about IQ, you see nothing about wealth, you see nothing about eloquence. You see nothing about these superficial things - whether he's been to seminary or not. Nothing! If you just read this, you will realize the majority of the qualifications focus on a man's character.

There's only one skill as far as I can see there. It's in the third line that says, “Able to teach.” Apart from that - his life.

That's the same when Apostle Paul was encouraging his protégé, Timothy. In chapter 4, he says, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” [1 Timothy 4:12]

Now, I think when he says Timothy is young, I think scholars pretty much understand, he's not eighteen or twenty, he's probably about forty at that time. But the priority for a youth in those days is that they will be an example.

If you want to be an elder, if you want to teach God's Word to God's people, let this also be your focus. That you will be an example in speech and in conduct, in faith, in purity, in love.

That's the same, like what Peter would say: “I exhort the elders among you… not domineering over those in your charge.” [1 Peter 5:1-3] It's so important that a church leader should not bully, abuse power, or dominate over God's people. He should not!

My wife and I, sometimes we talk about these things, and I say, we say, if there comes a day where she senses that I'm abusing, bullying people, she will let me know, and that will be the last day I'll be in this church. No, not fit at all! Because that's the exact opposite of what leadership is all about. Leadership is not commanding and demanding. Leadership is about demonstrating. It's about being an example to the flock.

So this is exactly what the Scribes and Pharisees were not. They were condemned by Jesus, because they spew all these nice teachings, high sounding theology, extreme demands, with - added with their own traditions, but they will not practice what they preach.

2. Motivation

Second thing I'd like you to know from this text is: why do they do what they do? What's their motivation?

Christianity is really unique. You know, many religions, they focus a lot on the externalities, right? As long as you bring a sacrifice, as long as you perform some rituals, as long as you bow a few times, as long as you do this and do that, your deity will be happy. Doesn't matter if you live a rotten life outside the place of worship. As long as you come, looking good, that's great.

Christianity is not like that at all. God, if I may say, is more interested in your heart, than in just what you do on the outside. So we see that Jesus now puts His finger into the heart of the matter, and it's the matter of the heart. It's their heart motivation.

What's wrong with their motivation? “They do all their deeds to be seen by others.” [Matthew 23:5] That's the problem!

Now, is it wrong for you to do something that others can see? No, not really. You shouldn't say, “Oh! There's an old lady that I need to help across the road but I scared people see me, so I don't help her.” No, no, no. You don't do that! You, you help her. That's fine! If others see you, that's fine.

You let your light so shine before men that others may see your good works and glorify Your Father who is in heaven - Matthew 5:16. Nothing wrong with doing good works before man.

But everything wrong, to do good works before men, to be seen of men, to be admired by men, to be revered by men, to milk the praise of men. That's where their problem lies. They don't love God!

These Scribes and Pharisees, they do all that they do not because they really love God, but because they love themselves. They want to parade themselves. They want to strut around like a proud peacock, wanting people to admire their beauty spiritually. And that is deadly.

So what do they do to parade themselves? Jesus says, “They make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long”. [Matthew 23:5] Some of you have never been to church, first time with us, glad you join us. And so, you must be wondering, “What in the world is phylactery?” Never knew about this word, until I read the Bible.

Basically, it's a very unique thing for the Jewish community. If you go to Israel today, or if you meet with Jewish people, during religious days, in their places of worship, you might still see people wear this phylactery. It's this box, that is strapped to their forehead.

Now you know, obviously, this is something modern still, because you don't have photos in old times, and certainly nobody wears glasses in old times. So this is a modern-day picture, where the Jewish community still carries on with phylactery.

So it's a box, that is supposed to contain passages of the Bible, Bible verses. And not only do they put it at the forehead, between their eyes, they also strap it to their hands. So it's on the forearm, but it continues with straps to their hands.

So why do they do this? Well, because they read verses in the Bible that seem to encourage them to do so.

Exodus 13:9: “It shall be to you as a sign on your hand” - What is “it”? The Bible, the Word of God – “… shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth.”

So these are like what we call aide-memoires, tools, that help you remember the value and the importance of God's Word in your life.

And again in Deuteronomy 6: “You shall teach them” - that's the Word of God -“diligently to your children… you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” [Deuteronomy 6:7-8] So that's why they make their phylacteries broad.

Not only do they wear phylacteries, but they make their phylacteries broad. “Tua zhong” [colloquial expression used to describe something of substance, considerable] one, big one. The bigger the better! “Uncle, give me the biggest phylactery.” And so they put it in a forehead, in their arm, so that when people look at it - “Wah, this man. Wah! The phylactery so big, must be a lot of Bible verses. Wah! He must really love God. He must be very holy.” “Wah! Look at our revered Scribes and Pharisees.” That's their motive.

Not only do they make their phylacteries broad, they also make their fringes long. [Matthew 23:5] So you see them, all of them long hair? No, no, no, no, that's not, that's not the fringe we're talking about, right? The fringes here refer to the fringes of your robe.

So again, they take reference from Numbers, an Old Testament passage: “…tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord”. [Numbers 15:37-39]

So again, another aide-memoire. When you see the phylactery, remember you are to obey God's Word. When you see the fringe, remember God's Word. So they, they do these things.

The problem however, is that these guys, who make broad their phylacteries and make long their tassels, they don't really obey God's Word. They are a scam!

We are all very familiar with scams. Recently, I read about scammers, about face masks. People are in a very vulnerable state, right? Because they are panicky, they buy rice, they buy instant noodles, they buy toilet paper, like nobody's business. In fact, I read that when robbers robbed the - some place, they didn't take anything but toilet paper. It's more important than money now.

So people are living in such fear and panic. And so they're very vulnerable to scams. And there are people who absolutely prey on it. So they pretend to sell you masks when they have nothing; they cheat you.

But is that very different from the times of Jesus? Where they prey upon people's guilt and fear, and they pretend to be leaders, they pretend to love God, but they actually don't!

So the crime, the wickedness of these Scribes and Pharisees is not only that they are empty on the inside, but they deceive people to take advantage of people on the outside. It's a double whammy crime!

And that's why God is so against hypocrisy. Jesus, when He was on Earth, exposed no one else like the Scribes and Pharisees. He hated their pretense, taking God's Name to feed their own lusts.

So these people make their phylacteries broad and big, long tassels, and they strut their stuff around. And Jesus says, “This is their heart motive. They do all these things to be seen by others.” [Matthew 23:6-7]

And what do they want? This is what they want: they want “honour at feasts”, they want “the best seats in the synagogues”, they want “greetings in the marketplaces”, they love to be called “rabbis”. [Matthew 23:6-7]

In those days, religious leaders are very revered, they are very respected. Today not really lah - when, when I talk to people, they asked me, what's my job, I say, “I'm a church worker.” They say, “Hah?” Like, like – “Wah! This cannot make it guy.”

Alright. So, so in, in those days, it's a super revered, job. I mean, “Wow! You sit in a place of Moses. Wow!” So, they love it!

They love the honour at feasts. “Wah, VIP come already!” The best seats in the synagogues when they teach, and when they attend the services, they get greetings in the marketplace.

Imagine, imagine this Pharisee will walk along Tekka Market and the uncle, aunty: “Uncle!”, eh not the uncle, “Rabbi, sifu.” [Colloquial express for a teacher or master] And walk by, everybody parts, you know. And – “Rabbi”. In Singapore, we may call, “Sifu, Sifu!” And they and they feel so good. “Wah! The Red Sea part when I walk in the market.” “Wah, people all pay attention to me.” And they love this!

So they engineer their lives, they engineer their costume, they engineer clothes, they engineer the way they live, they engineer the way they speak, so as to maximize the praise from men. They use God's Name, take advantage of God's people, to bring their own ego to the forefront.

The problem is that they love these things. They absolutely love it! [Matthew 23:6-7]

And I actually think this motivation to be seen, or to love these things and to be praised, is not something you are not unfamiliar with. Because whilst we may not be Scribes and Pharisees, the reality is, we all love ourselves, right?

The reality is we not only love ourselves, we love ourselves to be loved by others. We love to be admired by people. We love to be seen well in people's eyes, don't you think so?

Just look at your Instagram photo. You take photo, you still have your filters. You adjust the colour, adjust the whatever until you look so “swee” [colloquial expression to describe something that is beautiful].

And not only this American, or this Western, you also have Chinese Apps: “mei tu xiu xiu” [name of a Chinese photoshop-type application used to edit pictures]. Wah! What a name! “Mei tu xiu xiu”! You make yourself look very pretty. “Wah! Too fat.” Wah, adjust, Photoshop. Make it slim, slim. “Er, I don't want pimple.” You make yourself look so pretty, so handsome.

Why? You want to look good before others! We all understand that!

And have you noticed when you go into lift and there's a mirror in the lift? What do you do? Very few people “bo chap” [colloquial expression used to describe an attitude of indifference] one, know. I see everybody walk in the lift, take a look at themselves, turn around. It's like the body turn first, and then the head turn, because they still want to look some more. And, and I realized, not only do they look at themselves, they look at the tummy - cannot be too fat! Too fat, don't look good! Look at tummy first, so suck it in, suck it in!

And, and we all love to look at ourselves. We all love to be admired by people. And, and if you don't already notice, do you know that if you go to lift lobbies in hotels, they usually have big mirrors? Why ah? Because they know, hoteliers, they know, that if you are just preoccupied with yourself in the mirror, you don't mind waiting too long for the lift. Because you enjoy looking at yourself. You enjoy looking good in front of others.

Now that's quite understandable, but that's deadly when it comes to the spiritual sense. It's deadly when we like to say to people, “Hey! Do you know how many chapters of the Bible I read?” “Hey! Do you know what, I prayed two hours yesterday?” “Hey! Do you know how many ministries, I, I serve in?” “Hey Pastor! Do you know how much money I give to the church or not?”

We love people to admire what we do. But that's deadly!

John Blanchard says, “Hypocrisy is nothing better than skin-deep holiness.” Think about it! Is your holiness something that springs from the inside, or is it just something you put on, on the outside? Hypocrisy is when you have nothing on the inside, and you still want people to admire you. And that's deadly!

Let's turn this positively. So what's the proper motivation for the Christian? Well, certainly I think we should not be performing before man like the Scribes and Pharisees. But I think the motivation for the Christian as we are reminded here must be a genuine passion for God on the inside. And that's why you and I, we need to hear the Gospel.

That's why you and I, we need to marinate, soak in the Gospel. Because it's in this Good News of God's love for us in Jesus Christ, that we see a love that can ignite our heart with love. It's only when we really understand the Gospel, and repent and believe in Jesus, that God gives you a new heart. You can never serve God with an unregenerate heart. It will never love God!

And so we all need to hear the Gospel, believe the Gospel, so that finally our hearts are changed. So that we are born again, we are new creation, we have a new heart that really bleeds for God. And we need to be reminded of the Gospel to be fuelled regularly with His love for us.

And maybe with that - and I'm sure with that, with a new heart, regularly soaking, fuelled with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we then will love God, as His Holy Spirit brings this realities into our lives.

There is no proper worship and service to God without the Gospel. Because it's only the Gospel that tells us of God's love, and we can only love God because He first loved us.

3. The Instruction

Finally, in this passage, I’d like to inform you about the instruction that Jesus gives. So having exposed their skin-deep hypocrisy, having exposed their heart motivation, now Jesus gives an, a word of instruction to His disciples and to the crowds. [Matthew 23:8-10]

He says to them, “Don't be like these guys who love to be called ‘Rabbi’, ‘father’, ‘instructors’.” Now, I'm sure you know that these are terms of reverence - respectful terms. And Jesus is saying, “Don't be called, don't call someone father, neither be called instructors.” Now, let me say this: I don't think Jesus is absolutely forbidding anyone to call someone else “teacher”. Therefore, by inference, I don't think Jesus is forbidding anyone to call someone else “Pastor”. Jesus is also not saying that you cannot use the word “father” in a spiritual sense.

I don't think that's what he meant. Because later on, we see the other apostles use the same terms. Apostle Paul said: “I became your” - what? “Father in Christ Jesus through the gospel”. [1 Corinthians 4:15]

We see also James said, “Not many of you should become teachers”. [James 3:1] So some of you should become teachers.

And then we see, John say: “I write to you, fathers”. [1 John 2:14]

So, is it wrong to use these terms? Certainly not in an absolute sense. But when Jesus says you are not to be called “Rabbi”, “father”, “instructors”, I understand contextually to be saying: Don't live your life aiming to be called these things. Don't engineer your life in such a way that you will promote yourself in front of others to be called these things. So again, the issue is not exactly the term itself, but the motivation behind it.

So instead of promoting yourself before men, think about this - devote yourself to serve. “The greatest among you shall be your servant.” [Matthew 23:11] So instead of promoting yourself, you prefer others. Instead of promoting yourself, you prioritize others. Be a servant! That's the instruction Jesus gives.

And so He gives this principle, unchanging principle, of the Kingdom of God: "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." [Matthew 23:12] You want to go up, then you go down. If you want to go down, then you go up. It's a reverse order in the Kingdom of God.

And this is not the first time Jesus had said this. He already alluded to it earlier in Matthew 20: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” [Matthew 20:26-27]

Greatness is not seen in your IQ, in your degrees, in your worldly achievements. Not in the car you drive, not in the house you live in. Greatness is seen in service. It's that simple. It's that clear.

When we had the Covid-19 situation, we knew that we needed to step up temperature screening measures. So we needed to get people to do it. And the first port of call for us was some of those who are already serving in the ushering, greeting ministry, in the traffic marshals. But it's not enough, because some may not be able to turn up all the time, and we totally understand that.

So the next port of call we did was to call the deacons, and then, we called the elders. And then, you know what's the response? You see, all scared. Don't know how our Deacons would say? Will they, will they, with they be upset? What will our elders - Wah! The elders say, “Wah! Why you all ask us to do, track this temperature screening. Wah! You know, this is benea -””

No, no. Nothing like that ever happened. It was so good, and so encouraging when the deacons, the elders chipped in, and say, “Yeah, I'm available. Let me know anytime.” And, and it was great.

You see, we need to understand leadership here is not bossing over people. It's not seen as the – “Wah! The celebrity.”

I'm so scared when people say, “Wah! Finally meet you. You're like celebrity.” Please this, this guy is a nobody. And I think all the pastors here, I would say, we understand we are not here to be celebrities.

We're not here to be, to be praised or admired by men. God forbid! What's there to praise in sinners! But we all recognize leadership is by example, leadership is by service, and that's the way of the Kingdom.

It's so encouraging to see people serve. I always take note of this example, and I'll say it again. You know, when we used to have meals, a lot of cooking is done, thank God for all the volunteers who cook, but you know after cooking, you need to wash, right? You know who washes the things for you? How many of you have washed the pots and pans before? In our church – and not at home lah! At home, I know lah, but at church - you wash the pots and pans, how many of you?

We don't think about these things. But you know who wash the pots and pans here? They serve in such a way that none of you know, right? If you only take a look beside the kitchen, you will see a group of them regularly. Who do it? “Cham” [colloquial expression used to signify distress, or that things are in a dire state] lah! You all just focus on your food. They are the young adults. Do you know that?

I tell you something about them. I don't think they even wash their pots and pans at home. But they are willing to wash it here! What I'm saying is that that is not instinctive, not natural to them. It's not their usual thing! But they are willing to do it faithfully, consistently because they understand, that's what Christianity is about. It's about service - humble service.

I, I've little things to share, but just one more. There's a ministry leader in our church, I won't mention his name. Successful in his career, very successful in his career, I think very regarded, leads a ministry here, stays back late because that's what it entails. And there are food and drinks leftover, utensils everywhere.

And when all the members leave, he'll be the one to stay back, I've watched him do it. He will be the ones, one stay back, staying back to wash the flasks, the cups and so on and so forth. No complaints. No fanfare. Doesn't walk around - “Hey! Look! Look! Look! I'm washing.”

You would - if you don't look carefully, you won't see it. But, but that's what I think is so powerful. Because it's not done for the praise of man. It's not showing it off. He's just doing his, his, his devotion to God; that's his worship. How we pray that this church will be filled with people who understand - greatness is seen in service.

You say, “Why?” “Oh! Because we want to follow our leaders.” No, no, no, no. Your leaders are terrible. I'm terrible, I fail in so many ways; don't follow me. But follow only in as far as we follow Jesus.

But let me tell you, the example you should follow is definitely the Son of God, Jesus Christ Himself. “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” [Mathew 20:26-28]

That's why we serve. Why? Jesus served. He's our example. Jesus gave His life for me! How can I not serve Him? And if you really understand the Gospel folks, if you understand the Gospel that God has saved you, forgiven you, reconciled you to himself, purely based on the work of Jesus Christ, then you are an heir, a co-heir with Christ, you are child of God. And if God has given you His Son, how will He not with Him freely give you all things?

The point I'm saying here is if you really understand that Jesus gave his life for you, then you can be freed and liberated from being a grabbing man, from being having to fight for yourself. But now you can have the peace, the assurance, the joy, the delight to lay down your life for others.

That's what the Gospel is all about! It's not just for sinners to be saved, but for Saints to continue to lay down their lives for Jesus.

And my friends, when you follow Jesus, you will never be a loser. I mean, Jesus - He suffered, He was crucified, but where is He now? He's risen at the right hand of the throne of God. And those who lay down their lives will never be the loser. That's what it means to follow Jesus!

And I pray that this church will be a church that is marinated, soaking in the Gospel, preaching to ourselves that Gospel reality - Jesus gave His life for me. Oh, I'm free! I'm free not to grab, but to give. Oh, I'm loved! Nothing shall separate me from the love of God. Oh, I need to follow Him - because that is the path to real glory.

Will you follow Jesus today? Will we be a church that is willing to humble ourselves, to wash feet like Jesus did?

I pray this will not be a humanistic church. I pray we will not be a people who admire some big shots here and there. And we are people who like to strut our stuff around. Oh, let us all gird up the loins of our mind, and let us be willing to wash feet. May God use us in a world that is so familiar with grabbing, to be a people who will be giving, because God first gave His son for you.

Let's bow for a word of prayer together.

The message of the Gospel is a stunning message of God's generous gift to man. Jesus came not to be lording over us in His first coming, but He came to give His life for us. He came and set that example. He washed His disciples feet, He laid down His life on the cross. That is to say to you, one and all: “You are loved, you are graced, you're forgiven, and you now are free to live for others.”

Christianity is a path to greatness. There is no question. Greatness in the glory of God. But that path to greatness is a path of servanthood. It's a path where we will humble ourselves.

Would you pray with us together, that God will humble His people here. That the leadership of this church will always be filled with men who do not abuse or bully or domineer, or dominate over people, but we will be a people who would live God's Word, set examples, and serve one another.

I pray that as you are deacon, elder, care group leader, ministry leader, DG leader, as you are a parent even, that that will characterize your ministry and your parenting.

And if you today do not know Jesus, come to Him today, because He gave His life for you, that you might be saved from your sin. May God bless you, that you repent and believe in the Son of God, who alone is the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.

So Father, we thank You this morning, that we can hear Your Word. And we pray that You'll bless each one here that we will respond to You with joy, with gratitude, with confidence in the Gospel.

Oh mould and shape our lives, renew our minds. We are so conditioned to believe life is about grabbing, it's about climbing on top of people. But help us to follow Jesus, realizing that the path to greatness is really getting beneath people, serving them, preferring them, honouring them, loving them.

Lord, our hearts need to be still and know that You are God. Our hearts need to be fuelled with the love of the Gospel, need to be filled with the hope of the Gospel, need to be filled with the faith of the Gospel. So by Your Holy Spirit, do that, right here, right now, would You?

And please, touch hearts of men and women today who need to be saved. Turn their eyes to Jesus who said: “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father, but by Me.” Save souls for Your glory.

And we thank You and pray all this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.


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