13 Oct 2019
Someone said, “In the first century in Palestine, Christianity was a community of believers. Then Christianity moved to Greece and became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome and became an institution. Then it moved to Europe and became a culture. And then it moved to America and became a business. ” But commercialising Christianity was way before America. Jesus had to cleanse the Temple in Jerusalem from unscrupulous and hypocritical businesses that make use of God's name. Even today, false teachers exploit God's people with false words to feed their greed. Check out this sermon to watch out for the danger signs and what the church should focus on instead. May God change dens of robbers to be houses of prayer.
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Gospel Light is a simple church, we want to help people come into a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ. It's not about the building. It's not about the facilities. It's all about Jesus because He is God's Son, sent into this world to save you and I from our sins. So we would want that you would be able to understand this Good News of Jesus and that you may repent and believe upon Him.
We believe one of the best ways to be helping you come into a life changing relationship with Jesus is to teach the Bible. The Bible is God's Word. The Bible is God's revelation of how Jesus is indeed the Promised Messiah. So today, let's continue our journey in the book of Matthew and chapter 21. If you have a Bibles, it'd be great if you could turn there, so that you may constantly refer to the words therein. But let me start today with a very, I think, interesting quote. It goes like this.
“In the first century in Palestine, Christianity was a community of believers.
Then Christianity moved to Greece and became a philosophy.
Then it moved to Rome and became an institution.
Then it moved to Europe and became a culture. [You go to Europe today, you see the forms, the outward appearance of Christianity, but it has been lost! The essence of it has been largely lost.
And then the very last statement] And then it moved to America and became a business”.
I think this is a very insightful quote. It will take us time to look at every specific saying here but I just like to focus on the last one today - Christianity moved to America and became a business.
Do you realize today Christianity can be business? Do you realize today people can want to make money out of Christianity? It is a multi-million, multi-billion, if you may call it industry in many parts of the world. People sell Christian books. People sell music CDs. People sell their products. People urge the congregation to give sometimes not for the sake of the Gospel, but to give so that they may have jet planes and a lavish lifestyle. Christianity can be a kind of business.
This week I read about a pair of sneakers, a pair of shoes, a rather special pair of shoes. Let me show them to you. It looks like this, exactly like this. Ordinary but in a way something special. Now all the youths are very excited, I do not know why, but they have this affiliation with sneakers more than we do. Can you tell me what's so special about this sneaker?
Sorry? Water. Where's the water? In the sole. Wah! You guys are good! Young people are really good at this. Yes, you see water here. What else? The cross. Very good. What else? The Nike logo. Yes, it's made by Nike. Excellent! What else? The verse. What verse is this? Matthew 14:25.
I regularly have feedback from the church that my words are too small. But when it comes to this, you can see very clearly ah! So Matthew 14:25. Do you know what verse it is about? Jesus walking on water.
Now, now, this is a special pair of shoes - just released. I read about it this week, It says, “This is white Nike AirMax 97’s, filled with 60cc of holy water from the River Jordan.” Not only that, it is special water from River Jordan. Why? Because the article says, “To let you walk on water, the soles of each pair have have been injected with water from the Jordan River, which they say has been blessed by a priest.” Special holy water from Jordan.
And it goes on to say that, “There's a crucifix. There's a Bible verse, Matthew 14:25, where Jesus walks on water, and several other Christian-y symbols.” Now let me ask you, “How much do you think this pairs of sneakers should sell for?” $1,000 ah! Wah, you all greedy, greedy people. How much? 10,000 ah! Wah! How much you think it should sell for? 1000! 4000!
Eh, let me ask you, “What's the cost price of a pair of shoes?” By the way, I'm sure it's made in China. How much do you think the cost price is for a pair of sneakers? 40? Wah, this sounds like a auction market suddenly, not a church. $300! Cost price, cost price, cost price! $50!
I have no clue but I'm pretty sure it's a lot less than that, in China, right. I think it's maybe in USD10, 20USD max, for a pair of shoes. How much does the water from River Jordan costs? Hah? River Jordan. Just go and scoop, lah! 60cc, not a lot what! And how much do you think a priest cost?
Well, you add it all together, I don't think it's going to be astronomical but these shoes are made available on StockX and it is available for bidding and the starting bid, starting bid is 3000USD. It is good business, don't you think? But Christianity as a business did not start with America, way before that. I tell you have a story today of how business can creep into the Christian faith and that's what we are looking at in the “Messiah Revealed”, part two.
So last week we looked at Jesus' last entry into Jerusalem, we called this - the triumphal entry. He did not write in on a military horse, but He rode in on a humble donkey. Because He is telling us that He is King but a very different kind of King, not a King that crushes people in His first coming, but a King who saves people in His first coming.
He did not come to take lives, He came to give His life. But the very next event we read of in Matthew 21 is the entry of Jesus into the temple. By the way, this is the very next day and this is also the second time Jesus entered the temple to cleanse the temple. The very first time was found in John, chapter 2 at the beginning of His ministry.
So now at the end of His ministry, as it were, He enters Jerusalem again and He throws out the money changers, the people who were selling and buying the animals. He was cleansing his Father's house. So the Bible reads, “Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written My house shall be called a house of prayer,” but you have made it or you make it a den of robbers.”” [Matthew 21:12-13]
Today, we're going to look at what it means to take business out of Christianity. I think this is something that our country might be familiar with as well. We might have seen some business practices in the faith, and how people are enriching themselves in the name of God. And we must be careful because Jesus took this very, very seriously.
There are three things I want to share with you about the temple here that may lead you to the understanding of this truth. First of all, I want to share with you the purpose of the temple. What was God's original intention for this gathering place. Secondly, I want you to see the perversion that has taken place in the temple. And thirdly, I'd like you to see the priority of the ministry of the temple. And so, let's start.
1]. Purpose of The Temple
First of all, what's the purpose of the temple? Jesus, quoted from the Old Testament say, “It is written with regards to the temple, God's house - My house, shall be called a house of prayer.” [Matthew 21:13] Now I want you to realize the temple is a place for prayer, but it is more than prayer as well. It's not just where people gather to pray, but there are other things that are mentioned.
How do you know that? Well, He quoted from the Old Testament, “It is written…” So this is a direct quotation from Isaiah 56. So centuries before Jesus entered the temple, Isaiah had already written God's plan for the temple. Here in Isaiah 56:7, it is said, “These, I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer, their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.”
So even a very simple look at verse 7, will reveal to you that the House of Prayer is not just for prayer, although prayer must be included. But it's also a place where people rejoice, a place where people bring their offerings, a place where people offer their sacrifices.
And then you look at verse 6, this is a place where foreigners who join themselves to the Lord will come. This is a place where people who want to minister to the Lord will come. This is a place where people who love the Name of the Lord will come. This is a place where people who know themselves and recognize themselves as servants of God will come. This is a place where people keep the Sabbath and hold fast to God's covenant who keeps His Word.
In other words, the purpose of the temple is that it is a house of prayer, that is a general term that includes other activities, for those who would want to come to minister to Him, love Him, serve Him, obey Him. This is a place where people come with joy, a people where they offer sacrifices and worship. So that's the purpose of the temple! It's a gathering place where all these worship, sacrifice, praise, love, service would take place.
So the psalmist would tell us, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”” [Psalm 122:1] This is where, as a community, as a nation, as a people, we come and worship and praise and sacrifice and serve the Lord.
Christianity is something very personal. I can't believe the Gospel on behalf of my two sons. It's just like when I eat, I can't eat for my two sons, they've got to eat themselves! Christianity is personal but at the same time, Christianity is also public. It's communal. It's not altogether private. Yes, there is private devotion, but there is also communal living. There's community of faith that we need to honour. So in God's plan for Israel, they are to gather in the house of God where they can together communally worship, sacrifice, serve and love the Lord.
So today that's why we have communal ministries. We have worship services like this, where we all get together. And why do we get together? To worship God, to give, to sacrifice, to serve, to love Him, to obey Him to hear His Word that we may know what it means to obey Him. That's why we have our care groups, that's why we have discipleship groups, because Christianity though personal, is also communal. So the Old Testament equivalent gathering place, the temple is a significant place for devotion and worship.
2]. Perversion Of The Temple
But this place is now perverted, it's corrupted. The original purpose is side-tracked to be a cover for their wicked deeds. Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers.” [Matthew 21:13]
You say, “What's a den?” A den is kind of an enclosure, a kind of a cave, a kind of a place for refuge and protection and shelter. You can imagine that, right? A den, “Oh, I'm actually not welcome outside, I will be caught, I will be exposed outside, but if I hide here, I'll be safe. No one will find me out, I'll be secured, I'll be protected.”
And so the temple of God, which is meant for worship and devotion has now been corrupted to be a kind of hiding place, a kind of disguise, a kind of shelter for wicked people who want to fleece others. It's become a den of robbers, of sinful wicked men.
You say, “How did this happen?” Well, once again, I want you to know that this phrase, ‘den of robbers’ is likely taken from Jeremiah 7:11, “Has this house which is called by name become a den of robbers in your eyes. Behold, I myself have seen it declares the Lord.” And so Jesus might have borrowed that phrase and used it here in Matthew 21. First phrase, Isaiah 56, second phrase, maybe Jeremiah 7:11.
But what has happened that the house of God that should be a place for love and devotion should be corrupt. I want you to remember that this period of time is the last week of the life of Jesus on earth. And this is the Holy Week, because this is the week leading up to the great feast - the Passover feast, that's going to happen on Friday.
And the Passover is a very important ceremony and feast day for the whole of Israel. It's the day where every Jewish male, 12 years and above, regardless of where you are, you have to come back to Jerusalem to offer your Passover sacrifice. It's a … it's a ceremony that reminds Israel of their roots - how God saved Israel out of Egypt.
So during this season, this is peak season, holiday season as it were. Jews from all over the world will flock to Jerusalem. Some 2 million people will pack into that tiny city in those days. And then they will have to bring a sacrifice. Now, where do you find a sacrifice? Some of you say, “Easy lah! I'll just bring one from my home.”
It kind of remind me when I was in … I lived in Jalan Kayu and Jalan Kayu is famous for Roti Prata. So in those days, I recall my family, sometimes we bring eggs to the Prata Shop’s owner. “Uncle, Egg Prata” But you give him your egg. Why? Cheaper lah!
Now, nowadays kosong [zero in Malay, the context here means plain prata], $1. Egg, $2 right? How much does your egg cost? $1! At home, I … I … NTUC, I buy 10 cents, 15 cents, whatever, it's so much … So anyway, you would imagine that the people who come to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice will bring their own animals.
But herein is the problem, there are some who can bring because they may be nearer. But what if you stay very far, by the time your animal come here, they died from exhaustion. And number two, it's even more significant even if you have brought an animal from your hometown, which is nearby. There's a high chance your sacrifice won't be accepted. Why? Why?
Okay, alright, you understand that for Old Testament sacrifices, they must be for example lambs without blemish. So you choose a very good lamb and in your eyes they look unblemished but by the time they come here, and the priest take a look, any small problem he will say, “Not accepted. You must get from, you must get from our temple. Temple brand one! Temple brand lamb or pigeon accepted, otherwise no!”
You see, what has happened is that knowing that the Jews will have to come back to sacrifice, they have set up businesses in the temple courts. This is known as the Court of the Gentiles where anyone could come. It's a huge space and you would imagine many of these merchants setting up stores to sell lambs and pigeons and animals for sacrifices. And they will be in cahoots with the priests, unless you have this temple brand as it were, likely your sacrifice will not be accepted.
So they are able to charge exorbitant prices for the animals. No choice! You love God you have to sacrifice to God, it's commanded. You have to buy from them. So historians tell us, that a pigeon that is usually sold for 30 cents could be sold for $15 in the temple. It's a serious mark-up! And the problem is that there's no anti competition watch dog there. They're free reign to do whatever, whatever they want.
So in the name of God, in the name of religion, in the disguise of saying, “We are doing you a service so that you may worship God.” They actually extort and, and fleece God's people that way. Now, you would also recall that Jesus overturned the tables of money changers. You say, “What is that all about?”
Well, not, not just a Jewish male, but every Jew has to pay a tax for the temple. You call it - the temple tax. And the temple tax has to be paid for with money, but you can't use ordinary money. If you today … Okay, do me a favour, alright, just waste you 10 seconds. Go to your wallet, I'm not asking you to give money ah, just go to your wallet, take out your wallet and take out a coin. Go, go ahead, take a coin. take out a bill, if you can, take a look at your money.
Okay if you look at your money, what do you see on your money? Yusof Ishak. Who is Yusof Ishak? Our first President of Singapore. So it is common that on your currency, on your money, there will be images of your kings. And in those days not only do they have images of their kings, like Jesus later would say, “Render … .“ “What do you see on your coin? Caesar. “So render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's.” So it's common in those days that they will have inscriptions or images of kings and of gods.
So the Jews would say, “We cannot offer these pagan things to God. You've got to you use Jewish money.” Now where you get Jewish money if you stayed from overseas. They don't have money changers like we have that in those days so easily. So you need to change money and where do you change? At our temple and we will provide you this money changing service at a small processing fee.
So they use these mechanisms to earn money out of religion. Now, what's even more interesting is that not only are these little stallholders and money changers earning, it's part of a franchise. What, what franchise? Well, in those days, the position of the high priest is not given to the most holy man or to the most godly man, or to the most respected man. The post of the high priest is up for tender, put up for tender by Caesar and the highest bidder will get the office of the high priest.
So why would people bid high for the high priest? Because there is money involved. When you are the high priest, you can determine who will be the one setting up stores in your temple and how much of a cut you will get from it. This is so prevalent that historians tell us that the temple was known as the bazaars of Annas.
Annas was the high priest then, he paid a high price. He set up this franchise and he's the one who gets a cut out of every deal. Every lamb this guy sells, he gets your money. No wonder his priests would say to your offering, “Brought from your hometown - no go! Get from our temple. Temple brand.”
The house of God, which is a place for devotion and worship and sacrifice and love has not become a hiding place, a secure place where people seem to do God's people a service, but are actually devouring them like wolves.
Pastor Paul, when I was growing up in this church, learning the Bible, he regularly said this, “Religion is very good business,” with regards to false teachers, of course! It is very good business! Now, we are not saying, I'm not saying, “The Bible is not teaching business is bad.” Nope! The Bible is also not against profit, actually. It is Biblical to do business and to have profit. There's nothing wrong with that!
But when you do business in the name of God, in the name of religion, to line your own pockets, that is wicked. When you do business in a way that is to cheat and extort people in the name of God, that is wicked and it is tragic. It is travesty that people today would use God's Name, the church, the Name of Jesus Christ, to earn money for themselves. The House of God has become a den of robbers. That again is not new to our day and age.
In the times of Jesus, He said, “Beware of the scribes who devour widows houses.” [Luke 20:46-47] Why are these guys religious leaders? They really love God? No! Some of them are in it for the money. Why are there false teachers in the world today? Don't imagine every preacher is true. Don't you ever believe that!
The Bible tells us of a reality. Satan is a great counterfeiter and there are men who teach falsehoods. Why? Because they are greedy. “In their greed, they exploit you with false words.” [2 Peter 2:3] So they tell you enticing words. They tell you nice sounding things, so that you may believe them, and you give thinking you're giving to God but actually you are giving for his own lavish lifestyle. So we must be aware of the commercialization of Christianity.
Can I ask you what are some of the danger signs, that may alert you to the commercialization of Christianity? What are some of the danger signs that you think this is not so much a church that worships God or teaches about worship, but this is now a church that is actually doing business? What are some of the warning signs? I sat down and thought about it for a while. I came up with three simple things. Well, three warning signs, in my opinion.
Warning Sign 1: Unbalanced Teaching On Giving Money
Number one, I think we need to be alert when the church has an unbalanced teaching on giving. Now, let me be clear, it is necessary to teach about giving because it's in the Bible. The Bible teaches about giving and therefore, or the Bible records teachings of giving, and therefore it's appropriate to teach about giving. Nothing wrong with that! It is more blessed to give than to receive. It's not a bad thing but the issue here is when it is unbalanced teaching on giving.
What I mean by that is, no matter what passage the, the pastor or the preacher refers to, it always comes back to giving. Something is seriously wrong. Every sermon giving? Hah, so many passages on giving meh? No! But he is strategically using God's Word for his own purpose.
So when there is unbalanced, so every message is about giving, instead of the Gospel, it's about money, giving of your money. Or when they include unbiblical motivations to the teaching of giving. For example, they say, “If you give to God $10 today, God will bless you 100-fold, you will get back $1,000. It's a very good way to invest!” Jialat [saps one’s energy in Hokkien dialect], then that, that, that is unbiblical.
Now the Bible does say, “We will not lack. He is our provider when we give.” But it's not to provide for you to live a lavish lifestyle.” It's not for you to imagine God is a fool who does not know your heart that you are giving not because you love to give, not because you love God, but because you are lustful and greedy and love yourself. So when a church has unbalanced teaching on giving, that's where red flags should come up.
Warning Sign 2: Excessive Sale of Product
A second red flag I think that we should be watching out for is when, like a brother here has said, “There's excessive sale of products.” Every day it's about, “Buy my book. I've just written a new book. Buy my book!” “Our worship leader has come up with a new song, buy his album. Support his CD, go iTunes.” Don't know what. “And buy and distribute these, buy, buy, buy, don't just buy one book, everybody buy 20 book, give to your friend.”
Now when there is, now it's nothing wrong with sometimes selling Christian books, I'm not running down Christian bookshops. I'm not running down Christian authors. But when it is excessive, when it's always about your products, something is really wrong.
I read of people selling books and CDs and not only that, selling anointing oil. Have you …? It's on websites in church, in Singapore, anointing oil. You say, “What anointing oil? For cooking? No. Anointing oil is used to bless you. You say, “How?” They give testimonies like this, that there is a student who always got D and E and F for his Chinese. He got a bottle of anointing oil, during exam time, dip, dip, dip on the edges of the exam paper and then he got A and B. Now I know exam time ah, some of you may want to buy anointing oil, but we don't sell, alright.
You buy our church anointing oil, prayed over by the pastor, there's even video of the pastor praying over the oil. It's like the priest who prayed over the River Jordan water lah! Free water can sell $3,000 刀标油 [dāo biāo yóu, a brand of cooking oil] can pray and then it become… I don't know how much they sell, but they sell that.
Another use of anointing oil, you can anoint your car. Put over your car so that no accident. You can anoint the doorpost of your house so that when you go in and out, you will be protected from harm and danger and. And these things are happening all around us, whether you realize it or not.
Warning Sign 3: Culturally Accommodating Messages
The third red flag I would suggest is when the church focuses or preaches culturally accommodating messages. Now, I'm not saying that we should not preach culturally relevant messages. Truth is not to be taught just in an academic pursuit way. Truth must be applied to life. Your message should be relevant, it should not be irrelevant, alright? Don't teach it as if it is divorced from your life. But we must not preach culturally accommodating messages.
The difference is this - we must not preach messages that people like or rather, we must not only preach messages that people like. There are many aspects of the Bible truth that people don't like. Why? Because truth is sharp. God is holy and we are sinful. The flesh does not like to be reproved,. The flesh does not like to be rebuked. But truth is truth and we must preach it uncompromisingly and relevantly. But we must not preach it in an accommodating way, we must not preach accommodating messages.
That's the tactic of the false teacher. They entice you with enticing words of man's wisdom. So when we see this or when I see this my red flags go up. On the other hand, I think let's switch to the positive aspect. What should our church or what should churches really be focused on? Instead of these, I think deviance, what should we be looking at?
Focus 1: Giving, Not Getting
Number one, I think as a leadership, I hope as a leadership, I hope that Gospel Light, going forward, we will focus ourselves more on how we should give, than what we should how we should get. I'm talking more about the leadership here. Is there a strategizing how we should get more offerings and funds and so on, we should really think about stewardship and how as a church we should give for the sake of the Gospel.
Let me try to illustrate this. I know of two pastors, I read about them, I watched their videos recently about their royalties. Royalties are money you get paid for the copyrights to your books. These two are prolific well-known authors.
First one, let me show you his picture. Anybody knows who this is? His name is Randy not Pope, you have met him before. Randy Alcorn. Doesn't ring a bell? Okay, alright, okay, Randy Alcorn. He's famous and well known. Why? Because he has sold 11 million books. That's quite a bit, right? No ah? 11 million books. How much royalty has he gotten out of 11 million books? How much you guess? 11 million. Quite close lah. He has gotten 8 million USD as royalties. But look at what he does with his royalties.
“Some have wondered, if I realized what we could have done with our over 8 million dollars. My answer is always the same. “Nothing that would have brought us nearly as much joy as we have found in giving it away.” I firmly believe they are not my book royalties. They are God's. Nanci and I certainly don't need them and it delights us to see God using them to touch lives all over the world.””
He did not write the books to earn money. Now again, I'm not saying, “That people cannot write books and be supported through the royalties of the books.” But I see also people who realize that they are supported by the local church. They are ably or aptly supported already and they do not want to use their writing abilities as a means to make money out of their writings.
Another man, I'll share with you, he's, I think for sure, more famous than Randy Alcorn. He has wrote more books than Randy Alcorn. I'm sure he has sold more books that Randy Alcorn. He has more royalties than Randy Alcorn. I just do not know the exact sum but I'm sure he has more. His name? Rick Warren? Huh, huh, Okay, not quite Rick Warren. I'm going to share with you about John Piper.
Or [sounds like yam in Hokkien dialect, the context here is I finally I get it], hung zi [sweet potato in Hokkien dialect], or. Okay, so let's look at, let's look at a video of what he does with the royalties that he has received over the years.
“I've always felt that when I was working in Bethlehem, 33 years as a pastor, and now working for Desiring God Bethlehem College Seminary, these folks pay me enough. Like everybody else, I get a wage for what I do and I don't need those royalties. That … that's, that's the first thought.
A second thought I had was - it's dangerous to be rich. Jesus said, “It's hard for a rich person to get into the Kingdom of heaven.” He said, “Those who desire to be rich, stumble into all kinds of desires that pierce the soul.” He said, “It's more blessed to give than to receive.” He said, “Freely you've received freely give.”
So everything that I admire in the Bible about Jesus and everything that I look at by way, the danger disinclines me to work to take these royalties, because there's a lot of it and I will be rich. So we created, Noel and I – ‘The Desiring God Foundation’.
So there's a board now, of five people, five or six people. And the charge to the foundation, I think is twofold - to own and protect, own and guard the copyrights, the wording of everything I write, all my intellectual property. And secondly, to take the royalties that is paid to those copyrights and channel them into ministry.
So we keep about $10,000 in the bank, there are all kinds of tax reasons for that and channel the rest of it. So once a year, the board gets together usually in December, sometimes in September, and we have a wonderful time. Deciding, okay, let's give away our money and we do.
And so the idea is simply - protect ourselves from the dangers of wealth. I’m by no means poor for goodness sakes. You know, on the world standards, I'm palatially rich. We're in a house. I own this house. I'm rich! Good grief! Who needs all that stuff! It's so dangerous! So that's one piece, protect yourself from those kinds of horrific dangers and, and channel all that money back into ministry. And enjoy the blessings, it's more blessed to give than to receive.”
So the church, our leadership, I pray, we will be focused more on giving than on getting. I think we have good roots. When this church started some 31,32 years ago, Pastor Paul, of course, was the founding pastor of this church. Up to today, he has not taken a single cent by way of salary or support for himself. He did not begin the church or start the church for monetary reasons.
And in the early days, we have no staff, head count and so a lot of what you have given was given back directly into the Gospel ministry, missions and Gospel work. And I pray that will be the case for our church, that we will be thinking of how we should steward the resources God has placed in our hands.
We, as a church therefore, love to give things freely. Sermons are free. Seats here are free. Power Point slides are free. Our, our, our videos and so on, they are free. Food is free, by the way, for those who are new today, we want to encourage you to join us for some free food, alright! It’s downstairs, lunch time, we would love for you to join us for fellowship. It's free! Now in a sense, it's not free, it's provided by the giving of God's people here but yes, it's, it's free.
You, you don't have to be a member to eat with us. You don't even have to worship to eat with us. Last week, I heard a family came to our church for the first time. But they did not come for service, they only came for lunch. I'm so glad that our people did not refuse them. They did not, “Eh, you go service or not? Never go? Go, go, go first then you come and eat.” I'm so glad our people didn't say that or do that! But they served as we as we usually do.
And, and then another couple or brethren from our church went down and befriended them, sat with them and talked with them and, and understood their situation and invited them for, they have two kids and invited their kids to join us in Sunday school this week, invited the couple to join us in our Chinese service this week. I'm not sure if they came, I'm looking forward to their coming.
But that's what it is! We don't want to charge, we don't make money out of God's Name and long may that continue. Our counselling is free, classes, lots of it is free. That's what it should be! This house is a house of prayer, it's where people sacrifice and give and serve and worship and pray. Let this not be a business place. So giving not getting, that's what we should focus on.
Focus 2: Worship, Not Business
The second thing I want to share is that we need to focus on the fact that we gather for worship and not for business. You say, “This obvious.” I say, “Yes, it's obvious but it's not quite true in many places because I know people go to church…” When I was younger, I asked, “Why they go to church?” They say, “I go to church, look for girlfriend. They are sweeter, nicer, more decent there! So go to church to …? People go to church for all kinds of reasons.
And people go to church also for business, that's where you get a lot of business contacts. That's where you could sit together with a CEO, CFO and you are one. I mean, if you go to their company, you may not even get to meet them. So good to go to church, a lot of upper middle-class people. Give them my name card, solicit some business.
Many years ago, my wife and I, we were looking for a place to get ,to stay in. We called up a property agent, we appeared at the place and lo and behold, it was one of our church members. I didn't know that he was a property agent. I said, “Hey, how come, you never told anyone that you are ..?” He said “No, no, no, no, I go to church and I make it a principle not to solicit business. I go to church to worship God.” Hats off to my brother. I absolutely respect that commitment and conviction.
Very little, very few events over these years as pastor has, have really upset me really. You have been a wonderful people, but one incident I can remember vividly was when there was some commercial activity that was taking place in the midst of the congregation. There were people actively soliciting business. They were actively promoting their goods. They were actually selling some products to members of this church.
Not only that, after they have sort of done that, spread amongst the people they know, they began to look for newcomers to church. And in those days, our church was smaller, you could tell a newcomer quite easily and I'll see them engaged with conversations with newcomers. I thought they were welcoming and sharing with them the Gospel. And then I heard that no, they were there selling their products.
I want to say that when you read the Bible, Jesus was sometimes angry, not a lot. He was sometimes angry and this is one of the few times. I think God takes it very, very seriously. So be careful that we must not make this house of prayer into a den of thieves. Again, nothing wrong for you to do business. Just be careful, there's a line between using God's Name for your own benefit.
Focus 3: Sound Doctrines, Not Popular Worldviews
Number three, I think it corresponds to the third point that was about red flags, and it is - we must focus on teaching sound doctrine and not popular worldviews. It's easy to think that preaching popular worldviews will get more people and with more people, you'll get more offerings. And with more people, you may sell more books, more oils, more CDs. But I think that has must not be in the mind of the preacher because he is not called to get a crowd, he's called simply to preach the word.
2 Timothy 4:2-3 says, “Preach the word.” This is the charge - that the older Paul would say to younger Timothy, “As a pastor, as a preacher, as a servant of the Lord, this is your priority, not about getting popularity votes, but be faithful in preaching the Word, the pure Word of God. Not your hobbies, not your pet subjects, not your hobby horses, but give sound doctrine even if people will not endure it.”
Even if they don't like it, that's fine! It is inevitable, “There comes a time where they will have itching ears and they will accumulate for themselves, teachers to suit their own passions. That's fine, but you keep to the task of preaching the Word, giving sound doctrine.”
Like I said, Jesus took this really seriously. He cleansed the temple at the beginning of his ministry, and He cleansed the temple at the end of the ministry. I think the message is crystal clear. “My house shall be called a house of prayer, because this is where all people could come and know the Name of the Lord and give Him glory.” [Isaiah 56:7] Don't you ever, ever corrupt it!
3] Priority Of The Temple
I said, “I'll say three things, I've said two, the purpose of the temple, the perversion of the temple. I want to say lastly, the priority of the temple.”
I met with a brother this week, a fellow pastor of another church. And what was shared to me were burdens of his heart. And as I heard, and he asked me, “What's my burden?” I see my burden is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He says, “That's great!” And he shares with me his burden, is for some social political issues in our country. I say, “That's great but that's not my purpose. That's not my burden, that's not my central focus.”
He asked me, “Why? Don't you care about lives? Don't you care about maybe things like abortions and LGBT movements and political issues all around? Don't you think lives are being lost? Don't you think people are being ruined?” I say, “Yes, it is .. there are.”
“So where do you find your reason for not being deeply involved in these things?” I say, “Very simple, when Jesus was on Earth, I'm very sure he saw a lot of social injustice. When Jesus was on Earth, I'm sure he saw a lot of economic difficulties. I'm sure that when Jesus was on Earth, He saw the corrupt political system. Caesar was a depraved man. I'm sure he saw a lot of problems in the world but He did not go to Caesar's Palace.”
“He did not go to the Courts of Law. He did not go to the New York Stock Exchange. He focused on the temple of God because that is where the crux of the issue is. The priority is the temple and the temple represents worship, sacrifice, obedience, God's Word. That's what we, I hope, as a church will focus on.”
Now, I'm not saying, “Don't be bothered about the social, social, political issues all around us.” It doesn't mean that you cannot work in such arenas. It doesn't mean that you cannot be a politician. No, not at all!” But I'm saying, “As a people, as a church, we have to be the pillars, the buttress of truth and we need to keep preaching, living, giving what? The Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The disciples remembered Jesus, and they said, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” [John 2:17] This is a quote from Psalm 69, verses 8 and 9. And they remembered why Jesus was so angry in the temple. He had a passion for the house of God.
Church members, this church is not mine. It's God's, and it's also yours. I pray we all have a zeal for God's house. We all will preserve the purity of this church. We will not make this community a business. Don't let Christianity come to Punggol and become a business but let this be a place where we gladly sacrifice and worship and obey and honour God because He has given Jesus Christ for us.
Let's bow for a word of prayer together. Maybe today you're here for the first time and you're wondering, “What is this whole message about?” Well, I'm saying, “It's all about worship. It's all about knowing God.” The Church of Jesus Christ must be kept pure so that people would really have the opportunity to come to know God. And I pray today, as you are here, you will have that opportunity to know God.
The only way you can have a right relationship with God is if you repent and believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. The central message of the Bible is not about Christians giving money to God. The central message of the Bible is God giving His Son for Christians, for His people, for His elect. And I say to you my dear friends, “Jesus came to give His life as a ransom as a payment for your sins.”
The command of the Bible today is that you should repent and believe in Jesus. And I want to urge you right here, right now, to come to know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. Discover the joy. Discover the peace. Discover the assurance of knowing this great God through His Son. I pray we will be helping you into a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ.
Once again, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, will we as a people collectively, continue to uphold the integrity, the purity, the authenticity of the Gospel here at Gospel Light? There will be many, many cultural winds that will beat on us but let's hold on to the truth. Let's trust in our God. Let us all pray, “Lord, keep us faithful. May You find us faithful. Let us hold high Your Word.”
I pray you gathered this morning because you love God, because you want to see His Name advance. You want to see more souls saved. You want to see foreigners all throughout the world come to know Jesus. So would you pray for us? Would you pray for this church? Would you pray for all Bible believing churches all around the world, that together as a kingdom, we will be a house of prayer?
Father, thank You this morning for a sobering word. And we pray, that we will not just be tickled by the message but that we would commit ourselves to the preservation, to the prayer of Your Church here. Protect the leaders, protect our members. Together, may we truly be a community of faith and sacrifice, of worship and of service to Your Name. Thank You, we pray all this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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