02 Sep 2012
Years ago, I had an industrial attachment, and I decided to choose a more interesting and colorful one I thought to myself, so I went to McDonald's. And McDonald's, they showed me their fast-food chain system and the manager explained to me that they had charts, charts for every day: what hour of the day, how many customers will come in, what burgers they would buy, what drinks they would order, and so they would prepare in advance to have the freshest and fastest surveys to every customer who walks through. And the manager, as he reflected on the system, he said that there are some problems though, that they face: the old aunties and uncles, they usually come back to throw out the old, cold hamburgers, because they have a time limit: a time shelf life for every burger. In the past, they used to have two-minute, three-minute, one minute, past the one minute, they toss it away, and they get the next batch in. And so the old aunties, uncles, refuse to throw it away: too painful, saiyang (what a waste in Malay), wasted. And so they don't want to throw it away. And the manager said that they had to go in and correct them, persuade them, beg them: please don't spoil the system. Why? Because McDonald's is not just selling hamburgers, they are marketing a brand. They are creating an experience. And they want to maintain the quality and the mission of their restaurant company business. And that is true for McDonald's is even more true for the Church of Jesus Christ.
The Church of Jesus Christ do not belong to any single men. The Church of Jesus Christ belong to Him and Him alone, who saved us and gave his life for us. And so our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a calling. He has given us a mission, and the Church of Jesus Christ must understand and heed the purpose for which we are called. And so today I like to share with you a simple message. It's the calling of the church taken from 1st Peter, chapter 2, verses 9 to 10. 1st Peter, chapter two, verses 9 to 10. If you have your Bibles, can you turn with me so that you can see the passage for yourself. And beginning in verse 4 of 1st Peter chapter 2, it talks about the corporate life of the church, beginning with individual Christians. When they come to the Lord Jesus Christ, Peter say they become living stones. They become living stones, because now they are building blocks in the kingdom of God, every single life counts, and every single life will be shaped, molded, fitted in to be exactly where God wants that person to be, in order to build up what he calls his spiritual house, the dwelling of the Most High. And the Bible goes on to tell us in verses 6 to 8, that Christ is the chief cornerstone of this building. And when we come and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are going to find our purpose, our meaning in Him. When we come to verse 9 of 1st Peter chapter 2, the scripture goes on to give the calling of the church. It says here “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light:” And so today, I want to share with you three simple truths concerning the calling of the church.
1 Peter 2:9a – i. The People in His Calling
We will begin first with the people in his calling: who are the people in his calling? The Scripture tells us that ye are a chosen generation, the word chosen is also translated as elect, it simply means to be chosen. In other words, you are not an accident, I am not an accident, the fact that I got saved and I trusted the Lord has a purpose behind it. And so that is true for all of us who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ. This word is first applied to Christ, He is the elect, he is a chosen Messiah, then to individual Christians. And now here in this passage is applied to the entire church of Jesus Christ, all the body of believers. It was also using the Old Testament to refer to the nation of Israel. It was also used to refer to the nation of Israel because God has an intended purpose, a calling for this nation. But now he is fulfilling this calling in the church. The scripture goes on to tells us that we are a royal priesthood, royal because we are related to the King of Kings, to the Lord of Lords. In other words, you may not think much of yourself as an individual believer, but God thinks much of you. He considers you his own. He says that you belong to Him, you are royalty in His sight, and why are you a priesthood? Because he intends you to be serving him as a royalty, a member of God's family. The Scripture tells us that we are also to be an holy nation. The church is unusual. It is an international body of believers. It doesn't matter whether you are Singaporean, an expatriate, whether you come from the Philippines, from China, every believer comes together to form the Church of Jesus Christ. And the Scripture tells us that this body of believers that is international, is to be holy. You see, these same terms have been applied to the nation of Israel too. It says here, “And ye shall be unto me (in Exodus 19, verse 6), a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” But whenever the nation of Israel failed in His calling to be a holy people, God allowed them to be troubled on every side. God disciplined them and chastened them, because the nation of Israel cannot stoop to the sinful practices of the world. It cannot follow the culture, that is sinful and ungodly in the world. And so, it is true for us as a church. We are to be a holy nation, not just a nation, but a nation that shows its distinctiveness because we are a peculiar people. Now, this peculiarity is an interesting word. This peculiar people don’t mean you need to be weird. It doesn't mean to be strange. It doesn't mean that, you know, when you come here, you try to do something to offend other people just to say, “I'm peculiar. I'm sorry, no, no”, that's not the meaning of the word. The word ‘peculiar’ in the Greek means acquisition. And that means that by extension, you are a people who belongs to God. This is exactly what God says about the nation of Israel. It says, “You shall be a peculiar treasure unto me, above all people.” (Exodus 19:5) In other words, as a church, we find our distinction, our distinctiveness, in the fact that we belong to Jesus Christ. Some people in the world today find their distinctiveness in where they live, what property they buy. Some people find that distinctiveness in where they work, what company they work at, and they take great pride in that. Some people find their distinctiveness in how much they have in their bank account, how rich and well to do they are, in the car they drive. And this is normal for the world. But God says, as a nation, as a people as a priesthood, Church, people of God, your peculiarity, your distinctiveness, what marks you out from all other people on the surface of the Earth is the fact that you belong to God. You belong to God. That matters more than anything else.
And in these four terms, Peter here is emphasizing the corporate nature of our worship. The corporate nature of our calling. It is a sad day for the Christian church, when people think that they by themselves are godly and holy, and so they do not need the rest of the body of believers. That is not true in the Bible, from the beginning to the end. God exists in a holy trinity, in perfect, eternal communion, one with another. When he made man, he said, it’s not good for man to be alone. He needs a wife; he needs a community. And when he called the nation of Israel out, he made 12 tribes, the Bible tells us when the church was first called out, they worship from house to house, they will be constantly worshiping together. And so, we find our calling, not just as individuals, but also as a church. We need to understand that the people of his calling refer, not just to one individual, but to the entire body of believers. These terms, like I mentioned, has been applied to the nation of Israel. But why are they now in the New Testament, repeatedly applied to the church? Because Israel was called to be a witness to the nations. Abraham, when he was called, God said, “In you shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” But now the Lord apply these terms to the church because Israel failed as a people, they rejected the Lord Jesus Christ. So in A.D. 70, God allowed the Roman army to come in and destroy, the time Paul pull down the city and disperse the people because they have failed in their calling. And therefore, in Romans chapter 11, the apostle Paul talking about this, said “And if some of the branches were broken up, referring to the nation of Israel, and thou, referring to the church, being a wild olive tree. Why wild olive tree? Because we were not originally part of the direct plan. The nation of Israel was supposed to spread the gospel to us: the gospel is supposed to be first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles, but you see what happened is the Jews didn't fully carry out their mission. And so, God passed on the mission, the calling, to the church, and you are therefore grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree.” In other words, when Israel as the entire nation rejected the Messiah, God moved on, beyond them, and applied the calling to the Church of Jesus Christ. Remember when Jesus said to the Jews, who said, “Tell your disciples to be quiet”, when he was coming into the city of Jerusalem. And remember, Jesus said, “If I tell them to be quiet, even the stones will cry out,” because God can make even the stones become the sons of Abraham. In other words, God is not limited by those who oppose and reject Him. God wants to fulfill His purpose. And he wants us as a church today to fulfill his calling, “Boast not against that branches,”(Romans 11:18) don't think we are better. “But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee” (Romans 11:18). Remember that we need to base our calling as a church, upon the person and the word and will of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, when we think of all this, we think of the Old Testament the priesthood, and we think of the high priests, all decked out in the ropes, you know, with the ephod, and all that he used to worship, to represent the people to God. When we go on to apply this concept of a priesthood, a royal priesthood to the church today, what do we think of? Now some people in the world today think of the priesthood as the Pope. Right? So, he's all decked out too, and he holds a cross, and he blesses the people. Others may apply this priesthood concept to the Anglican Archbishop, I have never met him, this is a picture of him today, right, the Anglican Archbishop. And so, he is the leader, he is the priest, probably the chief priest among the Anglican worshipers. Now then, the Greek Orthodox Church, there is also the Greek Orthodox Church, and they do have their elders and the elders are also leading the people and they are dressed up in the ceremonial robes and they appear to be priests. Now, when we come to a local Christian church, who do we think of as the priests? Now may I suggest to you that most Christian think of this guy as the priest. It is only natural right? Only natural, you know, me, I small fry, small Christian, this guy wear jackets some more you know, so got tie, then below got title? So, he is the dua tao (big boss) right? He is the chief. He is the priest. Me no. But you know, that is not what the Bible says. It is not modesty to say no, no, no, no, no. I tell you why. Because pride is not pretending to be humble. Pride is resisting the Word of God. Whenever you and I in our own hearts and lives, says no, when God says yes. We say to ourselves, do not do it, when God says, do it. That is pride. Because we are saying, God, I know better than you. God, I do not want to listen to you. And so, for you to say, no, no, I can't serve. I no good. I am so humble. I can't, I can't, you know, young Christian let pastor do it. Is that humility? That is not humility, because that’s disobedience to the Word of God. And that's pride. So, we need to understand, we need to be a people obedient to the call of God. That is why the scripture says here, “But ye are a chosen generation.” The old English ye here reflects the plural in the original. The singular is Thou in the King James translation, but the plural is ye, it tells us that everyone here, my friends, not just the one in the jacket, but wherever you are, wherever you come from, how long you have been saved, does not matter. The fact that you are a child of God, God says you are a chosen people, every one of us are part of his holy priesthood. And that is true in the book of Acts. You find the book of Acts that the believers went everywhere preaching the gospel, though the apostles taught them, but they are the ones who go forth telling the good news. And the Bible tells us that the ordinary believers spread the gospel wherever they went. I'm told that recently there is a very witty comment about GLCC, it says that church here is a moving experience. Today we are here, tomorrow we are at level four then after that we are level don’t know where and we are everywhere. So we are always moving around right, a moving experience. Do you realize that the church throughout the history of the ages has been a moving experience? It has been a moving experience, because wherever the believers moved, the gospel spread. It’s true. I'm not trying to be funny here. Okay, it's true. Have you thought about it? When God moved us from SIM (Singapore Institute of Management) to GCW (Grand Copthorne Waterfront) down here? Do you notice that we have the privilege to share the gospel with the Ob Zion folks? The people we have never thought of before. Now we think of them, we pass food to them. We share the good news with them, we invite them, and they are trusting the Lord and we rejoice. Why? Because church is intended to be a moving experience, not just moving locally, geographically, but moving the hearts of people as the people move. And that's why the Scripture tells us in First Corinthians chapter six, verse 19, to 20, “What, know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God and ye are not your own? Ye, again plural, are bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” God says, wherever you go, next year, we're going to Novotel, another moving experience. But you know what, you should be excited, because when God moves us to Novotel, it means there are new people they want us to reach. The church is not about the building. It's not about the activities. It's not about the program. It's about the people, because the people carry the message with them, wherever they go. Ye are a holy nation. Ye are a royal priesthood, a peculiar people. You should not be marked by where you work, where you live, what you own, you should be marked by the fact that wherever you go, God is with you. They see the touch of the Divine upon your life, that there is a difference. There is a joy, there is a peace, there is a purpose, there is victory that came from the Lord. Glorify God in your body.
In AD 313, something happened in the history of the church, when Emperor Constantine legalize Christianity. What did he do? Well, he claimed a scene, this vision where he thought the Lord said to him, in this sign, conquer the sign of the cross. Now you must realize that under Constantine, he claims to be a Christian, but he's actually a very clever political leader. He realized that by his time there are more Christians than there are non-Christians. And so if he wants to hold his empire together, if you can't beat them, join them. So he decided I might as well be a Christian. I'd be the biggest Christian. I bless everyone. So what did he do? He said Christians all come out from your case, come out from your holes, come out from all the places you're hiding. Stop your moving experience. Come out now. I will give you a building, and everyone who register with me, guess what? You don't have to pay taxes. Can you imagine if every Christian in Singapore don't have to pay COE for their cars? Whoa, I'm a Christian too, first one to sign out right, 50 cents also no need. No need to wait for $50 COE, right? I'm a Christian. That's exactly what happened. People are not different. All through the ages are the same, all money minded. So I tell you, a lot of people became Christians, all sign up because no need to pay taxes. On top of that, Constantine said, all those who say that Christians, no need to pay taxes, when there's a war, we wouldn't conscript you. In other words, no need to serve NS. Then are the man all sign up. I'm Christian, man are Christian, real man are Christian, actually in the back of the mind, No need NS. And you know what, what happened if everybody come to the church. And as a result, you find that the emphasis since then, move from a holy people to a holy building up to this day. But as you as you're just meeting with your church, you say, 360 Dunearn road, then you know what where do you meet on Sunday, where’s your church on Sunday? It’s actually a hotel, you know, because we feel hotel, not like Church, have a cross on top. So don't feel quite right, right. But you know what, that is what has happened through the tradition of the ages, move emphasis from a holy people to a holy nation, from a holy people I mentioned just now to holy men. And so, we missed out the people in God's calling. We think the church is going to a building, going to a meeting, being part of a program, we don't realize that you are the church. You are the one who God has called, not just the pastor, not just the guy in the jacket, who holds the control and flash PowerPoint at you every Sunday morning. No, no, no, no, no, that's too limited. The church is all of God's people. When we realize that and embrace his calling, then the church will come alive again. Because then we will begin to do what God calls us to do, whether we are living in the center of God's will, whether we are answering his calling to us as a people.
1 Peter 2:9b ii. The Purpose of His Calling
And if we embrace that, then Peter moves on to teach us the next step, which is the purpose of his calling. If I accept that, if I believe that, if I receive humbly and say I may not be a great deal. I may not be a big shot at church or wherever in society, but I recognize that my peculiarity, my distinctive mark is that I belong to God. God has a purpose for me. He elected me for a purpose. I want to fulfill that purpose, then we take the next step, what is the purpose of God's calling to us as a people? And the Scripture tells us very simply, that it is to show forth, “that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who calls you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” The phrase "shew forth simply means to proclaim, to proclaim has also rightly been explained as to publish or to advertise. In other words, every Christian, his purpose is to be a living testament for the goodness and the greatness of God. Inherently within its meaning is the idea of bringing to the outside what has happened to you on the inside, which means that while this is a correct idea and advertisement like deng hai bao (posters in Mandarin), you know, put up the newspaper cuttings, and then tell people what you need, that is a correct idea, but it is not deep enough. A deeper concept would be like Facebook. Facebook, it says what’s on your mind? You notice that on Facebook, people like to tell, “I went out to eat these, I went out I did that, I'm here with my buddy.” He says, “my dog you know…”, they will have never known your home life until you post it. They will have never known “Wah down here the food so good” until you posted that all online, all the saliva drip: All very, very good. So, you see, we want to tell others what is happening on the inside to those on the outside. But even Facebook is a limited concept. Because on Facebook, you can don't post, that means you go down there and just see other people. Kaypoh (busybody in Hokkien), you know, go and see other posts: “Wah you eat this ah, you didn't do that? Wah, he always go out buy things. Wah, this fella, I don't know why the language so bad.” So, we go ahead and go and mata (see in Malay), go and see and catch. So, some people they don't post. So, they think that others don't know about them. But you see our lives we can't stop posting. Because Facebook is governed by the internet. But we live in a communal setting. We have families, we have friends, we have a workplace, we have a school. We have people that we rub shoulders with, neighbors from day to day, and they are constantly watching you as you are watching them. And so, you are constantly posting on your life: what matters to you on the inside, by the things you say the things you do the places you choose to go, you can't hide it.
And the Bible says you need to start posting the right things. What are the right things? The Scripture tells us “The praises of Him who calls you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9b). In other words, God wants you to start posting on your real Facebook, your face life, may I say, post on it: the change has come into your life when you came out of darkness into His light. It is not something theoretical. It's not something you read, a book you study. It is something that actually happened to you on the inside. When it happens to you on the inside, you have a story to tell. God says, tell that story. Tell them what I have done for you. Not what I have done for someone else, not what you imagine God will do. Not what you think the Bible says. Tell them what God says I have done for you. I have called you out of darkness into my marvelous light. Is it marvelous to you? The problem is most of us don't think is very marvelous. Most of us think, well, church, come here, listen to a sermon. Hopefully cry a bit, if you cannot cry never mind, at least pray, pray. After that go out to eat, you know, go home. That's it. That's church. And because that's church to you. There's nothing marvelous talk about, for what? Leave it to the pastor. He seems to like it a lot. Let him tell others about Jesus. Me? Nothing to say. Because I am a small Christian. Again, the wrong idea. In other words, God is asking you and I today, what have I done for you? You see, all of us are the same. We can't stop talking about what matters to us. It is a fact. I was at a family gathering months ago and a relative of mine begin after a while to start telling me about his diet. Could you imagine I'm eating Roti Prata, Briyani, and he told me to don’t eat so much, not good for you and your heart, you know, but he can't stop you know, even though I'm enjoying it. Why? Because he said I grew so fat. And I got so much health problems. I try so hard to lose weight, cannot lose weight. And then I went to this dietician, he or she taught me this and then he can't stop talking about it because it happened to him on the inside. It changed his life. He lost weight. And his diet helped him so he can't stop talking about it. And he went on and on and on and on. At the end of the day, I say thank you very much. I go back, I tried to think slim, I tried to stay slim, but I'm not sure if I can do it. Do you know why? Because this didn't happen to me. I can't tell anyone about my diet because it didn't like Wah, you know, I almost wanted to die already because I scared, he was telling me the breathing can be intermittent and if I stopped breathing, I may pass out in my sleep. So, doctor said, must put on the mask. You know, and so he's telling me all these details, you know, friends, all these are physical details. But what are the spiritual details in your life? What are the things that God has corrected, dealt with the anger, the envy, the jealousy, the hurt, the grudges, the pride, all these things that happened to you on the inside? He is calling you out of this darkness into His marvelous light. When you realize that God has given you the victory, my friends, you can't stop talking about it. I have another brother here in this church, I won’t mention names. But you know what, whenever you mentioned durian, he will start telling you about durians: Wah this down here cannot buy, down there can buy, you know, and then the mao shan wang (a brand for Durian) not the best must look for the lao zhang one, which means old tree, you know. And then you go on and on and on about durians. But you know what, I can't tell you about durians, you know why? I'm not that crazy about it. It's not so much upon my heart, my friends, what is it upon your heart today? What's on your heart, you will share, you will talk all the time.
And so, the Bible tells us remember, God has saved you. And your purpose is not to invent a story, to read up on something to do a research. Your purpose is to live out the goodness of God experience the power of the gospel. It is not intellectual darkness. John, chapter three, verse 19 to 20 says, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come to the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” You know why many of us think we have a problem sharing Christ and telling others about Jesus? Because we think not clever enough. I haven't read all the arguments yet. I don't know how to refute. They say, where got God, I don't know what to say. You know, they say, how do you know that Jesus is the only one? I don't know. I don't know. Don't know. So, we think we are not clever, and I haven't read enough books, haven't gone to Bible College, haven't got a Bachelor of theology, a PhD. So therefore, cannot share. Wait, maybe next time maybe when I am 50 years old then retire: No, 50 too early. Singapore, 65, 67, can retire already, study PhD then I go and tell people the gospel. Too late already. Too late already because it's not intellectual, it is moral, it is spiritual. The Bible tells us that people are gripped in sin. So are we, apart from Christ. When you are not walking with the Lord, though you are a child of God, you are gripped by the power of darkness. You are gripped by your sins. And that's why I used to get angry with people. That's why you still bear a grudge. That's why 10 years ago, you didn't want to come to church because this person says this and that to you. You buay song, (unhappy or angry about something in Hokkien), so they also buay song, then don’t come. So, people are like that, you know, and as a result, they cannot overcome it. But you know what, when you overcome it and found forgiveness in your heart for others, that is that deliverance, when you are released from those pressures and those dominance of evil thoughts, that kind of liberty, God says that is what you have to proclaim.
That is the purpose, why I have called you. And that's why Colossians chapter 1, verse 13, says, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of his dear son.” The extent to which you experience the power of God's kingdom in your life is the extent to which we can tell others about him. Then, if you have not been experiencing His goodness, if you have been dealing with the issues in your life, in your heart, very hard, very hard to fulfill the purpose of your calling. As you know, this men, clever man, a genius who transformed the world of technology, Steve Jobs passed away last year. And before he passed away, he wanted to have his biography, written by this man named Walter Isaacson. Interestingly, Walter Isaacson told the story of how in one of his interviews, Steve Jobs was known to be a Buddhist end up talking about God. And he said to his biographer, Walter Isaacson, sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don't. He said, I think maybe it's a 50-50 proposition. But since he had cancer, I've been thinking about it more and more, find myself believing a bit more. He says, I want to believe in an afterlife that when you die, it doesn't all just end. Sometimes I think it's like an on-off switch. Click and you're gone. He said, That's why I don't like to put on-off switches on our Apple devices. Have you thought about that? Such a rich man, such a powerful man, such a clever man and he is in darkness, the iPhone you hold in your hand, I have in mine. You can off one, do you know that? You want to off, must press the top button very hard, then you must really agree then cancel, correct? But when you’re charging, it lights up again. You find that the very phone you're holding in your hand is crying out to you from his heart, I am in darkness, I can't find the light, I do not know is there an afterlife. It's not a matter of wealth or intelligence, it is about spiritual and moral darkness. And God says you have been translated out of the darkness into His light, his marvelous light, its Wow, kind of light. And the more you experience of the marvel of God's light, the more you will have the confidence to tell someone even like Steve Job about Jesus Christ. And that is the purpose of our calling.
The Scripture tells us in First Peter, chapter two, verse nine, that we are to “shew forth the praises of Him who had called you.” I want you to notice here, that it's not about telling others how good your church is. It's not about telling others how nice the hotel is. It's not about telling others how many people come to church at GLCC. It's not about telling other people how good a Christian you are. Since you know I trusted God, he given me a good house, given me a good car, given me a good salary, give me a good job, give me good kids, given me good grades, then those who don't have all this good, good, good how? Nothing to tell. You know, when I say we are so limited, we limited the gospel to the good things in life, materially and physically. And we forget that the praises that we are to sing, that we are to proclaim are of him, of a good God. It is God who is good. We are called to draw attention to God, not to ourselves, not to what we have gain, not to what we have achieved and accomplished, but to him. And that is so important for us to understand. Because so often we think, you know what, I'm not very good testimony now because I tell you why. I'm not rich enough. If I rich enough, I can tell others when I trusted Jesus, since I trusted, before that bank account four digits, now bank account seven digits. Good God, good bank account? You know that's the bank account that is good, it’s not God who is good. What has God done for your life? How has God changed you? Are you sleeping well at night? Are you having insomnia? Struggling with stress? Because you're so worried people will steal the seven-digit bank account from you? Are you with me? What's the use of having all this and actually have nothing? Jesus says “what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and lose his own soul?” And the praises of him is of him will call you out of darkness into His marvelous light. My friends, I plead with you this morning. Know the Lord, know him in a deeper way. Don't be contented with a mere physical, although that is important. We need bread, but don't live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Let's move on. The scripture goes on to tell us in 1st John chapter five verse 10, “He that believeth on the Son of God had the witness in himself: He that believes not God had made him a liar because he rejected the message of the gospel because he believed not the record that God gave of his son.” Now a lot of people have very great difficulty sharing a testimony, sharing what God has done for them. You know why? Because they feel that testimony means that before I was like that, usually must be very bad la. Okay, because if not bad, no colorful. Then I trusted Christ and after that I'm no longer bad. So usually, the thing for the people who can have testimony, solid one, they must have done drugs la, kill people you know, rob a bank, you know, must be a gangster you know, after that they trust Christ then change. Testimony. That I think: Die la like that, I just came to church, hear the gospel, I trusted Christ, but before haven’t done enough bad things. So how, if I no testimony like that, then before trust Christ, do more bad things? Glorify God? Paul says, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Rubbish! Nonsense! But this is what our limited understanding has restricted our testimony to and some others worse. They're not so bad, but I think worse, why worse, they say testimony means this: Must have a very big problem. Like cancer fourth stage better, going to die, God heal me. Heal already after that: “Wah God, you are wonderful! You heal me from cancer!” If every Christian needs a cancer before they have any testimony, what if all die already? Have you thought about that? So narrow minded. That's why we say, “Aiyo, nothing to say, nothing to share because haven’t done enough bad things. Number two, haven’t want to die.” So God give me a very ordinary life, so very hard to share testimony, but that, again is contrary to Scripture. The Bible tells us that if you believe on the Son of God, that is the witness of God in yourself because God is doing a work in your heart. God is doing a work in your life. God is trying to help you understand what it means to live in the kingdom of his dear son. The scripture says in Second Corinthians, chapter two, verse 17, “For we are not as many, which corrupt the Word of God”, tried to make it so difficult, so different, must study theology, must have very colorful, sensational experience. No, no, no need all that, “sincerity, simply what God has done for you. And of God.” It's not about me, it's about him, not about what I have done, what I have learned, but by what he has taught me, what he has shown me, how he has changed me.
Four Parts of Our Life Message
Now this year in Easter, the church did a wonderful outreach, and they had songs and testimonies. And so in the Chinese congregation, which I pastor, I also adopted the same concept. And so I pray and sought the Lord, who to give testimony to, who to invite to give testimony, and so on and so forth. And the Lord led me to not just have any and everyone to give testimony, but have older people, younger people, people who are working in this line in that line, you know, those who are pregnant, those who are not, and I thank God they agreed, and they came forward and to work together with us. But the oldest man among us, 50 to 60 years of age, he shared this with me, “Pastor, I got saved 30 years ago, so can’t remember my testimony already.” I say, “No, no, never mind, we got training, we got training.” Okay. So in the training, I shared with him this simple truth, that there are four parts of our life message, which are the four parts. Number one, your testimony, the story of how you began a relationship with Jesus. That is the favorite part most people think of: the before, now and after. And before that I very pai kia (naughty in Hokkien). And then after that I Good boy, because I trusted Christ, but that is only one part. Then the second part is your life lessons, which is the most important lessons God has taught you. You see if God is real in your life, he has saved you, if you have a relationship with him, he didn't just stop at your salvation, he continued to touch and change your life. You begin to have changes in values, changes in thinking and those are the things that matters. And when you begin to share it with others who are struggling with the same thing see that your God is real because he's real in your life. You asked me how I know he lives; the song says I know because he lives within my heart. That's part of your life message. What else number three, your godly passions, the issues God have shaped you to care about the most. That means before that I only care about money, see money, eyes light up. But now I am willing to give it away. Wow, that is a change because everybody also love money. Everybody also thinks not enough. How come you can give away, I don't understand. How much you earn? Only four digits still? Four Digits cannot, even five digits also cannot nowadays. I read in the newspaper, one couple, 15,000 a month cannot have children. I thought die la, next time human race extinction already. 15,000 a month, still cannot have children. Our parents how? Commit suicide? You see you know your values change, your thinking change, when you trust Christ. At its basic level, at a simple level. You know what I actually told the folks, I said, “I tell you I purposely one. I don't want people with great illnesses, great diseases and then very terrible gangster one. I tell you if not the people who come think I must be gangster first, then I trust Christ. I must have great illness, going to die. I must have diabetes or what stage of cancer before I can trust Christ. But that too, too scary, I don't want to trust Christ.” Have you thought about that? So, I said, I want ordinary people, simple people like you and I who don’t have spectacular sensational testimony, but it touched the lives of most people. It touches the lives of most people because that's where everyone lives. Life is not a movie. That's why you go watch a movie, right? If you watch my life, you probably fall asleep. Correct. If I watch your life, you probably fall asleep. But you know what, I'm interested in my life. I tell you why? Because it's mine and you're interested in your life because it matters to you. When I share something from my life, although it's so boring not worth making into a movie, but when it strikes a chord in your life, it's real. And that's what God says, show forth the praises of him, of how he has touched your life when he called you out of your darkness into His marvelous light.
And the last part I shared with the folks is good news, the message of salvation, the message of salvation. This is where you tell others about how Jesus died for you, how Christ died for our sins. And so I told the folks I say, you know what, do me a favor, cooperate with me, let me tell number four, please don't fight with me. Don't go in there, hard coating verses, this and that, you know what. Let me do, let me do, if not I nothing to do. Right. You robbed me on my job. Let me do it, Number four. You tell them Number 1, 2, 3, if I tell them, they won’t really believe me because you pastor what, you wear jacket you know something different about you? Alright, the priests, right? And so they won't believe me if I tell them that, but you tell them your life story. You know what, if you wait for the pastor to share that, it may sound very nice and convincing, like very smooth, no need to memorize or whatever can tell. Like someone say like, auto mouth, can turn on. But so what? It is still just a message until it is brought to life in your life. And that's what God wants to do. That's why he called his people. That's why he gave his people this simple purpose. Let me touch your life, call you continually out of your darkness in sin. And have you experienced my marvelous light, the breakthroughs, and victories you have. And then you will find that the Church of Jesus Christ will begin to move forward. Sharing the gospel is not so scary. Because God is writing and wants to write his truth and his message every day, in our own lives.
And we embrace that. Then we find in First Timothy chapter one, verse 12, that it is a joy. Look at what Paul says, you know, when you read the Bible, sometimes you really get scared. You know why? God, you call me, don't call me like Paul, because He was beaten, whipped. You know, what, 40 times safe one and three times you know, even our Lord Jesus, only whip one time. You know, it gets so scary, but what does Paul says near the end of his life? He says in First Timothy chapter one, verse 12, “And I thank Christ Jesus, our Lord, who had enabled me for that he counted me faithful, putting me in the ministry,” Why is it that he can't stop sharing? He can't stop sharing because he didn't stop experiencing the praises the excellencies of God, who called him out of darkness into His marvelous light, the day you stop sharing is the day you stop experiencing the power and the goodness of God through the gospel. And that's why in church, we have people who are very good at taichi (push away or running away in Hokkien). You know, some people they come to church, right? They very scared of the pastor, not this one, just now I show you that one. You know why, he looks at you too long, then you wonder, why you look at me, you want me to do something? I cannot, I cannot one. You know what I mean? So, if pastor look at you, mentioned you, after that, after the break, must, must hide away or run away. We will learn how to do hide and seek. You know why? Because we're very scared, later, ask to do something I cannot do. But you know what, Paul is saying, when you are experiencing the goodness of God, you thank God for the opportunity to share, the opportunity to serve, the opportunity to do something. That's why you notice that people in the church who have gotten a severe illness and experience God's healing they want to share, right? And so, the church gathers the people and give them an opportunity to share, why? Because they cannot force or arrow, but they really want to do it, my friends. Think of it what the day would be like when everyone here can't wait to tell someone about what God has done for them. The entire spiritual atmosphere of this church will be changed. Because we not only understand the people in his calling, but we also understand the purpose of his calling.
1 Peter 2:10 iii, The Peril with His Calling
And finally, the third truth I want you to see in this passage is the peril with his calling, the peril with his calling. The Scripture tells us in verse 10, that Peter closes with a quotation from the book of Hosea, chapter two, verse 23, “He said here which in time pass were not a people, but are now the people of God, which had not obtained mercy, but now obtain mercy.” So this is a double reminder of the changed condition of our lives. We were once not a people; we once had no distinct existence. We just live, hope to grow up, find a good job, get married, have children, go see the world a bit and then die. No distinct existence. But now you have a distinct existence different from the world. Now you are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, a chosen nation. And God tells us that you need to remember that God has done this for us, not only as a people with your identity, but also on the inside, in your inner experience. The next part says, “which had not obtained mercy”, in the past, you had no peace, you struggle, you had no joy, you had no real sense of satisfaction. But now “you have obtained the mercy of God”, you will now have a consciousness of God's mercy and compassion. This is so precious; you need to remember what God has done for you since you trusted Christ.
You may be familiar with this picture of the Taj Mahal, which tells the story of the Shah Jahan. Shah Jahan loved his wife, and he wanted to build a beautiful mausoleum for his wife, because he loved her dearly, mourn her departure at her death, and wanted to remember her. But as they begin construction, and he got excited about the building, the story is told that one day, he kicked his foot against a wooden box, and he got furious because the work is so exciting and the challenge is so demanding, what is this box doing here? And he told his workers take this box and throw it out. And they just threw out the casket of his own dear wife, for whom he is building this palace. And what happened was the Shah, in wanting to commemorate the wife forgot about his original first love and has shifted his affection to the building. In the same way, Christians can initially be terrified at the prospect of answering God's call: you mean I, me, serve? You mean me share my testimony, you mean me giving the gospel? But when you get into the groove when you get into the hang of things, when God begin to use you, you and I, Peter knows can get excited. And in the process, we forget our first love. We forget that everything we have, the ministry, the influence, the people who are blessed, is not because of how great we are. But because of how great God is. That's why Peter says, you must remember you are once not a people, but now you are a people. You once had not obtained mercy. Now you have obtained mercy. And therefore, in Romans chapter 11, verse 19 to 20, Paul gives the same warning to the church. He said, thou will say then the branches were broken off, speaking of the nation of Israel, that I may be grafted in, speaking of the Church of Jesus Christ, well, because of unbelief, they, the nation of Israel were broken off, and thou stand us by faith. What is Paul saying here? He says, church, we have done nothing to earn this. We don't deserve it. We simply believed, we simply received God's grace, and therefore be not high minded, but fear. You see, Peter wants to remind us you once not a people but now people. You once had not obtained mercy but now you have obtained mercy, not to make us feel bad. But to keep us humble, to keep us grateful, so that we will continue to fulfill the purpose of his calling as a people. He wants to warn us of the perils that can come when we get more excited about what God is doing, than about God; More excited about the project than about the person who is the reason for our being. So let's come back to the Lord.
I want to tell you the story of the Ming Emperor, Wang Li. The Ming Emperor Wang Li, you may not be aware, rule in China from the year AD 1563 to 1620, and he is the longest serving emperor of the Ming Dynasty for 48 years. He ascended the throne at the age of nine, and being assisted by the Abel statesman Zhang Jun Zheng, he was able to bring Ming Dynasty or Empire to one of the peak of its prosperity and power, never before, almost similar to the second or rather the third Emperor, Yong Le. But after Zhang’s death, Wang Li, he continued to govern decently and diligently for another 18 years, so the Ming Dynasty prospered. But I do not know what happened after 38 years of excellent rule, for the last 20 years of his life, he neglected the affairs of the country, he refused to see any of his officials, he refused to govern the nation and the entire Ming Dynasty fell from its peak to its bottom. And the end was worse than the beginning. As a result of his neglect in the last 20 years, this man ushered the entire dynasty onto its path of decline, and the Ming Dynasty and Empire never regain its power or prosperity. And so this seeds eventually for China to be invaded by the Manchus. And so the Qing Dynasty came in. What is the lesson we learn from this Emperor Wang Li? It is good to start well, but it's more important to end well. You may have been a good Christian in the past. But the question is, are you a good Christian now? You may have done great things for God in the past. But you know what, for us, is never let the younger man do it. Is never, because we all serve a risen Savior. The younger man needs to start serving, but the older man needs to continue serving, otherwise, the end of our Christian life may be worse than its beginning, we may usher in a time of chaos and turbulence and trouble into our life, because we have forgotten that we were once not a people, but we are now a people. We have once not obtained mercy, but now you have mercy. And so we need to remain grateful and conscious of the goodness of God and keep on serving Him. And that's why Paul says in First Corinthians chapter nine, verse 23 to 27, “And this I do for the gospel’s sake, so that more people can come to know this wonderful God I serve, that I may be a partaker thereof with you, but I keep my body and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, whatever the reason, whether career, whether relationship, whether family problems, whether school problems, whatever it is, I do not want to let anything come into my life, that when I preach to others, when I'm fulfilling God's purpose of my calling, I myself should be a castaway.” I fall into the peril. I got complacent. I got comfortable. I think this is all there is to it. And now I just cruise along. You know friends, God has a purpose for our lives. God has a purpose for this church. We need to understand we are the people of his calling. We need to remember the purpose is not complicated. Let God touch your life. turn to Him in faith, trust him right now to deal with the issues that you struggle with. And you know what, the Lord will use you. But as God begin to use you and I, let's remember the peril of his calling. Let's never forget, that's not about me. It's all about God, and what God wants to do in and through my life, today.
Shall we bow our heads for a time of reflection and prayer, seeking the Lord together as a church. As we are bowing our heads, closing our eyes in prayer to seek Him in our hearts. And I encourage you to reflect upon what God has said to you, now what I have said is not the most important, what God has said to you matters. What is God dealing with in your life right now? Are you finding your distinction in the things of this world? God says to us, child, that's too poor a distinction. There's nothing to take pride of. Because the world passes away and the last thereof. Everything that seems so important to you right now, to the society will not matter when he returns. Find the distinction, the distinctiveness in being a people of God. How sad when we push the job to someone else and fail to recognize that we are the people that God has called. We have a job to do. Not directed by, you know, the leaders here alone, but directed by God through the leaders here. And so let's come humbly and say, God, I want to come back to you. I want to find your calling. You called me, you elected me because you have a plan. I want that plan. And then begin to fulfill the purpose. Everyone has a life story to tell. Because God is writing. He wants to write the story every day. What are you struggling with right now? It's not just about you. Because when you have the victory and breakthrough, it becomes a story you can help someone else with because God is real to you. He can be real to others when you share. So don't neglect. Don't brush it off. Is it a relationship problem with your wife or children? Are you struggling with health? Are you struggling with finances? Are you struggling with this and with that, and you're saying what's the use of being a Christian and God says the use is I'm in your life. What was the use of being a Christian if you and I are not calling on God? Let's call on him right now, shall we? Let’s call on Him, let’s come back. For some of us here, we have been a Christian for many years. And we think: Well, what's there to it? Just come, see the message, go back, praise the Lord, Amen. Go back to my life. What a sad way to live. Is that all there is to Christianity? My heart bleeds at the thought of that. Let’s come to God and say, God, I don't want to forget that I was once not a people. But now, I belong to you. Once I had no experience of your mercy, bring me back to your first love. Bring me back to the place where it all began with me. You may have trusted the Lord 50 years ago, 60 years ago, 40 years ago, 30 years ago. That's wonderful. But how about now? Have you fallen into the peril that come to this calling? Let's be still and to let God speak to our hearts.
More Episodes from Pastor Chee Keen Seethor:
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30 Mar 2018
24 Dec 2017
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23 Jul 2023
18 Jun 2023
28 May 2023