02 May 2021
Hospitality "philoxenia" in Greek. It means love for strangers. It is love in action, by making others feel welcomed and valued. Abraham hosted God and His angels in Genesis 18. And his hospitality presents for us lessons on 1. The Conduct of Hospitality. 2. The Contrast of Hospitality. 3. The Commendation of Hospitality. But most of all, let us also be reminded about the greatest hospitality of all when Jesus gave Himself on the cross, that we who were aliens and strangers, indeed enemies, are welcomed into the family of God. May this sermon help you to know and live out the heart of God. May we as a church grow in generous and humble hospitality.
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Now, we're looking at Genesis, chapter 18. And I think a perfect summary of the sermon we're going to look at is found in the New Testament, and it is seen in Hebrews, chapter 13, in verse 2, where it says, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
We're going to look at this subject of hospitality. It's a word that conjures up for you, images about hotels and resorts and so on. But the word, 'hospitality' in the Greek means 'a love for strangers'. Philoxenia - love for strangers. And it's a powerful word.
I remember when I was in Gold Coast in 2015 for holidays with my family. We, of course would visit the various theme parks; animal parks; the beach and so on. But one visit left me a lasting impression, and that is a visit to a church. We were unfamiliar with the place, and we went online to search for a Gospel-centered community that we can worship in on Sunday itself. And we found a church in Brisbane, a little drive away from Gold Coast but we took our trip there.
And when we got there, we do not know anyone there, no one knows us. But when we got there, our eyes locked or my eyes locked-in with another gentleman there, his name was Steven. And when he saw us, Asians, Chinese obviously never been to the church before, he came up to us, welcomed us, spoke to us, introduced us to the church, made us feel welcomed. And then, he, on his initiative, and of course with our permission, brought our kids to the children ministry, settled us there, er settled our kids there, came back to us, sat with us throughout the worship service, and brought us to our kids after the service.
He obviously had friends, he said hi to. But he stuck with us, and throughout the entire visit, just made us feel valued, welcomed, appreciated. We were warmly treated with hospitality.
Now, it's been six years, don't ask me what the pastor preached that day. I have no idea, I can't recall the sermon anymore. But I will always remember this man, Steven, he left a powerful and lasting impression on us.
You know, hospitality is something very simple. He did not have to climb mountains or anything like that, it did take some time and effort and attention and sacrifice. But even though it is so simple, it is extremely powerful. This is not just my experience, I remember Pastor Paul, when he was preaching, he would sometimes refer to the stories he had, when he went to America for a Bible Conference at Bob Jones University.
Now, at the conference there, you have many, many preachers, well-known preachers, great sermons. But he said he doesn't quite remember the sermons preached, but he remember this sermon lived out. He was invited by a clerk at Bob Jones University, just an ordinary humble man, doesn't speak a lot. But he was invited, together with Auntie Nancy to their house for a meal. And there he saw their warm hospitality there, he saw how that clerk and his wife treated the kids.
Pastor Paul was a young Christian then, and he said that was the most powerful message in the whole conference. Not sermons preached by great preachers, but simple hospitality performed by a simple man.
I hear this story over and over again. There are many right here at Gospel Light who stayed on in this church, because someone here, reached out to you in warm hospitality. I hear stories of how you would visit various churches and you would be treated as invisible. No one saw you, or even if they see you they pretend not to see you. They ignored you; neglected you and ... and you feel so out of place. But when you came here someone reached out to you, someone invited you to their home for a meal, even though they do not know you. And you were so warmed and encouraged, you decided to stay on.
I, I know of a couple in our church, he's a deacon. And some years ago, he said to me, "Do you know why I stayed on in this church?" I said, "I have no idea why." He said, "When we first came, my wife and I first came to church, you and your wife were the first to welcome us, and we were so welcomed by you guys." I said, "I have no idea, we did that!" But you see, it's something so simple but powerful.
This morning, we're going to look at a story of hospitality. I have no doubt that Hebrews 13:2 is written by the Hebrews' author, when he recalled the story in Genesis, chapter 18, when they or when Abraham showed hospitality and entertained angels, unaware. Not just angel, because this morning, we're going to look at the title - "When God Is Your Guest". So not just angels, but God would be hosted by Abraham himself.
So we're going to look at it in a very quick; simple; direct way.
 The Conduct of Hospitality
First of all, in this story, in Genesis 18, I'd like us to observe - the conduct of hospitality. How did Abraham welcome and serve these guests? How did he do hospitality? Great lessons here!
We see number one, "And the LORD ...", so right up front, I want to tell you, it's not just angels but God Himself, the LORD. I'll explain more about that later on. "And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as Abraham sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day." [Gen 18:1] Now, Moses tells us it's God, but as you read on in the narrative, it does not appear that Abraham knew that this was God. To him, it was probably just an ordinary day where he was chilling, or heating at his house, at his tent, "When he noticed three men standing in front of him." [Gen 18:2] So we are just told he saw three men.
Again I labor to stress, probably he doesn't know that they were special guests - God and two angels. Just three men, because I think again, back to Hebrews 13, it was unaware, he was hosting them unawares, or unaware that they were angels or God Himself.
But the hospitality he showed was remarkable. We see in verse 2, "When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them." Now, to us running is no big deal! But in those days, you don't usually run if you are a respected man. Who would run? Children would run, servants would run, but not patriarchs, not men of renown, not men who are of, who are of great importance. But, "He ran to the men, and then he bowed himself to the earth." [Gen 18:2]
So, this was an act of deep humility. He not only did that, "He also addressed them as Lord." [Gen 18:3] Now, the word, 'Lord', if you could see is in the lowercase, Lord, lowercase, as contrasted with LORD in uppercase earlier in verse 1. 'The Lord' here simply means master or it's a reverential term you give to someone, you want to respect. So he says, "Oh Lord, if I found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant." [Gen 18:3] He calls himself servant.
Abraham is no ordinary man! He's a rich, powerful man. He has many servants under his care. Remember, he even brought them for war and won a war. So Abraham is no servant, but he saw himself and positioned himself as a servant, in order to warmly welcome these guests of his.
He not only did that, he proceeded to meet needs. "He proceeded to get water for them to wash their feet and then proceeded to prepare a meal for them. He wanted to give them a morsel of bread," he would say. [Gen 18:4-5] But it was not a morsel, not just a piece or little portion of bread, because we are told that, "He got lots of flour, three seahs of fine flour." [Gen 18:6]
Scholars will tell us, that's about 20 pounds of flour. And that's about eight kilos or so! That's a lot of flour, don't you think? During this circuit breaker or lockdown period, many of you would have tried your ... or tried your recipe about baking and making cake, I'm sure you wouldn't need to use eight kilograms of flour, but that's what he used. "He also slaughtered a calf." [Gen 18:7]
If you come to my place today, maybe I'll bring some frozen meat and cook for you. But in those days, no refrigerator, if you want meat, you killed the cow, you killed a calf. And that's what he proceeded to do. "He took curds and milk," [Gen 18:8] it's like a yogurt and stuff like that, so he basically whipped up a feast for his guests. And then, "He would stand by them under the tree..." [Gen 18:8], a posture of a servant.
If you go to a fine dining restaurant, you might notice that the waiter, if they have a lot around, will be standing by the side, a little bit off from where you are, but observing your meal, observing the way you eat. So that at any time, when you're done, he will clear the plate, he will top up your water. He's standing by waiting to serve. Abraham was standing by waiting to serve.
So the conduct of his hospitality is remarkable. There was no hesitation. It was lavish! It was generous! It was humble! It was all out to make the guests feel valued; honored; welcomed; served! That's what hospitality is about!
If I may say this, "Many people refrain from hospitality because they are fearful that their house is not nice enough, their cooking is not delicious enough. Because they fear 'paiseh', they fear that they don't look good in front of others." But true hospitality is not trying to look good because true hospitality is not focused on yourself. True hospitality is focused on the person, you're trying to be hospitable to. It's other-focused not self-focused.
[A] Not Impress But Bless
So if I may give a few suggestions, I say, "Number one, hospitality is - not out to impress, but it's really to bless." Doesn't matter if your house is not spanking clean; super beautiful. Doesn't matter! Because it's not for you to show off, it's not for you to look good, it's for you to serve, it's for you to bless. So, look not to impress, but to bless.
[B] Not Stress, But Savor
If I may say also, "Don't stress over hospitality." Savor that encounter! Savor that experience! It's not about making sure everything is tidy and nice. Of course, don't invite people to a messy place, as if you don't care about how they think, or how they feel in a messy place. But more than stressing yourself out, enjoy the time together with your guests.
[C] Not Babble, But Listen
And when they are with you, try not to show off. Try not to talk all the time, don't babble, but listen, alright? In order for people to feel welcomed and valued and loved; ask them; hear from them; listen to them. Well, I think Abraham demonstrated remarkable hospitality in humble service. It's about them.
 The Contrast of Hospitality
I like to move on quickly then to number two - the contrast of hospitality. Now, the story is clear, God gives us all these details that we may learn about hospitality. But this story in chapter 18, is sharply contrasted with the story we read in chapter 19. Because chapter 19 reveals a group of people who were not hospitable, they were inhospitable, to say the least.
We see in chapter 19 that the same .. the two angels, they went to the city of Sodom and before they lay down before they would go to bed, sleep, the men of the city ... Now, this is bizarre, this is really terrible, "The men of Sodom both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house and they called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them."' [Gen 19:4-5]
Now, please don't take it as we just want to get to know them. This is a nice way of saying perhaps that they want to rape them. So this is R-rated stuff, Genesis 19. And we're going to look at that in about a couple of weeks' time. So we know this is wicked stuff because, and it's not just an innocent get to know you session. Because, "Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him and said, "I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly." [Gen 19:6-7]
I mean these are guests, these are travelers, they are not from our hometown, how could you do this wicked thing? All of you coming for this brutal, sinful, wicked act! When Lot did not open the door to them, "They pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down." [Gen 19:9]
So, what a contrast! Abraham - humble, lavish, generous hospitality! The Sodomites - brutal in hospitality! Now, this is also commented on by Ezekiel, by God in Ezekiel, in chapter 16:49, "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom, she and her daughters had pride, excess of food and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy." So they were not a compassionate people, they were not a sacrificial loving people. They were selfish, they were sinful, as demonstrated in this bizarre crime and sin that they want to commit in chapter 19.
So we have a contrast: Abraham, a man of faith - hospitable, The Sodomites - enemies of God. Far from it! And if you look at the rest of the Bible, it is the same, God's people are commanded by God to be hospitable.
Now, in a very different way of phrasing it, but it's the same idea, God says, "You shall treat ..." He's saying to Israel, "This is the ethos, this is your ethic that, "You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as a native among you, and you shall love him as yourself."' [Lev 19:34] So you're not to despise alien; strangers; foreigners; travelers passing your land. You are to treat them well. You are to love them as yourself, as fellow Jews.
Same in Leviticus 23:22, it governs the way that they are to do harvesting. You're not to harvest everything in your field, right up to the edge of your plot. Leave some behind! Why? "So that the poor and the sojourner, those who are traveling, those who are passing through, those who may have no means to sustain themselves will have some provision. I want you to love them this way."
In Deuteronomy 10:18-19, We are told, "Love the sojourner." Again, God is kind, and He loves .... He wants His people to love strangers. The reason is predicated on the character of God Himself, when He says in verse 19, "He [that is God Himself], executes justice for the fatherless and the widow and love the sojourner." So if God is to love the sojourner, My people are also to love the sojourner.
Maybe one of the most memorable stories of hospitality, love for strangers; aliens; foreigners might be the story Jesus told in 'The Good Samaritan'. The Samaritan and the Jews are enemies, but when there's a Jew who was robbed and injured. Jesus says, "The Samaritan crosses racial boundaries and shows 'philoxenia' - love for strangers, for people who are not like us. Jews and Samaritans, like I said they are enemies, but it was no matter, true hospitality crosses those barriers.
We are told that when Lydia got saved, she immediately invited Paul and his party, his fellow companions to stay in her house with her - hospitality. [Acts 16:15] We are told in the book of 3 John 5-6, just one-chapter, short little epistle, short little book. And it is said that, "The people of God shows efforts for brothers, strangers, as they are." In other words, when they were other Christians, from other places who come by, these Christians showed hospitality to them. It's a good thing! John commended them for it.
In contrast, in the very same epistle in verse 10, John also rebuked or highlighted, "Dioterphes, who did a terrible, terrible thing, who puts himself first and refuses to welcome the brothers." [3 John 9-10]
So this is I think the contrast that Scripture presents to us, God's people are to be marked out, amongst many other things - hospitality. And God's enemies are marked out by inhospitality. And that's what we see in Genesis, 18 and Genesis 19.
 The Commendation of Hospitality
Thirdly, finally, I'm going to share with you - the commendation of hospitality. So Abraham conducted hospitality in a humble; generous lavish way. So different from the Sodomites! And God, I think, in Scripture commends this act of hospitality. As I said, "I think, Hebrews 13 is a good text for us to understand, "So ... so do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." [Heb 13:2]
So he's saying, "This is a good thing! There's a positive example in Scripture likely very likely, almost certainly, Genesis 18 story."
Now again, I want to say that, "It was angels who Abraham hosted." We are told that in Genesis 19 in verse 1, "The two angels who visited Abraham, subsequently left to visit Sodom." Same guys, angels, but of course, as I said, not just two angels, but the third is actually God Himself. We know that because Moses said, "The LORD said to Abraham ..." The LORD here is uppercase, caps - L O R D. It is not the same as L o r d in lower case, or non-caps, small fonts. This is L O R D representing the Hebrew word, 'YHWH'.
For those of you who are confused, I understand, you may want to check out what has been explained in time past. But YHWH is what today scholars call the Tetragrammaton. And because it's unpronounceable, Jews later on, added to YHWH to make it pronounceable. They combine the consonants YHWH, with the vowels of the word, 'Adonai', which means LORD, AOA. And when you add YHWH, and AOA together, you get the word, Yahowah and in Chinese, you have the word, '耶和华' [yē hé huá in Chinese]. Actually that's not the way God pronounces His Name, I'm sure. But that's the way Jews have modified so that it becomes pronounceable to us. And that's why you have the word, 'Yahweh' and so on.
But basically, the LORD is referring to God Himself. We established earlier that no man can see the Father, that was a sermon preached about one or two weeks back. So the God who is represented here, is not the Father but theologians would believe it is Jesus Christ, before He was born into this world, and so we call Him the Pre-Incarnate Christ. The Pre-Incarnate manifestation of Jesus Christ is who spoke to Abraham, in this case.
So the LORD, and again verse 17, you can't miss this, this is the LORD. And then in verse 22, Abraham stood still before the LORD. So Abraham, entertained not just angels unaware, but God Himself, Jesus Christ Himself. And the point is this, we should not neglect or forget to show hospitality. Why! Because, "Some have entertained angels unawares." [Heb 13:2]
I hope you don't walk away saying, "Aah, Pastor, I know why I should show hospitality, because I may have a supernatural experience with an ET - extraterrestrial!" I ... I don't think that's the case, alright. I'm not saying, "Oh, I should invite John to my house because he may just be an angel. "Or I should invite Tom to my place because he might just be god." Uh, please don't think like that! Please don't invite them to your house and say, "Eh, do you come from heaven?" That's not the point!
I think the point best understood is, you may be part of something really good. That's ... I think, as far as I will take it, alright. Show hospitality, because you might just be part of something really good. It might be a blessing to you, if I may put it that way.
Now, was it a blessing to Abraham? Was this meal, this encounter, this visit a blessing to Abraham himself? I think so! Abraham received a few things from this visit. Of course, he uniquely had the privilege to host a meal for Jesus Christ. He's the only one we know who that ... who had that privilege.
But along with that communion with the three men, he also received a few things. Number one, he received a revelation. A revelation; a, a, a new understanding, info or fact that, "By the time, same time next year, Sarah will give birth to a son." [Gen 18:10]
Now, Abraham had been waiting for more than a decade for the birth of a son. Waiting and waiting but never knowing exactly when! But now with this meal, he finally knows it will be one year's time. "And you don't even need to go to the gynae for ultrasound scan, I tell you it will be a boy, you will have a son." So he received a revelation, I am sure he is most delighted with this.
But secondly, we see something else that they benefited from. You see, Sarah, upon hearing this, began to be doubtful. "She laughed to herself, "Hah, hah! I mean, after I'm worn out and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure." [Gen 18:12] "I mean, this is impossible! This is a joke!" Probably along those lines. It's a laughter not of delight, but of doubt and unbelief.
So, after she laughed, "The LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh? Is anything too hard for Me?" [Gen 18:13] Sarah, upon hearing this, you know what, began to be 'kang chiong', began to be worried. "And so she denied it, saying, "I did not laugh," for she was afraid." [Gen 18:15] But, "God said, No, but you did laugh." [Gen 18:15]
So what did she get? She got a rebuke. So not only did they receive a revelation about the birth of a son a year later, they received a rebuke. And you say, "How can a rebuke be a blessing?" I tell you it's a blessing, because it's after this rebuke, I think that she finally understood and believed God.
I know that because Hebrews 11:11 says, "By faith, Sarah herself receive power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful who had promised." So it was a good visit, because God could address the unbelief in her heart, encouraged her; dealt with her; rebuked her, so that she might repent and put her trust in God again.
And finally, I think the third benefit they got was a realization ... a realization about God's righteousness, holiness, His attribute. Because in verse 20, "The LORD said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and their sin is very grave."
The story here is that God would now reveal to Abraham that He's going to destroy the city. And He's not destroying the city flippantly or carelessly. It's not as if He has no regard for anyone, but that He's destroying the city because it's a terrible ... terribly wicked city.
Now, if God did not come and visit Abraham and the city is wiped out, perhaps it might cross the mind of Abraham, "Why is God so unrighteous? I know my nephew, Lot is living there, it's not so bad, is it?" But here, God having spoken with Abraham, and revealed to Abraham the reason why, I think is powerful persuasion that God is righteous in destroying a city like Sodom and Gomorrah.
So, there are tremendous benefits I think Abraham got out of this visit - the calf, the wheat, the curd, the bowing, the hospitality, it's well-worth it! I'm pretty sure! I think that's the point - "Some have entertained angels, unaware." [Heb 13:2]
So, I'm not saying, "Please invite people to your house, because you might just host an angel or God or an ET." That's not the point! But when you show hospitality, something good is perhaps for you, you might be just part of something wonderful.
So I think that's the point that Hebrews' author is saying in verse 2. But let me remind you that there is also a greater motivation for our hospitality to others. I like this quote, it reminds us of that reality, "Extending hospitality to others is a profound gospel witness to the love of Christ and how He welcomes us".
I think this is the great reason, the ultimate reason for hospitality to others, not just because when you show hospitality to others you may be blessed, you may be encouraged in that fellowship, your children may see the parents sacrificial hospitality, and be encouraged to follow likewise. But more than what I can benefit from, is the fact that I was first a recipient of great; warm; lavish; generous; hospitality by God, when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to die for me.
You see that is the ultimate philoxenia, that's the ultimate love for strangers - "while we were yet sinners enemies to God, God sent His Son to die and pay for our sins", so that you and I may now be included into God's family.
And if that's the way God loved us and embraced us, then the way we love and embrace others in hospitality is a witness to this ultimate hospitality. So because I'm greatly loved by God, that should motivate and encourage me to be loving others in practical ways, like hospitality.
So that's why when you read the rest of the Bible, it says, for example, "Show hospitality to one another without grumbling." [1 Peter 4:9] It's the will of God! Like I said, "That's the mark, amongst many things of God's people - they show hospitality."
Now, it's interesting that Peter says, "Show hospitality without grumbling." [1 Peter 4:9] Why without grumbling? You know why? Because people like you and me are very irritating. We are not nice people, we can be very irritating to people. So he says, "I know people are difficult, I know people can be irritating but do hospitality without grumbling."
Why? Because you might just be part of something good. But more than that, because Jesus has loved you so, has loved you so. You have been warmly embraced, do it because of the Gospel, do it because you are recipients of wonderful; generous hospitality. Do it without grumbling!
This is so important that it is listed as one of the essential traits of a pastor, elder, overseer, bishop, whatever you want to call. [1 Tim 3:2] But this is an essential characteristic of a leader of the church that he must be amongst many things, hospitable. If he, if he's not hospitable because he's selfish, insecure, whatever that may be, how can he really serve God's people? It just shows that he has never really understood the great love of God in Jesus Christ for him. And in that sense, he would not be a good example to the rest of the flock.
So, it is vital that the leaders of the church are examples of hospitality as well. And then, we see in Romans, chapter 12:13, "Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality." I always love to teach from the book of Romans, because it's so structured and the logic is so compelling. Romans 12 to 16 are not just isolated instructions; random commandments you obey, but they are actually the elaborations of what it means to be a living sacrifice.
Remember, Romans 12, verses 1 and 2? "My brethren, by the mercies of God, I beseech you to be living sacrifices," that's what Paul says. He says, "I want you, I urge you to ... to worship God by dying to yourself. Be like that sacrifice that's alive, but die to self, living for the glory of God."
You say, "What does it mean to die to self? What does it mean to live for the glory of God? What does it mean to worship God?" Well, Romans 12 to 16, tells you what it means to worship God - Love the people in the church, serve the people in the church, forgive one another, do not take vengeance, obey your government, submit to them, be considerate to the needs of your brothers. You read 12 to 16, that's all an elaboration of what it means to living sacrifice.
And the reason why we will be a living sacrifice, is because of the mercies of God, explained in Romans 1-11. Because of the Gospel, because of what God has done for us in Jesus. So if I reverse all that I've said, it is this, "Because God saved us unworthy sinners, by the grace of Jesus Christ, we should be grateful to God and present ourselves as living sacrifices, as worship to Him.
And that means not just coming for worship services on Sunday, but in every day of my life, live out those elaborations in Romans 12 to 16, including showing hospitality. That's part of worship!"
Do you know that worship God is not just coming to 39, Punggol Field Walk? Worship can be inviting people to your house, at Ang Mo Kio block whatever and Hougang block whatever. That could be worship! That's living sacrifice!
I love the word, 'seek'. The word, 'seek' in the Greek is actually a very strong word, very active word. Somewhere else, in other places, it's translated, 'to persecute', it means, 'to chase after'.
So, hospitality is not just waiting for people to say, "Er, John, can I come to your house?" Very few people in Singapore actually asked that, right? Hospitality is seeking opportunities. Seeking someone, maybe lost, lonely, unidentified, forgotten by others. And you say, "I may not know him very well, but I want to welcome him. I want to serve him, I want to make him feel valued and treasured and I'm going to take the opportunity to do so."
It reminds me of my younger days, when I was working as a doctor. I wanted to pick up surgical skills. And in order to improve in surgery, you got to do surgery. But you know, they are not like play dough that you can just find and do, you must have real patients to do, mah! So I need to ... what? Seek patients. I need to look for people I can cut.
Now, you don't cut on ordinary people, you must cut sick people. So when I was on duty, there will be a group of doctors, we are looking after the patients who come in through the Emergency Department, and I will be on the computer screen on the lookout.
When there's a young man, with 'elevated total whites', it's a kind of a blood test we do, sign of infection. I will be the first usually, chiong [dash in Hokkien dialect] ah! Go to the bed and begin to, to clerk, we call 'clerk the patient' or find out about his condition, examine him. And if it's indeed seen to be appendicitis, I'll put my name on the surgical chit, so that I may be the one who will cut him.
I'm the first! I really was super active! Three, four MOs on duty, but I will be the one who is chopping all the time, because I'm out there all the time hunting for appendicitis to chop. Now, of course, if you don't have appendicitis, I don't chop you lah! I'll go to jail for that, but that's how actively I would look. And I say, "Maybe that's a picture of how actively we should look for opportunities to show hospitality."
So, I think this is what church should look like. This is what the people of God should look like, that we should be a welcoming people; we should be a loving people; we should be a warm people. Now, I'm super thankful that, in general ... I think, now, of course, we are not a perfect church, we are far from that, but in general, I've heard people say, "Hey, I'm thankful for, for many warm people in this church. I'm particularly thankful for a team of people in our church called, the befrienders. It's a ministry, but we lovingly call them, the befrienders."
They are the ones who would reach out to newcomers in our church. In time past, when we could, we would welcome all newcomers to the mezzanine floor, once in a month where we would want to meet with our newcomers, welcome them. And, and we have a special reception for them. Now, we can't do that anymore, we can't eat any more together. So we do that on Zoom sessions, you see that newcomers chit-chat session, we want to welcome newcomers.
And our befrienders not only organize that, our befrienders actually invite everyone who is new, every Sunday to stay back just for a while, so that we can help you with any questions you have. Just to welcome you and serve you in any way. And I know that the ministry is powerful because over and over again, I hear of people new with us who say, "So thankful for this person, that person. They ... they reach out to us, they send text to us, they help us with the many questions we have. They help us settle in this church." Beautiful!
But you know, much as I'm really thankful for our befrienders, I feel that hospitality should not be limited to befrienders. It's a ministry all of us, if you belong to Jesus, if you know of the Gospel, it's a ministry, all of us can be a part of, isn't it?
Maybe just look around you today, someone sitting alone, someone you have never met before, maybe you are ashamed to say, "Eh, are you new?" "No, I've been here 10 years." I know that's quite embarrassing. That's quite er, quite awkward. But you could say, "Hey, I know you're not new, but you're new to me, so welcome." And say ... and maybe that's how you can welcome one another.
But the point is this, we all can notice someone we can reach out to and be warm towards one another, smile to one another.
"Pastor, can't see lah, now wearing masks!" I know that, but I guarantee you when you smile, I know you're smiling. Your eyes different one, can tell one, I've noticed. Isn't it amazing when you wear masks, you can actually recognize people just with their eyes, no need their face you know, can recognize. Okay, not as 'zhun' [accurate in Hokkien dialect] as you see the whole face, but the eyes are good enough. And if you smile, people can see you smile. Maybe you can't shake hands, but you can do fist bump, and so on and so forth.
I'm saying, "Hospitality is not limited just to the official befrienders of Gospel Light. It's the natural scriptural; biblical mark of those who truly know God, who have been ... who have tasted the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
I want to encourage you to show hospitality with your house, with your home. Someone said that, "The Gospel ministry comes with a key - to your home." And you know Singapore homes very expensive, right? Don't waste it! Don't waste your house! God ... if God has blessed you with a house, with your home, use your home to be a ministry base. Ministry does not only take place here at 39, Punggol Field Walk, ministry can take place at your homes, when you invite someone new.
Now, if you invite your khakis, your old friends, that's not hospitality ah! That's just normal friendship! Hospitality is love for strangers, so if you invite your own gang here, "I'm so hospitable!" Nah, not quite what the Bible is talking about! Invite someone new, someone you may not know, someone who may, might have been in church for a long time but maybe not so well- connected. And you notice that, open your house, invite them over for a meal, cook for them something. Maybe not like Abraham, I've got to go and slaughter a cow and take 10 kilograms of flour, maybe not to that extent, but food is great, because food is love made edible. Show them love. Welcome them.
I know, during this COVID season, a lot of us can't gather on- site, at least for the past first few months. But I know of brethren who open their homes, and invite people to their house to worship God together, I think that's hospitality. We're going to have church camp soon, and of course our church camp is not all gathered in this hall. Some of us can, but a lot of us will be gathered in homes, and maybe you can play a part by opening up your house, and welcoming people from our church, who you may not have met before. And say, "I just want to serve, I want to provide for them. I want to show God's love." I think that's what hospitality should look like.
I long for that day! Now, I'm not doing this to artificially orchestrate all of you. "Ah, stand up! Please look at each other, say, "Hi."' I know after three weeks, you all won't do already. But I hope that it's something that will come from the bottom of your heart, as you understand Jesus' love for you, and you understand what the Bible teaches about hospitality.
I think our church will be very different and I long for that day, where anyone who comes into church new would be flooded with genuine Gospel-centered hospitality, for the glory of God. Hey, you may entertain angels unaware! Hey, Jesus did it for you! Let's do it for others!
Let's bow for a word of prayer together.
In a sense, the whole Bible can be summarized by hospitality. God saw that we were alien, strangers, enemies to His Kingdom, and instead of rejecting us; despising us; forsaking us, He chose to give His Son to die for us, so that we who were enemies might be reconciled with God. And my friends, that's the message of the Bible.
The main message of the Bible - the Good News of Jesus Christ dying and rising to save us from our sins, in order to reconcile sinful men to the Holy God. And so if you're here today, I want to encourage you to turn to Jesus Christ, that you might be saved and that you might be warmly embraced into the Kingdom of God. You know that invitation is opened to you. He says, "Come, all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest." Jesus is inviting you to come to the Kingdom of God, by faith. Turn from sin, turn from self, believe in His finished work.
But dear church, I'm also speaking to you, that perhaps today, you might think about Christian ministry, you might think about worship. Worship is not limited to Sunday mornings, limited to a place here in this building. Worship is in the everyday of your life, it includes the way you reach out to strangers, it includes the way you may open your homes, it includes the way you greet one another on site here.
I pray God's love would flood your heart and you may show this love to those around. May God help us. Imagine what kind of a church, this will be when we all step outside our comfort zones and sacrificially, be like Steven. I saw Jesus in Steven that day, and that's what makes it memorable. I pray many, many newcomers will come to our church, and see many Stevens, many little Christs, in this church.
Father, thank You today for Your Word, bless Your people. And we pray that our hospitality will be a profound Gospel witness to Your hospitality towards us. Thank You. We pray all this in Jesus' Name. Amen.
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More Episodes from Pastor Jason Lim:
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Episodes from other sermons:
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02 Apr 2021
25 Dec 2020
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30 Aug 2020
23 Aug 2020