Dear Living Praise,
How do you know when you’re in love? Married and courting couples, I shouldn’t have to remind you. Even singles and children know what it’s like — you can be swept off your feet by a new hobby, a favourite holiday destination, the latest cool gadget. And how do you know? Easy — you can’t stop thinking and talking about it. In fact, everybody knows how you feel because you can’t stop telling them.
Friends, do we still feel this way about Jesus? Even those of us who have known him for 5, 10, 20, 50 years or more?
When we think about God, LP and the people around us, I wonder how many of us secretly say to ourselves, “It’s the same old same old,” je now that moving back to our Primary School premises is last year’s news and the Chapel has long lost its “fresh-paint” smell! Are we like the church of Ephesus in chapter 2 of Revelation, which had lost its first love even while continuing to live good and patient Christian lives? As I thanked God for Rev Paul Barker’s stirring teaching from the apostle Peter’s first letter last week, about our certain and living hope, I pray it encouraged us all to look back at the cross with passion, and to look ahead at the cross — with passion!¹
As we pray for God to work in us in Living Praise in 2016, how will people know what’s truly in our hearts? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we couldn’t stop talking about what Jesus has done? Last Saturday, on 16 January, during our Sunday School welcome lunch, I shared our Sunday School vision from Colossians 2:6-7:
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Colossians tells us that passionate believers continue to proclaim Christ as defined by the Scriptures. That’s what Paul means by the phrase “just as you were taught”. The Colossians came to hear the gospel from Epaphras (1:6-7). This is the same gospel that we’ve received (1:23).
John Calvin the 16th century reformer says:
This, then, is the true knowledge of Christ, if we receive him as he is offered by the Father: namely, clothed with his gospel. For just as he has been appointed as the goal of our faith, so we cannot take the right road to him unless the gospel goes before us.
There is no other way for people to know Christ, apart from the Scriptures. So if we claim to be Jesus’ people, then we must be a people of the Word. But not academic knowers — we must be people who live out our love for Jesus in relationships, in the way we interact with others!
During our first Sunday of the year, I shared a picture of what God is setting out to do in and through us at Living Praise Presbyterian Church². As part of our 10 year vision, this year, we are praying that God will enable us to love people more and more:
1. May we not only know the gospel but live it out in our homes, neighbourhoods, schools and workplaces so that we’ll be able to engage in everyday mission. May we live such distinctive lives as foreigners and exiles in a world that is opposed to God that people will question us to give the reason for the hope that we have.
2. May God grow us to become an attractive gospel community in which all of us speak the truth in love, and lovingly serve one another at cost to self. God is transforming us from sinners into the image of Jesus and we get to live out this slice of heaven now on earth. I hope you’re excited about this. We want as many people to know Jesus in the fellowship of believers. So do continue to commit the two friends whom you’re hoping to invite to church to God. This year we look forward to our church camp where we’ll be able to have an extended time of listening to God’s word in the comfort of Le Grandeur, Johor Bahru in the company of God’s people. Camp registration begins today so do hand in your completed forms today.
3. May God continue to enable us to pass on the gospel to the next generation as we seek to equip more people to serve as Sunday school teachers. We thank God for the six people who answered God’s call to be trained to serve in this ministry.
No doubt there will be challenges to being passionate for Christ — Peter reminds us that we are exiles and foreigners living in a world that doesn’t know God. Our sense of meaning in life and our self-worth are constantly being questioned and undermined by media messages and the perspectives of the non-Christian world.
So, please beware of the things that might have replaced Jesus in our hearts. If we find ourselves feeling that life only has meaning:
– when we’re highly productive and getting a lot done, perhaps we’re starting to worship the idol of work;
– when we have wealth, financial freedom and nice possessions, possibly we’re beginning to worship the idol of wealth;
– when we’re recognized for our achievements and excel in our work or studies, then maybe we’re being seduced by the idol of achievement.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, our work, wealth and achievements are good, for they are given by God. But let us remember that we’re not to pursue them at the expense of Jesus. Rather enthrone Jesus in all spheres of life, and remind one another who our first love is, so that Singapore and the world might know our Lord and Saviour. May God find us loving people and proclaiming Christ — truly LPPC!
Your pastor, brother and friend,