TAKE OFF THE GRAVE CLOTHES
by Elder Tan Yeong Nam
Every year, we plan for 2 new members’ service in Living Praise. I look forward to them with much eagerness. In the days leading to the service, there will be an “assignment” (more a privilege!) set by Pastor Foo to interview the candidates. It is such a joy having this sharing session with our new members. I thank God for the privilege they have given me (and the other elders) into their lives, especially their journey of faith.
It is so wonderful to see how God worked in their lives through people, circumstances and prayer. Often, I left those sessions feeling encouraged and energized. It is no different when we have our last new members’ service on 31 May. I particularly enjoyed reading the testimonies of the new members. Every salvation story is a love story. I am so thankful to God for each of their love stories. For Agnes, how God renew and love her and how her “great enjoyment now is saying prayers to God”; for Crystal, how God change her from a lonely person to meeting new friends and “never again as alone as before”; for Kelly, how she led a carefree life for many years before God brought her back to Him; for Christine, how she found “a larger purpose and meaning beyond myself and my own pleasure and desire”; for Shu Yan, how God’s grace has carried her throughout the years; for Kenneth, how he “was cut to the heart because I remembered the gospel that I had been told so long ago”, for Angeline, how God used a “music teacher… bold enough to tell us Bible stories in her class”, for John, how he encountered God when he was eleven and started to “think deeper ..what Christianity is all about” in university days, for Kenny, how “the light of God shone the brightest” in his dark days and for Susanna, how God spoke to her in her darkest moment.
The Christian life is never smooth sailing. Being a part of God’s local community, and demonstrating that commitment through membership and active involvement, is one important way for us to help one another and help ourselves express and continue in our faith journey. We live in a consumerist society that eschews commitment. And often we want choices so we can have multiple fallback options. This may be good for some cases. But in spiritual matters, it is a poor choice (pardon the pun). A simple analogy is courtship. A person who is always on the lookout for choices of life partners worry perpetually that if he chooses one now, he may miss out on a better choice later. He will find it difficult to settle and commit to one choice. In the end, he may not even get married. I would like to gently encourage worshippers, especially those who have been in Living Praise for a long time, to make your choice. At the end of the day, it is not about growing Living Praise’s membership (though we give thanks to God for the growth) but growing together in God’s family through the local church.
For members who have joined the Living Praise family, let me encourage you to demonstrate your commitment through active participation in the church life. Join a cell group (youth, young adult, adult) if you have not done so. There are many CGs to choose from depending on day and timing (this is an example of a good choice). The key is to join a small group so you can grow together with the group. There is no pre-qualification; the only qualification is the willingness to open your lives to others. For parents, your participation, or lack of, sets the model for the rest of your family too. How would you answer when your child, whom you are encouraging to join the youth group, turns around and asks why you are not joining?
In John 11:38 to 44, we read of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus was dead for 4 days when Jesus arrived in Bethany. But Jesus asked for the stone at the entrance of the cave to be removed. When this was done, He called out for Lazarus to come out. “The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” (John 11:44) To me, this is a picture of our struggle as Christians. Jesus has called us out from the darkness of death’s cave and has given us a new lease of life in His light. But we are still hampered by sin’s grave clothes. They wrapped themselves around us, inhibit our new found freedom and blocked our sight. They prevent us from truly living out the new life. Let us take off the grave clothes. But we are not able to do it ourselves! We need our fellow CG members, our brothers and sisters to do it for us, and us, when we are freed, to do it for them. Then we can all truly walk in His Light.