Monday, 28 May 2012

Is your flame on a stand or hidden under a basket?

Listening to friends argue about Scientology, I picked up something which distressed me...
Scientology was being commended and advocated for its self-less, self giving, charitable attributes - while many may disagree, this opinion does exist, and it makes me wonder why we don't hear this about Christianity!

Christianity is built upon love - loving others as ourselves, treating others the way we would want to be...but why isn't 'loving' or 'charitable' or 'self-less', the first things that come to the minds of unbelievers? Instead we hear, 'hypocrisy', 'selfishness' and so on!

We preach forgiveness, but do we forgive?
We preach love, but do we love?
We preach kindness, but do we show kindness?
Where is the evidence for the changed life? Of God transforming and working in us?

We, as believers, first and foremost, are called to evangelize and spread the good news of the Gospel and the love of Jesus. However, mere words or sermons aren't going to convince this generation, we need to live it out and educate them about God's love, by example. All of us may constantly SAY the right things, but do we DO them? Message and manner go together; people may undermine our message but they can never undermine our testimony. When we live the Gospel out, expressing brotherly love, obedience to God, discipline, care and kindness, others become witnesses and will be challenged to follow - they will SEE the DIFFERENCE!

In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-15, Paul exhibits how to set a good example. Three key points pointed out by our Church Pastor, Pastor Derek Sewell are:

  1. Lead the way in pleasing God and not man
  2. Lead the way in giving our all
  3. Lead the way in living a life worthy of God
May I take this opportunity to encourage you to explore this truly eye-opening scripture, with these points in mind.

We ought to live a life of self-giving - demonstrating an honest love, gentleness and intimacy. Preaching alone is no use, if we do not share our lives with others by building relationships and spending time to care and love them. Love that we exhibit needs to be 'from the heart' - an earnest love.

Moreover, we are called to be 'salt and light' - salt makes food taste better, do we make others' lives feel better? Light leads the way, comforts the hurting and provides security; do we do that? Are we reflecting the light of the Savior, who is the Light of the world?

Matthew 5:14-16 ~ You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

We have a flame burning within us, a flame set alight by God when we accepted Him into our hearts. You are called to make it shine brightly, for all the world to see...but it is your choice! 
Are you going to keep your flame hidden under a basket? Or are you going to dare to be different and place it  on a stand?
Remember, a candle soon burns out when it is covered due to the lack of oxygen! Don't let that happen to your flame!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

How are you going to finish the race?

Tests come in all forms and are inevitable...we aspire and long to overcome each one victoriously...but seldom, we remember that the greatest test is life!

Romans 14:12
So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Life itself is a test. With every choice, every word, every action, we choose to honor or dishonor God. This is what determines how we finish this Heaven or in hell!

The Bleak Road

The unbeliever is on a bleak road. He tries to work his way up to Heaven and misses the beauty of life passing by. He accumulates good works upon good works or just relies on the times he got it right, to win God's favor on the day of judgement. Much to his surprise, he will find out that his good works are of no worth if they weren't the product of genuine faith in His grace. Unfortunately, many who call themselves Christians, also make this mistake.

Why won't 'good works' bridge the gap between us and God?

Firstly, by relying on good works, we are relying on ourselves. This unveils the pride within us as we boast in our goodness. James 4:6 says, 'God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Being prideful prevents us from seeking God's help.

In addition, 'good works' cannot cover up sinfulness! This was one of the points that shocked me, before I became a Christian! Many believe that God would weigh their 'goodness' against their 'sinfulness' without realizing that the 'sinfulness' is still present, it doesn't vanish. Besides, no matter how many good deeds we've done, God's standards are very high, we can never measure up, thus our 'sinfulness', on the scales (if it were to be weighed), would weigh A LOT more than our good deeds. Heaven is a place WITHOUT SIN, NO SIN IS PERMITTED. All our slates need to be wiped clean of sin, if any of us were to enter Heaven.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Yes, it's not all bad news! There is a way our slates can be clean, if the price, for our violation of God's Holy Law, is paid. As of ourselves, we are imperfect, we cannot pay for our sins; our offerings are worthless and inadequate...
There is only one hope, only one way...Jesus! The only perfect man who ever lived on earth, God-incarnate, died on the Cross to pay for all our sins and redeem us, so that we do not have to face the fiery jaws of hell! All we need to do is believe and trust in this sacrifice of His. By believing and relying on Him, we understand our incompetence, practicing humility and receiving grace and forgiveness as a gift from God. That is the only way out!

The Road is Long

It doesn't end there, in fact this is where it starts... Salvation isn't just believing, but also repenting. We need to show the evidence of our faith in Jesus by a changed life. Resent sinfulness, strive in the Lord for purity and accompany it all with good works. Ah! So this is where good works come in! James 2:14 says, ' by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.' Good works here, are a result of the faith, you're not relying on these to work your way to Heaven, you're just obeying God because of what He has done for you first.
More importantly, we need to live a God-centered life, living sacrificially for the sake and glory of the gospel. This is long, hard, unpredictable, yet a worthwhile road that many have given up on...don't make that mistake, press on. All the struggles we face will be worth it when we hear God say, "Well Done!"

Acts 20:24
However, I consider my life worth nothing, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace.

1 Corinthians 9:24
Run in such a way as to get the prize

There is only one winning road and it is not easy, but we have a God who is always by our side! With this in mind and practice, we can be assured of how it'll end. With Jesus at the center, we are guaranteed a victorious finish...
May we, with Paul be able to say:
'I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.' - 2 Timothy 4:7

Are you on your way to victory or peril? Are you eager to hear a "Well Done!" from God? How are you going to finish the race?