Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Joshua commanding the sun to stand still at the battle of Jericho (J. Shillipenteems, 1900)

Sunday Worship 25 January 2009

Speaker: Pastor Rawna
Text: Joshua 24:1-28


There are many accounts of God's covenants being renewed in the OT and in this passage, we read of yet another. Towards the end of Joshua's life, he challenged Israel and her leaders to follow God faithfully. He had seen much disobedience in spite of the numerous times that God had intervened and delivered them by His great power - from out of slavery in Egypt and then leading them to possess the Promised Land. Here then was his farewell message:
"Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:14,15
Why was it urgent for us to respond to God in this manner? How should we choose?

Firstly, Yahweh is the one true God and there is no other. He will not stand for other gods and He deserves our loyalty as He alone is God. The test of belief and faithfulness therefore is seen in separation from every other gods. Pr Rawna believed that the present economic crisis was a good test of a Christian's loyalty as his or her true devotion may be demonstrated when times are hard, and when we risk losing our wealth or material possessions.

Secondly, to follow God is to take God as He is and not merely for the gifts or blessings He offers. In v19, Joshua expressed reservation that the people were only paying lip-service and therefore reminded them that if they truly trusted in God, they should know that any future disobedience would lead to severe punishment.

The challenge to faith is similar in our day: how have we chosen - Yahweh or other gods? Why did we choose Jesus? For material gains and blessings? If so, we need to remember that to follow Jesus is to deny ourselves and take up our cross (Mt 16:24) But we must choose one or the other sincerely and faithfully.

Finally, Chinese Christians were commended for observing traditions of family reunions. Joshua's address acknowledged his personal faith and that of his household, which is an encouragement for us to ensure that faith and obedience be found in our own households. While we uphold our faith, it should not be something we subscribe to or preach about in church alone. We may have taken the step to inculcate faith. Now we also need to take the next step - to seriously and purposefully instruct our children to choose God and obey Him sincerely.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

One Gospel

Sunday Worship 18 January 2009
Speaker: David Tan
Text: Galatians 1

Paul’s letter to the Galatians is one of the key books of the New Testament defending a pillar of the Christian faith, which is justification by faith. Addressed to churches in what is now modern Turkey, Paul wrote to denounce teachings that had perverted the gospel of Jesus that he had been entrusted to preach. In Paul’s mind, these new teachings were not only false teachings, but were really no gospel at all (I:7)

What were features of these false teachings that occasioned Paul’s letter?

First, Galatian believers – primarily gentile Christians - were told that in order to practise the Christian faith fully, they had to maintain Jewish laws such as circumcision. In other words, the Galatians were told it was not enough to believe or follow Jesus but also conventions of OT laws.

Second, Paul saw how such wrong thinking led to wrong expression of faith. Wrong thinking always results in wrong living, and ultimately takes a person farther from the God they wish to draw near to. So Paul wanted to explain what freedom in Christ looked like – how do you identify a Christian who has been set free from his old life.

These false teachings struck Paul as completely wrong as well as dangerous: they challenged the true gospel by insisting that salvation did not depend on faith in Christ alone. It also contradicted Paul’s teaching that justification – or being made right with God – rested on Jesus’ finished work alone.

What is the true gospel then?

The one and only true 'gospel' is the good news of how men and women are made right with God.

Ch1:1-5 spell out in a nutshell the one and true Gospel: It begins with God the Father. He sent Jesus to die to rescue us from “this evil world.” In v1 it also says that God raised Jesus from the dead. And by rescuing us, God has displayed his glory today and throughout all eternity (v5).

The Gospel is therefore the good news of salvation from evil and sin; it is NOT about higher standards of morality, it is NOT about self-knowledge or how to be a good person. As Paul wrote in Rom 5:10:
For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
What makes the good news 'good'?

The gospel is good news because it tells us plainly that salvation was God’s initiative; God took the first step. Salvation was God’s plan (1:4). It involved sending His son Jesus to offer it to us free with his nail-pierced hands - which is grace (1:3) - involving no human agency.

God has done for us what no human effort or enlightenment could ever do. It also tells us who this God is who saves because we cannot save ourselves. More than being saved or justified, the language that Paul uses here and elsewhere refers to salvation as ‘reconciliation’, which is ultimately a restoration of relationship with the living God.

When Paul referred to his conversion experience (vs13-18), he was not only defending his call to preach the gospel. It also served to contrast how Paul’s own self-righteousness - “advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (1:14) - did nothing to advance a personal relationship with God.

So what are we saved for?

Everyone who is saved is called by God. Everyone who has been called is saved for service. But he whom God saves, he first humbles. In the case of Paul, it meant a rejection of claims to being a faultless Pharisee (Php 3:4-6) and a call to a lifetime of missionary activity among the Gentiles. We are all not called to be like Paul, but we are certainly saved for service and good works (Eph 2:10)

The message concluded with a reference to the Church’s theme for the year as found in Jesus’ words: “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you” (Jn 20:21) The purpose of our life is to live for others – just as Jesus did, as Paul did. The congregation was reminded that it is this life that is worth living. It is also the most important thing we can teach our children. It finds it fullest expression in people who have found peace with God through faith in the one and only gospel of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The End Before the Beginning of the End: Watch!

Pastor Barnabas has begun the new year with "The End" - a series on what Jesus taught on the end of the Age in Matthew 24.

The message on the first Sunday was on the signs of the end of the world. The disciples had asked Jesus 3 questions: when will the destruction of the Temple take place, what will be the sign of His coming, and of the end of the age?

They thought that all these 3 events would happen at the same time, being as momentous and incredible as the destruction of the seemingly indestrucible and glorious Temple in Jerusalem was to them. But Jesus talked of 2 separate events: the destruction of the Temple which will happen in the disciples' lifetime and His second coming and end of the world which will happen at an unknown future time. He told them of the things that would happen in the world that they and we should not be alarmed nor be deceived.

The exact time of His coming again is unknown and cannot be known by us, as He said, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (v 36) We can only watch the events mentioned by Jesus unfolding before our eyes:

1. in the nations - the rise of technology and knowledge
Daniel 12:4 - till the time of the end, many do go to and fro, and knowledge is multiplied (Young's Literal Translation)
Wars and rumours of war: violence and anxiety
Luke 17:26 - Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.
2. in the environment - famines and earthquakes, and pestilences (Luke 21:11)
3. in the church -
v 14 - world gospel outreach
v 11 - false Christs and prophets
v 9, 10 - persecution and apostasy
v 12,13 - Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

We can see the words of Jesus coming true, but we must also heed His call to "repent, for the kingdom of God is near." (Mark 1:15) We need to set our hearts and lives right before God, because we do not know when Jesus, the Lord and Judge of all the earth, will come again, and "Watch out that no-one deceives you" (v 4), that we will not be found cold or faithless when He comes or when we are called Home.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

We are sent...

"As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
Jesus (John 20:21)

There is no question at all about the call that Jesus has made to his church: it is to live as he has lived, in obedience to God his Father; it is to go as Jesus himself was sent into the world.

Not for the church the comforts of a holy huddle, or the pursuit of empire. It is to point the way to a satisfying relationship with the living God. The church is sent to feed the poor, bind up wounds, set prisoners free. She is to be an agent of transformation - filled with the Spirit, nurtured on the Word, and empowered by God's very presence.

In a time of so much darkness, the world needs to experience as much as to know the good news of Jesus - that he offers forgiveness in place of guilt, wholeness instead for brokenness, and hope where there is none.