七月份﹐我通過 IPOD 收聽了一門神學課程“後現代主義與宣教事工”﹐主講教授要學生注意 < 詩篇 > 第 96 首 ---- 宣教的詩篇。宣教包括遠方和本地的事工。幾個星期以後﹐我在密西根湖畔為帶領 < 羅馬書 > 第十五章的主日學課程做準備。在一些參考資料中﹐有一個觀念﹕保羅將見證﹐宣教和敬拜聯係在一起﹐兩者互相依存。敬拜產生見證﹐見證吸引更多人來敬拜主。
在即將出發前往亞洲開始一段宣教事工的前夕﹐我願意與大家分享我在七月份裡的學習心得。在今天的 < 詩篇 > 第 96 首中﹐我們要學到一個基本真理﹕因為神胸懷萬族﹐所以我們要順服神旨﹐無論遠方或鄰近﹐都要傳頌他。
(1-2 a) “你們要向耶和華唱新歌，全地都要向耶和華歌唱。 要向耶和華歌唱，稱頌他的名…” (7-8) “列國的萬族啊！你們要歸給耶和華，要把榮耀和能力歸給耶和華。要把耶和華的名當得的榮耀歸給他，帶著禮物進入他的院子。”通過這首詩歌的作者﹐神呼召我們向他歌唱﹐稱頌他的名。這是一個敬拜的呼召。
這個呼召是向誰發出的﹖首先﹐這是對神的選民以色列人的呼召。神的選民要敬拜他。但是﹐在 1b 中﹐我們看到“全地都要向耶和華歌唱。” (7) “列國的萬族啊！你們要歸給耶和華，要把榮耀和能力歸給耶和華。”這也是一個對列國萬民的呼召。神胸懷萬族﹐包括亞洲﹐歐洲和非洲。在最初之時﹐神已經顧念全地萬民。他應許亞伯拉罕﹕他必將子孫眾多﹐並且地上萬國都必因他的後裔得福。用今天的話說﹐地上萬國也包括中國和日本的少數民族﹐在東南亞和南美洲的 一些 部落民族。神的心意是要全地萬族都來敬拜他。耶和華心系一切他親手所造的人。
這首詩歌也指出了敬拜的內容。 (1 節 ) “你們要向耶和華唱新歌……”“新歌” 最早出現在 < 歷代志上 > 。以色列人歌頌上帝的一項新作為﹕耶和華的約櫃被運到耶路撒冷。這代表了上帝與他的子民同在。耶路撒冷成為上帝的居所。這首新歌唱的就是神與他的子民同在。
今天的情形又如何﹖ < 啟示錄 >5 ﹕ 9-10 “他們唱著新歌，說：“你配取書卷，配拆開封印，因為你曾被殺，曾用你的血，從各支派、各方言、各民族、各邦國，把人買了來歸給 神，使他們成為我們 神的國度和祭司，他們要在地上執掌王權。”這首新歌是什麼﹖是基督為我們死和贖罪。因為他在十字架上的死﹐我們的罪得到赦免﹐得以與神和好。一切被基督救贖的人都要唱這首新歌來稱頌他的愛和紀念他為我們而死。
除了唱新歌以外﹐ (8) “要把耶和華的名當得的榮耀歸給他，帶著禮物進入他的院子。”我們來敬拜神需要帶什麼﹖要帶著禮物來敬拜神。禮物包括 : 地上初熟的莊稼和收入的十分之一。金錢奉獻不是因為神要我們幫他做什麼﹐而是一個敬拜的舉動。這就是為什麼我們經常說﹕金錢的奉獻也是敬拜的一個行為。我們不僅向神獻上讚美和金錢﹐也要獻上順服。在講道結束的時候﹐我們都有一些回應的時間﹐可以通過唱詩或者禱告的方式對神的話語表示順服。
從這些經文裡﹐我們看到﹕敬拜是以神為中心的。我們要向神唱新歌﹐帶著禮物來到他的院中敬拜他。當我們敬拜神的時候﹐是在給出而不是接受。我們經常聽到有人說﹕今天的敬拜我一無所獲。這麼說就代表我們的敬拜心態不對﹐是抱著一顆“接受” 的心態來到教會。相反﹐正確的心態應該是“給” 而不是“受” 。向神獻上讚美﹐新歌和順服。即便有時我們覺得對於講道的內容沒有收穫﹐我們也可以對於所讀的經文做出合適的回應。
II 神呼召 世界 尊一敬拜祂。
(4-5a) “因為耶和華是偉大的，該受極大的讚美，他當受敬畏，過於眾神之上。因為萬民的神都是虛空的偶像，”我們敬拜神是因為他是偉大的﹐過於眾神之上。在第 5 節中﹐我們看到其他的神被稱為虛空的偶像。虛空的意思是“不存在” 。 ( 哥林多前書 8 ﹕ 4) “關於吃祭過偶像的食物，我們知道世上的偶像算不得甚麼，也知道 神只有一位，沒有別的神。”為什麼我們敬拜上帝﹖因為他是獨一無二的真神﹐除他以外沒有別的神。
上帝是偉大和聖潔的﹐這不是因為我經歷了神而得出的結論 . 他的存在和偉大是獨立于我的個人經驗的。但是另一方面﹐正是因為他是確實存在並且獨一無二的真神﹐所以我可以在個人的生命中去感受和經歷神的同在。 我們敬拜神因為他當受極大的讚美。
我們已經看到神呼召世人尊一敬拜他。再來看看 (2b) “天天 傳揚 他的救恩。” (3) “要在列國中 述說 他的榮耀。在萬民中 述說 他奇妙的作為。” (10) “你們要在萬國中 宣告 ……”我們從這幾節經文中學到什麼功課﹖是的﹐神呼召萬民敬拜他。但是﹐他也呼召我們去傳揚他的名。列國萬族都要來敬拜他﹐但是神也要求他的子民和他的教會去萬民中傳揚他的名。我們必須要牢記這樣一個基本的真理﹕敬拜和見證不可分割。敬拜不是一個私人的行為。敬拜是要導致傳揚耶和華的名。 < 馬太福音 >28 ﹕ 19 “所以，你們要去使萬民作我的門徒” ( 使徒行傳 1 ﹕ 8) “可是聖靈降臨在你們身上，你們就必領受能力，並且要在耶路撒冷、猶太全地、撒瑪利亞，直到地極，作我的見證人。”你們來敬拜我﹐現在我就給你能力在全地傳揚我的名﹐我的大能和榮耀 . 這樣 , 眾人也都要來敬拜我。
感謝神﹐ David 和 Alice 在最近幾個月裡在我們當中。他們回應了神的呼召﹐去中國傳揚上帝的名。小孩子出世以後﹐他們就要返回中國了。神也會呼召其他一些人去別的國家﹐在另外一個文化環境中傳遞福音。神已經呼召了一些人去亞洲﹐西班牙和墨西哥傳揚他的創造和救贖的愛。他也呼召了許多人留在本地﹐向身邊的同學﹐朋友﹐同事﹐家人甚至陌生人講述我們所敬拜的上帝﹐這樣他們也會來敬拜上帝。在我們敬拜神的時候﹐我們也要向那些被神帶領進入我們生命的人們做見證。作為一個教會﹐傳福音是我們存在的一部分。當我們停止向人傳揚耶穌基督的好消息時﹐我們的敬拜也停止了。真正的敬拜一定導致向本地和普世的人們做神的見證。
我們敬拜神﹐因為他當受敬畏。他配得我們的讚美﹐奉獻和順服。在 10-13 節中﹐我們學到﹕敬拜神是因為他也是我們的君王。“你們要在萬國中宣告：“耶和華作王！”世界就堅定，必不動搖；他必按著公正審判萬民。 .. 因為他來了；他來要審判全地。他要按著公義審判世界，憑著他的信實審判萬民。”神的掌權有兩層意思。神現在就在掌權﹐現今為王。他將來也要為君王。
比如﹐ 1989 東歐國家的共產主義崩潰。從世界的角度看﹐柏林牆的倒塌只是一個政治事件。但是﹐其背後一個重要的推動力是神子民的禱告。在德國有一個禱告聚會﹐他們在 1980 年代初還是規模很小﹐但是到了 1989 年﹐已經有成百上千的人加入了這個聚會。 11 月 9 日﹐柏林牆倒塌﹐東德瓦解。 CNN 的新聞製作人 Bud Bultman 寫道﹕“我們在新聞媒體上看到柏林牆倒塌時激動人心的場面……但是﹐它背後的故事卻被忽視了。我們把鏡頭對准了成百上千為自由而禱告的人身上……但是﹐我們忽略了故事中一個超自然的力量﹐一個純粹屬靈和宗教的特點。這是我們看著卻沒有看見。”上帝親自介入了人類的歷史。
最近﹐我們在一些西方的媒體中看到有關在中國的基督教會的報道。 < 時代 > 雜誌有一篇題為“為中國的靈魂的戰鬥” 的文章。文章報道說﹕在溫州﹐被成為中國的耶路撒冷的地方﹐ 15-20% 的人口為基督徒。在中國﹐地方政府曾經長期禁止主日學的聚會。在 2002 年﹐一場抗議和向北京政府的申訴使得這個禁令得到解除。在 5 年前﹐這是一件不可思議的事 .
有許多書籍和研討會以“如何增強教會宣教事工的意識﹐如何令教會致力于福音傳播的事奉” 為主題。這些資料提供了我們許多在本地和普世宣教工作中所需要的幫助。有些教會﹐每年會安排一個週末特別強調普世與跨文化的福音傳播。我也想信 HCC 同工也是盡量地在提高會眾對傳福音的事工的警覺。我們也有許多的建議 : 在 講道中要更多提到宣教﹐牧師們也要更多地參與短宣。這些都是重要的方式幫助會眾明白本地和普世宣教的重要性。
但是﹐從今天學習的詩篇裡﹐我們知道﹕宣教不僅僅是我們要作的一件事﹐仍是我們敬拜的一部份。如果這教會和其他的教會要強調宣教的重要﹐那麼必須從敬拜開始。作為信徒﹐我們要知道我們所敬拜的神是偉大的神﹐獨一的神 , 萬分的 排斥一切其他的偶像﹐他現今為王﹐也將在未來彰顯他完整的主權。當我們敬拜他的時候﹐我們要獻上讚美﹐供物 ( 禮物 ) 和順服。
當我們這樣敬拜上帝的時候﹐我們也就遵從了他的命令 : 去 , 和 傳揚祂 . 從敬拜開始﹐導致見證﹐再回到敬拜。
Text: Psalm 96
Title: Worship and Witness
Theme: Since God has a big heart for all peoples, therefore we are to obey the mandate to proclaim his name near and far.
In July, I was listening to a seminary course “Postmodernism and Mission” on my ipod. The professor called the students’ attention to Psalm 96, the great Mission Psalm. Certainly mission includes both local and global. Several weeks after hearing this lecture, while I was by Lake Michigan , I was preparing for a Sunday school class on Romans 15. As I read different commentaries, one thought caught my attention. Paul associates worship with witness and mission. These two go hand in hand. Worship leads to witness which, in turn, leads more people to worship.
On the eve of a teaching ministry in Asia for the next few weeks, I thought it would be good to share with you what I have learned in July. In today’s Psalm, we want to learn a basic truth that is: Since God has a big heart for all peoples, therefore, we are to obey the mandate to proclaim his name far and near.
I. God issues a call to worship Him.
Vs.1-2a, “ 1 Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! 2 Sing to the Lord, bless his name;..” vs.7-8, “ 7 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! 8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts!” Through the author of this Psalm, God issued a call to sing a new song, to praise him. It is a call to worship.
1. A call to all peoples.
Who was this call issued to? Foremost, it was issued to the Israelites, God's people. God's people are to come and worship Him. However, vs. 1b, ‘…sing to the Lord, all the earth.” Vs.7, “Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples…” It is also a call to all the earth, to families of the peoples. He has a big heart for all the peoples he created. It includes the Asian, Europeans, and Africans. From the very beginning, he has the whole world in his mind. He promised Abraham that he would become a great nation….and in him all the families of the earth shall be blessed. In today’s language, it also includes the minority groups in China and Japan , plus different tribal groups spread throughout SE Asia and S. America . It is God's will and heart for all the people groups to come and worship Him. God has a big heart towards the people he created.
2. Content of worship.
This psalm also sheds light on the content of worship. In vs.1 we are to “ sing to the Lord a new song;..” This new song first surfaced in 1 Chronicles. It was to sing about a new thing that God had done. This new thing was the moving of the Ark to Jerusalem . This move symbolized God's presence among his people. Jerusalem is God's dwelling place. The new song is about God dwelling in the midst of his people.
How about today? Revelation 5:9-10, “ 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “ Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” What is this new song about? It is about the Christ who died for his people. It is about atonement, his substitution death. Because of Christ's death on the cross, our sins are forgiven, removed and we are reconciled to God. This is the new song to be sung by God's redeemed. Praising him for his love and dying for us.
Besides singing a new song, vs 8, “ 8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts!” What are we to bring when we come to worship him? Bring an offering. Offering includes gifts, first fruits or 10% of what they have. Offering is not seen as helping God to do His work, but as an expression of our worship. This is the reason we often say, monetary offering is an act of worship. We not only offer to God our praises and financial resources but our obedience as well. At the end of the sermon, there is always a time of response. It may be through a song or a prayer that we offer to God our obedience to his word.
From these verses we learn that worship is always God centered. We are to sing a new song to God. We’re to come into his courts to worship him with our offerings. It is said that when we worship God, we are here to give and not to receive. So often we hear individuals say that I didn’t get anything out of today’s worship. We say this because often we have come with the wrong attitude. We have come to receive. Instead, the proper attitude is to come to give. To give God the praise, to sing to him a new song and our obedience. Even at times when we feel we are not getting anything out of the message, we can always meditate and respond to the scripture read.
II. God calls the world to worship him exclusively.
God issues a call to worship Him. The psalmist also explains to us the reason. Why are we to give glory to God and to worship Him?
Vs.4-5a, “ 4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,..” We worship him because he is great, he is above all gods. Moreover, we also note that in vs.5, the other gods are called worthless idols. Literally, worthless idols means “no-thing”, they are nothing. 1 Corinth 8:4, “ 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” Why do we worship him? Because he is the only God; there is no God but one.
Vs.9, “ 9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!” Why worship Him? Because he is holy.
You see, we worship, because he is the only God. He is great, holy and almighty. He is the only God. This is very exclusive, isn’t it? In today’s culture, this is not popular at all. Our society and our schools want us and our children to be tolerant and inclusive. All roads lead to Rome . They say therefore, all religions are similar. However if we hold the conviction that the Bible is God's word, the absolute truth, then anything that contradicts it, cannot be truth. All religions are not the same. The God revealed in the Bible is the only true God.
This God is great and holy, not because I have experienced it. For His existence and greatness is independent of my experience. On the other hand, because he is true and the only one God, therefore I can also experience him in a very special and personal way. We worship him because he alone is worthy of our worthy.
III. God commands his people to proclaim His Name.
We have read that God calls all the world to worship him exclusively. Now take a look at the following verses, 2b, “…tell of his salvation..” vs.3, “Declare his glory….”vs.10, “Say among the nations…” What do we see here? Yes, God calls the families of the peoples to worship him. But he also calls his people to proclaim his name. Yes, all the peoples of the world are to come and worship him. But he also commands his people, his church to go and proclaim his name. What we see here is a basic truth that must not be forgotten: Worship and Witness cannot be separated. Worship is never a private matter. Worship leads to telling people about God. In Matt.28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations….” Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria , and to the end of the earth.” You have come to worship me, now I will give you power to go and tell others about my name, my power and my glory. So they too, will come and worship.
We are thankful that David and Alice are with us these few months. They had responded to God's call and went to China to proclaim his name there. After the baby is born, they will return to China . God will call some of us to go to another country, another culture to tell. God has called some to go to Asia, Spain and Mexico to tell about this creator God and his redeeming love. God has called many of us to stay right where we are, but to go and tell our school mates, friends, colleagues at work, family members, friends and strangers about the God we worship. So that they, too, will come and worship Him. As we worship, we will witness to those that God in his providence has brought into our lives. As a church, reaching out to others is an integral part of our existence. When we stop telling others the good news of Jesus Christ, then we have also stopped worshipping Him. True worship must lead to witness, both locally and globally.
IV. God calls us to worship Him the King. 10-13
We worship God because he is worthy of our worship. He is worthy to receive praise, offering and obedience from us. In vs. 10,13, we are told that we worship God because he is also our king. “ 10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.” …….. for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.” There are two aspects of his reign. He reigns now. He is the King now. He will also come to reign in a future day..
1. He is the King now. In the midst of such a broken and violent world, it is hard to see that God is king over us. however, it is important for us to know that God does rule by holding the evil in check and at times intervenes in history from time to time.
For example, the fall of communism in eastern Europe in 1989. From the world’s perspective, the collapse of the Berlin wall is strictly a political matter. Yet the true instrumental cause was the prayer of God's people. There was a prayer meeting in Germany , that grew from a small group of people in early 1980s to hundreds of thousands by 1989. On November 9, the Berlin wall was torn down and the East German government collapsed. Bud Bultman, a producer and writer for CNN, wrote, “We in the media watched in astonishment as the wall came crashing down……however, the story behind the story was overlooked. We trained our cameras on hundreds of thousands of people praying for freedom…..yet we missed the transcendent dimension, the explicitly spiritual and religious character of the story. We looked right at it and could not see it.” God intervened.
Lately we see some major western news report on the Christian church in China . There is a Time article titled, “the fight for china’s soul”. It is reported that in Wenzhou , known as ‘ China ’s Jerusalem ’, 15 to 20% of the population are Christians. In china, there had long been a ban of Sunday school teaching by local government. In 2002, a campaign of protests and appeals to Beijing led to the reversal of the ban on Sunday school teaching. Just 5 years ago, this is unthinkable, right?
On Friday’s newspaper, it was reported that in the new Chinese high school’s history text book, Mao was mentioned in only one sentence. Marxism occupied one page. Unthinkable just two or 3 years ago. Why? Don’t forget that for many years, countless Christians around the world had been praying for china. Even in the midst of injustice and oppression, we see evidences of God's rule on earth.
Isn’t this also true in our personal lives? Some of us have gone through great trials in recent years. At that moment, God will be the last thing in our minds. Yet, as we look back, we see how God's hand was in that situation, guiding and protecting us. In the midst of all those difficulties, he gently brought us back to his bosom. God reigns.
2. He will be the king in future. God not only reigns now, this psalm also tells us that there will come a day when his rule will be complete and perfect. He will judge the world and rule with perfect righteousness. The word ‘judge’ often brings fear to us. But in the ancient culture, where there are so many injustices, the people look forward to a day when God will rule, and make things right. There are also plenty of injustices in our world and may be in our personal lives as well. We, too, need to look forward to that day, when our King will make everything right.
For us believers, we recognize our imperfections and failures in the present life. We are making every effort to become more Christ like, but human sinfulness is still evident. We also look towards that day when this king comes and will rule perfectly in our lives. On that day, we too can be truly like him.
There are many books and workshops on: How to increase your church’s awareness in Mission ; How to make your church more missions-minded, Contagious evangelism, Just Walk across the room. These resources provide us with much needed step by step assistance in global and local missions. Some churches would have an annual 1 weekend mission conference to highlight the importance of overseas or cross cultural mission. I am certain leaders in this church have also tried different ways to help HCC be more missions and outreach minded. We have suggestions ranging from more preaching on mission, more pastors should go on more mission trips. I feel these are all good and important tools to help the congregation see the importance of reaching out to others, both globally and locally.
However, from the psalm we study today, it appears that mission is not just something we do, but it is an integral part of our worship. If this or other churches want to highlight missions, it almost has to start with worship. As believers, we need to know that the God we worship is great, is the only God, who is very exclusive, he reigns now and will manifest his perfect reign one day in the future. When we worship him, we offer him our praises, our offerings/gifts, and our obedience.
You see, when we worship him in this manner, we will also obey his command to go and tell others about him. It begins with worship, leads to witness, then right back to worship.
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