Text: 1 Thessalonians 2:10
Title: Values that are dear to us (I)
Theme: Our ministry needs to be an outflow of who we are.
the beginning of a new year, many of our minds will be on what to do this year.
President Bush is thinking about his economic stimulus package, plus
Coming to church this morning, you may also be wondering what kind of message you will hear. Are we going to hear about the church’s master plan for the next 10 years, or 5 years or this year, or for the next few months? Or will it be plenty of thunders with little rain?
Visions and plans for nations, individuals and church are certainly important. We are all familiar with Proverb 29:18, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraints.”
Having said this, I would like to take a slightly different approach this morning. In today’s scripture lesson, Paul was explaining to the Christians at Thessalonica what kind of person he was: holy, righteous and blameless. In the passages before and after this, we see how hard Paul worked among them. He had action plans while he was there. Here, he shared with the believers about the values he held dearly. Underneath his ministry, was his personhood.. From this and other passages in the Bible, it is clear that who we are, our values and characteristics are the foundation of what we do. Our ministry, be it at home, in and outside this church, must be an outflow of who we are.
This morning, plus one Sunday in February, I would like to share with you what are some values that we treasure and cherish in this church. This does not mean that we have arrived, but they are goals that we strive for.
I. Christ is the head of the church.
“他在萬有之先．萬有也靠他而立。他也是教會全體的之首．他是元始、是從死裡首先復生的、使他可以在凡事上居首位。He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” (Colossians 1:17-18) This is about Christ’s supremacy. He is above all, the Lord of all. He is the Lord, the head of his church, including HCC.
Being the head of this church, He provides us with life and direction, causes the church to grow and exercise authority over us. We are energized by his power, governed by his Word and Spirit.
What does it mean to us? Simply, we can do nothing apart from him (John 15:5,7). We recognize how much we are dependent upon him. Yes, he has given this church many resources; we have many capable and talented men and women. Yet, apart from Christ, we can do nothing. We express our dependence on him through prayers. On a daily basis, we remember this church in our prayers, telling God how much we need him. We dare not make decisions without him.
Secondly, when we make decisions, as a church we are to ask a very simple question, is this pleasing to Christ. We don’t just ask, is this good for the church, but more importantly, is this decision pleasing to God? With Christ as our head, we invite him to govern us. We, the entire body of Christ, the elders and the deacons, the pastors are to constantly reflect upon this: do our ministries, our meetings, and how we relate to one another a true reflection that Christ is our head?
II. Bible is the inerrant word of God.
“我們傳揚他、是用諸般的智慧、勸戒各人、教導各人．要把各人在基督裡完完全全的引到 神面前．We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.”(Colossians 1:28) “聖經都是 神所默示的、〔或作凡 神所默示的聖經〕於教訓、督責、使人歸正、教導人學義、都是有益的．叫屬 神的人得以完全、豫備行各樣的善事。 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”(2 Timothy 3:16-17)
We believe that God used words that we understand to communicate to us about himself. He inspired the prophets and the apostles to write down his words in this Bible. Since he was the one who initiated the communication, therefore his words are without errors in its original language. There are two fold purposes in our teaching and preaching. First, the purpose of our teaching is to point and bring the listeners to Jesus Christ. We are to help people establish a loving relationship with this heavenly Father. It means helping them to know Christ in a personal way and to help them enter a closer and more intimate relationship with Christ.
The second purpose in our teaching is to help believers to grow into spiritual maturity, to become Christ like. To become more like Christ in our personal and family life, in how we relate to people within and without this church.
Therefore, whenever we teach, whether we are SS teachers, Bible study leaders and pastors, we remember that our teaching is not just information transfer, but we teach to change lives. Howard Hendricks once said, “if the students’ lives are not changed, then we have not taught.”
III. Authentic worship is a life style.
“我對你說過、容我的兒子去好事奉我、…and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” (Exodus 4:23), “時候將到、如今就是了、那真正拜父的、要用心靈和誠實拜他、因為父要這樣的人拜他。那真正拜父的、要用心靈和誠實拜他、因為父要這樣的人拜他。Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” John -24.
We tend to look at worship as something we do on Sunday for the 1 or 2 hours. Or that first 20 minutes in our fellowship and small group meetings. In the scripture, the word worship has a much broader meaning. In Exodus 4:23, Moses told Pharaoh to let the Israelites go to the wilderness so they can worship him. But the original word is also translated as so they could go and serve him. So worship means to serve God. Our entire life is a service to God. So worship is really a way of living. When we serve, we are to serve with all of our hearts, and be governed by his word, the Truth.
However, there is also a narrow meaning of this word ‘worship’. It refers to Christians coming together at a certain time, at a certain place to praise God, to pray to him and listen to what he has to speak to us. When we come, we are not just coming to another meeting, listening to another preacher. Instead, when we come, we are here to worship the living, holy and almighty God. We worship him in spirit, meaning wholeheartedly. Different people express what is in their hearts differently. To some, clapping or raising their hands is a very natural way of expressing their praise and adoration. To others, it may be silence and more contemplative. There is no one right way to express what is within us, there are different ways of expression.
When we come together to worship, besides spirit, we also worship in truth. This truth can mean God's word. When we look at different practices, again the question is not whether we feel good about it, but is this pleasing to God? Does God's word have any reference to this or is it silent on this matter. One principle we are to remember is this: when God's word is clear, we hold tight onto it. When God's word is silent on the practice, then there is freedom in what we do.
IV. A grace oriented community.
“神差他獨生子到世間來、使我們藉著他得生、 神愛我們的心、在此就顯明了。不是我們愛 神、乃是 神愛我們、差他的兒子、為我們的罪作了挽回祭、這就是愛了。This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”(1 John 4:9-10) In this and other passages we learn that God created us, sustained us and redeemed us. When we were still his enemies, he loved us by sending his son into the world and died for us. Having redeemed us, he also perseveres us, enabling us with his spirit so we can manifest his holiness in our lives. There is nothing we can brag about, it’s all his grace, it is Grace Alone. The more we are true to ourselves, the more we see our sins and corruptions, the more we realize God’s grace towards us. For this reason, “Amazing Grace” has become the national anthem for the believers. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” Christian life is about God loving a sinner like me.
You remember the story about a woman caught in adultery and was brought to Jesus. The crowd wanted to condemn and punish her. What did Jesus do? “Neither do I condemn you, go now and leave your life of sin.” Jesus was saying, I have forgiven you, go now and sin no more. What is our motivation for living a holy life? What is our motivation for becoming more Christ like? He has already loved and forgiven us. Our loving him, becoming like him and serving him, is a response to his love and grace. We love because he has first loved us.
In this community, the motivation for our ministry is not to gain brownie points from God, but a response to his grace. I remember several months ago, while visiting one fellowship group, a brother said, “ I pray that HCC member will serve God whole heartedly not out of guilt or responsibility, but as a response to God's grace.”
May this be a community where we experience God's unlimited and irresistible grace towards us. And out of our gratitude towards him, we live a life pleasing to him. And as we experience his grace towards us, may we also be gracious to those around us.
V. Dignity of all people. Genesis 1:26,27
“神說、我們要照著我們的形像、按著我們的樣式造人、使他們管理海裡的魚、空中的鳥、地上的牲畜、和全地、並地上所爬的一切昆蟲。神就照著自己的形像造人、乃是照著他的形像造男造女。 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
This is probably the most important statement in the Bible about men. Since we are created in God's image, this is where we derive our intrinsic meaning and value. Our value and worth is not dependent on what we have and what we have accomplished. Each one of us is very precious because we have been created in God's image. What does it mean to us?
Since life is precious and sacred, we value all human life, from the unborn to the elderly, to the handicapped. We, individually and corporately, do our best to protect and help the weak, the helpless and the voiceless ones.
It also means that we do not see people as commodity that we use to grow this church. Nor are we to see individuals as numbers that boost our attendance record, as a means to our goals. Instead, we see each person as God's image bearer, thus highly precious. We’ll treat each person with dignity and respect. We offer each other basic courtesies. We respect people’s opinions and convictions even if they are very different from ours. We give them our full attention when they talk; we care for them when they are in need. .
It is my prayer that whoever comes into contact with this community of believers, they will feel they are being respected and loved.
Next month, I will continue to share with you the other values that are dear to us. These few days some of us may be cleaning our rooms or thinking about rearranging the furniture and redecorating the house. While doing this, we usually consider what do we want to communicate to friends who visit us? What kind of atmosphere do we want to convey to those who enter this house?
Isn’t this also true with our church? What do we want to convey and communicate to others or even to ourselves about this church? If someone asks me, “William, tell me about HCC.” I probably will begin to tell him our ministries, programs and action plans. Yes, this is important. Yet, equally important, is that we know who we are, what are the values we treasure.
It is my prayer that in the days and years to come, as we continue to grow, to worship and serve God together in this church, our ministries and programs will and continue to reflect values important to us. May our ministries be an outflow of who we are in Jesus Christ.