Reflections on Discipleship: Spongebob Movie

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I watched The Spongebob movie: Sponge on the run with little to no expectations. The cartoons were (and are) pretty brainless but there were certain scenes that stood out to me. In a pivotal scene, Spongebob Squarepants the fry cook for Mr. Krabs’ krabby patties (hamburger) had left in search for his pet snail. Mr. Krab thought that just having the secret recipe to his patty was enough but the moment Spongebob left, it all fell apart. Why? This is what Mr. Krabs said:

I used to think me secret Krabby Patty formula was also the secret to me success. It wasn’t until SpongeBob came to work for me that I realized the formula is more than just a list of ingredients and flavor-capturing methods. It’s more than a jealously guarded recipe. The real secret formula is sitting right here. SpongeBob SquarePants.

Then they break into a funny song:

A formula is something like a recipe
A recipe is something like a plan
With elements and measurements
All mixed together by a steady hand
But careful you must be or you’ll be sad you see
If somehow in the mix it has no soul
So what’s the one ingredient
That turns this awesome sauce to liquid gold?
I’ll tell ya!
The secret to the formula is you, you
You, you

Did you catch that? Apart from the corny song, the main message is that the person is more important than recipe. It got me thinking about discipleship. Often we go to conferences in search of the latest discipleship or mentoring program to use. We buy the curriculum hoping that it would be the secret recipe to our discipleship success.

But we fall flat on our faces when it doesn’t work. Then we go in search of new stuff that works. And of course the vicious cycle repeats. Why? We forget that the main reason why the material  worked so well in the first place is the person using it. The success of the discipleship hinged not on the method but on the man (or woman). Not on the program but on the person. Thus instead of searching for new discipleship programs, we need to start developing people who will disciple others.

I believe that if we get the right people we will succeed even with a sub-standard program. Let that sink in! As Mr Krabs said – the secret to the formula is YOU! Let’s focus on the discipleship relationship and who we are as disciple-makers.  Let’s focus on the character of the disciple-maker. Even the best curriculum can be butchered by the wrong person using it.

YOU – your spiritual life, your character, your personality are all integral to the success of discipleship. Focus building yourself and growing constantly in the faith and God will use you more than you can imagine.

Sermon: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life

Photo by Thanos Pal on Unsplash

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

John 14:1-14

 

Introduction

If I were to ask you “Why do you believe in Jesus?”, what will be your answer?

  • Because my parents bring me to church?
  • Because I want to go to heaven?
  • I don’t know!

I want to show you a short clip about the power of knowing WHY. 

Agent Smith could not understand why Neo would keep on fighting. Why does he persist? Neo replied – “Because I choose to.” He knew who he was and why he was fighting for. And imagine I’m Agent Smith asking you – “Why do you persist in your faith? Why do you believe in Jesus?” What would you say?

In 1 Peter 3:15, Peter says we should be prepared to give an answer to those who ask us. 

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…

1 Peter 3:15

Why should we believe in Jesus? I want to share 3 reasons with you from today’s passage.

The first reason is there is a perfect place for us.

1. Perfect Place (v1-4)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

John 14:1-4

Jesus knew he was going to leave this world. He was going to die on the cross, rise from the dead and return to heaven. When he told his disciples, they were very troubled. Who was going to lead them now as their master? Who was going to teach them? Show them the way? Wouldn’t they be abandoned by Jesus? Jesus assured them that he’s got a plan for them. He’s leaving to prepare a place for them in heaven. It’s going to be a wonderful place that he will bring them home one day. Of course, we know that when Jesus went back to Heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us when we believe in Him. But we have a future hope to look forward to. There is a perfect place that Jesus is preparing for you to be with him one day. 

Heaven is real. And if heaven is real, hell is also real. Do you know who hell was prepared for? It is not for you and me. Hell was created for the devil and his minions, not for us. Jesus wants you to be with him in heaven. He died on the cross to create a way for you to be with him in heaven. Jesus has prepared a perfect place for you to “be with him”. Even if life isn’t that great now, we look forward to a perfect place of pure pleasure together with God and with all those who believe in Him.

15 Best Hotels in SingaporeHow many of you look forward to holidays or maybe a staycation? For me, I love holidays and spending time in hotels. The rooms smell good, the beds are neatly prepared, the pantry is well-stocked. And usually every day they clean up whatever mess you may have made to pristine condition. There was a time I went to a hotel overseas and the service was terrible. They didn’t clean up the room daily, the beds weren’t made. I expected them to do a good job to make it a good experience for us because we are the guests. Can you imagine when Jesus said that he’s preparing a place for you? It will be better than the best hotel you’ve ever stayed. Not that he’s our servant but that he loves us so much and wants us to be with him. He has prepared a wonderful perfect place for us to be with him. I’m not sure how it’ll look like, but I’m confident that it’ll be fantastic if Jesus is the one doing it.

Are you worried about the future? Maybe your life right now is not so good, not so fun, not so enjoyable. Will you look forward to being with Jesus one day in a special place prepared for you? Know that one day you will have true enjoyment with God forever in this perfect place called heaven.

The first reason to believe in Jesus is that he has prepared a Perfect Place. The second reason to believe in Jesus is that He is the Perfect Person.

2. Perfect Person (v5-7)

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

John 14:5-7

Jesus said – I am the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus didn’t say that He would show us a way; He said that He is the way. He didn’t promise to teach us the truth; He said that He is the truth. Jesus didn’t offer us the secrets to life; He said that He is the life. 

When you’re lost and don’t know where I’m going. Jesus is the way.

When you’re confused and don’t know what to believe. Jesus is the truth.

When you’re dead inside and don’t know if you can go on. Jesus is the life.

And Jesus goes on to say that “no one comes to the Father except through Me”. This is a remarkable statement, claiming that He was the only way to God. The only way, not just one of the ways to God but THE only way. He was the exclusive way, truth, and life – the only pathway to God the Father, to the perfect place prepared for us.

This may seem really controversial to say that Jesus is the only way to God. What about other religions? What about good deeds? Many think it isn’t fair for God to make only one way. Isn’t this very arrogant to make such a claim? No. Not when you understand who Jesus is. Not when you understand how terrible sin is. You see, all of us were born as sinners. We cannot save ourselves no matter how much we try. We all fall short of God’s standard of holiness. We are destined for hell and destruction for eternity. That’s why Jesus had to come to earth as the perfect person to die on the cross for our sins. Only the one who lived a perfect life in full obedience to God could die for the wrong things we have done. No human could do that! But Jesus in his amazing grace and love, chose to die the death meant for us so that we can have a new life with God. He is the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Jesus. 

Gendarme who swapped place with hostages hailed a hero in France | World  news | The Guardian

On 23 March 2018, in a quiet small town of Trebes in France, a Muslim terrorist stormed into a supermarket with a handgun, a hunting knife, and three homemade bombs. He shot two people dead and took others hostage. It was the scene of death. Then came Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame to negotiate for the release of the hostages. They managed to secure the release of all the hostages except one, a female cashier. 

And you know what Beltrame did? He exchanged himself for the last hostage. That’s an act of valour. He knew he was probably not walking out alive. But he did it. He replaced the hostage. After a 3-hour standoff, Beltrame was shot and stabbed by the terrorist. The police rushed in to save him. They killed the terrorist and brought Beltrame to the hospital. He died the next day. He gave his life so someone else could live.

Something much greater took place 2000 years ago. Something greater. Jesus was beaten and bruised for us. He suffered and was crucified for us. He died for us while we were sinners. That’s how much Jesus loves you. He is the way to eternal life.

Are you trying to save yourselves with your own efforts? By being a good person. By coming to church. It will not work. Jesus is the only way. That’s the truth. Take it or leave it. And when you accept Jesus, new life comes into you. You receive eternal life so you can be with Jesus in the perfect place with the perfect person! 

Not only do we believe in Jesus because of the Perfect Place, Perfect Person, but also because he has given us Perfect Proof. 

3. Perfect Proof (v9-14)

There are two parts to this section – Jesus’ Words and Works. Firstly, his Words.

9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 

John 14:9-10

Jesus said that everything he said was from the Father. He did not speak on his own authority but what the Father told him to say. Jesus’ teachings were full of truth and life. He taught them precious truths of the kingdom of God, parables to provoke their imagination and prophecies of what is to come. And he often used the phrase “Truly truly I say to you” showing us that he is the truth. He came to show us the reality of life and the truth. No man could talk like Jesus spoke. And it’s clear from the Bible that Jesus claimed to be God himself. He wanted people to put their trust in Him to be saved from their sins.

Not only did Jesus prove why we should believe him through his Words, but also by his Works. Look at verses 11-14. 

11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

John 14:11-14

Jesus was not all talk and no action. He backed his words with miracles, healing, casting out of demons, raising the dead. He proved his authority by the things he was able to do. And the greatest miracle was his resurrection from the dead. He says to his disciples – “Look at the evidence! I’m a teacher, but much more. I’m a healer but much more. I’m your Saviour who would save you from sin, death and hell.” Jesus says to the disciples and also to you – “believe that the Father sent me”. Jesus promises that those who believe in Jesus will do even greater works. Can you imagine doing even greater things than Jesus? How is that possible? Because when Jesus went to the Father, he didn’t abandon us. He sent the Holy Spirit to live in each one of us! He has empowered us to walk in his footsteps.

Movie Review: The Case For Christ – City News

In the movie “The Case of Christ” it tells of the real-life story of Lee Strobel, a journalist who set out to disprove Christianity, specifically Jesus’ resurrection. However, his wife became a Christian and prayed long and hard that Strobel would see the truth of the Bible. Strobel was a detailed man who wanted to find out the truth. He spoke to doctors, scientists, pastors to disprove Jesus’ resurrection. But as he wrestled with the mounting evidence and with his wife’s loving prayers, he came to accept that Jesus indeed was God who died on the cross and rose from the dead. He was convinced that what Jesus said and did were absolutely true. From a doubter he became a believer.

Can I say something? Wrestling with doubt is not equal to unbelief. Do not miss this! Some of you desperately want to believe but want to make sure it’s true first. It’s okay to wrestle with God, the Bible, evidence and come to your own conclusion. You must own your faith. Don’t just take my word, or your parent’s word but explore it yourself. Go into the Bible and meet Jesus for yourselves to see if it’s true.

These are the 3 reasons why we believe in Jesus. 

  1. Perfect Place
  2. Perfect Person 
  3. Perfect Proof

Who is Jesus to you? Do you believe in Jesus?

C.S. Lewis | Biography & Facts | Britannica

In C.S. Lewis’ book “Mere Christianity”, he says there are only 3 ways we can look at Jesus. Jesus is either a Lunatic, a Liar, or Lord. Was Jesus insane by the things he claimed, somehow believing he was the Son of God? Or was Jesus a liar, seeking to trick people into believing him? But think about it, who would die such a cruel death for a lie? Why would his disciples willingly die horrible deaths for Jesus’ sake if it was all a lie? But if Jesus was neither a lunatic, nor a liar, there is only one conclusion – Jesus is Lord, the Son of the Living God who came to earth as the way, the truth and the life. 

What’s your decision today?

Let’s bow our heads in prayer. 

If you believe in your heart that Jesus is the Way, the truth and the life and want to put your trust in Him, you can pray this prayer after me.

“Dear Lord Jesus, I’m sorry for my sins. I believe you are the way, the truth and the life. Thank you for dying on the cross for me and rising from the dead. Please come into my life and be my Lord and Saviour from now on. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.”

Let me pray for all of us.

“Dear God, thank you that you are the way and the truth and the life. If any of us here are wrestling with doubt about who you are, please reveal yourself to them. Show them who you are. Strengthen our belief in you Jesus and help us give an answer to those who ask us why we believe in Jesus. Help us show the good news of Jesus to those who don’t know you yet. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.”

Discussion Questions:

  • If a friend asked you “Why do you believe in Jesus?”, how would you reply?
  • Have you ever wrestled with doubts about who Jesus is? Do you agree that doubt is not the same as disbelief?
  • Do you think Jesus was a lunatic, liar, or Lord? Are there other ways you or others have viewed Jesus? Why?

Book Summary: Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus

Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus (9Marks: Building Healthy  Churches): Dever, Mark: 9781433551222: Amazon.com: Books

Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus (Mark Dever, 2016)

What is Discipling?

  • Being a disciple of Christ does not begin with something we do. It begins with something Christ did. To be a Christian means to be a disciple first.
  • We disciple for the sake of love and
    obedience. We are to make disciples among all nations through our churches.
  • Your toil and labor cannot root in your love for them or their love for you. It must root in your
    love for Christ, his love for you, and his love for them.
  • Discipling means helping others follow Jesus. Discipling is a relationship in which we seek to do spiritual good for someone by initiating, teaching, correcting, modeling, loving, humbling
    ourselves, counseling, and influencing.

Where should we Disciple?

  • The local church: The gathered assembly possesses the authority to affirm or disaffirm who belongs to the body of Christ, or who is a disciple – through baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
  • Pastors: Pastors disciple and equip people with God’s word. Accountability structure through baptism and Lord’s Supper. They model Christ to the people.
  • Congregation: The congregation receives and supports the Pastors’ ministry. A church “works” when the members honor and submit to their pastors. Congregations that tolerate bad teachers are not helping others follow Jesus.

How should we Disciple?

  • Choose someone. How should we go about deciding in whom to invest?
    • Family member
    • Spiritual state
    • Church membership
    • Gender
    • Age
    • Different from you
    • Teachability
    • Faithfulness to teach others
    • Proximity and schedules
  • Have clear aims: Think both in terms of what people understand and how they live. Life➝Truth➝Life pattern – Your life should attract people to listen to you; your teaching should then work for their transformation; their transformed lives should then illustrate what you taught, which in turn attracts people to listen to them. Spend time with them.
  • Pay the cost
    • Time
    • Study
    • Prayer
    • Love
  • Raising up leaders
    • Shepherd toward Biblical Qualifications
    • Adopt a Posture of Looking
    • Spend Personal Time
    • Advance Trust
    • Delegate Responsibility
    • Give Feedback
    • Encourage Godly Authority
    • Expect Clarity
    • Foster a Culture of Humility

Conclusion

  • Mark Dever: Exercising authority and giving away authority
    • Build the church on the gospel.
    • Establish a plurality of staff and non-staff elders.
    • Be willing to lose elder votes.
    • Limit the percentage of main-slot preaching.
    • Create many other opportunities to teach.
    • Give young teachers the chance to make mistakes.
    • Let others steal your ideas.
    • Be slow to speak and speak sparingly in elders’ meetings.
    • Don’t be the chairman in elders’ meetings or members’ meetings.
    • Let other elders lead the congregation through difficult issues in members’ meetings.
    • Be devoted to one or two things in the church and give freedom elsewhere.
    • Don’t micromanage.
    • Be willing to receive criticism.
    • Pray for other churches and other denominations.
    • Be quick to forgive.
    • Rejoice in the victories of others.

Sermon: Jesus is the Light of the World

Then Jesus spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. – Slide 4
From Free Bible Images. Contributed by LUMO project.

John 8:12 

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’

John 9 

1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

3 ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’

6 After saying this, he spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means ‘Sent’). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

John 8:12, 9:1-7

 

Introduction

When I was a child, I was scared of the dark. I imagined that there were monsters hiding in the darkness waiting to pounce on me when I wasn’t looking. I would switch on the lights just to make sure that nothing was there hiding in the corner of my room or under my bed. So my parents installed a night light so it won’t be totally dark when I went to sleep. Of course, when morning came it was back to normal as the sunlight brightened the whole room.

There’s something scary about darkness. Horror movies would play on this primal fear instinct where the hero needs to explore a dark house or tunnel alone. We feel scared when we can’t see what’s ahead of us or what’s going to happen to us. So when we go camping we bring a torch light along to make sure we don’t trip or fall down the edge of a cliff. Light gives us comfort so we know what’s ahead of us. We somehow know that light is good and darkness is bad. No wonder people coin phrases like “these are dark times we are living in” to mean something bad.

During this time of Covid-19, it seems like a dark time for many of us all over the world. And we’re still not sure when this darkness will disappear. Today’s passage indeed sheds light on this very issue when fear, worry and doubt attacks us. Today, we learn that Jesus is the light of the world. What does it mean when Jesus says that He is the light of the world? 

When we look at the Bible in its whole, the ideas of light and dark are not new. God is often compared to light. Let me give you some examples. For example, King David said:

You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.

2 Sam 22:29 

The people of Israel also expected their Messiah or Saviour to be one who brings light to them.

We see this in the prophecy of Isaiah 9:2.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great lighton those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:2

Do you see the theme of darkness and light here? A light would come to those living in darkness. The Jews expected their Saviour to bring light to their darkness. Israel was living in dark times under a cruel Roman government. And Matthew connects this exact prophecy to Jesus in Matt 4:16, implying that Jesus is that light.

And finally right at the start of John’s Gospel, John describes Jesus as the light.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:1-5

That’s why Jesus used this Old Testament imagery to refer to himself. He said “I am the light of the world” twice in chap 8 and 9. Remember that the emphatic form of “I AM” is used by God. Jesus was saying that he was that light who would brighten the darkness. He was that light who would bring salvation to all people. 

To reinforce the idea that Jesus was the light of the world, John then records a concrete example of the healing of a blind man. And that’s what we will look at in 3 parts

1. A Tough Question (v1-2) 

The story begins with an interesting question by the disciples.

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

John 9:1-2

They believed that physical disability is a result of sin. It’s a bit like the idea of cause and effect or karma. “He’s suffering now because of the bad things his parents or he did. The more sinful the person, the worse the suffering.” There has to be a reason for this! When we go through suffering or dark times, don’t we often ask – did I do something wrong? Did someone do something wrong? We seek reasons and explanations for the darkness we’re in. I’m sure the blind man would have asked his parents countless times “Why am I blind? Why did God create me blind?” If you’re asking the same questions – “Why am I so short, ugly, dumb, health problems, divorce”, you are not alone. Thankfully, Jesus gives his perspective on this issue. 

From a Tough Question, we turn to a Thoughtful Answer.

2. A Thoughtful Answer (v3-5)

‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’

John 9:3-5

Jesus explained, it is because God wants to work in and through this man’s blindness. Jesus pointed the question away from why and to the idea, what can God do in this? Sometimes the dark times we go through is not because of anything we or someone else has done but to display God’s glory through our lives. God will work in spite of your situation for His glory. In the darkest place, his light shines brightest.

The timing when Jesus said this is really interesting and helps us appreciate it even more. Scholars have suggested that when Jesus said “I am the light of the world”, he was saying it during the Feast of the Tabernacles. On the first day of this feast there was a ceremony called “the illumination of the Temple,” that involved the lighting of four large candle holders by the priests and each person present lighted their own candles. Much like the baptism and candlelight services we have. 

Jewish writings from the time tell us that these candles produced so much light that it pierced the darkness of the city of Jerusalem, lighting every street and home. Thus when Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”, he was comparing himself to that powerful light who would light up the blackness not just of a physical city but also the darkness in our hearts.

Jesus is the light of the world that reaches even the deepest darkness of this world. He penetrates even the worst of human suffering, pain and tragedy.

Let’s hear Nick Vujicic’s story

For Nick Vujicic, his arms and legs weren’t healed. But something happened inside him when he realised that God loved him and had a special plan for him. Instead of giving up on life, he gave his life to Jesus to be used for God’s glory. Likewise, God has a special purpose for your life. He wants to show His glory and power through your life. When we accept Jesus as the light of the world, we become His light to the dark world we live in.

Jesus’ Thoughtful Answer leads to a Total Healing of the blind man.

3. A Total Healing (v6-7)

So Jesus proceeded to heal this man of his blindness.

6 After saying this, he spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means ‘Sent’). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

John 9:6-7

Never before in the Bible had anyone been healed of blindness. To create new eye muscle tissues and blood vessels in one of the most complex organs in the body is simply miraculous. Only God could do this sort of miracle.

But the healing of this man’s physical blindness is not the end of the story. Remember I said TOTAL healing? The story is quite long. Let me briefly summarise it. After Jesus heals the blind man, the Pharisees or religious leaders of that day were astonished by this miracle. But one apparent problem was that Jesus healed on the Sabbath which was their rest day. They weren’t supposed to do “work” like healing. So the Pharisees thought that Jesus was a sinner by breaking the Sabbath law to rest. But the blind man who was healed was so certain that Jesus was indeed a godly holy person. But the Pharisees were so blind to this miracle that they angrily tossed the man out.

Then we reach the climax of this story. We read: 

Jesus heard that they had thrown him (the blind man) out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ 

‘Who is he, sir?’ the man asked. ‘Tell me so that I may believe in him.’

Jesus said, ‘You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.’

Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshipped him.

John 9:35-38

Jesus let the man worship Him indicating that He is God. This man was healed not only of his physical blindness, but also his spiritual blindness. His spiritual eyes recognised who Jesus was – the Son of God.

I found this fascinating progression online. The formerly blind man showed an increasing awareness of Jesus. At first…

  • Jesus is a man (John 9:11)
  • Jesus is a prophet (John 9:17)
  • Jesus is my master, I am His disciple (John 9:27)
  • Jesus is from God (John 9:33)
  • Jesus is the Son of God (John 9:35-38)
  • Jesus is who I trust (John 9:38)
  • Jesus is who I worship (John 9:38)

Unlike the blind man who recognised who Jesus was, the Pharisees were still spiritually blind to see Jesus as the light of the world. And some of you here may be spiritually blind too. If you haven’t accepted Jesus into your heart, the darkness remains within you. Pray for Jesus to gradually and fully remove spiritual blindness from people’s eyes.

When we admit that we are spiritually blind and choose to follow Jesus, he promises to give us “the light of life.” Jesus is the light that gives light to our life. It’s not about following a set of rules or a list of do and don’ts. It’s about following a person – Jesus Christ. You follow the light of the world.

 

Conclusion

Are you in a dark place right now? Do you feel all is lost? Do you feel unworthy of God’s love? To all of you here today Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”. And for us who have Jesus as our light, be assured that the darkness will not overcome the light.

The first step is to acknowledge that you are spiritually blind and need Jesus to open your eyes. He came to dispel darkness and offer light to those who follow him. He came to earth to die on the cross for our sins to give us his light of life. He came so we need not walk in the darkness but in the light. Are you walking in darkness or light? If you desire to walk in the light and follow Jesus, pray this simple prayer after me.

“Dear Lord Jesus, I’m sorry for my sins. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins and rising again. Please come into my life and give me the light of life that you promised. Be my Lord and Saviour and help me follow you. In Jesus’ name AMEN.”

Let me pray for you.

“Dear God, thank you for Jesus who came into this dark world to give us light. Pray for each one of us that we will continue to trust in your ability to open the spiritual eyes of the blind and to give life to people. Pray that we may be bearers of this light to our friends and family around us. In Jesus’ name I pray AMEN.”

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What emotions do light and dark evoke in you? Was there an incident where you were scared of the dark? Share with your group.
  2. Is there any darkness you are experiencing that you need Jesus to shine His light in today? Pray for each other.

Book Summary: Discover Your Calling: The ABC of Vocational Discernment

Discover Your Calling: The ABC of Vocational Discernment | Graceworks

Discover Your Calling: The ABC of Vocational Discernment (Tan Soo-Inn, 2020)

One Conviction

  • God has given us a specific life mission

Three Clues

  • Our primary Ability (what are you good at?)
  • Our primary Burden (what are you concerned about?)
  • Our primary Critical life incidents (what are your life events and turning points?)

One Exercise

  • Create a timeline of your life from the day you were born till present
  • The pattern of your life will become clearer

Three Spiritual Resources

  • God’s Spirit
  • God’s Word
  • God’s People

Two Spiritual Disciplines

  • Solitude (Listen to God)
  • Community (Listen to spiritual friends)

For a more complete explanation, please purchase the book HERE.

Sermon: Content in Christ

Photo by Tom Parsons on Unsplash

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Phil 4:10–19

Introduction

Today, we look at “How to Be Content in Christ”.

Are you content with life? I recently watched a documentary called “The Social Dilemma” which talks about how social media is subtly programming our behaviour and the way we live. Think about it, When you wake up, what’s the first thing you do? Check your phone messages and notifications? Check how many likes on Instagram? Scrolling thru YouTube. And the danger about this addiction to social media is when you equate the number of likes or hearts you get with our sense of value. Even I fall prey to this! Oh man I only got like 10 likes?! You lose contentment. Let’s face it. There’s always someone enjoying a nicer holiday in an exotic country. There’s always someone who shows off expensive sneakers. There’s always someone that has a better meal somewhere. And this comparison can make you less content with our life. You begin to be unhappy with the way you look, you dress, your achievements or even your self-worth. You lose contentment. 

Question is – How can we be content in Christ?

Paul said that “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances,” in chapter 4 verse 11. He says it again in verse 12: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” Wow, I like the word SECRET. What secret does Paul know about contentment that we don’t know? That’s what I want to share with you today.

There are two secrets of contentment.

The first secret is that…

1. God Strengthens Us for all Situations (v10-13)

Let’s take a look. 

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Phil 4:10-13

What does the word “content” mean? In a sense, it means to be “complete”, to be “satisfied”. So Paul is saying that he doesn’t get his sense of completeness from the things he owns, the food he eats, the job he does, the place he lives or the friends he has. Remember he was writing from prison! And he was still content!

Whatever situation that Paul was in, God gave him the strength to be content. When he was poor and needy, God helped him be content. When he was rich and had more than enough, he also was content. You may ask “Who needs strength when you have everything?” Because you can have it all – looks, money, fame and still not be content! There are many beautiful people who feel ugly. There are many rich people who want more. There are many famous people who are driven to overwork themselves. Even the famous actor Jim Carrey once said “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

You need God’s strength in ALL situations and circumstances to be content. Note in verse 11 that Paul said he “learned” to be content. Contentment is not natural to us. We need to learn it. Sometimes in a hard way.

But does the phrase “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” in verse 13 mean you can literally do everything? I don’t think so!  It doesn’t mean you can fly against gravity or study non-stop for 3 days. We need to respect our physical limits. It’s not so much about doing all things but being strong in all things. This verse means that in whatever situation you may be in, God will strengthen you to endure it and make the best of it. It doesn’t mean that you choose to be stuck in a bad situation forever. Paul wished to be out of prison if he could. But he was content where God had placed him in for this season.

Unbroken - A Fake Story of Louie Zamperini | Conservative Blog Japan
Scene from movie Unbroken (2014)

In the movie Unbroken, Louis Zamperini was taken by the japanese as a prisoner of war. He was tortured cruelly but remained unbroken. In a pivotal scene, a cruel japanese officer The Bird orders Zamperini to hold up a metal beam over his head. If he dropped it, The bird would hit him. But Zamperini held on in defiance for 37 mins and the bird was so angry that he hit him down. He remained strong in spite of the difficult times.

While your situation may not be as tough as Zamperini but are you tempted to give up? Maybe it’s your family environment or your class or workplace. Maybe life is so dark you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. God promises to give you strength for your current situation. The spiritual key is your relationship with Jesus. He is the vine, you are the branches. Vines give life to the branches. We are to abide in Christ, to rest in him. Ask him in faith today for his strength to flow into you.

That’s the first secret of contentment – God strengthens you for all situations. But there’s a second secret.

The second secret is that God supplies all your needs

 2. God Supplies All Your Needs (v14-19)

Take a look at verse 16. 

…16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Phil 4:14-19

Paul is delighted that the Philippians have sent him a gift (v10), and he is extremely grateful for the repeated and self-sacrificial giving to him. He describes what they’ve done as “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (v18). This phrase likens their giving to Old Testament sacrifices that pleased God. It cost something for them to give generously to his needs.

But Paul made a weird statement in verse 17 – “Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.” What did he mean? He meant that the ones who gave received a blessing too. Not only was Paul blessed, but also the Philippians who gave. A spiritual lesson we must all learn is that “we cannot outgive God”. Only when we are content with the things we need and have can we freely give it away to those who need it more. When we keep hoarding stuff, we will not give it away. Our normal reaction is – what if I give this and I don’t have enough for myself? I’ve thought that way myself too. Just like little kids who keep toys to themselves and choose not to share with others because they are afraid that they will lose it.

Paul assured the Philippians that just as they supplied Paul’s needs, God would supply their needs. Similarly when you are content with what God has blessed you with, you can give freely to those in need. And when you give, you will not lack because the Bible promises that God will supply all your needs! Isn’t that an amazing promise?

I remember when I was in the army, my parents would ask me and my bro whether we would like to give money to needy missionaries overseas. I don’t earn much in the army and giving away would mean I couldn’t buy certain things. But I realised that God who called me is faithful. He would provide for all my needs. And he has! The same missionary is still in contact all these years and he and his family are very grateful.

I’ve learned that God is no one’s debtor. You cannot outgive God. 

The verse says God will meet all your needs “according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (v9). How rich is God? He’s infinitely powerful. Creator of all things. And he loves you very much. This is not a guarantee that God will make you super healthy, wealthy and popular, but it is a guarantee that he will meet all your needs.

This is similar to what Jesus said in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” First you need to give and God will make sure that you will not lose out. He will supply all your needs. 

Pastor Tim Keller says “You don’t realise that God is all you need, until God is all you have.” Is God all you need? When you find our contentment in God and find that he provides for all that you need, you no longer have the desire to hoard stuff. You are content to give freely and generously because you trust that God will provide for you. The writer of Hebrews says confidently:

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’

Hebrews 13:5

God will never leave you. God will never forsake you. What a comforting thought!

May God seal these two secrets of being Content in Christ deep into your hearts today.

Firstly, God strengthens you for all situations.

Secondly, God supplies all your needs.

 

Conclusion

I’m not sure what your need is right now. But I can tell you that your greatest need is Jesus. We are all sinners in need of a Saviour. And Jesus came to earth to die on the Cross for you and me. He rose from the dead and all who trust in Him will never perish but have eternal life. Contentment comes from knowing that Jesus will never ever leave you.

If you would like to accept Jesus and find true contentment in Him, I invite you to pray this simple prayer.

“Dear God, I’m sorry for my sins. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins and rising again to life. I need you Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. Please come into my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.”

Let us continue to pray.

“Lord, thank you for being with us and providing for our every need. Help us to trust you more each day even when we are in tough situations. Lord, provide us with your strength for all situations and to supply all our needs. Help us to be generous with our possessions and be channels of blessing to those in need. In Jesus name, AMEN.”

 

Discussion Questions

  1. Is there any area in your life that you feel discontent with and feels it needs to change? Ask God for strength and contentment. 
  2. How would you differentiate a “need” from a “want”? Is there any “want” that you can forgo to give away to others in need?
  3. What is ONE takeaway you can apply this week?

What Do You Trust In?

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

In times of testing, what do you trust in? Even as we are thick in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, what or whom are you placing your trust?

  • Are you trusting your government to keep you safe and create economic opportunities?
  • Are you trusting the doctors and researchers to create a vaccine?
  • Are you trusting your family to provide for you?
  • Are you trusting your bank account and investments?
  • Are you trusting yourself to make it through the tough times?

The Psalmist in Psalm 118 proclaims that his trust is in God alone. Check it out:

Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

Psalm 118:7-9

God was the one who would help him from all his troubles. Thus he could boldly and confident tell us to take refuge in God. God is far better than trusting in people. God is far better than trusting even in princes – great people!

Why? Because…”he is good, and his love is eternal.” (Ps 118:1) God is good and he loves you for all time. God has your best interests. Even when (not if) people fail us, God will never ever fail us. He will respond when we call.

Will you place your trust in God fully? Can you proclaim like the Psalmist, “The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid; what can anyone do to me?” (Ps 118:6)

Leading with a True Heart and Skillful Hands

‘Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way’ (Psalm 23:4). – Slide 5

70 He chose his servant David, calling him from the sheep pens.
71 He took David from tending the ewes and lambs and made him the shepherd of Jacob’s descendants— God’s own people, Israel.
72 He cared for them with a true heart and led them with skillful hands.

Psalms 78:70-72

Psalms 78 talks about God leading Israel and how they have repeatedly disobeyed God. This Psalm was written as an instruction for future generations to know what God has done for Israel in the past so that they will obey Him faithfully.

Leaders are to lead people to fulfilling God’s plans. Earlier in verse 52, God is alluded to as a shepherd who led Israel like sheep through the wilderness. We read:

But he brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the wilderness.

Psalm 78:52

Then in verses 70-72, it ends with a description of David. God took David the shepherd boy who took care of sheep and made him the shepherd of Israel.

The image of a leader as a shepherd is rich. It teaches us what a leader is like. I’ve written more about Jesus the Good Shepherd in another post. But here, I would like to point out two essential qualities of a shepherd leader that God is looking for.

1. Care with a True Heart

David truly cared for his people from his heart. That’s so important as leaders that we care for the people we are leading. It may be difficult at times when the sheep go astray or cause problems. A heart that loves the people will make decisions and sacrifice for their good. We cannot choose a leader that has the right qualifications, right skill sets, right experience only. Those are important but we must also look at the heart. Do they care for people? Do they love people? Do they love with ulterior motives? Shepherd leaders care with a true heart.

But that is not enough.

A leader not only needs to care for people with a true heart but to lead them with skillful hands.

2. Lead with Skillful Hands

David led Israel skillfully. He led them in battles, in establishing the kingdom and in helping Solomon setup the temple. It is not enough to just stroke the sheep but do nothing for them. The sheep would die of starvation one day! Shepherds need to lead the sheep to green pastures for food. Shepherds need to protect the sheep from danger. Shepherds need to discipline the sheep from straying off. All this needs skill. Do you continually seek to improve in your leadership skills and capacity? Are you adapting to new ways of doing things or clinging to the past? Having a Growth mindset says that we can always improve no matter which level we may be at right now.

May we be shepherd leaders who care for people with a true heart and lead them with skillful hands.

Sermon: Living For Christ

‘And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth! The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom! To Him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen’ (2 Timothy 4:16-18). – Slide 12

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

Philippians 1:12-26

Introduction

I’m so excited to share God’s word with you today. Have you ever been in a tough situation or place where you feel that you can’t be a good disciple of Jesus? Maybe you are in such a place right now. Paul was in a tough place too as he wrote this letter to the Philippians. He was in a prison. His circumstances looked bad. And there were people causing problems for him on the outside. There were some people who called themselves Christian but were trying to get him into trouble and ruin his reputation. Paul also faced an uncertain future, was he going to die in prison? But the amazing thing is that Paul rejoices. We see “joy” appearing again and again throughout the letter. Why? Because everything in Paul’s life serves to advance the Gospel no matter what circumstances he may be in. 

And for you today, you may be in some tough circumstances too. It may not be as bad as Paul in prison but it is still difficult. It may be the pandemic causing you to feel isolated and sad. It may be your school work, exams, tests that never seem to end and making you feel super stressed out. It may be difficult relationships at school, home or work. How can you be faithful and fruitful disciples of Jesus wherever you are? I want to encourage you today to live for Christ even in three difficult times.

1. Live for Christ, even when your circumstances are bad. (v12-14)

Many people go through difficult times in life and feel that God has abandoned or forgotten them. But Paul sees it differently. Paul sees that God has not abandoned him but has placed him where he is so that the gospel will be advanced. What seems like a disaster is actually God at work in order to bring the good news to others. Even though Paul is locked in prison and you would think that his effectiveness has been limited, in fact, it’s the opposite. God used Paul to reach out to those in prison. Look at verse 13.

13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.

Phil 1:13

Paul has been able to talk about Jesus to the whole palace guard! Wherever he may be, Paul saw it as God putting people into his path and sphere of influence for a reason – to tell them about Jesus. Nothing with God is random or by chance. Your desk mate or teacher or sibling is not an accident (though you think it was). God may be leading you to a place where you can share about Jesus to them. But if you keep thinking and complaining about the bad circumstances and forget to bloom where you’re planted, you will miss out on God’s purpose for your life. If Paul kept on whining and thinking of ways to do a prison break, he would have missed out on sharing the Gospel with those God had placed in his path. 

And not only the palace guard heard about Jesus, but Paul’s example encouraged others to be bold and courageous to talk to others about Jesus. Look at verse 14. 

14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

Phil 1:14

When you stand up for Jesus and start sharing Jesus to others, people are watching. Some are waiting for someone to take a stand for Jesus before they get the courage to follow suit.

 I remember when I was in the Army, I kept a Bible in my locker. When I went to bathe, I knew some of my other army mates looked through my locker and found my clothes and my Bible. I wasn’t going to hide that I was a Christian. During down times, I would take out my Bible to read and interestingly after a while, a few guys came to me. Some weren’t even Christians and they said let’s pray every night together for safety, good health when shooting or grenade throwing etc. I was glad to do that and I prayed with them at night after lights out and I’m so shocked that God could use me wherever I was. 

God can use you even when your circumstances are bad. God has placed you in that family, that class or workplace for a purpose. Some of you might give up and say it’s impossible to be a Christian and faithful disciple of Jesus there! That place is too dark! Paul could easily say “When I’m out of prison, then I’ll get on with my work for God”. Or you may say “I’ll serve God when my class is better, my studies are sorted out etc.” But Paul tells us that God will use you wherever you are. Light shines brightest in the darkness. When you stand up for Jesus, others will notice and some will be courageous to stand alongside you.   

Live for Christ even when your circumstances are bad. 

Secondly, live for Christ even when your reputation is attacked. 

2. Live for Christ, even when your reputation is attacked. (v15-18)

It’s clear from verse 15-18 that Paul’s imprisonment has provoked different reactions in the Christian community. Some understand Paul has been put in prison for the “defence of the Gospel” (v16) but others see it as a chance to “stir up trouble” for him (v17).

How does Paul react to them? Verse 18 is super important. 

18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Phil 1:18

Paul says “What does it matter?” The gospel is being preached and Paul’s reputation is not important as long as God is being glorified. 

When you stand for God’s purposes and values, some people will say you’re “religious” or “narrow minded”, “weak”. Can you say like Paul, “What does it matter?” Even if my reputation is attacked, I will continue to do the right thing. 

Face it – not everyone will like you. When you stand up for Jesus, you might be targeted by people. Your reputation may be affected. If Jesus was concerned about his reputation, he wouldn’t have died on the cross. He wouldn’t have gone through the misunderstandings, the rejection and humiliation for your sake. Jesus didn’t care what others thought about Him as long as he obeyed the Father. God can use you even when your reputation is attacked. Are you willing to lay your reputation on the line for God?

So far we’ve seen you are to live for Christ even when your circumstances are bad, even when your reputation is attacked.

Lastly, live for Christ even when your future is uncertain. 

3. Live or Christ, even when your future is uncertain. (v19-26) 

Paul didn’t know whether he was going to live or die. He hoped that through the Philippian’s prayers and with the help of the Spirit he will have enough courage to exalt Jesus, whether he lives or dies. 

Verse 21 sums up Paul’s joyful attitude to life. 

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 

Phil 1:21

What did he mean by that? He was fine either way. If he lived, he could keep on preaching about Jesus. And if he died, he would be with Jesus. Either way it was a win-win situation for him. No matter what happened to him, no matter how uncertain the future may be, he is certain that Jesus will be with Him. Jesus was the object, the motive, the inspiration and the goal of all Paul does. What about you? Is Jesus your heart’s desire?

Especially during these times when the future seems so uncertain – the economy is in recession, the pandemic is still raging on, when you can’t go on holiday, our only certainty is Jesus. If you live another day, you have a chance to live for Jesus. If you die, you will be with Jesus for eternity. Can you say with Paul that “To live is Christ and to die is gain?” As Christians, you need not fear death. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, conquering sin and death so that when you believe in Him, he dwells in you through the Holy Spirit. Jesus is with you.

As God gives you breath another day on this earth, will you live for Christ daily? 

Even when your circumstances are bad?

Even when your reputation is attacked?

Even when your future is uncertain? 

May God help you and me to make the most of our time on earth for His purposes. Why? For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.

Let us pray.

Paul’s confidence and joy was rooted in his relationship with Jesus Christ. If you’re feeling worried about the future or the circumstances you’re in, would you put your trust in Jesus? If you’ve been living for other things except for Jesus, would you turn to him in faith? Would you recommit yourselves this day and say “to me to live is Christ, to die is gain”? If that is your heart’s desire, pray this simple prayer after me:

“Dear God, I’m sorry for my sins. I turn away from them. Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for me and rising from the dead. Please come into my life and be my Lord and Saviour. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

Let me pray for you.

“Dear God, thank you for Paul’s life that he really lived all out for Jesus. I pray that you will use each one of those listening in right now in spite of their circumstances, in spite of their reputation, in spite of their uncertain future. Lord, help us all to truly live for Jesus everyday for all to see you living through our lives. Help us in Jesus’ name, AMEN.” 

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Would you say that it’s tough to be a faithful disciple of Jesus in your current environment (school, family, work etc.) or circumstances? Why?
  2. On a scale of 1-10, how true would you rate yourself with the statement: “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain?” Why?
  3. What is ONE step you can take this week in response to the sermon?

(Sermon adapted from Discipleship Explored)

Sermon: Abraham – Man of Faith

Abram (later Abraham) is called to leave Ur and go to Canaan. God promises him that he will become the father of a great nation. But Abram and his wide Sarah remain childless. <br/>Genesis 11-15. – Slide 18 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. …

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

Hebrews 11:8-12, 17-19

Introduction

What does it mean to live by faith? We keep on hearing sermons about having faith in God. Have faith in God’s promises. But what does it really mean? Let me give you an example.

It takes a lot of faith everyday just to come to St James’ church. Let me explain why I say that. I stay in Sembawang so to come to St James church, I usually take the MRT train. So take a step-by-step journey with me. Imagine you’re standing next to me as I’m leaving my house. I need to take the elevator to the first floor. I have faith that this metal box suspended by steel cables will safely bring me down 14 floors without jamming or free falling and exploding into flames. I then walk along the street to the train station, having faith that no E-scooter or PMD bangs me down from behind. Then I tap my EZ-link card, having faith that this plastic card containing money will work. Then I go up the escalator, having faith that this floating conveyor belt thing will bring me to the top of the platform and that my foot won’t get caught between the gaps. Then I wait for the train and squeeze in, and have faith that this long metal box that rides on narrow metal strips won’t derail or jam. You see, it takes a lot of faith in many things to reach church. At any point in time, if I didn’t have faith, my journey would have been different. If I didn’t have faith in my elevator, I would have walked down the stairs. If I didn’t have faith in the train, I would have taken a bus. Our faith shows what or who we trust in.  

Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” We need faith to please God. Faith is trust. Look at this chair. If I say I have faith that it will hold my weight when I sit on it, but choose not to sit what does it show? It shows that I don’t really have faith in the chair. But if I sit on it, I have faith in it. If we say that we believe in God, we need to show our faith by trusting him. 

In our passage today, we learn from Abraham’s life a key aspect about faith. It is this:

Faith is trusting God even when it doesn’t make sense. 

I have selected three snapshots in his life that flesh out this truth.

1. Abraham’s Start (v8-10)

8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Hebrews 11:8-10

Snapshot 1, the calling of Abraham. He was a pagan who lived in the land of Ur with his family. God called him out of that land to another place. We read in Genesis 12 that God called him to leave his hometown and to go to the place where he would show him.

“The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”

Genesis 12:1

That sounds very scary doesn’t it? Would you leave a place that you are so comfortable with to go to an unknown place? I mean really leave everything behind. If I tell you to quit your school and leave Singapore with me, what will you say? “Where are we going?” And I say “Just trust me.” You have no idea what’s that place like. You don’t know if they have air-con. You don’t know if they have WiFi. You don’t know if they have McDonald’s nearby. You’ll be very reluctant to leave with me. You’ll like to know the place first then choose whether you’d like to go right? Or maybe it’s because you don’t trust me.

That’s what Abraham might have felt when God called him. God told Abraham to leave everything he knows and to step out of his comfort zone. God didn’t give him the destination, the plan. He just told him to go first. It doesn’t make sense at all. We often have it the other way around – show me the plan and if it’s good then I’ll go, not go first then show me the plan. But faith is this – trusting God even when it doesn’t make sense. Why doesn’t God show us the plan ahead? Usually, it’s because if we knew what was ahead and what we would have to go through, we would say NO!       

Would you leave if you were Abraham? Would you take the step of faith by trusting what God says? Abraham displayed faith in God by leaving his home behind. He left everything that he knew because of God’s promise that he would be going to a better place in the land of Canaan. We knew that the journey wasn’t going to be easy. Instead of living in a city, he became a wandering nomad who slept in tents. Faith sometimes requires us to leave our security. What is your security that you might need to leave? I can think of two.  

First, you may need to leave Your Present Place just like Abraham. God may be calling some of you to leave the place that you are at now. You know the place you are at now is not where God wants you to be. The course you’re studying is not where God wants you to be. The work you’re doing is not where you’re supposed to be. Many missionaries have left the comforts of their home and chose to spend their entire lives bringing the gospel into other countries. Some missionaries, such as Jim Elliot and his friends, were killed in South America while sharing the Gospel with the natives. If Jim Elliot knew that he would be speared to death at the age of 29, he might have never went. Psalms 119 says:

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

Psalm 119:105

Think about holding a lamp. When you’re walking in a dark place, and you have a torchlight, you only can see a few feet in front of you. You take the next step, then the next. God often shows us not the whole journey but the next step to take. That’s faith – trusting God with the next step.

Second, leaving the secure might mean Leaving the World Behind. Abraham was a pagan who didn’t know which was the true God till he was called. Now he knew and God required him to leave the pagan world behind. At IDMC, Edmund Chan said the choice for non-Christians was between heaven and hell. But for Christians, we make the choice between earth and heaven. Even though you are a Christian, are you still worldly? Do you behave differently from your non-Christian friends? Do your friends and family see Christ in you? As Christians, we are in the world but not of the world. We are to be lights in the darkness. But we’re scared of our friend’s rejection, their ridicule when we choose to live by God’s standards. When everyone is cheating in the test and you choose not to, you’ll may not get the best grade. It doesn’t make sense to stick to God’s principles while everyone is cheating and you’re the only one who stands to lose out. Can you trust God even when it doesn’t make sense? Can you trust that God and leave the world behind? God can give us a new set of friends that aren’t afraid to live for God. Is God calling you to leave the world behind? Trust God even when it doesn’t make sense.

Snapshot 1 is Abraham’s Start. Snapshot 2 is Abraham’s Son.

2. Abraham’s Son (v11-12)

11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

Hebrews 11:11-12 

Snapshot 2. When God called Abraham to leave his home country, he was 75 years old. God promised to give him a land and many descendants. But there was a problem. He and his wife Sarah were childless. And to make matters worse, both were really old. Abraham was 100 and his wife 90 years old. Even with In vitro fertilisation (IVF), it probably wouldn’t help them get a child! Can you imagine waiting for God’s promise to give them a child for 25 years? That’s longer than some of you have been alive. Waiting for 25 mins for a late friend can make me angry already! The Bible says that Sarah was past child-bearing age and Abraham was as good as dead. It was a crazy promise from God. How in the world could they have a child? It seems impossible! How can she trust God?

But Sarah considered him faithful who had made the promise. She trusted God even when it doesn’t make sense. She believed what God said would come true despite all evidence to the contrary because she knew the character of God. That’s faith. Faith is rooted in a person, God. 

And God really gave them a son in their old age named Isaac. God kept his promise because he is faithful.

What can we learn about faith from this part of their lives? Trust God even though it doesn’t make sense. Even though it didn’t make sense that an old couple would have a child, they kept believing in the promise. Why? Because God is able to fulfill his promise. Throughout the Bible, we see God asking people to trust Him. God told Mary that a baby will be born to her without the need for a husband. God told Gideon to fight a huge army with just 300 men. Jesus told his disciples to give out a few loaves and fish to more than 5000 people. Trust God even if it doesn’t make sense.

Is there something God is asking you to do that doesn’t make sense? Maybe God is calling you to do something that is way outside your gifting or abilities. It would require a step of faith to put your trust not in yourself but in God. I remember the first time my father asked me to go with him on a mission trip to teach the Bible. I was very nervous. I thought, I’m not smart enough, I’m not engaging enough. But my father wasn’t one to give up. He would always encourage me to take a risk and trust God to enable me to do more than I thought I could. And as I stepped out in faith, God enabled me to teach the Bible confidently and well. I’m still growing. The problem is not that we see ourselves too small, it’s that we see God too small. We doubt that God is powerful enough to help us rise above our challenges. I’m telling you today – God is powerful enough to keep his promises. Billy Graham the famous evangelist once said:

“When we come to the end of ourselves, we come to the beginning of God.”    

We have looked at Abraham’s Start and Abraham’s Son. The final snapshot is Abraham’s Sacrifice. 

3. Abraham’s Sacrifice (v17-19)

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

Hebrews 11:17-19

We look at the final snapshot of Abraham’s life. In the previous snapshot, Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age. Abraham now knows that God has provided a son to continue his lineage. You need a son to have descendants. Now many years later, Isaac was a teenager probably and God calls Abraham once more. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac on an altar. To tie him to a stone altar with ropes, and to plunge a dagger into his son’s beating heart. Totally doesn’t make sense at all. I think this is the ultimate test for Abraham. The Bible doesn’t say anything about Abraham’s reaction. We’re not sure if there’s an emotional struggle, a wrestling with God. We’re not sure if he checked with his wife Sarah, “Hi dear, is it OK if I sacrifice Isaac?” But for sure, Abraham was human and had his inner turmoil. Why would God give him a son in his old age just to take him away? But Abraham trusted God. He knew that even if Isaac was killed, God could raise him from the dead. That’s how great his faith was. He knew that God’s plan will not be thwarted. So why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son in the first place? 

Well, the Bible says that God wanted to “test” him. That’s kind of a crazy test isn’t it? I mean, couldn’t God tested Abraham by asking him to do some amazing feat. Like walking on a long tight rope over two mountains? Or sacrificing 1000 camels or horses rather than Isaac? Why would God test Abraham in such a cruel way? I think God was testing Abraham where he put his faith in. Is his trust in God or in something or someone else? The test for Abraham is whether did he love God or Isaac more? Did he love the gift or the giver more? Actually, God knows what’s in our hearts. The issue is that He wants us to know ourselves. It’s not in the good times that our faith is tested. It’s in the fiery tests of life that our faith is revealed. God exposes to us what’s really in our hearts. Will you trust God even when it doesn’t make sense? 

When Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac on the altar, an angel appeared and stopped him in the nick of time.     

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.

Genesis 22:12-13

Isaac was a beautiful picture of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us. Many years later, God the father sacrificed his one and only son on a wooden cross. He was our substitute, the providential ram that took our place on the cross. It doesn’t make sense that the most innocent person who ever lived would die for us sinners. But to God, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. Jesus died so we could live if we put our trust in him. He will catch us for eternity.

It did make sense only later on. So hang in there. Don’t give up in the midst of doubt. I know for some of you, God might be calling you to step out in faith into the unknown. God might be speaking to you right now. To change your life direction in a scary and drastic way. Some of you are waiting for God to change your seemingly impossible situation. You might be struggling with a certain health issue for years and not seen any improvements. You might have a family problem that seems almost impossible to solve. Some of you are asked to give up something precious to you. To give up your time and dreams to God. And all these things really doesn’t make sense. Trust God. He is trustworthy. He is good. He is loving. Keep on trusting him.

“Dear God, thank you for Abraham’s life of faith that teaches us to trust you even when it doesn’t make sense. Some of the challenges that he faced is so difficult and trying and we can’t begin to understand how he felt. And I know my brothers and sisters here that you may be calling them just like Abraham to trust Him to take the next step. Help them put their trust in you God in the midst of their struggles and would you bring them safely to where you want them to be. In Jesus name, AMEN.”

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you think Abraham would have felt when God asked him to leave his home,  or that he would have a son in his old age or to sacrifice Isaac? 
  2. Would you have problems trusting God if you were in Abraham’s position? Why or why not? 
  3. Is there any situation in your life right now where God is asking you to trust Him?