You Can’t Please Everyone!

The Miller, His Son, and Their Ass - Fables of Aesop

A man and his son were once going with their donkey to market. As they were walking along by his side a countryman passed them and said, “You fools, what is a donkey for but to ride upon?” So the man put the boy on the donkey, and they went on their way.

But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said, “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”

So the man ordered his boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other, “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

Well, the man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his boy up before him on the donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passersby began to jeer and point at them. The man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at.

The men said, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours – you and your hulking son?”

The man and boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, until at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them until they came to a bridge, when the donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the donkey fell over the bridge, and his forefeet being tied together, he was drowned.

Try to please everyone, and you will please no one.

Aesop’s Fables

You can’t please everyone.

No matter what you do, there’s always an opinion.

It’s natural to please your boss. Your colleagues. Your family. Your friends. But it’s not always easy. In our attempts to earn people’s acceptance and approval, like the story, we lose track of who we are. We lose track of what we should be doing.

But the hard truth is that you can’t please everyone.

And you shouldn’t.

Check out this passage.

16 “To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends,

17 ‘We played wedding songs,
and you didn’t dance,
so we played funeral songs,
and you didn’t mourn.’

18 For John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.”

Matthew 11:16-19

Just look at Jesus and John the Baptist. Two of the greatest men to ever walk the face of the earth could not escape the critical mud-slinging by people.

Jesus essentially was saying that you can’t please everyone. John the Baptist who religiously fasted and refrained from alcohol was accused of being demon-possessed. While Jesus who ate and drank liberally was accused of being a glutton and a friend of sinners. You could sense Jesus’ frustration with the people of Israel.

Many times people accuse or make comments without knowing the truth or full story behind your actions. Don’t bother with their comments. You can’t please everyone.

Instead, Jesus tells us to let your results back you up. Let your wisdom be the proof that you made the right choices no matter what people may say.

Jesus couldn’t please everyone.

John the Baptist couldn’t please everyone.

Neither should we.

You must seek God’s direction and calling for your life. Live out your unique God-ordained mission for your life without comparing to others. Don’t let the nay-sayers or critics deter you. Listen to God’s voice of approval. Let the God-given results of your life defend you.

Seek for God’s approval, not man.

Sermon: I Am Barabbas

Seeking the Lord: The Ironies Between Jesus and Barabbas

1 Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.’

3 So Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’

‘You have said so,’ Jesus replied.

4 Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no basis for a charge against this man.’

13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, ‘You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.’ 

18 But the whole crowd shouted, ‘Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!’ 19 (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)

20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’

22 For the third time he spoke to them: ‘Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.’

23 But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’

36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’

38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’

42 Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

43 Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’

Luke 23:1-4, 13-25, 32-43

 

Introduction

Next week is the Holy Week of Good Friday and Easter. Today, I am focusing on one character in the story that was read for us. This character is called Barabbas. He doesn’t say anything in the text, there’s not very much. But what if we could dive into his mind that day? Let me take you on an imaginary trip into the life of Barabbas. Let’s just imagine that an ancient diary was found written by Barabbas and we’re now uncovering it today that no one has ever read before. What lessons can we learn about Jesus’ death from his viewpoint? 

Let’s begin.

I am Barabbas. Let me tell you something about me. I am a true Jew, a true Israelite who was born into a cruel world ruled by the Roman government. They have oppressed us for years and it’s about time someone did something about them. I remember the glorious days not too long ago when a Jewish family called the Maccabees led a rebellion against the foreign power ruling over them. And because of their act of bravery, Israel had their own land for 100 years till the Roman empire came in to conquer us. I’m sick of the way we are treated like slaves in our own land!

So I joined an anti-Rome rebellion group whose sole purpose was to fight against the Roman empire and to free Israel from their rule. I rose the ranks of this group as we fought against the Romans, killing and doing other despicable acts if we had too. I was a cold blooded murderer. But I knew that this was the right thing to do to free my people from slavery. But one day, during a fierce rebellion, I was captured and thrown into a dark Roman prison.

I knew it was the end for me. I was condemned as a criminal and sentenced to be crucified. Crucifixion is only allowed for non-Roman citizens, people like me, as it was considered a death too shameful and disgusting for any Roman citizen to have to go through. But for a murderer, a rebel, a traitor, crucifixion seemed the only way to punish me to deter others from rebelling against the mighty Roman empire. Crucifixion was one of the worst ways to die. You were severely flogged even before carrying a heavy wooden cross beam to the crucifixion site. And as you dragged the beam along the road to the site, you were jeered, you were insulted, mocked. It’s a shameful sight with all your fellow men watching you, some watching in pity, some for amusement.

I’ve always wondered what happened to this Messiah who was supposed to come save us from Roman rule. All Jewish people know the Hebrew prophecy in Isaiah that a Messiah, the anointed one, will come to rescue us from slavery and foreign powers. He would destroy all our enemies and establish peace in our land. Where was he? But rumours here and there say that a man named Jesus was doing a lot of good things for us. He was a healer, a preacher, a friend of sinners. Would he be the one to save us from Roman rule? In fact, just last week, he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 that the King will come riding in on a donkey! I don’t know what happened to him. He may be our only hope left. 

A sound of footsteps broke my thoughts as a burly Roman soldier walked up to my cell. I thought it was time for my crucifixion and my hands shook in fear. He brought me up in chains to the courtyard above but it was a crazy scene. Something else was taking place. I saw Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, at the judgment seat, trying to calm the enraged crowd but to little avail. What in the world was happening? Then I saw another man standing next to Pilate, a Jewish man dressed in a purple robe, his face bruised and bleeding with a crown of thorns on his head.

Pilate shouted to the crowd once more, “This man is innocent. I find no basis to send Jesus to die!” Wait, Jesus? Was this the Messiah who walked triumphantly into Jerusalem last week? How is he now arrested and tortured? What’s happening? Then Pilate saw me and beckoned the soldier to quickly bring me up. I was roughly pushed to the front and stood next to Jesus. He was silent. There was an aura of calmness around him.

Pilate said to the crowd, “There’s a custom for the Roman government to free a prisoner at every Passover event. Who would you like for me to release? Jesus the Christ or Jesus Barabbas?”  It’s funny our names are so similar. My name means “Son of the father” while Jesus himself claimed to be the “Son of God the father.” 

The choice between him and me was ridiculous. Who would free a murderer like me rather than Jesus, a good man who was innocent of any crime? Pilate looked confident that the people would choose to free Jesus but then the crowd was stirred up to yell my name – Barabbas.

Free Barabbas! 

I couldn’t believe my ears. Could I be free from crucifixion? Could I be free from dying? I was happy but at the same time, how about Jesus? He would die in my place on the cross. An innocent man dying for the guilty me. 

Free Barabbas!

The crowd was deafening, almost fever-pitched.

Pilate, exasperated, washed his hands in a bowl of water to indicate that he wasn’t involved in this ludicrous act of sending Jesus to die. The people were the ones responsible. And he sent Jesus to be crucified. The Roman soldier unlocked my chains that bound my hands and feet. I was free to go.

It was surreal. One moment I was going to be crucified, and now this man Jesus took my place to die on the cross. But if he was truly the son of God, couldn’t he prevent himself from being arrested and dying on a cross?

Who was this Jesus? I followed the crowds along to watch as Jesus, broken and tired as he was carrying the cross to the crucifixion site. I imagined myself there for a moment. This man was doing exactly what I should have been doing. My heart pained within me. Who was this Jesus?

I continued following as Jesus was crucified. 9 inch long nails were hammered into his wrists and feet to the wooden cross. BAM! Each slam by the hammer shook my own heart. Jesus cried out in pain with each blow of the hammer on the nail. It was supposed to be me. As the soldiers raised up the cross and hung Jesus and two criminals there for them to die, many continued to mock him – if you are the son of God, save yourself!

I couldn’t believe that this so-called Messiah, son of God could end up on the cross. Wasn’t God supposed to be all powerful? The Roman government he was supposed to conquer crucified him! What a flop, what a failure.

At that moment, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they’re doing.”

Criminals on a cross usually said, “May my death atone for all my sins” but this man prayed for those who condemned him, those who nailed him to the cross to be forgiven? What sort of delusion is this? How could Jesus still pray for them to be forgiven? And I realised, I put Jesus on the cross too. He took my place for the wrong things I did. How could a person be so filled with love or lunacy to act in this way? I couldn’t believe my ears.

After several hours, some departed but I couldn’t leave. There was something alluring about Jesus, hanging on the cross for my sake. Suddenly the sky became dark and Jesus cried out in a loud voice “It is finished!” And he hung his head and died. I was stunned. How could a person die like that? Usually a person hung on a cross for a few days before dying of blood loss and suffocation but Jesus, he gave up his own spirit. This Jesus died for me so I could live. 

If he was really the Son of God, the Messiah, then what was he saving us from? Definitely not the Roman rule. It was only later on that I realised Jesus didn’t come to save us from physical slavery but a spiritual slavery far more serious than I realised. A slavery to sin. I was reminded of scripture in the Hebrew bible applied to Jesus:

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.

Isaiah 53:4-6 (NLT)

This innocent man who took my sins on the cross, died so I may live. He was not punished for his own sins because he was the only perfect person to ever walk the face of this earth. He was punished for my and your sins on the cross! While we were still sinners, Jesus died for us. 

Jesus was punished that we might be forgiven.

Jesus was wounded that we might be healed.

Jesus was made sin with our sinfulness that we might be made righteous with His righteousness.

Jesus was made poor so we might be rich.

Jesus died our death that we might receive His life.

Jesus bore our shame that we might share His glory.

Jesus endured our rejection that we might have His acceptance with the Father.

Jesus was made a curse that we might enter into blessing.

Then I saw the most amazing sight on the cross that I want to share with all of you before I end my journal entry.

One of the dying criminals on the cross next to Jesus called out to Him to save him. What happened exactly?

Firstly, the criminal feared God. He was about to die and realised he had to give an account of all the wrong things he had done in his life. One day all of us will have to appear before God to give him an account of the way we lived our lives whether good or bad.

Next, the criminal confessed his sins. He recognised that he deserved to be punished with death on the cross but Jesus was totally innocent. Jesus took our place on the cross. To be saved, we must confess that the sinless Jesus took the punishment that we so rightly deserved.

Lastly, the criminal trusted in Jesus. He said – Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. He recognised that Jesus really was a KING! And note he used the word “when”, not “if”. He was fully confident that Jesus is King.

How would Jesus reply to him at the last moment of their lives? Jesus, assured this criminal that today you will be with me in paradise! Even in his immense pain and suffering, Jesus continued to embrace others and to lead them to trust in him for eternal life. But don’t be like this thief who waited until the last moment of his life. This was actually the first moment when he met Jesus and he trusted in Him. He wasted his whole life. If he could, I’m sure he would have lived the rest of his life for Jesus. For many of you young people today, you have your whole life ahead of you. But who is to know what will happen? Trust in Jesus today! 

Would you, like this criminal and me Barabbas choose to fear God, confess your sins and trust in Jesus? If you do, Jesus will tell you, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Let us close in prayer.

If you’ve never trusted in Jesus before would you pray this prayer to receive him into your life?

“Dear God, I’m sorry for my sins. Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for me and rising from the dead. Please come into my life and save me. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.”

Let me close in prayer.

“Dear God, thank you for your love shown through Jesus’ death for us. It was for our sins that you took our place on the cross. Not because we deserve it but because you love us so much. Lord help us to see afresh your love and be thankful for your death in our place. We love you Jesus. In your name we pray, AMEN.”

Discussion questions:

  • How would you feel if you were Barabbas? Pontius Pilate? The Crowd? The thief on the cross?
  • How could you appreciate Jesus’ death for you in a greater way this Good Friday?

Book Summary: Revolutionary Work (William Taylor)

Revolutionary Work | Media Ministry

Revolutionary Work: What’s the point of the 9 to 5? (William Taylor, 2017)

1. What is the Point of Work? (Gen 2:4-17)

– Work was good and dignified, for God himself is a worker.

– Goodness of work is matched by a responsibility to work in the world in a manner which is accountable, caring for what God has entrusted to us (vertical with God and horizontal with Man)

– Work is necessary to provide for ourselves and others.

– All work is dignified before God. He rejects view that there is a specific, personal, vocation for each person to find.

– He rejects view that work exists to help us find personal fulfillment in life.

2. What is the matter with work? (Gen 3:17-19)

– Our place of work is cursed.

– Although given to us good, work is now grim, and will always be grim. Work is ‘frustrating, painful, and ultimately futile’.

– The work of our hands will not last (futile).

– Damage is wrecked through our cultural and technological advancements.

– Rejects the existence of a cultural mandate. Adam Vs Noah no more mandate to subdue and rule.

3. Is there any hope for work? (Eph 6:5-9)

– The Christian will be governed by the gospel in their work. The gospel offers us a new boss, a new goal, and a new reward.

– We ultimately work for Jesus (boss) in our work, which enables us to work hard, and adorn the gospel in the way that we work (being kind, considerate, etc.), because we are seeking to serve Jesus.

– How we serve is more important than where we serve. (goal)

– What will last at work? He warns against throwing ourselves into careerism (idol), and investing too much into the creation and the works of our hands in the hope that our work will last into eternity.

– All that will last into the new creation are redeemed people and their godly characters.

4. What is the work of God? (John 4:27-42)

– God’s work is to gather his harvest, and his will is that we are involved in the harvesting, using Jesus’ words to advance the gospel and establish new believers.

– God’s harvesting is the priority of our lives in work, for this is the only type of work which will last (permanent).

– Share the gospel with your colleagues at work. They are your harvest field too. Every season is harvest season. Whatever activity you engage in, tell yourself “It’s harvest time”!

Reflection:

– How are you doing in your place of work when it comes to serving Jesus in the way you treat your employers or employees?

– How is the work of God (bringing in the harvest) being conducted by you in your place of work?

Sermon: Gospel of Luke (Overview)

gospel-luke

1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Luke 1:1-4

Introduction

On March 27, 1964, the New York Times reported the following story:

“For more than half an hour, 37 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens (a suburb of New York) watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens. Twice the sound of their voices and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time, he returned, sought her out and stabbed her again. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called after the woman was dead.”

This event started many behavioural studies into why no one was willing to go to aid of the victim, Kitty Genovese. Psychologists call this behaviour the Bystander Effect. Sometimes everybody’s business becomes nobody’s business. What’s the lesson for us today?

Isn’t this similar to the task of telling the Good News that Jesus Christ died for sinners to the whole world? Sometimes everybody’s business becomes nobody’s business. Luke wrote to such Bystander Christians to get them involved to preach the news of Jesus Christ as Saviour to a lost world.

There are two groups of people who Luke was writing for. The first are Christians who are well-to-do and hold significant positions in society. They like to be convinced by facts. But it is really their hearts that need to be touched. They have become Bystander Christans who almost never share Jesus with their relatives, friends, neighbours, classmates and colleagues about Jesus Christ the Saviour. The second group Luke wrote to are non-Christians who are drowning in their sins and guilt. They never step into a church building or go to an evangelistic event and never get to hear the great news that Jesus wants to save them from their guilt and shame.

The first group is represented by Theophilus whose name literally means “Lover of God”. He was probably a wealthy Roman official because Luke addressed him with the official title “most excellent Theophilus” (1:4). The second group is represented by the numerous poor, sick and downtrodden people mentioned in this gospel who found salvation when they met Jesus. Luke therefore has two purposes for writing this book corresponding to these two groups of people. The first is that he wanted well-to-do  Christians to use their wealth and influence to preach the gospel. The second is that he wanted people who know that they are sinners to know that God is ready to forgive them and save them through His Son Jesus. In both of these twin purposes, Luke had to assure his readers of the facts concerning Jesus. We know from the book of Acts that Luke was a doctor and very detailed in his records and interviews. 

In this gospel, Luke portrays Jesus as the Saviour of the World. Jesus came not just to save the rich, the powerful and the beautiful; he came to save everyone. The main theme of the book is “Salvation”. The word “salvation” and “Saviour” appear more often in Luke than in the three other gospels combined. Let’s take a closer look at the 3 sections.

1. Jesus Spurned by lost sinners (Chp 1-8)

The first section contains eyewitness accounts of the birth and early ministry of Jesus. Most of the miracles in this book are found in this first section. Both the miracles relating to His birth and the later miracles He performed in His ministry had the same purpose – to prove that Jesus is indeed the promised Saviour of the world and that He has the authority to forgive sins. We read in the healing of the paralysed man:

But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the paralysed man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’

Luke 5:24

But Jesus’ popularity didn’t last. He was spurned by His own people, the lost sheep of Israel, the Jews. Luke records His rejection by the Jews right at the beginning of His ministry, not in the middle like Matthew. They wanted to throw Jesus off the cliff but he escaped. Because of that, Jesus also offered salvation to the non-Jews. Luke wanted his readers to know that Jesus came to save the Gentiles (non-Jews) like you and me as well.

In fact Jesus Christ came in order that the poor and oppressed may be saved. Luke had a special focus on this group of people. Jesus himself declared his own role one day when he was teaching:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

    because he has anointed me

    to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

    and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free…

Luke 4:18

Wow! Not only Theophilus, but we ourselves need to have this same concern for the poor and oppressed who need His salvation.

Next, we turn to Jesus Seeking for Lost Sinners.

2. Jesus Seeking for lost sinners (Chp 9-19)

The second section contains very little of Jesus’ miracles but a lot about His teachings. There are 14 parables in this section which are found only in Luke. No doubt, Luke included these into his gospel in order that Theophilus (as well as us) would be motivated to become His evangelists. In the first section, Jesus was spurned by the lost because of His Declaration. In the second section Jesus is seeking the lost through His Disciples.

Interestingly, many of the parables and stories in this middle section are about money and influence. For example, the parables of the Rich Fool, the Lost Son, the Shrewd Steward, the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Persistent Widow, the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Why?

Recall that Theophilus was a well-to-do and influential man. The danger of wealth is that it sometimes makes us unconcerned about the poor and disadvantaged. These parables are therefore aimed to teach us that we sometimes have to risk giving up our wealth and position in order to reach the poor for the Saviour.

The key parable in this book is the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). It represents the heart of God for lost sinners to return to Him.This parable tells the story of two brothers corresponding to the double message in Luke’s gospel. The younger brother, who left his father, sinned and repented and was forgiven by the father. This younger brother illustrates how every sinner who repents can find salvation through Jesus the Saviour. The older brother was jealous of his younger brother and rejected his chance to celebrate his younger brother’s return. He represents those Bystander Christians who need to have their concern for lost sinners awakened. We need to have the same heart as God to rejoice at every single sinner who repents and returns to him.

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent.

Luke 15:7

Are you concerned for those who have not heard about Jesus yet? Or are you standing by for someone else to tell them? There are people in your life that I could not reach. God put them in your life for a reason and it is your responsibility to tell them about Jesus the Saviour.

In the first section, Jesus was spurned by lost sinners because of his declaration.

In the second section, Jesus was seeking lost sinners through his disciples.

In the last section, Jesus was saving lost sinners by his death.

3. Jesus Saving the lost sinners (Chp 20-24)

Luke wants us to know with certainty that Jesus had to suffer and die and be raised from the dead in order that repentant sinners may be forgiven.

46 [Jesus] told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Luke 24:46-47

Luke records the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus very much like the other gospel writers. But he adds the incident of Jesus’ appearance to the two disciples travelling to Emmaus (Luke 24) which doesn’t appear in any other gospel. In it, Jesus rebukes the disciples and tells them to know with certainty that He had to suffer all these things before entering into glory. The uncertainty and doubt felt by His disciples is seen when he appeared to them after His resurrection. This is why Jesus asked them

“Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” 

Luke 24:38

Luke records all the disciples struggling with doubt. Jesus further showed them His hands and feet, asked them to touch Him and ate with them to give them the assurance they needed. 

The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are undeniable historical facts. Yet there are those who still doubt. Perhaps their doubts arise because they still see so much suffering, poverty, injustice and oppression in this world. How could a good, loving and powerful God allow this? Well, suffering is not incompatible with a loving God. Jesus himself had to suffer and His suffering should remove our doubts. Luke wants us to know the facts of Jesus’ life and death with certainty (1:4). 

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 the same as 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. Hopefully through this series in Luke, you will have certainty that Jesus is the Saviour.

How are we to respond to the Gospel of Luke?

Firstly, we are called to repent. How does a person repent? Admit that you are a sinner and desire to turn away from your sin and to turn to God. Believe with all your heart that Jesus can and will save you. Will God forgive you? Certainly. No one is excluded. If you feel that you’re not important enough, not rich enough, not good enough for God to forgive, then Luke’s gospel assures you that just as Jesus forgave every sinner who came to Him in repentance, He will most certainly forgive you as well.

Secondly, if you are already convinced of His forgiveness and that He came to save the world, then you need to be willing to use whatever position, possessions and wealth you have to reach the world for Christ. We cannot be Bystander Christians watching your family and friends head into eternal destruction.

Conclusion

Let’s bow our heads in prayer.

You are never too far gone for Jesus to save you. All you have to do is to trust Him. If you like to receive Jesus as your Saviour, would you pray this simple prayer with me? Repeat after me.

“Dear God, I’m sorry for my sins. Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for me and rising from the dead. Please come into my life and save me. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.”

Let me close in prayer.

“Dear God thank you for the Gospel of Luke that gives us the certainty that Jesus is the Saviour of the world. Forgive us for being bystander Christians who see people lost without Jesus and choose not to tell them about this precious gift of eternal life in Jesus. Help us meet Jesus once again in the scriptures and gain your heartbeat for the lost people who need you so desperately. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.”

 

Discussion Qns:

  • What do you think are the traits of a Bystander Christian? 
  • Do you identify yourself more as a Bystander Christian or someone who needs Jesus? Why?
  • Write down ONE person’s name who needs to hear about Jesus as Saviour and pray for them.

    Sermon material adapted from N.T. Made Simple (Huang Sabin).

Sermon: No Compromise…in Obedience 

Daniel in the Lion's Den - Bible Story Verses & MeaningIt pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

6 Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

Daniel 6:1-24

 

Introduction

There was once a boy who was walking his dog. Somebody asked him, “What kind of a dog is that dog?” The little boy said, “He’s a police dog.” The man said, “Well, he doesn’t look like a police dog.” And the little boy said, “Well, my dog is in the secret service.” Now, I think I know a lot of Christians who are in the secret service. I mean, they may be Christian, but you would never know it by looking at them the way they talk, the way they walk, the way they act, the way they live.

Do you hide the fact that you’re a Christian? When you have a meal with your non-Christian friends, do you pray before you eat? Do you use the same foul language that others use? Are you different from others, in terms of your values, behaviour, choices? Are you a Sunday type of Christian (pray, sing, lift hands etc.) but hide who you are from Monday to Saturday?  

Daniel was a person of no compromise. He would not hide his identity as a believer in God. He was a person of integrity. What does integrity mean?

Integrity means “when the life you’re living on the outside matches who you are on the inside”. There is no separation, no compartmentalisation between Sunday and other days. You are the same person here or at home or in school or at the shopping mall. They say if you want to know what a person really is like, see what he or she does when no one’s looking. In contrast, there’s a word for someone who doesn’t live a life of integrity – hypocrite. In the Roman theatre, actors would wear masks to convey different characters or expressions. That means that outside doesn’t match the inside. How can we live a life where our inside (where Jesus has changed us) is reflected on the outside (the way we live our lives)?

The passage today teaches how we can live a life of no compromise like Daniel did even at the risk of losing his life. Let’s take a look at the Sermon Outline.

1. A Devious Plan (v1-9)

This incident probably occurred many years after Daniel and his 3 friends first came to Babylon. Remember the special diet that they refused to eat? God blessed them with health, wisdom and ability and they rose in the ranks of the king’s service. Daniel eventually became one of the top ranking leaders in the Persian kingdom. Just below the King, he was the top 3 high officials in charge of 120 satraps and we see that King Darius, the Persian king, wanted to set Daniel as second in command to him. We read:

1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

Daniel 6:1-3

That was a very powerful position to be in and the other leaders were jealous of Daniel. So they schemed to take him down. Let’s continue reading

4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

Daniel 6:4-5

They wanted to find fault, some weakness of Daniel that they could exploit or expose but could not find any! How amazing is that? If you look at any world leader there’s always some fault you can find. What about you? If someone took a look at your life, what would they find? If we had a CCTV recording your every waking moment of every day, what would they find? Would there be enough proof in your life that you’re someone who loves God, loves people? Or would there be a lack of proof that you’re a Christian? That’s some food for thought. 

Daniel was faultless and they realised that they could only attack him through his religious duties to God. So they convinced the King to create a law for the next 30 days that no one could pray to any other God other than the King or they would be thrown into the lion’s den. It was specifically targeted at Daniel because they knew he was a person who was faithful to God in all his ways. At that time, Kings were thought to be like a god so it wasn’t unreasonable to expect this kind of law to be passed.

Daniel did not hide the fact that he worshipped God. It was common knowledge to all the other leaders. Do others in your school, family, national service or workplace know that you are a Christian? Are you afraid to tell others that you are a Christian? Afraid that you may lose some friends or have to “behave” yourselves? Daniel wasn’t afraid to hide the fact that he was a worshipper of God.

What was Daniel to do now? Should he hide who he was for 30 days and stop whatever practices he was used to (namely Praying to God)? Then after the 30 days continue his prayers? If you were Daniel, what would you have done?

We move to the second point in the story.

2. A Dedicated Man (v10-18)

We read:

10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

Daniel 6:10

This was a test of loyalties for Daniel. Should his loyalty be to the King or to God? Who should he obey? Remember in my previous sermon my main point was “Changing situations doesn’t mean changing standards.” There were some things such as education or name changes that he accepted but some he rejected because it would be disobeying God. It was the same case again and it teaches us an important principle. 

We should obey all authority unless it goes against God’s command. Daniel knew that praying to the King who was not a god would be breaking the first commandment in Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.” To worship or pray to another god was something Daniel could not do. He refused to compromise his faith but openly declared his allegiance to God. Note that he opened his windows and prayed towards Jerusalem as the Jewish people were instructed to do. He wasn’t hiding. He didn’t close the windows, draw the curtains and hope no one noticed. He didn’t hide who he was as a believer in God. He knelt as he prayed 3 times a day (as was his habit). Daniel chose to obey God rather than the king’s command which would lead him to disobey God. Let me repeat the principle: We should obey all authority unless it goes against God’s command. 

What does this mean? This means that even if your teacher, boss or parent makes you do a task that you think is meaningless or inefficient (but does not contradict God’s command), you just do it out of submission to their authority. But if someone asks you to do something that you know if wrong, you must choose to obey God.

So Daniel chose to obey God, with full knowledge of the punishment that he would be eaten by lions. Would you choose to obey God even if you know it will cost you greatly? There are Christians all around the world who die for their faith in Jesus. They are killed just for being a believer in Jesus.

Can you imagine in Singapore where it’s a multi-religious society and we’re still afraid to tell others we’re Christians? I wonder how many of us will attend our prayer meeting if the law says we will be sent to death row. Already there’s so few attending prayer meeting even without any threat to our lives! May God give us the wisdom and courage to know how to stand up as a Christian for ourselves and others.

King Darius realised that it was a scheme to trap Daniel and tried his best to free him. We read:

14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

Daniel 6:14-15

But one way or another, he couldn’t. Daniel had to be thrown into the lion’s den where he would be eaten alive. Though the King couldn’t deliver Daniel, would it be the end? 

We reach the final part of the story.

3. A Deliverer Sent (v19-24)

King Darius couldn’t sleep well that night and was so worried for Daniel that he rushed down in the morning. The den where Daniel was kept was probably a cage recessed underground with a grating for people to look into from on top. The king rushed down and found that Daniel was still alive! Why? We find out in Daniel’s answer. Let’s read:

19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”

Dan 6:19-22

God sent his angel to shut the lion’s mouths. This angel was a source of protection. I don’t know what the angel did but the lions resisted their natural urge to eat him. But we know they were ravenous lions because in verse 24, when Daniel’s accusers were thrown into the den, they were eaten hungrily by the lions! God’s protection over Daniel was real. What was the key to Daniel’s choice to stand up as a believer in God? It comes in verse 23.

23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

Daniel 6:23

Trust. Daniel trusted in God. Not that he knew that God would save him. He entrusted his own life and future into God’s hand. He let God decide his fate whether he would live or die. His trust in God gave him the confidence to stand up for God and to live a life of no compromise. I’m not saying that you will not suffer. Note that God did not save Daniel from the lion’s den but in the lion’s den. This is important. God did not save Daniel from the lion’s den but in the lion’s den. He didn’t remove the problem but saved him right in the middle of the problem. Similarly, God may not save you from problems but in the problems you’re facing. He is faithful and will be with you always.

In many ways, Jesus’ death parallels that of Daniel. Jesus, like Daniel, was falsely accused by jealous religious leaders. Jesus, like Daniel, was tried and though Pilate wanted to release Jesus, he could not overcome the people’s will. Jesus, like Daniel, did not resist his judgement but accepted it silently. But unlike Daniel who was delivered from death, Jesus died for us to free you and I from eternal death in hell. He took the sins of the whole world as he died on the cross willingly because he loves you and I so much.

The Bible says in Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus died the death we were to die so we could live the life he lived. 

If we truly understand what Jesus did for us, we would not be ashamed to hide who we are. We would not hide how he has changed our lives for the better. Jesus said in Luke 9:26 -“Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Are you willing to stand out and stand up for God like Daniel did? Are you willing to not compromise who you are in Christ wherever you may be? That you’re the same person everywhere you go and whoever you interact with? Are you willing to pay the cost to identify yourself as a disciple of Jesus? 

I invite you to bow your heads.

Conclusion

Maybe you’re going through a tough situation right now and you’re asking God to save you. Know that he loves you and is with you. And if you call on Jesus, he will be with you. If you like to receive Jesus as your Saviour, would you pray this simple prayer with me? Repeat after me.

“Dear God, I’m sorry for my sins. Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for me and rising from the dead. Please come into my life and save me. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.”

Let me close in prayer.

“Dear God, thank you for Daniel’s example of no compromise. He refused to give in to the pressure to hide who he was as a worshipper of God. I pray for each one of us here that we’ll live lives of integrity that no matter where we go, no matter what we do, that we reflect Jesus constantly. Help us not to be afraid of opposition or rejection but to be faithful to your principles and values. In Jesus’ name I pray AMEN.”

Discussion Questions:

  • If you were Daniel, what would you have done?
  • Why do you think we have a fear of telling others that we are Christians?
  • How can you stand up for God this week? 

Sermon: No Compromise…in God’s standards

Daniel Refusing the King's Meat and Wine1 During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 The Lord gave him victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah and permitted him to take some of the sacred objects from the Temple of God. So Nebuchadnezzar took them back to the land of Babylonia and placed them in the treasure-house of his god.

3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. 4 “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.” 5 The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.

6 Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah. 7 The chief of staff renamed them with these Babylonian names:

Daniel was called Belteshazzar.

Hananiah was called Shadrach.

Mishael was called Meshach.

Azariah was called Abednego.

8 But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. 9 Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. 10 But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.”

11 Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 12 “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. 13 “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” 14 The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. 16 So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others.

17 God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams.

18 When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. 20 Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.

Daniel 1:1-20

(For those who rather watch video recording of the sermon)

Introduction

No matter how the future may change, the key is to stay faithful to God. I know for some of you, in this new year 2021, you may have new schools, new classmates, new studies or new workplaces. And this is on top of whatever is happening with Covid-19 and all the rules and regulations that have been changing rapidly. In spite of all these changes, how can we not compromise God’s standards?

We’re going to look at the lives of Daniel and his 3 friends. Their country was conquered by a foreign army – the Babylonians (modern Iraq). Daniel and his friends were deported to Babylon and enrolled into their “school system”, into their culture and forced to adapt to it. They faced many changes in their situations in life (maybe just like you are facing now) and were pressured by the world around them to conform to their standards instead of God’s standard.

There is one main message we can learn from Daniel today – Changing Situations doesn’t mean Changing Standards. There are certain things that we can compromise and adapt to but there are things we will not compromise to. And the passage tells us that Daniel and his friends refused to compromise on God’s standard. 

Let’s take a closer look.

There are two parts to this passage: Changed Situation – Unchanged Standards

First is Changed Situations.

1. Changed Situations (v1-7)

Daniel lived around the 6th century (600 years before Jesus was born). The nation of Judah whose capital was Jerusalem was disobedient to God and therefore God sent a foreign nation to punish them for their sinful actions. God sent the Babylonian army led by King Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem and deported the people as slaves. This event was called the “exile” where the Jewish people were exiled out of their home land and sent to live in another country. The enemy not only took the holy items from the Temple but they also took the best and brightest minds that they could find. Not everyone was exiled – only the best. The poor and lowly educated were left behind. This was a good strategy so that the remaining people in Jerusalem didn’t have the ability to form a strong revolt. 

Daniel and his 3 friends were probably around 13-17 years of age when they were deported into Babylon. What sort of changes did they face? We read:

4 “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.” 5 The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.

Daniel 1:4-5

They were sent for 3 years of strict training with Babylonian education to indoctrinate them. Furthermore, they were given new names and even food from the king’s table. Sounds really good right? Like an elite scholarship or something but you’re still a slave. King Nebuchadnezzar in giving these young men all these luxuries may have been trying to brainwash them of their identities and culture. He wanted them to conform to their new situation totally and to forget their past. Satan uses a similar strategy against us today, wanting to indoctrinate us into the world system. Satan wants us to – Identify ourselves with the world, feed us what the world offers and to educate us in the ways of the world. If we are not careful, we will be shaped into the pattern of this world.

Note that in this passage there were 4 significant things that had changed. Their 1) name, 2) education, 3) work and their 4) diet. For the first 3 things, they accepted it and chose to do their best to study the Babylonian culture and to excel in their work there. However, there was one thing that they refused to compromise with – the diet.

In spite of the Changed Situation, their standards did not change. 

We turn to the second half of the passage. 

2. Unchanged Standards (v8-20)   

We read:

But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.

Daniel 1:8

You may be wondering, “What’s the big deal about the food? Is Daniel just picky about the food he didn’t like?” The word “defile” carries the thought of polluting or staining, something that would cause him to be committing a sin.

There are three probable reasons why they chose not to eat the food. First, it might have been forbidden by God for the Jews to eat. Second, it was probably sacrificed to idols. Third, eating the king’s food implied fellowship with Babylon’s cultural system. Daniel did not object to the name given to him, because he knew who he was and others could call him what they wanted. Daniel did not object to the Babylonian education, because he knew what he believed. But Daniel did object to the food from the king’s table because eating it was disobeying God’s word.

So Daniel requested permission not to eat the food given. This was a dangerous request as the King could punish him severely for it and limit his future progression. Sometimes when we choose to do the right thing and stand up for God’s practices, there are potential setbacks. When you choose not to help a friend cheat in a test, you may lose a friend. When you choose to come to church, you may not be able to do all that you like to do on Sunday. When you choose to confess what you did to your parents, you may be punished for it. My encouragement to you is when you choose to honour God, He will honour you.

Daniel refused to eat the food and drink given but went on a vegan diet. It would have been easy for Daniel to give in to the diet. The food was definitely sumptuous and he could have just enjoyed it. He was far from home and no one would know of his compromise. Furthermore, he could have blamed God for sending him to a foreign land and given up on God’s standards. But NO, Daniel was “determined” not to defile himself. Other versions say “Daniel purposed in his heart”. He had this clarity of thought that no matter how much the situation had changed, God’s standards never changed. He would keep it at all costs.

The boy’s warden was worried that if they only ate that, he would be punished for not taking care of the boys well enough. But Daniel asked for a 10 day test period. We read:

12 “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. 13 “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” 14 The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.

Daniel 1:12-14

After 10 days, Daniel and his 3 friends looked healthier and better nourished than the rest! Some Christians have taken this literally and created a Daniel Diet for weight loss and health. I’m serious! But before you decide to go vegan to become healthier, let me suggest that this was an act of God. It was not due to their diet, but to God’s intervention. As they chose to honour God, God honoured them. God gave them favour with the leaders, good health, knowledge, skill and Daniel even had the ability to interpret dreams and visions. They were 10 times better than the rest of the King’s advisers! They were blessed as they chose to honour God’s standards. Even in changing situations, God’s standards remained unchanged.    

Like Daniel you might be in a new place where everything has changed. There are pressures all around you to conform to their standards. To give in to the way your school mates behave. To cave in to what everyone else is doing. But don’t. When Jesus was tempted by the Devil in the wilderness, even though he was hungry, he did not give into the temptation to turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger. He didn’t put God to the test by jumping down from a high point to prove his identity. He didn’t give in to worship the Devil in order to gain fame. Because Jesus resisted the urge to give in, he gives his strength to us. Even though your situations may change, God’s standards will never change. 

Will you choose not to compromise like Daniel did? Will you tell God this year 2021 – I want to hold to your standards. No matter what the situation or the cost, I will choose to obey you. 

Let us pray.

Conclusion

You cannot keep to God’s standards by your own strength. You need Jesus’ help. If you like to receive Jesus as your Saviour, would you pray this prayer with me:

“Dear God, I’m sorry for my sins. Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for me and rising from the dead. Please come into my life and save me. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.”

Let me close in prayer.

“Lord, thank you for Daniel who showed no compromise in keeping to your standards no matter how the situation has changed. Help us to make the right choice at the right time to honour you. Give us the resolve not to defile ourselves and to keep ourselves pure. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.”

 

Discussion Questions:

  • Do you think Daniel’s health and blessings were due to his special diet or to God? Why?
  • What sort of things should you conform or not conform to? How would you decide?
  • In what area of your life would you commit to God for his help this year?

Sermon: God Wants To Dwell With You

We turn to a wonderful theme that weaves throughout Scripture – God wants to dwell with you. It is a fine thread that helps us understand God’s heart for all human beings much better. We shall now take an excursion from Genesis to Revelation as we explore this glorious truth. There are 7 stops in this journey and I will be your tour guide. Are you ready?

The first stop is the Garden of Eden.

1. The Garden of Eden

In the beginning, God the universe, the world – plants, animals and human beings. He created Adam and Eve so that he could dwell with them. It was a perfect place where God provided human beings everything that they needed for their enjoyment. It was God’s intention to have an intimate relationship with human beings from day one. It’s not that God needed to create humans because he was lonely or needed a friend. Remember God from eternity consists of three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Out of their mutual overflowing love for one another led God to create us. He didn’t need us but he wanted us. 

The book of Genesis says God as usual was walking in the garden of Eden in the cool of the day looking to connect with his creation. But there was something different one day. Adam and Eve were nowhere to be found. They were hiding from God’s presence. Much like when we do something wrong, we try to hide from our parents or teacher. What had they done? They disobeyed God’s command not to eat from a certain tree in the garden of Eden. We read:

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:8

God was looking for them but sadly, they hid themselves from God. As a result, God because he is perfect and holy banished them from the garden. This perfect relationship between God and human beings was broken. God and man were separated. But do you know – God’s desire has always been the same. He still wants to dwell with human beings. Even though Adam and Eve had messed up, God would find a way to restore this relationship.

The next stop is the Tabernacle.

2. The Tabernacle

God chose a family to be his special people. He chose Abraham and his descendants. Because of famine, his descendants stayed in the land of Egypt. But the Egyptian pharaoh decided to make the people of Israel his slaves. They were slaves for 400 years! But God in his mercy, sent Moses to bring them out of slavery through a series of miracles (or the 10 plagues). After God rescued Israel from bondage in Egypt, he led them to Mount Sinai where the Ten Commandments and other laws were given. Moses was given instructions on how to build the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle. This is what I want to focus on. It’s so important to note that this tabernacle in the original language means “residence” or “dwelling place.” It was a place where God dwells with his people. We read:

Then let them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.

Exodus 25:8

God’s heart was to be with his people. Moses had specific instructions how to build the tabernacle where God met them. The instructions were very detailed. Why? God is holy and he knew how he wanted his “house” to be like. Interestingly, the tabernacle was situated in the center of the camp where in that culture, the king’s tent was. God was their king who dwelt with them. When Moses wanted to meet with God, all he had to do was to go into the tabernacle. We read:

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

Exodus 40:34-35

Another interesting fact is that the High Priest could only enter into the Most Holy Place inside the tabernacle once a year for the atonement of sins. The priest had to pass through a thick curtain that separated the Most Holy Place from the other parts of the tabernacle. And the priest had to sacrifice an animal to cleanse him of his sins. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. Even though God dwells with his people, there is still a barrier. No one can walk in and out whenever they want because God is holy and man is sinful. Remember this point about the curtain as it will be of great importance later. 

The third stop is the Temple.

3. The Temple

The tabernacle was movable as Israel traveled through the wilderness. But after they entered the Promised land, they settled down. Years later, King David desired to build a permanent and glorious temple instead of the tabernacle. However, God told him that his son Solomon would do it. During King Solomon’s reign, there was rest from all enemies. He took seven years to build a glorious temple that mostly followed the layout of the tabernacle. God gave his stamp of approval again when the glory cloud filled the temple. We read:

When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.

Then Solomon said, ‘The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.’

1 Kings 8:10-13

God was pleased with his new “house”! Solomon wanted God to “dwell forever” with Israel. However, it wasn’t to be. Due to Israel’s sin, the temple was destroyed by foreign nation of Babylon (present day Iraq) in the 6th century BC. Everything was demolished and the people of Israel were taken as slaves again. They were exiled to a foreign land. But by God’s grace and mercy, a foreign king allowed some of the Jews to return to their homeland to rebuild it. One of the first things that the Jews wanted to do was to rebuild their temple so they could resume their worship of God. They always linked the worship of God with a physical place – much like our church. This second temple that was built paled in comparison to the previous one.

The presence of the temple signified the presence of God with them. However, this second temple was around in Jesus’ day but was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. Since then, there has been no temple in Israel. The Muslims have built the Dome of the Rock on the exact site of the temple. All the Israelites have now is the remnants called the Western/“wailing” wall. Does the destruction of the temple mean that God no longer dwells with us anymore? No. God came to us on Christmas day two thousand years ago.

God did not just come to dwell in a building but took on human flesh.

Our next stop is the Birth of Jesus.

4. The Birth of Jesus

Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. He was also named Emmanuel meaning “God with us.” God dwells with us! He took on human form and became one of us. There is a wonderful verse in the Gospel of John.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. …

John 1:14

“The Word” refers to Jesus who made his dwelling among us. I want to zoom in on the word “dwell”. The word “dwelling” can be translated as “tabernacle”. Do you remember the term “tabernacle” earlier when the Israelites came out of Egypt and built a tabernacle for God? That’s the same concept but Jesus went a step further – he “tabernacled” among us! Eugene Peterson in The Message paraphrases it as, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” Oh I love that phrase! Finally, God dwells with us. That was his desire all along and he comes closer and closer to us. He came into this world because he loves us so much, wants to be with us so much. But our sins have blocked the way and Jesus came to die for our sin.

We reach our next stop.

5. The Death and Resurrection of Jesus

We cannot understand Christmas – the birth of Jesus unless we understand Good Friday and Easter – death and resurrection. Jesus came to this earth to fix the broken relationship between us and God. This broken relationship that was caused when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God! Jesus’ death for our sins opened the way to a relationship with God. Remember the curtain that blocked the entrance to the Most Holy Place? It’s a barrier that only the High Priest can enter once a year and always with the blood of a sacrificed animal. Something amazing happened to this curtain when Jesus died on the cross.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

Matt 27:50-51a

When Jesus died and his blood spilled for us, the curtain was ripped wide open! The curtain was torn, note this, from top to bottom, not bottom to top. Only God could have torn it miraculously. Jesus, through his blood that was shed, opened a way into the Most Holy Place. He becomes our High Priest. The author of Hebrews says:

[Jesus] did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, so obtaining eternal redemption.

Hebrews 9:12

Wow! Jesus redeems us permanently by his blood. Once for all time. The author continues later:

…we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and…have a great priest over the house of God…

Hebrews 10:19-20

Jesus’ body has become the new curtain to access God. By believing in Jesus’ work, we can confidently approach God in faith. God dwells with us. But that is not all. There is an even more intimate way that God wants to dwell with us.

We reach the next stop.

6. The Holy Spirit

When Jesus rose from the dead and went back to heaven, he asked the Father to give all believers the Holy Spirit to be with us. This Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus. Jesus said:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

John 14:16-18

Can you imagine that? God is now dwelling in you through the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit lives in us, Paul says that we are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19).

He will continue living with us till He returns one day. Then, we shall be with God forever and ever. 

That’s the last stop in our journey.

7. The New Heaven and Earth

One day, this world that we live in will be renewed and perfected. We read these glorious verses in the last book of the bible, Revelation. John writes:

Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

Revelation 21:1-3

Did you notice the word “dwell” again? God will dwell with us for all eternity from that point onwards. That’s what God always wanted to do since the beginning when he created Adam and Eve. The problem is our sins that separated us from God’s holiness. Our relationship with God is restored when we believe in Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. But that’s not all. There’s a final point about the temple a few verses later.

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

Revelation 21:22

In the new heaven and earth, there is no longer a need for a temple. Why? Because God dwells with us now. He is the temple. You see, the temple was a temporary construct on earth because of our sins. When we reach the new heaven and earth, God is the temple that we worship. The story of God being in the Garden of Eden with his creation is restored finally in this beautiful climax.

God wants to dwell with you. And that’s why Jesus came 2000 years ago on Christmas day.

Let me end with a story.

A story is told of a man who walked past a field. In the field, he saw an anthill, filled with red ants. He paused and watched as the ants went around searching for food. Then suddenly, he saw a bush fire spreading down the hill towards the ant hill. The fire would destroy the anthill and burn up the ants. He shouted “Get out of there right now!” But the ants couldn’t understand him. How could he warn the ants to get out of the way of the fire? Ants can’t understand English. Unless you somehow have a pet ant! There is only one way to communicate to the ants – to become an ant and give them a warning in their own language. Then as an ant he could tell them to escape the fire.

That’s what Jesus did when he became human. He saw the fires of hell coming if we remain in our sins. But he had to become human to warn us of the danger of hell. There was no other way we could understand. But Jesus did more than become a human. He gave his life for us.

Jesus made a way for you to dwell with Him. Now’s your choice. Do you want to dwell with God?

Let’s bow in prayer. 

If it is your sincere desire to dwell with God and to restore this relationship with him, would you pray this simple prayer after me?

“Dear God, I’m sorry for my sins. I turn away from all I know is wrong. Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for me and rising from the dead. Please come into my life and save me. I want to dwell with you. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.”

Let me close in prayer. 

“Dear God, I thank you for the Bible which tells us how you created us to be in relationship with you. I thank you that you want to dwell with us. Lord, what a privilege that the God of this universe would choose to die for lowly human beings like us! Help us never lose sight of your love this Christmas and that the gospel will impact us continually everyday. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What truths struck you from the message?
  2. How does the idea that “God wants to dwell with you” change the way you view God?

Sermon: God’s Big Story

Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

Introduction

I want to unpack the major ideas of the Bible and really give you a big picture of what the gospel is all about. This week I’m speaking on the 4 parts in God’s Big Story – Creation, Fall, Redemption, New Creation.

For a fuller explanation, you can refer to this book Gospel Fluency.

First part is Creation.

1. Creation

Genesis 1:1 says – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

That is how the story begins – with God. God is the focus of the Bible. Not us. And God existed in a community already as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Nothing else existed. In the beginning, God created by speaking the entire universe into existence. He spoke and it all came into being.

God designed a beautiful place called Eden. It had everything necessary for life where humans could live. Then he created man and woman in his image. Catch this. The invisible God created humans to be a visible display or picture of what he is like. After creating, God said that it was very good then he rested from the work of creating. It’s God’s way of saying: “I’m satisfied with what I have done.”

God’s word is powerful and true. God’s work is very good.

Why is this so important? Because we owe our very existence to God’s word and work. Our identity, purpose and truth are all to be found in God. Just like when you have a new handphone or device, you look for the instruction manual that tells you how its creator meant it to be used. You don’t use a handphone as a hammer.

Similarly, the questions “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” can only be answered by God, our creator. Ask yourself: “Who or what do I look to, trust in, depend on for my worth?” God also created work for the man to do by creating a garden for him to care for but he gave him very specific instructions not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or you will surely die. He was calling man to look to God as the source of his identity and purpose and not anything else.

At this point, the man was still alone. No suitable helper for him was around yet. Just the animals. And God for the first time said it is NOT GOOD for the man to be alone. (A dog is not man’s best friend!)

So God made a helper suitable for Adam. He put the man to sleep and took a rib out of his body and made a woman, Eve. The woman was made from man and together they were a picture of the unity and community of God. Thus God commanded the very first husband and wife to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over it” (Gen 1:28) They were given authority to rule the earth on behalf of God. You and I are called to bear God’s image to the world. Imagine that!

Everything was perfect. Adam and Eve were living harmoniously, naked and unashamed, enjoying their interaction with God. It was all very good. But that was about to change.

From Creation, we turn to the next stage – the Fall.

2. Fall 

Adam and Eve didn’t trust God’s word and his work. That’s sin. Sin is not believing in what God says which leads you to do the wrong thing. So the story in Genesis goes that the devil, masquerading as a Serpent convinced Eve that God’s word was a lie to keep them from becoming like God himself. In essence, the serpent was saying that you can’t trust what God says. If you eat this fruit you will be even better.

So Eve took the fruit, ate it and gave it to Adam to eat. Instead of believing what God said “You are good”, they believed Satan’s lie that you’re not good enough. Take this fruit and you will be good. God told them they would die but they didn’t believe him.

As a result of their actions, sin entered the world and so did death and destruction. We call this event the Fall, dropping from a height of perfection to the lowest pit.

But maybe one of you might ask: “Why didn’t Adam and Eve drop dead after they ate the fruit? Didn’t God warn them that they would die?” 

You see, they did die in three aspects – Spiritual, relational and physical. Let me explain each one.

Firstly, when Adam and Eve rebelled against God this led to spiritual death or brokenness in their relationship with God. They turned from submitting to God to submitting to Satan. At that moment, Adam and Eve turned their God-given authority over the world to Satan. We see the results of spiritual death immediately in the shame they felt and they wanted to cover themselves with fig leaves. They also hid from God. Remember God asked them: “Why are you hiding?” They replied that they were naked. And God said: “Who told you you were naked?” You see, they turned to their own idea of themselves, away from the truth of who God said they were. God never said they were naked. They said it themselves. That’s spiritual death – separation from God.

The second is relational death. Not only was their relationship with God broken, so was their relationship with one another. They began blaming one another for their sins – Adam blamed Eve for giving him the fruit. He even blamed God – the woman you gave me. Eve blamed the serpent for tricking her. They were looking for someone to pay for what they had done. This is called atonement – payment for sin. But no guilty person can pay for sin. Only an innocent person can. Sometimes we blame ourselves and try to pay for our own sin but we simply cannot.  

The third aspect is physical death. To atone for their sin, God killed an innocent animal, skinned it and used it to cover Adam and Eve. That animal died to pay for their sin. This is the first sacrifice for sin that we see and provides a picture of what Jesus did for us many years later. Until then, sin had to be paid for through animal sacrifices. But it was never enough to truly forgive sin or make people clean on the inside. People would continue to sin. People would die. And if that is where God left us there would be no hope for humanity. The moment we die, we would be sent to hell for eternity because of all the wrong things we’ve done in our life. Romans 6:23 says “The wages of sin is death”.

Thankfully the story doesn’t end with destruction and death. God desires a way for us to restore this relationship with him at any cost. We move to part 3 – redemption.

3. Redemption

Even with the sin of Adam and Eve, God promised that Satan would eventually be defeated (Gen 3:15). God would have the final word. He would save us from our sin. He would rescue us from Satan. He would destroy death.

As the story continued, things went from bad to worse. It became so bad that God sent a flood to cleanse the earth from evil. He saved the family of Noah from the flood and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. But still sin was present.

Later, God chose Abram to be the one whom he would start a family for his purposes on the earth. And through him, all the earth will be blessed. In Abraham and Sarah’s old age, God gave them a child named Isaac who became the father of Jacob and then the 12 tribes of Israel. One of those tribes was Judah, through whom the promised offspring, Jesus would come into the world.

God saved Israel who were slaves in Egypt through Moses. Thus, God redeemed them from slavery to go the land God had promised them. This land was to resemble a garden like the first. It would be a land of plenty where God’s people could rest and display the goodness of God.

Redemption is a running theme in the Bible as God continued to call his people to trust him by reminding them of how he had saved them and to obey him in light of their faith in him. But they kept on forgetting and failed to trust God. Often they became slaves in a physical sense, but also in a spiritual sense were slaves to sin.

Though Israel failed to represent God to the world, God’s plan would not fail. He sent Jesus, his only son, to this earth to rescue us from slavery to sin and Satan.

At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus’s birth. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, yet he was without sin. He lived the life we were created to live, perfectly trusting in and submitting to God the Father. He overcame Satan’s temptations and laid down his life in our place.

He died as our atoning sacrifice, shedding his blood on the cross for our sin, removing our guilt, covering our shame. He was the ultimate example of what God did for Adam and Eve when he killed an animal to clothe their nakedness. Jesus clothes us with his righteousness. Wow! He was buried but rose again on the third day conquering sin, death and Satan. He was the first fruit of the new creation. 

This leads us to the last part of the story.

4. New Creation

Jesus was raised in a new glorified body that will never die. And note this. Through Jesus’ body, God brought forth another woman – the second woman to be brought forth from a man’s body.

God brought forth the church. In the Bible, the church is called Jesus’ bride. We are God’s new-creation people. All those who believe in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection go from having Adam to having Jesus as their life source. When we are born again by the Holy Spirit, Jesus becomes our source of righteousness. Not because of what we’ve done but because of what Jesus did for us. 

We become part of God’s family. We have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. We are no longer dead to sin but alive in Christ. We are given the power to resist sin in our lives.

Because of our new identity as Jesus’ new creation, we are sent out on a mission to make disciples of all nations. Everything has changed. Our identity and purpose have aligned back to God our creator.

We also have a future hope. The new creation is not only personal but happens on a cosmic level. God will bring about a new heaven and new earth where we will get to live in and enjoy forever. It will be a place without suffering, pain, sin, sorrow, brokenness, despair, sickness or death. All wrongs have been made right. Those who know Jesus long for that day.

That future reality should shape our present reality. Our lives should display this hope, letting Jesus make us more like him as a display to this world that Jesus is real.

Let me conclude with a story.

There was a boy who had built a toy sailboat. He had spent many days and weeks building it. When it was finally completed he had decided that he would test it out at sea.

The boy loved the boat and was very proud of it. So, he went down to the water. First, he made sure that the sails were set just right. Then, he excitedly placed the boat into the water, with great anticipation. He gave it a gentle push, and it took off.

The wind caught the sails! The boat cut through the water much better than expected. The boat skimmed along so smoothly. But then, unexpectedly, before the boy realized what was happening, the sailboat just kept going and going.

It didn’t stop.

He hoped that the wind would shift. But, it didn’t. The sailboat started to rapidly go off into the distance. The boy quickly waded into the water after it with the hope of catching up to it, but it had gone out too far. The water was getting too deep. The boat faded off into the distance and disappeared.

It was gone.

When he had gotten home, crying, his mother asked, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong? Didn’t it work?” The boy replied, “No, it actually worked too well…It sailed away.”

Sometime later, the boy was walking downtown. He passed a second hand store. And there, in the window, he saw the sailboat that he had built. He went into the store, and went up to the sailboat. He picked it up and he said to the store owner, “This boat is mine!” He held it in his arms and began to walk out of the store.

The owner said, “Wait a minute now. It’s my boat! I paid someone for it.” The boy said, “No, no, no. It’s my boat, I made it! Look at the little scratches I did. Here’s my initials on the bottom.” The owner said, “I’m sorry. If you want it, you’re going to have to pay for it.”

The poor boy didn’t have any money with him. So, he worked on odd jobs in order to earn enough money to buy back the sailboat. Finally, he saved enough money. The boy went back to the store and bought back his boat.

As he left the store, he held the sailboat close to his chest and said, “You’re twice my boat. First, you’re my boat because I made you. Second, you’re my boat because I bought you.”

You are like that toy sailboat. You were Created by God but Fell into sin, going away from God. But God didn’t give up on you. He sent Jesus to pay the ultimate price to get you back. Jesus died for your sins to redeem you. And all who trust in Jesus as their Saviour will be a New Creation.

This is God’s big story – Creation, Fall, Redemption, New Creation. Is this your story too?

Let’s bow our heads in prayer.

If your desire is trust in Jesus, please pray this prayer after me:

“Dear God, I’m sorry for my sins. Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross to redeem me. Thank you that you rose from the dead. Please come into my heart and be my Lord and Saviour. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.”

Let me close in prayer.

“God, thank you for creating us. Even though we have strayed away from you, you never gave up on us. Thank you for Jesus who died for us to buy us back. Help us never lose sight of why Jesus came to this earth. Help us to truly live for you in gratitude to what you’ve done for us. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”

 

Discussion Questions:

  • Listen and meditate on the words of this song:

Would you spend some time thanking God for what He has done for you?

  • What is one thing that struck you from today’s message?

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?