Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Sign of Immanu_el

The Sign of Immanu-el
Text: Isaiah 7:1-17

7:1 When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it.
2 Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.
3 Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field. 4 Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” 7 Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says:

”‘It will not take place,
it will not happen,
8 for the head of Aram is Damascus,
and the head of Damascus is only Rezin.
Within sixty-five years
Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people.
9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria,
and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son.
If you do not stand firm in your faith,
you will not stand at all.’”

10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.”
13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. 16 But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The LORD will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.”

Sermon Statement

The sign of Immanu-el for us is that God is in control, God saves and God is with us.

1. Introduction

Today is the 3rd Sunday of Advent. Advent is from the Latin word adventus which means waiting or anticipation. Advent is the period where we wait for the coming of the Christ. During the Old Testament times, it is waiting for the coming of the Messiah. In New Testament times, advent , known in the Greek as parousia means waiting for the Second Coming of Christ. Christ came as Jesus about 2000 years ago. The four candles signify the four Sundays before Christmas. Purple signifies waiting while pink signifies joy. The green wreathe in a circle signifies life. The pink candle is lit on the 3rd Sunday of Advent.

2. Isaiah’s The sign of Immanu-el
Isaiah 7:1-17 gives us an understanding of Isaiah’s Immanu-el.

a. The historical situation (7:1-2)

7:1-2. Most chronologies of the Old Testament place the reign of King Ahaz of Judah from about 735-715 BC.

The immediate event it describes is a planned attack against Jerusalem by a coalition of "King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah son of Remaliah of Israel." This Syro-Ephraimitic coalition, as it is known, was an attempt to forge alliances among the nations of the area to withstand an impending invasion from Assyria to the north. Pekah, king of the northern Kingdom of Israel, had tried to get Jotham, Ahaz’ father, to join the alliance against Assyria. Pekah stood in the immediate path of the Assyrian invasion if they marched south. However Jotham had refused to join and so Pekah, with the help of Rezin king of Aram (Syria), had decided to send an army to Jerusalem to replace King Jotham with a puppet king who would agree to their demands to join the coalition (Isa 7:6).

However, before the plan could succeed, Jotham died and left his son Ahaz to face the crisis. While apparently the coalition did manage to lay siege to Jerusalem with considerable loss of life (2 Chron 28:1-15) Isaiah and 2 Kings both tell us that the plan failed (7:1).

The prospect of such formidable enemies as Aram and Israel caused the People of Judah to be afraid. The house of David (v. 2) refers to King Ahaz who was of that kingly line. Hearing of the Aram-Israel alliance Ahaz was terrified. Ephraim, Israel’s largest tribe, represented the entire nation. Perhaps Ahaz thought he could call on the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727) to come to his aid and attack the Aram-Israel confederacy.

b. The assurance that Judah would not be destroyed (7:3-9)

7:3. God told Isaiah to go with his son . . . to meet King Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool. This pool was a reservoir that held water from the Gihon Spring near Jerusalem. (Isa. 22:9 refers to a Lower Pool.) perhaps Ahaz was there to inspect the city’s water supply in anticipation of an attack by Aram and Israel. The aqueduct was near the road to the Washerman’s Field, just outside Jerusalem’s city walls. The name of Isaiah’s son, Shear-Jashub (which means ”a remnant will return“; cf. 10:21) illustrated the prophet’s message. The nation of Judah would not be destroyed by the Aram-Israel alliance.

7:4-6. Isaiah told Ahaz not to be afraid of Rezin and Pekah, for they were mere smoldering stubs of firewood. Their lives would soon end; like firewood they would be burned up and gone. Both men died two years later in 732 BC. Aram and Israel threatened to invade Judah, split it between the two conquering nations, and set up a Puppet king.

7:7-9. In response to the Aram-Israel threat the Sovereign Lord had an answer: It (the attack) would not take place; it would not happen. The reason was that both of those nations were headed by mere (only, vv. 8-9) men. Ironically Isaiah referred to Pekah by name only once (v. 1). Four other times he called him the son of Remaliah or Remaliah’s son (vv. 4-5, 9; 8:6). He and Rezin could not thwart God’s plans.

In fact Isaiah made the startling prophecy that within 65 years Israel would no longer even be a people because they would be so shattered (7:8). Isaiah gave this prophecy in 734 BC., so 65 years later was 669. When Assyria conquered Israel in 722, many Israelites were deported to other lands by Assyria and foreigners were brought into Samaria (2 Kings 17:24). However, in 669 many more foreigners were transferred to Samaria by Ashurbanipal (Ezra 4:10), king of Assyria (669-626). This ”shattered“ Israel, making it impossible for her to unite as a nation (”a people“).

The second sentence in Isaiah 7:9 has been translated in various ways. But it challenged Ahaz to believe what Isaiah was telling him. Obviously Ahaz was not alive 65 years later. But he could have faith that God would fulfill both predictions: that Israel would be shattered 65 years later and that in his day the northern confederacy (Aram and Israel) would not overpower Judah. If he did not believe those predictions he too would fall.

c. Ahaz’s rejection of a sign (7:10-12)

7:10-12. As a means of strengthening his faith Ahaz was told to ask the Lord . . . for a sign, an attesting miracle that would confirm God’s word. The king could choose any miraculous work he wished, from the deepest depths to the highest heights. With a miracle performed simply for the asking, Ahaz would have visible confirmation that Isaiah’s words (vv. 7-9) were truly from the Lord. Ahaz could count on the fact that the northern alliance would not defeat Judah.

But Ahaz refused to request a sign, saying he would not . . . test God (cf. Deut. 6:16). This answer sounded pious but probably the way he said it showed he was not believing Isaiah. Perhaps he did not want to believe Isaiah, who had been prophesying about the eventual destruction of Judah if her people did not return to the Lord.

d. The Lord’s response (7:13-17)

7:13. Ahaz, by rejecting the offer of a sign from God’s messenger, was in effect rejecting the One who sent the prophet. The house of David (cf. v. 2) refers not to all David’s descendants, but to Ahaz and those kings of Judah who would descend from him. Ahaz’s answer was impious. He said he did not want to test the Lord, but by refusing to follow God’s directive to ask for a confirming miracle, he was testing the Lord’s patience (as well as man’s patience).

7:14-16. Though Ahaz refused to request a sign that would have confirmed the truth of Isaiah’s message, the prophet said God would give him one anyway. The sign was to be a boy named Immanuel. Three elements pertain to the sign:

(1) The boy would be born (of a virgin) (v. 14).

New Century Version, NIV, KJV, NKJV, American Standard, Darby Bible, NLT
14The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and she will name him Immanuel

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), New English Bible (NEB), New English Translation Bible (NET), New Jerusalem Bible
14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel

(2) He would be raised in a time of national calamity (v. 15 -The abundance of . . . milk was a distressful factor, not a good one. With many animals dying, a farmer’s young cow and two goats would have no young to nurse, and so the milk (and curds from it) would be plentiful for the people. Honey would also be abundant because wild flowers would grow in the desolate fields and bee swarms would be more plentiful).

(3) While he was still a youth, the two-king alliance would be broken (v. 16).

Most Bible scholars hold one of three views on the virgin in Isaiah 7:14-16:

(1) The boy of whom Isaiah wrote was conceived shortly after Isaiah spoke this message. A young woman, a virgin, married and then had a baby. Before he would be old enough to tell the difference between good and evil the northern Aram-Israel alliance would be destroyed. According to this view the woman was a virgin when Isaiah spoke his prophecy but was not when the boy was born because he was conceived by sexual relations with her husband.

Some say this child was born to Isaiah (8:3-4). They point out that 8:1-4 corresponds in a number of ways to 7:14-17. But this view must be rejected because
(a) Isaiah’s wife already had a child (Shear-Jashub, v. 3) and so was not a virgin, and
(b) the second child born to Isaiah’s wife was not named Immanuel but Maher-shalal-hash-baz which is a judgment on Judah while Immanuel is one of hope (8:3).

In this view Ahaz would have known this woman, and hearing of the child’s birth and his name Immanuel he would understand that Isaiah’s prophecies were correct.

(2) A second view sees the predicted birth as exclusively messianic and the virgin as Mary, Jesus’ mother. It is argued that in Isaiah 7:14 the virgin is said to be with child (lit., ”the virgin is or will be pregnant“). Edward Hinson points that the Septuagint’s interpretation of Isa. 7:14 is of a virgin birth. This messianic pre-Christian interpretation is shared by the rabbinic, Palestinian and Alexandrian Jews. It is also argued that Matthew, stressing the fact that Joseph and Mary’s marriage was not consummated till after Jesus’ birth (Matt. 1:18, 25), affirmed that Jesus’ birth fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (Matt. 1:21-23).

Proponents of this view point out that since Isaiah spoke this prophecy to the house of David (Isa. 7:13) and not just to Ahaz himself, the sign was given not just to the king but to the entire kingly line and the entire nation. However, if the fulfillment did not occur until Joseph and Mary’s day, how does the prophecy relate to Isaiah’s point that the Aram-Israel confederacy would soon be defeated? And how does the birth of the Lord Jesus relate to the eating of curds and honey (v. 15) and to the breaking of the alliance before the boy was old enough to know good and evil? (v. 16) Proponents of this view answer that the time is similar: the two years of Jesus’ babyhood (before He would know between right and wrong) point to the same time segment, two years, within which the Aram-Israel threat would be gone.

(3) A third view, a combination of the first two, sees the prophecy as directed primarily to Ahaz regarding the breaking of the alliance. The ‘almâh was a virgin when Isaiah spoke his message, but then she would marry and have a baby. When the Aram-Israel alliance was broken the boy would still be young. Centuries later the Holy Spirit led Matthew to quote Isaiah 7:14 as a statement that was also true of a virgin birth (i.e., a birth to a woman who was still a virgin). This is the first of many prophecies about the Messiah given by Isaiah.

The sign must have had some significance for the historical situation in which it was given. The sign involved not only the birth and the boy’s name (Immanuel, ”God [is] with us, “ would assure the people of God’s presence), but also a designated length of time: before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings will be laid waste.

Within about three years (nine months for the pregnancy and two or three years until the boy would know the difference between good and evil) the alliance would be broken. It was broken in 732 BC when Tiglath-Pileser III destroyed Damascus. After Tiglath-Pileser had defeated Aram and put Rezin to death. Ahaz went to Damascus to meet the Assyrian monarch (2 Kings 16:7-10). Ahaz liked an altar he saw in Damascus, and had a sketch of it drawn so a similar altar could be set up in Jerusalem. No wonder Isaiah and God were angry with Ahaz. Even after the alliance had been broken by Tiglath-Pileser Judah had no peace. Though Assyria did not defeat Judah, she had to pay Assyria a heavy tribute. Isaiah foretold the consequences of Ahaz’s attitude (Isa. 7:17-25).

Three children’s Names
(1) Isaiah’s son (Shear-Jashub) Shear-Jashub means a remnant will return.
(2) Prophetess’ son (Immanuel) Immanuel means God with us.
(3) Isaiah’s son (Maher-shalal-hash-baz)

Therefore, Isaiah’s Sign of Immanuel = God with us

3. Matthew’s The Sign of Immanu-el

The Septuagint
The Septuagint simply "LXX", is the Koine Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, translated in stages between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC in Alexandria.

It is the oldest of several ancient translations of the Hebrew Bible into the Greek language, the lingua franca of the eastern Mediterranean from the time of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC). The word septuaginta means "seventy" in Latin and derives from a tradition that seventy (or seventy-two) Jewish scholars translated the Pentateuch (Torah) from Hebrew into Greek for Ptolemy II Philadelphus, 285–246 BC.

The Septuagint includes some books not found in the Hebrew Bible. Many Protestant Bibles follow the Jewish canon and exclude the additional books. Roman Catholics, however, include some of these books in their canon while Eastern Orthodox Churches use all the books of the Septuagint. Anglican lectionaries also use all of the books except Psalm 151, and the full Authorized (King James) Version includes these additional books in a separate section labelled the "Apocrypha".

The Dead Sea Scrolls include a complete copy of the Book of Isaiah, a fragmented copy of Isaiah, containing much of Isaiah 38-6, and fragments of almost every book in the Old Testament. The majority of the fragments are from Isaiah and the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). The books of Samuel, in a tattered copy, were also found and also two complete chapters of the book of Habakkuk. In addition, there were a number of nonbiblical scrolls related to the commune found.

These materials are dated around 100 B.C. The significance of the find, and particularly the copy of Isaiah, was recognized by Merrill F. Unger when he said, "This complete document of Isaiah quite understandably created a sensation since it was the first major Biblical manuscript of great antiquity ever to be recovered. Interest in it was especially keen since it antedates by more than a thousand years the oldest Hebrew texts preserved in the Massoretic tradition."

• The Septuagint was held in great respect in ancient times; Philo and Josephus ascribed divine inspiration to its authors.
• Of significance for all Christians and for Bible scholars is that the LXX is quoted by the Christian New Testament and by the Apostolic Fathers.
• Jews have not used the LXX in worship or religious study since the second century AD

Hebrew Bible (supported by the earliest manuscript)
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The ‘almâh will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

In the oldest Isaiah text available, the word is ‘almâh, a word used of an unmarried woman of marriageable age. The word refers to one who is sexually mature. It occurs elsewhere in the Old Testament only in Genesis 24:43 (”maiden“); Exodus 2:8 (”girl“); Psalm 68:25 (”maidens“); Proverbs 30:19 (”maiden“); Song of Songs 1:3 (”maidens“); 6:8 (”virgins“). It also occurs in 1 Chronicles 15:20 (alamoth) and in the title of Psalm 46 (alamoth may be a musical term).

The Septuagint’s translation of Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The parthenos will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Parthenos means ‘virgin’.

Question: Is it possible for seventy-two Hebrew scholars to mistranslate one word, ‘almâh in Isaiah 7:14?

Question: Could the mistranslation be a Divine Intervention?

It predicts the virgin birth of Jesus 735 years before it happens and also reveals the nature of God incarnate.

Matthew’s use of a passage from Isaiah 7:14:

Matt 1:20-24
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” —which means, “God with us.”

Matthew was only able to read Greek. In the New Testament times, very few people can read Hebrew. Hence he was dependent on the Septuagint. However, he was inspired to see in Isaiah 7:14, the nature of God incarnation as a sinless Jesus through a virgin birth and understand the story of Jesus’ conception in the conversation of Joseph and the angel.

Thus Matthew was able to understand the gospel from the perspective
• The virgin birth
• The sinless nature of Jesus
• The salvation of God
• God with us

It is interesting that as much as we talk and sing and discuss Jesus as Immanuel, he is never actually called by this name outside this one verse in Matthew. The name Immanuel (or its Greek form Emmanuel) never occurs anywhere else in the Gospels applied to Jesus. In fact, the name never occurs elsewhere in the New Testament.

4. Our Sign of Immanuel

We have come to understand the true nature of God in Jesus and his virgin birth. What does this sign of Immanu-el means to us?

(1) God is in control
God is in total control. He even uses our mistakes-a mistranslation for his purpose. As we look around at the world today, it is good to know that God is in control. That every single atom in this universe is under his control.

(2) God saves
Jesus, God incarnate came to save us. God plan of redemption continues even as we speaks.

(3) God is with us
God is always with us. As we move and have our being, God is with us.

Soli Deo Gloria

John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985), 1046-1049.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Agapē Care_The Way of Christian Love

Agapē Care-The Way of Christian Love
Text: Luke 10: 25-37

Sermon Statement
Agapē caring or Christian caring is allowing God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit to care through us.

How do the way we care differs from the way others care? How is it distinct from the way, for example, a Buddhist cares for others?
• Compassion
• Resources
• Commitment
• Sacrificial
• Motivation

Is there a distinctive Christian way of caring?

The Giving Tree, first published in 1964, is a children's book written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein.
The Giving Tree
By Shel Silverstein

Once there was a tree..... and she loved a little boy. And every day the boy would come and he would gather her leaves and make them into crowns and play king of the forest. He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches and eat apples. And they would play hide-and-go-seek. And when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade. And the boy loved the tree.......very much. And the tree was happy.
But time went by. And the boy grew older. And the tree was often alone. Then one day the boy came to the tree and the tree said "Come, Boy, come and climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and eat apples and play in my shade and be happy"
"I am too big to climb and play", said the boy. "I want to buy things and have fun. I want some money. Can you give me some money?"
"I'm sorry," said the tree, "but I have no money, I have only leaves and apples. Take my apples, Boy, and sell them in the city. Then you will have money and you will be happy." And so the boy climbed up the tree and gathered her apples and carried them away. And the tree was happy.
But the boy stayed away for a long time... and the tree was sad. And then one day the boy came back and the tree shook with joy and she said, "Come, Boy, climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and be happy."
"I am too busy to climb trees," said the boy. "I want a house to keep me warm. I want a wife and I want children, and so I need a house. Can you give me a house?"
"I have no house," said the tree. "The forest is my house, but you may cut off my branches and build a house. Then you will be happy." And the boy cut off her branches and carried them away to build his house. And the tree was happy.
But the boy stayed away for a long time. And when he came back, the tree was so happy she could hardly speak. "Come, Boy," she whispered, "come and play."
“I am too old and sad to play," said the boy. "I want a boat that can take me far away from here. Can you give me a boat?"
"Cut down my trunk and make a boat," said the tree. "Then you can sail away...... and be happy." And so the boy cut down her trunk and made a boat and sailed away. And the tree was happy.... but not really. And after a long time the boy came back again.
"I am sorry, Boy," said the tree, "but I have nothing left to give you----" "My apples are gone."
"My teeth are too weak for apples," said the boy.
"My branches are gone," said the tree. "You cannot swing on them”
"I am too old to swing on branches," said the boy.
"My trunk is gone," said the tree. "You cannot climb"
"I am too tired to climb," said the boy.
"I am sorry," sighed the tree. "I wish that I could give you something------ but I have nothing left. I am just an old stump."
"I don't need very much now," said the boy. "just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired."
"Well," said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could, "Well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest." And the boy did. And the tree was happy.
© Shel Silverstein

This is a story of giving. Some may see it as an ungrateful boy and a codependency relationship with the tree. However there are a few points to note:
• Are we in many ways like the boy? Give me, give me, give me
• The tree is happiest when giving
• The tree longs for relationship, not just giving
• As we care for others; children, spouses, aging parents or as a services, how do we continue to give without burning out?
• The tree seems to have an infinite resource to draw on and is willing to give. Its sadness comes from when it has nothing to offer except compassion and a place to rest. That seems to be really what the boy needs- not just material things but also a rest for his emotional and spiritual being.
• Does this story remind you of the love of Jesus and the way Jesus cares for us?

Let us look at Jesus’ way of caring. Jesus way of caring is agapē caring. Agapē is the most commonly used Greek word for love in the New Testament. The other words are sturge, eros and philia.

Text: Luke 10:25-37
LK 10:25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
LK 10:26 "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
LK 10:27 He answered: " `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' ; and, `Love your neighbor as yourself.' "
LK 10:28 "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
LK 10:29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

LK 10:30 In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. `Look after him,' he said, `and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

LK 10:36 "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
LK 10:37 The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

The parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10: 25-37)

In the parable, Jesus identifies 3 potential helpers for the robbed man
• A priest
• A Levite, an assistant to the priests who was a descendent of Levi but not Aaron
• The Samaritan, despised by the Jews because he is of mixed race being descended from Gentiles and the Israelites left behind when the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians
Jesus’ point was to illustrate the application of the two greatest commandments is found in how we treat our neighbours.

"Go and do likewise."

• Jesus was more interested in the heart and action of the Samaritan than the probable right theology and orthodoxy of the priest and Levite.
o J.I.Packer once comments on God’s giving practical answers to theological questions: “You’re concern on who’s going to heavens? Good! So am I, go tell everyone about me!” This ends the useless debates about who is going to heaven and who will be saved.
• Jesus’ response to the lawyer is the same: “You want to know who your neighbour is? I’ll tell you-it is the person who is near you whose needs you have the ability to meet.” Period. Full-stop. Not an answer to “Who is my neighbour so I can figure out whose needs I may ignore.”

How are we to care for our neighbours as Jesus calls us to?
So how are we to go and do likewise- to care for our neighbours like him?

There are two main things we need to do if we are to care as Jesus calls us to care
(1) To empty ourselves

a. Emptying ourselves start with our attitude (Phil 2:5-8)

PHP 2:5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!
We approach care from a superior attitude. Recently we were in Honolulu, Hawaii and we visited the Bishop Museum. The Bishop is the family name of a missionary who went to Hawaii to convert the native Hawaii. It may be difficult for us to judge their motives and approach. After all we have the hindsight which is ‘perfect’ vision. Becoming Christian means adopting not just the Christian religion but also European culture. The native Hawaiians who used to go about semi naked (but comfortable) have to wear Victorian clothes-women in dresses and men in suits. The book Hawaii by James Mitchener and the 1996 movie of the same name, based on the book gives us some idea on what happened during that period. It tells the story of a 1820s Yale University divinity student (Max von Sydow) who, along with his new bride (Julie Andrews), becomes a Calvinist missionary in the Hawaiian Islands.

b. It is when we accept our own inability to care in our own strength that we become useful to him
(Jn 15: 4-5)
4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing
(2 Cor 4:7)
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

The danger most of us face, especially those whom God has gifted us with various talents and spiritual gifts, is to run on our own strength.

c. Obedience. Latin word audire, meaning “to listen.” This means setting time aside to listen to God. Time aside for Bible study, contemplation, prayer, etc.

Connected to our attitude and self-dependence is the need for obedience. We must do what God asks us to do, not what we want to do. There is a strong tendency to decide what we want to do and then ask God for his blessings. Then we begin to look for signs, coincidences or supporting verses from the Bible.

I wonder when we go to heaven and are recounting our lives to God, telling him of our great sacrifice to ourselves in doing something for him, God will say, “I did not ask you to do that!” Listen and obey, do what God wants you to do.

d. Discarding our romantic ideas of what it means to serve God. This free us to go where and when we are called, on his terms

“We often think that service means to give something to others, to tell them how to speak, act, or behave; but now it appears that above all else, real , humble service is helping our neighbours discover that they possess great but often hidden talents than can enable them to do more than what we can do for them. By revealing the unique gifts of the other, we learn to empty ourselves. Self-emptying does not ask of us to engage in some form of self-castigation or self-scrutiny, but to pay attention to others in such a way that they begin to recognise their own value.” (McNeill, Morrison, and Nouwen 1982),80)

A compelling example of this the interaction of Jesus with the woman at the well in John chapter four. Their relationship began as he graciously acknowledged his own need and asked her, a social outcast, for a drink. In their candid interchange she saw her own life with blinding clarity but Jesus did not leave her desolate. She was the first person to whom he revealed that he was the Messiah, transforming her life into one of hope. We, too, can minister his grace, especially to those who are suffering, by emptying ourselves, going to meet them, staying with them in their pain, and never failing to offer hope.

(2) To allow him to fill us up
a. To saturate ourselves with Word of God
MT 4:4 Jesus answered, "It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' " (Matt 4:4)
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Col 3:16)

Knowing the Bible well is important. Knowing and understanding the bible by studying it yourself is very important. You are all highly educated. Yet, many of you depended on someone’s processed teaching. How many of you actually look up the verses and verified the teachings you receive from preachers, pastors and other Christians? And check their words with other writings by other Christians? Why not? Because you are too busy? You have time to read the newspaper? If you have time to read the newspaper, then you will have time to read the bible. It is pure laziness on the part of Christians not to read the bible.

b. Be filled with the Holy Spirit
5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Rom 5:5)

17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. (Rom 14:17,18)

John Wesley said we have yet to see what a man can do if he is fully filled with the Holy Spirit. Reading the The Journal Once Lost-Extracts from the dairy of John Sung is very revealing. John Sung was a powerful evangelist who swept through Malaya, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and Indonesia between Jun 1935 and December 1939. That he was a showman was no doubt. On one occasion during a sermon, he brought a coffin, placed it under the pulpit, and shouted, "Get rich, get rich, get the coffin!" (This was a play on words in the original Chinese, used to convey the idea that pursuing money will not bring you eternal life.) After exclaiming this statement, he then went and lay down in the coffin himself. However, there are records of thousands being saved, miracles being performed and many eyes opened. Sung was quoted as defining faith as "watching God work while on your knees".

c. Be in fellowship with the triune God (perichoresis)
1JN 4:19 We love because he first loved us (1 Jn 4:18)
EPH 6:23 Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. (Eph 6:23, 24)

We can only love if we remain in the fellowship of the triune God. I like the Greek word perichoresis which is not found in the bible. It originates from the Greek orthodox tradition. Often we have problem describing the trinity; three persons, one essence. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. No, we do not believe in three gods. Perichoresis is a dance. The three persons are described as in a dance. In a dance, there is changing role as the dancers move in a fluid movement. Such is the triune God. We are invited into the dance. We can enter the fellowship because of the Holy Spirit within us.

Lessons for us

Is there a difference between Christian care and non Christian caring? Yes. While I do not want to denigrate the caring given by non-Christians to the poor, sick and destitute, I believe Christians can offer more. Christians give because of the overflow of the love of Jesus Christ in their lives.
• It is not out of a sense of duty
• It is not karma
• It is not for evangelism
• It is who we are
Agapē caring or Christian caring is allowing God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit to care through us. IN that sense, we can offer what others cannot. We can offer true faith, hope and love.
(1) Faith
In that there will be an end to all pain and suffering.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Rev 21:4)

(2) Hope
In that there is a God who cares and we will all be there in a better place.
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (Rev 21:3)

(3) Love
Is the way we care for one another. Not to (a) avoid death, or (b) to hasten death, but (c) as fellow sufferers along the way, caring for one another.
1CO 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor 13:4-7)

If we care for others through Christ, we will not burn out because the resources of Christ are infinite. If we care out of our own resources, one day we will run dry.

Soli Deo Gloria

Saturday, October 18, 2008

God will make a way

God will make a way
Text: Rev. 7:1-10

Sermon Statement

God has chosen us and whatever the trouble we face now, we will one day stand before him in heaven safe and sound

Text: Rev. 7:1-10

REV 7:1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. 2 Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: 3 "Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God."
4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.

REV 7:5 From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,
from the tribe of Gad 12,000,

REV 7:6 from the tribe of Asher 12,000,
from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000,
from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000,

REV 7:7 from the tribe of Simeon 12,000,
from the tribe of Levi 12,000,
from the tribe of Issachar 12,000,

REV 7:8 from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000,
from the tribe of Joseph 12,000,
from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.

REV 7:9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

"Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb."

1. Introduction

We are living in difficult times and it looks next year will be worst
-Petrol price increasing and increase in prices of all essential goods
-Financial meltdown all over the world
-Bank guaranteed. Otherwise lose your savings
Slaughter and blood shed
-The war in Iraq and Afghanistan
-The war in Southern Philippines
-Political instability in Thailand; Bangkok and southern Thailand
-Persecution of Christians in Orissa, India
-Political instability in Malaysia
-Famine in Africa
-Natural disasters; tsunami, earthquakes
-Man-made- Melamine poisoning in China

1.1. The background of Rev 6 and 7

Chapter 7 come a parenthesis between the sixth and seventh seal.

“Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”
1st seal: white horseman with bow and crown: conquest
2nd seal: red horseman with large sword: slaughter and bloodshed
3rd seal: black horseman with a pair of scales: famine
4th seal: pale horseman: Death

5th seal: altar in heaven-souls of martyr
6th seal: great earthquake
7th seal: dramatic pause

2. Exposition of the text

John was taken up to heaven.

2.1. What did John hear?

v.4a 4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.

2.1.1. Who are they? The tribes of Israel?

(Gen 35:22) Jacob had twelve sons:
23 The sons of Leah: Reuben the firstborn of Jacob, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.
24 The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin.
25 The sons of Rachel’s maidservant Bilhah: Dan and Naphtali.
26 The sons of Leah’s maidservant Zilpah: Gad and Asher.
These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram.

2.1.2. On earth

Could they have been the chosen ones of God on earth, not just the Jews?

2.1.3. Lists

There are various lists of the tribes in the O.T.
Genesis 35:22; Genesis 46:8; Exodus 1:1; Numbers 1:2; Numbers 13:4; Numbers 26:34; Deuteronomy 27:11; Deuteronomy 33:6 Jos 13-22; Jud 5; 1Ch 2-8; 1 Chronicles 12:24; 1 Chronicles 27:16; Eze 48) and given in various orders. In 1 Chronicles 7:12 both Dan and Zebulon are omitted. Joseph is given here in place of Ephraim.

2.1.4. Comparison of lists and Revelation 7 list

Gen. 35:22

Revelation 7 Tribes

2.1.5. The 144,000 is the spiritual Israel.
a) 144,000 = 12 x 12x 1000
b) Eleven sons and one grandson
c) Judah is mentioned first, Rueben is first born
d) Dan is missing
e) Each tribe number 12,000 exactly
2.1.5.e.1. tribes varies in size
2.1.5.e.2. ten tribes were almost wiped out by the Babylonians (sixth century)
2.1.5.e.3. Jews are usually descendent of Judah and some from Levi
2.1.5.e.4. No one can demonstrate true biological descend from any tribe
f) Spiritual Israel

2.2. What did John see?

v. 9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

2.2.1. Who are they?
a) multitudes
b) in heaven
c) white robes

REV 7:14 I answered, "Sir, you know."
And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

In the Book of Revelation, white robes are symbols of blessedness and purity.

d) palm branches
Palm branches are used twice in the New Testament. John 12:13 when a great crowd welcome Jesus into Jerusalem

The earthly crowd shouted,
The heavenly crowd shouts,
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessed is the King of Israel!”
"Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb."

2.3. What is the link between the two crowds?

v.5-8 From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,
from the tribe of Gad 12,000,

REV 7:6 from the tribe of Asher 12,000,
from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000,
from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000,

REV 7:7 from the tribe of Simeon 12,000,
from the tribe of Levi 12,000,
from the tribe of Issachar 12,000,

REV 7:8 from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000,
from the tribe of Joseph 12,000,
from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.

2.3.1. The names are the key

a) Judah “I will praise the Lord’
Of Judah’s personal character more traits are preserved than of any other of the patriarchs, with the exception of Joseph, whose life he in conjunction with Reuben saved. (Genesis 37:26-28) During the second visit to Egypt for corn it was Judah who understood to be responsible for the safety of Benjamin, ch. (Genesis 43:3-10) and when, through Joseph’s artifice, the brothers were brought back to the palace, he is again the leader and spokesman of the band. So too it is Judah who is sent before Jacob to smooth the way for him in the land of Goshen. ch. (Genesis 46:28) This ascendancy over his brethren is reflected in the last words addressed to him by his father. The families of Judah occupy a position among the tribes similar to that which their progenitor had taken among the patriarchs.

b) Reuben “He has looked on me”
Jacob’s firstborn (Genesis 29:32) the son of Leah. (B.C. 1753.) To him and him alone the preservation of Joseph’s life appears to have been due and afterward he becomes responsible for his safety. (Genesis 37:18-30; 42:37) Of the repulsive crime which mars his history, and which turned the blessing of his dying father into a curse --his adulterous connection with Bilhah-- we know from the Scriptures only the fact. (Genesis 35:22) He was of an ardent, impetuous, unbalanced but not ungenerous nature; not crafty and cruel, as were Simeon and Levi, but rather, to use the metaphor of the dying patriarch, boiling up like a vessel of water over a rapid wood fire, and as quickly subsiding when the fuel was withdrawn.

c) Gad “granted good fortune”

d) Asher “happy am I”
Jacob's eighth son; his mother was Zilpah, Leah's handmaid (Genesis 30:13). Of the tribe founded by him nothing is recorded beyond its holding a place in the list of the tribes (35:26; 46:17; Exodus 1:4, etc.) Asher and Simeon were the only tribes west of the Jordan which furnished no hero or judge for the nation. Anna the prophetess was of this tribe (Luke 2:36).

e) Naphtali “my wrestling”
my wrestling, the fifth son of Jacob. His mother was Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid (Genesis 30:8). When Jacob went down into Egypt, Naphtali had four sons (Genesis 46:24). Little is known of him as an individual.

f) Manasseh “making me forget”
The elder of the two sons of Joseph. He and his brother Ephraim were afterwards adopted by Jacob as his own sons (48:1).

g) Simeon “God hears me”
The second son of Jacob by Leah (Genesis 29:33). He was associated with Levi in the terrible act of vengeance against Hamor and the Shechemites (34:25,26). He was detained by Joseph in Egypt as a hostage (42:24). His father, when dying, pronounced a malediction against him (49:5-7). The words in the Authorized Version (49:6), "they digged down a wall," ought to be, as correctly rendered in the Revised Version, "they houghed an ox."

h) Levi “joined to me”
The third son of Jacob by Leah. The origin of the name is found in Leah's words (Genesis 29:34), "This time will my husband be joined [Heb. yillaveh] unto me." He is mentioned as taking a prominent part in avenging his sister Dinah (Genesis 34:25-31). He and his three sons went down with Jacob (46:11) into Egypt, where he died at the age of one hundred and thirty-seven years (Exodus 6:16).

i) Issachar ‘purchased me”
"God hath given me," said Leah, "my hire (Heb. sekhari)...and she called his name Issachar." He was Jacob's ninth son, and was born in Padan-aram (comp 28:2). He had four sons at the going down into Egypt (46:13; Numbers 26:23,25).

j) Zebulun “dwelling”
dwelling, the sixth and youngest son of Jacob and Leah (Genesis 30:20). Little is known of his personal history. He had three sons (46:14).

k) Joseph “God will add to me”
The elder of the two sons of Jacob by Rachel (Genesis 30:23,24), who, on the occasion of his birth, said, "God hath taken away [Heb. 'asaph] my reproach." "The Lord shall add [Heb. yoseph] to me another son" (Genesis 30:24). He was a child of probably six years of age when his father returned from Haran to Canaan and took up his residence in the old patriarchal town of Hebron. "Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age," and he "made him a long garment with sleeves" (Genesis 37:3), i.e., a patchwork of many small pieces of divers colours.

l) Benjamin “Son of his right hand”
The younger son of Jacob by Rachel (Genesis 35:18). His birth took place at Ephrath, on the road between Bethel and Bethlehem, at a short distance from the latter place. His mother died in giving him birth, and with her last breath named him Ben-oni, son of my pain, a name which was changed by his father into Benjamin. His posterity are called Benjamites (Genesis 49:27; Deuteronomy 33:12; Joshua 18:21).

1. Judah= "I will praise the Lord"
2. Reuben= "He has looked on me"
3. Gad= "Granted good fortune"
4. Asher= "Happy am I"
5. Naphtali= "My wrestling"
6. Manasseh= "Making me forget"
7. Simeon= "God hears me"
8. Levi= "Joined to me"
9. Issachar= "Purchased Me"
10. Zebulun= "Dwelling"
11. Joseph= "God will add to me"
12. Benjamin= "Son of His right hand"

Now notice what happens when the meanings of the names are combined, in the same order, into a paragraph:

"I will praise the Lord because He has looked on me and granted good fortune. Happy am I because my wrestling with God is making me forget my past troubles. God hears me and is joined to me and has purchased me a dwelling. God will add to me the Son of His right hand." (The words in italics are supplied to complete each thought.)

3. Lessons for us
3.1. God chooses us from the beginning. We are the chosen.
3.2. God’s plan of salvation is THE plan, not a plan B
3.3. No one chosen by God is lost
3.4. Expect tribulations in this life
3.5. Expect to come out tribulation victorious
3.6. Praise God that you have been redeemed

(song) God Will Make a Way

God will make a way,
Where there is no way.
He works in ways we cannot see
He will make a way a way for me
He will be your guide
Hold me closely to his side
With love and strength for each new day
He will make a way, He will make a way,

God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus;He came to love, heal and forgive;He lived and died to buy my pardon,An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!
ChorusBecause He lives, I can face tomorrow,Because He lives, all fear is gone;Because I know He holds the future,And life is worth the living,Just because He lives!
How sweet to hold a newborn baby,And feel the pride and joy he gives;But greater still the calm assurance:This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!
ChorusBecause He lives, I can face tomorrow,Because He lives, all fear is gone;Because I know He holds the future,And life is worth the living,Just because He lives!
And then one day, I'll cross the river,I'll fight life's final war with pain;And then, as death gives way to vict'ry,I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives!
ChorusBecause He lives, I can face tomorrow,Because He lives, all fear is gone;Because I know He holds the future,And life is worth the living,Just because He lives!

God will make a way,
Where there is no way.
He works in ways we cannot see
He will make a way a way for me
He will be your guide
Hold me closely to his side
With love and strength for each new day
He will make a way, He will make a way.

By a roadway in the wilderness
He’ll lead me
And rivers in the desert will I see
Heaven and earth will fade
But his Word will still remain
He will do something new today

soli deo gloria

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Peace of God, The God of Peace

The Peace of God, the God of Peace
Text: Philippians 4:4-9

PHP 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

PHP 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (NIV)

Sermon statement
A life of peace (shalom) and joy is possible because of the fruit of the Holy Spirit which gives peace (shalom) and joy, Jesus Christ who became our peace (shalom) on the cross and our God who is a God of peace (shalom)

Paul wrote his epistle to the Philippians probably around 60-62 A.D. during the time of his imprisonment in Rome. Philippi is a strategic city in Greece. Originally built by Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. It later became famous because of the battle found there between Cassius and Brutus (murderers of Julius Caesar) and later between Octavian (later emperor Augustus) and Mark Anthony. Octavian won and made Philippi a Roman city.

Paul came to Philippi during 49 A.D. (Acts 16:11-40) and founded a church. From the names mentioned, it probably made up of Gentiles converts. The Philippians church faced external opposition from the Romans who insist that Caesar is Lord, kyrios, and internal disunity inside the church.

(1) The Peace (shalom) of God (4:4-7)
PHP 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

A. What do we want- joy, gentleness, no anxiety?

(a) Rejoice in the Lord
a. Happiness and joy
b. Joy in the Lord
c. Joy is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit
Gal. 5:22
GAL 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

(b) Gentleness
a. Translated as nobility.
b. Not hostility
c. For the community

(c) anxiety
a. do not be anxious
Matt. 6:25-27
MT 6:25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

b. Careful, careless, carefree

B. What shall we do?
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

a. prayer
b. petition
c. thanksgiving
present requests to God.

C. What do we get?
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

a. peace of God
b. transcend all understanding
c. guard your hearts and minds
d. on Christ Jesus

D. Summary

Gentleness ------> present requests to God---------> the peace of God

(2) The God of peace (shalom) (4:8-9)
PHP 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Note that the peace (shalom) of God guards our minds in Christ Jesus (4:7).

A. What shall we focus on?

a. What is True
i. Studying the Word of God
John 17:17
17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
Psalm 119:151
PS 119:151 Yet you are near, O LORD, and all your commands are true.

b. What is Noble
i. Semnos (honourable)- to revere, to worship
ii. lifestyle of Christians

c. What is Right
i. Dikaios (right) - righteous

d. What is Pure
i. Hagnos (pure)- holy, morally clean, undefiled
ii. Free from sin (1 Timothy 5;22)

e. What is Lovely
i. Prosphiles (lovely) – sweet, generous, patient

f. What is Admirable/good repute
i. Euphemos (good repute)-highly thought of, well regarded.

g. Summary: excellent or praiseworthy

B. What shall we do?
a. Learning from Paul-learned, received, heard, seen
b. Put into action
i. Repetition or continuous action
ii. Illustration: violin maker

C. What shall we receive?
a. The God of peace (shalom)

D. Summary

Pure ----------> think and put into practice ---------> the God of peace

(3) The life of peace (shalom) and joy

What is peace? Peace is translated as Hebrew šālôm, which occurs 250 times in the Old Testament with eirēnē is found 91 times, 24 of which are in the Gospels in the New Testament. Peace is to limited a word to translate for shalom. The usage of šālôm includes
• wholeness,
• completeness,
• well-being,
• prosperity,
• health,
• contentment
• salvation.

In the New Testament, we find that Jesus Christ is shalom (eirēnē):
• Christ himself is eirēnē (Eph.2:14-18),

EPH 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,

• he is the mediator of eirēnē, bringing reconciliation (Col.1:20),

20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

• sense of wholeness both for men and the world (Gal.6:15)

15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation

God is interested in a whole person, a whole people of his own, a whole earth and a whole creation which is implied in the concept of shalom.

A Christian life is a life of wholeness and completeness, a life of peace (shalom) and joy.
• Wholeness and completeness with the God of peace (shalom).
• Not a fragmented life
• Not a controlling life
• A life of submission to God’s shalom.

A life of peace (shalom) and joy is possible because of the fruit of the Holy Spirit which gives peace (shalom) and joy, Jesus Christ who became our peace (shalom) on the cross and our God who is a God of peace (shalom).


PHP 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

PHP 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Soli deo gloria

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Necessity of Love

The Necessity of Love
Text: 1 Cor.13:1-3 (TNIV)

Sermon Statement

The exercise of spiritual gifts without agape-love causes us to produce, become and receive nothing of value.

Grammatical Layout

If I speak in human and of angelic tongues,

but have not love,
I am only a resounding gong or a
clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy and

can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and

if I have a faith that can move mountains,

but have not love,

I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor and

give my body to hardship that I may boast,

but have not love,

I gain nothing.

I. Introduction and Context of 1 Cor.13
The Iliad by Homer is a classic story about the Trojan wars. It was about a 10 years siege of Troy by the combined Greek armies. It is about heroism, honor and the influence of the Greek gods on human lives. The war started because Paris, son of King Priam of Troy stole Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Mycene back to Troy. Menelaus appealed to his brother, King Agamemnon for help. A thousands ships were launched to take back Helen. All the battles were fought on the plain of Illium before the thick walls of Troy. The walls of Troy were impregnable. The greatest hero of the Greeks was Achilles while the greatest hero of the Trojans was Hector. The recent movie, Troy starting Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom was about the Greek hero Achilles. Achilles was the greatest warrior the Greeks ever had. He was skilled in all the arts of war, smart, intelligent and invincible. He cannot be killed except at his left heel. The Greek legend had it that after he was born, his mother, the sea goddess Thetis wanted to make him invulnerable. So the mother held him by the heel and dipped him in the river Styx. Hence all parts of his body are invulnerable except for his heel. The way he dispatched the champion of the Thessalonians at the start of the movie was well worth the watching. Achilles has all the gifts and talents but he has one fault. He loved only himself. He wanted glory and immortality: that his name will be remembered forever. So Achilles used all his skills and talents to win glory for himself. Thus Homer told of this greatest of Greek hero sulking in his tent because King Agamemnon took a slave girl he liked. He sulked in his tent while his comrades were being slaughtered by the Trojans. Achilles was very proud of his skills as a warrior but he loved only himself. So much skills and talent but he couldn’t care less about his people. Later Troy was captured by the trick of the Trojan horse.

In the same way, the Corinthian church has a lot of talents, wealth and spiritual gifts. Like Achilles, they are heroes. They are spiritual heroes with their spiritual gifts. They are mighty in power. Unfortunately they were selfish, self-willed, self-seeking and were doing everything to promote themselves. They have the spiritual gifts but they do not have love. That’s why Paul has to write 1 Cor. 13. Chapter 12 deals with the different types of spiritual gifts in the Corinthian church and chapter 14 deals with how to use these gifts. But Paul has to insert in chapter 13 to show them a more excellent way to use their gifts. There is nothing wrong with spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are given by God. Paul wants to show the Corinthian church a more excellent way to use their spiritual gifts. And this more excellent way is love.

II. The Meaning of Love.
Unlike the English language, New Testament Greek has four words for love. They are agape, eros, philos and stergos.
a. Agape. Agape is the word Paul used in 1 Cor. 13. Agape is a word that means ‘an ultimate act of self-sacrifice’. It is used to describe the ultimate act of self-sacrificing oneself for someone else’s good. It describes an action, not a feeling. Agape love is not romantic love. It is not a feeling that drives you to do something. It is act of will to action. Agape love makes you act even though you do not feel like it. For example, you are walking out of church and you see the wallet fall out of someone’s pocket. And you hate that person. So why should you pick up that wallet and call to that person to stop. Why not leave it there or let someone pick it up? Good riddance and serve him right for dropping his wallet. But you have agape love, so even though you hated the act, you call out to that person and stoop to pick up that wallet for him. That what Jesus meant when he said in Matt 5:54,55

44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

It takes agape love to our enemies and prays for them. Our instinct is to hate them and cause them harm. Why use agape love? Because we are sons and daughters of God.

b. Eros refers to the physical attraction between a man and woman on a sexual level. It is deeply emotional. It is the Song of Solomon which half the people don’t understand and the other half is embarrassed about it.

c. Philos refers to the love or regard with affections. Friends can have philos love. It also can be used to indicate affections for things and other objects. The work philosophy comes from philo (love of) and Sophia (wisdom). This is the most commonly used word for love in the New Testament and usually have no religious connotations.

d. Stergos is used for the love between parents and their children. It is also used for the love of the people for their rulers or the love of a dog for its master. Of the four expression of love, stergos is the least commonly used.

We have to be clear that Paul used the agape expression of love for this chapter. He is talking about self-sacrificial love. This is the most excellent way he is introducing to his hearers with regards to spiritual gifts.

III. Tongues Without Love is Nothing (v.1)

Paul started with tongues because the gift of tongue is so obvious. Either you have it or you don’t. Of course you can pretend to have it. But it will be obvious to everyone soon that you really have the gift of tongues or you are faking it. The word ‘tongues’ or glossa in the New Testament can be translated as languages.

We find the first occurrence of ‘tongues’ in Acts 2:1-3 AC 2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Note that in the following verses, other people can understand that they what they are saying in their own language. This means that ‘tongues’ in Acts 2 are in human language. But Paul also mention in 1 Cor. 12:10 that there are other kinds of tongues and also the gift of interpretation of tongues. The other tongues may be of angelic languages, therefore not intelligible to us. Hence the need for the gift of interpretation.

There is a strong temptation to feel that because you have the gift of tongue, you are more ‘spiritual’ that one that does not have the gift of tongue. Those who speak in tongues are first class Christians. Those who cannot speak in tongues are second class. Paul is pointing out the temptation of pride.

Another temptation is that those who are gifted with language can use language to manipulate a crowd. Many powerful leaders are great orators: Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, Mao Tze Tung and Mahathir. They can use their language and public speaking skills to sway the crowd. It is said of Jonathan Edwards, a New England preacher, that after his sermon, ‘people are lying on the ground in great fear, crying out to God for forgiveness’. Such is the powerful of language.

Paul pointed that if it is done without agape love, then all this gift of language is nothing and the speaker is like an empty gong. Sounding and disturbing the silence but putting nothing in its place. ‘If I speak in human and of angelic tongues but do not use it in a self-sacrificial way for the good of others, I am like an empty gong’.

IV. Prophecy Without Love is Nothing (v.2a)

Paul next pinpoints the gift of prophecy. This is another prominent gift. Prophets tend to be in the limelight. They are out there in front. People look to them to hear the voice of God. Paul told the Corinthians that if you should ask for a gift, ask for the gift of prophecy. Prophecy is foretelling and forth telling. Prophecy is speaking the voice of God. But then again, using the gift without agape love is nothing.

Balaam was a prophet in the Old Testament Num.24:15,16 NU 24:15 Then he uttered his oracle: "The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly,16 the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who has knowledge from the Most High, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:’ Now that’s a prophet. But he did not use his gift well. He did not have agape love for his people. See what happened in Num 31:16a "They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD’. Balaam sold out his people to the Moabites. Even his ass is a better prophet that him!

Compare this to another prophet, Jeremiah. He also received the gift of prophecy. He spoke the word of the Lord truthfully. But nobody listened to him. They tried to get him to shut. They tied him up, lock him up and threw him down a well. That did not shut Jeremiah because he has agape love for the people of Israel. He continued to prophecies in spite of all that they did to him. A self-sacrificial love.

V. Knowledge Without Love is Nothing (v.2b)

Next Paul commented on the gift of knowledge. At that time, the teachers, scribes and rabbis were very well respected because of their knowledge. Even at that time knowledge was power. So especially if you have the gift of knowledge. Then God will let you understand some of his mysteries and you have all knowledge. Knowledge is power. How many of we dare to argue with a pastor? How many of us dare to argue with a theologian from a seminary? These guys have all these years of theological training and know how to cross their tee in Hebrew and dot their iota in Greek. They should know everything, right? Their knowledge should be used to make the church better. Unfortunately a lot of the knowledge that comes out of the seminary has confused the church. Scholastic tools like higher criticism and deconstructions actually caused a lot of damage to the church. That led to liberalism and not taking the Bible seriously. The Bible is said to be a book of myths and stories and not to be taken seriously. Another group is currently leading a controversy called open theology. They said that the future is open because it as not happened yet and even God does not know what will happen. If knowledge is for enhancing one’s standing in the academic community or making a name for oneself, then it is of no use because it does not benefit anyone but oneself. If the knowledge that comes out of PhD thesis cannot be used to help the church then it is useless. There are thousands and thousands of PhD theses in the universities and seminaries. Very few are useful enough to be used at the church level. What is the motive behind this? For love of self or love of the church?

VI. Faith Without Love is Nothing (v.2c)

Now Paul comes to another powerful gift. One that is desired by all but received by few. From the prominent gifts, Paul is moving to the inner gifts. A faith in God strong enough to move mountains. It’s the type of faith expressed in prayer that releases God’s power.
Matt. 17:20 He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, `Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. " Now many people are confused by this verse. They have never seen people move mountains except by bulldozers. Jesus is not talking about moving mountains literally.

John MacArthur, a well know Bible teacher describe such faith as “if you have faith that never doubted God or even had a tinge of question; if you were such a rock that nothing was impossible for you to believe. Nothing brought a question to your mind, nothing was a cause for doubt; and … if you never shook, never wavered in anything and never questioned God”. Wow. What a Christian. Then he added, “without love, you’d be a nothing”. That really shook me.

VII. Benevolence Without Love is Nothing (v.3a)

Love is self-sacrificing but not all self-sacrificing is love. There are a lot of people out there who are living and giving sacrificially. In the recent tsunami crisis in Penang, the Buddhist groups are the first to get to the ground zero and offer help. There are Buddhist associations who are doing a tremendous amount of charity work because of their religion. Recently I was talking to a sales representative. She just came back from Taiwan after visiting four charity hospitals run by a Buddhist organization. The Mormons in the United States is also doing charity works. However, they are not doing it out of love but out of fear and self-righteousness.
Some Christian who gives and does charity work did it, not because of love but out of a sense of obligation. We feel we must do some community work. So we look around for where the need is. And there are always a lot of needs. Then we jumped into the work because of a sense of obligation. Paul said that’s not enough. Without love, all charity work is nothing.

VIII. Asceticism Without Love is Nothing (v.3b)

There are others who subject themselves to the spiritual disciplines for spiritual formation. Spiritual disciplines like prayer, study of the word, fasting, simple lifestyle, solitude and silence are good tools. They can be considered the means of grace. But if it is done as an obligation, as a means of boasting, as an ‘upmanship’ or as a way to manipulate God, then it is nothing. I was reading the journal of a person who went on a spiritual retreat recently. This is a silent retreat so everyone is to keep silent and not allowed to talk. On morning, he said he was walking along a path when one lady walked into him and rudely pushed him aside. Then she just walked on. He then reflected that even if she is not supposed to talk, the least she can do is to look at him and apologizes with a gesture. One can do spiritual disciplines without love.

IX. The Necessity of Love

What Paul is emphasizing to the Corinthians and to us is that languages or prophecy or knowledge or faith or benevolence or asceticism without love means nothing. It doesn’t matter what the Corinthians did. If they do it without love, it means nothing. It doesn’t matter what you does. If you do it without love, it means nothing. Or to put it another way:
v.1 The person without agape-love produces nothing of value.
v.2 The person without agape-love is himself or herself of no value.
v.3 The person without agape-love receives nothing of value.

Tongue+prophecy+knowledge+faith+benevolence+asceticism-love= zero.
Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit to each members of the church to be used to build up the church. But there is only one way to use these spiritual gifts. It is with be used with self-sacrificing live for the common good. Spiritual gifts are abused the moment we use it for our own selfish ends. Let us now ask the Holy Spirit to help us examine our hearts and see what motives we have in our service for the Lord. We are all called to serve the Lord-whether at home, in our workplace or in church. And we are all given spiritual gifts to perform our roles. How do we use these gifts? Do we have agape love for other people? If not, pray. Ask the Lord to fill you with his agape-love until it overflows into agape-love for others.

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, June 02, 2008

A Psalm of Comfort

Losing a loved one is never easy. There is the sense of loss, the pain of separation and even guilt, as in could we have done more for him when he is alive. I believe that you have done all that could be humanly done for your husband or father in the time that he was paralysed by a stroke. I am sure he would have expressed his gratefulness if he was able. There is a psalm that offers comfort to all who reads it.

PS 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

A shepherd is one who looks after sheep. The shepherd’s job involves looking after the sheep, making sure they are fed and watered, and making sure that they are safe. A shepherd is working all the time. It is not a 8-5 job. They are on call 24 hours a day. The sheep are safe and protected. That is the impression that the psalmist wants to convey. Our Lord Jesus Christ is like a shepherd. He looks after us so that we will not be in want. That does not means we will not suffer pain or loss. Loving in this world, we cannot avoid pain. There are many things beyond our control. Like when we are to be born. Or when we die. We Christians believe that life and death in the hands of our God. While we recognize that many things between birth and death is beyond out control, we also recognize that it is in the control of God. Like a good shepherd, God will make sure we get what we need for our life on earth.

PS 23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

God meets our physical needs. A sheep needs grass to eat and water to drink to live. In the same way, God provides us food to eat and water to drink. More than that, he provides jobs, business opportunities, friends and families. All good things come from the Lord. He also comforts us in our times of pain. The imagery of green pasture and quiet water is a place of comfort, a place of retreat, a place of restoration of a tired, sorrowful body. It is like the comforting arms of a mother to a child who is hurt.

PS 23:3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

God meets our spiritual needs. He knows that like sheep, we are easily led astray. Like sheep we are easily killed by lions or wolves. That is why he sent his Son, Jesus Christ to save us. It is because of his love that God took the form of a man to die for us. God restores our souls. For those who do not know him, God says, “I love you.” “Believe in my Son, Jesus Christ and you will find rest for your soul.” For those who are hurt, “God says I love you.” “Come into my arms and I will give you rest.”

PS 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Life is difficult. Even for Christian life is difficult. There are all sorts of dangers to our lives and properties. A cyclone may come. An earthquake may happen. A tsunami may wash away all we have given our lives to build. Not matter how strong and healthy your bodies are. No matter how careful you are with your food, how often you exercise and how many vitamin supplements you take, you will still fall ill. Your body will succumb to disease, cancers and accidents. God does not promise that he will prevent us from being sick or dying. What he does promise is that he will be with us all the time. He will walk beside us through thick and thin.

PS 23:5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Like there are always lions and wolves waiting to catch the unsuspecting sheep, the devil is out there watching for unsuspecting human beings. Like a host who prepares a dinner party for his guest; making sure everything is well, the food is well cooked, the table laid and the guest made comfortable. God has prepared a special banquet for us. This banquet is called eternal life. He has invited everyone to this special banquet. No matter how rich or poor, good or bad, clever or not so clever, there is a place for all in this banquet. The invitation is made through Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross to make this possible. Those who believe in Jesus Christ are called Christians. Their head has been anointed with oil, and their cup overflows with God’s goodness.

PS 23:6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

In your grief and despair, know that goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life. That is because God is your shepherd and he will be with you all the days of your life. Not only in this earthly life but beyond. Because you have been invited to live in the house of the Lord forever. For all eternity. And you know that on the other side of death, you will receive a new body that never get sick, never age and never be destroyed.

Dear brother and sister. Know that in your mourning and pain, you are not alone. This community of Christians shares your pain and sorrow. Know also God, who have never abandoned you will comfort you when you turn to him.


God is Love and Mercy

a funeral sermon

Let us be reminded that our human life here on earth does not end with death. Death is not the end but the beginning of another part of our life. Human beings are eternal beings. This is because we are created this way. According to the Bible, God created us. He created us out of the dust of earth. When we die, our earthly bodies return to dust but our spirit and our soul continues on. One day, we shall all receive a new body, a body that is renewed, no longer plagued by diseases, stroke or aging.

Why did God create us? He created us because he loves us. He created us to be his children. He wants us to be his sons and daughters. He wants us to be his sons and daughters forever. That means now, here on earth and after death with him in heaven forever. God is Love. Human beings since the time of Adam and Eve, the first humans, have rebelled against God. Yet is spite of our rejection, God still loves us. He loves us so much that he sent his son, Jesus Christ to save us.

John 3:16 states “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
• God so loved the world…
• Gave his one and only Son…
• Believes in him…
• Not perish but have eternal life…

God loves the world. He loves us human beings. He does not want to destroy us but wants us to spend eternity with him. So he takes action. Notice that God is the one who initiate the action to save us. It is not us reaching up to a God up there; a God who does not care. It is a God up there who care so much that he initiates action and reaches down to us here on earth.

He did it by coming down himself. God is invisible. No one can see him. That is why God came down to earth as Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ in God incarnate. Jesus Christ is God who took on flesh and became man. God became man and lived as man. Here is a God who understands us because he has experienced what we all experience-love, hatred, pain, anger, sadness, and joy. This happened two thousand years ago. Our calendar still date according to when God became man. God not only become man but died on the cross bearing all the rebellions of human beings. God did what no human being can do. He died for all of mankind. However, that is not the end. To prove that he is God, Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day. He appeared to more than 500 people. He ate and drank with some of them. Some of them touched him to make sure that he is real. He is real. And now, two thousands years later, nobody has proved otherwise. God became man.

God has already done it. He have man possible a way for us to go back to him. It is not a difficult way. You do not have to have a million dollar to buy a ticket. You do not have to be a holy man. You have only to believe. Yes, it’s that simple. Just believe. Believe that Jesus Christ, God himself has died for you and you will receive God’s forgiveness and return to his family. God is love.

God is also merciful. He knows what is in our hearts, more than we know ourselves. He will judge each man, woman and child according to what is in their heart. Where human judges may make mistakes and condemn an innocent person, God never makes a mistake. He is God. God is omniscience, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Nothing is hidden from him. There is an incident in Jesus’ life recorded in the gospel that shows God’s mercy.

John 8:3-11
3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
JN 8:9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
JN 8:11 "No one, sir," she said.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

This incident shows two things: One is that Jesus knows what is in the heart of all people; the teachers of the law, the Pharisees, the group of men, and the woman caught in adultery. The other is Jesus is merciful. He could have let them stone the woman to death. According to the law of Moses, they have very right to do so. Yet Jesus let her go because he knew what was in her heart. He discerned that in her heart, she has repented and was truly sorry for what she had done.

We can all take hope in this. God is merciful. God is love. He will not condemn anyone unjustly.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

A Living Hope through the Resurrection of Christ

A Living Hope through the Resurrection of Christ
Text: 1 Peter 1:3-5

1PE 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Sermon Statement
Our living hope is our inheritance of eternal life based on the resurrection of Christ.


Took part in a study tour on “The Footsteps of St.Paul in Greece” organized by the Seminari Theologi Malaysia (STM) from 18-28 May 2008. There were 28 of us in the tour. We visited
  • Kavala

  • Philippi

  • Thessalonica

  • Berea

  • Kalambaka

  • Meteora

  • Delphi

  • Athens

  • Corinth and Cenchreae
  • Greek islands of Poros, Hydra and Aegina

The highlight of my trip was to visit the monasteries in Meteora. 98% of Greeks belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church. In fact, religion is so closely linked to nationalism that to be Greek is to belong to the Greek Orthodox Church. To leave the Orthodox Church may be punishable by imprisonment and be shunned by the family and community.

The Meteora is situated in the northwest Plain of Thessaly and is made up of numerous giant rocks amidst a flat plain. Often called a stone forest, these rocks became a wonderful place for ascetic monks to be so that they may be close to God. By the late 11th century, there were records of monasteries being built in Meteora. Meteora means ‘in the air’ because it seems to be suspended between heaven and earth. During the peak of monasticism during the 16th century, there were many monasteries. Today there are only six living monasteries left in Meteroa. They are called living monasteries because there are still monks and nuns living and praying in them. These monasteries are open to the public are the Great Meteora or of the Transfiguration, Varlaam, St. Stephen, Holy Trinity, St. Nicholaos Anapafsa and Roussano.

Icon is one of the ways in the Greek Orthodox Church in which to teach the gospel. Often they are also called ‘living books’ or ‘living devotions.’ These works of Byzantine art are not worshipped but are used to teach. There is one icon titled “The Resurrection” (1552) which I saw in the Great Meteora which I find fascinating and appropriate to today’s sermon.

Icons are religious art that draw us into the Divine presence and remind us that we are resident aliens in this world.

Our text today tells us three things about living hope:
(1) Our Living Hope is based on the Resurrection of Christ (v.3)
(2) Our Living Hope is our eternal inheritance (v.4)
(3) Our Living Hope is protected by God (v.5)

(1) Our Living Hope is based on the Resurrection of Christ (v.3)

1PE 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
a. In His mercy
b. New birth
c. Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Some features from icon:

Figure of Christ dominates the centre of the painting
Christ has triumphed over death
Christ is dressed in brilliant, radiant apparel and surrounded by a glory of light. This symbolized His resurrected body and the eternal life (undying light) to come
His hands and feet bears the scars of the crucifixion

The arena in Philippi must have seen many Christians put to death because of their faith. The Romans are usually very tolerant of other religions. Their own pantheon was actually made up of Greek gods which they gave Roman names. They allowed the Jews some religious freedom. Yet they were intolerant of the Christians. Why? The reason is that while other religions allow many gods, Christianity has only one God. Lord Jesus is king. The Roman Empire allows only one emperor. That is why Christians presented a threat to the empire. It is treason to follow another king. What is even more frightening is that they are willing to die for their Lord. (The Roman soldiers are willing to die for their emperor). What is worst is that they are happy to die for their Lord. Christians are led singing and smiling to their martyrdom!

That is because these Christians have a living hope. This living hope is based on something tangible- Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The resurrection is the basis on which Christianity rise or fall.

Our living hope is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

(2) Our Living Hope is our eternal inheritance (v.4)

4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you,
a. Never perish
b. Never spoil
c. Never fade

Some features from icon:
The halo around his head, his radiant robes and triumphant expression shows his victory over death.
Death is represented in chains, beneath the gates of Hades which were broken
The two broken rocks showed how Christ entered the abyss to rescue the human race
Christ is shown pulling the paralysed hands of Adam and Eve.

What is this living hope? This living hope is that Jesus Christ has conquered death and has given us eternal life. This external life is something that will never perish, spoil or fade.

In Delphi, we saw the temple of Apollos where the famous Delphi oracles were given by a priestess. Delphi has been famous for their fortune telling for over a 1,000 years. People come from all parts of the ancient world to enquire of her. In Herodotus’ records of the Persian war where King Leonidas and his 300 soldiers held back the Persian armies for 3 days, King Leonidas did enquire of the Delphi Oracle. She prophecies that either Sparta will burn or Leonidas will die. Yet even powerful and influential Delphi did not survive. It was destroyed and was forgotten for about 1,000 years when its site was discovered and excavated by the archeologists in the 1900s.

Our inheritance is eternal because it was won for us by Jesus Christ. Nothing can take it away from us.

(3) Our Living Hope is protected by God (v.5)

5 who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
a. Through faith
b. God’s power
c. End times

Some features from icon:
Also Christ liberates from the bonds of death the righteous. On the left are John the Baptist, David and Solomon. On the right are Abel and two Gentiles.
It represent the culmination of the redeeming work of Christ

The Greek Empire at its peak under Alexander the Great extended from Greece to Afghanistan. It has even subdued the great Persian Empire. With time, the Greek Empire crumbled and along came Romans. Pax Romana guaranteed peace by the Roman legions from the British Isles to Turkey. The Roman legions offer protection. One can travel safely from one end of the Roman Empire to the other. Yet in time, it too fell to the barbarians.

Our living hope in the eternal life in the kingdom of God is protected by God, himself. It will last forever because God is forever. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

This icon shows that there is hope in the world, and for the world.
(1) Our Living Hope is based on the Resurrection of Christ (v.3)
(2) Our Living Hope is our eternal inheritance (v.4)
(3) Our Living Hope is protected by God (v.5)

Hope is important. Research has shown that people who have hope live longer, are mentally more alert and are less prone to depression than people who have no hope.

Soli Deo Gloria