Monday, August 28, 2006

Making sense out of witnessing.

Picture of Frankston Pier, Australia- courtesy of Nains

I have once said how agreeable we can be to being witnesses of Jesus Christ. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 is perhaps, one of the most frequently-memorised verses in the Bible and one which is preached over and over again in churches throughout all ages. It merely reiterates again and again, the seriousness of being called a disciple of Christ and the implications that surround it.

For a start, we must stop being foolish into thinking that the world is all evil and therefore, commitment to the public sphere ought to be kept at a bare minimum. The fact that Jesus did not bring any of the disciples with Him when He ascended to Heaven, signified that we were called to live in this world and be in touch with the public sphere everyday.

But at the same time, we are also called out both singularly and communally to leave our world with significant marks of allegiance to Christ. It is an attestation of His salvation for us, not only from Sin but also for True Life. And we are to attest this at work, at school and at home, as much as we testify His love in church.

The means of attestation have already been said- through giving the firstfruits of our gifts for His Kingdom and upholding justice and righteousness in a twisted world. But, while they ought to be encompassed in our daily Christian living, we are never to view them as equivalent alternatives to proclaiming the Gospel. Instead, proclaiming the good news of salvation ought to be the most glaring modus operandi. All platforms that serve to create space to preach the Gospel must pale in comparison to the actual preaching of the Word itself.

Therefore, the presentation of the Gospel must be clear, crisp and downright plain to understanding. Many a times, we find platform stages and concert lightings so blinding, they distract people from receiving the Good News. Other times, the Gospel is reduced to making us happy and secure without making references to our need for a Saviour from our sins. In the end, Jesus is only known as “friend” but not “Lord”.

A careful reading of the Great Commission in Matthew 28 tells us that we are to make disciples, not merely going to. Making disciples is more than just hoping for people to fall on their knees in evangelistic rallies- it is a continuous process of saturating believers with the Word of God so that they may turn from their sins, turn to God and obey Him. The marks of a true Christian must eventually prevail.

Yet, we must never credit our participation in the Great Commission to ourselves, as though our salvation is enhanced by it. The work performed by Jesus on the cross is complete. None of us can ever tamper with it nor can we jointly take pride in it. Such is the same in the office of the Holy Spirit that prompts and ministers to the hearer. It is only by His strength that we are enabled to preach the Good News. Nothing is of our own.

And so, our ultimate calling is this- to love Him with all our hearts, souls, strength and minds that no treasure is too precious which we cannot forsake for Him; and to love our neighbours as ourselves that we shall not bear to look away when they cry of oppression.

More so, to preach this love to people of all tongues and tribes, simply because He has first loved us.

(Read again!)

Making sense out of giving

Making sense out of justice

Friday, August 18, 2006

Let People Think!

“Let me write the song of the nations, I don’t care who writes its laws”.

Loosely based on his book, “Deliver us from evil”, Ravi Zacharias spoke with courage, passion and conviction on moral relativism, hedonism and eliminating faith from the public sphere; and how all these brought forth the loss of shame, reason and meaning to Life and Society.

It was a public lecture like no other, especially when it was held within the walls of a Malaysian university; which ironically, had become a hostile ground for education and critical thinking and a fertile ground for indifference and moral relativism.

Drawing Logic and Reason and significant teachings of the Christian faith, Ravi Zacharias gave us all an important consideration about knowing the one true God.

Listen to the public lecture here-
The Three Great Challenges to Religion and Society- A Proposal for True Spirituality

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Making sense out of justice

We cannot deny living in a world of tensions. Nor can we deny being uncomfortable watching bloodied body parts strewn across streets of Lebanon. And the last thing, we want to do is merely flick the channel or leave our couch after watching all that madness.

Evangelical Christians have been noted for keeping mum while nations burn, plunder and kill. This is a terrible mistake which we have made over and over again throughout history. What made us apathetic is still a mystery to me. But, I suspect that we may have grasp too little of what it means to be living in the Kingdom of God; or too much; that we may have got the whole idea wrong.

When Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel,” (c/f Mark 1:15); He was not speaking of a kingdom of floating palaces and harpists with shining hair. The Kingdom is to be in God’s reign and if God were to be Ruler, His ways will be the mandate for this Kingdom. Yet, we tend to overlook the fact that this Kingdom we so long to see is already in power, only that it is waiting for full consummation by our Lord Jesus Christ’s second coming.

I know this to be true because the signs of the Kingdom are already here. Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah through His proclamation of good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovering the sight of the blind and setting free the oppressed. (c/f Luke 4:18-19) The Gospel will penetrate the hearts of men through justice and righteousness.

In the Hebrew language, righteousness and justice are connected to represent one complex idea. Even before the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land, God gave them His Laws, and showed them the way to live as a community of faith to Yahweh.

From the Ten Commandments to laws concerning the year of Jubilee, God gave them a social covenant that they would live in justice and righteousness. The slaves would be freed, their wealth restored; no man shall murder another- these are laws pertaining to social justice, not mere private piety to God.

Hence, when Jesus Christ sent us to proclaim the Gospel to every tongue and tribe and to the ends of the world; He wasn’t implying that we merely repeat after Him. The way and meaning to Life have been displayed through the completeness of the work on the Cross. But, they are to be proclaimed and seen to be proclaimed through means of justice and righteousness- eradicating corruption, channeling funds to build and sustain a healthy community livelihood, canceling debts of poor nations, condemning acts of conquer through wars and defending the fundamental rights of mankind.

The Church is living in a tension between evil powers and principalities and forces of good, mercy and righteousness. While waiting for Christ’s second coming, we can silently watch our neighbours die from inside our church buildings or support military conquests of the Holy Land to justify our sincere ushering of the Kingdom of God.

But let it be then, that we perish with them who perished, not only from the same missiles we thought we are well-protected of in our churches but also in guilt and judgment.

Or we can live and die under Christ’s lordship- overcoming evil of the last ages with good, praying unceasingly for deliverance and liberating those who are oppressed through significant means of justice and righteousness, as He has commissioned us to.