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For God and With God
There are many things we might want to do for God. We set goals and get busy with doing many things. We think that we could please God by doing all these things for God. But doing things for God does not necessarily mean that we are doing those things with God. We might in fact, moving faster than God or worse, we might reduce our actions to mere rituals to satisfy our own ego in the name of God. We need to know that what please God is not that we have a whole lots of things that we want do for God, but more importantly, we are doing things God wants us to do together with Him. As parents, we might understand this point better. There could be a lot of things we do for our children. But they are never satisfied. What is important is to do things with them. Doing things with them is actually more important than just doing things for them. Some parents just missed the point when they are so busy. Since they are so busy and tired, they can only afford to do things for them. They send their children for many classes to help them improve. They provide a lot of things for them as well yet their children still do not appreciate them. They even get angry with their children for not understanding how much they have sacrificed. They do not realised that doing things with their children is more important than just doing things for them. Though God is not in need of our time, He longs for time with us. He seeks opportunity to do things with us rather than just expects us to do things for Him. Let us, therefore, not rush into doing ministry for God but to do ministry with Him. Serving God is about relating and being. It is not just about doing and completing.
Hurt or Heard?
Many times we are not aware of how we might have hurt people around us. One of the most common problems is that we are not patient enough to listen to others. We tend to speak before others finished with what they want to say. As a result, they feel that they are not being heard. In our minds, we may just want to give a suggestion to solve the problem or simply cut off that person’s conversation to save our time. We are not truly interested in how others are feeling or thinking. Let us learn the art of listening because people must feel that they are being heard before we earn the right to help them or lead them. If they are not being heard, we might just end up hurting them.
Building Transformational Church
In the early morning of 27th August, I was sleepless throughout the night. The Lord gave a message for the church leaders in Thailand. Below is the brief outline of the sermon that I preached. I think it is relevant to most of the churches today as well. Hope this is helpful to you too.
Many a times, we tend to see the needs of the church and we try to solve those needs. But today, God wants to show us something deeper. He showed me three areas that the churches need to transform so as to build stronger churches in Thailand. I would share based on Rom 12:1-2.
1) Firstly, we need a Christ-centred theology. In v 1a, we are told to look at the mercy of God. It is because of this mercy that God sent Jesus to die on the cross for us. The cross focuses on two things:
a) R: Redemption. The cross is about redemption. It gives us a new meaning in life. It is the motivation from within as a response to God’s love and grace to us. As leaders, we need to appreciate and be grateful for the things Jesus did for us through the grace of God.
b) R: Repentance. The cross is also about repentance. It allows Christ to be the Lord of our lives. If there is no real repentance, the church cannot be strong. Believers without true repentance would be playing with fire. As leaders, we must be courageous enough to lead our members in repentance and walk right with God.
In our theology, we must be careful of 5 Ps that God showed me:
a) Prosperity: This theology builds the church to believe that God would bless them and make them rich materialistically. This does not always happen. Believers can be poor yet living a satisfied life in God. Rather than asking for material blessings, let us know that God is the greatest blessing. In Him we lack nothing.
b) Prophecy: This gives people hope that revival is coming so we should go out and win souls. Though it is good to have revivals that brings in the crowds and excites everybody, revivals cannot be sustained. Our spiritual life cannot be sustained by revivals. Revivals can make us feel excited, but we still need to build our lives in Christ. The question is not just whether we are ready for revivals, but are we ready for the coming of Jesus? Believers should be prepared for bad times and not just good times.
c) Purpose: This builds the church based on certain purposes or goals to attain. It is great to have a purpose or set goals for our church, but we must not forget the processes in the purpose. God is not here to get things done for Him because He can do it very easily Himself. He let us do it because He is using these to transform us. Sometimes, we may not achieve our goals, but God has finished His process in us. We need to focus on our “being” rather than our “doing”. We must understand that God has called us to make disciples and not just converts. Making disciples is actually the most important work in the kingdom of God. But we tend to forget that making disciples is a process and not a point. This process of becoming more like Christ is God’s greatest purpose.
d) Power: This aims to have more power by building bigger churches. We can end up fighting for our own name and power. There is nothing wrong in building small churches. We must know that our members’ faith is not built upon us but on God.
e) Partnership: This is to be involved in different partnerships with other groups to build unity. If we are involved in too many, we will have too many meetings to attend and too many programs to run. As a result, we can get so busy that we do not have enough time to minister the word of God. We need proper management.
2) Secondly, we need a sacrificial mentality. Since Jesus has sacrificed for us, it is now our turn to offer up our lives as living sacrifices for God (v1b). God’s grace has been given freely to us but it is a costly grace. It is time for us to respond to God. Sometimes, we have a receiving / dependent mentality. This is an attitude where churches tend to see that they are poor and cannot do anything. They are just waiting for somebody to help them. But we must move out of this mentality and know that we have a big God and we can always give out of our poverty. The Bible recorded for us two incidents of Jesus feeding the multitudes. One is feeding of the five thousand and the second one is feeding of the four thousand. But both times, the disciples did not have enough faith even though the second time they had less people and more food. Do we have the attitude to give like the little boy? Let us build our church with a right attitude. We must be ready to help, to give and to commit to our churches.
3) Thirdly, we need a transformative living. We must not conform to the world’s thinking but be renewed by the transforming of our minds (v2). Only through the transforming of our minds, can we understand the will of God. Do not assume that by having our Sunday Services, cell groups, visitations or trainings, we will breed disciples. They may just be training the disciples in knowledge. In discipleship, there are three main areas: character, skills, and knowledge. Of these, character is the most difficult. For skills and knowledge, we can use training, but to build disciples we need to spend personal time like Jesus—to help them with their thinking, feelings and doings. We need to instil biblical values and principles for life. Churches today need to have proper discipleship. Most churches have fellowships and trainings but little personal discipleship. But it is personal discipleship that we can build strong disciples who would in turn become future leaders. This may mean that we need to cut down time for some meetings or activities so that we can use the time to disciple our members. Only then, our church can become stronger. We cannot build a building taller without digging deeper foundation. We cannot build a building upright without putting the pillars in place.
Dear leaders, let us not build churches which are anthropo-centred, need-centred, goal-centred or problem-centred. We need Christ-centred churches that have a right theology, a sacrificial attitude and a transformed living.
Knowing or Learning?
With an overdose of knowledge in this world, there is a greater tendency to know a lot of things without learning them. Knowing can just be head knowledge. There are people who know the Bible inside out but yet never learn from God Himself. One good example is the Pharisees in the Bible. Jesus said that their hearts were actually far away from God. When we read a Bible passage or listen to a sermon today, we may be quick to say that “we know already”, but by saying that we know, we are actually shutting the door to our learning. Dear friends, we must not stay at knowing, but let the knowing become a learning experience. Learning is about internalizing our knowledge such that it becomes relevant, meaningful and applicable to our lives. In this way, the Bible becomes living and active in us. The true essence of the living Word actually transforms our inner lives and changes our conduct, resulting in good deeds that leads to praises to God. We would then be able to not only do the Word but also teach the Word to others.
Self-discovery is the Key to Transformation
The Bible is like a mirror to our inner souls. It shows us who we truly are. Therefore, for one to experience transformation, we need this mirroring process to happen as often as possible. This mirroring process is actually the process of self-discovery. The more we discover about ourselves in God, the more transformation we can experience. Many people ignored the fact that we can only be transformed by the measure we discover about ourselves. If there is no self-discovery, we would live a stagnant life. We would live in denial. When there is self-discovery, not only would we know more about ourselves, we would also discover the character of God and His will for our lives. So don’t ever let this self-discovery process cease so that we may conform to the image of God more and more.
Transient or Transformational Change?
God’s intention for us is to be holy like Him. He wants to restore the image of God in us through the relationship with Him. Thus God puts us through the processes of change. However, the change in a believer’s life can be transient or transformational. Transient change usually occurs when the spiritual life is shallow. The change usually focuses on rituals, behaviours and programs. It fails to deal with the inner spiritual life. As such, there is no inner transformation that results in lasting change.
The Bible, however, advocates transformational change that recreates the inner man to conform to the image of Jesus Christ. This is a lasting change which starts internally and gradually impact on the external life of the believer. This is done by a deliberate choice to cooperate with God to effect those changes. Yet it also calls for a dependent spirit to lean on God, to allow His words, His Spirit, His people and His environment to bring these changes. When there is a deliberate choice and a dependent spirit, it would then result in a deep transformation in the inner spiritual life.
Are the changes in our lives transient or transformational? If there is no transformational change, we would be struggling with our Christian lives. We would feel that there are lots of restrictions. We would always looking for ways to satisfy our sensual gratifications. We would, at most, act to be spiritual. Let us aim for transformational change by allowing God to renew our inner values and principles in life. Then we would be able to understand God’s will for us and live an abundant life in Him.