Thursday, May 31, 2007

Humanity in Sin Part 13 - Obedience to God's Calling Part 2

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 27th May 2007 in GRIIS. It was preached in Indonesian and I personally translated to English. Most likely Newton Life combined the past 2 weeks' GRII message on this date, since last week it had a Reformed Evangelical Seminar series on Christianity and World Religion by Rev.Stephen Tong on 17th to 20th May 2007.

Passage: Genesis 11:27 – 12:3

As mentioned last week, the record of genealogy looks really boring. But that is the way God looks at history. People come and people go. The history of the world is a repetition of marriages and births. We often think that our life and our marriage are most important. So we print very nice invitation cards and ask for church blessings, but after our marriage we are not faithful in serving the Lord. We are simply making a show and make fun of the church. The Lord sees all these from generation to generation and gets really bored of it.

A person called by the Lord is happier than he who owns the world. Often times it seems that many people who do not know God live a rich, healthy and happy life while those who love God live a life full of sufferings. So we question where the Lord is when His people suffer. However, we observe that history is not shaped by the rich and those who live luxuriously, rather by many who suffer much. Jesus only lived for 33.5 years while John the Baptist lived for 30.5 years. They both did not marry and did not enjoy the material prosperity of the world. The Son of God came to the world, suffered and died young. John the Baptist was beheaded and Christ was crucified. And the apostles were martyred. Inward change happened in their heart when they realized that their lives were not their own but the Lord’s, so they wanted to live to fulfil His will.

But many churches only emphasize prosperity and worldly success. It is not wrong to be rich and successful, but the question is by what means we achieve that. Some people have a life that is generally smoother than others, not because they are great, but rather God has pity on them as they might be those who cannot stand the test. It is wrong to assume that a life of suffering is the result of God’s curse.

After 10 generations, Abram was born. He is a pearl among the pebbles. In Abram’s days, people had fallen into idolatry. He was born in a family that worshiped idols. We frequently think that we are bound by tradition and we have to follow our parents so we cannot change religion. Is this true? Is not Hinduism once also a prevailing religion in Indonesia? The proof is the Prambanan temple. Before Hinduism came it, the people were animists. They worshipped stones, sea, trees, etc. So do not think that the bondage of tradition, of history, of family, of culture, means we must follow it. Not necessarily. We need to think what is the truth. We need to keep learning. Nurcolish Majid once said that Reformed Calvinism has two characteristics: very high thinking and very humble living. We should not become lazy Christians.

If we do not follow tradition, or history, or our parents, who then should we follow? Abram knew that all the idols were false gods. If God create visible materials, He cannot be a visible material. He dared to go against his family’s tradition. So God called him out of his land, out of his family. He was from a rich family.

Everyone has his own dreams and desires. We have our talents and interests to do many things. But does it mean then that we have to do all these? Does it mean we should actualize our dreams? But it does not mean one has to follow that. Rather the most important thing is to actualize God’s purpose.

God will change those He calls. Isaiah said that Abram was alone when God called him. It means that he was the only man who feared the Lord at that time. All had gone astray. We see this expression in Psalms 14, Psalms 56 and later quoted in Romans 3:10-12.

What is God’s calling? It is the sharing of God’s will for us to obey. God’s calling does not guarantee the kind of life we will live. Some will be successful, some will die early and some will suffer a lot throughout life. The calling is the same in essence. But the outworking in individual life is different. And the worth of one’s life is not dependent on the results. Both Peter and Stephen were filled with the Holy Spirit. When Peter preached, 3000 men repented. But when Stephen preached, he was stoned to death. In both cases, the stones were removed. In Peter’s case, the stones were rolled away from the people’s hearts that their “Lazarus” was resurrected into a new life. In Stephen’s case, they threw the stones to him.

The book of Acts recorded that Stephen saw the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56). All through the Bible, this is the only instance where Christ was said to be standing at the right hand of God. At other times, it is always recorded that Christ is sitting, not standing, at the right hand of God. Standing up is a sign of respect. It is unfathomable that God would stand up in respect of a mere man. But Scripture promises that God would honor those who serve Him.

After Abraham was called out of his homeland, he became a wanderer and lived in tent for the rest of his life. He was 75 when God called him and he lived until 175. That means for 100 years since he walked with God, he never stayed in a house anymore. So did Sarah his wife. Who would want to marry a man and lived in tent till one dies? Often times men who want to serve God might not have the support of their wives. But Sarah obeyed Abraham and never complained about the hard life. She was one heart with him. This is not easy at all.

There are people who love God and desire to serve God fulltime, but because of disagreement from their wives they do not answer their calling.
Christ said that the one who loves his wife or family more than Him is not worthy to serve God. Who are our idols? The book of 1 John talked a lot about love but at the very last verse it ended abruptly to remind us to avoid ourselves from idols. In our love for God, we cannot have other idols in our heart. Looking at Abraham’s life, he was successful because there was nothing between him and God. His wife, children and servants all obeyed him and he obeyed God. So God’s will is accomplished in his life.


At 7:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many Christians thought that they would glorify God with worldly success. But they have believed in a lie.

It's God's holiness that makes Him Glory.
When we pray "Glorified be Thy name". It's not for us try to add glory to His name. But to treat His name with glory.

the following was from "The God's Man picture" (Thomas Watson):
A Godly man is like God in holiness. Holiness is the most brilliant pearl in the King of Heaven's crown: 'glorious in holiness' (Exodus 15:11). God's power makes Him mighty, His mercy makes Him lovely, but his holiness makes Him glorious. The holiness of God is the intrinsic purity of his nature and his abhorrence of sin. A godly man bears some kind of analogy with God in this. He has the holy oil of consecration upon him: 'Aaron the saint of the Lord' (Psalm 106:16). Holiness is the badge and livery of Christ's people:'The people of thy holiness' (Isa 63:18). The godly are a holy as well as a royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:9). Nor have they only a frontispiece of holiness, like the Egyptian temples, which were fair outside, but they are like Solomon's temple, which has gold inside. They have written upon their heart,' Holiness to the Lord'. The holiness of the saints consist in their conformity to God's will, which is the rule and pattern of all holiness.
Holiness is a man's glory. Aaron put a garments 'for glory and beauty'(Exodus 28:2). So when a person is invested with embroidered garment of holiness, it is for glory and beauty.
The goodness of a Christian lies in his holiness, as the goodness of the air lies in its clarity, the worth of gold in it's purity.


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