Saturday, August 27, 2011

My Sheep Hear My Voice (Jn. 10:19-30)

This is a personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 21 August 2011 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 10:19-30

The Jews were divided into two groups when they heard Jesus’ words. One group said He was demon-possessed, the other group asked how He could open the eyes of the blind if He was demon-possessed. Nicodemus (in John 3) said to Jesus that nobody could perform the miracles He did if it were not from God. Thus Nicodemus is objective and honest unlike the other Jews who continued to hold a biased view against Jesus.

After this, the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem in winter arrived. This is the most crucial moment. Jesus appeared in the temple, walking in Solomon’s Collonade. The Jews were impatient and asked Him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” (Jn. 10:24)

They are now shifting responsibilities. They did not blame themselves for not listening and believing instead they blamed Jesus for not making Himself clear. Many Christians blame the preachers for not speaking plainly but never blame themselves. If students do not learn well, often the teachers are blamed for not teaching well. The fact is some students simply cannot be taught.

In the first few chapters of John, many things testified of Christ. The miracles were real. The prophecies were true. Jesus’ testimony was true. He had told them from the start but they were slow in learning.

Many people do not analyse what they have heard. They hear important sermons over and over again but their lives never change. The truth just slips past them. Many of us have not got hold of the truth. We have not been awakened. We do not thirst for it and we think we already know.

Jesus responded, “I did tell you, but you do not believe.” Unbelief is the worst response to the Son of God. The greatest sin of humanity is not murder or adultery or violence or drug addiction, it is unbelief in Jesus Christ, the only way to save mankind from sin.

Jn. 16:8-11 mentions that the Holy Spirit comes to convict the world of sin, judgement and righteousness, and in regard to sin because they do not believe in the Son of God. This is what sinners often commit. God has saved us and given us new life so that we can live a life of righteousness. But we are slow to listen and continue to live our old ways.

If we carefully analyse all we have heard in the past, we will realise how little we properly listen. We like to say we know about it and have heard about it. But do we really know? God has already told us the most important things in life. How could we not understood until today? That is because we have not listened.

If we do not listen intently to the gospel, we cannot preach the gospel. What we hear, what we see, that is what we can testify. If we properly listen we will be different. All of us are sinners. Some of us are not sensitive to sin therefore not sensitive of how much they have been forgiven. And many Christians do not listen carefully to discern between truth and falsehood.

Jesus said, “I have told you, you did not listen. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.” (Jn. 10:26-27)
So who are God’s sheep? Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (Jn. 10:27) Those who listen to Christ’s teaching and follow Him are truly God’s sheep. This is the mark of belonging to God and being known by God.

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” (Jn. 10:28-30)

In verse 28, Jesus said He gives eternal life to His sheep and His sheep are in His hand. In verse 29, He said His sheep are in His Father’s hand. Finally in v.30 He said He and His Father are one.

God’s sheep listen to Christ and follow Him. God gave His sheep eternal life. God personally preserve them so nobody can snacth them away. They belong to God forever and ever. God is their shepherd, the keeper of their soul.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Father Loves the Son (Jn. 10:16-18)

This is a personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 14 August 2011 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 10:16-18

In second century people began to study comparison between Jerusalem and Athen. Jerusalem was known as the central of faith, the place where there were many Scriptures scholars. Here people sought after after signs and wonder. Athen was the major city that observes and learn, where many philosophers sought after knowledge.

Paul writes the Jews seek after signs and the Greeks seek after knowledge but we preach Christ crucified. Jesus did not seek after signs in Jerusalem, nor knowledge in Greeks, but made disciples in Galilee. What happened to all these experts? These philosophers? In the end it is the Galileans who became the apostles and their influence were greater than the Jerusalem religious leaders and Athenian philosophers. The New Testament has brought the world culture and morality to its climax. In Galilee, not in Jerusalem and Athen, Jesus declared He is the way, the truth and the life.

Here Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (Jn. 10:16)

This is the beginning of new group of believers that would come about because of the work of the Holy Spirit. The church must have the concept that there are others outside the church who are also God’s sheep that need to be brought back, those who have never heard the gospel. When the church understand this, the church cannot fall asleep and ignore its mission. Many churches have long history but have not won many to the Lord. God said to Joshua that he was already very old but there are still many lands unconquered. In our company, our school and the neighbourhood where we live, many people do not know God, who will bring them to the Lord?

After this, Jesus said something unusual, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.” (Jn. 10:17). What kind of father’s love is this? If the Father loves Him, why He let His Son die instead of protecting Him? Islam believed Jesus a great prophet and man of God. They have the concept that God would not allow Jesus to die on the cross thus did not believe that Jesus actually died on the cross. But this verse on the contrary said, God loves His only Son because His Son gave His life. Why would the Father allow such sufferings on His Son in exchange of our lives which are of infinitely much less value? What sort of love is this? This is very paradoxical. It seems contradictory and inconsistent with a father’s love.

God allowed Jesus to die. This is the greatest paradox in the universe but it is the truth. If Jesus did not die we have no life. If Jesus was not cursed we will not receive blessings. If Jesus did not get rejected we do not get acceptance by God. This verse said God loves the Son because He lay down His life for us. This cannot be found in any ethics or religion. The Son of God loves us and is willing to die for us.

God commanded to Abraham to sacrifice his one and only son, Isaac, whom he loved, to God. This caused great tension and conflict of love. In this instance Abraham did not falter or hesitate. He did not ask why. He simply obeyed. Kierkegaard explained Abraham’s sacrifice as the leap of faith. It is directed to something which you cannot understand and you simply trust and obey the will of God.

But how can God’s command be so difficult? The moment Abraham was about to slay his son Isaac, suddenly God commanded him to stop and not to lay a hand on Isaac. Abraham looked and saw a lamb, which was sacrificed instead of Isaac. This lamb symbolises God’s one and only Son who would be sacrificed for us. Abraham felt the sacrifice of his only beloved son. In the New Testament we see God sacrificed His one and only Son Jesus Christ.

God allowed His Son to die so that you might be saved. May the Spirit of God move us and enable us to understand the heart of God that we would truly respond to God’s love.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Good Shepherd Came to Give Life (Jn. 10:7-18)

This is a personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 31 July 2011 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 10:7-18

John 10 portrays Christ’s relationship with His church as that of a shepherd with his sheep. Jesus said “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I come that my sheep might have life abundantly.” (See Jn. 10:11-12)

Christianity is about life. Other religion focuses on morality, on good and evil. Science is about knowledge and ignorance. Philosophy is about wisdom and ignorance. Christianity is about life and death. While Christianity also concerns itself with morality, good and evil, knowledge and ignorance, the central theme is life and death.

The Scripture says, when the time comes, those who hear the voice of the Son we will be resurrected to life. The Bible talks about 3 kinds of deaths – the first is the decay of physical body, the second is the segregation of the spirit from the Source of life, God Himself. The third is eternal separation from God the Father, where the unrepentant are thrown to the lake of fire and suffer forever and ever. Most of us only understand the first kind of death. Science also only confines the concept of death to the first one.

God commanded Adam not to eat of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and on the day he eat he will surely die. However when he ate, physically he did not die immediately but at that instant he did die spiritually. He was cut off from his relationship with God. This is the second type of death.

Christianity speaks of the One who came to give us life. He saved a people chosen from the foundation of the world. The angel said He is to be named Jesus as He will save His people from their sin. Jesus said He came that they may have life and have it to the full (Jn. 10:11). There are two kinds of Christian. The first group are those have been born again the second group are those who, after being born again, have life to the full. It is not enough just to have a new life, but Christians have it to the full.

We wonder why many Christians do not seem to grow, why after 10 years nothing has changed and the prayers remain the same. There does not seem to be evidende of abundant life and fruits of the Spirit. It appears that for many Christians, after salvation they are just waiting to go to heaven. We need to remember that the person God wants us to become is not the person we are now. We cannot be satisfied where we are. In the tension of two different states of our nature we need to find harmony. Instead of pursuing material things, we need to pursue life to the full spiritually.

Jesus teaches that the true shepherd will lay his life down to the sheep. The church need to build up true shepherds, not hirelings who do not care for the sheep (Jn. 10:13).

In this passage, Jesus also teaches another principle: “My sheep hear my voice and follow me” (Jn. 10:14). To hear is a very important verb in Hebrew culture. The God of the Hebrews is the God who wants His people to listen to His word, to believe and obey His word. Believing comes from hearing. Yet often times church pastors are the ones who cannot listen. They think they are the preachers so they do not need to listen and they are better than their congregation, not realising that their congregation might have been listening to a lot of better teaching elsewhere. Christians need to keep listening and learning.

Further Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (v. 17) This kind of love for lost sheep is the love of the shepherd. We need to have the heart to bring more lost souls to Christ. Many Christians have no interests and empathy towards non-Christians. But they too are made in God’s image and likeness. They too need the salvation of Christ. If we never love the gospel, we will never have fervency to preach. The church which only looks after the congregation within the four walls and are indifferent towards those outside is not in a right state. There are lost sheep outside the four walls of the church. We need to have the heart to reach out to them.