Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Salt And Light - Ps Kong Hee

Recently, Dr. A.R. Bernard paid a long overdue visit to our church. In one of his sessions, he shared about the Church as the prophetic voice to its contemporary generation. To be that prophetic voice, there are two possible models we Christians could choose to adopt: (1) an antagonistic model where we cry out judgment, sparing no one in that process, or (2) a non-antagonistic model, much like the ones Joseph and Daniel had adopted in their lifetime.

Many of us long to be the prophetic voice of the Lord, but where from? We could speak prophetically from within the safety of the four walls of the church, shouting and yelling out slogans, preaching to the choir on most weekends. Or, we could proclaim our oracles in the "wilderness" of the world where we have to engage the culture of an unbelieving, godless generation.

PROSPERING IN BABYLON

Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite scripture for many of us in the Charismatic-Faith circles. It says, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." We quote, confess, preach and teach on this verse time and time again. We love the promise it contains because it helps us to anticipate the future with faith instead of facing it with fear and apprehension.

But have you ever wondered what the context of Jeremiah 29 is? It was a promise given to Israel when they were in captivity in Babylon (29:4). The empire of Babylon was the most idolatrous regime in the ancient world, with thousands of gods that its citizens worshiped and revered. As such, Babylon is a symbol of everything pagan and occult. And it was precisely in that setting of a worldly and ungodly culture that God was telling His people: "I have great plans for all of you!"

In the midst of a godless people, God exhorted His people to thrive and prosper. They were to put their roots down—build houses and dwell in them, establish businesses and profit from them (29:5). They were to assimilate themselves fully into Babylon by raising their families there; to increase and not diminish in their presence and contribution to that society (29:6). They were not to be antagonistic as a community but to seek the peace and prosperity of the world God had placed them in, because if their city prospered, they too would prosper (29:7).

It is within the context of one actively engaging the world and its culture that God promises: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" (29:11). And this concept of not shying from the world is a consistent theme throughout the Word of God. After all, didn't the psalmist say that it is in the presence of our "enemies" that God would anoint, elevate and prosper us (Ps. 23:5)?

Thus, Jeremiah 29:11 is a promise for the people of God who are living in this present world. Our greatest value to God is right here on this earth, not when we get to heaven. In fact, when you think about it, heaven is just a temporary holding place for us before we get back to rule and reign with Christ when He returns in glory and power.

All throughout the Scripture, the likes of Joseph, Daniel and Esther had adopted a non-antagonistic stance toward the world. That was because they understood the basic principle that relationship precedes ministry. In their interface with the world, the central issue is one on trust. That is still true today: Do non-Christians in the world trust you enough for you to speak into their lives?

THE THREE "WORLDS"

Dr. Bernard introduced the three Greek words for "world." The first can be found in Matthew 13:22 where Jesus talks about "the cares of this world (aion)." Aion refers to a period of time, or a generation, in human history.

The second can be found in Matthew 24:14 where Jesus says, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world (oikuomene) as a witness to all the nations." Oikuomene means land, territories and geographical nations.

The third Greek word that is translated into English as "world" can be found in Mark 16:15 where Jesus says, "Go into all the world (kosmos) and preach the gospel to every creature." This use of kosmos by Christ is very interesting for it means to penetrate every social order, arrangement or culture—the way human society is organized.

In their study of human culture and human development, many sociologists and anthropologists have agreed that every society is made up of seven pillars: (1) religion, (2) family, (3) business, (4) education, (5) government, (6) arts, and (7) media. The latter five of business, education, government, arts and media make up what is called the "marketplace." And the Great Commission that Jesus Christ gave is not only for us to preach in every geographical nation, but to engage the social order within that territory, especially that of the marketplace. To do that, the Church has to be relevant and contemporary to the cultural context God has planted it in.

In Acts 2, what happened when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost? The believers spoke in new tongues. Immediately thousands of people in Jerusalem understood what they were saying in their own language and cultural context. That, by itself, sends us a powerful message that the evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is the ability to present the gospel in a way that the world could understand.

As such, if a lawyer, doctor, businessman, professor, politician, actor, model, or movie director comes to your Christian gathering, would he or she understand the love of God for them? This ability to present the gospel in a way our contemporary society could relate to is one of the greatest challenges for every local church in the 21st Century.


KRISTOS KAIKOSMOS: CHRIST AND CULTURE

Among the unchurched, Christianity is often thought of as an irrelevant, antiquated, religious belief system that dates back 2,000 years ago. And when we the Church keep presenting the gospel in an archaic and outdated way, who could blame them? But the tragedy of it all is that when we insist on doing that, the world won't just think that we are outmoded, unexciting and boring, they conclude that God is outmoded, unexciting and boring! (Which is an insult to Him because He certainly is not!)

We must change how we think and communicate the reality of Christ to the world. The gospel needs to be re-presented, not just represented. The onus is therefore on us to re-present Him anew in the 21st Century.

But how could we live in the world, and not be of the world? How are we to dominate the world, and not be dominated by the world? How are we to function in the world, have a relationship with it, and all the while not be influenced by it?

The easy, Pharisaical route is to sever our members from the world. Keep them within the four walls of the local church! Carve out a Christian ghetto for them to live and function in! The easy, Pharisaical route is through legalism—creating manmade rules that mandate our members to see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. Such legalistic attempts may keep our members unexposed and innocent, but in that process, they also make them naive and gullible in regards to the real world.

It is no wonder then that so many Christians are afraid to engage society, its culture and marketplace. The problem is this: You can never lead those you fear! Isn't it true that when a pastor is afraid of his eldership board, he can't lead them? The same is true for the entire church: if a church is afraid of the world, its members can never become leaders in society. You just can't lead those you fear.Becoming a contemporary Christian to engage the prevalent culture of the day is not the same as getting the approval of that culture. If you are looking for cultural approval, you will end up compromising. And by doing that, you are allowing the world to define you, and to lead you. The power to define is the power to validate. As long as you are the head and not the tail, you will excel and lead in the world. And when you become a leader in the industry God has planted you in, you become the one who validates others, not the other way around.

As such, the whole challenge of engaging culture is not for the fainthearted. It is really a contest of influence—who is influencing whom. And because we have a value system that is diametrically opposed to the world, the world won't like us. However, our job is not to make the gospel acceptable; our job is simply to make the gospel available.We do have an important job here on earth. In the Bible, Jesus prayed to God the Father not to take us out of the world (John 17:15).

As long as we live out the life of Christ daily, we become the light to this present social order of family, religion, business, education, government, arts and media. We shine as we excel, prosper, succeed, and become the leaders in those arenas.

When you understand the mandate of kristos kai kosmos—Christ and culture—you understand the many conscious efforts the heroes of faith took to make themselves relevant to their contemporary society. To them, the message was sacred, but their method to communicate it was not. They used different means and ways, sometimes even appearing somewhat "worldly," to earn the right to speak into the lives of their intended audience.

2 comments:

Leo said...

Stay focus on His Words, love the Truth, be discerning


We must look to God alone for the what we need in our walk in this life. He redeemed His sheep out from this world to be set apart for His service and His glory.

"I have manifested Thy name unto the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world. Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to Me, and they have kept Thy Word. John 17: 6

"I have given them Thy Word, and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."

Yes, God knows and expects us to remain in the world until such time He calls us home. Until then, we must be the salt and light of this world.

"Ye are the salt of the earth" Are you salty in this world ? How?

"Ye are the light of the world." and "Let your light so shine before men" How ?

Do we need we go back and live like the world , wallowing in the mud of its "glories", and saying that the worldliness and excelling in its "vain glories" is going to bring honor and glory to Jehovah ? Is living and behaving exactly same as being the salt and light that Jesus prayed for ? How can it be ?

The popular "gospel" of today is a lie from the pit. This is perversion of His Words ! Be careful ! Don't believe it ! We must not be lazy. We must immerse his Word and pray hard to know the mind of the Spirit: The Spirit of Truth . He will guide us to the Truth. He is the Author of the Truth. He will remind us what our Lord Jesus Christ has said, the Words Jesus received from God the Father.


Psalm 119: 128-130
Therefore I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way.Thy testimonies are wonderful; therefore doth my soul keep them. The entering of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defined discernment as "the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure : skill in discerning" or "stresses the power to distinguish and select what is true or appropriate or excellent".

When we have spent time delighting in His Words and we fix our eyes upon Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith. He will sanctify with the Truth. He the Holy Spirit will give us the power to discern.

The Hedonese said...

Excellent sermon! We need to hear more of how we can engage culture and i think Abraham Kuyper is a good model and theologian in this cultural mandate