This is the second sermon of the series: He will make all things new. Last week pastor Klein talked about new life, which includes accepting the calling to do God’s work, paying the costs of following Jesus, and letting go of the customs of our old ways. This week I titled my sermon new passion. When I was preparing my sermon, a image of a bon fire came to my mind. There are times where we are filled with passion like fire. Sometimes we our fire dies off because of life’s worries. Sometimes, it diminishes because people who came along poured water on it. Just like the bonfire, God wants us to renew our passion to serve with our spiritual gifts for Him.
[Key Scripture] 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NKJV) “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
The Greek word for “stir up” is often used in the context of a fire, so other bible versions also translated the verse as, “keep ablaze the gift (HCSB)”, “rekindle the spiritual gift (CSB)”, and my favourite translation, “fan into flames the gift of God (ESV, NLT)”. This is the message that I have for us today, which also aligns the church mission for next year, which is to step out, take charge of our lives, stir up a new passion for God, and fan into flames our spiritual gifts. This could mean different things to different ones of us here today. Perhaps some of us here feel that we are not doing enough in our Spiritual walk with God, or perhaps some of us here no longer feel the same passion to serve God as compared to when we first come to Christ.
Road map for today is: Stir up a new passion in
Preaching the Gospel
When you think of a good prayer, what comes to mind? Does it have to be very “intellectual”? Does it have to contain many well quoted scriptures? Does it have to be very eloquent and flow very logically? What do you think is a prayer that is pleasing to God?
Imagine when you make dinner for your children, and when you bring the food to them, would you your kids saying “wow daddy/mummy, can we eat now?”, or would you prefer to hear your children recite before every meal “Dear Father and Mother, I thank you for the food that I am about to partake in, and I ask that you bless this food that nourish my body”. Similarly, do we really have to decorate our thanksgiving with fancy words? I’m not saying the standard prayers are wrong, but the key is to pray with a humble and sincere heart, and pray according to God’s will. And sometimes, prayer can be simple. Because prayer is for God to hear, not for man, so let’s follow God’s standard. When Jesus saw the Pharisees praying loudly outside the temple with fancy words to impress people, he called them hypocrites. The bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you. And this is the key: Quench not the Spirit. If we don’t pray daily, our passion for God simply cannot sustain. Unknowingly, we might be quenching our flames day by day by keeping God out of our lives. Moreover, prayer is corporate, so are intercessions. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, he told them to pray like this: Our Father in Heaven, give US our daily bread, forgive OUR sins, lead US not into temptations”. Have you ever noticed that Jesus always uses the plural pronoun “us”. Because when we pray, we are not just praying alone. We are one body in Christ. The Holy Spirit is interceding alongside us and Jesus is interceding for us too.
Last Sunday was the International Day of Prayer, and this is from their website: [Click] Uniting in prayer, “if one member suffers, we all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.” So if you haven’t been joining us in our weekly Friday meeting, step out and join us this Friday, and join us in corporate prayer and intercession. Let’s not say that we are not eloquent in prayer, we all have what it takes in us to pray, we all have the spiritual gifts from God, so anyone can pray to God, and everyone must pray to God. So today let us stir up our spiritual gifts in prayer, and flame into flames a new passion for God, let’s pray daily and intercede for one another, quench not the Spirit, no matter how limited our vocabulary may be, we can pray and we will pray, for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.
Let’s talk about praise and worship. When do you think is more appropriate to praise God? When you have just lost your job or when you have just gotten a promotion? Don’t answer, it’s a trick question. Because praise is not dependent on our life circumstances. Just like how anyone can pray, anyone can also praise God, and everyone must praise God, it’s not a role just reserved for worship leaders or skilled musicians, everyone can praise God anywhere, anytime, and under any circumstances. Just now we mentioned in the scripture “Rejoice always, give thanks in everything”, but sometimes when we are going through difficult times, we might ask how can we rejoice in such circumstances?
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He lays me down in green pastures. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not fear.”
Psalms 23 became a popular hit today because of the positive poetry and the powerful proclamations. But how many of us know Psalms 22? It is the song before his proclamation that the Lord is his Shepherd, and I believe these two songs tell a connected story, and if you read these two psalms back to back you can feel David’s emotions in each verse.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far away when I cry for help?
Every morning I cry out to you, but you do not answer.
Every night I lift up my voice, but I find no relief.
Yet, You are holy, you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust.
They cried out and were delivered,
They trusted in you and were not put to shame.
But, I am just a worm, I am despised by all,
Everyone who sees me mocks me, they sneer, they shake their heads
saying, “Is this the one who relies on the Lord?
Then let the Lord save him.”
O Lord, do not be far from me, for trouble is near.
My life is pouring out like water, all my bones are out of joint,
My heart is like wax, it has melted within me.
O Lord, do not be far away from me, for You are my strength,
Come quickly to my aid, save me from the sword,
Spare my life from these dogs, snatch me from the lion’s jaws.
Then, you answered me.
I will proclaim your name to my people,
I will praise you in the great assembly,
I will fulfil my vows in the house of worship.
Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
Declaring to a people yet unborn,
That He has done this
The Lord is my shepherd; so I have all that I need.
He rests my head in green pastures, he leads me beside a quiet stream
He restores my soul, he renews my strength.
For His Name, He leads me in the path of righteousness.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I am not be afraid, for you are close to me,
Under Your rod and staff, I feel quite comfortable
You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and mercy will follow me, all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord, praising your name, forevermore.
This is a psalm of David. And it is indeed a rollercoaster of emotions. It begins with cries of desperations – God why have you forsaken me, why do you not answer. And then he remembers the faithfulness of God to his ancestors. So he pleaded to God for mercy, do not be far away from me, deliver me, and spare my life..
Do you remember what Jesus said during the Crucifixion, “Elohi Elohi, Lama sabachthani”, that means “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” It is exactly the same words as the beginning of Psalms 22. And like David finishes the psalm with “All generation will hear, He has done it”, Jesus gave His last breath, saying “it is finished”. I believe at that moment, Jesus was thinking of the same thing as David in Psalm 22, they both fully surrendered their lives to God, and praised Him for the things God has done.
When we are faced with difficulties, do we pretend that everything is fine, or do we cry out to the Lord for help? Maybe we like to think that we are not so helpless, that we can handle our own problems, and that we don’t need God to intervene, and we carry on giving thanks in front of others, acting like we are not in trouble. Those who know me personally know that I’m preaching out of my weakness. I almost never ask for help, because I like to feel independent, but God wants us to depend on him. God is not too busy to hear us. In fact, we need to say please to God in difficulties, and we need to say sorry to repent, and then, we can say thank you and praise God, just like what David did in Psalms 22 and 23. It has been difficult for many of us. Let us not give up praising God in all circumstances as Praise is a powerful weapon and can also tear down strongholds, lift up one’s person’s spirits.
When you think of a good preaching, what comes to mind? Here I’m not just talking about Sunday sermons, I’m talking about preaching the gospel, it can be to our friends, our family, our disciples, and everyone in our lives. Something to note about “Preaching”. We must preach into people’s lives not just preach the gospel.
Let me share with you a story regarding the Apostle Paul. This story is recorded in Acts and it showed how Paul preached to non-believers. This happened when Paul first visited Athens.
Athens is right at the entrance to Greece and the rest of Europe. So as Paul was wandering around the city, he saw many statues of different Greek gods, his heart sank and he was deeply troubled by it. This was a city rooted deeply in Greek philosophy and religion, and here Paul stood in a foreign land far away from home, in front of all these idols, thinking how on earth could he change their religion that had been around for centuries. Then, one particular altar caught his eyes. It had an inscription on it that said “To an unknown God”, or “To the God without a name”. Paul became very curious. So he asked one of the locals there, “can you please tell me more about this nameless god that you have here?”. So the locals say “well, it’s a long story, it’s been here for hundreds of years”. And Paul continued to probe further, “please share more, I’m interested.” Now this part of the background explanation is not directly recorded in the bible, but biblical scholars found evidence to form an educated guess, and it’s very interesting. Apparently, many many years ago, there was a natural disaster and many believed that it must be a punishment from one of the gods, so they quickly gathered the religious leaders to make peace with the gods, but they don’t know which one is upset. So one of the leaders suggested, “I have an idea, let us bring a lamb to the square where all the altars are, and we let loose the lamb to see where it will go, and whichever god it stops at, we will sacrifice it to that god.” The rest agreed, and they did that. What do you think happened? When they released the lamb, it walked past each god, and just walked away. Lambs are not stupid, they can tell all these altars are bad news for them. So after the lamb ran away, the religious leaders were again very troubled. And then, another person suddenly realized, he said “I know what happened, there must be another god that we didn’t know about, we must have left him out when we built these altars, and that’s why he is upset with us, he doesn’t have an altar here with the rest.” And everyone agreed “quickly, let us build another altar and make sacrifices”. So they did, and when they had finished building it, they wrote on the altar “To an unknown god”. And they have been worshiping this nameless god ever since. And after the whole story, Paul suddenly exclaimed, “I know what must be done”. So the book of Acts continued the rest of the story in chapter 17. Paul went before the council of the city and addressed to the people “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as i was walking along i saw your many shrines, and one of your altars had this inscription on it “To an Unknown God”, and I have heard your stories, it is true that this God can do marvellous things, and it is true that you did not know him, and now that even though you worship him, you still do not know His name, but I know who He is, and I came here to tell you His name, His name is Yahweh, and He has a Son called Jesus.” And that is how Paul started his preaching in Athens, a foreign city that he never knew, but he has found a point of entry, and skillfully captured all their attention. . Then Paul began his sermon from the beginning. This is the God who made the world and everything in it, He is the Lord of Heaven and earth. And then Paul covered from the genesis of mankind, the history of God’s people, and finally to the cross where the Son of God was crucified for our sins. And when Paul reached the final part on the resurrection, a group of people there laughed in contempt, they thought he was speaking nonsense, but there was another group who said, “interesting, we want to hear more about this later”. And it is through this group of people who are interested, that Christianity took its roots in the city of Athens. Imagine if Paul did not listen to their history first, do you think that the people of Athens would still receive his message the same way? I think the results might be quite different. And do you know what the good news is? You and I can also preach the Gospel like Paul, because the Holy Spirit that guided Paul 2000 years ago, is still the same Holy Spirit that is in us today. Do you have someone in mind right now that you can share the gospel with? Is it a family, is it a friend, or is it someone from your discipleship group? We don’t always have to start straight with preaching the cross and the sins of the world, I believe most people won’t find it relevant unless we give them a reason to. Instead, we can find things that are interesting or relevant to their lives. They may not fully receive Christ after the first few tries, but like the people of Athens, they may say “we want to hear more about this next time”. And that is a good start. So if you haven’t been sharing and discussing the word of God with others, let us step out, and preach with boldness and wisdom with the help of the Holy Spirit. Lets not be afraid to share the gospel as God will provide for us the wisdom and opportunity to do so.
The three embers in our spiritual lives are prayer, praise, and preaching the Gospel. These are the things that anyone can do and everyone must do. A simple prayer can be equally powerful if we just pray sincerely and pray according to God’s will. Praise and worship can be pleasing to God even in our most difficult times if we just commit fully unto Him. A sharing can transform someone’s lives if we just pay enough attention to what they are going through and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But to achieve these things, we all have a role to play, we all have to step out and take charge of our lives.
[Applications] So for the application this week, I want to leave it to between you and God. What is God telling you to do in these three areas?