Christ’s Finished Work: Church

The church as we know her is a mixed bag of good, bad and quirky, comprising all kinds of denominations and independent churches of slightly or greatly varying beliefs and practices. Yet like the animals in Noah’s ark, many do co-exist in harmony, though some cannot get along, and most do not love each other. The church is marked historically by her failures to truly represent and obey her Lord; by her disagreements, division, and many other imperfections. The history of the church does not make for pleasant reading. Certain chapters can be disturbing.

The Church is Bought with Jesus’ Blood

Nevertheless, the church as we know it is the Beloved of God. It is deeply loved and greatly favoured by God. The reason for this is the finished work of Christ. The church is the people of God, past present and future, and they have been redeemed at a great price, the precious blood, the death of Christ our Lord. Acts 20:28 makes this crystal clear: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood”. And apostle Peter echoes, “For you (the church) know that is was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19). The ancient imagery used here is one of purchasing slaves from their owners in a slave market. Silver and gold was used to buy them over to new ownership. However this currency are inadequate for spiritual redemption. Only the blood of Christ – the finished work of Christ is sufficient. When such an infinite price is paid for redemption, what is redeemed must be infinitely valuable and loved by the new Lord. Despite the church’s imperfections, our Lord loves it with great length and breadth, depth and height. 

The church was redeemed to be a blessing not a blunder, a gift not a gaffe that embarrasses her Creator. She was not a mistake but a masterpiece created in Christ Jesus for good. She may now seem old, frail, and failed, yet she is filled with divine possibilities and potential. In fact, she is ever partaking of the divine nature of the love and holiness of God. She fails, but thankfully, she fails forward. God is her patient and long-suffering Sanctifier and Lover. It is in this unwavering love of God that her faith is rooted, and her hope deeply anchored.

Adam’s Rib is the Church

An interesting biblical image of the formation of the church is that of God taking out a rib from Adam’s side to form Eve. St Jerome preached, “Adam’s rib fashioned into a woman signifies Christ and his Church”. Just as the woman was made from man, so the church has her origin in Christ. We can see the deep sleep of Adam as a foreshadowing of Christ’s death, from which God obtained the divine material with which the church was built. Do not forget it was precious blood shed by a pierced, suffering Christ that formed the church, even the church as we know it today, in all its imperfections. Always appreciate and give thanks for the church, God’s gift to mankind, formed at such a great cost.

Love the Church As Christ Loves Her

God loves the church, and so should we who are children of God. I love my church, not the church as an abstract idea, but the local church, the “extended family” that gathers at Lorong 27A, Geylang, with all its strengths and weaknesses, successes and failings, gifts and lack. This community has been my family, my bomb-shelter, my clinic, my friends, my help, my school, my sandpaper, my sharpener. This is God’s design: that the church, broken as it is, becomes the instrument and space that shapes and forms,  wounds and heals us – and little by little (“from one degree of glory to another” 2 Cor 3:18) we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ. 

Too many Christians make use of the church to draw benefits for themselves and their families instead of doing what Christ did: Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. We consume the services of the church; and complain like customers when the “products” and “services” are not up to our expectations. Sadly, many Christians have become consumers and not lovers. We who are followers of Christ will find ourselves loving the church and indeed giving ourselves to serve, encourage, and intercede for all the saints with all perseverance and supplication (Eph 6.18).

Father, help us to see we are not called to judge the church, but to love her and to give ourselves to her in intercession, encouragement and participation. May the church you love become a glorious church, ready as a Bride for the coming King. Amen.

(This is part 3 of a series: “A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work”)

Share this:

Read More →

Racism And The Church

Racism is a hot topic today all over the Western world and even in multi-racial Singapore. The backdrop of the death of George Floyd and “Black Lives Matter” in the past year, and recent local discussions about racism make this topic something all Christians should be knowledgeable about, so that we can be formed to be effective witnesses in our attitudes, conversations with people and in our online interactions.

I preached this message “RACISM AND THE CHURCH” to my home church (World Revival Prayer Fellowship) on July 2021, and decided to upload it on my BLOGPASTOR channel. It was well received by members because it was a relevant and pertinent topic on social media as well as the national newspaper. 

It is a 40 minutes full message, so if you wish to scroll to what interests you, here is a guide: 0:00 Stories of casual racism 6:48Definition of Racism 8:00 Examples of serious racism where lives were lost and the church was an accomplice 14:35 God has a multi-racial dream 16:59 We share a common ancestry 19:22 Research spun off from Human Genome Project throws light on the races 25:25 What went wrong and how it can be made right 31:44Personal action steps we can take.

I trust that this message has blessed you and you will share it with other Christians so when opportunities arise, Christians can be confident to talk about it and share about God’s multi-racial dream and His love.

If, like me, you had some experience of subtle or casual racism directed at you do share (without being vitriolic) your experiences and how you sorted out the hurts and insults in the comment box below.

POSTSCRIPT: I sent my videos to pastor friends for input, and retired pastor Seng Chor commented that mention of the creation of man in the image of God (Genesis 1:27)should shape our view of how we view people of other races: with respect and graciousness. This certainly is the foundation on which to frame our view of race equality and multi-ethnic relations. Thanks, Seng Chor.

Share this:

Read More →

Christian response to coronavirus pandemic

My friend Koh Seng Chor, a retired pastor, sent me this lovely piece of timeless wisdom from Reformation giant, Martin Luther, who in dealing with The Black Death plague, wrote these wise words that can help inform a Christian response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Martin Luther the great reformer

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.

If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.

If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above.

See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

(Luther’s Works Volume 43 p. 132)

Share this:

Read More →

Concentrated on the ministry of the Word

The church today needs the word and men set apart for prayer and preaching the word. Too often the pastor is distracted by other urgent tasks that draws attending to prayer and word. This temptation and pressure is of course not new to modern times. It happened then too.

The infant church of the first century grew through the apostles’ preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ. However, after some time an internal problem arose that could have derailed the momentum of the infant church. The Greek-speaking widows were not being well cared for by the church. Pastoral help and administrative distribution of welfare fell short. It was a glaring gap in the Spirit-filled church.

There was pressure on the apostles to set aside their prayer and preaching times and made time for distributing food.  However by the grace of God, spiritual wisdom and order prevailed. The apostles declared, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables….. (pick out reliable men we can entrust with this task –italics mine)…….But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Act 6:2-4 ESV). So other spiritual men, all Greek speaking, were appointed to the task of serving the pastoral and administrative need. It proved to be a wise move for the next verse described the outcome: “The word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith” (verse 7).

Why is the ministry of the word so vital? Well for one thing, it builds faith, hope and love. For another, “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16,17). Pray that the ministry of the Word will prosper and be given prominence in WRPF, and anointed people will be set apart to focus on this work of grace.

Share this:

Read More →

The pastor’s main task

It is the pastor’s main task to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. “He gave some to be ….pastors and teachers….to equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4: 11, 12). The original Greek word was used in the Gospel, of the fishermen mending their nets so that they can be serviceable again. How does a pastor do that?

He feeds the flock. He teaches them by example and by the explaining the word of God so that Christ shines through and they are fed and able to serve one another.

He cares for the flock for most people come into the kingdom with needs, problems and hurts that need mending and wholeness. When they are being cared for, they are able to do the work of the ministry.

He leads the flock by organizing, releasing and encouraging people into that which they are called to be and to do and places them into small groups to make the feeding and caring effective. He sees people’s potential and allows them to minister and grow in the strengths God has given them.

A church where people are getting equipped will have a larger and deeper base of leaders so much so that even if 10% of the committed leaders are not around, the church can still absorb the loss, and continue in grace and strength.

Share this:

Read More →