13 Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”
14 But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?”
15 Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”
16 And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive.
17 “And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.
19 ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’
21 “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Matthew 16:26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
How is Your Soul?
This is not a common question that you hear very often. Typically we greet each other with, “How are you?” You may be dying on the inside, but the standard answer is, “I’m fine, how about you?” It’s a social and cultural practice, you are not supposed to answer truthfully. Even if you do, no one hears it.
A story is told about President Franklin D. Roosevelt that one evening he decided to have some fun while greeting people. Many of them said, “Good evening, Mr. President, and how are you?” to which he responded with a warm smile, “I’m fine, thank you, I murdered my mother-in-law.” Not one person reacted to his comment. It is possible that no one even heard it.
But today I am talking about putting aside the superficial polite talk. As your pastor, as your brother, as your friend, let me look you in the eye and ask, “How’s your soul? Is everything really okay with you on the inside?”
What would your response be?
Is it well with your soul? Your soul has to do with the real you – not with your achievements or activities, but with who you really are.
Importance of the Inner Life
We each have an outer life and an inner life. My outer life is the public, visible me. My accomplishments, my work, and my reputation lie there. My inner life is where my secret thoughts and hopes and wishes live. Because my inner life is invisible, it is easy to neglect.
We live in a world that teaches us to be more concerned with the condition of our cars, or our careers, or our portfolios than the condition of our souls.
But which is more important? The outer or the inner life?
The outer life will pass away. Your body eventually ages and wears out, but the soul lives forever. Question is, where will it lives on for eternity?
How you live today determines the destination of your soul.
Luke 12 tells of two brothers who fought over the inheritance their parents left for them.
One of the brothers, decided to get some outside help. He approached Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”
Jesus did not agree to play arbitrator, instead He gave a warning a told a parable.
The warning was found in Luke 12:15, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”
A person’s life does not consist in the abundance of their possessions. Not just money, anything that is outward, physical, material. That is not what life is really about. It reminds me of a sarcasm I read recently, “Some people are so poor that all they have is money.”
Then Jesus goes on with a parable about a wealthy farmer who harvested a bumper crop one year. He said to his soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”
In today’s context we can say that his life was doing well, his business expanding, his property investments reaping huge returns. He was on the climb in the social-economic ladder.
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’
What was wrong with the farmer? Was it wrong to expand your business? Was it wrong to upgrade your homes? Was it wrong to enjoy a better life? No, not at all. That wasn’t the issue. The real issue was that he had paid so much attention to the outer life, but totally neglected the inner life.
When Jesus says the man’s soul will be required, He uses language from the business world; it is a term that would describe a loan that had fallen due. Our souls are on loan to us. One day, God will review with us what our souls have become.
When the soul is gone, nothing else matters.
Matthew 16:26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
A lost soul is not referring to its destination, but its condition. We are not lost because we are going to hell, we are going to hell because we are lost.
Salvation is more than a change of destination from hell to heaven. It has to do with the rebirth of the soul.
The soul was sick and sinful, damaged and dead, lost and confused. But now in Christ, the soul is alive and well, health and healthy, been found and returned home to God.
When your soul is well, all is well. When your soul is not well, all it not well.
Unless your soul is healthy, you won’t be happy. If your soul is in a healthy place, you will be okay. You will find the strength and hope you need to weather the storms.
If your soul is healthy, no external circumstance can destroy your life. If your soul is unhealthy, no external circumstance can redeem your life.
3 John 2 Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.
Until your soul is healthy and prospering, nothing else can prosper. Our health and wellness don’t move from the outside in, but from the inside out.
There are two common outcomes to the outside in approach, and both are rather depressing:
In the first outcome, you try so hard to fix the circumstances, only to discover eventually that you can’t. You can’t overcome the cancer. You can’t change your spouse. You can’t bring back to loved one you lost. You can’t get the job you wanted. So you give up. You see life as meaningless and hopeless.
The second outcome might even be worse, because you actually achieve your goals. How can that be worse? Because you get what you always wanted, only to discover that it doesn’t make you feel any better. Your bank account is full, but you are still empty. And not only that, now the only hope that you could achieve satisfaction is gone, because if anyone on earth should be happy, it’s you – and you’re not. So what reason is there to go on living?
There is a better way.
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
The abundant life is not found in perfect circumstances, but found in a fulfilled and healthy soul.
Life does not consist in the abundance of outward possessions, but in the flourishing and prospering of inner soul.
When God designed life, He had far more in mind for us than simply surviving. He wants us to live an abundant life. Not because circumstances are always perfect, but because our souls have found their homes in God. Fulfilment comes from having a healthy soul.
Life does not consist in the prospering of outer possessions, but in the flourishing of inner soul.
Gaining the outside world doesn’t help if your inside world collapses.
On the other hand, your soul can be all right when everything in your world is all wrong.
Sooner or later, your world will fall apart. What will matter then is the soul you have constructed.
Horatio Spafford invested most of what he had in real estate. He lived in Chicago and lost everything in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. It destroyed his home. They had no insurance. He lost most of his money. In 1873 he put his wife and their four daughters on a ship heading to England as he stayed behind to rebuild his business. A few days after the ship departed, he received a telegram from his wife: “Saved alone. What shall I do?” There had been a shipwreck. All four of their daughters perished. Horatio quickly boarded another ship to England, and as it passed over the very same place in the ocean where his daughters had drowned, he wrote these words to a song:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
How to have a healthy soul?
The Bible mentions the word soul hundreds of times. The Old Testament often uses the word heart to express a similar concept.
1 Thess 5:23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The spirit is our consciousness of God.
The soul is our consciousness of self and others. It is made up of will, thoughts and emotions.
The body is our consciousness of the environmental world through the five senses.
The soul needs to submit to the spirit, while the body needs to submit to the soul.
The soul desires integration, harmony and wholeness. An unhealthy soul is one that experiences dis-integration. And sin always causes the disintegration of the soul.
In sin, my appetite for lust or anger or pride dominates my will. My will, which was made to rule my body, becomes enslaved to what my body wants.
How does your soul returns to wholeness?
I. Return Home to God
Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
When did mankind become alive? When – and only when – God breathed into him. At that moment Adam became a living soul.
Anytime we speak of the human soul, we are speaking of God’s breath. If God’s breath created our souls, then we are literally living on borrowed breath. Whenever we breathe, speak, or sing, we do so because God’s life has given life to our souls.
Our souls came from, depend on, and long for God. He gave us life, so His presence is essential to our ongoing health. Our souls long for God because His life-breath created us and sustains us. Your soul is healthiest when it comes back frequently and wholeheartedly to God. That is when you are most alive. That is when you are most human.
You are a soul made by God, made for God, and made to need God, which means you were not made to be self-sufficient. You need God. Your soul needs to return home to God.
Another word for it is salvation. Not a one-time event, but on-going walk with God.
II. Keep Watch Over Your Soul
There was once a town high in the Alps that was built around the banks of a beautiful stream. The stream was fed by springs up in the mountain. The water was clear like crystal. Children laughed and played beside it. Swans and geese swam on it. You could see the rocks and the sand and the fishes that swarmed at the bottom of the stream.
High in the hills, far beyond anyone’s sight, lived an old man who served as Keeper of the Springs. He had been hired so long ago that now no one could remember a time when he wasn’t there. He would travel from one spring to another in the hills, removing branches or fallen leaves or debris that might pollute the water. But his work was unseen.
One year the town council decided they had better things to do with their money. No one supervised the old man anyway. They had roads to repair and taxes to collect and services to offer, and giving money to an unseen stream-cleaner had become a luxury they could no long afford.
So the old man left his post. High in the mountains, the springs went untended; twigs and branches and worse muddied the liquid flow. Mud and silt compacted the creek bed; farm wastes turned parts of the stream into stagnant bogs.
For a time no one in the village noticed. But after a while, the water was not the same. It began to look brackish. The swans flew away to live elsewhere. The water no longer had a crisp scent that drew children to play by it. Some people in the town began to grow ill. All noticed the loss of sparkling beauty that used to flow between the banks of the streams that fed the town. The life of the village depended on the stream, and the life of the stream depended on the keeper.
The city council reconvened, the money was found, the old man was rehired. After yet another time, the springs were cleaned, the stream was pure, children played again on its banks, illness was replaced by health, the swans came home, and the village came back to life.
The life of a village depended on the health of the stream.
The stream is your soul. And you are the keeper.
The stream is your soul. For it to flow freely, the keeper of the stream must clear it of anything that becomes more important than God.
1. Get rid of sins
2. Unclutter your life
3. Feed your soul
Proverbs 4:23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.
Take care of the depth of your soul; God will take care of the width and height of your life.
How is your soul? It's time to return to the lover of your soul, Jesus Christ.
12 After this He went down to Capernaum with His mother and brothers and His disciples. There they stayed for a few days.
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
14 In the temple courts He found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.
15 So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
16 To those who sold doves He said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn My Father's house into a market!"
17 His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for Your house will consume me."
“Zeal for Your house will consume me.” This is a quote from Psalm 69:9, “For zeal for Your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.”
In the NLT translation, “Passion for Your house burns within me, so those who insult You are also insulting me.”
What passion is burning within you?
Some people are passionate about football, it consumes them.
Some are passionate about food, such as durian.
Some are passionate about making money.
Some are passionate about spending money, such as shopping.
Some are passionate about rescuing stray dogs off the street, through people like them I adopted my little dog, Abby.
In and of themselves, these passions are not necessary wrong. In fact, they add colors to your life. I’m more worried about people who don’t know what their passion is. They end up sitting in front of the computer or TV all day long just passing time, actually wasting life.
But the challenge of the Word of God is this, above and beyond whatever passions you have, let your greatest love and highest commitment be towards the house of God.
“Zeal for Your house has consumed me!”
The all-consuming zeal and passion of Jesus is for the house of God. It drove Him to do the unthinkable in the temple. Can you picture Jesus using a whip to drive out the merchants from the temple? Chasing the sheep and cattle out, scattering the coins, overturning the tables, shouting, “Get these out of My Father’s house!” It looks more like the picture of a mad man, rather than the loving and gentle Shepherd of our soul!
We are not just talking about a few merchants in the temple. The Passover is one of the three annual festivals that all Jews are required to go to Jerusalem to celebrate. Bible scholars estimated that there were easily a million people during that time. The temple was the center of festivities. At least 200,000 sheep must have been slaughtered and sacrificed. So we are talking about a huge throng of people and sheep. What courage and power!
And He did it twice. First time at the beginning of His ministry, as recorded in John 2 that we read this morning. The second time at the end of His ministry, as recorded in the Synoptic Gospel.
“Zeal for Your house has consumed me!”
What have we done for the house of God?
Today, there is no more temple. But individually as a Christian and corporately as a Church, we are the temple, we are the house of God.
Matthew 16:18 “I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
There is no greater cause in life than to build the church together with our Lord Jesus Christ.
You can love your football, you can play your computer game, you can pursue your career and so forth. Just make sure, the number one thing in your life, has to be about the church of Jesus Christ.
Let me give you three reasons, why building the church is the greatest cause. Actually they are found right in the first page of our weekly bulletin: “Welcome to God’s house of healing & hope!”
Reason #1: The Church is the House of God
We are not talking about the church as a building, but the church as a family, as the household of God.
Ephesians 2:19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
God is our heavenly Father, He loves His children, He protects His family, He takes care of His church.
When you become a Christian, you belong to the church, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, you are members of the household of God.
What a privilege! What a blessing! And what an awesome responsibility that we take great care of the church, working together with Jesus, let’s build up the church as the house of God.
Reason #2: The Church is the House of Healing
Despite all our human efforts and the advancement of medical science, sickness and disease still play havoc in the lives of people today. Instead of decreasing in numbers and kinds, there are more sicknesses today, many of which are incurable or contagious. Lives and families are devastated by illnesses that cost hundreds and thousands of dollars.
But the healing power of God is not limited to physical illnesses, it includes emotional and inner healing. There is not a single hurt that He can’t heal, there is not a single wound that He can’t restore.
When Jesus was on earth, there were three main features in His ministry.
Matt 4:23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
Matt 9:35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
1. Teaching in their synagogues
2. Preaching the good news of the kingdom
3. Healing every disease and sickness
As Christ’s earthly ministry was drawing to a close, He told His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem to be crucified – to give His life as a ransom for many. He told them that after His death He would rise again. He instructed them to continue the ministry that He had begun without interruption. Just before He ascended to heaven, He commissioned His disciples to go into all the world to preach the good news with signs following.
Mark 16:15-18 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
This commission was not given to the early disciples only, but to all who believe. Thank God that after Christ ascended to heaven, the early church faithfully carried on His ministry as He had commissioned them to do. Today, the commission remains for the church, we are the house of healing to a broken world.
Reason #3: The Church is the House of Hope
The world is lost and broken. There is no institution on earth that can fix it. Schools can provide useful knowledge. Businesses can provide needed jobs. Government can provide assistance. But can any of it truly transform the human heart?
There is only one power on earth that can. It is the power of the love of Jesus Christ. The good news of that transforming love has been given to the church. That means the answer to the world’s salvation lies in the hand of the church. The church is the hope of the world.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.
The church must arise as the house of hope, preaching the gospel of Christ with clarity and conviction, with authority and anointing. The salvation of the world depends on us.
Look at the world today. Never before has the world been in a greater mess. But my heart is full of hope of optimism, because Jesus is still building His church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I can’t help but commit myself with even greater passion to working for Jesus and working with Jesus to build His church. There is no greater cause, no higher call, the church is the hope of the world!
The Lord is calling every one of us here to make a commitment. Let’s commit to building God’s house of healing and hope, here at home and in all the world!
Now perhaps you say, “I want to commit, but I don’t what to do. How do we build the church to become the house of God, the house of healing, and the house of hope?”
God has given His direction. Three areas for this year:
I. Deepen Our Discipleship
Pay attention, dig deeper in our spiritual walk with Christ. Practise the three essential spiritual disciplines:
1. Daily Devotion: read the Bible daily, read it through in one year; pray daily, at least ½ an hour.
2. Weekly Worship: Come to church! Don’t miss Sunday Services, Prayer meeting, Bible Study, Connect group.
3. Generous Giving: Go beyond the basic tithes, which is giving 10% of your income to the Lord. Give cheerfully and generously to missions, facility, Sunshine.
II. Expand Our Evangelism and Widen our Witnessing
1. Pray for the Unsaved
2. Share the love of Jesus with them
3. Invite them to church
4. Follow up on them
III. Spread Our Social Services
Everyone can participate, everyone is needed, together let’s commit to building God’s house of healing and hope in all the world!
Will it be easy? No. The devil will tell you it is impossible. You will feel the pain of sacrifices. But I assure you, the reward is far greater than the sacrifice.
Romans 12:11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
The Blessed Life
During Chinese New Year we like to speak words of blessing over one another. The Lord our God is the source of all blessings. The Word of God is full of blessings for His people. Not only for Chinese New Year, but throughout the entire year.
On this second day of Chinese New Year, I bless you with Psalm 1:3, “You are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever you do prospers.”
What is involved in this blessing? Three aspects to this blessing:
I. It’s a Promising Life
“A tree planted by streams of water” is stable and secure, it is at the right place for growth, with ample supply of water. Notice it says “streams” in the plural, if one stream dries up there is another. It has no fear of drought. From such place of nourishment, it is free to grow and bear fruit. Truly, it is a promising life.
May you discover the secret to endless and total supply to all of life’s needs, and the secret is found in the Lord your God!
Gen 22:14 So Abraham called that place “Jehovah Jirah,” or “The LORD Will Provide.” And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
Phil 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
In this New Year you will face difficult and challenging situations. Dry seasons will come. There will be down time. Don’t panic, don’t be afraid, be strong, be steady. You are planted in the rivers of life. All the promises of God are Yes and Amen towards you. You have the most promising future ahead of you!
II. It’s a Productive Life
“which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither”
7 But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him.
8 He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.
Its leaves are always green and it never fails to bear fruit. Don’t you want that? A life that is healthy, vibrant and productive. Notice that leaves provide shade for weary travellers, while fruits provide satisfaction for hungry and thirsty souls.
Your life is blessed to be a blessing to others. You will provide rest and shelter, answer and solution, wisdom and understanding.
III. It’s a Prosperous Life
“Whatever you do prospers.”
Whatever you do – in all things, in all areas.
Today there is a lot of talks about work-life balance. Even the world is recognizing that success at work but failure at home is tragic. It’s not worthwhile to gain the whole world and lose your health, lose your family, and lose your soul.
Look around you, too many broken lives, broken hearts, broken homes. The world needs true prosperity from the Lord our God. Whatever you do, in all things, spirit, soul and body; health, wealth and happiness. This is true prosperity. This is abundant life, true life.
Let me bless you once again with Psalm 1:3, “You are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever you do prospers.”
I bless you with a promising life, a productive life, and a prosperous life!
The best part of this blessing is that it is not just one of the well-wishes that we say and that’s it. The Word of God gives us the key to unlocking this blessing. If you want to enjoy such a blessed life, just do these two things:
1. Detest the Way of the World
Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
Beware of the downward spiral:
WALK in the counsel of the wicked or
STAND in the way of sinners or
SIT in the seat of mockers.
To walk is to follow, being led.
To stand is to choose side, standing with the wicked, which means opposition to the righteous.
To sit is to settle in, becoming one of the wicked.
Don’t even let it get started! Don’t go the way of the wicked, you must reject it, hate it and flee from it!
10 My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.
11 If they say, "Come along with us; let's lie in wait for someone's blood, let's waylay some harmless soul;
12 let's swallow them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13 we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder;
14 throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common purse" –
15 my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths;
Remember who you are and whose you are. You are a child of God, you are a Christian, you belong to Jesus, you belong to His church. You are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. You stand strong with the armour of God, fighting the enemy. You walk in a manner that is worthy of your heavenly calling.
Detest the way of the wicked. Not only that, detest the way of the world. The way of the wicked is quite obvious, we know it is wrong, it breaks civil laws, moral laws, spiritual law. But the way of the world may not be so obvious. It is no less wicked, but more subtle, cunning, and dangerous. It comes as seemingly harmless suggestion, portrayed in the media, as though everyone is doing it, as though it is okay.
How can you detect and filter out the error of worldly values? You need the Word of the Lord!
2. Delight in the Word of the Lord
Psalm 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.
It is not enough to hate the way of the wicked, you must love the Word of the Lord.
Delight and meditate go hand in hand. What you love, you will think often.
Be honest with yourself. Do you love the Word of God? If you don’t, repent! If you do, read it, study it, meditate it, apply it!
You have to start with discipline, make it a godly habit, make sure you read daily, and read it through this year. Soon, it will become a delight. You will enjoy reading it so much, that you want more of it.
The amazing result is this, you will start living the blessed life that God wants you to live: Promising, productive, and prosperous.
That’s all? Really that simple? Yes, it is that simple! What’s true and what works often are very simple, especially when given by God.
I can understand why some of you find it hard to believe. It sounds like too simplistic a solution to life. After all, we need different expertise for different aspects of life. Can the Bible solve my financial needs? Does the Bible have the answer to my health issues? How can the Bible help me with my career path? And so, Christians run around getting helps, pursuing the latest gurus, when all the long the answer is right here!
Now, there are all sorts of knowledge in the world that are useful to learn: science, maths, computer, health, management, etc. God is not saying that we can’t learn them. But there is one big problem with all these knowledge and learning: they can’t deal with the heart of the problem.
What is the heart of the problem? It is the problem of the heart.
Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.
Only the Word of God can change your heart. Once your heart is changed, your life changes.
Your life is like a tree, the question is where is it planted. Make sure it is planted by the streams of water. In the Bible, water for drinking is a picture of the Spirit of God. Water for washing is a picture of the Word of God. To be planted by streams of water, is to be planted in the Spirit and the Word of God.
Trust me, if you will dig deeper in your spiritual life, practise the spiritual discipline of daily devotion, weekly worship, and generous giving, something miraculous will happen to your heart. You will start bearing the fruit of the spirit, you will start producing good fruits for Jesus Christ. You will really live out the Christian life.
Two ways: the way of the wicked vs the Word of the Lord
Two destinies: the prosperous life of the righteous vs the peril of the wicked.
In Psalm 1:4-6 the wicked is described as chaff, which is useless, cheap, ended up in the burning heap.
Live the blessed life in the Lord!
1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!
2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes.
3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows His blessing, even life forevermore.
Few days ago Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of America. In his first speech as president, he referenced Psalm 133:1 and said, “The bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.”
He also pointed to God as the source of protection. “There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God.”
Regardless of your opinion about Trump, aren’t you glad that the new President of the most powerful nation on earth referred to the Bible and acknowledged the protection of God?
It’s the beginning of a New Year, and we are celebrating Chinese New Year in a week’s time. Market sentiment has been down or even depressing. Everywhere people are talking about how bad the economy is. In times like this, our faith must be proven genuine, that we are walking by faith in God, and not by sight in what we see happening around us.
Two weeks ago we learnt that God’s will for His people is to Flourish, stay Fresh, and be Fruitful all their life. Good time or bad time, we will flourish in the Lord! Are you believing God for it?
What is the secret to flourishing?
Psalm 92:13 Planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.
We must be planted, that means take root downward and bear fruit upward.
Firstly, pay attention to your spiritual life!
Secondly, practice spiritual disciplines:
1. Read the Bible daily and read it through this year
2. Pray daily
3. Give as often as we meet for church
Thirdly, protect the unity of the Church:
Psalm 133:1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!
We are planted in the house of the Lord, in the courts of our God, which speaks of the church.
You need to be fully committed to a church and be united with the people of God. The anointing oil of God flows along the path of unity, and that’s where the blessings of the Lord takes place.
You need the church, and the church needs you. The traditional African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” is certainly true spiritually. It takes a church to raise a child of God.
We are called by God, not just to believe, but to belong! Belong to God and belong to His family, the church of Jesus Christ.
1 John 4:20-21 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
How do you love? You don’t love in a vacuum, or in isolation. Love is not a feeling, but a relationship. That’s why God puts you in the church for fellowship so that you can learn to love one another.
There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian. You are not on your own anymore! When you are born again, you are members of the family of God and the body of Christ.
A Christian without a church home is like an organ without a body, a sheep without a flock, a child without a family. It is a most unnatural and dangerous state. Why? Because you die spiritually without the protection and covering of the church. Your Christian growth is stunted without the fellowship of love with other believers.
Every Christian needs the accountability, identity, and responsibility of being part of a church in order to grow spiritually.
Connected for Relationship
Often we act as if relationships are something to be squeezed into our schedule. We talk about finding time for our family or making time for people in our lives. That gives the impression that relationships are just a part of our lives along with many other tasks. But God says that relationships are what life is all about. Love is not a good part of your life; it is the most important part!
Four of the Ten Commandments deal with our relationship to God while the other six deal with our relationships with people. But all ten are about relationships! Jesus summarized what matters most to God in two statements: Love God and love people.
We become so preoccupied with making a living, doing our work, paying our bills, and accomplishing our goals as if these tasks are the point of life. They are not. The point of life is learning to love, loving God and loving people. Life minus love equals zero.
So a life that flourishes is not just about self, but about Him and His people. We flourish together in the house of the Lord! Team work is not just for corporate work project, it is for Christian life. Together everyone achieves more.
The huge redwood trees of California amaze mankind. They are the largest living things on earth and the tallest trees in the world. Some of them are 350 feet high and over 2,500 years old. One would think that trees so large must have a tremendous root system that reaches down hundreds of feet into the earth. But not so! The redwoods have a very shallow root system. If one was to get down on his knees and examine the redwoods' root system he would find that all the roots intertwine. They are locked to each other. When the storms come, the winds blow, and the lightning flashes, the redwoods still stand. They are not alone for all the trees support and protect each other. Each tree is important to all the other trees in the grove.
None of us can stand alone! As Solomon also said in Eccl 4:11-12, “Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
We need each other! God never intended for us to go through life alone. Get connected to others in the body of Christ! Your church is a great place to make that happen!
Aren’t you glad you are part of the family of God? Aren’t you glad you have brothers and sisters around to encourage you, to support you, and to help you along life’s journey? We are all so different, but one thing we have in common – J E S U S! The church is not perfect; there may be hypocrites, there may be fake believers, but the best people in the world are in the church. Amen!
Unfortunately, many people grow up in families with unhealthy relationships, so they lack the relational skills needed for real fellowship. They must be taught how to get along with and relate to others in God’s family. Fortunately the Bible is filled with instruction on how we can be connected for relationship.
Rom 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
In this church we respect and honor one another. We appreciate the fact that we are all different, and yet we are all equally important in the eyes of the Lord. We seek to understand rather than try to control and change you into someone else. We don’t look down on anyone. We treat each other with respect, in a thoughtful and courteous manner.
Communication is the basis of any relationship. It’s in sharing that we get to know each other better and grow in our relationship.
Eph 4:15 Speak the truth in love.
In this church we are honest and sincere with one another, and we always do so in love. We communicate honestly with grace, tact and wisdom.
Gen 4:9 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?"
This church is a family, and as a family we defend and protect one another. We refuse to gossip, bad-mouth, complain or tear each other down. Instead, we encourage and lift one another up. In this church, we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper. We care for one another, we help one another, we cover one another’s back.
Matt 5:23-24 Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
Even the most loving family quarrels at times. It may be due to misunderstanding, miscommunication, or differences of opinions. When relationship sours and strains, many people choose to dissolve rather than resolve. Jesus teaches us to reconcile and restore relationship. This is what we do in this church, we value relationships and we will always do our best to resolve conflicts and restore relationships.
Relationships are worthy investment, and the most valuable is time investment. We have to spend time with people, a lot of time, to build deep relationships. The first Christians met together every day!
Acts 2:46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.
In this church we invest time for fellowship with one another, because relationship is at the heart of all we do.
The most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16, but do you know 1 John 3:16?
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”
This is the kind of sacrificial love God expects us to show one another. It is a willingness to love them in the same way Jesus loves us.
God wants us to flourish, together as a church connected in relationship!