Sunday, February 2, 2014

New Year's Sermon "New Name, White Stone & Hidden Manna"

I preached for 40 minutes today though it was meant for 30 minutes. It was a combined service so I did not feel I had to stop for the sake of stopping or keeping to tradition if the Lord wanted to continue to speak to His people. It was full house with an additional wing of the church opened and at least 500 or more people attended the first Sunday of the Lunar New Year. I preached on the passage given to me, "Rev 2:10-17", Jesus' words to the church in Pergamum but I titled the sermon, "Hidden Manna, White Stone, a New Name", the three promises given to the overcomers of the church. I felt the Lord's presence after going through the sermon or should I say that the sermon finally gelled in my mind when I was on my bed from 10pm to 12:30am tossing and turning, trying to get some sleep and rise early for the 7.30am service. I spoke about the missing sentence, "I know your works" in Pergamum's letter and explained that perhaps that city was so evil (Satan's throne and dwelling place) that the church could only hold on to the name of Jesus but could not do much work in the city. I told the church that in the world today, there are many countries where preaching the Gospel is banned and there are countries where churches are deemed illegal associations and there is no such thing as religious freedom as we enjoy in Singapore.

I spoke about the nature of the double-edged sword  and quoted Hebrews 4:12 where it is said that the Word of God is quick and more powerful than any two edged sword, piercing into the division of soul and spirit and revealing the intents of our hearts. I spoke about the Word could be one of grace if we are humble and willing (Acts 20:36) where Paul said that it is the Word of grace that will build you up, but the Word could be one of judgment if we are disobedient and rebellious as in John 12:48 where Jesus said that in the last day My Word will judge you. I went on to exhort the congregation to be faithful witnesses, not fearing men but like Antipas the faithful witness who was killed in Pergamum. I spoke about the need to be strong, the Greek word, "krateo" I take hold and to be strong to hold to the name of Jesus despite persecution and suffering. Likewise I said, it is so easy for a false teaching or heresy to take hold of believers if we are not careful, as some in Pergamum were led astray by the teaching of Balaam, to eat foods sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality.

At this point, I spoke about the debate a couple of years ago on dress etiquette, especially women dressed inappropriately to church. So I spoke about Balaam's trick to cause the sons of Israel to sin by lining up beautiful and sensual women (probably dressed scantily) to tempt and seduce the men of Israel (Numbers 24-26). I talked about the world being upside down. Men used to wear short pants and women long pants or skirts but now many women go for short pants or as they call it "hot pants". No wonder sexual immorality is an ever present danger if we don't watch our behaviour, including the manner of dress.

Then I spoke about Pergamum's polytheist culture where most business deals or trade are done through sacrifice in a temple and men talked business over a meal by eating foods sacrificed to idols. Christians were impoverished when they refused to take part and Antipas could have been killed for preaching against eating foods sacrificed to idols or idol worship in general that was closely tied to the political, social and economic well-being of the city. I spoke about not trusting in our wealth or riches but use them for God's kingdom, supporting missionaries, and theological education. I spoke about serving God with abandonment free from fear of men and fear of the future. I spoke about Jesus being our best insurance policy because even the best insurance policies cannot protect us from harm, virus, plagues, earthquakes and economic recession.

I ended the sermon by exhorting the church to be overcomers, worthy of the hidden manna. Our faith is hidden in God, indestructible and basically faith boils down to each individual'e relationship with Jesus. When we get up every morning we look to Jesus, he will give us the hidden manna, our spiritual food. I spoke about the blessedness of God not imputing sins to us and forgiveness afforded by Christ's sacrifice and our guilt taken away by His blood and we are declared not guilty (white stone). Even our new names, our glorious inheritance in heaven preserved for us by God.

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