The second weekend of 2020 saw three of City Harvest Church’s preachers encouraging the church to seek God at the start of a new year.
CHOOSING THE MOST EXCELLENT WAY: LIN JUNXIAN
In the first of five services on the weekend of Jan 11 and 12, Pastor Lin Junxian shared about how believers ought to pursue excellence in their lives.
As the world steps into a new decade—beginning with 2020—some believe that there will come a greater clarity of vision, while others predict doom and gloom when everything will start to plunge.
“Instead of listening to the world, what does the Bible say about 2020?” asked Pastor Junxian.
The number 20 in the Bible speaks about the cycle of completeness. It is connected to a perfect period of waiting, laboring or suffering that is often compared to a trial; after which God rewards His people.
The Hebrew word for 20 is kaf. In pictogram, kaf resembles a palm, or an open hand. It symbolizes God with His palms down, covering and protecting His people from shame and sin. At the same time, the palms facing upwards show God wanting and ready to bless His people generously.
“God is a faithful God, and God is a God of redemption,” said Pastor Junxian. “No matter what the 2010s had been like for you, I believe our better days are ahead of us, not behind us.”
In this decade, how should believers live their lives? In Philippians 1:9-10 (TPT), Apostle Paul wrote, “choose the most excellent way of all.”
The word “excellent” is typically associated with flawlessness, or perfection. Because of this association, many believers think that excellence in their Christian lives is unattainable, said Pastor Junxian.
If so, why did Paul challenge Christians to be excellent in living? In fact, throughout the New Testament, Paul again and again exhorted the Christians to be excellent, reminding them of the hope of Glory within them.
Philippians 1:9 (TPT) mentions the phrase “beyond measure,” which is perisseuo in Greek. It means to exceed a fixed number or measure, to be over and above, or to excel. In the next verse, there is another mention of “excellent,” and this time, it comes from the Greek word diaphero, which means to bear, carry about, differ, surpass, or make a difference.
“In other words, the most excellent way is to pursue and grow in our love for God—to be over and above; so that the resulting outcome of this love relationship is us making right decisions to bear a surpassing ‘fruit’ and carrying it around to make a difference in our world,” said Pastor Junxian.
It points to the importance of Christlikeness in every area of a believer’s life—in faith, speech, knowledge and attitude.
“Excellence is not a concept of the world; excellence is in the Bible,” said Pastor Junxian. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of excellence.
The pursuit of excellence is not for believers to outdo others, but to outdo themselves. It is also not limited by the nature or the size of the task, and includes doing common, daily, mundane disciplines such as making the bed or washing dishes.
Pursuing excellence is an all-in pursuit. Jesus said “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37-39).
“There is no way that we can love God with all of our heart, without seeking to do our best in life for His glory,” said Pastor Junxian.
In pursuing excellence, one also needs to learn what it means to choose to do the right thing. The glory of God should be the motive of everything believers do, and how they do it. To glorify God means to bring honor and respect to His Name, through the way of walking, talking, living and working—motivated by the right values and priorities. It is a mark of spiritual maturity.
“If excellence is the attention to details, the next question that we can ask ourselves is, what detail of our lives do we need to pay more attention to?”
Kaz Foo, a second-year student in Temasek Polytechnic prayed for God to expand his capacity, allowing him to shine for Him. At the Emerge services, he shared a personal testimony of his transformation after salvation at the age of 14. He experienced the grace of God in his life that enabled him to overcome the condition of borderline dyslexia and achieve excellence academically, in his school activities, and his ministry in church.
God is always faithful to fulfil His promises, but He is never obligated to fulfil His people’s potential. That is up to us.
In closing, Pastor Junxian said, “In our pursuit to be excellent, let us not forget to carry the Cross. Because when we forget to carry the Cross, we render the Cross of Christ powerless in our lives. But it is the power of the Cross that transforms us, and makes us more like Jesus.”
BRING BACK THE MAGNIFESTED PRESENCE OF GOD: WU YUZHUANG
In the second service, Pastor Wu Yuzhuang preached on the topic of the Ark of God, which represents the presence of God. It was something visible for the Israelites to connect to their invisible God. Pastor Zhuang exhorted the church to chase after the presence of God once again.
“The ark represented the manifested presence of God,” said Pastor Zhuang as he started his message. “There is a difference between the presence and the manifested presence of God.”
God is omnipresent and His presence is everywhere. But to be able to receive from Him, believers need more than His presence–they need His manifested presence. Just as how one can be present at home, but if confined to the bedroom, those in the living room will not be able to enjoy his or her manifested presence.
The ark served as a reminder to the Israelites to not do anything or go anywhere without the presence of God. However, after some time, they became so familiar with it that they took the presence of God for granted. Their enemies, however, recognized the power of the ark. They noticed that whenever the Israelites brought along the ark, they would always win the battle. Thus, the Philistines stole the ark from them and they lived without the ark for 20 long years.
“How could the ark be missing for 20 years and yet no one went looking for it?” Pastor Zhuang questioned. The children of Israel went about their life as per normal and did not even realize that they were missing the manifested presence of God.
Then came David, a man after God’s heart. When David was made king over Israel, the first thing he did was to bring back the ark. 2 Samuel 6:3-5 describes how David and his men put the ark of God on a cart to transport it back. The problem was, there was a prescribed way of handling the ark. It was to be carried on the shoulders of the Levites and no man could touch it with his hands.
“When they placed the ark on a cart, they were doing it the secular way,” the pastor said. “How many of you know that you can do a right thing the wrong way?”
Pastor Zhuang deduced that David probably did not know that there was a prescribed way to carry the ark because they have not had it with them for 20 years. When he looked at the poles on the ark, he probably thought it was too much work and decided to choose the easy way out.
“So they came with machinery to carry the presence of God,” the pastor said.
Today, the modern day church uses equipment and technology—Powerpoint and Keynote slides to illustrate the sermon, along with lighting and audio equipment. But if the spiritual Levities and priests in the house of God do not engage God personally, they will not experience the manifested presence of God.
“You can never have the manifested presence of God without sacrifice and personal involvement.”
Going back to the story in 2 Samuel, Uzzah stretched out his hand to steady the ark when it was about to fall off the cart. Uzzah died immediately beside the ark because no man was allowed to touch the ark. After this incident, David was afraid and they left the ark in the house of Obed Edom.
For three months, the ark was in Obed Edom’s house and his household was blessed (2 Sam 6:12). Pastor Zhuang shared that there were three things in kept within the ark of God: the golden pot of manna, Aaron’s rod that budded and the tablets of the covenant that contained the 10 commandments. The golden pot of manna speaks of the supernatural provision of God, while Aaron’s rod that budded speaks of the miraculous life of God. The tablets remind believers that man has no power to keep the law on their own; it can only be done through Christ.
“That means that in the ark, you have power, miracles and provisions. Instead of chasing after all these, we need to chase after the presence of God. When you have His presence, you will have His presents.”
In closing, Pastor Zhuang shared that one who has lost the manifested presence of God will no longer have an appetite for the presence of God. He will not care about spiritual disciplines and will no longer make the house of God his priority. Eventually, he will stop praying and seeking God altogether.
“This year is 2020. Let’s decide to get back the Ark of God in our lives.”
THE LIVING WORD: JEREMY CHOY
On Sunday, Pastor Jeremy Choy preached from the Gospel of John. He began by talking about the four gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke, John–and how the Gospel of John was different from the other three. John recorded not only what Jesus did and said, but who Jesus was. Bearing in mind that Apostle John wrote the gospel 60 years after Jesus’ ascension, this gospel was a fruit of 60 years of him remembering and thinking about Jesus.
John was the disciple closest to Jesus. Of all the multitudes, Jesus chose 12 to be with Him for three years, and of the 12, John was the one Jesus loved most. There was a special love and unique relationship between them.
“If John was the one whom Jesus loved, then wouldn’t it be fair to say that if you understand John, you will love Jesus more?”
The pastor went on to read John 1:1-3: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
“When we write the biography of a person, where do we begin? At what stage of this person’s life should we begin?” questioned the pastor. John wanted to show Jesus as the Son of God. That is why he started off with “In the beginning.”
Pastor Jeremy shared three points from these three verses. The first point was Jesus’ eternity. All human beings have a beginning in time, but not Jesus. Secondly, Jesus was with God right at the beginning, talking face-to-face with God. He had divine intimacy with God. The third point was Jesus’ deity. He is not just like God, He is God.
Interestingly, John did not write “in the beginning was Jesus”; instead he wrote “in the beginning was the Word.”
“Why did John use the word ‘Word’ (Gr. Logos) to describe the Son of God?” Pastor Jeremy shared a simple definition with the congregation: “Word” is the connecting link between two people. A spoken word expresses the thoughts in a person’s mind and it enters the other person’s mind, providing an understanding. In this way, Jesus expresses God the Father perfectly to us, He is the perfect link between God and Man.
There is also a more profound reason why John chose this title. The pastor explained that in Ephesus, where John was writing the gospel, there was a Greek Philosopher named Heraclitus. He was searching for a reason, logic or pattern to the changes happening in the world. Was there any “logos” or logic to the changes? The word logos, which means logic or reason, is also the Greek word for “word.”
Later came a Jewish Philosopher, Philo of Alexandria. He studied Heraclitus and the Old Testament, and he realized that God created the world by logos, the spoken word. John, when writing the gospel, proclaimed that Jesus is the logos; He is the meaning, the reason and purpose that holds the world together.
Long before He came as Jesus to save humanity, He was already creating. Long before the creation of tables and chairs, Jesus created the trees. Long before we see Jesus as a baby and later as a 30-year-old man in the Scriptures, He was always there. He was with God; He was God and He was there creating even before he came to the world as Jesus.
“Long before you and I, He was behind it all. This is the Son of God. The God that became human and died for us sinners,” the pastor said. “The moment we find Jesus, we discover the purpose for our lives.”
With this, Pastor Jeremy invited three ex-inmates that he had met in the Prison Ministry to share their testimonies on stage. Michael Quek, Sim Poh Soon and Benjamin Tay all shared that they grew up in strong gang influences. Their lives took on a path of drug-abuse, violence and gang activities, with no purpose or goals. Eventually, they were caught for illegal activities and thrown into prison. When they found Jesus through the chapel sessions, they began to understand that God has a purpose for their lives. After encountering Jesus, they set their lives back on the right track and are all serving God today in their respective vocations.
In closing, Pastor Jeremy urged the church to start their year by seeking Jesus, and through Him, see the purpose and the reason for their lives in 2020.