The Gospel that Makes Us Together and Alive
Yanadi, our Christian Education Ministry Worker, encourages us to rely on God's supernatural works rather than our own creaturely works, while faithfully doing our creaturely best together for the building up of the church.
Ps Eugene reminded us in the first sermon of The Church series, Gospel, that the church, with all the Christians in it, is a people created by the Gospel. This creation is not one that is merely ordinary or natural, that one can work very hard to achieve. Rather, it is something that only God can work out, as the passage says that God, "even when we were dead in our trespasses," not ill, but dead, "made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved" (Eph 2:5).
In last weekend's sermon on Growth from the same series, Ps Eugene reminded us that our goal is to build up the body of Christ, that is the church, and not our own ministry. This means that instead of competing with one another's ministries or elevating one ministry over the others, making silos in the church, we ought to cooperate in love as members of the same body, as the passage says, "when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." (Eph 4:16)
This reminds me of a chat that I had with Siew Ting, who is our Ministry Worker for Children's Ministry.
We were chatting about how we can help our kids in the Children's Ministry to trust in Jesus and repent from sins, and to grow toward Christlikeness, through our ministry. We came up with several ideas, but ultimately we were reminded that unless God changes their hearts, as He has ours, whatever planning and hard work that we do are all in vain.
I was reminded of this insightful quote by a Scottish puritan:
Good education is not regeneration.
Education may chain up men's lusts,
but cannot change their hearts.
—Thomas Boston, in Human Nature in Its Fourfold State, Edinburgh, 1720
Certainly, Boston was not talking about education in terms of going to and learning in school or class, but rather in terms of informing the truth and values.
And as we were chatting, I was reminded of the ministry that I help to coordinate, that is Christian Education. We rightly call our official Christian Education classes EQUIP based on Ephesians 4:11-12 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17. While I recognise and affirm the importance of educating the people of God with biblical instructions, I sometimes fear that we are equipping them with the so-called "right answers" that may be misused to justify or provide excuses for an ungodly living. Apparently, giving the "right answers" is not the specialty of just the kids, but also of the rest of us as we desire to keep our godly image upright more than our godly reality.
Preaching and teaching are two other ministries that I am helping with. In the Preaching Lab classes, Ps Eugene and Ps Oliver teach a group of brothers who are discerning and are recognised for the ministries of preaching and teaching that we ought to press the applications and implications in our sermons. Again, while I recognise and affirm the importance of pressing the applications and implications because some of our hearers may wish to respond but do not know how to, I sometimes fear that we are giving Gospel implications to dead "corpses" who desire to be part of a living church community by imitating the behaviours rather than the heart.
I hope that I have sufficiently given examples of how much God must work in each our heart and how various ministries struggle with the same heart matters. This gives us biblical reason to work together for the sake of the church.
- We pray to God together. Because God hears the prayers of His children. Only God can work the supernatural. Moving a good education (in the head) into a real regeneration (in the heart) is God's supernatural work and His alone.
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. (1 Jn 5:14)
- We develop relationships together. Because relationship is one of the most effective ways to target the heart. While God works the supernatural, He often graciously works through the natural means of grace. This is why God's providence does not excuse us from being passive or, worse, idle.
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Lk 6:45)
- We trust God together. Because God works all things for the good of His people and for His own glory. We know that God still works the supernatural, especially in saving wretched sinners. In this, we can find comfort and repose.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Rom 8:28-29)
Beloved, let us not neglect to gather with one another: to pray, to develop relationships, and to trust God. Let us continue to participate in our monthly congregational prayer meetings, to meet 1-on-1 or in groups, especially with those we are less familiar with, and to attend worship services and CGs not just to be educated, but to encourage one another to live faithfully and grow toward Christlikeness as we pray that God will transform hearts and lives.
Meanwhile, while we are back in "Phase 2" again and limited in our interactions, let us not lose heart because we cannot "do discipleship" the way we usually do. Rather, let us do our best faithfully while continually pray to God that He makes wretched sinners, who are most like ourselves, alive from the death through ways that are far beyond our most ingenious ideas.
I would invite us to attend this month's congregational prayer meeting that will happen on Friday, 28 May 2021, at 8pm over Zoom. Elder Thian Chye will share from Mark 1:14-15 on Repentance to us, if our Lord wills it. This is an excellent opportunity to pray for our loved ones to be changed to having a heart that repents and is continually repenting.