Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Stewardship and Service Series - Session 1: Introduction

The Parable of the Talents (Mat 25:14-29)

To give an overview to the series on of stewardship God's gifts in service and ministry.

The Parable of the Talents is found in Matthew chapter 25, right after chapter 24 where Jesus predicts the signs of His coming. Matthew 24 begins with the disciples asking Jesus about the signs of the end of the age. Jesus then begins to give a description of the things that will happen in the world leading to His coming. He emphasizes that His coming is imminent, and warns us to be prepared for that day.

Matthew 25 begins with the Parable of the 10 Virgins. In this parable, Jesus paints a picture of the necessity to be prepared for His coming. The 5 wise virgins prepared themselves by bringing extra oil for their lamps. They were ready to wait for the bridegroom's coming, and were prepared to meet him immediately when he came. They would not be caught unawares.

The Parable of the Talents follows the Parable of the 10 Virgins. It is a parable that teaches us the principle of stewardship. It tells us that God has given us resources to be used till His coming, and there will be a day of accounting when He returns. It is also a parable that teaches the principle of rewards. God rewards the faithful.

Following the Parable of the Talents and its warning of the Day of Accounting comes Jesus' description of the Day of Judgment. In it He highlights some aspects of service and ministry that we can learn and apply in our own lives.

Activity: Ask the group to read through Matthew 25 and split it into its major sections.

1) God has gifted us abundantly
The word "talent" has often been used wrongly to refer to our talents or abilities. However the word "talent" in the Bible refers to a sum of money. One talent is equivalent to 15-20 years' wages of a labourer. If we put it in today's terms using an annual income of S$20,000, we get the following:

1 talent = 15 x $20,000 = $300,000

2 talents therefore is equivalent to at least $600,000
and 5 talents is at least $1,500,000 or 1.5 million dollars.

The first servant received $1.5 million. The second received $600,000. The third received $300,000. All 3 received different amounts. But even the least had very much.

1) God entrusts different amounts to different people according to their ability
2) The least gifted is still gifted abundantly.

1) Before the study, ask each person what they would do if they won a lucky draw prize of $300,000
2) Before the study, ask each person which one of the 3 they think they are and why
3) Ask the group to make their own calculations of the money
4) Ask the group how much did each person get, and why they got different amounts
5) Ask the group how much did the 3rd servant get, and what they can learn from it

2) God expects us to use our gifts faithfully
The servant with 5 talents was obviously a good steward as his master assessed. He took action immediately. The servant with 2 talents likewise put the money to work. But the servant with 1 talent was not as reliable. However his master still gave him a huge opportunity and risked putting 20 years' wages in his care.

We are not told how long it took for the returns to start rolling in, but they did. The Bible tells us not to despise the day of little things, and that we will enjoy the fruit of our labour if we remain faithful.

The word used to describe putting the talents to good use is "traded". It is a word that describes work and investment. It involves risk as business always involves risk.

The 3rd servant chose to hide his master's money in the ground. His excuse was that he was afraid of his master, and he was afraid he would have lost what was entrusted to him. But his master saw right through him. The fact was that he was lazy. He was too lazy even to think of putting the money into the bank. He was not willing to take risks, and he failed to see the great opportunity that his master gave to him. He wasted opportunities and potential gain. His master called him "wicked".

1) God takes the risk by entrusting His resources to us
2) Risk must be taken to invest our God-given resources
3) Effort must be put in to use God's resources
4) Fear is an excuse for laziness
5) Laziness results in wasted opportunities which God takes very seriously

1) Ask the group to list down their individual resources and spiritual gifts
2) Ask the group what "traded" means to them
3) Ask the group what are some hindrances to "trading" God's gifts, talents and resources (in ministry or otherwise). What are some of the excuses we have given before?
4) Ask the group what the excuses of the 3rd servant were, and what his master's assessment of the root of the problem was
5) Ask the group what are some of the risks they need to take to use their gifts and resources

3) God wants to reward us exceedingly
The master rewarded the first 2 servants similarly. He said the exact same words to them:

His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'

They both were entrusted different amounts, and made different gross profits, but the master gave them the same rewards.

God's fairness is not based on amounts. God's fairness takes into consideration our stewardship abilities and resources. He does not give us too much to handle, and does not reward us less if we get less gross returns while doing our best. God does not reward us based on the profits we gain, but our faithfulness.

Our faithfulness in little proves that we would be faithful in much. If we are faithful in what God gives us at first, He will give us more to manage. That could take the form of greater responsibilities and ministries, and also greater opportunities to bring Him glory and receive greater blessings from Him.

The Bible tells us that if we are faithful in what is entrusted to us by others, we will be given what is truly ours to enjoy.

2) God has given us every spiritual blessing, and He wants to give us more!
3) Our God-given resources are an opportunity to bring God glory and receive greater blessings
4) Those who are faithful with little will be entrusted much
5) God wants to share His joy with us
6) Today God entrusts us what is His so that we may earn rewards that will one day be ours

1) Ask the group how much each of the first 2 servants earned with the money entrusted to them
2) Ask the group how much the master rewarded the first 2 servants and if the rewards were different. Was it fair or not?
3) Ask the group what they think Matthew 25:29 means
4) Split the group to discuss what are some ways they can use their God-given resources, and how they would like to take action

Action steps:
1. Spiritual Gifts Survey (do on the spot and hand up if there’s time)
2. Personal Commitment (split to groups of 3-4)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Condescension of God - Psalm 138

Psalm 138 is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving for God's care. It is a personal psalm written by a man (David) who saw God's hand in His life and His answers to prayer. David knew God as his God – a God who pays attention to the humble and a God who keeps His promises.

The Glory of God in Answered Prayer (v. 1-3)
The psalm begins with thanksgiving, praise and worship. David worshipped God in several ways – by giving thanks, singing, and by bowing down. He worshipped God inwardly from His heart and expressed himself outwardly. He was not ashamed to worship God in front of others – even kings and the false gods of other nations. But what could cause David to be so full of praise? Nothing less than the faithfulness of God in honouring His Word.

God proves His love and faithfulness and magnifies (i.e. shows the magnificence of) His Word by answering prayer. David called to God and God answered him that very day. David may have felt fearful, but God gave him courage and confidence when he needed it.

What are some of the times you received answers to prayer? Do you remember how God proved His words true to you? How did it make you feel? Always remember those times. The Lord may not always answer immediately, but His timing is perfect, and He will answer when we call, because He has promised: "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not" (Jer 33:3). And when you see Him answer, you will realise that He always keeps His word.

The Glory of God in His Condescension (v. 4-6)
David expresses confidence that when the kings of the earth hear the words of God, they will praise Him like he did. When they see the greatness of His glory and how it surpasses all earthly glory, they will likewise sing of His ways. When one comes into a personal experience with God, the only response is worship and praise.

God's glory is seen in His condescension (v. 6). Powerful people on earth often pay little or passing attention to those beneath them. But God is not so. He is high and lifted up. His glory and majesty exceeds all earthly kings and powers. But He is a God who regards the humble at heart:
"Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." (Isa 66:1,2)
While God regards the lowly and gives grace to the humble, He likewise opposes the proud (Jas 4:6, 1Pe 5:5). He knows them from afar. The proud at heart do not have an audience with God. And God is not only far from them, he strongly opposes them. May we always take care to remain humble because God hates pride.

The Fulfillment of God's Purpose in Our Lives (v. 7-8)
God did not take David out of trouble, but He preserved and strengthened him in his trials. God kept him safe from his enemies and would not allow them to thwart His purposes for David. David understood that God had a purpose for his life, and he was confident of God's ability to fulfill it despite all kinds of trouble and adversity. He knew God was not going to leave him in the lurch, and that no situation was too hard for Him to handle.

The Lord does not always keep trouble away from us, but He promises to be with us through them (Heb 13:5,6) to strengthen and uphold us. God has a purpose to fulfill in each of our lives - even in difficult times. He can and will bring us through. He has promised: "he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phi 1:6).

Take God at His word. Take note of the 3 promises mentioned here (Jer 33:3; Isa 66:1,2; and Heb 13:5,6). Put your trust in them and let God prove Himself true to you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Chastening of God - Psalm 137

"By the rivers of Babylon where we sat down, there we will, we will remember Zion..." Some of us may remember the pop song by Boney M. that topped the charts in the UK for 5 weeks in 1978. Rivers of Babylon was a hip and happy dance number whose lyrics were taken from Psalm 137. But when this psalm was first written and sung, the mood was far from happy, and dancing was the last thing the songwriter had in mind.

Psalm 137 was likely written after Israel's exile to Babylon. That was a period of immense suffering for God’s chosen people. The Babylonians had no mercy on the young and old or the women. They murdered and plundered the Jews, razed their city to the ground and burned the temple with fire. They violated the women, and smashed children to death against the rocks. If these atrocities are difficult to imagine, just think about the Holocaust. The Holocaust is a modern day parallel of the Jews’ suffering during the exile.

Revisiting the Past (v. 1-3)
The Jews were brought very low when the Lord sent them into exile in Babylon. The city of Jerusalem and the Temple were completely destroyed and God's presence had left the city. God had warned them many times before that He would judge their sin but they refused to repent. Since they persisted in their idolatry and rejected God as their Ruler, He gave them into the hands of their enemies that they may know what it was to serve man instead of God. God is compassionate, but His mercy has a limit, and we should never take it for granted.

After capturing the Jews, killing their friends and relatives, and destroying their homes and property, the Babylonians demanded that they make music and be merry. How cruel to demand mirth from people who are suffering! They also demanded them to sing songs of their city, as if to mockingly say, “Where is your city now? Where is Jerusalem that you were so proud of? Where is the God you trusted in?” But the Jews were not about to sing songs meant for the Lord’s ears to entertain their pagan captors.

The psalmist was not afraid to revisit the painful past. He faced up to it, and was therefore able to learn the lessons the Lord had for him. Being honest about our past and our feelings towards it is an important step towards emotional healing.

The Bible tells us that history is given to us to learn from the mistakes of the past. Running away only robs us from these precious lessons and perpetuates the problem. As we look at the history of Israel and our own pasts, let us not be afraid to face them, but learn from them and not make the same mistakes. Israel suffered for rejecting the Lord. May we know the blessedness of making Him Lord of our lives.

Reassessing Priorities (v. 4-6)
The reason Israel was sent into exile was their rebellion against God in chasing after worthless idols and turning away from Him. Many years before, after the dedication of the temple built by Solomon, God had warned that He would forsake the temple and send Israel away from the Promised Land if they forsook Him (1 Kin 9:6-9). But after many years, Israel became complacent and started to turn away from God. God warned them through many prophets and withheld His judgment for many generations. But they would not listen. Finally God did what He had promised to do and gave them up to their enemies.

Suffering has a way of changing our priorities. We often learn to appreciate what we have only when we lose it. The psalmist realised that they had taken God and His blessings for granted, and decided that he would no longer do so. From now on, the city of God would be his topmost priority. He would rather be under the Lord’s rule rather than the rule of other men.

We do not have to suffer loss in order to appreciate God's goodness toward us. God takes no pleasure in hurting people, but He knows that pain is sometimes necessary to get us on the right track. We live in peaceful times, and many of us have enough to eat and wear. But it is in these peaceful times that we must guard against complacency and the tendency to take God and His blessings for granted. May we always make it our top priority to seek God’s kingdom first and His righteousness (Mat 6:33).

A Cry for Justice (v. 7-9)
Verses 7 to 9 may seem brutal and vengeful at first glance, but it is simply a cry for justice. Babylon was God's instrument to chasten Israel, but they went too far in their cruelty (Isa 41:1-7). The psalmist was simply asking God to repay Babylon with what they did to them. The Lord is a God of recompense; he will surely repay (Jer 51:56), and recompense simply means to repay in kind.

It is not wrong to cry out to God and hope for justice. The martyrs in heaven cry out to God for vengeance (Rev 6:9,10). While on earth, they did not seek revenge but gave up their lives. But in due time God will avenge them. God is just, and the failure to judge and punish evil would be a miscarriage of justice. We may cry to God for justice, but we must leave vengeance to Him and not take it into our own hands (Rom 12:19).

The Lovingkindness of God - Psalm 136

When we read Psalm 136, it is hard not to notice that every single verse ends with the same words: "for His mercy endures forever." This was a psalm sung responsively by 2 choirs or a leader and a choir. One would sing the first half of each verse, and the other would respond, "for His mercy endures forever."

Psalm 136 is a song of thanksgiving. The phrase "give thanks" is used 4 times - thrice at the beginning and once at the end – and the object of thanksgiving is the mercy (better rendered as "lovingkindness") of God. God is love (1 Joh 4:26), and all that He does is motivated by love.

The Lovingkindness of God in His Character (v. 1-3)
"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!" begins the psalm. God does everything good simply because He is good. It is in His character to do good, and so He does it!

He is the God of gods - the Creator and Divine Majesty who alone is to be worshipped and adored. All other gods are false gods. He is Lord of lords - the ultimate Ruler of all rulers who is in control of everything that happens around us. Worship begins with a recognition of Who God is. We must know Who it is we are worshipping.

The Lovingkindness of God in His Creation (v. 4-9)
Before God created man, He created the environment that would sustain mankind. He created the earth for man to live, and in which He would write mankind's history and reveal Himself through it. God took great care in the creation of the world. He made the heavens "with skill". It was no random Big Bang, but meticulously thought out and skillfully crafted. In His creation He revealed His beauty, wisdom and power. He alone "does great wonders", and lovingly He does them for our benefit.

The Lovingkindness of God in His Deliverance (v. 10-15)
The deliverance of Israel from Egypt is a landmark display of His love for those that are His and His power to save. Throughout Israel's history, they are always reminded of how God smote the land of Egypt and saved them from their oppressors with a mighty hand.

Egypt symbolizes slavery, and for the Christian it symbolizes the time we were slaves to sin - the time before we trusted Christ. As the Israelites were always encouraged to look to the mighty works God did for them in the past, may we also remember to look back at how God saved us from sin, death and hell and made us His children. God could have let us bear the consequences of our sin. But He chose to save us because He is merciful and kind.

The Lovingkindness of God in His Blessings (v. 16-22)
After leaving Egypt, Israel wandered in the wilderness 40 years before entering the Promised Land. Despite their constant complaining, God took care of them and continually provided for them in the wilderness. He did not destroy them in their rebellion, but instead fulfilled His promise to their ancestors to give them the land of Canaan - a land flowing with milk and honey.

God gave Israel the land of the Canaanites not because they were deserving of it. He made it clear that they deserved none of it. Yet He chose to use Israel to punish the sins of the nations. He dispossessed powerful kings and gave their land to them. God did it purely out of His goodness and mercy.

There are many blessings we enjoy today. Like Israel, we do not deserve the goodness of God, yet we enjoy the benefits of it. Pause a little while to recall how God has blessed you. As we count our blessings like the psalmist did, we will begin to see how kind God has been to us.

The Lovingkindness of God in our Lives Today (v. 23-26)
Having listed God’s blessings of the past, the psalmist ends by summarizing the mercies of God and recognising His majesty again.

God had compassion on Israel during their lowest times, and though they forgot Him, He never forgot them. God continued to rescue them from those who tried to destroy them. Though many times it seemed like they would have been annihilated, God never allowed Israel to be wiped out. The existence of Israel as a nation today is proof of God's faithfulness.

God's mercy is also seen in His provision of food to all flesh. He gives sunshine and rain to both good and evil people (Mat 5:45). We are beneficiaries of His kindness, and must be thankful to Him for His faithfulness to us when we are both faithful and faithless towards Him.

God’s lovingkindness endures forever. It is not changed by time or tide. It is part of His character, and He does not change. It is humbling to realise the goodness of God in spite of man's unworthiness. As the psalmist has shown, it is important for us to look back at the goodness of God in our lives in times past. God is a God who is active and real in history and in the lives of His children. The understanding of who God is and what He has done in the past enables us to give thanks and remain confident when we meet any situation in the future.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Preservation of God - Psalm 140

Psalm 140 is a prayer for deliverance and protection. David found himself surrounded by people seeking his harm. But rather than devising plans to counter their schemes, he turned to the Lord his Deliverer and cried out to Him for help.

Like all effective prayer, Psalm 140 has its foundation in a solid understanding of the character of God. God hates evil and cares for the poor and afflicted, the weak and needy (Pro 14:31). God is a just God who will not let evil go unpunished. And God loves the upright and has promised that they shall dwell in His presence (Psa 15:1,2). Knowing God is an essential part of effective prayer, because God promises to hear prayers prayed according to His will (1 Jon 5:14).

God is a God who Protects (v. 1-5)
We live in a fallen world among fallen people. As we grow older and see more of the real world, we realise that there are many selfish and unkind people around us, and we cannot always get away from them. They may have no reservations about slandering our character or backstabbing us. They may have no qualms about causing us physical, financial or emotional harm either out of mischief or in order to gain an upper hand. They may ruin our reputation and relationships and care less about us losing our friends and jobs, and their schemes are not always easy to detect.

It becomes hard to trust people in a cruel world, and there is great temptation to fight back and try to outwit them at their own game. We are pressured to find ways to protect ourselves, and are sometimes tempted to pay them back in kind. We may even rationalize that we would be justified when we gossip about them or fight back.

God is not honoured when we seek revenge. Neither is He able to glorify Himself through us when we depend on ourselves rather than Him (2Ch 16:7-9). God is eager to show Himself strong on behalf of those who trust Him, but that means we must trust Him completely instead of depending on our own strength and wits.

God is a God of Justice (v. 6-11)
David knew that God is a God of justice, and justice has to repay evil. But David did not take justice into his own hands. Instead he took his complaint to the Lord who alone is Sovereign over all things. And so should we.

David prayed that the wicked would not succeed in their schemes. If they did, they would become proud and go on to do greater evil. If God gave the wicked success in their plans, it would bring His character to question. Thus in a sense David was asking the Lord to show His righteousness by bringing retribution upon evildoers.

God has said, "Vengeance is mine. I will repay" (Rom 12:19). Giving God His right to judge the wicked means taking our hands off the matter and leaving it completely in His. God is more passionate about justice than we are, and His justice is fairer than ours. Yet God is also a God of mercy, and if He forgives the sinner, let us not be like Jonah who refused to have compassion on Nineveh (Jon 4), because God also had compassion on us.

God is a God of Compassion (v. 12-13)
David was a shepherd and he knew God as a Shepherd who cares for His sheep. When Jesus was on earth, He "was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd" (Mat 9:36). God has a place in His heart for the harassed, the weak and the needy. David had a deep confidence in God's care for these people.

We worship a compassionate God. He does not look upon our troubles and afflictions with apathy or indifference. He fights for those who are unable to fight for themselves. He knows what it is like to suffer. Jesus was tempted and tested in every way, yet without sin (Heb 4:15). He was slandered, falsely accused, beaten, abandoned and condemned by people He loved. If there is anyone who understands affliction, it is Jesus, and we can trust Him to come to our aid when we suffer the same. This deep conviction of the compassion of Christ helps us to respond to adversity with confidence and character.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Imminence of God - Psalm 139

In the Old Testament, God revealed different aspects of His character through His names. One of those names was "Jehovah Shammah", which means "The Lord is At Hand".

God is high and lifted up, but He is never aloof. Psalm 139 is a classic passage that tells us how personal God is and how intimately He knows us. God takes a deep interest in all that we do, and He promises to be with us and care for us always.

God Knows us Intimately - there is nothing we can hide from Him (v. 1-6)
God knows us through and through. He knows our every thought and action. He knows our hidden motives. He knows our personalities, our tendencies, our strengths and our weaknesses. He knows what we are going to say before we even say it. Everything that we think, do or say, whether good or bad, He already knew. Yet He does not despise us for who and what we are.

We often put up a front before others. Sometimes we do the same before God. We try to hide the ugly sinful parts of us and come to God with a 'holy front'. But there is no point in doing so. God sees right through us, and He wants us to be honest with Him and ourselves. He desires truth in the inward parts (Psa 51:6). After all, He's seen it all, and He knew every sinful deed that we would commit long before we ever did them.

Let us be honest when we come before our Father. Our sins have been nailed to the cross, and there is no more condemnation in Christ! Let us rejoice in His intimate knowledge of us, and that in spite of it, He cares for us and loves us still.

God is With us Perpetually - there is nowhere we can hide from Him (v. 7-12)
The knowledge of God's constant presence can strike fear or bring comfort to a person. Adam was afraid because he had sinned against the Holy One (Gen 3:10). To the unforgiven, God is the divine judge, and there is good reason to fear His wrath. But to those who have trusted in Jesus, God is a Father whose constant presence is a source of comfort.

There are times in life when God seems absent and we cannot sense His presence. It could be due to trials. It could be due to depression, or some other circumstance. We may identify with Job who said, "Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him" (Job 23:8,9). But even in the deepest darkness of our lives when we cannot see God, God still sees us clearly (v.12). In such times of suffering, we can say with Job, "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).

God Created us Wonderfully - our lives are His masterpiece (v.13-16)
Our lives are in good hands. God has worked out every detail of our lives from the before we were born to the day we die. He has made us who we are. Each one of us is a unique masterpiece - a 'one and only'. God does not expect us to be somebody else. He wants us to be what He made us to be and to live the life He has planned for us to live.

Nothing that happens in our lives happens by chance. Before it happens, God had it written in His book! He knew it beforehand, and has already worked it all out. We can rejoice that God is sovereign over every circumstance and situation. He is in absolute control, and best of all, He is on our side (Rom 8:28,31)!

Our Response to God - loving what He loves and hating what he hates (v. 17-22)
Our response to God’s love for us is love for Him (1 Joh 4:19). Loving God involves loving what He loves. It means sharing in His values, loving His words and treasuring His thoughts.

Loving God also involves hating the things that He hates. One writer wrote: "As our right response to God's love for us is love for him, so our right response to his jealousy over us is zeal for him. His concern for us is great; ours for him must be great too." We cannot claim to love God if we condone what He hates (sin, wickedness, evil, etc.). Being jealous for Him involves sharing His enmity towards those who hate Him: "But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate" (Rev 2:6). If we love Him, we must hate evil (Ps 97:10) but leave the judgment to Him.

Our Response to God - humility and surrender (v.23,24)
We are not the best examiners of ourselves. We don't always see ourselves clearly, and can be more forgiving towards our shortcomings than we ought. God has already searched our hearts and knows what is in them, but we also need to recognise our need for Him to search us out and to reveal to us what truly lies within. We need to humble ourselves before God's convicting power, and be willing to submit ourselves to His way. It is only then that we can truly discover and fulfill God's purposes in our lives.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Salt and Light

"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

~ Matthew 5:13-16 ~

In this passage, Jesus tells us two things about how important our Christian testimony is. Both emphasize the importance of maintaining a good testimony. One emphasizes the tragedy of a broken testimony, while the other emphasizes the triumph of a good testimony.

1. A Broken Testimony Affects Your Effectiveness for God
Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth. It is not something that we will someday become. It is something that we are - now. We are salt, and salt is supposed to be salty. Similarly, Christians are made to give flavour to a lost and dying world. However, if a Christian loses his testimony, he becomes like salt losing its flavour; and salt that has lost its flavour is nothing better than the dirt on the ground. That is why people who have been stumbled by Christians say Christians are hypocrites, because they behave and live in a way that is no better than sinners and unbelievers. Once our testimony is broken, how can it be recovered? It's been done and the memory of it will stay, and your effectiveness and usefulness for God will be diminished. Jesus described it as being "trampled underfoot by men".

We must guard our testimony to the world, for a broken testimony can be a stumbling block, and not only affect our ministry, but the ministry of other Christians as unbelievers who are stumbled will be closed up to Christ and Christianity as a whole.

2. A Good Testimony Glorifies God in the Eyes of Others
Jesus uses the example of light to tell us the effects of a good testimony. Light can't help shining, and shouldn't be hidden. Since we are saved, we should let the world know we are saved by the way we live. Our lives should reflect a difference in this world from the lives of unbelievers. They should be lives that tell others about God in deed and in word. A good testimony leads others to acknowledge God and His work in our lives, and glorify Him.

Do not hide your faith. Let it shine in the open and lead people to Jesus. There is nothing better than to know that people have seen Christ in us, and have come to know that He has made a difference in our lives. On the other hand, there is nothing more tragic than to have a broken testimony that leads the unsaved further from the Saviour than they already are.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Fishers of Men - Matthew 4:19

Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."

After Jesus' baptism and being filled with the Holy Spirit, and after He had been tempted in every way, He began His ministry by calling men to join Him - men He would disciple and who would later shake the world for God. Jesus' call is simple and applicable to every Christian today.

1. Jesus calls us to follow Him
"Follow Me," were His words. We are to follow Christ, and follow Him exclusively. That means we are not to follow other men or our own inclinations. Neither are we to follow the lure of comfort, wealth and position. We are to follow Him and Him alone.

2. Jesus makes us fishers of men
Jesus said, "I will make you..." That means it is not us who make ourselves fishers of men. We don't become evangelists by studying or getting a certificate, nor do we do so by undergoing a course or by practice. It is Jesus and Jesus alone who makes us fishers of man. The only personal effort required on our part is to "follow Him". When we do, He will make us fishers of men.

3. Following Jesus means being fishers of men
Jesus' command to follow Him is a command, not an option. All Christians are called to follow our Lord. If we are following Christ, and if He is the one who makes us fishers of men as we follow Him, the question for us is naturally: "Are we being fishers of men?" Because we cannot say we are followers of Christ if we are not fishers of men, since that is what He makes His followers into. May the Lord help us to see that our priority is to follow Him, and that to follow Him is to be fishers of men.