|Coming near to God|
James 4: 4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
James 4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Coming near to God is not necesarrily going to heaven soon. We can come near to God not standing at the distance from the mountain of God, but close to the burning bush and yet not be burned.
When we take a small step towards Jesus, He takes a big step towards us.
Like the Jews, we declare our Shema Israel of loving God, but this is meaningless for they killed Jesus, God incarnate. Without God personified in Christ Jesus, we are loving ourselves, our religiosity and our creation of God after own image or worshipping the spiritual deities of the sea, on the land and in the heavens.
We are an adulterous people often going after other gods and straying away from Jesus Christ. Even the shema can be an idol to love ourselves, the god of our own humanity.
We have envisaged God either as a judgemental God, or alternatively an activist God, yet I believe God in the living Christ is somewhat different and more human in identification with all that we are. He would be very comfortable resting with us drinking coffee at the coffee shop.
Amongst all the thunder, the God of judgement in the destruction of Sodom and Gommorah including all its women, children and animals, and the activist Jesus Christ kicking out of the businessmen from the temple of God in Jerusalem, God is relational, the God of Abraham, Jacob and David.
It is God who gave us the God breathed Word of God yet written in imperfect human hands, a historical transcript of the relationship between God and the People of Israel, and in the New Testament, the revelation of the unlikely Messiah, God Himself, in Christ Jesus with the abounding power of the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit of God breathed into our being, the imperfect becomes perfect.
The Christ of the bible, and the Christ of resurrection has not really left us, for His Holy Spirit abides with us. The Holy Spirit brings the reality of Christ from heaven to us when we seek God out in the deserts of life. Surely Christ is still with us, and not unknown to those who seeks His face.
What is a church/cell group? it is a place when we come together in unity of purpose and common faith in the resurrected Christ to worship and give thanks to a living God, and receive a word for today to live on the legacy of Christ in our lives. It is a place where we hold each up as fellow pilgrims in our journey of faith extolling one and all to keep the good race.
The Word of God, the bible is already sealed - for the testimony sure, the foundation firm for the assurance of our faith in Christ.
We continue on to write our own canon and faith experiences to do the ministry of Christ standing on the Rock of our Salvation.
God is unchanging, He is the same yesterday, today and tommorow although sometimes our understanding may evolve. His faithfullness and His mercies endures forevermore. His salvation is sure.
I remember in City Harvest that we would go through one to one bible studies based on materials that you would normally find in 1st year bible college.
Therefore, the success of mega churches was due to a focus of having strong bible knowledge and Christians who can give a reasonable answer for their faith in Christ in a systematic way and provides the blibical basis for evangelism and outreach.
We must be ready to give a reasoned answer for our hope of glory. The faith level and biblical knowledge and understanding of Jesus redemptive works is built up within the congregation to worship God in spirit and in truth and to enter into the presence of God through His grace.
However, worship can be a struggle to bring us from the outer courts to the throne room of God, and for the Word of God to be received in a place that is cynical of the supernatural and unbelieving of the redemptive message of Christ.
Do we have an attitude of faith in the finished works of the Cross, a desire for knowledge and understanding of the Word of God for a deeper walk in Christ?
What would I like to see in a church?
When trouble and confusion comes, doubts will arise in our intellect and what we are left with is our faith experiences. Our intellect wavers and will not stand the test of time or the challenges of faith even if we have a bible school knowledge of the word.
They were aligned with the worship of the patron gods of their cities including all the religious rituals, sacrifices, and activities, yet also engaged in the Christian Faith. Hence, they were in an adulterous relationship pursuing other gods.
I have got no strong interest in the long, intellectual and liberal sermons of some, or the bible quoting sermons of what to do and not to do in the mega churches. I am also not particularly keen on the liberal and queer theology of some.
Rather, i wonder, How are we a light unto the spiritual salvation to those who are lost spiritually? or a making a difference to meet the dire needs of food, shelter, and medicine outside the church walls to the community that God has placed us in?
As a christian community of faith, we need to allow space to be and not just to follow and preach on one theological framework. A liberal exclusivity is no different than a city harvest secular cross over.
The greatest challenge in Christianity is to remain faithful to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. It is not about homosexuality but for Christians not to be involved in religious adultery. Too often, wealth also becomes our god.
When the challenges to our Christian walk and the dissapoinments of life comes, will our anchor of faith be strong enough? Is there a deep relationship formed by worship, prayer, and a reasoned understanding of our faith and assurance of salvation in Christ.
Do we still believe in Christ when we have nothing left, when the anti-gay zealots took away our humanity, our dignity and rights and proclaimed us as vile sinners to be excommunicated from the church. Where is our faith then in Christ our Lord and Saviour!
We all have adversities and doubts. When trouble comes, do we have oil left in the lamp to keep burning for Christ.
Our Church and Cell Group is often boring and intellectual whether it be a liberal church or a true Jesus church. We feed the mind, rather than the soul and the spirit. There is no spiritual annointing to break the yoke of intellectual religiosity and spiritual complacency.
Our intellect may help us to have an understanding of the basis of our faith and hope of salvation, but we can only build up our spirit life through a deep and abiding experience with Jesus, and venturing into the spiritual realm.
Ultimately our faith needs to transcend often beyond our intellect to a practical and supernatural experience with God that is tangible and a taste of heaven to come.
God becomes no more a mystery of the intellect, but as we draw near to God, He will draw near to us beyond the veil of religious laws and sacrifices.
Unlike Moses who only had a glimpse of the back of God, in Christ, we are able to draw near to God face to face, in His full glory and majesty.
Where do we walk today, in the body, in the soul/mind, or in the spirit. For those who dwell in the spirit are not too far away from heaven and the things of God.
I grew up as a young child, in a quiet waters and wintry shores where in the wilderness of life found myself sitting at the feet of Jesus. I was one of the best student at school, an intellect understanding the sciences and maths, but my being gay sent me deep into the closet.
It was there in the deep closets of life, that Jesus found me and I escaped back into the bible two thousands ago finding myself at the feet of Jesus away from the current pain and sufferings of life of rejection and condemnation for being gay.
It was there in the spirit that Jesus accepted and embraced me, and called me to accept my sexuality not as a curse but a gift from God.
Walk in the truth, for it shall lead you to walk in the spirit. Walk in the spirit and it will lead you back to the truth in Christ Jesus.