Newsletter December, 2003


December, 2003

Together Be The Testimony of Christ

Readings: Acts 1:8, 2:32, 5:27-32, 8:1,4-5, 18:9-10

We would like to review the picture of the early church from the Book of Acts, and examine what we should be doing here and now:

St. Paul Cathedral of London is a very famous tourist site. During its construction, though laborers were many, few had any idea of the grandeur and glorious building they were working on. As we assemble before the Lord, may He give us mercy, so we have the big picture of Christ's work, and know what we should do in this time and age, hence Christ may have preeminence in all things. In Matthew 16 when Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus promised that "upon this rock I will build my church." The purpose of His redemptive work for us is to build His church on earth. When He was to ascend into the heaven, He promised further, "the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and you shall receive power and be My witnesses." Indeed, at Pentecost the Spirit descended and the disciples were empowered to preach and testify. That was the beginning of the church. We are therefore reminded that the Lord is the One to build His church, and by His power we are to be His witnesses. The apostle Peter thus proclaimed, "we are witnesses of these things, so is the Holy Spirit" (5:32). The church is here for people to know that Jesus did come and died and lived again. The church is to testify that He is alive! That was what the disciples did in the Acts, testifying for Jesus whom man could not see with their eyes. Peter did so in the house of Cornelius. Barnabas and Paul proclaimed this in Antioch, Lystra and Iconium. Then, Paul witnessed both in Jerusalem and later in Rome. Today, the Holy Spirit presses us forward to be His witnesses here. The message for our testimony is just the same as that of Peter, "This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses," (2:32). Jesus died and Jesus was raised up again!

Dear brethren, when we proclaim the resurrection of Jesus, we testify that He is the Son of God, the sinless One who died in our place on the cross. His blood washes away all our sins. The cross is our glory ever. The story of Calvary is always afresh in us. His death is for our sins, and His resurrection for our justification. He died to redeem us, and He lived again to give us the new life. He lives and indeed lives in every believer's heart. This is the message of the church. May this message bring someone to repentance even today, for the forgiveness through faith in Christ by God's grace.

But our trouble is that once we received this Jesus into our hearts, we locked Him up there so securely that others do not know we have Him. Our lives do not manifest this reality, and the church does not have a true testimony. Jesus once healed a blind man, who later proclaimed that "one thing I know: I was blind but now I see." That was his testimony. We were once spiritually blind, but now we see Jesus as Lord and Savior. We know and should help others know the same. Another time Jesus brought a man named Lazarus back from the tomb. After that Lazarus sat with Jesus at the feast. He did not say anything, but many saw him and believed in Jesus. Therefore, since we have this living Christ in us, we should either proclaim like the blind man, or to live out the life of Christ, who lives in us. In all New Testament letters, it shows us at first the way of salvation, then the way of our daily living. In Titus the older women were admonished to teach young women to love their husbands and their children, "so that the word of God will not be dishonored." A holy life is to testify that Christ lives in you and in your home. Similarly, Titus 2:9 instructs the slaves to serve their masters with obedience and showing all good faith, so that they "will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect." Paul wrote to Philemon saying, "I hear of your love and faith toward all the saints, and in every good thing for Christ's sake." Since you have Christ living in you, do allow Him to live comfortably by showing Him in your life. Then you are a true witness, and all of us together become His testimony.

More than twenty years ago we came to Orlando. It was then a little town where every place was shut down on Sundays except the churches. But there was no Chinese-speaking church. Slowly God brought people together, who assembled as His testimony in the Chinese community. In Jerusalem it was like that. In the beginning a small group met and prayed in the upper room. Then three thousands believed. Again five thousands came to the Lord. Peter said, "we are all witnesses." Act 8:1 called them the church of Jerusalem, which experienced suffering and was scattered for the furtherance of the gospel. In Corinth it was the same way. Paul was preaching the gospel, and there were many adversaries. The Lord appeared to Paul at night, and told him "do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I have many people in this city." (18:9-10) The eyes of the Lord were upon the city of Corinth. He led many people to Himself, and wanted them to be His witnesses in the city. Brothers and sisters, we need to know that all those believers in Jerusalem were in the Lord's eye as one Body. They had only one message of Jesus being alive. They had only one purpose of being Jesus' testimony. Now with so many people in the church, how did they meet? Act 2:46 says that they gathered "in the temple, and broke bread from house to house." They publicly assembled at the portico of Solomon, then dispersed into houses for smaller group meetings. Act 12 clearly showed this picture. There Peter was in jail and the church prayed for him. God answered the prayer of all the people, and sent an angel to deliver him (v. 7-11). Peter came out, and thought about it before he decided to go to Mary's house where a group was praying (v. 12). Peter told them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. He then said, "Report to James and other brothers these things." He himself "left and went on to another place" (v. 17). Clearly James and other brothers were not present in the group at Mary's house. They were with other house groups that night. Later, Peter went on to another group after visiting the one in Mary's house. With all the believers in Jerusalem, the Lord called them His church in Jerusalem. They assembled at the portico of Solomon, then scattered into houses for prayer and the Lord's supper.

The Bible shows us that the Lord raises us in this locality to be the testimony of His resurrection. Through the individual and corporate life we testify that Jesus lives among us. It was so in Jerusalem, in Antioch, in Ephesus, so in Corinth. He said, "I have many people in this city." His eye is always upon all His people in the city. The enemy knew that as well. When Paul went to Philippi, he was accused of "throwing our city into confusion" (16:20), and was asked "to leave the city" (20:39). After three years in Ephesus, his work "became known to all who lived in (the city of) Ephesus" (19:17). Later when a riot broke out, the town clerk announced, "Men of Ephesus, who do not know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis?" (19:35). The enemy tried to uphold the power of the idle in the city, whereas the Lord sent the Apostle to break that power of darkness and win the city for Christ with a testimony. This is what the Lord is doing here today!

We came from different places and now meet either at Bumby or Rouse. We must retain this big picture, namely, one testimony for the living Christ in this city. How pitiful that many did not understand the heart of God in this. They grab their own little corners and raise their own banners of choice. But the Lord is to obtain a testimony of His resurrection, proving that He lives in the hearts and lives of His people. We can never lose this picture: We are His Body and Christ is the Head. As we exercise our individual spiritual gifts, and function properly in the church, the testimony is established. He is the living Head, so are the members of the Body living. The trouble is that so often the Head is living, but the hand is dead, the eyes are blind and the mouth is dumb..... May the Lord have mercy on us so we see this picture and live as the members of the Body. By focusing upon the living Head, together we become that testimony He desires. Though we labor in our little domain of fellowship group or children's class, we frequently look up to the Head, who one day, as Paul put it, will crown us with the crown of righteousness. If we lose this big picture, there will be divisions, quarrels, weariness and arguments among us. The work will be dead, because it has become our work, not His work anymore. Brothers and sisters, when that happens, how sorrowful must the Lord feel, but how the enemy rejoice? May we remember to lift our eyes to the Head, frequently and constantly.

The story of "the bridge on the river Kwai" was about an English POW, a man named Col. Nicholson in the labor camp. He was forced by the Japanese during the WWII in Burma to lead his soldiers to build a bridge over the river Kwai, which was to be part of the Burma-Siam railroad. As he got into the project, he enjoyed the work so much and forgot that as a POW he should be deterring the work of the enemy. Some of the POWs managed to get some explosives, trying to blow up the bridge before the Japanese train came through. Nicholson happened to notice their plot, and called the Japanese soldiers over to stop their plan. As the train was approaching, in the midst of gun shots Nicholson finally came to his senses, "O, what have I been doing?" His falling body fell on the switch to ignite the explosives and destroyed the bridge he built all that time for the Japanese. Dear brethren, we may fall into the same danger of building our own bridge. We believe it is to be the greatest work, since it is mine, it is mine! Because we forget to lift our eyes upon Jesus the living Head, our work often leads to division, friction and despair. Instead of serving the Master, we aid the enemy. May we remember that the Lord is building His great spiritual cathedral today. No matter what little pieces we have in hand, irrespective of where we are in the city, however different our gifts and function may seem to be, we need to remember the glorious picture of the living, resurrected Head and His Body. When we always focus upon Him, Christ will have His testimony in this city, and we will one day receive from Him the crown. Amen.

Thank God for Nourishing Us

A church goer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday.

"I've gone for 30 years now," he wrote, "and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can't remember a single one of them. So, I think I'm wasting my time and the preachers are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all."

This started a real controversy in the " Letters to the Editor " column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this CLINCHER:

"I've been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this, they all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work, If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!"

"When you are DOWN to nothing....God is UP to something! Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible and receives the impossible! Thank God for our physical AND our spiritual nourishment!!" (From E-mail)