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(Part 5)


December 2, 2010

Today’s readings
Isaiah 26:1-6
Psalm 118:1-27
Matthew 7:21-27

We are all Christians, and renewed Christians at that. We acknowledge Jesus as our Lord. Is that enough to make it to heaven? No, as Jesus himself says. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Mt 7:21). We need to be true disciples, and not just pay lip service to discipleship. It is not only about acknowledging Jesus as Lord, but of living out that reality, by living our lives according to the will of God, as taught by our Lord Jesus.

It is also not just about serving God, even in spectacular ways (Mt 7:22-23). We all served God in CFC, and there were many mighty deeds done. But later we saw, in the crisis of 2007 and thereafter, that even some very top leaders resorted to lying, maligning, bearing false witness, filing unbiblical court cases, and opposing the very work of God that we were doing. Was it any wonder that the severe crisis deepened and almost completely destroyed CFC? Many of God’s appointed leaders were not true disciples! They had been building God’s house on sand, and when the crisis came the house collapsed (Mt 7:26-27).

If we are to do sustained work for God in the power of His Spirit, we must see and live out the reality that our God is our strength. If we are to tap on to God’s power and strength, we must truly be God’s people and truly do what is His work.

Now God has given us, as CFC-FFL, another chance. Out of the rubble of the collapsed house, God has raised a remnant. “The Lord chastised me harshly, but did not hand me over to death.” (Ps 118:18). Hopefully we have learned the lessons of Lamentations, and the lessons of Job. Hopefully we are on our way to ridding ourselves and our community of infidelities. Hopefully we will no longer have leaders who say “Lord, Lord,” but do not do the will of the Father. If this is the case, then God will once again use us to proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus. “I shall not die but live and declare the deeds of the Lord.” (Ps 118:17).

The key is our theme for 2011: “My God is now my strength!” (Is 49:5). We do not live our lives or do our work on our own strength, but on God’s. As we proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior, we go to the very core of the gospel, as we look upon and live out the centrality of the cross in our lives. Here is the reality: “The Lord, my strength and might, came to me as savior.” (Ps 118:14).

Jesus went to the cross in weakness. Jesus rose from the dead in power. Through the cross, Jesus dealt a mortal blow to Satan, and destroyed his dominion over the world. In the cross is our deliverance; in the resurrection is our victory. “The joyful shout of deliverance is heard in the tents of the victors: ‘The Lord’s right hand strikes with power; the Lord’s right hand is raised; the Lord’s right hand strikes with power.’” (Ps 118:15-16).

Now that is the strength of God! It defeats the mighty enemy. It is the very strength we need, in order to be God’s effective instruments in our work of evangelization. How do we tap on to that power?

We need to build our house on rock, by listening and acting on God’s word (Mt 7:24). In this way, no matter how the enemy comes against us and buffets our house, we will not collapse, because we have “been set solidly on rock.” (Mt 7:25).

And who is the rock? It is Jesus. “For the Lord is an eternal Rock.” (Is 26:4b).

Seeing what the enemy can do to us, what do we seek in setting our community solidly on rock? We have to be aware of both the external and the internal enemy (the enemy within). So first we look to protection against the external enemy, Satan. We look to being able to say: “A strong city have we; he sets us walls and ramparts to protect us.” (Is 26:1). Then second, we look to having peace and unity in community so as to allow us to fulfill God’s purpose for us. We cannot effectively fight the enemy without if we are constantly fighting the enemy within. “A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace” (Is 26:3a).

How can such protection and peace happen? How can we take on God’s very own strength? We need to grow in godly virtues, which express our becoming the people God wants us to become­those who listen and act on God’s word. What are these virtues?

The first is faith. “Open up the gates to let in a nation .... that keeps faith.” (Is 26:2). We are a people of faith, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Our lives are centered on Christ. We are constantly to strive to live a renewed faith, ever plodding on along the path of holiness and discipleship. In addition, we “keep faith,” that is, we are faithful--to God’s call, to our covenant in CFC-FFL, to our Core Values, to our life and mission in community.

The second is justice. “Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just” (Is 26:2a). We must be just and righteous in all our words, thoughts and deeds. Justice is giving to the other person what is his due. To God is due awe and worship. To human beings is due respect as children of God, no matter how estranged from God they might be. To the poor is due an equitable share of the world’s goods. To CFC-FFL, an instrument of God’s will, and to our brethren is due our commitment and steadfastly living out our covenant.

The third is trust. “A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace; in peace, for its trust in you.” (Is 26:3). No matter what happens, we trust in Jesus. Not on mortals, including ourselves, not on princes or those with power and position, but our refuge is only in the Lord (Ps 118:8-9). When we are in danger, when we face our enemies, we look to the Lord for help (Ps 118:5-7). Through ups and downs, through joys and sorrows, through victories and defeats, with brethren who are loyal or who betray, in season or out of season, we trust in the God who loves us and has a great plan for our lives. We endure suffering, because we trust that Jesus makes such suffering redemptive. We persevere through challenges and oppression, because we know that in the end we will be victorious in Christ. In fact, when our situation seems desperate, when we are hard pressed and falling amidst the onslaught of the enemy, all the more we look to the Lord for help (Ps 118:10-13). So let us “trust in the Lord forever!” (Is 26:4a).

The fourth is humility. “He humbles those in high places, and the lofty city he brings down; He tumbles it to the ground, levels it with the dust.” (Is 26:5). God tumbles and humbles! Pride is the greatest sin. As God uses us, we can easily fall into sinful pride. That is when God cuts us down, out of love for us! When our faces are pressed in the dust, that is when we are able to call to mind the reason for our hope, which is the Lord (Lam 3:16,21,24). Then, properly humbled, properly clothed in humility, God is able to raise us and exalt us in due time (1 Pet 5:5b-6). Then God will not hesitate to once again use us in the power and strength of His Spirit, and allow us to do great things for His glory.

The fifth is poverty in spirit. “It is trampled underfoot by the needy, by the footsteps of the poor.” (Is 26:6). If not anyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, those who are poor in spirit will (Mt 5:3). We need to know our dire need and our poverty, apart from the grace of God and His life in us. We must learn to depend on God’s grace rather than our own resources. Our confidence can never be in our own abilities or past achievements or experience, but only in God. We must know that we are completely dependent on God. Even Jesus, the Son of God, humbled himself, going to the cross as a criminal (Phil 2:8). But this is why “God greatly exalted him” (Phil 2:9a). Thus, “the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (Ps 118:22). This is great and encouraging news for us. We who are nothing and are insignificant can be used by God. Indeed, God delights in choosing the foolish, the weak, the lowly and despised, those who count for nothing in the world (1 Cor 1:27-28).

God is our eternal Rock. In Him we can rest secure, and shout out to the whole world, “Our God is now our strength!”

The path is clear to us, to be the Lord’s own people, and to ultimately enter the kingdom of heaven. “Open the gates of victory; I will enter and thank the Lord. This is the Lord’s own gate, where the victors enter.” (Ps 118:19-20).

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