Monday, July 9, 2018

An Encounter with Jesus

胡偉南(William)牧師. 2018年7月8日

“An Encounter with Jesus” – Revelation 1:9-20

小姊妹齊聲歌唱讚美主
The sermon reading this morning is our sermon text. It comes from a book that for many Christians is avoided. And if you are not a Christian and the bible is new to you, know that the book of Revelation is known for its discussion of prophesy and the future. That part of Revelation is not what we will look at today. We will not talk about the future this morning so please don’t fear.

Back in April, the youth fellowship and I started on a journey through the book of Revelation. I began what I hoped would be a sermon series on Revelation, as Pastor Nelson is going through Mark. And I was going to encourage the youth to read along with me, and with you through the book of Revelation.  Then came Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and at last no more special days!  We just finished 4th of July celebrations! 

July 4 is about independence and freedom and it occurred to me that Revelation was written by John who was exiled on an island. He was basically under house arrest. He was a prisoner. He did not have freedom.  Why did John lose his independence?  For being a follower of Jesus Christ, and not just a follower, he worked to spread the message of Jesus. 

Patmos was a prison island. Most of the prisoners “worked under the whip” They were in quarries (or mines on an island 70 miles off the coast of Turkey). John was older, so he may not have had to work in the mines, (but he was cut off from his friends.[1]) Another commentator said he probably did work in the mines sleeping on a bare floor with no pillow and blankets. John was exiled as a criminal. Another word for exile is banishment. Banishment under Roman law meant the loss of civil rights, as well as the confiscation of all your property.[2]

The worst thing that can happen to an individual is to be cut off from his friends. He was cut off from other believers. While on the island, John is given a vision. Whether he was dreaming, or actually physically transported, John was given a picture of Jesus. And before we look at the passage, I want us to think about the idea of a picture. For many of us we used to keep pictures in our wallets of our loved ones! 

God did not give us an actual photo album, but we can see the pictures painted by the writers of scripture.  For Revelation, the author John, a 1st century person, is writing down what he sees as he is given a vision of the future and a vision of heaven.  We need to understand he lived 2000 years before now. Keep that in mind as we struggle through the book. In response to this, one of our youth says, “oh I wouldn’t write anything down, I would take pictures with my phone!” So whether you carry your pictures in your phone or purse/wallet, think of pictures.

Pictures are things that can be seen.  There is irony here in that in the 1st century you would find temple after temple with various statues of idols, these statues and idols could be seen. But for Christians they worshipped a God of spirit. Critics during their day criticized Christians for not having a visible God, in Roman times Christians were accused of being atheists because they did not have a VISIBLE god[3]. Today we know the word “atheist” as a person who does not believe in any God - but people could criticize us today for being a form of an atheist.  Christians don’t worship a real god, just look at how they live, they live as if there is no GOD. But in Romans times, the Christians had no visible God but lived in such a way that there was no doubt that they believed in their God, even giving their life for Him. So at issue then and today is that God is invisible but one day we all will see him visibly. Look at Revelation 1:7

Look! He is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see Him,
including those who pierced[l]Him.
And all the families of the earth[m][n]
will mourn over Him.[o][p]
This is certain. Amen.

Every eye will see HIM!  Look! 

In our passage today, we will see five pictures from this text.
Our first picture is a snapshot of a follower of Jesus.

Please turn on your bibles to Rev. 1. Let us read from Revelation 1.
Revelation 1: 9  I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation, kingdom, and endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of God’s word and the testimony about Jesus.[q]

The first picture is that of the writer of the book, a follower of Jesus. Who is this John? The primary view is this is John the Apostle. But John does not use that title. He writes, this is your brother and partner in the tribulation. 

One commentary writes, “[John] He knew that there is partnership in suffering for Jesus. He is not alone. He is no LONE RANGER. His Lord had suffered and his brother James was martyred. Paul and Peter were likewise dead. John knew that many share as partners in the Lord’s work. He could therefore take heart; we suffer as family.”[4]

At our prayer meeting, one of our church family has a burden for the persecuted church. So we pray for our persecuted brothers. Back in April and on Friday night youth fellowship- I reminded the youth, that Revelation was written to encourage the persecuted and warn the complacent. Revelation like the other NT books are situational. We read the books in light of the situation of the original audience.[5]  And the original readers of Revelation were going through persecution. John was going through persecution.
The first picture is of John a follower of Jesus, who endured persecution, but he didn’t do it alone, he suffered as a member of God’s family. Followers of Jesus will face persecution in his name, but we do not suffer alone.

And even though Revelation is a book about future events, “Revelation contains more OT references than any other NT book.”[6]And that brings us to our next picture from our passage. This is a picture of the church and Jesus- tied into ideas from the Old Testament (OT).
12I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me. When I turned I saw seven gold lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was One like the Son of Man,[v]dressed in a long robe and with a gold sash wrapped around His chest.

The last verse in Chapter 1 ties in that the lampstands represent the seven churches written about and to in the book of Revelation. These churches represent all churches on earth in some form. The lampstand image is found in the Old Testament.

Verse 12 is taken from Exodus 37:17-24 and Zech. 4: 10. In Exodus Moses had “constructed a seven-branched lampstand for the tabernacle –the tabernacle was to be the dwelling place of God!”  and Zechariah had a vision of seven-branched golden lampstand that represented the “eyes of the Lord, which range throughout the earth.”[7]

v. 12 introduces us to the lampstands and they are representative of the churches and in another sense, it is in the church that the Lord dwells today. And in verse 13 we read that among those lampstands indeed stands Jesus! 

13and among the lampstands was One like the Son of Man,[v]dressed in a long robe and with a gold sash wrapped around His chest.

Among the lampstands is the ONE! The one is likened to the Son of Man! Son of Man is Jesus’ favorite self-designation. It occurs 81 times in the Gospels. It identifies Him as the heavenly Messiah who will receive an eternal kingdom.[8]

The title Son of Man goes back to Daniel 7:13-14, which is Daniel’s vision:
13“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a]coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Dan 7:13-14)

We will look at the church and Jesus a little later in the sermon, but for now I want to continue to show the OT’s influence on Revelation.

Also in 13 we see the outfit that Jesus is wearing and that will make us recall the OT.  “A long robe with a gold sash wrapped around His chest.” This is the clothing of the priest in the Old Testament (Ex 28:4).
4These are the garments that they must make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a specially woven tunic,[a]a turban, and a sash. They are to make holy garments for your brother Aaron and his sons so that they may serve Me as priests.

Jim Richards writes, 
“In OT worship, the high priest would go into the Holy of Holies to worship God, interceding for the people and offering a blood sacrifice for people’s sins. In the same manner, Jesus entered Heaven’s most holy place and offered His own blood that our sins might be forgiven, acting as our High Priest. Yes even today, Jesus is our Savior, Mediator, and Intercessor-our High Priest.[9]

Richards goes on to write, “Instead of High Priest, which was a perfect image for people in the first century, perhaps we can better understand His role if we think of [Jesus] as our attorney, the One who defends us for the sins we have committed. He is the one who intercedes for us in Heaven’s court, arguing on our behalf, saying we are forgiven. We should not be punished.”[10]

I have served on a Special Grand Jury. Our only job is to back the prosecutor and a part of me is saddened by corruption, by sin, and these poor people don’t have anyone to defend them in our session. But our job was only to agree or disagree with the prosecution. These folks will get their day in court and they will have an attorney. But I doubt their attorneys will be effective but the Jesus as our attorney will set us free!
2My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One. (1 John 2:1)

For there is one God
and one mediator between God and humanity,
Christ Jesus, Himself human,  (1 Timothy 2:5)

We are all in need of an advocate.

The first picture was of John a follower of Jesus, who suffered persecution as a member of Jesus’ family.

The second picture shows the NT church, which cannot get away from the OT. Churches are places where God dwells, where his priest still serves him!

A third picture we see from this passage is the Living God!

17When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. He laid His right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last,18and the Living One.I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades. 

Jesus tells John, he is the first and the last. The protosand the eschatos. He was with God in the beginning and all things were created through Him! And he will be there at the end of time, the eschaton.

He was with God in the beginning.
3All things were created through Him,
and apart from Him not one thing was created
that has been created. (John 1:2-3)

But not only is Jesus alive, see in verse 18- Jesus says, “I was dead.”  [look], HE is alive forever and ever!  Holding the keys to death, Jesus gives us life! John had fallen like a dead man, but Jesus laid His hand on John.  What a picture for us. In the same way, we are spiritually dead before Jesus touches us. I remember hearing about a young man who was spiritually dead, and somehow during the day, some one gave him a Gospel Tract, and he read it and, in his bedroom, he came to become a Christian. He read about God, and man’s sin, and how Jesus came to die for man’s sin, and the man responded. I am of the generation of Chinese immigrants who came and mostly started grocery stores, laundromats, and restaurants. A deacon at my church shared he was in his 40’s when he became a Christian. He told me his life was filled with working, but it was stressful, and he had to take pills to work the long hours. He was spiritually dead, but discovered the Gospel. My professor at seminary who is now preaching at a Baptist church up near the Arboretum shared that he grew up in a culture of Christianity and had even been preaching a few years, while reading through the book of Romans discovered that he was spiritually dead and became born again! He went on to say, after that he no longer had any doubts about the living Jesus.

The Living God picture is so rich as we read of John’s description of Jesus from head to toe. We see this inverses 14 and 15.  We start with 14, “His hair is described as white like wool, white like snow.” White hair is by definition a picture of old age.  

As Daniel Akin writes,
“We respect the process of aging, less and less. A person is admired if he can keep looking young, not if he has the dignity of age. The bible says it another way. Proverbs 16:31 says, “A white head is a crown of glory.” and we read in the law “You will rise up before the white head, and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God, I am the Lord (Lev. 19:32).”[11]

I think about life, and what living is about. And I can’t help but feel that we start truly living in our retirement years. We took our daughter to VBS at the Quarries Church and out there they use parking lot attendants, and you don’t have to look hard to see that many of the helpers were white haired. Those parking lot attendants in the hot sun were older, retired. When I volunteered for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief when I was in California many of my fellow volunteers were retired. It’s a shame that culture today emphasizes youth. I remember a pastor when he retired. One of the older members of the church in their 90’s is quoted as saying, “I thought he had another 5 years left.” But I appreciate that pastor who in retirement has traveled the globe doing God’s work, and if I am correct has visited churches on 3 continents. I hope that when I retire I can do the same.

The picture is of the Living God. And from the rest of the description we can learn much of life. (Read Rev. 1:14-15 - His head and hair were white like wool—white as snow—and His eyes like a fiery flame. His feet were like fine bronze as it is fired in a furnace, and His voice like the sound of cascading waters.)
I like Jim Richard’s run down of verses 14 and 15. You can follow along :
“His hair represents wisdom
His eyes are omniscient. He knows and sees all things.
His feet as brass are a symbol of judgement
His voice speaks to his supreme authority, a deafening roar like Niagara Falls, but with a clear, unmistakable message
His countenance is the Shekinah glory of God,
He calms our fears,
He brings us life!
He is the living Lord
He is the coming Lord and will appear again one day![12]

Connelly writes, “Jesus the risen, glorious Lord, walks among his churches. Jesus protects them, cares for them, watches over them, corrects them. He walks past and through and around the church you are a part of. He examines the leaders and the hearts of every person. His eyes see every secret. He speaks with the sharp sound of his Word.”[13]

We have seen the Living God in this third picture. The second picture was of the NT church informed by the OT and the first was a snapshot of a follower of God, John who was persecuted as a member of Jesus’ family. 

The fourth picture from this passage concerns Jesus hands and in his hand he is holding something (look at verse 20):

20 The secret of the seven stars you saw in My right hand and of the seven gold lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels[y] of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands[z] are the seven churches.

What is Jesus holding in his right hand? He is holding seven stars which correspond to seven angels. I like the interpretation that these angels are said to be the pastors of those seven churches. Not only is Jesus in His church but He also holds the pastors in His right hand. That is, He holds them close.

Douglas Connelly writes, “The word angel can also mean messenger and may refer to the pastor or elder who has responsibility to shepherd God’s flock in your local church. If this is the case, Jesus pays special attention to the person who shepherds you week after week. If you are a pastor, be encouraged by that. The Lord Jesus holds you close to his heart. If you receive ministry from a pastor, the fact that Jesus holds pastors so close should encourage you to pray more for your pastor. Support pastors in the work God has called them to do.”[14]

The last picture is of the word of God:

Earlier in Chapter 1 we read in v. 3 The one who reads this is blessed, and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep[f]what is written in it are blessed, because the time is near!

And in verse 19
19 Therefore write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this. (Rev. 1:19)

Many commentators tell us that V. 19 is an outline of this book.
Write what you have seen - this is the past.
What is- is the present
What will take place after this - is the future.

We can see the past- Rev. 1
The present for the original readers is Rev 2-3
And what is to come, or the future is Rev. 4-22

In this last picture, we see that John was asked to write what Jesus was to show him. The message was from Jesus to Christians via John! From the time of Moses – God has asked men to write down his message to us.
When I went to the SBC Annual Meeting, two reports struck me. One- we baptized close to 7 million people but at the same time we lost seven million people. What is the issue? We were challenged at the annual meeting: is baptism the end goal for churches? A solution concerned discipleship and bible engagement. The question is not only are we reading God’s word but does God’s word inform how we make decisions in life?

And as one who promotes discipleship and bible engagement, someone gave me some good practical criticism concerning my teaching and my preaching. They said that they want more, they want to grow deeper. Basically, can I give more of God’s Word? I am convicted to go deeper in the word, to find not only meaning but to work out application for us today. 

16All Scripture is inspired by God[a]and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Going back to Rev. 1:19, we are given an outline of the book. Chapters 2 and 3 are to represent the present age. What can we learn from Chapters 2-3? But I want to encourage you to keep this fifth picture of God’s word and it will bless you.

Today we saw pictures from Rev. 1:9-20, the first was of John a follower of Jesus, partner in persecution, we suffer together as a family. The second picture are images from the OT that give us insights into Christ and the Church. The third picture is of the Living God who gives us life, the 4th was a picture of Christ holding the pastors close to Him and the last was a picture of the Bible.

The Bible, the church, the tradition of the OT, all these pictures are photobombed by Jesus. RememberJesus standing among the lampstands. The lampstand is like a candle holder.  The purpose is to bring light. The connection is beautiful: churches are to bring light. But think about this, how much brighter are two lamps versus one. How about 100 vs 1?

It was a former American President who had a campaign called a thousand points of light[15]
The purpose was to promote volunteerism. It’s an idea borrowed from the Bible.

16In the same way, let your light shine[a]before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Mt. 5:16)

A 1000 points of light as individuals, but if the lampstand represents the church, How much brighter when there are many churches, together- doesn’t this sound familiar? By God’s hand we are all here worshipping in a Southern Baptist Church. We are not just a denomination. We are a Convention, meaning each individual church has local autonomy. We follow Jesus, who’s local representatives are the pastors. We cooperate with other churches. Perhaps no where can this be better done than in a church like Hyde Park.

But as a Southern Baptist church, we work together in the Southern Baptist Convention in cooperation with close to 40,000 other congregations. All our tithing goes to the Mother church and a portion goes off to the Convention. Our special missions offerings like Lottie Moon, 100% goes help further missions. The convention has the largest mission sending agency in the world called the International Mission Board.  Our Taiwan Short Term Missions is in conjunction with the work of an IMB missionary. And that is what makes being a part of our mother church so special because we are better together. We cannot help but see how much further our light can shine when we shine together. During missions emphasis time, if you walk to the other side of the church, you can see pictures of NAMB and IMB missionaries. You can take the missionary photo/card and pray for them. They are your missionaries. WE shine brighter when we are working together to serve the Living God.

This morning I turned on the t.v. and listened to Dr. Bowman. It was the sermon from June 24, 2018, and he spoke of persecution. Oh- it would have really helped me in my first picture, if you get a chance and check out his series on the Sermon on the Mount.

What picture do you have of God? Of Jesus? Of the Church? Of the Bible?
I hope your picture of Him is clearer today, but when you go home what is your picture of Jesus? How about when you go to work? 

Are you one to lose focus of the Living God? Commit to having a deeper relationship today. If that is your wish, please seek out the pastor, myself, deacons, Sunday School teachers or perhaps a Christian friend. And I hope that your next picture will be of you having a closer  relationship with Jesus Christ. (brightly shining His light, giving glory to God the Father)




[1]Connelly, Douglas. “The Book of Revelation Made Clear”. P. 20.
[2]Ibid, 19. 
[3]Need to double check where I read this! (sorry) either Connelly or Jim Richards.
[4]Akin, Daniel. “Exalting Jesus in Revelation”. Location 625 Kindle ed.
[5]Duvall, J. Scott and J. Daniel Hays. “Grasping God’s Word”. P. 285.
[6]Ibid, p. 292. 
[7]Akin, Location 657, Kindle ed.
[8]Akin, Loc. 672, Kindle ed.
[9]Richards, p. 8.
[10]Ibid, p. 8-9.
[11]Akin, Loc. 687, Kindle ed.
[12]Richards, p 9.
[13]Connelly, p. 22-23.
[14]Ibid, p. 22-23.

戰勝敵對勢力

吴偉強牧師 2018年7月1日

離開加利利
馬可福音 6:1-29 
Withdrew from Galilee
Mark 6:1-29 
I. 耶穌一個木匠  馬可福音 6:1-6
少年人讚美主
馬可福音 6:1耶穌離開那裡,來到自己的家鄉,衪的門徒跟著衪。2到了安息日,衪開始在會堂裡教導人;很多人聽見了,都驚奇地說:“這個人從哪裡得來這一切呢?所賜給衪的是怎麼樣的智慧,竟然藉著他的手行出這樣的神蹟?3這不是那木匠嗎?不是馬利亞的兒子,雅各、約西、猶大、西門的哥哥嗎?衪的妹妹們不也在我們這裡嗎?”他們就厭棄耶穌。4耶穌對他們說:“先知除了在自己的本鄉、本族、本家之外,沒有不受人尊敬的。”5耶穌不能在那裡行甚麼神蹟,只給幾個病人按手,醫好了他們。6對於那些人的不信,衪感到詫異。耶穌到周圍的鄉村去繼續教導人。
馬太福音 2:19希律死後,在埃及,主的使者在夢中向約瑟顯現,20說:“那些要殺害這孩子的人已經死了。起來,帶著孩子和他母親回以色列地去吧。”21約瑟就起來,帶著小孩子和衪母親回到以色列地。22只是聽見亞基老接續他父親希律作了猶太王,他就不敢到猶太地去;又在夢中得了指示,於是往加利利境去,23來到拿撒勒城住下,這樣就應驗了先知所說的:“衪必稱為拿撒勒人。”
II. 差遣十二門徒  馬可福音 6:7-13 
馬可福音 6:7衪把十二門徒叫來,差遣他們兩個兩個地出去,賜給他們勝過污靈的權柄;8吩咐他們說:“除了手杖以外,路上甚麼都不要帶,不要帶乾糧,不要帶口袋,腰袋裡也不要帶錢,9只穿一雙鞋,不要穿兩件衣服。”10又對他們說:“你們無論到哪裡,進了一家就住在那家,直到離開那個地方。11甚麼地方不接待你們,不聽你們,你們離開那地方的時候,就要把腳上的灰塵跺下去,作為反對他們的見證。”12門徒就出去傳道,叫人悔改,13趕出許多鬼,用油抹了許多病人,醫好他們。
路加福音 22:35耶穌又對他們說:“從前我差你們出去,沒有帶錢囊、口袋、鞋子,你們缺乏甚麼沒有?”他們說:“沒有。”36耶穌說:“但現在,有錢囊的應當帶著,有口袋的也是這樣;沒有刀的,要賣掉衣服去買刀。
III. 施洗的約翰   馬可福音 6:14-29
馬可福音 6:14當時耶穌的名聲傳揚出去,希律王也聽到了。有人說:“施洗的約翰從死人中復活了,所以衪身上有行神蹟的能力。”15又有人說:“衪是以利亞。”還有人說:“衪是先知,像古時先知中的一位。”16希律聽見就說:“是約翰,我砍了他的頭,他又活了!”17原來希律曾親自派人去捉拿約翰,把他捆鎖在監裡。他這樣作,是為了他弟弟的妻子希羅底的緣故,因為他娶了希羅底為妻,18而約翰曾對希律說:“你佔有你兄弟的妻子是不合理的。”19於是希羅底懷恨在心,想要殺他,只是不能。20因為希律懼怕約翰,知道他是公義聖潔的人,就保護他。希律聽了約翰的話,就非常困擾,卻仍然喜歡聽他。
21有一天,機會來了。在希律生日的那一天,他為大臣、千夫長和加利利的要人擺設了筵席。22希羅底的女兒進來跳舞,使希律和在座的賓客都很開心。王就對女孩子說:“你無論想要甚麼,只管向我求,我一定給你!”23並且對她再三起誓:“你無論向我求甚麼,就是我國的一半,我也一定給你!”24於是她出去問母親:“我該求甚麼呢?”希羅底告訴她:“施洗的約翰的頭!”25她急忙到王面前,向王要求說:“願王立刻把施洗的約翰的頭放在盤子上給我!”26希律王非常憂愁,但是因為他的誓言和在座的賓客,就不願拒絕她。27希律王立刻差遣一個侍衛,吩咐把約翰的頭拿來。侍衛就去了,在監裡斬了約翰的頭,28把頭放在盤子上,拿來交給那女孩子,女孩子又交給她的母親。29約翰的門徒聽見了,就來把他的屍體領去,安放在墳墓裡。


馬太福音11:11我實在告訴你們,婦人所生的,沒有一個比施洗的約翰更大;然而天國裡最小的比他還大。


Monday, June 25, 2018

以基督的心為心

張牧師勉勵教會以基督的心為心
張牧師與尤伯伯交談甚歡
張國昇牧師  6/24/18

講道經文: 腓立比書二章五節
讀經:腓立比書二章一至五節

腓立比書是一本我們很愛唸的書信、因為內中有很多我們常常喜歡引用的金句。當我們心靈疲乏、煩惱、失去喜樂時、便會想起腓立比書4:4-6、要靠主常常喜樂;應當一無罣慮、凡事藉着禱告、祈求和感謝、將所要的告訴神。當我們年到中年仕途失意、或是看透了世上虛浮的榮華、開始細心地去衡量基督徒的人生時、發覺自己跟保羅也有同感:願意丟棄萬事、看作糞土、為要得着基督。(腓3:8)或者牧師看到一些在主𥚃已很有成就的信徒、抱著得意的滿足感想要退下來時、便用腓3:13-14 勉勵他們、「弟兄們、我不是以為自己已經得着了 . 我只有一件事、就是忘記背後、努力面前的、向着標竿直跑、要得 神在基督耶稣𥚃從上面召我來得的獎賞。」

不過腓立比書主要是一封宣教士的感恩信、是保羅為腓立比教會的信徒祈求感謝。「我每逢想念你們、就感謝我的神、每逢為你們眾人祈求的時候、常常歡歡喜喜的祈求。」保羅也彷佛寫出我對曾經服待過的眾教會的那份情誼。感謝神、在我認識你們的頭一天直到如今、你們都是與我同心合意的興旺福音。我也能見證神的恩典隨着我、無論在海德公園、在高撤斯特、或多明尼加的華人浸信會、都有一班弟兄姐妹與我同工、最難能可貴的就是「同心合意」這四個字。我還要稱讚你們、從頭一天直至如今都支持這個老牧師的宣教事工、並有弟兄姊妹、包括母會的會友、參與海外宣教的行列。更值得感恩的是自台灣短宣開始以來、每年都有青少年參加、今年的團隊有十三人、這也是代表了你們做父母的對兒女的愛心和教導。正如保羅說、「我深信那在你們心裡動了善工的、必成全這工、直到耶穌基督的日子。」(腓1:6)

一個能同心合意興旺福音的教會、就是肢體彼此相愛、合一的教會。這愛心是建立在真知識和見識上、使我們能把善工分別出來、同心地喜愛那美好的事。我也是同樣為你們 禱告、願你們的愛心、是建立在真正認識基督的知識和見識上。保羅願腓立比的信徒、行事為人與基督的福音相稱。有同一心志、站立得穩、為所信的福音齊心努力。(腓1:27)基督的福音就是表明神的愛和饒恕、在主裡若要能彼此相愛、同心合意興旺福音、就得先學會饒恕。因為在主内同工日子久了、一定會產生磨擦、言語衝突。若不能學會饒恕、便會積蓄出憤怒、分爭、甚至結黨、給不信的人有批評攻擊教會的把柄。「行事為人與基督的福音相稱」就是學會了愛和饒恕、正如神愛我們、在基督裡饒恕了我們一切的過犯。感謝神、你們雖然有時會意見不同、但從沒有結黨分爭、也沒有在牧師背後多說閒言。我在別的教會不但稱讚你們、也以你們合一的心去勉勵當地的信徒。在教會𥚃、肢體彼此相愛、在基督裏有真知識、才能站立得穏、為所信的福音齊心努力、不怕異端的攪擾、並且能夠有能力的去抵抗敵擋我們的人。

海外的華人教會、大部分都是小型的教會、三百人以上的教會佔極少數。有些剛開始被建立、有些正在成長。也有些歷史雖悠久、仍然是人數不多。雖然不能持續增長的因素很多、不過主要的共同點還是在資源上、無論在人力物力上都有很大的缺乏。可是在我看來、一個能興旺福音的教會、不是在乎教會裏有多少口才知識都全備的信徒。就如哥林多的教會、裏面有很多有屬靈恩賜的人、但保羅不稱讚他們、因為他們結黨分爭 、自高自大。腓立比的信徒卻真心的關懷保羅、與他同工、多次支持他的福音事工(腓4:14-18)保羅對他們愛心的稱讚是真誠的、對他們的勸勉是帶着滿有慈悲的心、「所以在基督裏若有甚麽勸勉、愛心有甚麼安慰、聖靈有甚麼交通、心中有甚麼慈悲憐憫、你們就要意念相同、愛心相同、有一樣的心思、有一樣的意念、使我的喜樂可以滿足。」(腓2:1-2)這段經文有兩個很明顯的詞語:「相同」和「一樣」。就是說教會能表揚合一的愛和心思意念、不單是使保羅的喜樂得以滿足、更是教會最有力的見證、得 神的喜悅。使徒行傳所描述的初期教會的門徒、「他們天天同心合意恆切的在殿裏、且在家中擘餅、存着歡喜誠實的心用飯、讚美神、得眾民的喜爱。主將得救的人、天天加给他們。」(徒2:46-47)一個信徒能合一彼此相愛的教會是得眾人喜愛的、最能吸引人教外人的好奇、去教會聽聽福音、教會自然會增長。一個同心禱告的教會是蒙福的教會、主會把人數天天加給他們。相反地、最容易破壞教會和諧合一的因素、就是結黨、各人貪圖虛浮的榮耀。保羅警告腓立比的信徒、行事為人不要存着私心。NIV 的用字比較更容易了解、“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider other better than yourselves.”(Phil. 2:3)就是行事為人不要為着自己的野心、貪圖虛浮的榮耀、高傲自大。 換句話說、在教會事奉、不要出風頭、爭着做頭、否則就沒有把基督尊重為教會的頭了。保羅說、「只要存心謙卑、各人看別人比自己強、各人不要單顧自己的事、也要顧別人的事。」(腓2:3-4)保羅說的謙卑、不是指那些虛偽的過度謙卑、過度的謙卑是假裝的、骨子里要暗示的卻是變相的驕傲。保羅所指出的謙卑、是看別人比自己強的謙卑、不是自私的謙卑去騙人謀利、乃是為別人的好處表達出來的謙卑。

教會的合一和諧、不是表面的平靜無風波。讓我用一個現實寫照的故事來說明一個真理:有一個年軽的傳道人、對一個浸信會的老牧師說、我的教會從來都沒有爭吵、一向都很平靜沒有風波。老牧師聽到就很羨慕、他每次參加同工會、或是甚麽委員會都要穿上全副軍裝、䕶心鏡遮胸、手拿籐牌擋着四面的火箭!他很想跟這個年青人學個秘訣。那年青傳道對牧師說、「沒有什麼秘訣、教會風平浪靜是因為信徒都很謙虛。我想請一個弟兄幫忙一些事工、他會很謙卑的說、我不成、你可以請某某人去作吧、他甚麼都比我棒。某人也同樣謙卑說他更不成、結果還是我一人去作。開會時誰都沒有意見、只有我在講話、沒有爭論!」這教會的信徒不是擁有謙虛之心、而是沒有火熱的心、對福音事工泠淡不關心。保羅所讚賞的是同心合意興旺福音、就是信徒在福音事工上、必須火熱去參與。弟兄姊妹配搭同工、必然會有不同的意見和看法、爭論是少不免的。要完成教會傳福音的使命、信徒必須意念相同、愛心相同、有一樣的心思、有一樣的意念、活出合一的異象。意見不同是健康的、可以切磋談論、但不要惡言對駡、傷害別人的自尊。不同意也不要作出丑陋之言行(It is OK to disagree without being disagreeable)這就是存心謙卑、彼此相顧。並且要逃避自私的野心、和虛浮的榮耀。這不是自然人 natural man 容易做到的、我們都喜歡人的讚賞、貪圖人的榮耀!所以保羅說、「你們當以基督耶穌的心為心。」(腓2:5)這就是事奉神正確的心志、也是教會弟兄姊妹和睦相處的秘訣。

基督耶穌的心志是僕人的心志、” a servant’s heart”; 耶穌自己説、「我心裏柔和謙卑、你們當負我的軛、學我的樣式。」(太11:29)有決心事奉神的人就要以基督耶穌的心為心、學基督的樣式。他說我心裏柔和謙卑、meek and lowly (KJV)or gentle and humble. (NIV).其實這兩種的翻譯都是表彰同一樣的觀念:Meek 就是雖有才能、卻不逞強、令與你接觸的人覺得有溫柔可親的 gentleness 感覺。Lowly 就是在事奉的岡位上只低調的默然去作、一點不張揚、不發怨言、表現出來的是一個謙卑的主僕、the model of a humble servant of the Lord.   主說、「人子來不是要受人的服事、乃是要服事人.  並且要捨命、作多人的贖價。」(太20:28)耶穌的榜樣是完全的順服天父。正如保羅在腓立比書所描述的基督、「他本有神的形像、不以自己與神同等為強奪的、反倒虛己、取了奴僕的形像、成為人的樣式.  既有人的樣子、就自己卑微、存心順服、以至於死、且死在十字架上。」(腓2:6-8)

今天我在吳牧師面前要稱讚你們、在我頭一天認識你們、你們都是同心合意的興旺福音、你們內中也沒有大的分爭。我每逢為你們禱告、就是我心中的喜樂。並且我要勉勵你們、各人蒙召、都以基督耶穌的心為心、正如保羅說、要愛惜光陰、彼此順服、(弗5:15、21) 以僕人的心志、把握機會去傳福音、在基督耶穌裏作忠心無愧的工人。(提後2:15)我也深信在你們心裏動了善工的、必成全這工、真到耶穌基督的日子。願主將得救的人數天天加給你們。