“I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” Romans chapter 9, verse 1 to 3.
This morning, we are going to look at a very simple subject, but very needful subject and it is on Christian Compassion. I’d like us to think about compassion. A word that is often thrown around. A word I am sure you will agree with. A word that I am sure you long for, even for your own life.
A story is told of a man who accidentally stumbled into a pit. And there were people that walked by this man in the pit. The first man was a mathematician. He sees this man in the pit, he shakes his head and says ‘well, let me calculate how much force and energy is required to lift you out of the pit.’ He did some mental calculations and he left the man in the pit.
A second man comes along. He works in the property tax department. And he calculates how much tax this man will have to pay for staying in the pit. And he moves on. The third man comes along. He is a news reporter. And he says ‘hey, can I have an exclusive news coverage of how you got into the pit?’ And he moves along.
Let me turn this to the spiritual people, or the religious people. A Pharisee came along. And the Pharisee says ‘you deserve to be in the pit because of your sins.’ And he moved on. And then you have a charismatic who comes along. And the charismatic says to him, ‘just confess you are not in the pit.’ And he moves along. Now you have all kinds of people who would see this man in his distress, in a pit crying for help but they will have all kinds of perspectives but none of them would help him.
Suppose a Singaporean would now to go by this pit. What do you think the Singaporean would do? Singaporean. (Someone in the congregation suggested : ask him for 4-D). (Laughter from congregation). (Another suggestion : ask the government to help). That’s right. Call the government to help. Ministry of National Development or whatever. Well, let me say ‘I think this is maybe what a Singaporean or Singaporeans will do.’ (A drawing of an arm waving in the water signalling for help while the group of people on the shore is taking pictures of his arm with their mobile phones). Instead of helping the guy, they whip out their handphone and take a photo of the man in the waters and put it up on Stomp.
Now this is maybe a humorous story of how we can see people in distress and not have compassion towards them. Compassion is not just feelings. Compassion is reaching out practically, also, to help them. We may laugh at a story like this but it really hits home when it is real and it is about life and death, isn’t it?
Last year, in October, we have this whole media coverage of a little young child about 2-plus years old, not yet three. This is the little girl (picture of her is flashed on the screen). She somehow looks a little bit like my son, Shawn. A girl in China. And it was a tragic story. A tragic story where she wandered away from her mother. She walked onto the streets. And then came a white-coloured van, oblivious to her in front of the van. The driver was said to be on the handphone, talking. He drove and knocked this girl down. I have a video of that but it’s too graphic to show the whole scene. But what happened was that this girl was knocked and she fell backwards and her head slammed against the ground. She suffered intracranial hemorrhage or bleeding in the brains. Her brain stem where it controls much of the vital functions of the body is cut, severed, and she was in a vegetative state for quite some time.
Now what was shocking was not that the van hit her. What was shocking was not that the van continued to roll over her even though it was stuck for a while. The driver just stepped on the accelerator and moved over her. What was shocking was what transpired for the next ten minutes. I’m going to show you a video right now of a scene of what happened. It’s an edited, censored version so you can watch in peace. But this is it. Let’s see the news report on Yue Yue, this 2-year-old girl.
(Before the video footage came on, the newscaster explains, ‘this video footage shows a harrowing scene of a van running over a toddler in the middle of a narrow street in China. The child is in critical condition and the entire video is too much to bear but it is necessary to show you what happened before and after the accident because of the reaction of bystanders. Take a look at this.’ The video starts playing. ‘You see the toddler, a 2-year-old girl. She just wandered away from her parents into the street. The van, in the distance, runs her over, then drives away. We don’t know for sure, though, if the driver saw her. But this is what’s shocking. How could these people miss her? (She was lying in the middle of the street). Security camera footage shows people walking by, people on bicycles pedalling on and those in their cars and on their motorcycles just driving past. This went on for a full ten minutes. No one stopped as a young girl lay in the middle of the street. This is in the city of Foshan. Now you see there a woman with a sack. She is a 58-year-old lady described as a scavenger. She does stop to move the child. Later she tells reporters that she didn’t understand why no one else had carried her from the street.’ (End of video)
It was a full 10 minutes that anyone took notice of the girl and helped her. 18 people went by and it’s not because they didn’t see her. If you see the clip carefully, there were people who were there and skirted around her. They avoided her and pretended that she was not there. This is a story that really brought some bitter soul-searching to people, isn’t it? About the declining morality in the world we live in because deep in our hearts we all know, though we are fallen people, there is a need for compassion. The world understands it and the church of Jesus Christ must understand it. After all, the Lord Jesus Christ was a man of immense compassion. If you think about people with compassion in the scriptures, the Lord Jesus Christ comes right up. He’s got full of grace and truth.
At the very same time, we also think about the story of the Good Samaritan. How there was a man that was robbed and beaten and the good samaritan was the only man who loved his neighbour and helped him. But I’d like us this morning to consider another great man of compassion. This man may not be your first choice because, oftentimes, we think of him as a go-getter, we think of him as a Type A personality kind of a guy. We think of this guy as a driven, motivated evangelist. But let me say this : the scriptures allow us today to catch a glimpse of the compassion and love of the great apostle Paul. I’d like us to look at Romans 9 and verses 1-3, where it says here :
“I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”
Just these 3 verses allow us a glimpse into the great heart of this man. We know that apostle Paul had a great mind. He’s brilliant. I think he will be a scholar. He will be a straight-A student in our society today without a shadow of a doubt. Great mind, but he was a man also with a great heart. A man of great compassion for his kinsmen, his brethren.
So this morning, let us go to the matters of the heart. Let’s today see what Christian Compassion should be from apostle Paul’s life. A few things I’d like to share with you from this text :
- The Significance.
I see the significance of the compassion of Apostle Paul. The importance of his compassion. It is often said, here and elsewhere, that people don’t quite care what you know until they know that you care. Paul obviously understood this. You see, Paul is now Public Enemy No. 1 to the Jews. He was supposed to be the star of Pharisaism. He is the poster boy, the blue-eyed boy. Everybody looks at him and say ‘You are the man’. From a young age he has learnt the scriptures. He has studied under Gamaliel, the guru of those days. He was destined, in a sense, in their eyes, to be the top Pharisee, I think.
But, one day, Paul turned that all around from defending Judaism against Jesus Christ, he defected to the Jesus’ camp. And the Jews were wondering ‘What’s happening? Why are you now a traitor?’ To them, Paul is like Public Enemy No. 1. And what’s worse is that if you read the book of Romans, at least for the first few chapters, you would think that Paul really doesn’t like the Jews. He condemns the Jews. He says that God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you. He tells them that ‘you are sinners’, right in their face.
And the Jews must be wondering ‘Hey, must you really be so hard on us? Are you really a traitor? are you really against us? Paul says no, I’m not against you. I’m not your enemy. Yes, I preach hard against you but my heart is FOR you. I have to tell you these hard truths in order that you may be saved. But please understand my real sincere heart for you is that you might be saved. He says ‘I grieve for you.’ My heart is continuously in anguish, in sorrow, in heaviness. And I wish I could give my life, my salvation that you could be saved, if it were possible at all. You see, Paul is saying to them ‘I am for you. I care for you. The hard things I say to you is not that I hate you but I really am concerned and burdened for you.’
I think, as parents, you can all understand that, can’t you? A good parent doesn’t shun away from hard truths to a child. I mean, you are irresponsible if your child is doing something wrong and hazardous and dangerous to himself and you don’t tell him he is in the wrong. You are irresponsible. A preacher today must not sugar-coat the message of God. We live in a day where people love to speak about nice things. And we think that speaking nice things alone is loving to the church. No. Paul loved his people but he did not shy away from the hard truths. He gave them tough love. But it is love. He gave them hard truths but not harshly, you see. So Paul gave truth but it was all because of love. This is a great balance. Oh, we must give truth and not shun away from reality, from what God declares. But at the same time, let us be mindful, as Paul reminds us here in Romans 9 that we give the right truth in love. The message and the motivation must be right.
A church had just recently sacked their pastor and gotten a new pastor. And a new visitor comes into the church and says ‘hey, has this man always been your pastor?’ ‘No’, they say. ‘We just sacked our pastor.’ ‘Why did you sack your former pastor?’ ‘Well, because he always preaches about hell.’ ‘Then, what about your new pastor?’ ‘Well, he also preaches a lot about hell.’ ‘So, what is the difference?’ ‘The difference is this : the former pastor preached about hell and looked like he was glad about it but this pastor preaches about hell and he weeps over it . His heart is broken for those who are destined or, in a sense, heading towards hell.’
You see, the message may be the same but what matters is the heart and the motivation. Paul is saying, I know I’ve been hard on you. I know I’ve been telling that you have shamed God’s name. You are sinners in His sight. But it’s because I love you. And I’ll be willing to give myself for you.
It was said of the great speaker, great preacher evangelist DL Moody – Dwight Lyman Moody – that there was never once he preached about hell without weeping for the people. That was the heart of the great evangelist. Is it his words, his eloquence? It’s his heart, my friends. John Knox, as you’ve heard last week, was a man who had continuous sorrow and burden for lost souls. And often, with tears streaming from his eyes, he says ‘Give me Scotland, or I die’. What about that man John Bunyan? It was said that when he preached the gospel, oftentimes he would be willing to swap his salvation for the salvation of others. That tells me about the great heart of men who walked with God. Oh, MacArthur says ‘Evangelism is the Sword of God’. It’s the heart cry. It’s how Jesus says Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I wanted to gather you but you would not. It’s a cry. A cry of love for people who would reject the Lord Jesus Christ. My friends, if you are a believer today, if you are a follower of Jesus, that will be the compassion within your soul because Jesus lives in you. Spurgeon, the ever quotable preacher, says :
“Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that … The saving of souls, if a man has once gained love to perishing sinners and his blessed Master, will be an all-absorbing passion to him. It will so carry him away, that he will almost forget himself in the saving of others …”
If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”
The passion for people, the compassion for lost souls. Gospel Light Christian Church has a mission and we seek today to lead generations into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s our mission. That’s the great commission. But there is a danger that sometimes we latch on to a mission and lose the motivation. We do it maybe just to add a feather to our cap. God’s people may be about evangelism and discipleship and disciple-making, hoping just to look good and forget that it’s about souls, it’s about compassion. It’s for the love for people. If God truly lives in you and you are walking with Him, there will be a compassion for people.
What is great about church. It’s not about the building. We thank God for this great facility, great ambience, great place, great location but friends, is that what church is all about? No. If God were to take us away one day from this place, what will it be that you rejoice in? I choose to rejoice in the people of God who have the compassion from God. And it’s about the love for people, it’s about the love for people, it’s about the care for people. That’s what church is all about. It’s the heartware. It’s the software here (pointing at his heart). Right here ~ you.
I’m reminded of this as I reflected on the story some years ago. I was with Brother Kay Hong in China and he left me and he continued to enjoy his stay there. And I had to come back. And I was in the airport terminal and, in those years, China was very big on business seminar talks and speakers. I mean, every cafe I went to, I saw people, speakers talking about how to make more money and how to be a successful businessman and entrepreneur. I sat down in one of the cafes and I was watching this speaker, this seminar speaker, great speaker, eloquent. His name is Mr Yu.
Mr Yu shared about his experience in going to hotels and in particular to this hotel in Bangkok. He said he woke up one morning and decided to have a nice breakfast. Got out of the room. And as he got out of the room, a lady who was sweeping the floor and vacuuming the place saw him and she put her hands together, bowed down and said ‘Good morning, Mr Yu’. Wah, Mr Yu was very amazed. He has been going to hotels all over the world but this is the first time when he opens the door that someone would know his name and greet him good morning. So he was very pleasantly surprised and asked her ‘Hey, how did you know my name?’ She said, ‘Sir, in our hotel, when the guests sleep at night, we all get up to memorise all your names.’
Wah, Mr Yu was very impressed. You actually take the effort to do so? Yes, this is what our hotel advocates and tells us to do. So, good morning, Mr Yu. So, feeling ‘shiok’ (a word to convey a feeling of pleasure and happiness) about himself, greeted by his name, he got downstairs and as the lift door opens, he steps out. And the bell-boy saw him. the bell-boy, likewise, puts his hand together and said ‘Good morning, Mr Yu’. Now, Mr Yu is very shocked. Don’t tell me last night you memorised all the names of every guest in this hotel? The bell-boy says ‘No, Sir, but when you came down, the lady, via intercom, told us you’ll be coming down.’ (Laughter from the congregation). Mr Yu felt so appreciated and cared for and it’s like so significant in this hotel and he had a great breakfast.
Well, his business tour in Bangkok was over and he was about to go back and he went to the front desk reception to settle his bills and so on, and the receptionist handed him a paper and says, ‘Thank you, Mr Yu, for spending your time with us here in this hotel. We look forward to seeing you for the sixth time.’ ‘Huh? You mean you knew I have been here for 5 times already?’ Yes, we have it in your personal records. Wah, Mr Yu was deeply impressed with this hotel who cared for him, who took a personal interest in him. He has not gone back to the hotel for some time and one day, in his mailbox, he received a letter. Guess where it is from? It is from the same hotel. He opened the letter and it says ‘Dear Mr Yu, we have not seen you for some years and we have missed you deeply. Should you happen to come by Bangkok again, we do look forward to seeing you and serving you once more. But, Mr Yu, here’s wishing you a very happy birthday.’ Signed Hotel Management.
Now I ask you, if Mr Yu is to go back to Bangkok, which hotel do you think he will go to? The same hotel. Does it matter if their toilet is not the state-of-the-art kind? Does it matter if the rooms are not the biggest? No. What matters is I felt cared-for in this hotel that I was in. Love in action. Loving in little ways. Caring for the individual. The Church of Jesus Christ can easily be morphed into a kind of machinery, factory, industry. That’s not what church is about. Church is about God’s people who have known the love of God, sharing the love of God to the people around us. It’s not about the pastor shaking hands. It’s not the pastor smiling. It’s about the people. Each one of you, a follower of Jesus, having the love for others. Does it matter if someone dresses differently, speaks differently, looks differently comes in? Would you shun him? Or would you care for him? Would you have the compassion for people? I see that this is significant. As the church moves on, let us not forget it’s about the heartware, it’s about the love for others, it’s about the compassion of Jesus especially for those who are still outside the kingdom of God.
But let me move on. I see not only in this passage the significance, the importance of Paul’s compassion. I see secondly the sincerity of his compassion.
- The Sincerity
When you read those words in verses 2 and 3. Frankly, in my mind, the first thing I have is the Hokkien phrase ‘joon boh?’ or ‘oo how siao boh?’ That is to say ‘Are you for real? Are you serious?’ Ah, maybe Paul is just a very politically-correct guy. He knows what to say, he knows what buttons to press, he knows how to ‘curry favour’. He knows how to say the right things, to be politically accepted. I understand he is a very good PR guy. Is that really what Paul is? Paul says, no, I am dead serious. I am not kidding. I am sincere in my compassion, in my love for my brethren. How do you know that? Look at what he says carefully. He says in Rom 9 : verse 1: ‘I say the truth’. This is really how I feel and he adds on ‘in Christ’. Wah, this is serious. He invokes the 2nd Person of the Trinity to be his witness ~ I say the truth IN CHRIST. And if this is not enough, ‘I lie not’. I’m not kidding, ‘my conscience also bearing me witness’. And if you still don’t believe him, he says ‘in the Holy Ghost’. Paul is saying ‘verily, verily, verily, verily, verily’. When Jesus spoke, Jesus sometimes uses ‘verily, verily’ ~ 2 times. Paul is saying, this is really serious truly, truly, truly, truly, truly, I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart for you. And he invokes two persons of the Trinity to be his witness ~ the Son and the Spirit. He’s serious about this, folks. He does have a genuine concern for his people ~ great heaviness, sorrow, anguish, continually in his heart. How deep is his concern? How deep is his love? The bible tells me he says in verse 3 “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ..”.
Now I can understand if you are willing to die for your son. But this is a man who is willing to die for those who hurt him, for those who persecute him, who he says in 2 Corinthians 11:24 ‘of the Jews I received 39 stripes, 5 times. Here is a man who did not only desire to die but also to say may I be cursed, if it were possible. Now, obviously Paul is saying this as a matter of feeling and not as a matter of theology. It is not possible that’s why he did not say ‘For I would wish’. He says ‘I could wish’. It’s a step before I would. It’s impossible that Paul would say ‘I could go to hell for you because he already taught us just in one or two verses before : ‘Nothing shall separate us from the love of God.’ So understand that this is not Paul saying ‘I could make a swap deal’. No one could do that. Paul is expressing the heartfelt affections within his soul. He really means it. I can’t even begin to scratch the depth of the love of Paul for his people. I can’t. I preach this with great shame because I don’t sense in me that great burden that this great man who had a great heart had for his people. Most of us, I suspect, won’t have that same deep passion and compassion for souls.
But Paul is not alone here, you see. There have been great men in scriptures who had the same heart. Turn your minds back thousands of years ago to the man Moses. Moses was a great man, great leader who led the people of Israel for 40 years in the wilderness. But look at the heart of the great man, Moses, in Exodus 32:32, when the people sinned against God in the sin of the golden calf. What did Moses say? He says ‘Yet now, if you will forgive their sin -; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of your book which you have written.’ Moses is saying ‘I am willing to be with my people. Blot me out of your book.’ Of course, it’s not possible. But again it’s an expression of the heart and compassion from great men. What about the weeping prophet, Jeremiah? Why is he the weeping prophet? In chapter 9:1 “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” Deep compassion.
The heart of our Saviour Jesus : ‘But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them….’ Mat 9:36, because He saw something that people don’t always see. He saw beyond their physical environments, He saw beyond their physical state. He saw their spiritual state ~ that they were fainting, they were weak, they were weary. He saw that they were scattered abroad. They were lost and they were without a shepherd. He saw their spiritual state and He was moved within His inner man. And the great cry of Jesus in Mat 23:37 ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem’. Great men of scriptures have had the same experience as Paul ~ a heart of compassion. It is real. It is real. Please, folks, don’t read this text and think this is theoretical, this is way out in outer space. It is real for a man who is walking with God.
And, I think, genuine compassion would not be the Singaporean who sees a man in the water and take out a handphone to snap a photo of. Real compassion will be manifested in action. Compassion begins in the heart but it will result in actions in our lives. And I see that in Paul. Paul is not a man who just had words. He had more than words. In Romans 10:1, we read of him saying ‘Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is : that they might be saved.’ He says I am praying for you. I’m not just wishing. I’m praying, I’m taking time to pray. I’m burdened enough to pray. I’m praying for you.
Do you pray? You say ‘Pastor, I care for lost souls… in my heart. You can’t see it, Pastor, but it’s in my heart.’ Paul doesn’t say, it’s in my heart alone. It’s in my heart, but it’s in my prayer. Look at how he lives his life, how he shares the word of God in Acts 20:31 ‘Therefore watch, and remember,’ he says, ‘that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one, night and day, with tears.’ What an indictment to my own self. I wept for some things in life. I hardly weep but I do weep. I ask myself how many times have I wept for the people. Not just the church, but for the unsaved. Why weep? Paul is saying this is my ministry. You knew how I lived with you. You knew how I taught you and you knew that I am not just giving you my mind but I am giving you my heart and my life as I weep for you. Compassion in the heart will result in action in our lives. Sometimes we always think that, alright, I have compassion, I am willing to die for you but may I say this : compassion does not always need to be in the big things, it can also be in the small things. A love for people often begins in little ways, in little things. And I have experienced that.
I want to share with you a little testimony from our church, right here, right now. A lady who is here. On 2nd February, or, I think, on 4th or 5th February this year, I received a letter specially for Shawn Lim. Now when I saw that, I said ‘what did Shawn do wrong this time?’ I mean, when you receive a letter, you always think, oh no, either you forgot to do this, pay this or reminder letter or jiak lat (‘very serious’ in Hokkien) already lah. And this one is specially for Shawn. O my, I don’t know what my son did and it says ‘Thank you very much, Mr Postman :)’. I thought it’s a cute letter so I opened it and I brought it here with me today and here it goes :
I took out the letter. It was a beautiful letter written with nice handwriting, different from mine. And I’ve asked the lady in this church for permission to share. And so I’ll share but name will be anonymous, alright? It says here : ‘Hello, Shawn’s Mommy, please help me read this note to Shawn.’ I was upset. Why Shawn’s Mommy? Why not Shawn’s Daddy? Just kidding, alright? But she says help me read this note to Shawn. Thank you. It goes on : ‘Hello, Shawn, how are you? It has been 5 weeks. Wow! Aunty So-and-so thank God for Shawn. Because of Shawn and your friends, Aunty is a teacher in Sunday School. Mmm, I finally waited and waited since Shawn was a baby and, ta-da, finally Shawn is a big boy and now in my class. Thank you very much for always trying so hard to do those actions when Aunty teaches a memory verse. Thank you, Shawn, for being so attentive in class. Sometimes Aunty thinks that she lost Shawn for a while when Aunty is telling a story. But, no, Aunty is wrong because Shawn is listening and pays attention. Thank you. Thank God for Shawn always do your work neatly although being insistent on certain colours that you like. You are such a joy to teach and Aunty and all your Sunday School teachers look forward to every Sunday. Remember to thank Mommy for reading this note to you, ok?’ So I refused to read this to my son. ‘Ok, be good. And see you this Sunday. Aunty So-and-so and all the teachers love Shawn. And most importantly, Jesus loves Shawn and Daddy and Mommy and Grandma, of course.’ And at the bottom, she attaches a little heart. It is a sticker, a 3-D sticker. Not a cheapo sticker.
Now when I received this letter, I was just blessed in my heart. Blessed to know of God’s love in this dear lady in our Sunday School who loves the children, who loves my son. Just blessed. You know, I didn’t have to find out the curriculum for the ministry. I didn’t ask this lady ‘what do you teach, huh? Can you email me all the 4 laws, 3 truths. Tell me your curriculum, please.’
This letter showed me what mere intellectualism will never do ~ touch the hearts of the child and of the parents. Little things. I mean, probably 50 cents to send the letter? But the message is loud and clear. O, this is what life is about, isn’t it? We have so much information today. But what people did is not information, it’s demonstration. Demonstration of the love of Jesus in our lives. Don’t get me wrong. I think it is important for us to be a people of truth. A people who knows the doctrines of scripture because love rejoices in truth and not in iniquity. But there is a danger for us to swing to intellectualism and not have love. It’s cold. It’s lifeless. It’s not the way of Jesus. Jesus is full of grace and truth. Tremendous message. Can I pray that God will give us men and women who love souls, children? I want to thank God for our children’s ministry, Sunday School ministry here. All of you are touching lives with your love. Parents, touch your children’s life with your love, please. It’s not telling them you must score 95 marks in your Mathematics. It’s not telling them you must excel in your tuition class. It’s your love for them. Sincere love for them in the little things you do for them. I think that’s so natural for parents.
I went cycling with my son yesterday at East Coast Park ~ one of our regular things ~ and you have options to choose bicycles. One type is where the baby seat is in front and one type is where the baby seat is at the back. Guess which one I’ll choose. Which one is easier, by the way? I think the one at the back, lah. I’ve not tried it. But I think the one at the back is easier. Why? Because the one in front means you have to cycle like this (with elbows stretched out). And after the 2 hours of cycling, I went back. I told my wife my arms were reallly aching. I had to cycle on the sand because the roads are closed. But I would do it for my son. No questions asked. Why? Because it’s for him to enjoy the scenery. If you have love, it’s the little things you do that will matter.
I was blessed recently. I met up with a senior man in the faith. And he had been such an encouragement to my heart. And I have been corresponding with him. And the emails he wrote, quite a lot of things, but there was this statement that really blessed me. He said ‘I have been praying regularly for you’. That’s it. I have been praying regularly for you. It’s the little things. What does it mean for us to be a church? Does it mean that today all of you go out and die, kamikaze kind of surrender and sacrifice? No. You lay down your life for your brethren begin with the little things. When someone walks in to the church, begin with a little handshake. Begin with a little smile. It won’t cost you much. It doesn’t even cost you 50 cents. That smile. Probably expends 5 joules of energy. One fishball will more than cover it. That little handshake, that little hello, that little embracing of someone who needs love. Would we be a church that becomes a country club or will it be a church that loves lost souls regardless of their backgrounds, regardless of how sinful they are. We will love them to Jesus Christ. Will we be a people like this? That’s what love is. That’s what the heartware is all about. Will we serve? Serve people ~ feeding them, blessing them. Will we do that?
Yesterday, or the day before, I can’t remember. Usually we hardly watch television. But there was one time that the TV was on as the background kind of thing. I was not paying attention until I heard this name. It’s a Chinese programme. It’s on how the budget of Singapore, 2012 Budget, impacts the society today and the commentator said this name ‘Har-si-li-na’. My ears popped. My attention was grabbed and because I was not wearing my glasses, I sat really near the TV set and I was watching, ‘who is this Harsilina?’ because it sounds really familiar. I saw the TV camera onto her and it is the same lady I knew. They went on to tell about how she lives in a family of 5 kids and the sole source of income is from the husband who is now working as an odd-job labourer. Inconsistent pay, low salary. And the 5 kids are all growing children. Two of them have learning disabilities, could not study well in school and she was remarking how the children are now growing up as teenagers. And as teenagers, they eat a lot more. And when they eat more, they grow bigger. And when they are bigger, they eat more.
And that thought came to me. This lady is right at our doorstep. She lives right across the road. If you bother to drive, it is 5 minutes away. She was with us on Christmas twice, Saturday and Sunday. She has been coming to join us in our Op-Zion Outreach. And I’m saying God is giving us people around us to show the love of Christ, right here : Kids’ Club, Before After School Care (BASC). If you listen to the stories of the children in BASC, you know they are not like the children we have today. And what do they desperately crave for? Love. Love of a Saviour. Unconditional love for them.
My friends, there are people all around you today who need the love of God, the compassion of Christ. Would you show forth the sincerity of your love? It is not in the big things. Let me encourage you to start with the small things ~ a handshake, a smile, a word, an encouragement to your colleagues, to your neighbours, to your friends. In the church, let’s welcome those who have not Jesus and love them to the cross. Serve the poor. Serve those who are outside the kingdom of God. It’s the heartware. But let me close and close with this thought : We speak a lot about love, we have spoken about the compassion of Christ. We know it’s important. We know it will be manifested in practical life. The question is : where do I get this compassion? Where do I get this love? Pastor, you speak much about it, but I see in myself no ability to love. I see in myself no hope of being like apostle Paul. Hey, let’s study it, let’s understand how Paul got to this state. Where did he get the source of love and compassion?
- The Source.
You know, I believe Paul was not born like this. I believe Paul was actually a very self-centred, selfish man. I believe so. Why? Because of Philippians chapter 3. He said since young this is the way he has lived his life : to earn the righteousness of God. His whole life is about saying, Lord, I am good enough for you. That’s his whole life. Everything he did. Studying the scriptures, being a Pharisee, persecuting the church of Jesus. He thought those were the means by which he can get himself right with God. So I think Paul was not a naturally compassionate man. Certainly not in the way the bible describes him to be now. He was passionate but for self. So what made the difference? How did this persecutor become a pastor? How did this cruel man become a compassionate man? I think this is the whole divinity of Christianity. This is the power of the living Christ. It all changed one day when he met with Jesus on the road to Damascus. That was the turning point of Paul. And that is where I believe Paul has compassion. It was because of Jesus. It was the day Jesus came into his life that I believe Paul now realizes he doesn’t have to earn acceptance with God but he can enjoy and experience acceptance with God. I think that’s why Paul is right to write on Romans chapter 8 that ‘I am deeply, strongly, eternally loved by God in Jesus Christ’.
You know, when you do not know the love of God, you are always grabbing attention and acceptance. You read about Whitney Houston? That wakes us up. Whitney Houston. She struggled with acceptance. She’s always wondering, am I good enough? Am I good enough? Am I good enough?’ If only she would know, in Christ, we are loved and accepted by God. This is the world struggling with that and Paul however knows that he’s deeply loved by God in Jesus. That began a process where he could now instead of trying to love self; love others. I see Paul’s life not only does he have the love of Christ, he also learns of Christ. Philippians 3 tells us this is the one thing he does that I may know Him. He says I want to learn of my Saviour and when he sees Jesus, he sees compassion, amongst many other things, of course. But he sees the beauty of Jesus in his love and compassion.
My friends, do you realize that Jesus is compassion incarnate? Do you realize that when God became man that is the greatest evidence of the compassion of God. God did not take out a handphone and say, huh, look at you guys in your sin. He came down and became man. That condescension is blowing our minds. If I were today, or you were today, to become a slave to save slaves, you might think it great but it’s nowhere compared to the condescension of God become flesh. Look at the life of Christ, how He healed, how He touched the leper – people that nobody wants to mix with. He touches them. The compassion of Christ. I read of interest of how he would purposely go to the land of Gadarenes. Purposely. Because the scripture tells us He goes over to Gadarenes, delivers the demonic and then He comes back straightaway. The compassion for that ONE man.
I read of how Jesus, during a great feast, did not celebrate or rejoice in the streets of Jerusalem but he deliberately went to a hospital place ~ the Pool of Bethsaida. And there were gathered people who were lame and sick, and of illness for years in their lives, waiting for a miraculous cure. Nobody would go there but Jesus did. Our Saviour is of deep compassion and Paul learns of Jesus Christ. But, my friends, it’s not enough for us to know of the love of Christ to learn of Christ you will have no love until you have a life of Christ in you. And Jesus lives in you today by His blessed Holy Spirit. You see, compassion, love and mercy is not the works of the flesh. You cannot squeeze it out of you. It is the fruit of the Spirit.
The church today can only find that love in Jesus our Lord. Would you today rejoice in His strong love for you already? Would you today learn of your Saviour and follow in His steps of love and compassion? And would you today look to the blessed Holy Spirit? Walk in the Spirit. You will not fulfil the lust of the flesh but you will have in your life the fruit of love, joy, peace and so on. May the beauty of Jesus be seen in you. My friends, people need the Lord. They are all around us. All around us. If only we have the eyes of Jesus to see them weary, lost, without a shepherd. May the love of Christ drive us to do so.
I close with an illustration that I often use. I want to remind you again of this great man of God ~ Hudson Taylor. There was once he was on board this boat on a journey. And there was with him a good friend, Peter. But Peter is still outside of the kingdom. He is not saved. Hudson Taylor was doing something when he suddenly heard a splash in the waters. He turned and he saw what he most feared. Peter is now in the waters. Peter can’t swim and he was struggling and quickly going under. And Hudson Taylor caught a glimpse of fishermen nearby who have nets that are used for fishing. And he shouted out to them ‘can you please save this man?’ The people seemed to ignore him. He shouted again ‘save this man with your nets and I will pay you’. The men turned their eyes unto Hudson Taylor and say ‘how much?’ ‘Five dollars.’ They say ‘that’s not good enough. It’s not convenient for us.’ ‘How much do you want?’ ‘Twenty dollars.’ Hudson Taylor scrambled to take out all the money he has. He says ‘I have only fourteen dollars. Please, please, save this man. He is dying.’
The fishermen delayed for a moment and decided for fourteen dollars they will do it. So they came, threw their net into the waters and managed finally to haul Peter up. Hudson Taylor, seeing that this life, this body is motionless and lifeless began a resuscitation on him. But, alas, it was too late. Peter’s life had already ebbed away. He had died because the people had not rescued him in time. He died possibly outside Jesus Christ. And there was great anguish and sorrow that filled the heart of Hudson Taylor at that point of time. I mean, it is someone that is heading into a Christless eternity and all that was needed was just someone who would come and save Peter at the first instance. But soon he turned to himself. Isn’t this the same with me? Isn’t this the same with the church of Jesus Christ? There are people today who are dying. Not just dying physically but dying spiritually. And they are heading into the fires of hell and we are too busy, too busy to listen to the people.
My friends, we need today to walk with God. We need today to look to Jesus because it’s only when we are walking with Jesus then will the love of God truly be in our hearts. And the great commission be fulfilled within His people. May God help us today to turn our eyes to Jesus and say ‘God give us your eyes, your ears and your heart for the lost. Let’s bow for a word of prayer.
This morning we come to our knees, in our hearts, because we realize that for many of us, we are cold. We are cold towards the people around us. So caught up with our cares and affairs. People go by our lives, our families, our loved ones, our neighbours, our friends. And we will not reach out a hand of love, a word of truth. We will not tell them about Jesus whom they desperately need. My friends, there had never been a man that you have locked eyes with who does not need Jesus Christ. Everybody needs the Lord. And God wants to use us to reach these dear souls. And He wants to first fill your life with His love and you may be able to do so.
And so friends, before we launch out and rush out, I want to ask you today to consider your walk with Jesus because it’s all about that. It’s only when our inner lives is right that we will have the outer manifestation of the love of Christ. It’s only when we know we are deeply loved, only when we learn of Christ and we have the life of Christ in the Spirit that truly the great commission will be fulfilled. So pray with me this morning. Ask God to give you the eyes of Jesus, to lay souls in our eyes, to have the ears of Jesus to hear the cries of the people around us and to have the heart of Jesus. O that we may approximate the love of Jesus, the love of Paul.
And my dear friends, this morning, I want to plead with you for your soul. Do you know today that without Jesus you are heading into a scary, fearful fate and destiny? This is the age of grace where there is time yet now for you to turn from your sin and to believe in Jesus Christ. But my friends, the age of grace will shut one day. It will shut the day you take your last breath or it will shut the day when Jesus comes again and then the wrath of God, the Holy God, will be poured out amongst all sinners who reject His Son. Can I ask you today to consider the claims of Christ ‘Believe in Jesus that you may be saved otherwise you stand condemned. O, I say this not because I delight in it but I say this because you need it. And I pray you today will be delivered from a life of sinfulness to Jesus Christ, to know the true and living God. Turn from your sin and look to Jesus who died for you on the cross. He shed His blood. He paid for your sins. We sang ‘Jesus paid it all’. Trust in Him, in His finished work. Friends, people need the Lord. You need the Lord. Let us come to Jesus.
Father, we thank you. We can plead with you for your work in our hearts that this morning this sermon will not be a lecture, a theory but by the enabling of your Spirit, you will mould and shape us to be more like your Son. This is our sincere prayer that this church will not just be filled with head knowledge but our hearts will be right, that our church, your people, will be about the work of the great commission, not just as a task but as a passion because there’s a love for souls. And Lord, we pray for those who are outside the kingdom today. Have mercy. Call them by your Spirit and bring them to salvation and life and we will be careful to give you the glory and praise. Thank you. We ask and pray all this now in Jesus’ name. Amen. God bless.