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03. The Parable of the Two Foundations: Wisdom

 

Chapter 3

A Wise Man Gives What He Cannot Keep To Gain What He Cannot Lose

The Parable of the Two Foundations

Luke 9:23-27

Eric H. H. Chang

“What Is A Truly Wise Man?”
Melbourne Camp, January 14, 1990

 

We are facing many mountains today. You have mountains in your life; I have mountains in my life; the world is full of mountains; and the church is full of mountains. My heart is very heavy today because of the mountains that surround and are within the church. I will try to explain to you why a little bit later in the message. So we need the faith that prays this prayer to remove the mountains as in the song:

Give me the faith that can remove
And sink the mountain to a plain

Brothers and sisters, it may be too late for the church. I hope it is not too late for you.

My message has two parts today. The first part relates to you, each person individually, that truly it will not be too late for you. The second part relates to the church of God, to which you and I, we all belong, if you are truly a Christian. For the most part of the church unfortunately, it is too late. Over these recent months, God has given me a prophetic message and prophetic insight that it is too late. I remember one morning only a few months ago, I said to my wife, Helen, “It is finished!” I think she could not quite understand what I was saying. I repeated to her several times, “It is finished!” I will explain a little further on why this is so.

If it is entirely hopeless, then why do we still sing this song: “Give me the faith”? There is a very small element of hope, and brothers and sisters, you are the hope for the church of God in these final days. We live in the last ten years of the second millennium of human history, since the days of Christ. You and I are living in very, very important days that even you and I, don’t begin to understand how important they are. If all you can think about through your life, and through the coming days after you leave this camp, is how to proceed with your profession, how to make more money, how to earn more degrees, you don’t know the day or the hour in which you are now living, and you will be among those five foolish virgins who got locked out, and lost their hour of opportunity. Let us make this our prayer: Give me the faith.

Part 1: Be wise—Enter into a living relationship with God, the Rock

The first part of this message concerns what we did not finish yesterday: How do we enter into a living relationship with the Rock of our salvation? If I asked you to stand up to let us know that you are in a day-to-day living relationship with God, how many people in this room would dare to stand up? I’m not going to ask you to do that because my purpose is not to embarrass anyone, much less that you should feel proud of yourself when in fact, your relationship to God may be quite weak. But as one who has been in the pastoral work for many, many years, I know that there are very few people in any church who have a deep and living relationship with the Lord God. Of course, the church is made up of individuals, and if it is true that there are so few Christians—maybe including yourselves—whose relationship to God is very weak, then what happens to the church?

Is the Church spiritually awake or asleep?

I don’t like to be unkind, but if your mind is a bit logical in thinking, you will notice some kind of contradiction in the title of the song we sang: “Awake, Awake, O Church of God!” What does that tell you? The church is asleep! You don’t come to me when I am preaching here and say, “Will you please wake up?” If you saw that I’m gradually dosing over the pulpit, you might say, “Excuse me, you are supposed to preach, will you please wake up?” The fact that I am preaching should be sufficient proof that I am awake, at least to some degree. This song is telling us that the church is asleep. But as we read on, we find it a bit humorous, because the present tense is used to say that the church is awake, and yet it has to move on. This causes confusion. If I am presently awake, I don’t have to be told to move on. If I am moving on, I don’t have to wake up. I don’t like to be unkind; I really want to appreciate the heart of the songwriter whom I don’t know. But at least he is clear that the church is asleep.

My dear brothers and sisters, if the only problem of the church is that it is asleep, maybe the problem is not so serious. All you have to do is to wake them up. To be asleep is not a disease. I hope it is not a disease, but maybe there are some kinds of sleep that are diseases.

Let us come to the first part of this message: Are you awake spirit­ually? What does “awake” mean? “Awake” means that you are aware of what is happening around you. When you are asleep, you don’t know what is going on around you.

I remember the sweet early days of my life when I could sleep like a log. I think that if there had been a competition, I must surely have won the award! I always remember that while I was in school in Europe, there was an explosion outside our school. Everyone heard it, and everyone woke up, but I was the only one who, when I was told about the explos­ion the next morning, said, “Explosion? What explosion?” Of course, those old days are the long-gone, sweet memories. Now my problem is the other way around.

So, when you are asleep, you are not aware of what is happening around you. When you are spiritually asleep, you don’t know the spiritual meaning of the time in which you are living now. Even worse, you don’t know what is happening to you spiritually, not to say, to other people. You would not even know if you did not wake up anymore the following morning, as you have died in your sleep. The church is full of people who don’t know what is going on in the church today. They don’t even know what is happening to their own spiritual life, and even worse, they don’t care!

I am sure all of you are able to read and write. If I read to you from the Bible and say, “This is what Christ Jesus said,” would you tell me, brothers and sisters, “I don’t understand what this means because I am illiterate”? Or would you tell me, “I’m sorry, I don’t have enough educa­tion, so the Bible is too deep for me, it’s only for cleverer people”? Or is the real reason you don’t know what the Bible is saying, is because you are asleep, you are spiritually insensitive to the Word of God? We are not even talking on the level of spiritual wisdom. Wisdom is something too high for us. I am talking about being awake and being asleep; I cannot get any lower than that. If I expound on the Biblical teaching of wisdom, you will be walking out of here with a big head, with lots of theories. I don’t think that will do you the least good at all. Let us just talk about very simple things for simple people like us. Let us talk about being awake and asleep, never mind about wisdom and foolishness.

“Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Let us assume that you are awake, and let us read Luke 9:23-27, a passage you have read many times. If you are awake, tell me what it means.

Then he said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him the Son of man will be ashamed when he comes in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.”

Here is a passage I am sure you have read many times. Is understanding a passage like this a question of intelligence? Do intelligent people read these words and say, “Oh yes, I can understand”? But those who don’t share that level of intelligence, read and say, “I don’t know what it means”? Or is the real problem being spiritually awake or spiritually asleep? Jesus never tried to speak in riddles so that they don’t know what he is talking about. What he wants is for you to know the living God, and to build your life upon the Rock. He wants to point you in the path of eternal life. Likewise you don’t help anyone to go from point A to point B, if you confuse him utterly by saying, “Turn right here, then turn left at the other point, and turn right at the other junction, and then left.” He will only stand there and say, “Did you say right first or left? And where am I supposed to go after that?”

Much of our spiritual sleepiness is because we would rather wish we did not hear what we heard. I have often noticed that when the preaching begins to really cut into somebody’s heart, they start trying to close their eyes to quiet their hearts a bit, because it begins to get a bit uncomfortable.

What is the Lord Jesus saying? It is simple language. “If any one desires to come after me” — of course, if you don’t wish to come after him, you can start falling asleep now — “let him deny himself”— oh, I don’t like to deny myself! — “and take up his cross daily” — take up the cross to die to your self? And daily? No! — “And follow me.”

Now here comes the interesting sentence: “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it.” If there is someone who doesn’t want to save his life, raise your hand. Nobody raised his hand, so everyone wants to save his life. But the Lord Jesus says, “Anyone who wants to save his life shall lose it.” That means all of us are going to lose our lives because we all want to save our lives.

Then Jesus says, “But whoever loses his life shall be saved.” Is this right? You are wide awake, so read again. Did Jesus say, “If you lose your life, you will save it”? No, that is not what he said. When we are asleep, that is what we thought he said. The crucial words are, But whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.” That is to say, if your whole direction of life is changed to live for him and for God, you will be saved. These are words of wisdom.

“He is no fool who gives what he can’t keep, to gain what he can’t lose.”

I have heard these words put in another way, and they are very much the words of a wise man. The content is exactly the same as these words, but the wording is entirely different. These are the words which I hope you will remember and take out of this camp with you:

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep,
to gain what he cannot lose.

It is saying exactly the same thing as what the Lord Jesus said, but the words are different. It is said to be the words of Jim Elliot, who was martyred for bringing the good news of Christ to an aboriginal tribe in South America. These words were probably not written by him, but were found in his Bible when they discovered his dead body by the Amazon River in Brazil.

Think about these words. Your degrees will be worth absolutely nothing when you die. You cannot keep your achievements or your riches. The Bible says you came into this world naked, and you will leave this world naked; you cannot take a thing with you. You have worked so hard but you can keep nothing! Think of any item you like, and you will discover that you cannot keep it. You cannot even stay good at what you know let alone keep it!

Your health was once so good, was it not? And as the years went by, you could not even keep your health, it is going down the drain. So like myself, what do you do? You try qigong. You should see how many books on qigong I have studied. We can try gongfu and taichi at an older age, and a more vigorous exercise at a younger age, but we still cannot keep our health. The speed in our fighting techniques, and our response is constantly decreasing. The glorious days of the past disappear.

But you think: “Surely, you can keep your knowledge!” My father graduated with two doctorates as a young man (and I still keep the diplomas of his doctorates), could he take them with him? No. Every time I pass Hawaii, I visit my father’s grave outside the city of Honolulu. I stand in silence looking at his grave, and I remember my father as a great man. But he could not take a thing with him — not his armies, not his learning, not even one hair of his head could he take with him.

So I come back to this question, What can you count as truly yours today, that you can take with you when you go? “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep” — only on condition — “to gain what he cannot lose.” There is the wise man! He gives everything because he cannot keep anything, and because in exchange, he gets what he can never lose. Now you see what the Lord Jesus is saying here: Whoever loses his life for my sake.” You cannot keep your life; you have to lose it anyway. Why not lose it for something that is worth losing? “He who loses his life for my sake will have it for all eternity.” But those people who are spiritually foolish are trying to keep the things that they cannot keep. They will end up with nothing, empty-handed — 空空如也! Are you a wise man? Can you understand the meaning of this?

The full-time co-workers are wise men

I was thinking to myself, “God has done a wonderful work among us in these last days in our churches, and I consider it a privilege to be able to co-work with some 80 full-time co-workers. In fact, if we took all our co-workers from around the world and put them in this hall, it will be full with all 80 co-workers. By the grace of God, every one of them is a trained professional in their own particular field. I think at least 98% of them hold degrees of various universities around the world. And many of them hold higher degrees. If we put together all the degrees of our 80 co-workers, I think we would have a total of something like 120 degrees between us all, although I have never counted it.

You are very privileged in Melbourne. You have 3 full-time co-work­ers for the moment, not counting those who are here just temporarily. Of these 3 co-workers, each one of them holds 2 degrees, i.e. between 3 of them, they hold 6 degrees, since each of them hold a Master’s degree as well. But are they making a lot of money? I was calculating that from what the church is giving them now, the whole team of 5 or 6 co-workers earns less than any one of them could earn alone, if they were working in the world. And yet they are totally joyful and totally satisfied.

Our Shatin Church has 10 full-time co-workers; out of 10 full-time co-workers, 5 of them hold Master’s degrees. Virtually all of our full-time co-workers are science-trained. And in our 5th Team, which is presently under training, there are 27 people, most of them computer experts of one kind or other. Many of them have held high positions in adminis­tration and in research. But if you come to visit them in Shatin, as some of you have done, you will see how they live. They have left behind their big houses, their nice cars, and they fight with one another to see which one of them can squeeze into the smallest room! And I am the one who has to get into the act to see that everyone can have a decent place to sleep. They are very, very wise men! But in the eyes of the world they are fools!

Another time I thought, what would be the annual income if our 80 co-workers were in full employment in their particular profession? It staggers the mind how much they would earn if they were all earning their regular income! They are men and women of wisdom. Why? Because they have given up what they cannot keep to gain what they will never lose. And what they cannot lose is not something that they are going to get one day when they die and are buried. They are even experiencing now what it means to gain something that they cannot lose. They are experiencing the living God now! Isn’t that marvelous!

Every man and every woman of our 80 co-workers is free. Any one of them can leave the team at any time if they choose. I say to them, “There is only one thing that ties you and me and all of us together: it is the love of God in Christ, and the mission that God has put into our hearts. If any co-worker has lost this vision, or does not wish to continue, he or she can feel free this minute to walk out and not come back again.”

What is more, if any one of our co-workers fails to meet the highest standard of excellence — and the standard of excellence is already so high that it boggles the mind for most people — I talk to them heart-to-heart and say, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but I don’t think that you are fit for the work of God. Go back to the profession that you gave up. Earn your money in this world, build your house, buy your car, but leave the team.”

One of the highest penalties in our team for failure to meet the standards of excellence is suspension from the team. They are asked to leave the team for two or three years, or maybe permanently, and there have been a few who have been expelled from the team. They have given up everything for Christ’s sake, and for God’s sake, but even they could not meet the high standards that God has set. That standard applies not just to our 80 co-workers but to me as well. Should I fail — and God help me that by His grace, it will not come to pass — then I am out!

God is doing amazing things. When I look at the way my beloved co-workers live before God, I see the glory of God in their lives. I know that God is real because I have been able to see the power of His work in their lives in a way which they themselves cannot see it. It is this which keeps me going day after day, when sometimes, I am so exhausted from the load of work, that I can hardly get up on my feet in the morning. I think few of you can even begin to imagine what it is like to have to serve as a kind of general supervisor for the work of eight churches, while carrying on with full-time training week after week. After the last Port Dickson Camp, I confess to you, I could hardly get on my feet for three days. I love to swim, and Port Dickson is right by the beach, but for three days, I did not have the strength even to climb into the water. Only on the last day, my wife said to me, “We are leaving tomorrow. Will you not try to swim just once for only one or two hours?” She knew that I struggled even over this thought for several hours before I finally got enough courage to crawl into the water to swim, even though swimming takes no effort at all for me.

Let me summarize this statement one more time: “He (she) is no fool, who gives what he (she) cannot keep to gain what he (she) cannot lose.” That is the principle behind the Lord Jesus’ teaching when he says, “Do not store up your treasure on earth where moth, rust, thieves, wars, whatever, will rob it all away from you.” You cannot keep those riches. But transfer your treasures where it cannot be taken away from you. I have lived through two wars in China: the Japanese war and the Communist war of so-called “liberation.” I have seen people, who had millions of dollars, begging on the street for a bowl of rice. They were never wise enough to understand that they could have exchanged their money -- what they could not keep -- for what they could not lose. They are fools! They did not understand the kind of world in which they lived.

Right now, you may have a million dollars in your bank account, but don’t be surprised when one of these days there is a financial crisis, you will have nothing left. Someone I knew from my student days in London, was a multi-millionaire, but when the stock market crashed, he ended up with nothing! One day he was a multi-millionaire, and the next day he had nothing. And I remember the words of the Lord Jesus to the rich fool, “You fool! Tonight your life will be required of you.” Even your life will be gone. What are you going to do with your millions?

How to be wise, to enter into a living relationship with God?

“R” is for repentance

How can we exchange what we cannot keep to get what we cannot lose? Well, the Lord Jesus tells us how to do this because he has no pleasure in confusing us. I talked about “the royal law” yesterday. The first step in the royal law, or the law of the king, is “repentance”. Now you know all about repentance from Sunday School, but do you know what repentance is? One of the greatest problems in teaching, is to teach people who think they know something that they really don’t know. Everyone says, “Oh, I know what repentance is,” yet you may not begin to understand what repentance is.

In Matthew 4:17, the first word that the Lord Jesus ever preached was the word, “repent”. Why repent? Because God’s kingship is about to be implemented. God is about to reign as King upon this earth. The Bible does not teach that God is going to be King in heaven. The point of Christ Jesus’ message is that God is going to reign here in Melbourne; God is going to reign as King on this earth. And Jesus is saying, because God is going to reign soon, you had best repent. You need to repent in order to enter into a living relationship with God.

Repentance is not just saying, “Sorry,” and you do it again next time. That is not repentance. Repentance in the Bible means your whole direction of life is changed. To use Jim Elliot’s statement, the true substance of repentance is to understand that I give now what I cannot keep, to gain what I cannot lose. There is the complete change of direction in life. I could expound each of these points with a whole message, but I am just going to quickly touch on it and move on to the important last part of this message.

“O” is for Obedience

The second thing is obedience. If you want to know the living God, you must learn what obedience means. In the Bible, obedience does not mean obeying with a long face, but joyfully, just as we read in Hebrews 10:7, “I have come to do Your will.” If you come to me with a long face and say, “From now on, I will obey God,” I will say, “Forget it.” But if you come and say, “Could I have the joy to live in obedience to Him?” then I will see that you are beginning to understand the truth.

The gospel today, is preached in the churches as some kind of intellectual exercise: Believe and you are saved. The gospel is not just to be believed, it is to be obeyed, as you read in Jo.3:36; 1 Pet. 4:17; 2Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 3:1; 1 Jo. 5:2.

“Y” is for Yoked

The third point is yoked. Yoked means to be joined to Christ. Those who are going to be baptized today, are going to be yoked to Christ through baptism, just like two people who are getting married are yoked to one another, bound to one another through marriage. So we have sweetness of communion with Christ, and through him with God, because now we have “commitment”, a term which we have often used. Yoked means commitment: I am committed to Christ, he is committed to me. And this yoke is most important because it is the source of our strength. When one person is weak, the other one holds him or her up.

What is the point of getting married? Is the point of getting married to come home to have a good quarrel with one another after a whole day’s work? Is the point of getting married to throw plates at one another because you don’t have enough exercise? What is the point of being yoked to one another? Well, when two animals are yoked together in the farm, they both help to carry the load. Likewise when two people are yoked together, instead of one carrying the load, two carry it together.

But in many marriages today, it seems that there is a brake on the yoke, so that one is trying to go forward, and the other is trying to go backward. It reminds me of the cars of driving schools where the instructor has a brake on his side and the driving student has one on his side. When the student is pressing on the accelerator wondering why the car is not moving, it is because the instructor has got his foot on the brake on the other side. That is how many marriages are, isn’t it? For those of us in pastoral work, we have to counsel people with problems in marriage, and you wonder why they got married. Maybe they got married because they enjoyed kungfu or boxing, and they had no one to fight with. Well, let me assure you that God did not want us to get baptized and yoked to His Christ so that we can fight with him every day. I am sure that the Lord Jesus has better things to do than that. Yahweh God wants us to be bound with Jesus Christ, so that in Christ, we can walk forward hand-in-hand with God in sweet fellowship, talking to one another, discussing our problems, and getting encouragement.

“A” is for All, Absolute

The next one is the letter “a” for “all”, for “absolute”. This part is very important in the Lord Jesus’ teaching. It is at this point that most Christians are stuck. And I don’t know how many endless hours of counseling I myself, not to mention all our co-workers, have had to spend with people who don’t understand this basic principle of how much should a person be committed to God. Someone said, “I am 75% committed to God, can I be baptized?”

And we said, “No, not enough. 75% cannot do.”

“80%?”

“No.”

“85%?”

I thought I was in some market in Hong Kong, bargaining about the price. They cannot seem to understand that what God requires is all or nothing. That is Scriptural teaching; it is not something invented by us. All of you who have undergone Commitment Training know about this, so I don’t need to spend time on this point You must love the Lord your God with all you heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength. You love Him with all, with everything you have.

The words are even more terrifying in Luke 14:33, “He who does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple.” This does not necessarily mean that today, you go home and sell your car and house, and sleep on the street. What it does mean is, from now on you’ll say, “God, You have redeemed me with the blood of Christ. I belong to You. That is why everything I have is Yours.” It is just like in a marriage. Everything I possess, including this beautiful jacket, belongs to my wife. I have given up all when I married her in this yoke. If she wants my handkerchief, she can have my handkerchief. If she happens to fancy my shoes, she can wear my shoes too. I never say, “Don’t touch it. This belongs to me,” about anything. In the same way, if she has a beautiful pair of white shoes, and if I would like to wear them, she will say, “You can wear my shoes,” and I will wear her shoes. Maybe you will see me walking in with her shoes tomorrow! Of course, when I married my wife, I forsook myself, and everything is hers, and she is mine. Then why do we find it so terrible when the Lord Jesus says, “Except that a man forsakes all that he has, he cannot be my disciple”?

“L” is for Launch out

“L” is for launch out. One of the reasons why Christians do not enter into a deep relationship with God is because they are cowards. So many people are eager to enter into a marital relationship with a person, not understanding that it takes a lot of courage to get married. If you have not been married, you will not understand this whole problem. You are going to give your life to someone for the next 50 years, or however long you are going to be living with this person. But it takes a lot more courage to be a Christian. The problem with many Christians is they don’t have the courage to launch out into something new. Marriage is something new, but becoming a Christian is something even newer.

America became great because of its pioneering spirit: Go west, young man! Launch out into the unknown! That is launching out. That is the kind of attitude you see in the apostle Peter. In Luke 5:4, the Lord Jesus tested him and said, “Take the boat and launch out into the deep.” In Luke 8:22, he told his disciples to launch out and go across to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. If you read on in the passage, you will see that they launched straight into a storm! Of course, the Lord Jesus knew the storm was coming, but he said to the disciples, “Take the boat out into the lake.” It was when they had launched out in that storm that they saw the glory of the Christ of God. Becoming a Christian is not for cowards. It takes courage to launch out into something new, and of course, it takes courage even to give up what you cannot keep, to gain what you cannot lose.

Part 2: The church of God is dead

Let me come to the last part of my message. The first part dealt with each one of us individually, how we can enter into a living relationship with God, which the Bible calls “wisdom.” Now before we close, let us talk about the church. And when I talk about the church, my heart becomes very, very heavy. I am not talking about how churches are so bad, but our church is so good. Anyone who thinks like this does not understand what I am saying, because if you and I are true Christians, we are part of the whole church of God, spread through Australia, spread through the whole of Canada, and spread through the world. I am not talking about your church and my church; I am talking about the church of God as it is on the earth today.

I repeat one more time that our Montreal church, our mother church, is a member of the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Canada. We are not a separatist movement. I am even issued with a special identity card by the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptists certifying that I am recognized by the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptists of Canada, as a pastor of that Fellowship. We are fundamentally a Baptist church, although we don’t particularly bother to let anyone know that, because it doesn’t really matter. And the Fellowship of Canadian churches that we belong to is a Fellowship of nearly 500 churches across Canada. We have a large fellowship of churches, and because it is a fellowship of Canadian churches, it does not apply to the United States. But if we start a church in the United States, we will join the United States Fellowship of Baptist Churches. So I stress again, when I speak of the disastrous situation that the church is in today, I don’t mean that other churches are all bad and we are good. We are part of this whole bad situation.

What is the problem with the church? I find it hard to speak on this point because my heart gets heavier and heavier as I think about it. We can say in one word, that the church is simply not what God meant the church to be. The church that we call the church of God today, is simply not the church that Christ died for. Please wake up and see the situation, if you have not already fallen asleep spiritually. The church has been totally corrupted by the world, and I say, totally corrupted by the world. If you truly walked with God, it would hurt your heart as it hurts mine.

We can run away from the problem. We can say we are building, by the grace of God, churches which are full of God’s life, which are vigorous, which are growing at a remarkable speed. But if we think like this we are foolish, because sooner or later, what is happening to the churches all around us will also affect us because we are one body. If I have cancer in the liver, my heart may be very healthy, my brain may be very healthy, at least for the moment, but if the problem is not treated, the cancer in the liver will soon reach my whole system, and it will kill me in the end.

If the church were only asleep, it would not be too big a problem. But the church is not only asleep, the church is blind! It does not understand the danger that it is facing. Worse than that, the church of God is dead! It is a corpse! And God’s judgment will come upon His church probably very, very soon. What I am saying is being recorded. I stake my reputation as a servant of God on these words.

The church has been corrupted by the world

I was in Malaysia recently for the camp, and I was reading the newspaper, and I gathered some interesting material. I keep in touch with the latest developments in the news all the time. I told you God’s kingdom will be established on earth.

Here is a picture that really made me think! It is a huge snake, a python, 7 meters long, or 22-23 feet long, about the length of a room, coiled around several times. A little child is relaxing on the snake and playing with it. Now the snake could make a meal of this child in about 3 minutes, if the snake happened to get a little hungry. It is obviously not hungry at this moment. A python kills its prey by crushing it to death before swallowing it, and this 7-meter python could swallow almost a whole cow, not to mention this 6 year-old boy!

Do you know what I see in this picture? I see the church and the world. The snake in the Bible is a symbol of Satan. The snake here has a beautiful pattern on its skin, looking very attractive. It is so friendly, so gentle, and so tame that the parents dare to entrust their child to play with it. The child doesn’t even know what this snake can do to it. The church doesn’t understand what the world can do to it. This is a parable to me. As I studied it, I said, “Lord, has this happened to the church?” The serpent, the deadliest enemy of the church has become the friend of the church! A very strange thing has happened.

Those of us who have become pastors of the church are honored by the world. When I was invited to pastor the church in Canada, I applied for immigration to Canada. They jumped me from the end of the queue to the front, without having to line up as everybody did, because I was a pastor. The snake has become my friend! What has happened to the church? The church has become corrupted.

What did God expect His church to be?

Let us summarize what the Lord God expected His church to be in a few points.

1. The church is one

The church is to be one. Everywhere you read about the church in the Bible, you read the word “one”. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 says,

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.

And Paul exhorts the church to maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of love, so that the world can see the oneness of God through the oneness of the church. By one, it does not mean numerical one, it means harmony, it means love, it means peace in relation to one another, it means co-operation, it means caring for one another. No matter whether you are Baptist, Methodist or Anglican, we are one.

You don’t even have to be a Christian to know that the church is not one. It has ceased to be one long, long ago, and not only is it not one, but it also fights each other. Everyone criticizes me, and he criticizes you. Is this called the church of God? That is why I say this is not the church of God. Did Jesus die for this? The church is a disgrace to the name of God, let us put it in plain language! If you have ever attended a meeting of pastors, you will come away with a heart that feels like stone. There is probably nothing so disgraceful in this world than a meeting of pastors! When pastors get together, and the congregation is not there, so help us God! A gathering of businessmen would be more harmonious, more peaceful, more positive than a gathering of so-called “pastors”. This is not the church for which God sent Christ to die for!

2. The church is light

What else was the church meant to be? The Lord Jesus says, “You are like a city set on a hill, and that light shines out for everyone to see.” The church is light. Paul said to the Ephesians, “Once you were darkness, now you are light in the world” (Eph. 5:8). Let me ask you, even if you are not a Christian, do you think the church is light? It’s a disgrace! It’s a shame! I feel embarrassed to be a member of the church. Read the newspapers: this pastor runs away with money, and that pastor runs away with a wo­man. I have had enough of reading this! And when these pastors commit these sins, what does the church do? Nothing! Sin counts for nothing in the church! Is this the church of God? Look at the New Testament to see what the New Testament church is like. Look at the church around you, and you will see that these are two different things.

3. The church is a family

Let us talk about the most elementary thing that the Bible tells us: the church is a family. That is why we call each other “brothers and sisters.” We care for one another. But if you go to a church, you will find that not even anyone says hello to you. If you walked into your home and nobody even said hello to you, you must have thought, “I’ve come to the wrong place. Is this my home?” Nobody even greets you in this so-called “church”. Is this the church of God? Then you meet the pastor. Oh, he is the mighty man! He has gold-rimmed glasses like me, and his attitude is: “Do you know who I am? I’m the pastor here.” You will say, “Sorry, I didn’t recognize you.” This is a pastor?! Where is the beauty, the humility, the glory of Christ? If the church of God is led by people like this, what is going to happen to the church? So help us God! I don’t mean I am any better than they are, but one thing I cannot stand, brothers and sisters, is hypocrisy. Come to me some time, and I would like to tell you all about my weaknesses. Or ask my wife, and she will tell you all about my weaknesses. I beg of you, ask about my weaknesses. But I trust that hypocrisy is not one of my weaknesses. One thing I cannot understand is the hypocrisy of pastors. That is something beyond my intelligence.

I remember once, I went to the church of a very well-known pastor in Toronto, who never ceased to say evil things about me behind my back. A couple in his church, who used to be a couple in our church in Montreal, insisted that I should preach their wedding message at their church. So for their sake, I went to preach at their wedding. When I arrived at this big Toronto church, this pastor immediately greeted me, “Ah, Pastor Chang, how are you?” I looked at him and I simply said, “Good morning,” and not another word. He stretched out his hand to me, but I refused to shake it. You did not know I am that bad, did you? Now you know! Do you know why? I cannot stand hypocrisy. This pastor has been saying evil things about me behind my back for at least a couple of years, but what does he do when he sees my face? He becomes the perfect actor! I mean, Hollywood has not seen anything of this quality! It is all “Pastor Chang this and Pastor Chang that.”

I will tell you the truth, brothers and sisters, if he were a business­man, and he spoke every evil thing about me, I would shake his hand. I would show him the love of Christ. If possible, I would even brush his shoes for him. But I will not tolerate a pastor who is a liar and a hypo­crite. Having said “Good morning” to him, I walked past him without a smile on my face. He tried following me to talk to me, but I refused to talk to him. I will not speak to a hypocrite, because my Lord Jesus cannot stand hypocrites. Just read it for yourself in Matthew Chapter 23. He said to those religious leaders, those pastors of the Jewish church, “Woe to you, Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like a tomb, whitewashed on the outside, and inside, you are simply dead men’s bones!” The Lord Jesus shows us that God cannot stand the church and its hypocrisy.

I say to you, brothers and sisters. you may have many, many faults like me, but I beg of you one thing, please, may hypocrisy not be one of those. Be an honest man, a genuine man, and the world may hate you for it. That famous pastor in Toronto kept telling everyone that I never even smiled at him when I went to his church. Well, that is true. I never smiled at him; and I will not smile at him until the day he repents before God for the lies and hypocrisy of his life. There is the disease of the church. What happens to a church which is led by a man like this? And let us be fair to this man — he is not the only hypocrite in the church; he is not even the only pastor who is a hypocrite.

You know, these famous pastors in Toronto don’t love me. They fear me because they know that I will not spare them if they dare so much as to commit one sin. The strangest thing is this: they may hate me right to the bone, but every time they see me, they are all bowing and scraping. And do you know something terrible? I am ice-cold to them! I am a servant of God, I am not a church politician. I am at least a minor prophet of God. The reason why the Chinese churches in Australia, in Canada, and around the world hate me so much is because I am not kind to them, because I will expose their sin, because I will denounce their evil right to their face.

But I will tell you another side about me in case you think by now, “Wow! This is a terrible man!” I aspire to be one thing: to be the friend of sinners, to be the friend of the weak, to be the servant of the poor, to be friends with those who are meek and lowly. If you are among the meek and the lowly, I want to say, I not only want to be your friend, I would like to be your servant, because the Lord Jesus said, “I came into the world not to be served but to serve” (Mk. 10:45).

God will destroy the unrepentant, world-chasing church

In closing, I want to share with you a dream that I had in Kuala Lumpur, just before coming to this camp. I have shared it with our co-workers in Kuala Lumpur. I very seldom dream, and if I ever have a dream, I cannot remember it.

In my dream, I was walking by a very, very large and very ancient pool dating from the time of Christ, which supplied water to the city of Jerusalem. Today, it is surrounded by a steel fence because it is a tourist attraction. I studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in my student days, and that is why I could recognize that I was walking by what is called the Pool of Mamilla in Jerusalem. As I was walking, I thought to myself: “How is it that I am in Jerusalem?”

I looked around, and what struck me was that all the buildings looked as though they were hit by a hydrogen bomb. When a thing is burned, it turns black, but apparently, when it is hit by one of these dreadful bombs, they turn yellow. Everything was dead. There was no water in the pool, the buildings were destroyed, Jerusalem was destroyed. And suddenly, my heart was very heavy. Jerusalem is dead!

Then I noticed a tunnel. I knelt down, and walked into this tunnel on my knees, because my heart was so heavy that I could no longer walk on my feet. The surface was very stony and rough, and if it was tearing my knees apart, I did not notice it.

Jerusalem, the city above, was dead! Why?Because we know from the Bible that when God brings judgment upon a nation, the nation is destroyed. But there were lots of people in the tunnel underneath. I would have expected that the people would be repenting of their sins because God’s judgment had come upon them, but I did not see any repentance. Instead to my astonishment, I saw a cinema, and people were crowding in to watch some movie. I looked at the other side, and there was another cinema, and the people were streaming in to get more entertainment over there. And I said, “O my Lord God! Judgment has destroyed Jerusalem, but there is no repentance!” The people’s hearts are going after the world! They are looking for entertainment and amuse­ment in the midst of destruction and death. They are trying to forget the problem in which they are involved.

I woke up from this vision, and grief filled my heart. In the Bible, Jerusalem is a symbol of the church. God’s judgment is upon the church, but where are the people who repent? Paul speaks about the church as the glory of Christ, something beautiful, manifesting the light of God to the whole world, so that the nations of the world are streaming into the church with one question only: Teach me how to know the living God. That is what you read in the Bible (Isa. 2:3; Mic. 4:2). The church is meant to be glorious, but it is dead, disunited, led by hypocrites. There is no love, there is no righteousness. Truth has been rejected and discarded. Is this the church for which Christ died?

Are you one of the remnant of “the wise” that God will preserve?

I think of the Lord Jesus hanging on the cross, and his blood flowing out for us to build the church, a new society, a new community of righteous­ness and truth in which God is King, and where His glory shines out. Show me the church! Where is it? Did Christ die in vain? If there is any hope left, brothers and sisters, you are that hope. Can you let the glory of the living God shine forth from your life in the days before the church is finally wiped out by Him?

God is going to destroy the church! Read your Bible and you will know. God cannot tolerate hypocrisy and corruption, but He will preserve a remnant of “the wise”, just as He did in the Old Testament. The Bible calls that final, faithful remnant “the wise”. Are you part of that remnant which, when people look at you, they will say, “I have seen you, and now I have seen the glory of God in you!”? The time that is left for this world is very short, and if there is any hope left, you are that hope. Are you “the wise”?

 

(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church