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Proclamation of the Word

Date: 14 January 2024, 9.30 am

Speaker: Ps Luwin Wong Sermon Text: 2 Timothy 3:14-17

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TRANSCRIPT

A very good morning, everyone. Whether you have been a member of our church for a long time, or you are a new visitor to our church, or whether you’re watching our broadcast online, we’re glad you’re with us this morning.


But if you’re a newcomer, it’s an especially good time to be tuning in. Because every January, as church, we aim to do some culture setting, get our bearings, lay our foundations, put the big stones into the jar.


Each January, we remind ourselves of what we’re here to do, we reiterate how we’re going to do it, and we renew our convictions to actually do it.


So, what are we here to do? What is our mission? If someone asks you, “What is Mt Hermon all about?” What do we tell them?


We say this:


Mt Hermon exists to glorify God by being and making disciples of Jesus Christ.


So, Mt Hermon is a church on a mission. We’re not just gathering each Sunday, out of some mushy moralism, or rigid ritualism, aimlessly doing things just because. No, we are on a mission, we’re oriented towards a particular vision of being, we exist purposefully for God’s glory.


Mt Hermon exists to glorify God by being and making disciples of Christ Jesus. And, by the way, it’s either-or. It’s not being or making disciples of Jesus Christ. It’s both-and; being and making disciples, because it is not possible to create a distinction between those two things.


If you’re being disciple of Christ, it means you’re following a Saviour. A Saviour, by definition, saves. And how do we follow our Saviour to save others? We call them to follow him. We make disciples. To be a disciple is to make disciples.


So, at the risk of belaboring the point: Our mission as Mt Hermon is to glorify God by being and making disciples of Christ Jesus.


To phrase it another way, we want be like Jesus in the world, and bring the world to Jesus. We want to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, transfer others into the kingdom of Christ.


But how do we do it? How do we glorify God by being and making disciples of Jesus Christ? It sounds good in principle, but what does it look like in practice.


I’m glad you asked. This is the question we will answer in our sermon series for the next three Sundays in January. We’ll preach 3 sermons to flesh out ministry mindset, our ministry approach as a church as we seek to fulfil our mission to glorify God by being and making disciples of Jesus Christ.


The ministry mindset we will adopt is based on a metaphor. The metaphor of the Trellis and the Vine, which also serves as the title of our sermon series. What is the Trellis and the Vine about? Good question.


When you want to grow a vine, you have to build a trellis. Otherwise, the vine would be a tangled up heap of leaves on the ground. To grow a healthy vine, you need to build a sturdy trellis. Here’s the crucial thing to note. You construct the Trellis with the Vine in mind. If you’re a gardener, your aim is to grow the vine, you do not build a trellis for the sake of the trellis, you build the trellis for the sake of the vine. Your goal is not to build the best trellis possible, but to grow the healthiest vine possible. The vine is the end, the trellis the means.


Everything we do in Mt Hermon falls into the category of either Trellis work or Vine work. Either building the trellis or growing the vine.


In Hermon’s context, what is the vine? What is our business, what is the fruit that we want to see? It’s this: it’s to glorify God by being and making disciples of Jesus Christ.


That is our vine. Our Trellis is support structures that enable the vine to grow. Purchasing a building, renovating it, equipping it with livestream capabilities, rostering praise leaders, allocating rooms for Sunday school, hiring staff, booking the Doulos for our church camp, planning Sunday services, balancing our annual budget, all of it necessary, all of it good work, but all of it done, not for their own sake, but to support our mission to glorify God by being and making disciples of Jesus Christ.


A more memorable catchphrase for vinework in Hermon is to “move people to the right”. All the way to the right being Jesus Christ. We aim to transfer those outside to be in Christ, and we want those in Christ, to be more like Christ.


Everyone exist somewhere to the left of Christ, some further some nearer, we want to keep moving people to the right.


We engage and evangelise those we want to bring to Christ, we establish and equip those who are in Christ. These are still abstract categories. Practically, how do we move people to the right? There are four things we need to do. 4 Ps.


  1. Proclamation – We need to proclaim the Word of God.

  2. Prayer – We need to prayerfully depend on the Spirit to help us.

  3. People – We need everyone to participate in this mission.

  4. Perseverance – We need to persevere, because vine work is slow work, and it’s tough work.

Our sermon series will expound on each of these 4 Ps: Proclamation, Prayer, People, Perseverance.


And today, we’ll unpack the first P of the series. Proclamation of the Word.


Here’s an outline of how the message this morning will unfold:


I’ll make three statements about what the Word of God accomplishes.


Then we’ll look at several bible passages to support these statements, because in Mt Hermon, it’s important that we are taught and led not by the private ideas of our pastors, but by the revealed will of God, which is found not in my head, but in the Word.


And finally, we’ll briefly tease out the implications of what these statements mean for us.


So, make three statements about the Word of God, we’ll uncover those ideas from the Bible, and we’ll delve into what these things would mean for us as a church.


Why don’t we pray before we dive in. Let’s pray.


Heavenly Father, in your word and by your Holy Spirit, show us, convince us, and convict us of our need to receive and to proclaim your Word of life, the gospel of your Son, Jesus Christ.


In whose name we pray, Amen.


Earlier in the week, I asked ChatGPT a question: “How do you grow a church?”


Growing a church involves a combination of spiritual leadership, community engagement, effective communication, and strategic planning. Here are some general strategies that can help:1 1. Clear Vision and Mission:

  • Clearly define the purpose and mission of your church.

  • Communicate a compelling vision that resonates with both current members and potential newcomers.


2. Effective Leadership:

  • Develop strong, compassionate, and inspiring leadership.

  • Equip leaders with the skills needed to connect with and guide the congregation.


3. Engaging Worship Services:

  • Ensure that your worship services are uplifting, relevant, and spiritually enriching.

  • Encourage active participation and create an inclusive atmosphere.

4. Community Outreach:

  • Engage with the local community through outreach programs, events, and social initiatives.

  • Show genuine care and concern for the needs of the community.

5. Small Groups and Fellowship:

  • Foster a sense of community through small groups, Bible studies, and fellowship activities.

  • Encourage members to build meaningful relationships within the church.


6. Digital Presence:

  • Leverage social media and a well-designed website to reach a broader audience.

  • Share sermons, events, and updates online to connect with those who may not attend in person.


7. Visitor-Friendly Environment:

  • Create a welcoming atmosphere for newcomers.

  • Train greeters and ushers to make visitors feel comfortable and valued.

8. Quality Children and Youth Programs:

  • Invest in vibrant and engaging programs for children and youth.

  • Provide a safe and nurturing environment for families.


9. Empower Volunteers:

  • Encourage and empower members to actively participate in church activities.

  • Recognize and appreciate the contributions of volunteers.

10. Strategic Planning:

  • Develop a strategic plan that outlines goals and steps for growth.

  • Regularly evaluate and adjust strategies based on feedback and results.


11. Prayer and Spiritual Growth:

  • Foster a culture of prayer and spiritual growth within the congregation.

  • Provide resources for personal and communal spiritual development.

12. Collaboration and Partnerships:

  • Collaborate with other churches, organizations, and community groups.

  • Seek opportunities to work together for the greater good.

 

12 strategies for church growth. All good, all helpful. Not a single one highlighted the proclamation of the Word. Not one of them is devoted to the preaching of Christ.


In other words, these 12 strategies can be imported wholesale to any religious community, and nothing would be amiss.


ChatGPT is not an independent thinker. It is an aggregator of information, and it curates what it believes is the most presently relevant information to answer my question.


In other words, this is how Christianity today thinks. This is how the church in our age, believes is the way to grow the church. It appears that the preaching and teaching of Word of God is quite unnecessary, perhaps secondary, but definitely not the priority.


Make sure you have a compelling vision statement, make sure you have inspiring leaders, make sure you have emotionally engaging worship services, make sure there is strategic planning, make sure your digital presence is felt, make sure you reach out to the community.


Whether or not you preach the word clearly and faithfully and regularly is quite secondary.


You think I’m being dramatic. But years ago, I visited a friend in Perth, she and boyfriend were non-Christians. But I told them I have to go to church on Sundays, and so they brought me to the most popular church in the city, a few thousand people in the morning service. First Sunday I went, no sermon, a returning missionary was sharing her testimony. But I thought, okay, maybe it’s a special occasion. Next Sunday I went, no sermon again, there was some sharing about the church’s work in the community and talking about the people who were involved and thanking them. All very heart-warming and uplifting. But no sermon.


It proves that ChatGPT wasn’t kidding me. You can grow a mega-church without an emphasis on the proclamation of the Word.


But if you put the question to God, “How do you grow your Church?” And you listened only to him. You put your ear to the bible. Not to the culture, not to the masses, not to church-growth gurus, but to the Word of God alone.


What you’ll find is a very different answer.


Namely, the it is the Word of God that grows the Church of God. Everything else is bells and whistles. Apart from it, everything else is smoke and mirrors. The Word of God grows the Church of God.


I hope to recover this truth in our message today. So that Mt Hermon may be a church that holds to the centrality of the Word, not because of tradition, not because Ps Luwin likes reading and expects everyone else to follow suit, but for the simple reason that we as Hermonites believe it is the Word of God that does the Work of God in the Church of God.


Three things I want us to see about the Word of God today:


1.        The Word of God Forms the church.

2.        The Word of God Informs the church.

3.        The Word of God Transforms the church.


Let’s take each statement in turn.


1.        The Word of God Forms


GEN 1:1,3 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

The opening verses of the bible speaks of Creation. The world was without form. God formed the world by speaking words. He said, “Let there be be light, and there was light”.


There is a parallel passage in the New Testament. In the Gospel of John.


JOHN 1:1,3 & 9
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

The similarities are striking. It speaks of creation, and it speaks of light, and there is the means by which creation is formed – the Word.


But in the Gospel of John, it is not the formation of the physical earth that is in view. It is the formation of a particular people.


10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him... 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

John’s gospel focuses on the creation of the children of God through the Word.


That is, the Word gives birth to the church.


This is echoed in 1 Peter 1:23-25.


23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

The church is a born again people, a new creation, and they have been birth by the living and abiding word of God. The gospel that was preached to them.


And this is significant because unless we are born of the Word, we are dead in our sins.


The prophet Ezekiel saw a vision of a valley of bones.  


EZEKIEL 37:1-5
And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

How will the dead bones live? By the word, by the prophet preaching the word, and by the bones hearing the word. Then they shall live. Then the dead shall live.


The Word of God gives birth, gives life to the people of God.


In other words, the Word of God forms the church. Which means that without it, we are dead. There is no church, apart from the word. No matter how many people gather in a hall on Sunday to listen to inspiring talks under the banner the cross, there is no church unless there is the word.


The word forms the church, gives it life. Without it we are dead.


That’s the first point.


The second: The Word of God informs. The word of God informs the church.


Let’s revisit John 1.


JOHN 1:5, 9, 18 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The TRUE light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. The Word is called the True Light. Which means there is such a thing as false lights. If the true light gives life, false lights bring death. Like a moth that flies into a flame because it thinks the light from fire is the moonlight.

What does the True light, who is the Word, reveal?

 

18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

The true Light has come to make the true God known. This true light is also known as the Word of God.


In other words, all other words deceive and hold us in the throes of death. Only the Word of God brings truth and life to mankind.


This means theology matters. The Light, the Word has come to bring us true knowledge of the true God, which gives us life and new birth as the children of God. Theology matters. It is a matter of light and darkness. A matter of life and death.


The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

This is how John describes the world. It is a world of darkness, a world in darkness. Shrouded by deception, darkened by sin, blinded by the false god of this age.


Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, trying to navigate your way from your bed to the toilet and pitch darkness and hurt yourself in the process? Stubbed your toe, bumped your head, knocked your shin.


How do you navigate safely in a world of darkness? You turn to the light. You rely on the light. You stick close to the word of God.


And so the Psalmist says,


PSALM 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feetand a light to my path.

2 PETER 1:19-21
19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place…

And similarly, the Apostle Peter. You pay attention to the prophetic word as to a lamp shining in a dark place. In a dark place, the lamp is only hope for finding your way safely.


Why the word? Because the prophetic word, the Scriptures, although written by man, is God breathed.


21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Everything else originates from men which is irrelevant as far as theology is concerned. True theology is top-down, not bottom-up. Not mankind imagining what God is like, but God revealing himself to mankind by sending the Word into the world.


So in the letter to the Ephesians we read,


EPHESIANS 4:11, 13-14
11 he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers…

That is, the ministers of the Word,


13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.

Why is this knowledge of the Son of God important?


14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Not everything we hear and read and learn in this world is necessarily true. Not everything you hear over a church pulpit is necessarily true! It could be deceitful and deceptive.


Our security and safety, our light and life, is found in the word of God.


The word of God informs the church and trains us in the truth, so that will not be swayed by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning and deceitful schemes.


It’s something our government is trying their best to impress upon us. Not about the word of God, but the idea that we should not trust everything we read online, or hear over the phone, or receive in our text messages. There is human cunning and deceitful schemes everywhere. So beware, and stick only to official government channels, so that you will not be deceived and lose your life savings.


This goes further. This raises the stakes. God says, stick close to the Light in this world of darkness, stick close to the Word in this world of lies, so that you will not be deceived and lose your life eternally.


This is our second point: The Word of God informs the church of the truth of God. Without it, we are hopelessly deceived, lost in darkness, dead in sin.


Lastly, The Word of God Transforms the church.


It grows the church, not merely quantitatively, but qualitatively. It both saves and sanctifies; it transfers and transforms.


ROMANS 12:2  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Three steps here:

Remember how the bible depicts the world as darkness and deceitful?


So it warns us against conforming to the world. Don’t buy into the cultural narratives, don’t hold to their values; don’t adopt their worldview.


What’s the alternative? It’s to be transformed, and live instead according to the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.


How does that happen? It happens by a renewal of our mind. That means saturating our minds with the Word of God, so that it is renewed from the old, worldly way of thinking.


So do not conform to the World, but be informed by the Word, so that you may be transformed into Godliness.


This then is the point of theology, this is the point of pulpit sermons, of CG bible studies, of Sunday School, not merely to inform, but to transform. Not just to impart information, but to effect transformation.


The Word of God Transforms.


Let’s return to Ephesians.


EPHESIANS 4:11, 13-14 & 15
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.

The ministry of the Word was given to the church for two reasons.


The negative reason is so that we might not be deceived. But that’s not all. The positive reason is so that we might grow up in every way into Christ.


The reason we want to avoid deception and attain true knowledge of Christ is so that we can grow in Christlikeness. The opposite of sound doctrine is not so much heresy, but sinfulness. The problem of falling prey to deception is not so much wrong thinking as it is wrong living.


The goal of truth is transformation.


EPHESIANS 4:20-24
20 But that is not the way you learned Christ! — 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus… 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be 23 renewed in the spirit of your minds, and 24 to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness,

Again, renewed in the spirit of your minds, so that you can put on the new self in Christlikeness. Be informed so as to be transformed,


2 TIMOTHY 3:14-17
But as for you, continue in what you have learned… which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

This is the purpose of Scripture. Not just to teach, but to reprove, to correct, to train in righteousness, so that the Christian may be equipped for every good work.

Paul calls Timothy to pay attention to Scripture not just to fill his head, but to move his hands; for good work.


COLOSSIANS 1:28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Once again, the purpose of proclamation – of warning and teaching – is that we may present everyone mature in Christ.


The point of proclamation is transformation, not merely information.


Why is this a point worth making? Because it so much easier to lead a bible study than it is to lead your CG members into maturity in Christ. It is so much easier to teach a youth bible class than it is to walk with the youth and know his life and hold him accountable to godly living. The temptation for me is to prepare the sermon, preach the word and be more or less satisfied, believing that my job of shepherding the church is roughly done. Not even close.


The point of proclamation is transformation. And a Church that is faithful to the Word must therefore be faithful to one another. Knowing the truth about Jesus through the word, and knowing the truth about one another through fellowship.


Connecting with Christ in the word, and connecting with one another in our walk. Both these things must go hand in hand, or we run the risk of thinking we have made it, simply because we heard the truth and our doctrine is sound.


What does that say about viewing services online as your primary mode of church “attendance”? What does that say about not being part of a CG? Or what does that say about CGs who never meet in person and have meals together?


It says that we might have perhaps missed the point of the ministry of Word. And so long as that misunderstanding persists, we will not be able to move people to the right.


To recap. 1. God’s Word Forms.

Without it, we are Dead.


2. God’s Word Informs.

Without it, we are Deceived.


3. God’s Word Transforms.

Without it, we are Deformed.


Let us then pay attention to the truth of the Word, hold it as central in the life of the church, and seek to always move one another to the right, closer to Christ - and so fulfill our mission to be and to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

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