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Trellis & Vine #3 – People

Date: 28 January 2024, 9.30 am

Speaker: Ps Luwin Wong

Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 12:14-20; Ephesians 4:11-16

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Good morning everyone. Now, if you are new to our church, I want to let you know that we typically preach expository sermons, which means that teach the bible book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. And this year, we’ll be going through the book of Genesis.

But for the month of January, we are doing something different. We are doing a series, titled the Trellis and the Vine – a 3 part sermon series, which articulates our approach to ministry, our mindset as a church as we work towards our mission, which is to “Glorify God by being and making disciples of Christ Jesus”.

Our shorthand way of expressing this mission statement is “to move people to the right”. The right being King Jesus Christ. We transfer people into the kingdom of Christ, we transform people into the likeness of Christ. We keep moving them closer to the right; closer to Jesus, one day at a time, one step at the time, all of the time.

And there are four elements to this work of moving people to the right, which we also know as “vine work”. And it is summed up 4 Ps: Proclamation, Prayer, People and Perseverance.

This morning’s sermon is on People.

Let us pray before we begin.

Heavenly, give us ears to listen, eyes to see, and hearts to embrace the glorious purpose you have for us, the church.

In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.

Vine work, as its name suggests, has to do with gardening.

As a gardener, that’s all you can do. You can’t actually make the plant grow. All you can do is till the soil, plant the seed, water it, and wait. In fact, the waiting part is the main part. You wait for something to happen within the seed. You wait for germination to occur. The life of the plant does not reside in the hands of the farmer; it is an internal process, it occurs within itself. While the farmer is sleeping, without the farmer working, the seed germinates, springs into life, and sprouts up as a plant.

Our mission to make disciples, to move people to the right, is known in this series as vine-work. And it bears similarities to gardening.

How do we bring people to faith in Christ, we proclaim the word of Christ! That much we can do, proclamation is up to us, but conversion is not. Bringing someone dead in sin to come alive in Christ is not within our power. God alone raises the dead and brings dry bones to life.

Therefore, the other essential ingredient in vine-work, apart from proclamation, is prayer, because we need to depend on the Spirit to grow the vine.

And, as Pastor Daniel also reminded us last week, we need to persevere in the task because vine work is slow work, it takes time, it requires patience.

Some durian trees, for example, only bear fruit after 20 years of planting its seed. Who knows, the person to whom you’re reaching out, could well be a Mao Shan Wang. That would explain why he’s so rough around the edges.

So in our first two sermons, we have covered these three ingredients of vine work.

What do we do? We Proclaim the word.

How does the vine grow? We prayerfully depend on the Spirit.

What does it take? It takes perseverance. We do vine work with perseverance.

This morning, we turn to the question who? Who is responsible for doing the vine work of proclaiming the word in prayerful dependence on the Spirit with perseverance in the task?

The answer is “Me.” The answer is “You.” It is Everyone. The whole church. All the people of God.

There is one point I want to make in this sermon on People. And I will give three reasons for it.

Here’s the point:

Everyone needs to do the vine work of Proclamation. Everyone needs to proclaim.

Here are three reasons why:

  1. Because everyone builds the Body.

  2. Because everyone has the Spirit.

  3. Because everyone needs to Hear.

And we’ll flesh out the biblical basis for each of these reasons in today’s sermon.

First reason why everyone needs to proclaim. Because everyone builds the body.

The heart is one of the most important organs in the body, not least because it is the engine which pumps blood throughout the body. And the reason this function is so important is because blood carries life-giving oxygen throughout the body, without which, the cells and tissues and organs in our body will begin to be damaged, deteriorate and die.

But the heart, as important as it may be, is just one organ in the cardiovascular system. It cannot circulate oxygen to every cell and tissue in our body on its own. It requires our arteries and veins, capillaries to deliver the crucial life-giving oxygen the entire body needs to thrive.

Having exhausted the indulgence of the doctors in our midst, let me get to the point of this analogy.

The Word of God is the life-giving oxygen that the body of Christ needs to survive and to thrive.

The pulpit is the heart, the central organ which pumps out the life-giving word to the church.

But just as it would be a mistake to think that the heart is all there is to the respiratory system of the body, it would be a mistake to assume that pulpit is all that is needed to build up the body of Christ in Hermon. That is simply not the way God designed our bodies, and it is not the way he intends for his church to grow.

EPHESIANS 4:15-16 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

It takes every joint in the body, it takes every part working properly, it takes everyone speaking in the truth in love, to build up the body of Christ.

You might say, “If it’s my job, what’s the pastor for then? Why did we sent Ps Daniel and Luwin to train in seminary and come on staff, if in the end, it’s my job to proclaim the word to my fellow Hermonites? What’s their role then?”

EPHESIANS 4:11-12 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…

Jesus Christ gave pastors to the church to equip the members with the word, so that the members of the church can do the work of ministry of the word, to build up the body of Christ.

Ps Daniel and I, are responsible for functioning as the heart, pumping out the oxygen-rich, life-giving, saving-and-sanctifying word of God to you, the saints, entrusting you with it, equipping you with it. And like the blood vessels in the body, you carry and deliver that word, to everyone, beyond this sanctuary, beyond the sight of this pulpit: in your CGs, in your 3-2-1s, over lunch, over text, at home, at the hospital, at baby shower, at a funeral. The word of God is needed in more places than Henderson, on more days than Sunday, do you see?

If the body of Christ in Hermon survives on the heart alone. That is, if we rely on the pulpit alone, that once-a-week, 30min sermon in Henderson, to do the work of delivering the word throughout the body, the body will not long survive. It will not thrive, it will decay. For unless the heart is supported by the system of vessels that extend throughout body, so many of its cells and organs will be starved of oxygen, so many of our members will be starved of that transferring-and-transforming word of God that they desperately need to move towards the right. To move from darkness into light.

So, equipped with the word by the pastors of the church, you speak the truth in love to one another. Every joint, every part, everyone ministers the word to everyone else.  And that is the way the body is built up in truth and love.

But still, you might say, “Okay, I get it, in theory. But surely not me. I mean, I don’t read the bible much, and even when I do, I don’t read it very well. I definitely can’t teach, I’m not gifted that way. So this vine-work, I mean, better off without me. I don’t think I’m needed.”

1 CORINTHIANS 12:17-21 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

Well, you may not be gifted with the gift of teaching, but that’s beside the point. You are needed. God made you the way he needs you to function in the body of Christ. Every joint, every part, every member, every one, with different gifts, with varying knowledge of the bible, is needed to build up the body up by speaking the truth in love.

When you are needed for the task, it is no point talking about knowledge and ability and gifting. Which parent among you, on the day your baby born, felt adequately knowledgeable and able and gifted to raise that child. Most parents don’t. Most parents will never feel that they know enough, that they are able enough and gifted enough to raise their child.

But their child needs them. And so, they raise the child, sometimes clumsily, naively, certainly non-ideally, but they raise the child nonetheless, to the best of their ability. Because when you are needed for the task, you are needed for the task.

And if there is something you don’t know, or need to know, that’s where we come in. Pastor Daniel and I, and the elders of the church, we are responsible for equipping you for the work of ministry. Come to us, ask us, we are here to teach and to equip the members to build up the body in Hermon.

And here’s the thing. It doesn’t take much to speak the truth in love to one another. Sometimes it’s just a word of encouragement, sometimes it’s just a reminder of God’s love, sometimes it’s a just an assurance that God is in-control.

Sometimes, just the right word at the right time, is all it takes to move someone to the right.

HEBREWS 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

So let us, not just the pastors, not just the elders, but let us all consider how to move one another to love and good works, towards Christ-likeness, because we are all vine-workers for his glory till he returns.

That’s reason number one for why everyone needs to proclaim. Because everyone builds the body.

Reason number two: Because everyone has the Spirit.

Imagine you receive a gift at the door one day, and you open the box, and it’s a pair of ice-skates with a note in it, and it says from your uncle Ben. It’s a two-sided note, but in your excitement, you only read the front and off you dashed into the snow to play with your new pair of ice-skates.

A year goes by, and uncle Ben comes for a visit. And he says to you, “Hey, how did you like the skates? Have you been practicing?”

And you say “Yes, everyday!” And he says, “Well, show me what you’ve learnt!”

You put on the ice-skates uncle Ben gave you, and you show off your figure-of-eight that you spent so much time mastering, and you do your spinning in the air and landing perfectly, gliding on one leg and this and that. And you finish your routine, very pleased with yourself, and you turn to look at uncle Ben to see how proud he is of you.

But all he had on his face was a look of confusion. And you skate to him, and you ask, “What’s wrong, didn’t you like it?”

And he says, “Yes, that was all very good. Very impressive. But did you not read the note I sent with the skates? I wrote in the note that I bought you the skates because I enrolled you into an Ice-Hockey team, and I signed you up for training lessons with team. Those skates were for ice-hockey, not figure-skating”.

Friends, have we carefully read the note that came along with the gift of the Holy Spirit?

The bible tells us the reason why God gave us his Spirit. Sure, the ministry of the Spirit is manifold, but one un-missable, one un-mistakable, one un-equivocal reason the Spirit was given to us, was so that we might proclaim the name of Jesus to ends of the earth.

ACTS 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

In the book of Acts, which we journeyed through last year, we saw that there was an inseparable link between the Spirit and the proclamation of the Word.

ACTS 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

ACTS 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…

All proclamation is tied to the gift and ministry of the Holy Spirit.

And if that is not sufficiently clear, Acts 2:17-18 makes the link explicit:

ACTS 2:17-18 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,and your young men shall see visions,and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servantsin those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

Why according to the prophet Joel, has God poured out his Spirit onto us? In case we miss it, he repeats it twice for emphasis,

“I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,”
“I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”

The Spirit was poured out to us for prophesy – that is, proclaiming Jesus Christ.

Again, it doesn’t have to be grandiose, erudite, proclamation of Christ. It can be a simple word of encouragement, it can even come in the form of a song.

EPHESIANS 5:18-19 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.

If you feel hesitant to teach the word to another, then perhaps just sing it to one another. It counts as well. The ministry of speaking the truth in love to one another takes the form of singing out loud during Sunday Service too. Because you are singing the truths about Christ and the gospel to one another. And that is one way the Spirit ministers to the church.

but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

The Spirit leads us to sing. We all have the Spirit, so let us all sing.

Again, I want us to see the how Scripture consistently connects the Spirit with Proclamation.

JOHN 20:21-22 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

The Lord Jesus tells his disciples: “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you. And he said, “receive the Holy Spirit”.

Which means that disciples are on a mission, they are sent to do something. And the Holy Spirit is essential to the task.

And what are disciples sent to do? They are sent to do what the Father has sent Jesus Christ to do. And what is it that the Father sent the Son do to?

LUKE 4:43 he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

Jesus was sent to preach the gospel of the kingdom. And just as the Father has sent him, so he is sending us – to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom. And he has given us the Spirit demonstrably, precisely, inescapably, for this task of proclamation.

So then, the second reason for why everyone needs to proclaim is this: Because everyone has the Spirit.

Our third and final reason: Because everyone needs to hear.

We kicked off with mini-medical lecture. Now here’s one on history.

Historically, there were five ancient civilizations of the world.

  1. The Mayan Civilisation

  2. Ancient Egypt.

  3. Mesopotamia

  4. Ancient China

  5. The Indus Valley Civilisation.

Now why did these 5 ancient civilizations, emerge? What did they have in common?

  • Usumacinta River (Mayan Civilisation)

  • The Nile River (Egypt)

  • The Yellow River (China)

  • The Ganges River (Indus Valley)

  • Mesopotamia literally means “Between Two Rivers”. Its civilisation is situated between the great rivers Tigris and Euphrates.

Water is, after all, essential to all life. So essential, in fact, that when scientists today search for evidence of extra-terrestrial life in our universe, they look for whether there is water on a planet. Where water is, life can thrive, civilisations can form. made possible. Where it isn’t, they cannot.

The reason why human beings now dwell across the face of the earth, in lands without rivers and natural bodies of water, rather than only congregating alongside rivers, is because these ancient river valley civilizations discovered means of irrigation to deliver water further and further inland.

Before that, if you wanted to live in-land, you had to dig a well, and there’s only so many people one well can support. You cannot build a civilisation around a well. You need to build it along a river.

The technology of transporting water across vast land areas is the reason mankind is able to largely fill the entire face of the earth. Human beings cannot fill the earth by relying on rivers alone. They needed to build dams, and pipelines and reservoirs to do so.

Here’s the point: if our mission is to fill the earth with the knowledge of Christ. If the church’s mission is to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth, then we cannot simply rely on some ordained individuals to accomplish the task.

However great the Euphrates may be, however long the Nile is, however plentiful the yellow river, we need more than natural rivers to fill the earth with life-giving water.

We would need the whole church to bring the whole gospel to the whole world.

MATTHEW 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This is why the great commission in Matthew is consistently understood to apply to all Christians in all generations in all places, and not merely to an exclusive group of apostles.

We need every Christian to take the gospel everywhere.

Why? Because there are places rivers do not reach. There are people in your life that I cannot reach. There are people who cross your path, but not mine. There are those within your sphere of influence that I cannot teach.

A friend of mine, Ps Joe of Zion Serangoon, once told me about a time he and another pastor, Pastor Lawrence, when to visit a member in hospital. It was six-bedder ward, so after they spoke with their member, they went round to talk with the other patients in the ward as well.

And Joe was trying his best to speak to an elderly man in his mix of English and limited Mandarin. Then Ps Lawrence came along and greeted the elderly man in Hokkien. And Joe said that he saw the man’s eyes light up, and Ps Lawrence was able to converse and minister to him in a way that Joe himself could not.

Is this because Ps Joe a lousier pastor than Ps Lawrence? Maybe. Kidding. No. It’s just that different people are able to communicate with others differently, some more effectively than others.

We sometimes tell our friends right, “You speak to him better la, I speak he won’t listen, you speak got more chance.” Right? Same message, different messenger, different results.

We need the whole church to bring the whole gospel to the whole world. You are needed in this mission. You are uniquely positioned for effectiveness in this mission in a way that no one else is.

ACTS 2:4,9-11 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.

The early church needed men from Mesopotamia and Asia, Egypt and Libya, Rome and Arabia to make the gospel known.

The church today likewise needs everyone from every tribe and every tongue to proclaim the mighty works of God because everyone needs to hear.

We need everyone with different personalities, with different styles of communication, in different professions, with different expertise, in different places, of different ages, because everyone needs to hear.

Everyone of us in Hermon needs to proclaim.

Because everyone builds the Body.

Because everyone has the Spirit.

Because everyone needs to Hear.

So let us proclaim, everyone, you and I, one and all. Let us strive side by side for the sake of gospel. To transfer men and women into the kingdom of Christ and transform them into the likeness of Christ. Let us, as Mt Hermon, glorify God by being and making disciples of Jesus Christ.

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