From a sermon by Barnabas Chong—Singapore
ACCEPTED BY GOD
Long ago, Solomon
built a grand temple dedicated to God. Soon after, God appeared to Solomon with
some weighty words:
Then the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have
heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of
sacrifice. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts
to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are
called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn
from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their
sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to
prayer made in this place. For now I have chosen and sanctified this house,
that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there
perpetually.” (2 Chr 7:12–16)
words were God’s reply to Solomon’s prayer in chapter 6, a plea for God to
remember His people and to be with them no matter what. Solomon was asking God
to dwell with the children of Israel, with the temple as a symbol of this
union. In a handful of powerful sentences, God accepted Solomon’s invitation.
Imagine what was
going through Solomon’s mind. All that effort and sacrifice he had put into
building the temple could have easily been for nothing if God had rejected it,
as was His prerogative. But God accepted the efforts of His people and the dedication
of the temple.
The True Jesus
Church is that same spiritual temple today. Over many centuries, thousands of
churches have sprung into existence and prominence in every corner of the
earth. Yet, of all these churches, arrayed in architectural splendor,
historical richness, and financial and social capital, God chose the humble
True Jesus Church in which to dwell. We alone have been blessed with the Holy
Spirit and the complete truth. This is a very important reminder of a very
important lesson: the church, God’s church, is not made by the hands of men,
but built and sustained by the grace of God. And so it has been these past
hundred years, where God’s presence is undeniable in explaining how we have
come so far with so little. God has accepted the True Jesus Church, and now
dwells with us, and we give thanks.
AN EVERLASTING COVENANT AND
There is more to
be thankful for. God’s acceptance of the temple was not lightly done; it was
also a promise. The temple was His house, and Israel His people—both of which
He would watch over and protect. What did God mean when He said, “My eyes will
be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.… My eyes and My
heart will be there perpetually”? It meant that when the Israelites eventually
strayed, when Solomon himself strayed, and when the temple was destroyed by the
Babylonians, God did not forsake His covenant with His beloved. Even though the
entire nation was conquered in punishment, and the symbol of Israel’s holy
zeal—their grand temple—was brought to ruins, God would always watch over them.
He would lead them, and work with His people to restore things to their former
glory. Thus the temple was rebuilt and the Israelites brought back to their
holy land, and God’s covenant with His beloved endured.
encouraging news for the True Jesus Church: God will always guide and take care
of us. God’s promises will always be fulfilled. The True Jesus Church, having
been accepted by God, will always be God’s chosen church. The promise goes
further: with Jesus, we know that as long as we are willing to believe, God
will give us His salvation grace. God has prepared it all for us. Now,
therefore, we have more to be thankful for: God has prepared for us
immeasurable grace, and as long as we persist in our faith, He will be with us
for all time.
PASSED ON TO THE NEXT GENERATION
Elder John wrote:
"I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in
truth, as we received commandment from the Father” (2 Jn 4). Just as he
rejoiced, grateful for the continuation of the faith across generations, we
also have good reason to rejoice today. Today, it requires herculean effort for
one generation to pass on its beliefs to the next, much more so for a belief
that requires as much devotion as Christianity. But, as promised, God watches
over us. Through His grace, the church community has been effective in creating
an environment of love and dedication within which our young can grow in their
Just as the
members in apostolic times, we are vulnerable to the temptations and pressures
of the world. In the face of such forces, we are often left feeling confused
and alone. It is in these times that we must give thanks. For it is when we are
brought low that we are truly reminded of the value of our faith. Our defeats
are the precious moments in which we rely on God once more, to see for
ourselves what His promise—to the great kings and prophets of antiquity—looks
like in our own lives.
The church, then,
must become a refuge for the young. For the temple where God dwells is also to
be a sanctuary for the weary, for the bereft and bewildered. The young, in
their turn, must learn to seek the church as this promised refuge. That God
works to preserve the gospel in the hearts of His chosen is also His gift to
us, and for that we are grateful.
THE FRUITS OF THANKSGIVING
As we count our
blessings and give thanks, we must also remember those whose names have long
been missing from the ledger. There are many who have abandoned their faith in
weakness, for whom God’s grace is an unimaginable privilege. We must never
forget these members. In the famous parable of the lost sheep, it is striking
that the shepherd, at the climactic moment of discovering his missing sheep,
“lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing” (Lk 15:5). This is the true love of the
shepherd. The shepherd, who leaves all behind in search of the lost one,
lovingly holds on to his sheep and is unwilling to ever let go of it again.
This is the love that Jesus has for us—all of us. Those who are strong and firm
in faith must assist in this hunt for the lost and, like the shepherd, take our
fellow brothers and sisters upon our shoulders. We have all been redeemed by
the same blood, and it is our duty to gather the straying ones home.
prompts us to look ahead. We have received so much, yes, but then what? As
Jesus reminds us in the parable of the fig tree, no matter how deeply rooted we
are within the vineyard, to refuse to bear fruit is to be contemptuous of God’s
grace; and that warrants being cut down and discarded.
Vital to our
lives as Christians is the humility to accept God’s reminders. All thanksgiving
begins with remembrance—of good things that have happened in our lives. We
marvel at the miraculous; we rejoice. Yet greater still is a thanksgiving that
is inspired from a deeper level of understanding. That is, when we suffer, when
things do not go our way, we remember that God is speaking to us through these
experiences. He is asking us to remember our faith and covenant with Him.
Praise God for such humbling opportunities to grow and shine for Him.
A century of
God's abidance is a lot to be thankful for indeed. We must, in our prayers and
in our mutual encouragements, remember His grace and give God the glory. But it
cannot end with a muttered prayer and occasional “thank God.” Our gratitude to
God must prompt us to pass on the love, grace and strength we have received. We
are so filled with God’s love that we cannot help but share all we have been
blessed with—the gospel, a helping hand, a heartfelt prayer, a listening ear.
Freely we have received, and freely, gratefully, we give.