Midweek Fellowship – July 5, 2017
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
Jesus said, “You are witnesses of these things.” We are witnesses of God’s forgiveness, His love, and His mercy. We need to know what we are witnesses of.
When a woman is pregnant, she is eating not just for herself, but she is sustaining two lives. We must understand this in order to give to whoever we are witnessing to, and wherever we are witnessing. We need to feed ourselves more than what is just enough for us. The principle of God’s blessing is that He blesses us with more than what we need for us to be a blessing. We need to eat not only for ourselves, but for others also.
Jesus said, “I sanctify myself for their sakes.” It is okay that we study the Word of God, grow in the knowledge of God, we read and pray, but understand that we are not just doing it for ourselves. We need to mature from the selfish notion of: “I am concerned with my own soul.” “I am concerned with my own salvation.” This is good; in fact, this is the starting point, but we are witnesses, and being witnesses do not stop with ourselves and our concerns only.
I shared to somebody that I ran an extra ten minutes from my usual routine, but in my age, it is not anymore about looking good or feeling better. I remember a commercial jingle with children singing to their father, “Take good care of your heart.” It is not so that the father will live longer, but it is for the father to live longer to be with his children. We are to be witnesses, not just for our sake, but for the sake of those we witness to, to those we give the good news to, which is God’s love, God’s forgiveness, and God’s mercy.
Before you can be a witness, you have to have that experience of God’s life in you – a genuine encounter with Him. A love song says, “Unless you feel it, I can’t reveal it. You’ve got to let it happen to you to know how it feels.” You have to experience for yourselves what you are witnessing about before you can witness about it. You cannot talk about the mercy of God before you have experienced it yourself. You cannot talk about God’s love hypothetically, theoretically, or intellectually because you just have read the Bible. You have to have to experience it for yourself, then, you can be a witness. You shall be empowered by the Holy Spirit, and you will be overpowered by Him. You will experience God’s love through Him, and you will have that zeal and that courage in spirit before you can be a witness.
The first generations of Christians in our Church were typically Roman Catholics who experienced something outside the Church that we grew up with. Picture this: we grew up in different parishes, and we did not sing like we do in our Church. We did not read the Bible like the students do every day in school. We did not pray as often as we do today. We did not have an experience or knowledge of God in an intimate way. We were Church-goers, but we were distant. We were baptized, we grew up in Church, but we were just obligated. Our Christian life was a boring, humdrum, and monotonous obligation. God was Somebody that was not personally known by us.
We all had an experience and God somehow put us in this Church. As my personal testimony, in 1987, I was then working in McDonald’s in Greenbelt as a cashier, and a man, in his early thirties, was a regular customer. He asked me several times what time I was off. I was then 19 years old, and then in my mind, I had thoughts of who and what kind of person the man was. I tried to avoid him. Finally, one time, he asked me what time I was off and I told him that I was off at one o’clock in the afternoon. He said that he would wait for me at that time, and that he would be sitting at the lobby.
I was anxious and nervous. When the time came, I went out through the back door to avoid him, but he saw me walking, and I saw him see me, so I went back inside Greenbelt, and I talked to him. He didn’t turn out to be what I accused him of in my mind. What he did was to share to me who Jesus was, the gospel, and right there in the Greenbelt lobby, we prayed and I accepted the Lord. A few months later, I was led to Christian Life Fellowship, and from then on, I stayed with the Church, and I discovered the richness of the Church – of the three streams.
You, the next generation, grew up in the Church. Some of the people in my generation led colorful lives like being in bondage to several things, and then we found God. This is because somebody witnessed to us. Jesus said, “He who is forgiven little, loves little. He who is forgiven much, loves much.” This was what Jesus said to the Pharisee when a prostitute was in his house and she was crying and wiping the feet of Jesus with her tears. The Pharisee didn’t even wash Jesus’ feet as the customary courtesy was to the guests. Many of our generation were forgiven much, so they loved God much, and now, they are committed that much.
People who grew up in Church would ask, “Why do I need God? I don’t understand why I need God. How can I not know God?” Everyone doesn’t need to have a dramatic conversion from sin because one might say, “I am not a sinner. I am not a criminal.” One thinks he might not need a conversion, but what he needs to know is to know God - from the most sinful tax collector to the religious Pharisee. Everybody needs to know God.
Jesus said, “It is easier for sinners and prostitutes to know God, to enter into the kingdom of God than the rich and the religious people.” This is because the former don’t understand that they do need God. This is the beginning of us being witnesses. We have to have this experience, which is a daily roller coaster ride. Jesus also said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let Him deny Himself, take up His cross daily, and then follow Me.”
This coming Sunday’s gospel is Matthew 11:28, which says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Learn from Me for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” We all need to come to Jesus, and we all need to lay down our burdens to Him. The saddest thing about it is that people don’t even realize it.
It used to be that in our village, we always had our water delivered where a water pump is used. As the process is going on, its irritating sound can be oblivious to neighbors because it is a normal thing done in the village. People had been so used to its sound, that when the sound stops, the stillness is appreciated. Peace is felt.
We have been so used to the noise around us – to our problems and our stresses in our everyday lives – that we don’t understand that there is a peace that we can avail of when we know who God is and we have an intimate relationship with Him. Then, we can be witnesses of this peace. Then, we can be proclaimers of this peace; and then, we can share this peace.
We are witnesses of these things, but we have to have it happen to us first to know how it feels, and to be able to spread it. God said to Moses, “The same Spirit I will take from you and give to others that they also may be prophets and proclaimers like you, and be able to witness.”
Following Jesus’ principles, we sanctify ourselves. It is good and it is a starting point that we nourish our own soul and spirit, and our relationship with God. We do this not so that we can be assured of eternal life for ourselves, but so that we have that eternal life to be able to share. The gospel is not about making sure that we go to heaven when we die. The gospel is making sure that we know God and we are equipped to be able to make Him known.
This is the gospel and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.