October 11, 2017
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
God has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness. This is His initiative; this is His nature. He blesses and ever blesses. He can’t help being a blessing because it is His nature. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing from the heavens, and He has given us the Kingdom gladly. He has equipped that Kingdom with everything that we would need to flourish, to equip, to bear fruit and to produce. God gave His all; what more could He do? He withheld nothing; He gave His one hundred percent, and this is why He could command us to do the same.
God tells us to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength; and we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. Do you love yourself with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might? We do love ourselves and we take care of ourselves, and as we do, we should love our neighbour as ourselves. We can do this because God continues to work with us to enable us to fulfil His command.
God’s requirement from us is to give our all. Actually, our all is short of His glory. Our all is only acceptable if joined with Jesus’ offering of His own. Isaiah says that our righteousness is as filthy as rags, but if joined with the sacrifice of God, our sacrifice be acceptable to God. But, we must understand grace. There is such thing as “cheap grace.” With the less than one hundred percent of ourselves, we ride with the one hundred percent of Jesus, and we think that this is acceptable to God. This is wrong. People think, “I am a sinner, and I only rely on the blood of Jesus and I am acceptable to God because of this.” Our sacrifice is only acceptable to God if joined with the sacrifice of Jesus, but also if we give our one hundred percent. Otherwise, it is not acceptable.
Our offerings during the Mass end up side by side with Jesus’ offering on the altar. Is Jesus’ offering short of His all? No, He gave His all. He gave His life, what more could He do? How dare we give any less of ourselves? We can’t give our less because we are supposed to be like Him. It is not a legal requirement that He is after, but after us being restored into His original design, which is being created in His image and likeness. This image and likeness of God is ever blessing and giving – not witholding anything at all.
The reason God loves us is not so we can abuse His sacrifice. He loves us so that we can love like He does. God draws us by His love. He molds us by His love. It is not by threats or an authoritarian discipline, but by His love. The power of His love will draw us, will make us, and will restore us to Him, and it will make us want to be like Him.
Apart from Jesus, we are nothing; but nonetheless, He requires from us our all. If we are lukewarm, we will be spewed out of His mouth. We will be rejected; we will not be accepted. Our goal is to be restored back to His image and likeness. His likeness is all.
Five loaves and one fish would not have fed five thousand. We half these wherein two and a half loaves and one fish could not have fed two thousand five hundred people. My reasoning is this: half of the offering would not have fed half of the people. In fact, half of the offering could not have fed twelve hungry apostles. It is not the amount, but the giving of all. If our Church is filled with millionaires and they gave part of their heart when they give their offering, I don’t believe we would still build the building. Given the membership of the Cathedral of the King, with our economic statuses and we give our all, our all will be equivalent to five loaves and two fish. We will build the building, and we will build more than five thousand spiritually hungry people. It is not the amount, but God supernaturally multiplying our one hundred percent.
If we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our minds, and with all our strength, this will turn the world upside down. If the disciples in the early Church gave half of their possessions, that would have amounted to not much. Because they gave their all, it made God to multiply. We have been equipped, given talents and gifts so that we can give and invest them all. Not using our gifts and our blessings will not render us useless, and it can harm us. In fact, it will kill us.
The universal principle in the kingdom of God is that when we are blessed with something and we don’t use it, it will be a curse to us. The blessing will turn into a curse. Food is good and necessary to give us fuel and energy to do what we have to do. If we don’t move and do what we need to do, we will gain weight, we will get sick, and we will die. We received nutrient; and it is not just the receiving, but the using that will make us healthy.
In Psalm 80, God gave us this vineyard; chose the choicest fertile area; built a winepress in it; built a tower and place everything that the vineyard would need. It was producing fruit, but the psalmist said, “Why have you broken down its hedges?” The fruit was destroyed, and the psalmist is like blaming God. Why blame God for what? For blessing us? For giving us a perfect vineyard? Blessings need to be used properly. We produce with the blessings that God gave us – grace upon grace – and blessings will be multiplied. If not, it can turn into a curse. We are required to give our all in using and appreciating God’s blessings.
Romans 15:4 says that whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that by the encouragement of the Scriptures, we may have hope. We learn from the weaknesses of our fathers and their failures. Psalm78 encourages us to learn from our father’s mistake – a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that did not prepare its heart and the spirit as not attuned to God. The sons of Ephraim were equipped with bows, trained and gifted, but they turned back on the day of battle. They did not deliver and produced. The kingdom was taken away from Israel because they were not producing; but the kingdom continues to produce and God will always find somebody that will produce to make Israel jealous. Israel did not use, did not give and did not share what they had received, but because of God’s mercy and loving-kindness, He still left the door open for Israel. Our offering will only be acceptable if it is set beside Jesus’ offering. We have to give our all.
Cathedral of the King, we are right now being given an opportunity and a rare privilege by God. God is saying to us, “Don’t blow it.” We have just gone through an imaginable storm. It hit us and we were shaken to our core, and yet, we survived by the grace of God. Now, we are being given an opportunity. On top of what we experienced, God has given us the grace and the opportunity to pick ourselves up and rebuild. This Church building is a parable for us. It is not really about concrete structure, but about building God’s temple – you and I. We are being given an equipping, a blessing and a gift. God is preparing a vineyard for us, and He is expecting us to bear fruit - the fruit of love, peace, kindness, goodness, mercy, humility. This is what we are supposed to do as we work in the vineyard.
The building is not just so that we can hold our activities or meetings, but once again, the fruit that God is expecting from us is the fruit of the Spirit. We need a place, but the place is only to be used to bear the real fruit that God expects. In building the Church structure, are we giving our all? Are we loving our neighbors as ourselves? Are we loving God with all our heart, with all our souls, and with all our might? Are we not just thinking of our own affairs, but also of the affairs of our brothers? Are we following Romans 12 that says to have love without hypocrisy, abhor to what is evil, cling to what is good, not paying back evil for evil, giving preference to one another in brotherly love? We need these things to produce good fruit.
It is no coincidence that I have been teaching what I have been teaching. I have been pounding us on mercy and forgiveness – the nature of God. To me, if you preach the gospel without disturbing the theological feathers of people, maybe, you are not preaching the right gospel. The right gospel is scandalous. The real gospel of Jesus is controversial. The real gospel is not easy to accept and to believe. This is why many people walk away from Jesus after seeing His miracles because He said that tax collectors and sinners will get ahead of the religious leaders because they get what He says. How can God have anything to do with them? This is the good news. If you preach the gospel and everybody is comfortable with it or nobody is offended, maybe it is a watered down gospel. The real gospel of Jesus is scandalous. It will make you sing, “Amazing love, how can it be if you, a King, would die for me?” Jesus did not only die for us, He also died for a person we hate! This is scandalous; this is unfair, and this is what the Pharisees cannot accept.
This is what we are called to be witnesses of. If you are told, “You are busy working for your family, and you still serve in the Church, and you can still manage to hold this smile on your face? Oil prices have gone up, food commodities are expensive, and you still tithe and give an offering to your Church? You still help those who are sick in your Church? You still give toward the building of your Church, and you still carry this cheerful countenance?” This is our witness!
People who will see this witness will want to say, “Let us go to the mountain of the house of the Lord and let them teach us their ways.” We are witnesses and this is our calling. By the power of God, we will be transformed, and hopefully, as we get transformed, the love of God in us is also contagious that we become witnesses to other people and draw them also by the love that God has placed in our hearts.
God is saying to us, “Don’t take this for granted.” After forty years, we have an opportunity to be a powerful witness, not because we will have a building, but because we are being expected by God to produce fruit through the building of His physical building. We are really building the temple of God. This is our opportunity to give our all, to obey God and to say, “Lord, we love You with all our hearts, soul, and mind and our neighbour as ourselves. We will show You this as we build that which You have commanded us to build.”
What God has started, He will be faithful to complete it. God has given an opportunity. God has given us a perfect vineyard, so let us produce fruit out of it because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God. .