Midweek Fellowship – December 6, 2017
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
Advent teaches us to wait in anticipation. The kind of preparation that we make depends on who is coming. Is it someone that we are afraid of? If we prepare because of fear, then, it is superficial. If we are waiting for someone we love and kind, our preparation is different. I would like to remind us that He who is coming is Somebody who loves us. He who is coming is the Man who was crucified for us. If He gave His life for us even when we were His enemies, we should not fear His coming.
People obey a dreaded superior in fear or oppression, but we obey a beloved superior in joy and inspiration. The Patriarch told me that a CEO have told him that it is hard for him to be one, but the former said that it is more difficult that one is a Pastor of a church because the organization has volunteers, not wage-earner employees. Employees can be asked to do tasks because they are being paid for and they fear of losing their jobs, but a volunteer Church worker needs an inspiration and influence, not threats.
God, through Jesus, draws us by His love and by His kindness, not by fear. Jesus, who is coming, is Somebody who is good and who loves us. We desire to be like Him. St. John said, “We shall be like Him and we who have this hope fixed on Him, purify ourselves just as He is pure.” We want to be like Him so this is why we await His coming. We are all equipped to share Jesus to others, and I pray that we will have that zeal burning brightly and strongly in our hearts.
God is a not an exacting God. God is expecting not exacting. He expects from us that nothing impure will enter into His kingdom. God expects that we will meet the standard. Jesus said, “John the Baptist of all people born of women is the greatest, but the least in the kingdom of God is greater than John.” Having John the Baptist as the standard is a high one because he was the only one that understood Jesus, but those who are in the kingdom of God is greater than him. There is a standard, and God is not about to lower this standard. It is a wrong interpretation of grace if we see it as condoning sin. Grace is two-fold: one, it forgives sin, but it gives us ability to meet the standard; two, it is empowering and equipping. The grace of God forgives, but it empowers us for us to be righteous and to be like Jesus.
The song “Amazing Grace” says, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretched like me. I was once lost, but now I am found. I was blind, but now I see.” We don’t remain blind, in darkness or in sin. This is grace, but it starts with forgiving the sin and giving us all spiritual blessings from the heavenlies so that we can live according to the Kingdom greater than John.
The song goes, “It was grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace gave me boldness my fears relieved. To many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. It is grace that brought me safe thus far, it is grace that will lead me home.” It is grace that will enable us the ability to reach His kingdom. Again, grace is forgiving, and at the same time, empowering and equipping. The promise of God is that He will be with us until the restoration of all things. What He started in us, He will be faithful to complete it. The song continues, “It was grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” This is how amazing God’s grace is.
Jesus is He Who is full of grace – grace upon grace and truth. He is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world, at the same time, He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus also told us, “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” Don’t think that we don’t have to obey this because of God’s grace. We were given grace by God so that we can be equipped and empowered to obey His law and His standard.
Grace comes with a calling. God will not give us a standard without giving us the ability to meet it. With great power comes great ability. We still need to face what we need to face. As I was in the Church property one time, looking into the progress of the construction, I was praying, “Lord, do not put us to shame. The funds are almost running out. Please show me what we are going to do.” I just had this assurance while praying, “With the responsibility and with the calling comes the ability.” We need to hold on this promise by faith. God will complete His work. We will still face the prices of the cement, of steel, of fixtures, but grace means that we will be able to face these challenges and meet the reality of current prices and Philippine economics. Grace will enable us through many danger, toil and snares. It was grace that brought us this far, it is grace that will lead us home. It is grace that enabled us to start that building; it is grace that will enable us to finish it. Only by grace can we enter; only by grace can we stand, and this is God’s grace.
The good news is that Emmanuel, God with us, and He will be with us until the end. What we need to do is to prepare ourselves. It starts by laying aside every encumbrance, like our doubt. Lay aside every encumbrance to unity. Lay aside every encumbrance to love. Lay aside hate or anything negative. We have come a long way from our Sheridan days, and we need to make sure that there is no residue of anything bad. We need to focus on the good things.
Philippians 4:8 says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Let us focus on these things. Look to the joy set before us because this will make us endure the challenges and overcome them. Let us not be negative. Nip it in the bud and focus on the good. Instead be awed by the tremendous joy and privilege of participating in the work of God.
History is being made in our Church. This building will be a testament, not just to our children and grandchildren, but to the next generations. All that we put into it – resources, effort, prayers – the reward for these will not be measured by money. The reward will go beyond money. We are being given the chance now to be a witness to the next generations, and I am thankful for this opportunity. We will face all challenges by God’s grace. Let us learn from the parable of the building. We are really not building a concrete edifice, but we are building ourselves. The more we build ourselves, the more it will be easier to build the edifice.
St Paul said to his letter to the Corinthians, “Seek to abound for the edification of the Church. Let all things be done for edification.” In Ephesians, he said, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word that is good for edification of one another according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace, empowerment, and ability to those who hear.” The more we build up each other, the more we enable each other, and the more we give each other the ability to build what we need to build, to do what we need to do and that is, to further the kingdom of God.
Let us empathize with each other. Everybody is going through a battle or struggle. There was this story of this Age Suit which was designed to help caregivers better understand their patients. A Wall Street Journal correspondent wore this and he wrote, “The unforgettable, and at times distressing, experience shed light not just on aging, but also how virtual reality equipment can teach empathy and shape our perceptions of the world around us. “ Some caregivers really do not know what their patients are undergoing. Like us, sometimes, we are oblivious and callous to the situations of people around us.
The King that we are waiting for to return has put on this suit permanently. He did not remove it and He undergoes what we undergo. This is why He can empathize with us. This is how He loves us because He wants to help us in all that we undergo. Aren’t we thankful to God who loves us so much? This is the King. This is the Lord. This is the Messiah that we are waiting for. We need to prepare our hearts, our minds, and our lives and each other to meet Him for He is coming soon. We prepare non-stop because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.