Emerge 2006: Daniel Among The Babylonians – Rev. Kong Hee

Posted in Sermons with tags , , on November 9, 2007 by pekkleguo

In my opinion, this is one of the most “landmark message” by Pastor Kong for EMERGE Conference. How we as Christian must ENGAGE the world!
Though we are in the world, we are not of the world. God has placed us here for a specific purpose—to penetrate the culture we live in and bring about lasting change and impact through godly influence.
“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:14-15)

Jesus says, “We are not of the world.” That means we don’t embrace the world’s value system of pride, greed, envy, violence, sloth, lust and gluttony—commonly known as the seven deadly sins. Yet Jesus also prayed, “Father, don’t take My people out of the world, just keep them from the evil one!” The reasoning for that is simple: as long as we remain in the world, we can be “the light of the world” (John 15:19).

Indeed, this often sounds paradoxical. How can you be in the world and yet not of the world—both at the same time? Well, what that means is that naturally and physically, you are mingling with everybody in the world, but in your internal attitudes and moral values, you are different. And like the leaven in a cake, you are seeking to change the world from inside out.

Relating to this thought is another concept that Jesus presented in the Sermon on the Mount.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:13-16)

Salt never enhances the food it has been sprinkled on if it is not mixed in completely. Salt is meant to blend into whatever it touches. As the salt of the earth, we need to “dissolve” into our world and become one with our environment. And as we blend in, we change the flavor of the “meat” and prevent spiritual death and moral decay from setting into the lives of others.

What’s more, salt changes that which is bland and of bad taste by bringing flavor, fragrance and delight to it. Similarly, of all the people on planet Earth, the Church of Jesus Christ should be the most colorful, vivacious and progressive. Unfortunately, Pharisaical, religious Christianity has made it bland, beige, banal, boring, and out of touch with society at large.

And when we don’t want to engage and blend in but instead insist on being a “chunk of salt” sitting on the peripheral of the “meat of the world,” we become unpalatable to society. Salt is useless if it doesn’t blend in and marinate its environment. Jesus says, “It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Matt. 5:13).

The Holy Spirit wants us to engage and penetrate our world. When we Christians fail to do that, we become irrelevant, redundant, obsolete and useless. We become “good for nothing” and get marginalized by the very institutions God wants us to influence and change.

“THE DA VINCI CODE” CONTROVERSY

With the words of Christ in mind, what then should be the correct Christian response to the very controversial movie and book, The Da Vinci Code?

The Da Vinci Code is a fictitious mystery novel written by American author Dan Brown, published in 2003. Brown wrote of Jesus having a secret marriage with Mary Magdalene, that they had a child, and that a powerful organization linked to the Church conspired to commit murder to keep that a secret. Besides, Jesus’ divinity was invented by Constantine and the Church for political reasons. The book became a worldwide bestseller and by May 2006, it has more than 60.5 million copies in print and has been translated into 44 languages. It is thought to be the seventh biggest selling book of all time.

As popular as the book has been, it was still moving under the radar of the religious fraternity until it was released as a movie. Sony’s Columbia Pictures adapted the novel to film, with Academy Award winner Ron Howard directing it. The film was released on May 18, 2006, and starred Tom Hanks. To date, the movie has grossed US$205,000,000 in the U.S. alone. The launch of the movie was almost as controversial as The Passion of The Christ (2004), which was a movie that grossed US$611,899,420 worldwide, except that this time, The Da Vinci Code has incurred the wrath from the opposite spectrum—the conservative Christian establishment.

While most churches in America and Europe have used the movie as a means for apologetics, Bible education and even evangelism, to talk about the real Jesus of the Bible, many churches in Asia have sought to ban the movie. CNN even reported that “The National Council of Churches Singapore had requested a ban.”

Back in 2004, many Christians were upset when critics of The Passion of The Christ wanted to ban the movie. Fast-forward to 2006, and many of those same Christians are now up to arms with The Da Vinci Code, wanting it banned from our cinemas.

This begs the question: How would God Himself respond to The Da Vinci Code, or movies like Harry Potter, for that matter?

THE GARDEN OF EDEN

In the book of Genesis, God planted a tree right in the center of the Garden of Eden. It was called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17). God then asked Adam to tend to all the trees, including that tree that contained the knowledge of evil. Adam was allowed to look at the tree, admire its beauty, and enjoy the rustling of its leaves. What Adam and Eve were not allowed to do was to eat of it to internalize the evil it contains.

Have you ever wondered why a holy God would do that, when He clearly is not the author of temptation (James 1:13)? In fact, why did God even allow the existence of such a tree when He knew full well the damage that tree could bring to Adam and all mankind? That one tree could plunge the whole human race into 6,000 years of sin and death, chaos and confusion? Shouldn’t God just chop it down and remove it from the Garden? Wouldn’t it have been easier to remove the source of temptation once and for all?

Well, if God were like most Christians and Church denominations, that is what He would do, right? Take a chainsaw and cut down the tree! Ban The Da Vinci Code! Ban Harry Potter! Ban all casinos! Shut down all brothels! Ban all homosexuals from society! Close the eyes, cover the ears, and shut the mouths of believers from anything that potentially could pose a temptation to them.

Recently, I met a lady with a great singing voice. But she was banned from her Pentecostal church choir ministry because she was deemed too curvaceous in her figure. Her pastor once told her that she would be an allure to all the men in the church if she was ever seen on stage. As such, for the next 10 years, she was banned from singing in the choir until she reached middle age and had put on considerable weight. So did God make a mistake when He created her beautiful and well-endowed? Are only ugly and unshapely women allowed in the arena of platform ministries?

Back to Genesis. Why didn’t God simply ban Adam from the tree—the potential source of temptation? Herein lies a very powerful principle: To God, innocence is not synonymous with virtue. Innocence is not virtue! And unfortunately, this is the easy route most “sincere,” Pharisaical, religious Christians like to take—ban anything that may be considered a temptation. Keep the church members innocent! Don’t let them see or know just how evil the world is!

Parents, if innocence is such a virtue, then wouldn’t imprisonment be the easiest way of raising your kids? Just lock up the boy permanently in his room! Then there would be no danger of him ever learning the vices of smoking, drinking, or taking drugs. Neither would there be any danger of him ever clubbing late into the night, nor getting into illicit sex. Just shut him in his bedroom and have a little slit in the door to pass food through during mealtimes! Surely that would keep him innocent from the evils of society, right?

But how many of you know that if you imprison your child, the Ministry of Community Development would charge you with child abuse? The Children Society would get a court order to issue a warrant of arrest to apprehend you! But what is so wrong in wanting to protect our children from social ills through imprisonment? Anyone with common sense would say that you have a warped concept on raising kids!

To God, virtue is not innocence. Virtue is innocence that is tested! What is virtue? Virtue is the power that comes from the ability to make mature choices. By the shores of Galilee, there was a woman with an issue of blood for 12 years who lunged forward to touch Jesus when He was walking by. Immediately, Jesus exclaimed, “I felt virtue (or power!) left Me” (Mark 5:30, KJV).

Jesus was able to say that because, just chapters earlier, He Himself was tested by Satan in the wilderness. And although He was the Son of God, His heavenly Father did not shield Him from the evil of Satan. Jesus “was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” to be tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1). His innocence was tested. And when He passed the test, the Scripture says that “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee” (vv. 14).

Virtue is innocence that is tested. And it is only when we pass the test as our innocence is assaulted that we become powerful and mature as a believer. When we walk by a casino or brothel, like Jesus, we develop the inner resolve to say, “No, I am not going in!” When we see pornography at a news-stand, we would say, “No, this is not for me!” When a sultry secretary winks at us and offers a private rendezvous after work at her place, we would say, “Thanks, but no thanks!” When we are offered a fictitious theory that Jesus got married and brought forth French royalties, our response is, “Oh pleeeaaaseeee, this tale has been going around for the last 2,000 years without ever gaining any traction anywhere. Do you honestly think I would buy that nonsense?”

By the way, if 2,000 years of Christianity could be so easily unraveled by a novel or a movie, then it is not such a great faith after all, is it? If our church members could be so easily swayed and stumbled in their beliefs because of The Da Vinci Code or Harry Potter, then what an indictment it is on the Christian education and discipleship of our local churches!

So often, the devil wants to exacerbate our religiosity with a form of holiness that is misguided—a brand of holiness that is not exposed to evil. And the sad result is that our church members never develop the spiritual muscles they need to triumph in the world.

And although we don’t imbibe the attitudes and values of the world, we all do live in a real world. The way we impact culture is not by retreating, withdrawing or trying to carve out a Christian “ghetto” in society where we see no evil, hear no evil, or speak no evil. On the contrary, we should fully engage the world, blending into it as salt and light. If we don’t do that, Jesus says that we become irrelevant, redundant, obsolete, useless, and “good for nothing.” Not just to the world, but to the kingdom of God!

    
DANIEL IN BABYLON

The Gospels make it very clear that God plunges us fully into society to influence the marketplace of business, education, government, arts and media. And God wants us to be like Daniel of the Bible. Who was he? Together with Noah and Job, Daniel was one of the three men in the Scripture credited with extraordinary righteousness (Ezek. 14:14, 20).

“There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers.”
(Dan. 5:11)

But although Daniel had extraordinary righteousness, he didn’t look or behave one bit like a religious priest in the temple of God. Neither did he dress like a holy prophet of Israel. Holiness is not something external that you put on. It is an internal attitude of the heart and the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.

Daniel looked 100 percent like the typical Babylonian of his time. He wore Babylonian headgear, Babylonian robes, Babylonian belts and Babylonian sandals. In fact, Daniel clothed himself in a style that easily put him in the company of the king’s astrologers and soothsayers. How else could he have been made the “chief of the magicians” (vv. 11) and mingled freely among them?

That is what it means to be the “salt of the earth.” Salt dissolves into the entire environment it is sprinkled upon and becomes one with it. Yet, it influences the whole environment with its property of saltiness.

Daniel was a holy man “in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God” (vv. 11); yet he was dressed like a worldly Babylonian.

Not only that, Daniel was trained in the knowledge and wisdom of Babylon.

“Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.” (Dan. 5:12)

He was educated in the dark arts of Babylon, which incidentally was the most idolatrous nation in the history of the ancient world. Daniel was such an expert in his field of studies that he was made the chief of the magicians and astrologers! He was definitely not innocent, naive or ignorant of the occult practices in the land, although he definitely did not practice them. How else could he have risen to the highest rank among the sorcerers and soothsayers?

All throughout the book of Daniel, we read of how Daniel’s innocence was tested again and again, but he remained righteous and holy—faithful to his God. He was a man of the Word (Dan. 9:2). He was a man of prayer and fasting (vv. 3). He was a man of the Holy Spirit (Dan. 5:11). Yet, like the salt and light that Jesus teaches in Matthew 5, Daniel’s position and ministry was totally entrenched in the worldly society God had planted him in. Daniel was the “chief of the magicians” (vv. 11).

If God has planted you in the realm of business, be a real businessman. If God has called you to be an educator, be a real skillful educator. If God has called you into government, be a real skillful politician. If it is the arena of the arts, be a real actor, singer or celebrity. If it is in the area of media, be a real television producer or movie director. Excel in your sphere of influence!

Daniel was a Special Counsel to King Nebuchadnezzar, overseeing a huge department of Babylonian astrologers. He wasn’t just a believer trying to disguise himself as a wannabe politician. He was, in every sense, a Babylonian. Since he was a youth, he was trained and groomed to be one: a civil servant fully “baptized” into the Babylonian culture. Just that the power Daniel leaned on was from on high—from the true God of heaven!

So often, I have met many Christians who say, “Hey, Kong, I am really a ‘preacher’ masquerading myself as a businessman!” And what is sad is that many of them are neither good preachers nor excellent businessmen. They don’t act the part, dress the part, talk the part; and worst of all, they don’t even do the part. They are just bad businesspeople in the marketplace of society. And in that process, they turn many unchurched people away from the gospel!

To shine for the Lord, you must excel in your workplace. You have to be baptized into the culture of your trade. I have seen management executives writing theological essays in their company’s project submissions. Or school teachers that preach the Bible in class instead of teaching subjects they are paid to teach. Instead of being a reflection of Christ, they turn people off. Be a hardworking, trustworthy professional. Be a real businessman! Be a real teacher! Excel in your job and you will be witnessing for Jesus by your work ethics from Monday to Friday.

FROM “DANIEL” TO “BELTESHAZZAR”

To function in Babylon, Daniel’s name was changed to Belteshazzar (vv. 12). The change of name means that Daniel allowed his personality to be totally immersed into his career. What is the meaning of “Belteshazzar?” Are you ready for a shocker?

“Bel” is the name of the chief demon god of Babylon. Belteshazzar means that “Bel will protect his life!”

By the way, what about the names of the other three famous Hebrew heroes—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who refused to compromise in the book of Daniel? Shadrach means “the moon god,” Meshach means “like the moon god,” and Abednego means “servant of the demon Nego.” By adopting such ungodly names, have they compromised? Not at all, the three Hebrew children held on to their consecration in the face of great persecution!

In relation to our contemporary world, it would be interesting to ask—what happens when a Christian wins a “Singapore Idol” contest? When worship leader Guy Sebastian won the Australian Idol, he received some flak from the conservative Christian community in Australia. The latter were upset because the title “idol” was offensive to them. But honestly, does the “idol” title mean that Guy is now promoting idolatry and should never have participated in such competition?

Daniel and his three Hebrew friends had all adopted extremely paganistic names! And yet, God had no problem with all that. The truth be told, God is less religious than we think He is!
We wring our hands nervously over Christmas trees and Easter celebration arguing that they are symbols of pagan worship from the Middle Ages.
We get upset over Martial Arts claiming that they open doors for the entry of demonic spirits.
We lose it when we see people with tattoos or men who wear earrings.
We are offended by Alfa Romeo cars because its emblem has a serpent in it.

    
Ecclesiastes 7:16 says, “Do not be overly righteous, nor be overly wise: Why should you destroy yourself?” By saying that one could be “overly righteous,” that means that one could try to be more righteous than God Himself! And by going beyond even what God expects of a person, you could end up destroying yourself. A good example is the Pharisees in the Gospels. Through their legalism, they kept trying to be holier than God and in that process, they ended up crucifying the Savior to the cross!

Legalism is the easy route the Pharisaical and the religious would always like to take. Instead of teaching kingdom attitudes borne of the heart, they focus more on the outward—what you eat, what you wear, where you live, and so forth blackmailing their church members to an obedience based on guilt.

Personally, I grew up hearing plenty of “thou shall nots” from sincere, well-meaning elders. Many of them went like this:
Thou shall not watch television, it is the devil’s box.
Thou shall not allow thy women to wear makeup.
Thou shall not wear bangles for it is a sign of bondage.
Thou shall not color thy hair, or thou will be cursed with barrenness.
Thou shall read only the old KJV Bible.
Thou shall not wear jeans to church.
Thou shall not listen to any secular, contemporary music.
Thou shall not allow drums in church. They are of the devil.
Thou shall not use puppets or dolls in Sunday school. They are idols.
Thou shall not use a credit card and be guilty of supporting the Antichrist’s 666 system.
Thou shall not wear jade.
Thou shall not use contraceptive, or thou will be guilty of unbelief.
Thou shall not buy insurance, or thou will also be guilty of unbelief.
 
And the list just goes on and on and on.

The problem here is that the rules are never objective. My list will never match yours completely. The rules are based upon differing cultures and tastes, likes and dislikes, personal preferences.

In many supposedly “conservative” Asian countries, most men wear those triangular Speedo swimwear when they go swimming. Yet, in some supposedly more “liberal” Western countries, like America for example, it is thought that only gay men wear Speedo briefs. Heterosexual guys must swim in boxer trunks!

The first time I went to the U.S. was in 1993. I was invited to California to speak in a faith camp meeting. During a Saturday afternoon, all the guest speakers were invited for an afternoon of rest and recreation by the hotel pool. With a background in competitive swimming, I went to the swimming pool in my Speedo briefs, and noticed the horrified looks on the faces of the American pastors! One of my American friends quickly told me to go back to my hotel room to change into a pair of shorts that covered me from my waist to my knees! I learned immediately that what is heterosexual in Asia could be deemed as gay in America.

Today, many women wear trousers or sleeveless tank-tops. Yet, in many conservative Asian societies, such apparel is frowned upon.

The rules change from culture to culture, often depending on what the previous generations were used to. And this is usually how it works:
If the church elders’ wives don’t ever wear makeup, then it is a sin for all other women to wear makeup.
If the elders and their wives don’t ever dye their hair, then it is a sin for any member to color his or her hair.
If the elders don’t ever like denim jeans, then it is a sin for any member to wear jeans to church.
If the elders don’t ever like jazz music, then it is a sin to listen to jazz!
 
Can you see how dangerous that is? Our morality and righteousness become subjective to what another person likes or doesn’t like. And people end up playing the “Holy Spirit” over the lives of others!

Religious obedience is insincere obedience. It is an obedience not based out of heartfelt conviction but only because one is more afraid of being criticized by others in the religious fraternity.

Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. (Rom. 14:1-2)

The Bible makes a distinction between those who are strong in the faith and those who are weak. The “weak in the faith” find it very hard to accept things that they are not accustomed to. They are usually quick to attach religious intonations or conspiracy theories to symbols and concepts that they find culturally challenging.

A good example is the peace sign that first surfaced in the late 1950s. That became one of the symbols of the hippie revolution in the sixties. Unhappy with the sex, drugs and rebellion that the “flower children” embraced, many Christians started speculating that the sign was really an inverted broken cross to mock at Christ. Others surmised that it was really a picture of a crow’s foot, an emblem of Satanism. But the truth is that neither was right.

The peace symbol was the result of a search for an emblem by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), a worldwide organization launched in 1958 in London, to coordinate opposition to the development of the British hydrogen bomb. In those days, the British navy communicated with semaphore, a system for sending messages using hand-held flags that are moved to represent alphabetical letters. The letters N and D were flagged by the signals shown below. Nothing spiritual about that.

Another controversy stirred up by the religious was the victory sign. It was a sign used to indicate peaceful intentions, made by holding the palm upright and outward and forming a V with the middle and index fingers. It is commonly flashed by presidents and world leaders, as well as cutesy kids in much of Northeast Asia. But to the Pharisaical, that is the satanic “nail” emblem that nailed Jesus to the cross!

How about the “I Love You” sign used by millions of deaf people all over the world? It has become such an emblem in pop culture that it is flashed by concert-goers to show their appreciation to the performers on stage. Yet, to many conspiracy “witch-hunters,” it depicts the satanic goat sign and the use of it is an invocation of demons to possess one’s body!

How could innocuous emblems suddenly become depictions of things that are vile and evil? This is exactly what the apostle Paul says of the weak in the faith: “to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean” (Rom. 14:14).

Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego all had a change of names from Hebrew ones to extremely worldly identifications. Yet it didn’t affect their consecration to God. They were still holy and righteous before the Lord. But at a practical level, the changes ensured that they could function in the Babylonian system of their days.

    
THE DOCTRINE OF DEMONS

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared, with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Tim. 4:1-3)

Virtue is innocence that is tested. Adam and Eve were innocent, and when they had the chance to become virtuous, they failed miserably. When they were exposed to evil, they had neither the ability nor the spiritual strength within to restrain themselves.

Virtue is not the abstinence from any exposure of evil. Virtue is the exposure to evil with the ability to restrain yourself. It is the ability to draw the line when some things, hobbies or recreation are becoming unhelpful to your soul and spiritual development. In life, the Bible says that we will constantly encounter many things that are perfectly lawful but may not be helpful to our spiritual growth (1 Cor. 6:12).

Sun and I love to watch musicals, especially when we are in New York or London. But there were some critically acclaimed musicals that we have gone to that were peppered with too many profanities and swear words. Our spirits were grieved and we walked out in the middle of those shows. The tickets may have cost us $200 a piece but the peace of God in our hearts was more important to maintain than to sit through a vulgar play. Virtue is the ability to restrain yourself and draw the line when the Holy Spirit is grieved within you.

Having said that, I still don’t believe in blind abstinence. The Bible says that such abstinence is really the “doctrines of demons” (vv. 1). All throughout Church history, the devil has been pushing onto believers subtle ideas such as: “You can only be truly godly if you don’t do this or that. If you abstain from this and are forbidden from that!” The idea is that the more one abstains from art, beauty, music, color and culture, the holier and godlier one will become.

Of course, we need to flee sin, sexual immorality and the like. But I am talking about legitimate, joyful, beautiful things that are amoral in life—they are neither right nor wrong. I am talking about the fashion you wear, the food you eat, the music you listen to, the house you live in, the art work that you enjoy, and so forth.

If it is true that godliness is equated with abstinence, then how much do you need to abstain before God is happy? What are you not allowed to have? Are you allowed to open your eyes and enjoy colors? Are you allowed to enjoy food or should you only eat rice with soy sauce? And even if you only eat rice with soy sauce, are you allowed to enjoy its taste? When is enough enough? Paul says that all these are “doctrines of demons!” Why? Because God has created them for us to enjoy and “to be received with thanksgiving” (vv. 3). But Satan has come along and twisted what is beautiful into something ugly.

Satan is always trying to portray to the world a God who is miserable—a heavenly Father who doesn’t want His children to enjoy life. That they are to have an impoverished, backward, non-progressive existence. But the truth is, of all people alive on planet Earth, Christians should be the most progressive of the whole lot!

We believers should be taking full advantage of everything God has put on this planet—creativity, technology, science, music, arts, media and fashion—and use it for His glory. After all, isn’t He the Author and Creator of them all?

THE MESSAGE VS. THE PACKAGING

How did Daniel thrive in the most idolatrous nation in world history?
He was trained in Babylonian arts and sciences.
He spoke the language of Babylon with its accent.
He dressed up totally like a Babylonian.
Like a typical dignitary in Nebuchadnezzar’s court, he would have curled his hair and dyed it orange red, painted his eyes with eyeliner and eye shadow, and powdered his face with white lead.
He was named after the main Babylonian god.
He mingled and worked with the most anti-god people in Babylon—the magicians and sorcerers.
 
And yet, Daniel excelled in his career while maintaining extraordinary righteousness and holiness. And in that process, he eventually got the very powerful Nebuchadnezzar to “praise and extol and honor the King of heaven” (Dan. 4:37)!

How did Daniel become such an effective salt and light in Babylon? Daniel understood one thing: the message may be sacred but the packaging is not!

Holiness is a spiritual entity. You can be handsome, beautiful, intelligent, physically well-sculptured and endowed, fashionable, fun, artistic, bright; and at the same time, be a very godly, spiritual and holy person. Likewise, we must distinguish between style and substance. Style is a personal preference but substance has to do with the truth motivating what we say and do. Religious people love to major in minors. Style is a minor. Substance is the major concern. Is the substance of what you do and say rooted in truth? Or, do you simply get “religiously” upset about a style that you don’t prefer?

What is sad is that most believers cannot live in the world and live in God! They either retreat from the world, or they backslide completely. They cannot dress sharp, look hip and beautiful, and be holy at the same time. But without being relevant and contemporary, how are you going to be the salt and the light in the world? How are you going to be like a Daniel, Joseph, Esther or Jesus?

If they have a choice, the religious and Pharisaical would like to retreat from the world and not be in the world. On the other hand, the licentious “cheap grace” crowd would advocate being totally of the world, embracing all its sinful values and attitudes. Yet Jesus gives us another way: to be in the world, but not of the world (John 17:15-16).

That means to fully engage society outwardly while holding on to godly values inwardly.

For too long, the world considers us Christians alarmists. “God is sending an earthquake to judge the nation!” “Kick all homosexuals out of society!” “Ban Harry Potter!” “Ban The Da Vinci Code!”

For too long, the world considers us Christians prudish and narrow-minded. No music. No makeup. No trendy clothes. No new home. No new car. For too long, the world considers us Christians morally incompetent. Naive. Innocent. Gullible. Unsophisticated. Unable to live in the real world.

But our God is not a straight-laced, withdrawn, intolerant God. Just look at Israel. They have 26 holiday celebrations a year, which is almost once every two weeks. Then every seventh year, they have a national one. Then in the fiftieth year, there is the huge Jubilee celebration. All these tell me that God loves celebrations. He really loves a good party!

God is colorful and vivacious. He loves arts, music, and He rejoices over His people with singing and dancing (Zeph. 3:17).

You can and should be sharp, contemporary, fashionable, prosperous, wealthy and healthy. Yet be righteous, holy, anointed, relevant and shining for Jesus Christ as light in the midst of an ever darkening world.

My job as the pastor of City Harvest Church is to constantly upgrade the packaging of my members, while keeping the message of the gospel pure and holy. If God can use a young man like Daniel in an idolatrous place like Babylon, God can use all of us in this postmodern society. HT
 

Emerge Conference Archives

Posted in Announcements on November 3, 2007 by pekkleguo

If you have any material or memories you like to add to this archives of emerge, please email me at pekkleguo@gmail.com 🙂

Emerge 2003: Reaching Out To The Next Generation – Kong Hee

Posted in Sermons with tags , , on November 3, 2007 by pekkleguo

In March of 2003, I was on a three-week preaching tour to the United States, my first such trip since 911 when I was in New York City. In one of my ministry stopovers, I came to the city of St. Louis, one of the great historical cities in the heartland of America. On a Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to minister in Pastor Rick Shelton’s Life Christian Center, a thriving congregation of several thousand members. (Brother Shelton is also widely known as the pastor of famous television preacher Joyce Meyer.)

As the church came together for the midweek service, I was very touched by the fire and passion for Jesus the youth expressed in their worship. There was a moment in the meeting when Pastor Shelton allowed two teenagers to come forward to lead the entire church in prayer. They were praying for revival among their peers in the high schools and colleges. Although they looked a little scruffy and weren’t religiously eloquent in their prayers, there was a tangible, genuine, heartfelt cry for revival in their intercession. I saw a spiritual hunger within them for God that I have not seen among young people in a long, long time.

As I stood there among the pastors in the front row, I began to sense the Holy Spirit moving in my heart and speaking clearly to me, “Kong, it’s time to stir up the young people in City Harvest again! Start reaching out more uncompromisingly to the youth!”

For the next two days, I could hardly focus on anything else as the presence of God was all over me. My heart was aching for the young people of Singapore. When I shared this burden to Brother Shelton over tea, he was visibly moved. He began to encourage me by saying, “Kong, you are so privileged. You are just a young man yourself and already God is revealing to you the need to reach out to the next generation. You don’t have to make the same mistake we have all made, and wake up one morning to realize that your team around you are all older people. And that you have lost a whole generation of young ones.” He then handed me a very informative book on campus ministry called Every Nation in Our Generation by Rice Broocks. (A substantial amount of information in this article is gleaned from that book.)

Whether we like it or not, all of us in City Harvest Church are part of a great, exciting revival that started with a handful of teenagers in 1989. And this has been one of the most amazing stories in the history of Christianity in Southeast Asia. However, if we don’t reach out to the youth of our day, this revival will be over in one generation!

God is a transgenerational God. All throughout the Bible, He reveals Himself as “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” He wants the power and the blessings He has given to us to be passed on to our children and our children’s children.

That your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth. (Deut. 11:21)

The Bible is very clear that God wants to “multiply” His glory from generation to generation, bringing heaven down to the earth. This is so vital because true revival is not just for one group of people for one season of time. True revival transforms entire cultures, ways of thinking and generational lifestyles.

Churches often grow up with their founding pastor as ours has. When we first started out, the whole church was made up of teenagers. But as I grow older in age, the demographics of the congregation also crept up correspondingly from youth to adulthood. Today, the average age in City Harvest has steadily increased to 26 years old and it will keep on increasing upward. We are now a church full of working professionals, administrators, managers, investors and entrepreneurs. And if there is no continual supply of young people, there can be no lasting change. Ours will be nothing more than a one-revival wonder and this work that was started 14 years ago will end in one generation!

Therefore there are key questions we need to ask ourselves:

    * Are the young people still being reached?
    * Is the fire of holiness burning in their souls?
    * Are they equipped to take the gospel of the kingdom to the next generation?

“THE 13/30 WINDOW”

Missiologoists have coined the term “the 10/40 Window,” defining the geographical region 10 degrees to 40 degrees north of the Equator, an area of the globe considered by many to be the most unreached and unevangelized region of the world. But what is more crucial for us to consider is not “the 10/40 Window” but “the 13/30 Window.” This defines the age group of people between 13 to 30 years old, which is really the greatest harvest field in the world today.

First of all, this age group is most open to the gospel. Secondly, it is the most important group because they are the future of the Church and the world. As such, when you reach the youth, you affect the future of Christianity and the whole world. Just look at the facts according to the UN Population Division and the Population Reference Bureau (2000):

  • 60 percent of the whole world are aged 24 and under.
  • 30 percent (or 1.7 billion) are aged between 10 to 24 years old.

In Singapore and Hong Kong, one in five of the population is a teenager or a young adult (the UN defines a “young adult” as someone between the ages of 19 to 24 years old). In China and Taiwan, one in four (25 percent) of the population is a teenager or a young adult. In Malaysia and Indonesia, the ratio is one in three (30 percent).

This age group is the greatest harvest field because it is Jesus Christ into their hearts before they hit 30 years of age. 75 percent become born again before they are 25 years old. (One survey even records as early as 19 years old!)

Since the Day of Pentecost 2,000 years ago, God has been pouring out His Holy Spirit upon the youth.

“And it shall come to pass in the last days,” says God, “that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17)

Sometimes, we think it is very hard to reach out to the young people. The prevailing presumption is that they are all too consumed by worldly pursuits and secular entertainment.

“Kong, it is too hard … the youth are too busy with their studies. They have no time for God or the Church!”

“Kong, you don’t understand how difficult it is … the youth today are too consumed with sports and entertainment. They have no time for God or the Church!”

Actually, nothing can be further from the truth. The disappointment with the sexual revolution, drug revolution, divorced families, politics, wars, and distrust for social institutions and school systems have caused youth to be hungrier for God and spiritual truths more than any other generation in recent times. Even Douglas Coupland, an unbeliever who coined the phrase “Generation X” has this to say:

“My secret is that I need God. I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”

What an opportunity it is for the kingdom of God! Never before in the history of mankind have more people been more open to hear the truth of the gospel. Never before has there been a greater spiritual battle for the life and destiny of the youth. And the devil knows that!

SATAN HATES YOUNG PEOPLE

Satan knows that the 13/30 Window is most open to God. He knows that if he gets to the youth first, he will affect the future of humanity. All throughout the Bible and world history, the devil has been targeting young people to distract them, or to destroy them.

When Moses was born, Satan knew that this baby would deliver the Israelites from Egypt. So he inspired Pharaoh to kill all the male Hebrew babies. One thousand five hundred years later, the ultimate Deliverer, Jesus Christ, was born in Bethlehem. Satan inspired Herod to do the same — to kill all the babies throughout the land.

Scholars, like Vinson Synan, have called the last 100 years “The Century of the Holy Spirit.” God had indeed poured out His Spirit upon all flesh. We have all been inspired by the great stories of the Welsh Revival, the Azusa Street Revival, the Charismatic Renewal, and the Jesus Movement.

Yet, at the same time, Satan made sure that the last 100 years was also the bloodiest century in world history. Adolf Hitler raised up millions of youth in World War II that killed 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. Dictators like Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin raised up armies of youth that brutally massacred tens of millions of innocent people to expand Communism throughout Russia and Eastern Europe. Lenin once said, “Give me four years to teach the children, and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”

Strongmen like Mao Zedong had a personal philosophy to recruit the youth of China into his Red Guards. His army of young people were willing to betray their own parents and families for the ideology of Chairman Mao. During the Cultural Revolution, the brainwashed youngsters of the Red Guards mercilessly killed 20 million people in a 10-year period from 1966 to 1976.

Others like Pol Pot’s Red Army was also made up of teenagers and those in their early twenties. 2 million people were brutally massacred in the killing fields of Cambodia. In the last 10 years, the genocides in Rwanda and the Intifada in the Middle East had killed thousands upon thousands of innocent people. Again, all the atrocities were primarily carried out by young people.

Whenever God has a great plan, the devil would scheme to hatch an evil plot. As much as the Holy Spirit has moved mightily among the young people in the last 100 years, the devil at the same time, has also waged a very intense war against the youth. He didn’t want them to walk in their God-given, redemptive destiny. Instead, Satan got them to do his “dirty deeds” by spilling their blood and killing by the millions.
 
What is even more telling is that the majority of teens feel that their churches are not excellent in its pastoral ministry. The point is: youth, like all progressive people today, expect excellence—even from the Church!

Today’s youngsters are already stressed out by the busyness of school, sports, extracurricular activities, friendship issues, etc. To ask them to invest their time, reputation, energy and spiritual focus in the kingdom of God, you must then know that they expect one thing from you: excellence in your spiritual ministry to them.

This is how the average teenager thinks of the Church:

1. The Church is inflexible. Pastors don’t try to explain, persuade, convince, inspire and win the youth over to the truth. Rather, the truth is delivered to them in a heavy-handed manner.

2. The Church has no room for them. In most churches, there are established ministries to children, adults, married couples, and the business community. But when it comes to young people, most churches don’t really know how to meaningfully engage them.

3. The Church doesn’t understand them. We minister to them from the standpoint of assuming we know what they need, and never really bother to find out if that is necessarily so.

When family, church and school don’t take the responsibility to develop young people’s values, something has to fill that gap … and that’s where MTV comes in. What do youth really want?

First of all, a loving, caring, listening family that balances freedom with structure, trust with rules.

Secondly, a church that makes God real, makes faith fun, provides them with a chance to find truths that are comprehensible and relevant; a church that doesn’t strangle them with a list of “do’s and don’ts.”

      
HOW TO REACH YOUNG PEOPLE?

Youth don’t go to church primarily just for lectures, food and games. They attend church because they want truth, they want help, they want to be inspired, and they want to be accepted and loved. If you do that, your youth ministry is guaranteed for growth. Let me suggest the following ways to reach out to teenagers and young adults:

1. Befriend the youth. Let them know that they have an older person who understands and cares about them, and who will be there when needed.

2. Encourage them. Adolescents are at a season of their lives when they are going through a lot of instability. They need to have courage put into them. They need to be inspired and challenged to reach greater heights.

3. Introduce them to serious, radical Christianity. When youth decide to come to church, they are usually there by choice. They are searching for the kind of answers only God and the Bible can provide for them. Create a positive learning environment in which they feel wanted, respected and safe. Tell them it is OK to fail, it is OK to make mistakes as long as they learn from them and become better persons as a result.

When they come for a youth gathering, they are not there to be baby-sat, they are there to learn spiritual truths. Help them to be strong in the Lord, grounded in the Word, and to overcome the powers of darkness in their lives. Provide powerful Bible principles that they can apply immediately in their lives. As long as you earn their trust and respect, and do it with love and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, you never need to fear that you will lose them if you get serious and radical with them.

4. Help them with real-life problems. Youth may seem to always grapple with petty issues: relationship problems, struggles with school work, family misunderstanding, etc. Don’t scoff at them. Rather, see them as openings given to you to show them God at work. Help the young people with their school work, help them to resolve relationship problems, help them in their job hunt. All these are opportunities to show them the love and reality of Jesus Christ.

5. Show them a better way to live life. The world is constantly seducing teenagers with alternative lifestyles contrary to the Bible. Show the youth a better way: how their needs can be met by God, how their dreams can come true, how their desires can be satisfied; and at the same time, how they can please God every moment of their life. We need to model to them a better way of living.

REACHING OUT TO THE CAMPUSES

Jesus said to him, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)

Where is the single greatest concentration of young people and potential future leaders in society today? Where their paths in life have yet to be fixed? Where they are most open to new ideas that inspire their heart, soul and mind? Where can they have the time to be trained in those ideas? The answer is most obvious—in the school campuses! This is really one of the most important mission fields in the world today.

If you know a little bit of history, you would know the important role education campuses play in shaping society:

  • The University of California at Berkeley was the power center of the social revolution in the 1960’s. It later became a major center for the Jesus Movement that swept America.
  • Beijing University became the engine behind the Tiananmen Square riots in 1989.
  • Much of the civil rights and racism debates of the early 1960’s in America centered around the University of Mississippi and University of Alabama.
  • Majority of UK’s national leaders came from two campuses—Cambridge and Oxford. In fact, 90 percent of all English judiciary are educated in those two institutions.
  • Majority of the Filipino national leaders came from the University of Philippines.
  • Even in Singapore, the majority of our top national leaders came from a few schools: Raffles Institution, Anglo-Chinese School, St. Joseph’s Institution, etc.

All throughout the ages, the educating of the spirit, mind and body has always been a central theme of Christianity. The fact that the greatest gift God has given to us is the Bible tells us plainly that to grow in God, we need to know how to read, reason, analyze and understand. That is why whenever Christian missionaries come into a new place, the first thing they do is to build schools.

The first few universities in the world started off as Christian schools teaching the Word of God. Cambridge and Oxford Universities were founded around A.D. 1200 as Bible colleges. In fact, the first 108 universities in America were all founded on the Christian faith and until 1900, all American university principals and chancellors were also church pastors.

Take, for example,

    *
      Harvard University was founded in 1636. Its school motto is In Christi Glorium which in Latin means “For Christ’s Glory.” The 1642 Harvard College Laws reminded students that Jesus is “the only foundation of all sound knowledge.”

  • The motto of University of California-Berkeley is Fiat Lux which means “Let there be Light.”
  • The motto of Johns Hopkins University is Veritas Vos Liberabit or “The Truth Shall Make You Free.”
  • The motto of Columbia University is In Lumine Tuo Videbimus Lumen or “In God’s Light Shall We See Light.”
  • The motto of Princeton University is Dei Sub Numine Viget which means “Under God’s Power She Flourishes.” Princeton University is today among the 10 most prestigious schools in the world. It was built during the First Great Awakening as a result of the great moving of the Holy Spirit. The official seal of the university contains the holy name of God, YHWH or “Yahweh.”

When we look at some of the most famous schools in Singapore, they were all founded by Christian missionaries. Anglo-Chinese School and Methodist Girls’ School were started by Methodist missionaries. Anglican High School and St. Andrew’s School were started by Anglican priests. St. Joseph Institution and Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus were started by the Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. Loving God with all our mind requires a trained and sharp mind. As such, educating the mind has always been a big part of Christianity.

WHY MUST WE HAVE A STRONG CAMPUS MINISTRY?

There are seven very good reasons why every church should have a strong campus ministry:

1. The campus is where future leaders are trained. Almost all presidents, prime ministers, members of parliament, bankers, lawyers, doctors, teachers, as well as most business leaders, have passed through the college and university system.

2. The campus is where major movements have started. Marxism, atheism, evolution, feminism and practically every other “ism” have their beginnings in university campuses.

In the 1880’s, there were seven scholars from Cambridge University who were also sports heroes in the campus. Those young men attended Bible studies, prayed together and dreamed about doing great things for God. They called themselves “The Cambridge Seven.” God started working in their hearts one by one and gave them a vision for the lost in mainland China.

One of them was C.T. Studd, the greatest cricket player England ever produced. He was a household name—the “Michael Jordan” of his era. C.T. Studd said, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice is too great for me to give for Him.” Coming from one of the richest families in England, he gave away all his personal fortune for the work of God in the mission field.

On March 18, 1885, the Cambridge Seven arrived in Shanghai and for the next 10 years, they gave their lives to the Chinese people, wearing their clothes and living like them. Many Chinese were saved as a result of their obedience to the Great Commission. The Cambridge Seven were among the first missionaries to ever go into China to preach the gospel. As a result, they inspired their generation of youth to go all out for Jesus Christ. Their lives sparked the Student Volunteer Movement in America, a revival that stirred up hundreds of missionaries to India, China and Africa. Their motto was very simple: “We can do it, if we will!”

This move of God was so powerful, it transformed America into a missionary sending nation. It was a revival started by youth that has changed the whole world in the last 100 years.

3. The values of campuses will become the values of society. Every worldview began as a thought. These thoughts, whether good or bad, were developed and formalized in the university setting.

In the 1960’s, campuses in America were going through great social revolution. Students in campuses were trying out drugs and free sex. The Hippie Movement was in full swing. Many students were anti-war, anti-establishment and anti-authority. Eventually, those kids grew up and became leaders in music, movies, creative arts, literature, fashion and government. Famous people like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Tony Blair and Steven Spielberg all came from that era. They, in turn, now pass on their value system to our society today. And much of the value system we have right now in the world came straight out of the values of the campuses in the 60’s.

When Christians become the light and the salt in the campuses, we begin to influence the philosophies, ideas and values of our day. That, in turn, will eventually change the values of society.

4. The campus is where the most available, trainable masses are located. There are no other places in any country where so many young people come together to learn, discuss and plot out their future. Not even the movie theater or shopping mall comes close. As such, we must give all these young people the opportunity to consider the truth of Jesus Christ and the destiny He has for them. Young men and women touched by the Lord in campuses usually go on to become the leaders and heroes in the Church.

5. Majority of believers become Christians during their student years. 75 percent of all believers become Christians before they are 25 years old. (Another survey says before 19 years old!) Yet, most evangelistic outreaches are targeting people 25 and above. We must start reaching out to people who are—without a doubt—the most open to the gospel … and they are the youth in schools.

6. The campus is also a huge international missions field. There are thousands of international students studying on campuses worldwide. Many of these students come from countries without religious freedom and closed to foreign missionaries. When you get them saved, they will bring the gospel back to their homeland and people.

7. God has promised to pour out His Holy Spirit upon the youth. The book of Acts makes this abundantly clear,

“And it shall come to pass in the last days,” says God, “that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17)

Our work is clearly cut out for us in City Harvest Church. While our members climb up the social ladder of material and economic success, we must never neglect reaching out to the young people of the next generation. HT