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SINGAPORE: For Jesus People Matter Most, Says Professor

SINGAPORE: For Jesus People Matter Most, Says Professor
Hundreds of pastors, Bible teachers and laypeople gathered at St Andrew's Cathedral for a Bible exposition seminar
Conference organised by the Anglican Diocese of Singapore and the Bible Society of Singapore

August 16, 2010

With all its chasing after recognition, material goods and even holiness and spirituality, the world is often a tiring place. The good news is that Jesus has come to set people free from those things, Regent College Professor Rikk Watts highlighted Friday at a lecture.

Jesus, God incarnate, was Himself often mistaken by people during His earthly years. Those closest to Him thought of Him as a megalomaniac. Sadly this picture is still being perpetuated today largely through the ignorance of many Christians.

"We think we know what God is like," said Watts. However, for many, much of that picture is inspired by authority figures like the father and the employer who often impose their authority on others.

Moreover, looking at selfish Christians, a watching world is led into thinking that God is concerned only about Himself, he added.

That, however, is not an accurate picture of God. God's character and behaviour are essentially different from most of what is seen in the world and in history. Glory for God is being nailed to a cross and left to die a cruel death, the theologian expressed in a three-part series on the heart of discipleship. The core of discipleship, he suggested, is bearing the cross like Jesus did to redeem a sinful world.

Nobody hanging on a cross tries to impress others, Watts told hundreds of Christians at St. John's-St. Margaret's Church. That posture of life must go, he said, because attempts to impress others are usually at other people's expense. Yet the Bible clearly declares that God created every human being in His own image.

Christians are not called to uphold holiness as it is conventionally understood. Beneath a thin veneer of the pursuit of ritual purity is the thinking that laws are more important than people. Many Christians are given to judging others on the basis of their outward appearance, background or ethnicity. The professor gave specific examples of the refusal to associate with migrant, domestic workers or those in the service industry.

In God's economy, people matter more than laws and things.

Watts cited the case of a priest who was robbed by a convict in 19th century novel Les Miserables. The police caught the man with the possessions of the priest and took him before the latter. The robber had pretended that the priest gave him the items. Asked if that was true, the priest kept up the act. Rather than exposing the convict, the priest gave him a second chance. In the same way, Christians are called not to judge others, but to bring the life of God to them, the Pentecostal scholar expressed.

The Christian does not seek to be served. Followers of Jesus seek to welcome others, even those who have no status or ability to enrich them. That was how Jesus taught His disciples. When they argued about who was the greatest, Jesus brought a child - symbolising those without social status - and told them to welcome him.

Nor do Christians exclude others who honour Jesus but are not part of an 'in' group. Jesus would not fuss over the manner of baptism. And neither should His followers, Watts emphasised.

Jesus also taught that stumbling people without social status who believe in Him is worse than murder. He taught His disciples to reject the idea that they were better than others. Such a viewpoint leads to death rather than life, the New Testament expert said.

Christians ought to treat their spouses with honour rather than contempt. Believers should not sacrifice their spouses for ministry. They should rather curtail their ministry, he suggested. If not, they should not be married in the first place. Actually, marriage is also a ministry. It is an opportunity to be the channel of God's love to the person to whom one is committed.

Jesus teaches His disciples not to make their achievements, whether material or spiritual, the measure of what they are worth. Instead, they should trust in God's love and ability to help them become like Him.

Watts spoke as part of The Living Word, an annual seminar organised by the Anglican Diocese of Singapore and the Bible Society of Singapore for pastors, Bible teachers and laypeople.

The Word of God is essential for a healthy church, Anglican Archbishop John Chew emphasised at the close.

"Continue to study the Word, digest it, internalise it and make it your life," he said.


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