Rev J T Raja led the service and officiated at communion.
Mark Syn, Ruth, Nathan, Elizabeth and Benjamin were members of the church till they moved to Noida in March. The family was visiting for the weekend and Mark brought the message ONLY LOVE AUTHENTICATES FAITH:
The Challenge of Faith
There was once a painting exhibited in London, which showed a monk, head bowed and hands clasped, deep in prayer. However, on closer inspection, you could see that it was actually a monk squeezing a lemon into a bowl. This is so often a picture of our Christian life – seemingly impressive when viewed from a distance, but less authentic when seen from close up.
Most of us have experienced the challenge of not just conforming to what the outward expectations of our faith in Christ are, but to remain connected to God on the inside as well. Even mature believers may stray into ‘playing the game’ – knowing how to say prayers in a ‘spiritual’ way, knowing which meetings to turn up to – yet inside, losing that intimacy with the Lord.
The Jews fell into this trap too. In Jesus day, he criticized the religious leaders for being white-washed tombs – looking perfect on the outside, but housing nothing but death on the inside. (Matthew 23: 27-28). The prophet Amos criticized the nation, saying that the Lord ‘hated their religious feats’ (Amos 5: 21-24). Even though they brought Him burnt offerings, he despised them. He scolded them for the empty noise of their songs. In modern language, it is akin to the Lord telling us off for coming together for church, paying tithes and worshipping him. How can this be? Because all these things are valid and good outward expressions of our faith, but they only mean something in the context of our relationship with God.
There is nothing wrong with rituals. In fact, many people say rituals are very important to the life of a healthy family. Rituals communicate values, give an anchor to children’s lives, and even help the family pass through transition and tragedy. But rituals are only meaningful in the context of relationship.
We were made for love and relationship
When I was in University, we often used a booklet called “Knowing God Personally” to share the Gospel. The first point laid the foundation for the rest of the booklet: God loves you and created you to have a personal relationship with Him. This is the basics of the Gospel.
Love changes us. Love is a transforming power and people change when they feel loved. Consider the bride on her wedding day – she absolutely glows. Consider a child who grows up in a loving family environment – they grow up to be able to give and receive love as adults.
However, also consider the converse: supermodel whose flawless beauty hides feelings of worthlessness inside. There are stories of models who find everybody around them telling them are ay ravishingly beautiful, yet inside they feel ugly. This is because love only transforms if the person knows and believes they are loved. Likewise, there are wives who do not know that their husband loves them, and children who feel that their parents do not love them.
How can we know the depth’s of God’s love more each day? Love transforms us all, but there is only one love that truly fills the gap inside us – the love of God.
Abrahams sacrifice of Isaac – a picture of God’s love for us
In Genesis 22: 1- 18 we glimpse the depths of our heavenly Father’s love. This story reminds me of a couple I knew who were wanting to adopt a child and the circumstances threatened to derail that process. The long years of disappointment from childlessness, and the risk of losing their last hope for a child saw them weeping in despair. Only when their child was finally adopted did anguish turn to joy. In the same way, imagine Abraham and Sarah’s joy at finally receiving the miracle child of promise at the age of 80 and 100 respectively. Their joy would have known no bounds… until the day when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son.
As a father I cannot imagine anything worse in life than losing one of my children – let alone sacrificing one. Abraham knew God had spoken and he obeyed God, but what anguish the three day journey from Beer-Sheeba to Moriah would have been. We know the end of the story but Abraham did not. Abraham simply obeyed and believed God.
Finally God sees Abrahams’ heart and stops Abraham with the words, “Now I know you fear God because you have not withheld your son, your only begotten son”. This is a picture of the depths of God’s love for us - God, our heavenly Father loves us so much that He did not withhold His Son, his only begotten Son, who died for us. This is the love God has for each one of us.
Experiencing God’s love personally
Romans 8: 38-39 tells us that NOTHING can separate us from God’s love. We can know this with our head, but we can also know it in our hearts?
Many of us may feel at times that we do not know God’s love. Intellectually we know he loves us because the Bible tells us so, but inside we feel unloved and far from God. We might feel we have let God down through our own unfaithfulness. The thing about God’s love is that we cannot earn it or be worthy of it. All we can do is received it gratefully.
I’d like to challenge you to discover God’s love in a deeper way. Like a wife who asks her husband from time to time to tell her that he loves her, we too can ask God to show us His love afresh. There are many things we can do to develop our relationship with God, but the beginning of this is knowing how to experience His love.
May our prayer be: “Restore unto me the joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51: 12). Restore to me the joy of our first love, Lord.