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Blessing to Our Community
By Rev Dr Steven Gan (Synod Moderator, 2015-2017)
Jul 2016

The late Charles Spurgeon, in reflecting on Romans 14:8, observed that if God had willed it, each of us might have entered heaven at the moment of conversion.

So why are we still on earth? Would it not be better for God to immediately let us in than to allow us to wander through uncertain and sometimes hostile terrain? It is not inconceivable or implausible for Him to just utter that word of authorisation to let us in, if He wanted to. But He did not. Why?

The answer is – we are here so that we may "live unto the Lord." Specifically, we are to intentionally seek His Kingdom and His righteousness, to till the harden soil of man's constitution, and to bring His message of love and reconciliation to our inhospitable and often times unyielding world.

So it is appropriate that, as we celebrate the 135th year of the founding and ministry of The Presbyterian Church in Singapore (PCS), we pause to examine how we as a denomination can better and further live unto the Lord.

It is for this purpose that the Synod Executive Committee (2015- 2017) has adopted the theme 'A Blessing to our Community' (A.B.C.) for our Celebration, to remind us of the very reason why God has kept us here on earth and how we can best fulfil our Christian responsibilities towards the community we dwell in.

There are many ways by which we can bless our community but I would only highlight two.

The first way in which we can bless our community is by...

[1] Serving in Unity as a Denomination (Psalm 133)

The psalmist (David) tells us in Psalm 133, "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows His blessing, even life forevermore."

Psalm 133 is a psalm about true unity, the unity of the Spirit, a unity that gives strength and on which God pours His blessing.

The basis of Christian unity is our common relationship to the heavenly Father. When man sinned against God in the beginning, the aftermath was catastrophic. After the first couple was driven out of Eden, the first murder was committed in the family. Cain murdered his brother Abel. That portended the death of the brotherhood of man.

Down the centuries, many had tried to revive the concept of the brotherhood of man. But that could never be realised through organised get-togethers. People can join social clubs, found organisations and promote ecumenical movements; but that will never produce true brotherhood.

There can be no universal brotherhood of man apart from a universal fatherhood of God; and the Bible makes it clear that God is not the Father of all. He is the Creator of all, but He is the Father only of those who are born again, born from above, born of the Spirit of God.

The world is looking for living proofs of true brotherhood. But that could only be seen in the community of wholesome and loving believers. That is why the psalmist speaks of the blessing of Christian unity as "good and pleasant."

Unity is always good in the work and influence of the Church. United, we can accomplish much for the kingdom of God. Divided, we will bring only undeserved joy to the kingdom of Satan.

Indeed, a church hopelessly divided finds it extremely difficult to reconcile a torn and broken world to God. On the other hand, unity among God's children is always attractive, for such brotherly love cannot be found in the world.

No wonder the psalmist declares the unity of God's people to be "good and pleasant." But David must not be misunderstood to be speaking of uniformity here. There is a difference between unity and uniformity.

Dwelling together in unity does not mean that we are rubber-stamped into a similar form. The Church is not to be involved in cookie-cutter Christianity. Christian unity is not brought about by mechanical restrictions and regulations. Christian unity is a heart-union of believers ready to work together for the purpose of glorifying God and furthering the work of His kingdom.

In a musical production, there are a variety of singers and musicians. Yet, in spite of a great diversity of instruments and voices, they can play together in harmony. How? By each looking to and obeying the direction of the conductor. In the same manner, the psalmist speaks of a unity of diverse people, based on their common relationship to God and their willingness to look to Him and obey Him.

David explained why it is important for God's people to be united. He likened our unity to that of the dew of Hermon. In a land of desert and drought, the dew meant abundant fertility. Mount Hermon was the most prominent mountain to the north. Its snow-capped mountain could be seen from much of Galilee on a clear day.

From the hills of Zion, Mount Hermon is more than 160 kilometres away. David was alluding to the symbolic significance of the God’s life-giving blessings, as it were from the highest point of heaven to the lower plains.

In other words, David was saying that when brothers and sisters in the Lord are united by a common commitment to Him, it is definitely good and pleasant and it has life-giving results.

That is why it is an absolute necessity for God's people, for all our 36 Presbyterian churches to serve and dwell together in unity. This world will only be interested to know about the life God gives as they see it exemplified by a united people of God.

The second way in which we can bless our community is by...

[2] Serving with Generosity as a Denomination (2 Corinthians 9:8-14)

The apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthian church to be generous and explained to them four delightful outcomes of their faithful giving.

The first outcome is described in verses 8-11: "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: 'He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.' Now God who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God."

In other words, as we give, we will abound and be impactful in every good work. The scope of our influence is inestimable.

We sometimes find it difficult to believe that God will take care of the details if we give our hard-earned money away. But God has clearly promised in the following 4 bible passages that He will meet our needs if we choose to sacrifice in order to meet the needs of others:

[a] Deuteronomy 15:10 – "Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to."

[b] Proverbs 19:17 – "He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will reward him for what he has done."

[c] Malachi 3:10-12 – "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.

Did you notice that there is a double promise in this Malachi passage? Indeed, not only will God overwhelm us with His blessings, He will also prevent our assets from depreciating in value. Surely we can never out-give God!

[d] Our Lord Jesus has made a similar promise in Luke 6:38 when He said, "If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving — large or small — it will be used to measure what is given back to you."

Can you comprehend the extent of God's blessing here? It is sort of like putting leaves into a bag – you keep pressing them down to make room for more. That’s how much God wants to bless the generous giver.

Now, some of you may protest, "Aren't we taught to give without expecting anything in return?" Yes, that is what we tell ourselves, and in a sense that is true. We should not give in order to get. We should give in order to share what we have received from God's loving hand.

But then the Bible also says in Proverbs 11:24-25 that "One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."

Well, that does not mean that you and I will be the next Bill Gates. Being blessed by God and becoming a millionaire are two very different things! But we will be blessed for sure. It is a promise guaranteed by a faithful and almighty God. So that is the first outcome of your giving to God.

Secondly, your faithful giving will serve to meet the needs of others in our community. Verse 12 assures us that "this service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God."

The apostle Paul actually called our giving a ministry. "This service that you perform," said Paul, "supplies the needs of God's people."

Thirdly, your faithful giving will bring about praise and thanks to God from the beneficiaries. As verse 13 adds on, "Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else."

The apostle Paul explained here, that when you give generously, people will praise God, not you. They will see it as God providing for their needs.

That's why giving is such a great witness, a powerful testimony for Christ.

If you are a mature Christian, then you would experience a deeper joy in knowing that God's name is praised and glorified than in giving to someone and having them thank you. The joy comes when they thank and praise the real Giver, our Lord God.

Indeed, my dear friends, there is a special joy when we give to people and they give God the credit. They will praise God, not us, which is the way we would want it to be.

Finally, your faithful giving will be rewarded with many prayers for you on your behalf by your beneficiaries. As verse 14 puts it, "And in their prayers for you, their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you."

Indeed, it would be a great comfort to know that others are praying for you. On the surface, this may not seem like much of a reward. But again, to the mature believer, this is a precious reward like no other.

Being lifted up regularly in prayer means that our requests and our needs are being brought before God again and again. And who knows this could be one of the reasons why God has been continuously meeting the needs of the generous givers.

The forthcoming PCS 135th Anniversary Combined Worship on 14th August (Sunday) at the Singapore Indoor Stadium will be our FIRST since 2013 when each of our 36 congregations became officially registered with the Registry of Societies (ROS) or Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) as a separate legal entity.

Hence this coming together of all 36 churches as a denomination on 14th August for Combined Worship will be a significant milestone for The Presbyterian Church in Singapore (PCS). It will speak volumes of our commitment and faithfulness in upholding our pledge (reflected in a MOU signed on 4th August 2012) as follows:

1. We affirm the unity of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ and will strive together so that God's love, justice, peace and salvation may be demonstrated in Singapore and beyond.

2. We promise to uphold, support and co-operate in mutual partnership in the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, so that all people can come to accept the love and salvation of God.

3. We promise to adhere to the PCS Constitution and agree without prejudice that Article 1.3, Article 2 and Article 3 are non-negotiable.

4. We promise to pray regularly for, co-operate sincerely in, and contribute constructively to the fulfillment of the Great Commission for the greater glory and honour of God and the well-being of His people.

With the help of God, I believe our unity and generosity as a denomination will make us 'A Blessing to our Community' in the days ahead.

Soli Deo Gloria!


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