BY REV HENRY HONG
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 CORINTHIANS 5:17
This Lunar New Year’s celebration comes with new restrictions for the reunion of family members because of the ongoing pandemic. However it is my prayer that in Christ every Christian will experience a liberating ‘new’ outlook and outworking of God’s grace.
During my last year-end’s study break, I had the opportunity to learn from the life and example of the Reformed Pastor Richard Baxter who served faithfully and fruitfully in England during the 1600s.
Once, when he was 35, he was bed-bound by one of his diseases and thought he would probably not recover. He began to meditate on the joys of heaven and the age to come in preparation for leaving this world. He focused especially on "the hope of glory" and began to write his thoughts.
To his surprise he recovered and his thoughts recollected into a book entitled The Saints' Everlasting Rest. He took up the practice of meditating on heaven a half hour each day because of the powerful impact it had on his life. He commended the same thing to his readers. He said,
If you would have light and heat, why are you not more in the sunshine? For want of this recourse to heaven, your soul is as a lamp not lighted, and your duty as a sacrifice without fire. Fetch one coal daily from this altar, and see if your offering will not burn . . . Keep close to this reviving fire, and see if your affections will not be warm.*
As our church theme for 2021 is ‘A Heart For Intimacy’ with God, I pray that our ‘soul … as a lamp’ and our ‘duty as a sacrifice’ be lit by the holy fire of God’s love. May our religious affections be ‘strangely warmed’ and revived by the Spirit of God (recounting reformer John Wesley’s reviving experience of God’s love).
How can we keep close to this reviving fire?
1. Keep close to Conversation with God in Prayer. There can be no intimacy without communication. In the relationship between Moses and God it was observed that “The LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11). God desires and delights to hear from us in prayer, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you’ (Mt. 7:7). Pray not only for yourself and your loved ones but also pray for others. Then you will have the wonderful privilege of experiencing the work of God’s miraculous love as well as the growth of your faith in Him.
2. Keep close to God’s Word (also referred to as the ‘law of the LORD’ in the Old Testament). Psalm 1 tells us “Blessed is the man,” whose “delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps.1:1-2). “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul” (Ps. 19:7). This is the Psalmist’s experience of God’s Word - ‘Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.’
3. Keep close to Fellowship and Worship with God’s People. No man is an island (John Donne) and Christians are no exception. We need mutual support and encouragement. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24-25).
4. Keep close to the Fulfilment of God’s Great Commission. This is the Last Will and legacy of our Lord Jesus Christ entrusted to us with His promised presence and power, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of age” (Mt. 28:19-20).
It’s either the obedience of The Great Commission of Christ or it’s going to be The Great Omission of Christians.
“The greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as ‘Christians’ will become disciples – students, apprentices, practitioners – of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner of human existence.” - Dallas Willard, The Great Omission.
I wish and pray for all readers a truly blessed Lunar New Year in experiencing an all-new intimacy of experiencing God in the fullness of His Love and purpose.
(*This material on Baxter was taken from Timothy Beougher and J.I. Packer, "Go Fetch Baxter," in Christianity Today, vol. 35, no. 15, December 16, 1991, pp. 26–27.)