Today I would like to share with you all on the topic of “The Essential Pillars for Christian Living”
What are pillars? Pillars are tall vertical structures of stone, wood, or metal, used as a support for a building. In a building, there are actually 2 types of pillars, one would be pillars like I just mentioned that play a critical role in providing support to a structure, the other would be ornamental pillars. The pillars are actually embellishments built to satisfy the eye. Today the sad news is many churches have constructed a few decorative pillars of their own, especially in the lives of their people. Churches are of late stressing on style rather than content. Content is out, style is in. What results is the existence of phony, decorative pillars in the lives of people which will ultimately delude them into a false sense of their salvation and spiritual maturity.
So what are the core pillars that should exist in a Christian character? I will be touching on just 4 points this morning
I’ll be sharing on these few points this morning. We will be looking at a few passages on what the bible says about this together with a few bible characters who exemplify these traits and how we can use these things that we have learnt and make it relevant today.
Let’s move on to our first point. FAITH!
Unknowingly perhaps to every one of us, faith or trust underlies how everyone lives. We drink water for various reasons and trust that it has been safely processed. We trust that food we purchase at the supermarket or that we eat at a restaurant is uncontaminated. You buy a mobile phone and you hope that the phone will outlast your warranty….. Every day we exercise an innate faith in someone or something.
Example 1: Aunty and Minyak angin
Example 2: Doctor and diabetic patient ( A person that hasn’t lost faith)
What is then Spiritual Faith?
When you have spiritual faith, you willingly accept basic ideas and act on many things you don’t understand. By faith a Christian believes everything to be true that is made known in the Word in which God speaks.
A good example here on faith would be Habakkuk. Judah at that time of Habakkuk was in bad shape. The people did evil in God’s sight. Just a brief history on Habakkuk to help us understand better, Habakkuk was a prophet who ministered in the late seventh century during the last days of Assyria’s power and the beginning days of Babylon’s rule. At that time justice and faithfulness was something that is short of in Judah and there was much wickedness and violence throughout the land.
2 How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
In the next passage God gives Habakkuk an answer he least expects it.
Habakkuk 1:5-11New International Version (NIV)
The Lord’s Answer
5 “Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,[a]
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwellings not their own.
7 They are a feared and dreaded people;
they are a law to themselves
and promote their own honor.
8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,
fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their cavalry gallops headlong;
their horsemen come from afar.
They fly like an eagle swooping to devour;
9 they all come intent on violence.
Their hordes[b] advance like a desert wind
and gather prisoners like sand.
10 They mock kings
and scoff at rulers.
They laugh at all fortified cities;
by building earthen ramps they capture them.
11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—
guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”
God’s answer only intensified Habakkuk’s bewilderment, because it was not what Habakkuk had expected or wanted to hear. How can God use the Chaldeans, a pagan people who were essentially sinners to judge and punish the people. Who are the Chaldeans? Mr Ung dealt with the study on Habakkuk sometime back but let me refresh you. The Chaldeans were basically a sinful,self-centered and ruthless people. So how could God use them?
Habakkuk’s puzzling dilemma definitely could not be solved with Human wisdom. Because he did not understand God’s plan, the prophet looked at theology “Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy one.
At the height of his confusion, he realized he could not answer his questions alone. Habakkuk reached out to what he knew to be true about God. First he recognized that God is eternal, Past, present, future, God is there. Habakkuk knew that God is in charge. Brothers and sisters our God is omnipotent and nothing ever gets beyond his control. Habakkuk also knows that God’s is holy. With that He does not make mistakes and He perfectly carries out His program. Habakkuk needed to find a secure spiritual footing in his understanding of who God is and what he does.Habakkuk realizes that God would remain faithful and not destroy Judah since He had to fulfill the promised covenant made with Abraham, which guaranteed a kingdom, a future and salavation.Habakkuk can say at the end “ I see and accept what’s going on”
In Galatians 2:20, the apostle Paul gives this testimony to the life of faith:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Paul is simply saying that he and all other genuine believers in Christ live their lives constantly trusting in the Saviour. It’s clear, then that the first great Christian attitude, faith, begins at salvation and will characterize your entire Christian life. It is the foundational pillar on which to build your life if you claim to love Jesus Christ.
Church, this is what is happening in the world. The thing that has threatened the faith of many has been the problem of history. Why does God allow things to happen the way they do? Why does he permit such terrible events to occur in human history? I recently saw the results of a survey of the questions that non-Christian students were asking on campuses around our country. Number one on the list was: “How can a just or loving God allow men to suffer? Why would God create us and then allow disease and starvation and all those other terrible things?”
Now there are many who ask that question today and many whose faith is actually faltering because of this. They are saying, “How can this be? What kind of a universe do we live in?” Of course, others are quick to supply an answer. They say, “Well, the answer is that there is no God and it is no use thinking there is one. We are living in a machine-like universe, with ponderously clanking gears, and nobody really knows what makes it operate. Chance put it all together. You only fool yourself when you imagine a father image out of the desire of your heart, and you call it God.”
The reason they say this is because of the apparent inactivity of God. That is one of the mysterious things about God, isn’t it? The poet, William Cowper, said, “God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.” And the ways of God are full of mystery to us. We have to recognize that there are times when we just cannot understand how God is moving. It does not seem to make sense, and the instruments he chooses are sometimes so out of the ordinary. God is so unorthodox. He is always doing things the wrong way, and picking up the wrong people and operating in the most surprising fashion. One of the things that you learn about God after you live with him for a while is that he is always doing the unexpected. It is not because he delights to puzzle us, but because the varieties of his workings are so infinite that our feeble human minds cannot grasp them.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8
Brothers and sisters as Christians when we faced challenges in life, have faith. Stand firm on your faith. But the first thing we always do is Lord please help me solve my problems, please give me the ability to do this do that. That is not faith that is asking God to do what you want. Our perspective on things needs to change. The right attitude would be just let go and let God take control knowing that he can see you through.
Question:Would you rather worship a God whom you can fully understand or your minds can fully comprehend or would you worship a God that is infinite and beyond your comprehension.
It’s clear then, that the first great Christian attitude, faith begins at salvation and will characterize your entire Christian Life. Faith is the foundational pillar on which to build your life.
The next pillar that I would like to touch on is obedience. Why? Simply because faith and obedience is inseparable. Let’s re-visit the Great Commission,
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Verse 19 is about reaching out to others but verse 20 builds on the new converts’ salvation experience. That’s when discipleship comes into the picture. The new believers will teach new Christians to obey God’s commands in His word and to submit to Him. Obedience is so foundational in a Christian. One cannot profess that he believes in God and just completely disregard the instructions found in the Word of God. Let’s see what John the apostle has to say about this. Please turn your bibles to
John 8:31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
John 15:10New International Version (NIV)
10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
1 John 2:3-4New International Version (NIV)
Love and Hatred for Fellow Believers
3 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.
Obedience is an integral part of one’s salvation. In fact,the apostle Peter describes salvation as an act of obedience. The truth, is the Gospel, which in essence is a command to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15) In the New Testament, the gospel message was always preached as a command (e.g Matt 3:2;4:17 and Mark 6:12) Because it is a command, it calls for obedience .
Brothers and sisters remember the time when we prayed the sinners’ prayer. We acknowledge that God is our Savior, and we also say that we acknowledge you as Lord of our lives. We want to be saved! But we fail to accept his Lordship over our lives.
Turn your bibles with me to 1 Peter 1:2
1 Peter 1:2New International Version (NIV)
2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
Woah…… What does this mean?
I’m going to take you back to the Old Testament now. To the time of Moses. To the book of Exodus.
We all know the story, Moses, about Moses receiving God’s law ( The 10 Commandments)
In Exodus 24, Moses has just recently received God’s law On Mt Sinai. Before this, God revealed His will and ways to His people in different ways. From that moment on it was written down clearly. Moses told the people about the law and the people said “We will obey all that we’ve heard” From that moment, a covenant was formed. A covenant, between God and the people. Here comes the interesting part, the next morning Moses built an altar at the foot of Mt Sinai to publicly symbolize the sealing of the covenant made the previous day between God and the people. The altar consisted of 12 stones symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel. A burnt offering was made in the form of young bulls. Pay attention to what Moses did next, The blood from the young bulls, half of the blood remained in large basins and the other half Moses splattered on the altar which represented God. The splattering of the blood was the next symbolic step Moses took to ratify (make official) the covenant.
Because the covenant was so important, Moses actually repeated what he said the night before to the people. The people then responded again “All the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient. The final step that Moses did was by sealing the covenant made between God and the people by taking the blood from the basins and splattering it on the people. Blood was the physical demonstration that a commitment has been made between the parties. The blood on the altar symbolized God’s agreement to reveal His law; the blood on the people symbolized their agreement to obey that law.
With that we now can see the symbolism of Exodus 24:3-8 and the statement that Peter made about salvation in 1 Peter 1:2. When Peter says “ and be sprinkled with His blood,” the apostle simply means that when a believer trusts Christ, he accepts His part of the new covenant. So church, salvation was and is a covenant of obedience. God offered His word, His means of grace, His blessings and care and we responded by promising to obey. It’s as if the blood that was splattered on Christ the perfect sacrifice was then splattered on us because of our acceptance of His new covenant.
Now that we are in the covenant.. How do we put obedience into practice..
Matthew 7:21-27 is a stern warning that is given. It is not enough for believers simply to hear or read the Word. The essential question is, Are they obeying it?
The apostle James addresses the importance of obedience when he declares. Prove yourselves doers of the word and not merely hearers who delude themselves (1:22)
James 1:22New International Version (NIV)
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
A genuine believer can also be deceived about the spiritual improvement he needs to make. He hears teaching about a certain area of the Christian life in which he falls sinfully short. But instead of applying scripture to the deficient area, he lives as he did before and is deceived about the true status of his spiritual life.
James gave us a good example of an obedient Christian. To sum things up, what James was saying is that we have to abide by what the word of God says. Be an “effectual doer” rather than a “forgetful hearer”.
So brothers and sisters, when we experienced salvation, we also made a simple but far reaching covenant of obedience with the Lord. Therefore it is very important that the attitude of obedience must accompany the attitude of faith in our Christian lives.
Faith and obedience is always accompanied with an attitude of humility. The attitude of humility has to be at the very center of our loves. The sad thing is that today, churches around the world today now focuses on individual pride and self-esteem. There so many churches around the world that have taken out the hard facts of Christianity and replaced them with what the congregation likes to here. During the time of Jesus, we had the Pharisees who did the same thing.
5“But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6“They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. 8“But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9“Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10“Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11“But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12“Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
The opposite of pride is humbleness. Let’s look at Matthew 5:3-6
Matthew 5:3-6New International Version (NIV)
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
We do not have enough time to go through the Beatitudes in detailed but I do remember our brother Dr Lai covering this and it was already a message by itself. Each Beatitude is descriptive facet of humility.
Briefly let’s just go through these 4. The first is “Blessed are the poor in Spirit” The word poor here in Greek is ptochos, which means one who is so poor he has to beg. It describes people who were financially bankrupt and without any means of support. The kingdom of God here belongs to the spiritually destitute. To be poor in spirit means we realize that we know that we are spiritually bankrupt and knowing that we could not enter based on any worth of their own.
The clear lesson is that if any are going to enter the kingdom of heaven they must become poor in spirit. This is the message of the kingdom; it is the call of repentance. They must humble themselves before God and acknowledge that they bring nothing of their own power, possessions or merit to gain entrance. Those who truly humble themselves and express their need of the Lord, they have the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. The word mourn here is not the mourning that you would associate with loss or when we go through certain circumstances in life.
The word mourn here is rather acknowledging our transgressions. It takes humility to actually admit that we have done wrong against God and knowing that God is the only one that can forgive our iniquities. Faithful and mature believers will have a constant lifelong attitude of mourning or brokenness over sin which allow them to see more and more of God’s love and mercy and less and less of their own pride.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
The Old Testament Background. This beatitude is very much like the promise in Psalm 37:11, “The meek shall possess the land.”
The Meaning. In the Bible the meek are those who have a spirit of gentleness and self-control; they are free from malice and a condescending spirit. The meek may like the poor have no resources of their own; but then they may, for Moses was described as being meek and humble (Num. 12:3). But the meek do not exploit and oppress others; they are not given to vengeance and vendettas, they are not violent, and they do not try to seize power for their own ends. In short, they have emulated the nature of Jesus in their lives and learned from him. This does not mean that they are weak or ineffective in life. They may be gentle and humble, but they can and do champion the needs of the weak and the oppressed.
The Application. How does one become meek? What if one’s nature is not meek? The answer to this comes from other passages of the Bible that describe how the spiritual life works. Meekness and gentleness and goodness are part of the fruit of the Spirit–they are produced in the Christian by the Holy Spirit. So the direction people should follow to cultivate a spirit of meekness would be to walk by the Spirit, or be controlled by the Spirit of God so that the qualities of Christ can be produced in and through them.
4. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled”.
When someone dies to himself, mourns over his sinfulness, and turns over his power to God’s control, he will receive a strong desire for righteousness and an intense longing for more of what God has.
How this desire is developed. Most Christians are for righteousness–but how does the desire become so intense? It also has to come from the development of the spiritual life. Brothers and sisters, we need to commit to God’s will. Commitment does require an attitude of humility. Then, as the spiritual walk is guided by the Holy Spirit, He leads the believer into righteousness.
There is no doubt that God wants believers to have humility. But because of our remaining sinfulness, God does whatever that is necessary to humble us.
So what are the marks of a humble Christian. The first basic mark of a humble person is that he sees his own sin as worse than others. Paul was a good example that exemplified this point. 1 Timothy 1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. When it’s our sins that most grieve and offend us and are the ones we most want to avoid, then we demonstrate real measure of humility.
The second mark of a humble person is that he or she is not self-centered (Phil 2:4). Selfless people are more concerned with the lives of others. Their own interests, privileges and reputations become secondary when compared to the needs of others. Christ our Lord is the perfect example of this. A verse that we all know:
Philippians 2:5-8New International Version (NIV)
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Christ was willing to set aside His divine privileges and be separated from the Father to endure the terrible agony so that we might be saved. That is the greatest form of humility ever shown.
Jesus used a little child to illustrate humility. A child is one that is totally dependent. That’s the attitude that we must have when we seek entrance into God’s kingdom.
If you have forgotten everything that was shared, remember this. We must enter with childlike faith and obedience, and we must live everyday of our Christian life with an attitude of childlike humility.