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Preaching like John the Baptist
Luke 3:2-14

John son of Zechariah or John the Baptist, is one of the greatest men in the Bible. What can we learn from him?

He grew up in the Judean wilderness (Luke 1:80), and the word of the Lord came to him there (Luke 3:2).  He then “went into all the region around the Jordan” (Luke 3:3).  Today, we who live in comfort are being exhorted to leave our comfort zones to do the Lord’s work.  John left his “discomfort zone”, the desert, to do the Lord’s work in the comparatively lush Jordan Valley.  God is not constrained to just one way.

John preached: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is near!” (Matthew 3:2). Jesus preached this same message (Matthew 4:17). Aren’t these recorded in the Bible to give us examples to follow?  The world needs to hear this message today as much as it did in the time of John and Jesus.

Did John call his audience “Dearly beloved” and try to be Mr. Popular Nice Guy?  Oops, he called a section of the crowd “You brood of vipers!” Were they Gentile sinners or reptilian inhabitants of Israel?  No, they were Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 3:7), the most pious people in Israel at that time!  He told them, “Do not begin to say, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’” -- as if that exempted them from having to repent.  Instead, he warned, “Already the ax is lying at the root of the trees.  Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:9).  What simple and relevant metaphors John used: trees, fruit and the ax, which people in agricultural Israel of that age were very familiar with; and fire, the imagery of Hell.  When we evangelise, preach or teach, are our metaphors, illustrations and examples as familiar to our listeners?  Or do we take the easy way out and lift them out of books from the West?

In response to John, the crowd asked, “What then should we do?”  John replied, “Whoever has two tunics must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise” (Luke 3:11).  John gives us the twin principles of sharing with, and caring for, those less fortunate than us.  Repentance must lead to changed lives.

Then the tax collectors asked, “Teacher, what should we do?” (Luke 3:12). This obviously emboldened the soldiers there to also ask, “And we, what should we do?”  From the tax collectors, the rich scum near the top of society, to the soldiers, the poorly paid dregs at the bottom, all wanted specific instructions pertaining to themselves.

Taking questions from his audience gave John the opportunity to expand on his teaching, and to give more specific examples of what should be done.  Jesus too allowed questions from his audience (e.g. Luke 10:25-29).  Good teaching is always interactive.  So should we not likewise make time for questions at the end of sermons in our churches?

The result of not allowing questions is that many people now attend church as passive spectators expecting to be entertained by the choir and the preacher.  Yes, we do stand, sing, sit, pray, give offerings, and listen to the sermon, but we do these things obediently whenever we are told to.  Can you devise a better way of creating regimentation than this?  I can’t help wondering: Was this system devised by an earlier hierarchical church to condition the population to be blindly obedient to the leaders/priests? Do we really want an “I preach, you just unquestioningly accept” system? Should we not break out of this system?  

Taking questions allowed Jesus and John to address specific needs and give additional teaching or clarification.  Today, it will also give congregations the opportunity to question erroneous teaching and doctrine. When people think, question and reflect before accepting a teaching, then it becomes theirs, strongly theirs. 

Of course, a few simple rules may be needed, like a limit to the number of questions because of time constraints, and stipulating that questions be non-confrontational and for edification.  But if allowing such questions could:

1. give the preacher opportunities to provide additional teaching to meet specific needs and to clarify,

2. train Christians to think and reflect upon what is preached before accepting it,

3. give congregations the opportunity to question erroneous teaching so that whole congregations are not led astray, and

4. keep preachers on their toes and help them improve,    

 

then shouldn’t we allow questions after sermons, like Jesus and John did?

In Mark’s short Gospel, Jesus asked at least 62 questions.  He was thinking or questioning, and was asking his audience to do the same.  Should we not do likewise?

CHAPEL NOTES

Dr Quek Swee Hwa chaired the Chapel on 15 September and spoke on the topic “Joy of Life” from Ecclesiastes chap. 9.

Chapel Speaker on 22 September was Dr Ng Peh Cheng.

NEWS BITS

  1.  BGST’s “LOVE” phone cards at $1 each.  If you are thinking of gifts or souvenirs for your friends or loved ones, why not purchase our unique phone cards. Each shows the letters LOVE, taken from 1 Cor 13:1-13, in New Testament Greek. The phonecard with a stored value of $2 comes in two presentations: mounted in a cardholder or as a  blank greeting card. These cards can be used as encouragement cards, thank you cards and even as souvenirs for Children’s Day. You can help us by buying the cards or providing us with contacts. You may purchase directly from Library or contact Serene at Tel: 63538071 if you can help us in other ways. To have a glimpse of the card, you can visit the link http://www.bgst.edu.sg/pc.htm.

  2.  We extend our deepest condolences to Dr Violet James whose beloved mother has gone home to be with the Lord on September 22. May the Lord’s peace comfort the bereaved family.

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A Blessed Birthday to…

Dr Philip Satterthwaite  20/9
Mr Chan Wan Yhim  21/9
Dr Oswald Goh  22/9
Mr Michael Chay  23/9
Dr Richard Hui  23/9
Mrs Susan Foo  23/9
Ms Lydia Tan  24/9
Mr Lu Thiam Seng  25/9
Ms Eunice Lim  25/9
Dr Chan Chee Kai  25/9
Ms Niki Wong  25/9
Mr Yam Keng Mun  26/9
Mr Cheng Wai Meng  26/9

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