Call to Awake - Part 1
The call to Awake – Part 1
Mark 13:33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.
It was in the late 90s, at a leaders meeting at CHC where Pastor Kong talked about end times, the possibility of tribulation and for us to extend the Kingdom of God. It was an awakening of the urgency of the Kingdom, and there was a sweet presence of the Holy Spirit as we sing “Amazing Grace” to end the service. And they did make a difference with over 30,000 people added to the church!
My friends at CHC were on fire for God, and to extend the kingdom. I was the black sheep, involved in ministries, but not as zealous. I was the quiet gentle lamb. More than a decade later, some of those friends have become rather hostile to Christianity. I got scolded for offering to accompany back them to CHC church services. Perhaps, the call for awakening is not what we do for Christ in that moment of time, but whether our faith will stand the test of time, circumstances, and deception of false prophets and through the different phases of life. That was the warning to be ready when Jesus comes back.
Mark 13:33 is not so much as about an awakening for ministry, but rather an anticipation of trials, tribulations, and being misled away from the faith through deception, or simply falling away from our faith in Jesus to the extent that when Jesus comes back, we no longer worship Him. We are told that the date of His return is not known, thus keeping us on our toes lest our faith fail to stand through the test of time.
Few of my gay friends stayed at CHC. The church is so busy condemning gays but they forget that since sexual orientation is natural and not a choice, we are a participant in the whole scheme of deception where we lost the entire gay tribe for the Gospel sake. Ie we put our heterosexuality and man-made laws and culture before the Gospel message. If our interpretation of the bible concerning gays as sinners were wrong, the moral and spiritual consequences will be very great. To support one lie, we had created many lies, associate gays with unrelated wrong doings, and even made up a Gay agenda. Therefore, we are called to wake up to avoid false teachings that will divert us from the core Gospel message. We are called to wake up and repent before Jesus comes back again.
The Pharisees were so concerned about the law and sin until they crucified Jesus at the Cross. Hence, they are out of the Kingdom of God. The gashing of teeth is not referring to Christians but to the Pharisees who had rejected Jesus and judgement came in the fall of Jerusalem in AD70. Likewise, our anti-gay teachings are wrapped with hypocrisy and a lie from the gates of hell which has prevented gays from coming into the church of Jesus Christ. It is time for the church to be awake before Jesus comes back and find us abusing those He gave us to take care.
The call for Awakening is not a call for those sleeping too much in the church pews, lest there be judgement and accountability of not using their gifts to extend the kingdom of God. Rather, it is to be awake of the future events, circumstances and false teachings that will take away our faith from Jesus Christ or causes us to perpetuate harm and injustice hence undermining the Gospel of Christ. We are to be awake to the harm that we can cause in the name of religious faith.
When Jesus called on the disciples to “awake”, it was not as if they were lazy or not living a Christ centred lives in following Jesus. They had after all risked their lives and gave up their jobs to follow Jesus. He was telling the disciples to see beyond the physical to the spiritual, and also to see into the future. He was gently reminding the disciples not to be so ignorant or in the Singaporean slang – “blur”! We focussed on the actions and works, but Jesus asked the disciples to seek understanding, wisdom, and revelation of the meaning within. We often see the minute details, but missed the big picture that ultimately our faith in Jesus Christ is at stake, not only today but will it suffice until the coming back of Jesus.
In a shock factor, Jesus then talks of the 10 virgins, or the parable of the talents. The parable of the talents is not about “talents” to be used for the Kingdom of God, rather the Pharisees failed to preach the message of the coming Messiah before it was too late. They had the bible - religious text, yet they hid the revelation of those text, which if sowed and reflected would have revealed Christ the Messiah. Hence, they were kicked out of the Kingdom of God not because they were lazy or not doing Christian ministry but because they rejected Jesus Christ Himself.
The talents are about the message given to each one of us concerning the Kingdom of God. The primary message is that Jesus is the Messiah, our Lord and Saviour. And when we plant this core message, we will be given more and more talents, add-on to what the Kingdom of God meant under different context, and historical timeline. For some, it will be a ministry to the poor, for others to the GLBT peoples, and to some others, to the sex workers. Which good tidings are you called to proclaim?
The message of the Kingdom is not about accountability or punishment if we are not awake, or whether we are lazy or just a pew warmer at church doing nothing much for the Kingdom of God. Each of us have at least one talent, receiving and accepting the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The rest is what is given to us, the work to do, to extend the Kingdom of God. The major difference is that we are fellow labourers with Christ, not as in a master servant relationship but as fellow kinsman.
There is no compulsion in the kingdom of God unlike the kingdom of this world where there are rewards, penalties, and judgement. In the Kingdom of God, once we sowed the first talent, ie receive and accept the message of the Good News in Jesus Christ, we are then given new talents – new assignments and work to do to extend the kingdom. When we finish this assignment, we are given greater assignments – larger responsibilities. When we do the “little” things for God, be prepared, for God has a way of giving us bigger tasks.
The Pharisees failed altogether even to enter the Kingdom let alone do its work of multiplication because they rejected Jesus, and hide the message of God’s love, grace and mercy in the ground.
When Jesus talked about being “awake” to the disciples, they were still grappling with the issue of Jesus being the Messiah. This was in-spite the power ministry that Jesus had in the miracles done, and the continuation of the Messianic Kingdom message in the baptism of her followers. Jesus subsequent death and resurrection, and later on the destruction of Jerusalem would bring greater meaning and revelation to the disciples. The Pharisees who killed Jesus did indeed suffer gashing of teeth, as they suffered and died by the hands of the Romans in AD70.
When Jesus preached to the disciples about the master who had gone to a far country and had come back, and not to be unawares of the times and the seasons that the master will come back, it was comical because Jesus the Master was already back. It was not something in the future. Prior to the earlier fall of Jerusalem, and the subsequent exile to Babylon, God was in the midst of her people in the temple and the Ark of the Covenant. With the ransacking of the temple, the Ark was lost, the presence of God lost. Hence God was not with Israel for more than 400 years from the last prophet. It was during this time whereby the scripture was firmed and written from the oral tradition handed down. Jesus was the returning master coming back, yet the Pharisees were so blur as not to recognise it. Would we recognise Jesus when He comes back again?
We are called to be Awake, to guard of hearts, our minds, that we may not be distracted from worshipping false Christ and false prophets and their teachings. There is a powerful spirit of deception. They will take away the place and honour of Jesus or causes us to perpetuate harm and injustice against the outcast instead of showing love. Will our faith stand through the test of time and circumstance? For many gays, the call is too late, as they have departed from believing in Jesus due to the anti-gay teachings of the church masqueraded as coming against sin. The only sin here is our grave hypocrisy and self-righteousness following the steps of the Pharisees.
There is a wake-up call for the church to embrace justice and radical love before Jesus comes back again lest we be found in the act of causing harm to the least in the community. Then there will be gashing of teeth.